Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bringing History to Life

I'm a descendant of American Patriots, men who fought in the American Revolution and their loved ones who stood by them. They really went out on a limb for freedom, and it is humbling to imagine them taking up arms and standing firm for independence. There is a wonderful television miniseries/documentary on the American Revolution I've recorded, and I'm always amazed at how cool, calm, and collected Geo. Washington comes across in the series. "Father of our country" is a fitting accolade for him. I'm a member of the DAR, which usually evokes images of stuffy, older, ultra-conservative ladies sipping tea. But in reality it is an organization of active, committed women, working together to make a difference. It's a great nonprofit, striving to promote education, historic preservation, and patriotism. Evolving through the years, it is has been interesting to watch it "go green", help schools, look out for our veterans and soldiers (whether members believe in the war, or not, we look out for our own). I'm proud to be a member and honor my ancestors' memories for sidling out on that tree branch.

Yesterday we had our monthly meeting and honored the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln with a guest speaker ~ Col. Isaiah Turner. Col. Turner gave a first hand account of what it was like to be a solider in the Civil War. He talked about how a lot of the Northern boys looked like the Southern boys -- young, 18, 19, 20 years old. He talked about the hardships, the battles of Bull Run, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and the surrender of Gen. Lee in 1865. He also described the life of soliders when not in battle, including gambling, louse races (picking lice off their jackets and putting them on their plates to race), and how the song "Home Sweet Home" was banned because it made the soldiers too homesick and they always ended up with desserters. He ended by talking about how the Civil War was the deadliest war in US history, with more than 620,000 dying, and reflected on what that war meant and its impact on our country today.

It's always made me curious -- what would possess a grown man to don a uniform from a by-gone era and participate in re-enactments, as our guest speaker does? He explained he is concerned about how poorly our American students perform in history. Do they really care what our country has been through? Is it all just blah-blah-blah in their ears, like war stories told one time too many? He believes by bringing history to life, he can help people understand and remember our history more poignantly. So a sharp salute to Col. Isaiah Turner. He earned our respect yesterday for what he is attempting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On the Movie Set

The weekend held a surprising adventure as Lys and I received a confirmation email Saturday night that we would be needed as "background artists" (more commonly and realistically known as "extras") on the set of a movie being filmed in Carmel. The initial call time was 6:30 a.m. Sunday, but thankfully I checked my email just before going to bed and it had been changed to 9:30 a.m. The wind howled and the rain pounded all night Saturday night, even causing one of the trees in my backyard to blow over against the fence, so it was a restless night.

Sunday morning arrived, we showered and washed our hair, did our makeup and donned our outfits. We were told to wear something with color (I guess at the last casting call all the extras showed up in black and it looked like a funeral instead of a spring day in Carmel). We were also instructed to bring three additional options with us. We would be hotel patrons, walking through the lobby, checking in and out of our rooms, etc.

The Cypress Inn (above) with three truckloads of film equipment.

Despite the wind and rain, we arrived at the Cypress Inn promptly at 9:15 and were escorted to the holding room where the other 10-12 extras were waiting. The casting coordinator introduced the Costume Director who gave us each a once over. Some of us were asked to change into different colors than we originally wore. Then the waiting began. One of the producer's assistants came in and said the actors were rehearsing and described the scene they were rehearsing. In the scene were Alfred Molina (Spiderman, Pink Panther 2, and numerous other films and TV shows) and Josh Hutcherson (Bridge to Terabithia and Journey to the Center of the Earth). The film synoposis is:

"Carmel the Movie", starring Lauren Bacall, Alfred Molina, Hayden Panettiere, Billy Boyd, Dina Eastwood, and Scott Eastwood focuses on a troubled 16-year-old boy, who wanders into Carmel, falls into the wrong crowd and becomes involved in art forgery.

Okay, I confess, I had to look some people up on the internet as I wasn't sure who they were. Hayden Panettiere plays Claire on the TV show Heroes, Billy Boyd was one of the hobbits in Lord of the Rings. Dina Eastwood we knew as we had met her and Clint Eastwood in a restaurant a few years ago. Scott Eastwood is Clint's son. And everyone knows Lauren Bacall.

We had been forewarned that there is a lot of hurry up and wait in making a film, so we all settled in with newspapers, crossword puzzles, and conversations on everything from the housing market to pets. The Cypress Inn is owned by Doris Day, an animal lover, so it is a pet-friendly hotel. They wanted to make this point in the film, so had asked for a few people to bring their dogs with them. Lys and I considered Chaucer (Frosty would have been much too squirrely), but decided we didn't want to be encumbered with a dog all day.

The producer's assistant came back in and told two people with dogs to go to the lobby (where the scene was being shot), then awhile later took one more person. After awhile the casting coordinator said that the director decided to shoot the scene at a totally different angle than anticipated -- into the room instead of with the lobby in the background -- and that they only needed the first two extras (with their dogs) and the rest of us weren't needed but could go up on the set and watch.

The crew was on their way to taking a break just as we arrived, and Alfred Molina smiled and squeezed past me in the hallway. Then Lys and I found a table between the bar and the foyer, next to Josh Hutcherson, who was writing in his journal until makeup came to touch up his makeup. Billy Boyd stood by us, chatting. So while we weren't in the movie, we had the fun, different experience of being on the set. The movie is scheduled to be released in 2010.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Passions and Purposes

For many years now I have been involved in helping children around the world who live in abject poverty. It started with a little girl named Shagitu who lived in Ethiopia. Over and over I read about the horrific drought in Ethiopia, saw pictures of the boney arms and hallow eyes of those who were starving. I found that through child sponsorship (Shagitu was through Christian Children's Fund) I was empowered to help at least one child, rather than shrug my shoulders and feel it was too overwhelming a task and what could I do. Through internet friendships with other child sponsors I soon became involved with a school called Galilee Primary School in Kenya. One of the most exciting events in my life was traveling to Africa in 2007 and visiting the school and meeting my sponsored children face to face. There my heart broke as I saw first hand just how dramatic the poverty is in which they exist day after day. Compassion International also has a child sponsorship program, as well as a writing buddy program, and I have writing buddies through them in Indonesia, Bolivia, and Tanzania. Here is a wonderful photo gallery of just how much our letters mean to these impoverished children, who hang by a thread to friendship and hope. I consider helping needy children in this world one of my true passions and purposes in life.

Glued to Ye Ol' Computer

Wow! I can't believe it's been over a month since I last blogged. Projects have overwhelmed me in the last few weeks -- doing my taxes, sending out tax receipts for the nonprofit I was involved with, creating a new website for a community group, working on a web-based speech therapy program, making arrangements for Ash to come home from England over spring break.... Hmmm, I see a trend here. It's called Glued to ye ol' computer.

One footnote about the taxes. California State is officially out of money. So even though I have a refund coming on my state return, I probably won't see it for a long time. They are issuing IOU's. Do you think I could get away with writing them an IOU next time I owe them? Highly doubtful.