Top Five High School Movies

I’ve finished a first draft of my coming-of-age high school script and, in trying to avoid cliches, have often reflected on the best of the genre. By my reckoning, there is a pantheon of five films, all of which have characters, story and dialogue that ring true.

5. Election (Alexander Payne, 1999)Election104. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)dazed13. American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973)graffiti122. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)rushmore-81. Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)superbadInterestingly enough, except for Superbad, these films were directed early in each filmmaker’s careers, all of whom went on to be nominated for Oscars. We’ll see what Mottola does next.

 

Ice Friday: Cormac McCarthy’s “The Crossing”

Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing is an uneven story of a young man drifting from human contact into an abstracted, shadowy world. IMG_4948The writing can be riveting: East and to the south there was water on the flats and two sandhill cranes stood tethered to their reflections out there in the last of the day’s light like statues of such birds in some waste of a garden where calamity had swept all else away. (171)20150713_174354However the prose get bogged down by McCarthy’s repetitive tendencies: His pale hair looked white. He looked fourteen going on some age that never was. He looked as if he’d been sitting there and God had made the trees and rocks around him. He looked like his own reincarnation and then his own again. Above all else he looked to be filled with a terrible sadness. (177)

Watching My Mother Descend

My mother and I were never the best of companions. She had certain expectations of me which I never fulfilled, and I was demanding, stupid and selfish. In short, she wasn’t the best at mothering and neither was I at being mothered.  20150820_163948This said, I always had great respect for her sharp mind and nature, both of which she has now lost.

She has devolved into an acquiescent woman with little to say because she can’t remember much of anything beyond the weather and my name. And as difficult as the process is, it’s not like I can’t cope; it’s just that I dislike watching the installments.20150820_162547She didn’t want to die like this; she was most emphatic about that. But that’s what happens when you beat cancer twice. The worst things get you in the end.

Nakka, the Greenlandic Sled Dog

Nakka is a full-on Greenlandic sled dog that can go for fifteen hours straight, no food or water, through ice and snow.IMG_4780I realized that it might have been a mistake to bring him to New York when, on my first day at a Manhattan dog run, he herded the other dogs – pit bulls and all – jumping the fence and chasing the tourists into the river.

He hated city living – most of all our apartment, only 800 square feet – but also how everyone had to pet him. “Look at you! Little Nakka! You’re so cute!” They didn’t understand that he only bit because he needed space. IMG_4781Anyway, I had to take him back to his home to Ilulissat…where apparently some of the other dogs think he’s putting on airs.20150710_210344

Ice Friday: Alice Munro

Alfred in Visitors summarizes Alice Munro’s narrative style best: “It’s not a story. It’s something that happened.”IMG_4688Munro’s strength is in her characterization: “She was disgusted with her mother’s callousness, her self-absorption, her feebleness, her survival, her wretched little legs and arms on which the skin hung like wrinkled sleeves.” (Accident)

Munro is also a virtuoso at description:”The trees came down to the shore on both sides of the building. The leaves weren’t quite out here, even though it was May. You could see all the branches with just an impression of green, as if that was the color of the air.” (Hard-Luck Stories) 20150708_151226Moments drift in Munro’s prose, echoing a disillusionment with existence; there is a lack of a story arc, a climax, any kind of ending and comes across like the humming of a song, a tune, but nothing concrete.

First Writing Contest: Owls in the Family

I entered my first writing competition in Grade 4, submitting “My Summer Holiday” story like everyone else. 20150812_110903I had implemented many of the key elements into my tale of hauling wood across the lake – a startled bat flying from the boat house foreshadowing doom, a boat overflowing with wood maintaining tension, my father hanging onto the motor as the boat sank for comic relief and my unbridled terror as I descended into the dark water for the voice – even if I had no idea what I was doing. still-blue-water I fell over backward in my chair when they announced my name as the winner in a school assembly and I was presented with an inscribed copy of Farley Mowat’s Owls in the Family. owlsinthefamilyIt remains the only contest I have won, except for a contest to describe the great taste of Hire Root Beer in which I used a nonsensical parade of ‘f’ words, including fizzy and fantastic. hiresrootbeerI earned an ‘Honorable Mention’ for that and a pair of radio headphones. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I might have peaked too soon.

The Sister Cities of Ilulissat and New York

On first glance, Ilulissat, Greenland and New York City seem worlds apart. IMG_5007Manhattan skyline (6)I have come to learn, upon further examination, that the assumption is inaccurate.

One commonality is that both places offer non-stop action. New York has 24 hours of lights and hype.Columbus 011Ilulissat has 24-hours light and calving ice. IMG_4980Taxis dominate each locale.20150722_072427Cab TwoAs do throngs of tourists. IMAG352720150712_163552One thing I will have to admit is that the graffiti in Ilulissat can be more direct. 20150715_211435