Sunday, February 28, 2016

An Ode to Tea

"No coffee, thank you, for me -- never take coffee.  A little tea, if you please."
-Miss Bates, Emma

Okay, I kind of lied. This post is not going to be an Ode.  In order for an Ode to be happening, there has to be some sort of poetry going on, and poetry and I Do Not Mix.  So this is a Prose to Tea, except that that sounds really weird in a post title, and I like to display some semblance of sanity for the rare occasions when my mother reads my blog.  (Recent quote from her: "You still write a blog?!?!" Okay, so make that "nonexistent occasions.")

But I digress before I even begin.

O Tea, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways, in a rambling and out-of-order form numbered only because I just used the phrase "count the ways" and not because I am actually ranking The Ways in any hierarchy of importance.

1.  Thou art warm and comforting for any foul mood or stormy weather. Or when one is under the weather. That too.

2. Thou art beautiful to behold and come in a great variety of pretty colors, unlike thy ugly brother Coffee, who is one color without cream and one color with, and, by extension, incredibly boring.

3.  Thou hast been proven over centuries to be the fuel of creativity, and thy praises sung by many great people, including Jane Austen, so there.  (Tea is apparently drunk at least 58 times by various characters throughout her novels.)

4. Thou art generally affordable and though some of thy varieties may be in a pricey range, for the most part one can get a good bang for one's buck (i.e. 20 cups of tea can be made from the standard box of teabags, which is generally available for under $5 in the U.S., even if you're buying something of good quality like Twinings, and since that's the average price of a kiddie cup at Starbucks... it's a pretty good deal).

5. Thou canst be served in lovely and delicate teacups, which are pleasing to the sight and beautiful in the eye of the beholder, and also collectible.  (I currently have 17 in my bedroom alone, plus two mugs, one of which is decorative and one of which perpetually sits on my bedside table because I always forget to take it back down to the kitchen when it is empty.)

6.  Thou art naturally free of calories, and that is a beautiful thing.  Doctoring thee up with sugar and cream is the business of those who drink thee, and on their own heads be it if they decide to add to thee-- but on thine own thou art not a Guilty Pleasure and for that we salute thee.

7.  Thou smellest SO GOOD.  (And smellest is... not a word?) And thy fragrances are many and varied, and linger pleasingly in a manner much unlike old coffee, whose aroma becomes unwelcome with great haste after it has been consumed. (No, this post is not solely for the purpose of dissing coffee. :P)

8.  Thou art such a companionable sort of treat to Share with a Friend.

9.  Thou art easy to make-- seriously, all one needs is a stove, a kettle, water, and a teabag.  Thou shalt not be sullied with water that has been microwaved, but everyone knows THAT. ;)

10.  When thou art paired with a good book, truer happiness cannot be found, unless of course there is chocolate too.

Monday, February 22, 2016

That Really Long-Delayed Post About Stories and the People Who Make Them

My first real movie crush was on Nicholas Hammond as Friedrich von Trapp in The Sound of Music. I was nine, he was fourteen (the character, at least), and he was fictional and I was real, so the relationship really had no future, but I thought he was super cute.  (Still do.  In a weird nostalgic I-am-way-too-old-for-him-now way.)

Round about the same time as I saw The Sound of Music for the first time, I experienced the magic that was the Kevin Sullivan adaptation of Anne of Green Gables (still one of my top five favorite movies).  I'd read the children's version of the book before, and then my mom read aloud the Real Thing, but the movie clinched the deal-- I was an Anne fan forever.  And eventually a diehard Gilbert fan too... but not right away.  He was, you know, sort of old.  (Like, nineteen or twenty in the second movie. ANCIENT.)

After a while, though, I began to come around and appreciate Gilbert Blythe for a little bit more than just saying mildly funny things now and then.  For one thing, I was beginning to develop a somewhat greater and more refined taste for romance (i.e. Mushy Stuff, because This Was a Kissing Book), so Anne and Gilbert's relationship warmed my little heart.  For another thing, I was beginning to develop a slightly greater appreciation for the Aesthetically Blessed among us-- in short, it hit me one day that Jonathan Crombie was also super cute.  (This opinion has not changed in the past ten years.)

Come on.  I'm human.

That, combined with Gilbert's personality, charm, sense of humor, kindred-spirit-ness-- oh, did I mention his adorably curly hair-- and down-to-earth common sense, made him one of my favorite literary and film heroes of all time.  (See this post for a little more on that.)

So even though Friedrich was my first real movie crush, Gilbert was the one who endured.  The older I got, the more I liked him.  (And it wasn't just the hair-- although of course that helped.)

All this ought to have been clear to me as the reason why I was so devastated when Jonathan Crombie passed away last April.  But at the time, it wasn't, and I couldn't figure out why I was so sad over the death of a person I'd never met.

I think I first found out through the Sullivan Entertainment Twitter... and then a news article on his death... and then an instant message from Melody.  I remember telling my mom that night while making my lunch for work the next day, and actually breaking down crying while sharing the news.  "I don't even know why I'm so upset," I wailed, trying not to drip tears into my refried beans (because face it, that would be gross-- even if I was the only one eating them).

My mom was, bless her, sympathetic, and didn't tell me to stop crying into my lunch bag over a person I'd never even seen in real life. "Well, that story was a huge part of your childhood," she said, "and so it's natural for you to feel attached to the characters, and since he played one of the characters, that's the closest thing in real life."

{{At this point in the post it is worth mentioning that I started writing this about three weeks ago and then got distracted and never finished it, and now it is February 17th and I am finally finishing it. #perseverance

The problem is that I am now having a little more difficulty remembering where I was going with all this.  Reason #293827 why I should write better blog post outlines than "why people who make stories are important & it is sad that Alan Rickman died."}}

Right. Alan Rickman.

So I've actually only ever seen him in one whole movie, and that's my beloved Sense and Sensibility, as the perfect and best version of Colonel Brandon.  Yes he was too old.  Yes he could have been Kate Winslet's dad.  Shut up.  He was still awesome.  And David Morrissey is fine and all, but come on.  He was in a movie up against Dan Stevens.  We all know who wins the 2008 version.

(And yes I still love the 2008 version-- see review here-- but that's not the topic of this post.  *gets distracted rereading the review*  Wowwwwww I was a lot younger then.  ....anyways.)

And then he passed away in mid-January and, well, it was really sad.  Again, I'd only seen one of his films, yet I still felt as if the world had lost someone very special.

After Rickman's passing, the Internet pretty much exploded with tributes and eulogies and musings on the impact he had on the theatrical world.  There's a theater in the city where I work that has a poster in their window display with the quote at the beginning of this post.  "A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music or a book can make a difference. It can change the world."  (And yes, I just retyped that quote so that you wouldn't have to scroll all the way back up to the top to look at the picture again.  YOU'RE WELCOME.)

I've always loved that quote, and this one-- which I hadn't read before all the tributes came along-- is just as good.  
And it’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible.
- Alan Rickman

Stories.  That's what it comes down to.  That's what makes these people special-- they told stories that resonated with us.  They used their talents to bring fictional characters to life, and it was magical.  Most little girls have a crush on Gilbert Blythe at one time or another.  (Come on, admit it... you did too...) Naturally a lot of that is due to L.M. Montgomery's writing of a character whose all-around-great-guy-ness resonates with so many people, but a lot of it is also due to Jonathan Crombie's talent in making Gilbert seem real and alive.  We want to believe that people like Gilbert exist... which is why that kind of character becomes so beloved by so many.  Same goes for the Jane Austen heroes... well, except for Edmund Bertram but DON'T GET ME STARTED ON EDMUND BERTRAM.


That's what storytellers do, though.  They give happy endings, even if they aren't realistic.  (People argue at times that Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon wouldn't have been truly happy together and that she was just settling for him... I will argue that one until I'm blue in the face, but this post is not the place for that.)  They restore order with imagination. They instill hope, again and again and again.

(That is NOT a Walt Disney quote.  It is a Kelly-Marcel-and-Sue-Smith quote-- from the writers of the screenplay for Saving Mr. Banks, one of the best movies of this decade.  But the somewhat-fictionalized character of Walt Disney said it in the film, so... yeah.)

Probably one of my favorite movie quotes of all time, that line sums up why stories are important--- why artists and novelists and playwrights and actors are such valuable contributors to society.  Because they give us something beyond day-to-day reality, something hopeful and happy and thought-provoking.  Is there always a happily ever after in real life?  Or, even, in a novel?  No.  But in a story, any story, there can be, because a story is limitless.  Because even if the people in it aren't real in one sense of the word, they are real to the reader. To the viewer. To the person sitting in the hushed theatre audience.  They are real because a long line of other people-- actual living people-- have made them so, from the first idea set down on paper to the costumed actor speaking lines to a camera.

And that, to me, is nothing short of incredible.

End of cheesy post.