Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest III: In Praise of the Selfie

Closeup decorative grunge vintage woman with beautiful long hair
This is my third year in a row participating in this celebration conceived by the lovely and talented blogger August McLaughlin. Inspired by Sam Levinson’s poem 
The Beauty of a Woman, which you can read on August’s blog here, the festival celebrates beauty, women feeling beautiful, aging gracefully, and that inner glow. And this year August (who is quickly becoming her own generation’s Susie Bright!) has introduced a #GirlBoner edition of the BOAW fest to celebrate not only the beautiful but the sexy. Check out August’s blog today through Wednesday March 3rd for posts, stories, prizes, and links to other great blogs!

The Beauty of a Selfie

photo 4So I am a little behind on the cultural phenomenon now engraved into the Oxford English Dictionary as THE word of 2013 and known by all teens and tweens as the selfie. Even as I type, my spell checker wants to correct selfie to selfish. But here’s the thing, I have come to embrace the selfie, and its near cousin the photo bomb, as mini-celebrations of girl beauty for two reasons: startling insights and pure entertainment.

The Insightful Selfie

Since I am a selfie novice, I haven’t yet entered the wild and wonderful world of filters and photoshopping with my efforts. In a throwback to Polaroid days, what the camera clicks is what you get. But I have learned the art of KADildayphoto1holding the phone high as I look up into it (to eliminate neck wrinkles) and slightly to the side (to minimize my elongated nose.) Here is the me close up and in everyday clothing. And, hey, she’s not half bad…an affirmation devoutly to be repeated. In fact, my “about me” picture on this blog is a selfie that I took on a day when my eldest had left PhotoBooth up on the Mac and I saw that my hair and makeup had held up to a long day of wrangling words and young ladies. Of course we all know that moment of horror when we look DOWN into the camera. But UNLIKE the Polaroid days of old, there is a delete button on the thing.

The Entertaining Selfie

photo 2

I have laughed a lot taking selfies with my daughters. My girls make faces, they goof off, they rarely smile in that contrived way achieved with the warning of a camera in your face. Selfie-taking is hysterical! No, really. Check out the photo bomb talent! I have also posed with my parents, my parents-in-law, my husband, and my dog (he’s particularly great at the selfie) but have not yet accosted any celebrities to see if they would be willing to step into my personal photo stream. (Yes, I’m talking to you Matt Damon!)

photo 3The truth is, selfies make me laugh, and in review, they comfort me somehow and make me look back at myself in a way that my mirror doesn’t. I acknowledge the potentially angst-ridden nightmare that perpetual selfie-taking represents for young girls who have not yet formed their sense of self and who seek external validation. Trouble lies that way. But I’m sticking with my personal claim that selfies are fun, selfies are fearless, and selfies are fabulous. And the girl in that photo? Well, she’s beautiful.

So I know you all take selfies…wanna share? 🙂 Any selfie stories? Celebrity moments?

Don’t forget to check out the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest III at August McLauglin’s site. And you can see my previous two entries at BOAW I and BOAW II.

And a little more selfie link love:

Pusheen the Cat’s Guide to Selfies

Selfies Are Good For Girls by Rachel Simmons on Slate

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In Search of Revolution: Betsy Ross

us-flag-betsy-1We all know the story, or think we do, of how young Betsy Ross was a friend of George Washington and how she proposed a design for the first flag of the United States (pictured above in the 1898 painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris of Philadelphia). We know about her clever five-pointed star, which was both thrifty and elegant displayed on a blue background nestled next to the red and white stripes of the Thirteen United States. We have heard that she was a seamstress and an upholsterer, a patriot, and a woman of the Revolution. This is the Betsy Ross of legend. What the true historical record shows with reference to the First Flag and Betsy, nee Elizabeth Griscom, is perhaps not as clear cut, but Betsy’s legend lives on all the same.979843_10151611394147302_402434319_o

For me, Betsy Ross was a way into the early history of the United States. The grey-haired, motherly Martha Washington, and the New Englander Abigail Adams couldn’t hold my interest for long, but Betsy’s story spoke to me and somehow still does. Her youth, her courage, her cleverness. Whether or not her legend is based in fact or family lore, her story resonates.

1040687_10151683771257302_192087199_oI always insisted on stopping at her house in Philadelphia when we went “downtown” with friends to see the sights that were the seeds, the venues, of the Revolutionary War. I took my daughters to the Betsy Ross House in 2005, our only stop besides the Liberty Bell. My girls were young, but they remember the Betsy re-enactor who snipped a five-pointed star for each of them, and then showed them how to do it too. But why did her story resonate? And why does it still? I defer to Marla R. Miller, author and historian, who says in the introduction to her scholarly biography Betsy Ross and the Making of America:

“…coming to grips with Betsy Ross also reminds us that the Revolution’s success, taken in the broadest terms, hinged not just on eloquent political rhetoric or character displayed in combat, but also on Betsy Ross and thousands of people just like her—women and men who went to work every day and took pride in a job well done.”

Happy Independence Day!

Who are your heros of the Revolution? Do you like to imagine how it played out for “average” people like Betsy? Or do you prefer the grander words of the Founding Fathers?

Photo credits:

Betsy Sewing, Betsy Ross House

Exterior Betsy Ross House, G. Widman

The Power of Motivation or How to Get Your Laundry Done

appleSBLaundry1 Second Daughter wants a new surfboard. Not that “The Apple” doesn’t get the job done even on East Coast waves, but it’s a bit old. A surfing friend gave it to us used, and we had it repaired once already.

You may not know this but new surfboards are not particularly cheap. 😀

The Hubster and I let Second know we would kick in if she would save most of the money to buy her new board. She is not yet of an age to be earning big bucks at McDonald’s and she isn’t the babysitting type, so I told her I would pay her $2 per load to do the family laundry.

The laundry room lists pictured are the result of her research and planning into what it would take to do this laundry thing and how toLaundry2 organize it. Note each family member has a different color and the schedule has towels every day. She has already made $6, and I am grateful indeed. It is early days in this process, but I am hoping the motivation (surfboard) will be enough to keep the laundry laundry3going.

Next stop for me: how to delegate grocery shopping.

Next stop for Second Daughter: conquer the world.

Did you have to work to earn money for something you wanted when you were young? A car maybe? What was your heart’s desire? Your best summer job?

Link Love: Art Online

LI am fascinated by art and I would dearly love to have more time to explore the great museums of the world. I count myself very lucky that I have been to quite a few. Off the top of my head I have seen: The Louvre in Paris (pictured), The Museo d’Arte Moderna and the Vatican Museums in Rome, The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery (Smithsonian) in Washington, DC. And those are just the big, traditional, Western ones I have been to.

Art for me offers a way into the kind of self-expression I seek in my writing, especially my fiction. I can open an art book to any page and in attempting to describe the artwork pictured, I can figure out how to tell the stories I want to tell. The cool thing is, I have noticed that over the past couple of years, the great museums have been opening their doors to the virtual world, offering online curated glimpses into the works on display in their physical museums and sneak peeks of artworks in their private “vaults.”

This topic came to mind as I read blogger Cristian Mihai’s recent post on Google’s Cultural Institute, which half of me thinks is a great idea and the other half thinks, “Wow. A totally virtual world is being created here. I will never have to leave this little room.”

So I offer the following link love to the world of virtual art curating–here’s to getting lost in a museum!

The “Biggies”

The LouvreThe Louvre offers a learning tab on its website called “A Closer Look,” which is just what it says: an in depth look at some of the Louvre’s most famous pieces. If you have ever asked yourself the question, “What’s the big deal about the Mona Lisa anyway?” check out this online learning series. I found the presentation a little stiff but the detailed analysis and historical background of the artworks puts these cultural icons in perspective.

The Prado–The Prado in Madrid offers Pradomedia, detailing important exhibitions in Spain’s famous National Museum as explained (in Spanish with English subtitles) by museum curators. Because this is video, you get an idea of the size of the paintings in their museum home as the narrator explores the philosophies behind the arrangement of these objets d’art.

The Hermitage–housed in Catherine the Great’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, The Hermitage offers a unique spin on the virtual tour with its Digital Collection. (Note: you must have the Java plug in to browse the artworks.) From the Hermitage website:

“As a rule all exhibits must be handled with great care that is why the visitors of museums very often have to scrutinize works of art through glass or from behind the barrier. You will have a unique opportunity to view masterpieces of the Hermitage using an innovative technology of IBM. Choosing the section Digital Library select the exhibit you are interested in. Using Enlarged image you can see the exhibits in the enlarged size and scrutinize their slightest details.”

The Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe Met’s 82nd & Fifth series is my favorite of these glimpses of the great museums. The curators have put together short, topically driven talks that tie the artwork to an emotion or a physical feeling in an unexpected way. For a unique take on LOVE, check out Mia Fineman talking about Adam Fuss’s photogram of rabbits and their guts. Yes, really! You can subscribe to this feature via email and have art in your inbox every week or so.

The Aggregator

The Google Cultural Institute–The more I looked through Google’s new venture, especially the YouTube channel, the cooler it got to me. See what you think.

Do you think the art and culture can and should be shared virtually in this way? Is it the same experience as you would get with the live version? Better? Worse? Do you like your art placed in context by a curator, or would you rather form your own cultural linkages and opinions?

It’s (finally!) Spring: 3 Ways to Start Over

Backyard MayI love my yard in springtime. The leaves, the grass, the shrubs all bear that bright green that says they’re starting over. (Though I wish my dog wouldn’t pee on the azaleas and I am jealous of my neighbor winning “Yard of the Month!” She totally deserves it, though. Go, Pam!)

Azalea May

Life can really be nothing BUT starting over. From the very beginning we master crawling but then we have to learn to walk, then to run, then to dance. When you go to school you finish elementary school only to start over in middle school, then you finish high school, just to begin again in college. By the time we’re on our 4th or 5th job, you would think we would be really good at this starting over thing. But that isn’t necessarily true…

I have spent this winter and early spring working on my next book and to be frank, the work has humbled me. I finished the early draft in November with such high hopes, and then I had to start over with the rewrite. I am now on my 5th or 6th version. Such is the writer’s life, I am finding out.

“Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~Calvin Coolidge

So for all of us who have yet to master the starting over gig, here are 3 ways to go about it:

1. Try something you haven’t before

Alex Lickerman on Psychology Today blog

“I really am content enjoying all the things I already enjoy. But straying into foreign lands, both metaphorically and literally, has always forced me to challenge my beliefs. And as painful as that is, nothing, I believe, contributes to our happiness more than shattering the delusions to which we cling, unable as we often are to distinguish between beliefs that are true and beliefs that are false (especially beliefs about ourselves).”

2. Set some goals

From Zen Habits–Really Simple Goal Setting

“The key to simple goal setting is to not have too many goals.”  🙂

3. Keep at it

Claire Gregory on All the World’s Our Page

“Push down the fear, trust all that ingrained knowledge, and keep on practicing. Forget about the destination and keep your focus only as far ahead as your headlights let you see. Sure, you might bump a couple of kerbs or ding your door on a pole now and again- but then it’s easy to forget that we all do that occasionally.”

Is spring a time to start over for you? How do you start over whether it’s new or not?

The 1940 Pride and Prejudice Film: Where’s the Chemistry?

PrideundprejudiceThis post is the first in a series of reviews to complete the “Aficionada” level of Laurel Ann Nattress’s P&P Bicentenary Challenge celebrating 200 years of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, 1813-2013.

For my first review, I re-watched the 1940 film version of Pride and Prejudice starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. I had previously enjoyed this black and white adaptation, but when I brought a more critical eye to the screening, I had to re-evaluate some of my old impressions, which I will discuss below. First, though, a story:

Greer Garson and Me

As you know if you know me, or have explored my “About” page, I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe is the place Greer Garson lived later in her life after marrying Texas oil man E.E. “Buddy” Fogleson and retiring to their “Forked Lightning” ranch in New Mexico. Santa Fe benefited greatly from her patronage when she endowed the (then) College of Santa Fe (now Santa Fe University of Art and Design) in order to build the Greer Garson Theater. This was a place where I spent a considerable amount of time one season because my brother had gotten a small role in the musical Carousel.

Forsytedress The way I remember it, at the entrance to the orchestra seating for the theater (or maybe in the lobby area) there were two larger-than-life portraits of Miss Garson flanking the doors. I remember in the one on the right she was wearing a splendid green outfit, corseted and fitted, with a green feather in her hat, which was most likely a costume from That Forsyte Woman (1949), designed by Walter Plunkett (costume designer for Gone With the Wind among other iconic films).

Greer_Garson_in_That_Forsyte_Woman_2

I used to study those portraits as I waited for my brother to get out of rehearsal. I was fascinated with how lovely she was, and how glamorous she looked with her flame red hair and green dress. Of course Miss Garson was often to be seen out and about in Santa Fe, and on one occasion in particular my mother spotted her on the Plaza downtown and pointed her out to me. I replied, “Oh, Mom, that can’t be Greer Garson. That woman is OLD.” I was nice and loud too. My mom says Miss Garson smiled, even laughed a little and cordially nodded her head. I don’t really remember that part though. 😉

My review of Pride and Prejudice (1940)

bennetsistersMy overall evaluation is that the 1940 adaptation was frothier and played for more obvious laughs than Jane Austen’s original. I enjoyed the film, but it lacked the character depth present in the novel and (some) later adaptations. Specifically, the necessity of condensing the story for a 2 hour film completely negated the dramatic reversal at the midpoint when Darcy delivers his letter to Elizabeth and all is revealed about George Wickham. And the screenwriters took out my favorite part: the visit to Pemberley where Elizabeth meets Darcy on his own turf. The sublime tension of that moment where so much can be misunderstood but each is inclined to think well of the other…the fact that that moment is missing from this version deflates the whole second half of the movie.

The supporting cast, as is frequently the case in P&P adaptations, was brilliant. Particularly Mr. Bennet played by Edmund Gwenn (from Miracle on 34th Street) and Mrs. Bennet played by Mary Boland. In addition, Frieda Inescort was icily condescending as the disapproving Miss Bingley.Thebennets2

Much has been made in other reviews of the costuming. These are not the classic Empire waisted dresses of the Regency period. However, they are from just a little later, the Romantic period (late 1820s-1830s), under the reign of George IV (the former Regent himself). I actually enjoyed the costuming because it was consistent throughout the film. In other words, if you are going to pick a period, stay there and don’t mix and match. And of course, this film did receive an Academy Award for Art Direction.

EandDawk

Heathcliff and Mrs. Miniver

Now for the main characters. As I watched this version , I couldn’t help but notice two things: first, there was no chemistry at all between Greer Garson as Elizabeth and Laurence Olivier as Darcy; and second, the great Laurence Olivier never seemed to capture the spirit of Mr. Darcy, and the role sat oddly on his admittedly broad shoulders.

HeathcliffI was curious whether their stiffness with each other was just a characteristic of acting in general at that time, or specifically of these actors, so I viewed some clips of other contemporary films with the same actors opposite different leads. The contrast was startling for both Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. Laurence Olivier is perhaps one of the greatest actors of all time, honored with 10 Oscar nominations for acting (winning once), in addition to awards for directing and honorary awards. Mr. Olivier was smoldering and brilliant as the moody Heathcliff in the adaptation of Emily Bronte’s classic Wuthering Heights (1939), but his awkward gestures as Darcy were distracting, almost effeminate, and his voice nasally.

Blossoms In The Dust 3_3Meanwhile, Greer Garson took home an Oscar in 1942 for her portrayal of another literary figure, Mrs. Miniver, playing opposite the gawky everyman actor, Walter Pidgeon. She would go on to star in 7 more films with Pidgeon, including 1941’s Blossoms in the Dust pictured left, and garner 7 total Oscar nominations in her career. I thought her performance as Elizabeth was charming and clever, except in the scenes with Darcy where she seemed to be trying too hard.

Olivier and Garson were arguably the best performers of their age, just not perhaps in these roles or with each other.

A couple of other Old Hollywood tidbits:

Vivian Leigh, the actress best known for her role as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939), was the love of Laurence Olivier’s life. Even while they were both married to other people, their affair was an open secret in Hollywood, which paralleled the roles they played opposite each other in That Hamilton Woman (1941) as Jane Austen’s contemporaries, Admiral Lord Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton. The costumers played fast and loose with the Regency era costumes in that movie too.hamiltonwoman

Greer Garson, nominated for an Academy Award in 1939 for Goodbye Mr. Chips, lost out to Vivian Liegh (also a British actress) who won for Scarlett.

When Greer Garson won the Oscar in 1943 for Mrs. Miniver, her acceptance speech was the longest in Academy history, clocking in at over 5 minutes. You have her to thank for the “get off the stage” music of today’s Award show.

So, do you watch the old black and white movies? Do you find the acting of that era stilted in general, or is it role or actor dependent? What did you think of Olivier’s Darcy?

Information credits: Wikipedia pages for Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, and Pride and Prejudice (1940 film)

Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: Beautiful Moments

boaw-2013

Thanks are due for the second year in a row to the lovely and talented writer August McLaughlin, and her wonderful idea for a blog festival. Inspired by Sam Levinson’s poem The Beauty of a Woman, which you can read on August’s blog here, we are talking about beauty, feeling beautiful, aging gracefully, and that inner glow. Check out her blog today and tomorrow for stories, prizes, and links to other great blogs!

My contribution from last year surprised even me. As I said then, this blogging thing never really turns out how you expect, but something is always revealed. For this year’s post, I got to thinking about the question, “When have you felt most beautiful?”

I came across Gustav Klimt’s painting The Three Ages of Womanklimt3ages recently as I researched a character for my novel-in-progress. I have been fortunate to see the original in the Museo d’Arte Moderna in Rome. I came around a tucked-away corner, and there it was, at the end of a hallway. Klimt’s figures in this work represent the triangle of femininity often embraced by western culture and repeated in stories, marketing, and media — the Virgin, the Mother, and the Crone. Though not as celebrated as The Kiss, The Three Ages of Woman is interesting in Internet reproduction and stunning in the gold-leaf splendor of the original. The detail of the mother and her little sleeping daughter, lovely. The figure of the crone…well…but that’s the one that draws you in, for its gritty, powerful reality. The knotty knuckles, the fall of wavy grey hair, the strong wide feet. And you know, the more you look at the work, the more it is the crone that is the beautiful one — every bit as appealing as the swirling loveliness of the sweet mother and infant. Here in that stark figure is the truth of a life lived and survived.

I have come to think, however, that a woman experiences beauty not in stages as in Klimt’s painting, but in moments. More like the beads I used to string on dental floss with my young daughters. Some patterns were repeated, some were unique. Some of the necklaces were large and lovely to be seen in public, and some were small and completed only for private viewing, to be tucked away in a secret place, or your heart. So to answer the question, “When have you felt most beautiful?” here are some, a very few, of MY moments:

  • Pulling on my little white gloves with the pearl button on the wrist and the white marabou around the cuffs at about age six.
  • When all of my bridesmaids helped me dress in the cramped choir room in the church where I was married, and the moment after that when my husband-to-be laid eyes on me at the end of the aisle.
  • The incredibly soft star-shaped hands of my daughter stroking my arm as she nursed.GoldfishKlimt
  • My girls piled on either side of me in bed as we read a book of their choosing.
  • Beating another bike racer to the line in a full-out sprint.
  • Right now, remembering all these things.

What are some of YOUR moments? Do women’s lives have stages? Are all stages beautiful?

Painting at right: Klimt’s Goldfish