Friday, August 28, 2009

A Lovely Bangle - by Patty Mooney

Last night Mark and I attended a networking event celebrating the third birthday of a local company called Skybox Creative, which specializes in web design. It was a rooftop soiree at a new San Diego hotel and restaurant, called "Se," a luxury establishment with beautiful interiors and this massive door at the lobby entrance. It probably weighs a ton and yet it is so finely balanced that it glides open, as smooth as a tropical rum cocktail.

People enjoy gathering near a pool on the roof of a highrise when it's balmy, and yesterday it was so warm I didn't even consider bringing my jacket. It was a really beautiful spot for a party.

Mark and I both dropped our business cards into a fish bowl when we arrived, with no expectations. If you go to as many networking events as we do, with bowls and baskets for raffles, you soon learn that if you have no expectations you will not be disappointed.

So imagine my delight to hear my name being called during the raffle. When I approached the table laden with all the prizes, I was told to select whatever I wanted.

And what my eyes landed on was this really cool bracelet with two tigers lying down next to each other, with Swarovski crystals in their eyes and mouths. I learned that the bangle had been designed by a woman named Michaela Moryskova who started her own company called "Skova Designs."

Here is what I found out about her at her website:

Michaela Moryskova was born in Brno, Czech rep. At a young age she started designing and drawing, teachers always recognized her talent for art. Shortly after she was born, her parents went their separate ways. During the communist years, with Michaela in arms, her mother fled (at the time) Czechoslovakia, leaving it all behind for the freedom she'd always dreamt of. Growing up in the USA and Europe gave Michaela an open mind about the world and life itself. She has always desired to learn more about the various cultures of the world. After finishing school she was picked up by a modeling agency and was sent back to Europe where she lived in Barcelona for two years. She traveled back and forth to Milan, Paris, London, Tokyo, New York, and then lived in Cape Town, South Africa for over a year. During this period, she took time off to go Swaziland, where she picked up wild life photography on a Safari. She also went to Zimbabwe and Botswana for an AIDS relief program to help kids get back on their feet, rather than turn to a life of crime. Every destination provided inspiration from the unique designs and colors to the land and the people. Her vision is made manifest in each unique piece of jewelry she creates. With her spontaneous nature she will continue to travel the world and learn more about design and culture. Skova Design will always be a place for her to share her unique sense of style and attitude for life.

Thank you so much, Skybox Creative and Skova Design for bestowing me with this unique piece. I love it! Oh, and did I mention that Mark and I met some pretty cool people there, as well - which is what networking is all about!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

RIP, Senator Ted Kennedy

“It's better to send in the Peace Corps than the Marine Corps.”

“I think about my brothers every day.”

“We cannot in Western countries have a political party that has its own private army, particularly one that's been associated with criminality and violence.”

“I seek the presidency with no illusions.”

"Words don't matter. We need deeds.”

“We are all part of the American family and we have a responsibility to help members of that family when they are in need.”

“150,000 American troops are bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq because the Bush administration misrepresented and distorted the intelligence to justify a war that America never should have fought.”

"I think there's enormous potential in terms of solar power and wind power all along the coastal areas and I think we ought to take advantage of it.”

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die" - addressing the Democratic National Convention after pulling out of the presidential race, August 1980.

"Frankly, I don't mind not being president. I just mind that someone else is" - at Washington Gridiron Club dinner, March 1986.

"Well, here I don't go again" - on not running for president in 1988.

"My brother need not be idealised or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it" - eulogy for brother Robert Kennedy, June 1968.

"I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident to the police immediately" - during a televised statement after he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident in regards to the Chappaquiddick incident, July 1969

"What we have in the United States is not so much a health-care system as a disease-care system" - on health care reform for which he campaigned throughout his life, 1994

"With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion. With Barack Obama we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay" - endorsing Barack Obama for president, January 2008.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Lafayette Coney Island - A Poem by Patty Mooney

In 1974 wearing my red-orange and white flower
print mini dress I walk into the Lafayette Coney Island
on my lunch break from a temp job in a law office.
The short order cook with the scar in his eye
treats me to a Pepsi, asks for a date.

I pity him so I relent, his eyes on my legs
as I walk out, skirt swinging. All that day
I pray he will toss away my number, won’t show up.
But he does.
Eighteen, what do I know?
I accompany him.
Instead of dancing he takes me
to an apartment with bare walls and brick windows,
forces my clothes off, my legs apart, me.
That unendurable night ends
in my mother’s embrace,
dizzy with a desire for vengeance
yet alive.

In 1996 my mother and I walk in, sit down,
not at the counter but at a table.
Vasilios has not worked here for years.
I picture him stuck in 1974.
My mother and I order two split pea soups
and a couple of Millers.
I forgive you for any residual stuff
that makes you sad about that situation, I tell her.
Do you forgive me?
She says, Of course.

In 1999 my brother suggests a chili dog
at the Lafayette Coney Island,
just the two of us.
On the drive, I mention what happened in ’74.
He never knew.
We can go somewhere else, he says,
tender, as though the wound were fresh.
No, it’s an act of forgiveness, I say.
We walk in, my eyes gorging on the bright interior,
linoleum and plastic.
My treat.
He has two Coney Islands with everything.
One is enough for me.

"Twilight" - A Film Reflection by Patty Mooney

Vampire flicks have always been alluring to me, since as a child I was smitten by Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. Maybe it was "Nosferatu" that started things off, but I believe that he was a little too hideous and directors quickly learned that a sexy Dracula is a better idea (with apologies to Max Schreck). Several other vampires have certainly left their mark, including Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Anne Rice's "Interview with a Vampire" and Stewart Townsend in the follow-up, "Queen of the Damned." "Dark Shadows" was one of my favorite television shows as a teenager; I'd run home from school in a tizzy to see it. So that I would enjoy "Twilight" kind of went without saying, especially with this surge of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson mania. Where there's smoke, there's fire, right?

A romantic vampire movie produced by, directed by and starring women..... Wow. Finally. I took a class called "Women in History" about a year ago and it was depressing to learn how women's contributions to society and the world at large had been diminished, squelched or plain destroyed. Hypatia of Alexandria was a brilliant philosopher, mathematician and astronomer and inventer who lived around 350 AD. She was murdered by a horde of monks and her works were all burned by marauding zealots. Only some correspondence between her and one of her students survived. Many women throughout history had to hide their gender as writers, artists and performers. You may have heard of how women who wanted to serve their country bound their breasts and went into battle posing as men. Virginia Woolf once said, “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” So in a way, "Twilight" symbolizes a moment in our time when women can stand toe-to-toe with men, at least in pop culture. (We have still not elected a woman as President, but that is another essay entirely.)

As a video producer myself, I appreciated the muted tones of the film. I've observed a creative use of filters to define a series or a movie. For instance, "CSI Miami" employs rich, gorgeous colors while "Supernatural" desaturates color, using pastel accents. In "Twilight," Bella's rusty red truck moved across the landscape of the film like a drop of blood on an ingenue's pale skin. Some of the special effects were excellent. When Edward Cullin flies Bella Swan to the top of the tallest tree in the forest overlooking the Washington coast, the wire work was impeccable. Edward's bursts of speed, and his showings of great strength were cinematically delicious.

Kristen Stewart's awkward teenager alongside Robert Pattinson's otherworldly 300-year-old vampire made for mesmerizing screen chemistry. I was happy that they didn't play "cat and mouse" with their feelings about each other for too long. Maybe director, Catherine Hardwicke, as a woman who knows what women really want, had a heavy hand in that. Why not just be up front from the very beginning, like Bella? Why mince words and hide your feelings? The tension was so strong that it took nearly the entire movie to see the two of them kiss. No disingenuous sex for sex's sake here.

Bella is a girl who knows what she wants, and she wants Edward, forever. And we, the audience, all want it to work for them. It's a good thing that "Twilight 2" is in the can. Bella and Edward may be young forever, but Robert and Kristen won't.

One cool thing about "Twilight" the DVD, is that it contains three music videos. The one by Muse, featuring "Supermassive Black Hole" (you hear it when the vampire family plays baseball in a thunder storm) is really well produced. Great footage, amazing performance, and really good editing. I just found it on YouTube. It's fantastic. Check it out

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cries of the Boys - A Poem by Patty Mooney

Suddenly they rise,
en masse,
in a choreographed way,
the cries of "the boys,"
the canyon coyotes
outside my window
who sing
only for me.
giddy with the blood
of some unlucky cat,
and casting off scraps
of matted hair
their high-rising cries are
prayers of gratitude
to a force
they do not understand
only certain
it is with them,
the way moonlight
with their shadows.

My Story Is Featured in Laugh Tub - by Patty Mooney

Here's a funny little "embarrassing moment" story that is being featured at Tub 9 of Laughs right now.

Back when I was in my early 20’s (in the late 70’s), the first car I ever bought was a 1968 Dodge Dart. Little did I know how many entertaining events would evolve from my ownership of this complete lemon. Just a few months after I bought it, I was on the way to the beach with my sister, Jeanne.

Remember, I was 23 years old and so I found it appropriate to be driving around in my bikini. So when a cop pulled me over because the car was belching smoke out of its tailpipe (I was oblivious until he mentioned it), I stepped out of the car to ask, “Is there anything wrong, officer?” He let me off with a warning - I mean, what else could he do, right?

If you enjoyed this, Vote Now

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Sinking of the Yukon - A Poem by Patty Mooney

Helicopters hired, news crews
confirmed, stations poised
to feed footage to the big
mouth of the outside world.
Even a commemorative microbrew
fermenting. The destroyer herself,
a grey Canadian retiree, 400 feet
of ocean-soaked steel.
Below the water line a fleet
of welders incises her hull
with cookie cuts in shark
and porpoise shapes,
the faster to usher her down.
Later divers will dart in and out,
training beams on her silence.
Waterproof cameras
have been strategically focused
to watch her watery descent.

Meanwhile, the boy who wins the "Battleship"
tournament has fingers that ache
for his prize: to press the red button,
to detonate the sinking at dawn.
The blasts and flashbulbs will burst like clockwork.
Yukon will shudder, let go and come
to her demise, eight minutes tops.

The moon is watching when high seas
seep in and threaten to sweep her
down right there in the harbor.
A tugboat is promptly dispatched to haul her
to the burial site, her bow yawing, her bilge
filling with malt-stained seawater.
Onboard two custodians who have been asleep
in their berths are roused by the sinking
and leap into the sea.

Face-first she descends.
The Pacific pitches Yukon
onto her starboard side.
The only fanfare: streamers of kelp,
as the boy sleeps, dreaming
explosive dreams of glory
that will never happen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"The Invisible Ones: Homeless Combat Veterans" - Some of the Latest News

For my longstanding blog buddies, you may remember reading about "The Invisible Ones: Homeless Combat Veterans," a 42-minute documentary that Mark and I made after attending a Stand Down two years ago. It took us over a year to produce and edit. I was at it in the evenings and on weekends, and my social life took a major dive because I was driven to finish it and get the word out to my fellow Americans about how many veterans are homeless, and what true patriots can do to not only "talk the talk" but "walk the walk." Throughout the process, the editing software crashed multiple times, leading me to want to rip my hair out and just walk away from the project. But everytime I threatened to quit, Mark would remind me that I didn't really mean it, and then I would think about the homeless veterans who were out there, some of them placing their heads on a sidewalk instead of a pillow at night. What's rougher, a few editing software crashes, or a life without shelter, comfort, and good health, surrounded by family?

So I plodded on. And finally, earlier this year, I finished it! Here's some of the latest news:

A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I "appeared" on "This Is America With Jon Elliott," a progressive talk radio show, and spent almost an hour talking about our documentary.

A few reviews have started to appear in local publications:

I have sent copies to larger publications such as San Diego Union Tribune, AARP, Rolling Stone and others, but it's really hard to break into those. If you have some suggestions for me, by all means, let me know. Everybody who has contributed anything to this documentary (production, music, editing, graphics, duplication, etc.) has done so pro bono. It's a real grass-roots collaboration. I have been gratified to see that since we grabbed the baton, there's been more of a surge in news about veterans' issues, and I do think that "The Invisible Ones" has been a small part of that.

At the latest count, "The Invisible Ones" has garnered five international awards, has screened at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, and has just been accepted to be screened at the Big Bear International Film Festival in September.

Once viewers have watched the documentary, they are very affected and want to do something to help. Several people have told me that they now are more aware of the problem of homeless veterans, and do some interesting things for them. They volunteer at their local Stand Down; they carry Power Bars or some sort of compact nutritional food in their gloveboxes to give out to hungry homeless. It's advisable not to give money because that enables them to purchase alcohol and drugs. Some folks now simply look into the haunted eyes of homeless veterans and say "hello" and "thank you for your service to our country." After risking their lives and limbs to protect our nation in the military service, is it so difficult to show these now homeless men and women a little appreciation?

A Call to Action: If you would like to get a copy of "The Invisible Ones: Homeless Combat Veterans" to share with people at your church, Rotary Club or other philanthropic organization, let me know and I will send you a DVD for FREE. Just email me at and I'll put one in the mail for you right away. My friend, Dawn, showed it at her church and collected donations adding up to $1,000 for the Veterans Village of San Diego. She suggests that snacks and beverages are very alluring to attendees. Serve popcorn and iced tea. Once they see this documentary, people who care will be driven to walk the walk!

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Two Favorite Marks and I Go To India - Story and Photos by Patty Mooney

What a gorgeous day in October 1993 it was when our small (three-person) video production crew arrived in the lovely town of Gangtok, Sikkim, India. My husband, Mark Schulze, and I had decided to participate in the First-ever Himalayan Run & Mountain Bike Trek, and to document it in our video, "Full Cycle: A World Odyssey." So our friend, Mark Eveslage, decided to join us on this "endless summer on wheels" as Director of Photography.

This was 1993, remember, and I believe this was one of the first "reality shows" ever taped. It did end up winning 15 national and international awards, but it was never broadcast on television. My feeling is that it was a little too far ahead of its time.

Our arrival in Gangtok was the culmination of two nights on an airplane, flying from San Diego to New York, then boarding another plane to London, and from there, we flew to Bombay. The name of this town since changed to Mumbai in 1996; I'm not sure why so many places in this part of the world are re-named. Is it like redesigning and renaming a restaurant or a night club to stimulate more business? Anyway, from Bombay we landed in New Delhi at around 3 in the morning.

From New Delhi we hopped aboard a variety of buses and jeeps that carried us deep into the hills and dales of the Himalayas, and by the end of the day we had arrived in the tea town of Darjeeling where we "rested" and collected some footage of the area for the next couple of days.

And then finally we arrived in Gangtok. The two Marks and I were a bit surprised, amused and a little embarrassed to see a banner slung across the main thoroughfare, proclaiming: "Hearty Welcome to Sikkim - All Foreign TV Team & Participants of Gangtok Run & Trek." "Foreign TV Team?" By golly, that referred to the three of us!

I just participated as a sound technician on a reality show that Oprah is producing here in San Diego. For this show, there are two camera crews (each with a camera operator and sound technician). Then they have a third camera operator with sound person whom they bring in when an additional crew is needed. Plus there are five or six other people helping out with other aspects of the production. Sweet!

If only we could have had half that number of people to assist us, along with some craft services people! Imagine three people carting 900 pounds of equipment around from San Diego to Darjeeling. We had three bikes between us because Mark E wanted to ride the amazing yak trails of India. Then there was all this heavy video equipment, not to mention our clothing and foods like Power Bars and cans of tuna, to supplement the typical Indian fare of overcooked vegetables and dahl soup. Coleman was our major sponsor, so we also had a tent and camping essentials so we could set those up with the Himalayas as a backdrop. When I think back on how the three of us managed to get from Point A to Point Z, without blowing a few gaskets, it's truly amazing.

We did have several - shall we say - "production meetings" during which we would talk about what kinds of scenes we wanted to shoot. Both Marks had come from the school of scripting everything, and my idea was to document whatever happened as it happened - the way reality shows now go about it.

It was an extremely ambitious production, but we were all young and studly at the time, so we made it work.

One precious moment occurred when the two Marks and I went on a location scout expedition across a rickety bridge and spotted this delicious singletrack trail through a field of cardamom. Mark E and I hopped aboard one of the bikes and sped down the singletrack like a couple of big kids.

Another trippy thing was when the two Marks and I decided to visit the Gangtok Buddhist Monastery, and shoot some of the beautiful murals on the walls.

One of the murals had a tall white guy with red hair and a beard who was hanging from a noose. When we saw that, we all looked at each other. Of course Mark E was the most concerned of the three of us, because the image looked a lot like him. We promptly made our exit and headed back to our room for a cup of cocoa spiked with some Fireball Brandy we had managed to purchase at a local shop. This stuff was more like kerosene, but the cocoa made it a lot more palatable.

We brought a bottle of Fireball back with us where it sits on the liquor shelf, untouched for the last 16 years. I don't know if it's gotten any better with age. We haven't had the nerve to crack it open.

Here's a short video I edited from those wild India adventures, featuring me, the "Crash Queen!" It'll give you some of the flavor of that awesome journey in India. I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, August 10, 2009

El Mirage - The Plight of the World - by Patty Mooney

I was struck immediately when I saw this police photo by how much it resembled a Diego Rivera mural.

I grew up just outside Detroit (briefly) and made a few journeys to the Detroit Institute of Art where each time I was eager to visit Rivera's murals on the North and South museum walls, depicting "Detroit Industry."

The men shown in this photo - more than 30 of them - are prisoners, according to police, of a gang that had smuggled them into El Mirage, Arizona from Mexico.

I'm afraid that in our current state of flux in the world, we will probably be seeing more of this type of surrealistic reality. Desperate people do deperate things. It's too bad that people ("coyotes") with such active imaginations could not think of other more meaningful pursuits than to prey on people so hungry for America that they put their lives and their treasures in the hands of these gangs.

Above are Diego Rivera's frescoes on the North and South walls of the Detroit Institute of Art. It is the density of humanity that has always struck me, and what I saw in the photograph of immigrants. As our population hits 6.8 billion, the problems of immigration, human trafficking, too few jobs for too many people, withering economy, and so on, are only going to grow. Until we can stop ourselves from multiplying like - dare I say it? - rats? - we will have a very difficult time solving such problems.

My husband and I have contributed to the solution by not having any children, even amidst the outcries of those who informed us that we were selfish for not bringing more consumers into the world. But we are really a small minority. When you see people like Nadya Suleman bringing 14 humans onto the planet, most of whom will probably turn out to be burdens to society, you just shake your head. Suleman certainly can't see past her desire to procreate. She can't understand the consequences of her actions.

Neither can Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Dr. George Tiller. That doctor dedicated his life to helping women who had to make extremely difficult decisions about bearing a child or not. The murderer of Dr. Tiller and others of his ilk also do not understand the consequences of their actions. Organized religion and the power of certain pundits have also played a part in this. I realized how little value that human life really had when I went to New Delhi and saw people sleeping in their excrement on the corners of crowded streets. Where was Scott Roeder then? Why haven't he, Operation Rescue and other anti-choice activists been out there helping to feed and shelter the homeless and indigent? Isn't it better to prevent a lifetime of pain and hopelessness, and additional burdens to society, than to force every pregnant female to bear a child? We have got to get real about this issue or it's going to be just like George Carlin said: "Mother Earth is going to shake us off like a bad case of fleas."

I remember coming to San Diego 32 years ago when the population in the county was barely a million. Now, with three million San Diegans (the population TRIPLED in 30 years) the highways are always so crowded and it is not a joy to jump in the car anymore to go from point A to point B. You now have to work it out in your mind what the best windows of time are if you want to go anywhere. The thought of going to the beach on July 4th, for instance, is instantly shot down. TOO MANY PEOPLE.

This world population growth chart really tells the story. You can see that we reached our first million around 1840, and then the numbers just exponentially shot up. You will also notice that the lighter yellow strip of color signifies the countries that are "developing," which means less industries, less money, more hunger, and more disease.

A friend just sent me an email the other day about how much it costs to raise a child. Without the price of college included, raising a child costs approximately $266,698 (in today's dollars). If you knew that from the get-go, would you have a child? Two? Fourteen?

My mom always used to rail that people should go to school and earn a degree in parenting prior to bringing a child into the world. But as we all know, that's never going to happen. Most pregnancies are probably unplanned and women just go ahead and have the baby thinking it will be the solution to all their problems. They don't get that it's going to cost them tens of thousands of dollars to raise their child. And even after the sacrifices that get made - starting with the mother losing her girlish figure - there is no guarantee that the child will be there to hold your hand on your death bed, or won't turn out to be another Jeffrey Dahmer.

Look at the thirty men in that police photo. They are each some mother's son. Do you think this was the future envisioned for them when they were infants rocked in their mother's lap?

I'm not saying that we all need to stop procreating. What would our world be like without babies and children? Pretty awful. But people who can't afford to have them, people who don't want to have them, and people who have no business having them, should not. Abstinence-only education is such a joke and people who espouse it are seriously out of touch with reality. (Ask Bristol Palin.) Birth-control education needs to be widely disseminated, especially to the "developing nations." The time for having as many kids as "God gives you" is over. We don't all live on farms anymore with a need for 12 children to collect eggs, milk cows and bring in the crops. People used to have as many kids as they could, knowing that some just would not make it. But today, when you consider that Suleman was fertilized by her doctor with eight eggs that all became viable, you realize that we as a society need to change with the times. Or indeed we will be shaken off Mother Earth like a bad case of fleas.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Gran Torino" - A Film Reflection by Patty Mooney

I had no idea how deeply I would be affected by this film until last night when I saw it, and then I couldn't get to sleep until around 4 in the morning. And I have never suffered from insomnia before!

I've long admired Clint Eastwood, going back to his days as Rowdy Yates on the television show, "Rawhide." From "Hang 'Em High" to "Unforgiven," and his days as Dirty Harry on the streets of San Francisco and New Orleans, Clint has always been both a "man's man" and a "woman's man," something that is not easy for an actor (or a director) to pull off. In his role as "Walt Kowalski," a bigoted and recently widowed Korean War veteran who is particular to Pabst beers and an endless supply of cigarettes, Clint embraces this hard-edged Polack in such a way that the viewer is always pulling for him. Even when you are gasping at the racial slurs he tosses at his Hmong neighbors, you know he is doing it out of emotional pain. The man just lost his wife; in addition to that, he is a combat veteran, who has probably been suffering with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) since 1952 when he earned a Medal of Valor.

The film was shot in Detroit, and from the minute "Gran Torino" began, I was thrust back into my childhood on family visits to my grandparents' home. They lived in a neighborhood like Walt Kowalski's, and in a house very similar. Their garage was tucked deep into the backyard, like Walt's. My grandfather and father both spent 50 years collectively in the auto industry, and like Walt, my father always shunned the idea of any car that was not "American-made." The church where Walt and his family attend the funeral of his wife looks exactly like the one in downtown Detroit where my family used to go to midnight Mass every Christmas Eve.

Walt has two sons with whom he shares nothing in common. His granddaughter (Dreama Walker) is a royal brat who texts her friends during the funeral of Walt's wife,and then later that day when he catches her smoking a cigarette in the garage, she asks him who's going to get the Gran Torino when he dies.

The "redemption" of Walt has its inauspicious beginning when the young priest who eulogizes at Walt's wife's funeral (played by Christopher Carley), pays a visit to the grieving widower and chats with him about life and death. Father Jablonsky says that he promised Walt's wife he would ask to hear Walt's confession. Their relationship is a real tug of war because Walt says he only went to church because of his wife and now that she's gone he has no interest in it, nor in a 27-year-old boy-priest who knows nothing of life or death. Still, over the next few weeks, Father Jablonsky persists, and their verbal jousts propel the film forward.

One day Walt is on his porch to witness a local Hmong gang try and force the neighbor's son, Thao (Bee Vang) to join them. There is a tussle on the lawn, and when the group cross over onto Walt's front yard, that's it. Walt intervenes and the trajectory of his life takes a subtle shift. He forms a bond with his precocious neighbor, "Sue" (Ahney Her) who knows how to stand up to him and charm him. (A few Pabsts under his belt help in this.) Sue is the one who mediates between Walt and her brother, Thao, who had tried to steal Walt's beloved Gran Torino as an initiation gang rite. Thao is not cut out for gang membership, and he soon gets under Walt's skin the way Sue has. At one point, after Sue has forced him to come over to her family's home for a Hmong feast on Walt's birthday, Walt observes that he has had more fun with these "gook neighbors" than with his own family.

What happens in the end is not entirely unexpected, and I will not ruin it for those of you who have not seen the film. But what a treat to observe how the neighbors he once loathed become his truest and most unexpected "comrades at arms."

I broke up at the very last scene as the credits rolled. It was a view of Lakeshore Drive by the yacht club - a destination to which I used to ride my bicycle as a girl, and where I would sit down on the lawn gazing at the lake and contemplating my future. It was my fervent desire to become a writer and live in California, where I would meet my soulmate. My dream came true. Wow. I suppose the magic of Clint is that he brought that realization to the forefront of my mind. Thank you, Clint Eastwood. Thank you, Walt Kowalski. Thank you, Detroit. Thank you, California.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Going to Big Rock - A Poem by Patty Mooney

At first there was too much of Big Rock
standing above the thicket of manzanita and sage
where the snakes love to sun themselves.
And then there was too little of Big Rock
in summer, the shadows
working across the facets of
huge granite until nightfall when sunlight,
sweet as California peaches
cast its grin on the two of us
perched on the crown.
Holding hands, we searched for something
beyond the sun, the very core of longing
and expectation, and waited for the dew to begin.

Photograph by Mark Schulze

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Revolutionary Road" - A Film Reflection by Patty Mooney

I loved Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in James Cameron's blockbuster, "Titanic," and I knew their inherent electricity together would charge their latest collaboration in "Revolutionary Road," directed by Kate's husband, Sam Mendes.

The film is set in the mid 50's when people still smoked cigarettes in their business offices, and is based on a novel (published in 1961) by Richard Yates. We follow two characters, Frank Wheeler and his wife, April, as their life together takes unexpected turns.

Kate could be the emotional doppelganger of poet and novelist, Sylvia Plath, who was so distraught by having children and being forced into the mold of "mother and housewife," her last act of defiance was to place her head in an oven with the gas turned on. Kate and Frank have two children together but there are hints throughout the movie that April would rather have committed her talents to acting. Clearly there is little to no support of that. Still, the 50's family structure - of working father, two boisterous kids and the role of model homemaker - do not fit into April's scheme of things. So when Frank agrees to her carefully-considered plan to move the family to Paris, where she will take on a position as secretary while Frank discovers his true talents, April is ecstatic. There is a bright, new feeling to their relationship as they inform neighbors and coworkers of their plan to move to Paris. The "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" portion of their life appears to be far behind them. Now, like a pair of giggling teens, they are delighted to be moving forward in the same direction.

But the Frank who is willing to drop out of the company where his father before him worked for decades (and whom nobody at the firm seems to remember) is now irresistable as an asset to his bosses who make him an offer he cannot refuse, to stay put. Of course April, who is the voice of reason through all this, cannot comprehend that the bottom has just fallen out of her big plan - even after she's purchased their airline tickets and started packing. On top of all that, she is pregnant with no desire to carry a third child to term, in the Revolutionay Road home to which she has already said goodbye.

In an interview published in Ploughshares in 1972, author Richard Yates said, "During the Fifties there was a general lust for conformity all over this country, by no means only in the suburbs — a kind of blind, desperate clinging to safety and security at any price, as exemplified politically in the Eisenhower administration and the Joe McCarthy witchhunts. Anyway, a great many Americans were deeply disturbed by all that — felt it to be an outright betrayal of our best and bravest revolutionary spirit — and that was the spirit I tried to embody in the character of April Wheeler. I meant the title to suggest that the revolutionary road of 1776 had come to something very much like a dead end in the Fifties."

Many of us tend to think of the 50's as the good old days, but not in terms of a woman's right to choose whether or not to have a family. And yet, how is the 21st century now any different? People still feel they must cling to what they have and not take any chances to change their circumstances. Most pregnant women as depicted in current media choose to have the baby. Juno, in a "break-away" film chooses to have the baby and give it away. Back in the "real world," a humanitarian doctor by the name of George Tiller is murdered by a so-called "right-to-lifer" (if that isn't an irony, then what is?)

When asked about the theme of his book, Yates told the interviewer, "If my work has a theme, I suspect it is a simple one: that most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies their tragedy." If we humans could only walk a mile in our neighbor's shoes (as my dad was once fond of saying), we might surprise ourselves at how similar we really are in wanting our lives to be comfortable yet remarkable.