Oscars and Entertainment

Best Actress Academy Awards

Best Actress Academy Awards (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

While watching the Academy Awards last night my kids wanted to know the purpose for all the awards ceremonies. “Tell me again what the Grammys are for?” said one son. “And how is that different from the Tonys and the Golden Globes?” said son number two. “Is it an Oscar or an Academy Award if you win?” pondered son number three. The conversation ultimately led to the most profound question of the night, “What does it all mean and why are we watching?”  The truth is nothing really. These shows simply offer us eye candy and entertainment.

The Oscars were started in 1929 as an out-of-the-public-eye industry recognition event. They have morphed over the years to be a great publicity opportunity for the movie industry. Proof of the benefit lies in the after-bounce that winning movies receive in ticket sales and the profit that clothing and jewelry labels receive if their creations are recognized as being worn by a particular star. Tell us Jennifer Lawrence, is that Dior you are wearing? Anne Hathaway, is that necklace Tiffany? The stars and their evening looks enter the zeitgeist in the form of pictures, videos and tweets

Admittedly, I love watching and had always assumed that one billion other people did too. The number one billion has been quoted for years as the world-wide audience of the Oscars but apparently this is way off the mark. The International Business Times had the following to say about the audience watching:

“In 1998, the Academy Awards U.S. audience peaked at 55 million. Since then, U.S. viewers have declined. From 2001 to 2012, the U.S. audience has hovered between 32 million and 43 million U.S. viewers, according to Deadline Hollywood…The Oscars are less relevant to a younger audience, because movies in general are less relevant,”  said a Monday morning editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Young people watch other screens: they play computer games, watch less television, download movies rather than go to them, and those they do watch are not those the Oscars celebrate. Most of the academy voters, numbering just under 6,000, are over 50.’ ”

This explanation is certainly corroborated in my house by the under-19-year olds and the over-the-50s. However, I will keep watching, whether I am one of the 50 million or 1 billion. The awards ceremonies are fun and worth a few laughs.

The tongue-in-cheek Razzies Awards underscore this sentiment by mocking the Oscars. The Razzies award the worst movie performances of the year the night before the Oscars. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 had the dis-honorable distinction of capturing 7 out of 10 categories including Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Kristen Stewart) and Worst Supporting Actor (Taylor Lautner). Albeit a little insulting, at least these actors can laugh all the way to the bank as the film has already garnered over $800 million in ticket sales world-wide.

Yesterday for our family Academy Awards viewing party my hair was “styled” by rainy dog-walk, my “outfit” was a rolled up pair of jeans and a baggy sweater and my make-up was Saturday-night-smudge. Love them or hate them, shows like the Oscars are entertaining and a reminder not to take everything so seriously.

Carol Lewis Gullstad, February 25, 2013

permissionslips1@gmail.com

Parenting Through Paranoia

As adults we get more moments then we would like that remind us about the fragility of life.

Is there a single person who did not think this weekend about the shooting at the midnight

Look both ways, the Orange Line is coming

Look both ways, the Orange Line is coming (Photo credit: LA Wad)

Dark Knight Rises Batman premiere that left 12 dead at a Colorado theater? Much has already been written about the crazed gunmen and his booby-trapped apartment.  It is beyond doubt a tragic tale.  The look of anguish on the face of parents who lost children in the shooting is a stab in the heart. Stories are trickling in about moms, dads and boyfriends body blanketing their loved ones from gunfire. We need these stories to help us all make some sense about a bewildering event.

As parents, we take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of injury to our kids.  “Look both ways before crossing the street,” we say. “Everyone got their seat belt buckled?” we ask.  Although our rational self knows that the Aurora theater incident was isolated, the emotional response is quite different. As one parent who was at that theater said through a stream of tears, “We just went to see a movie!”

The morning after the shooting was my youngest son’s birthday and we had already purchased tickets to take a carload of his friends to see The Dark Knight Rises. As expected I had a few emails waiting for me in my inbox asking if the party would go on. I told them it would. I had already planned to remind kids about “duck and cover”  before we entered the theater. It felt a little weird to be starting out a 12-year-old’s party on such a serious note, but somehow it felt necessary.

Parents sheepishly apologized to me for being a little paranoid when they dropped off their kids, but it was understandable. I admitted that I too was apprehensive given the timing. It wasn’t that I expected a gunman to appear at a matinée in Seattle, but I knew for sure that my eyes would be scanning the movie audience more than the screen at this particular showing.

Normally my husband and I would have been comfortable in the packed theater sitting several rows away from the kids. This time however, we sat right behind — all the better to keep a lookout.

I remember telling my dad when I was pregnant with my first child that I was worried. He said, “Carol, welcome to a lifetime a worrying.” His words have been truer than I could ever have imagined. Not only do I worry about my own kids, I’ve got plenty of apprehension to spread around for others. It is a trait that makes me good at planning work, vacations and parties because I always have a back-up plan. However it also brings on multiple thought bubbles that keep me up at night.

I give myself permission to be a little bit paranoid when it comes to my kids but that is the joy and love of parenting. I know I have lots of company.

Linda wrote about this topic too. A subject worth revisiting. https://permissionslips.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/love-and-lecture-then-let-go-and-live/.

Carol Lewis Gullstad

July 23, 2012

permissionslips1@gmail.com

50 Shades of Embarrassment

After the plane reached its cruising altitude last week, I fired up the iPad and dove into my book club’s current selection. I had started the novel poolside the prior day, so knew the direction it was heading, but when I reached the potential “contract” between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, I started feeling a bit uncomfortable.

My unease was heightened by the fact that I was seated next to an elderly couple that was – along with their friends across the aisle, one of whom was breathing oxygen through a nasal tube – headed to the Northwest for an Alaskan cruise. The very sensibly dressed husband and wife at my side were eating sandwiches they had packed for the flight, and both were rushing to finish James Michener’s Alaska before landing in Seattle.

I’m not one for small talk on planes – I see them as mini vacations in themselves – so I generally give myself permission to keep my nose in whatever book I’m devouring. This time, as I read Ana’s thoughts on hard and soft limits with Mr. Grey, I was grateful that I hadn’t brought along a paperback with a tell-tale cover. However, just in case, every time the sweet woman next to me turned to take in the view out the window, I tilted my e-reader just a little to the right.

Those who know me well, and even those who know me just a little, will understand my discomfort and note the irony of my reading Fifty Shades of Grey. One of my college majors was literature – you know, writing papers on Chaucer, DeFoe and Hardy – and I’ve never opened anything by Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steele, or with Fabio on the cover.

During my adult life, I’ve participated in several book clubs, and have always looked forward to monthly discussions of “real” literature (oh, and also the food, wine, gossip and general girlfriend time). Most of my friends and colleagues probably consider me a serious reader.

And yet, in the past few years, I’ve raced through the Twilight, Hunger Games and Stieg Larsson series, so I guess that even in my rapidly advancing age, I’m capable of change – or at least flexibility. Apparently, by relishing these popular, decidedly un-literary tomes, I’ve joined a new breed of “mommy readers.” And, like millions of others in this new demographic, I’m enjoying a book that’s widely considered “mommy porn.”

To enlighten the handful of you who have not heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s the story of a virginal, soon-to-graduate college student who strikes up a relationship with a late-20s gazillionaire, who has a taste for eroticism and contracts the sexual novice to become his “submissive” for a three-month period. The troubled, yet handsome and very adept protagonist has a penchant for BDSM – a term that’s not part of my everyday vernacular.

Apparently segments of British author E. L. James’ book started appearing with the title Master of the Universe on a Twilight-related “fan-fiction” website a while back. After concerns of copyright infringement and the book’s sexual nature, James started publishing the series on her own site, FiftyShades.com.

About a year ago, an Australian “virtual publisher” released the trilogy’s first volume, Fifty Shades of Grey, as an e-book and a print-on-demand paperback. Through word of mouth and “viral marketing,” the book’s popularity snowballed, and this spring, Vantage Books reportedly paid James a seven-figure advance for the publishing rights.

In April, TIME Magazine listed James as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and as of this week, James’ trilogy holds the top three spots on the New York Times best-seller lists for “Combined Print & E-Book Fiction,” “Paperback Trade Fiction,” “E-Book Fiction” and “Combined Hardcover & Paperback Fiction.”

The series is being translated into some 30 languages, a movie is in the works and it has provided fodder for Dr. Drew on The Today Show and the 82-year-old Barbara Walters on The View. It even received the popular-culture stamp of approval via a Saturday Night Live parody.

To be clear, the book is not for the faint of heart or sexually reserved. It is very graphic and steps well beyond the bedroom boundaries most of us keep. In fact, Fifty Shades of Grey has been banned – so far – by public libraries in Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin, but perhaps that only adds to its allure.

And while the content is titillating, to say the least, the writing is far from high brow. I’ve heard many women voice the same assessment as Huffington Post writer Julie Gerstenblatt, who recently noted, “I thought it was awfully written and yet I couldn’t put it down.”

The good news is that adult women who rarely pick up books are now reading voraciously. And, as someone who would love to write a novel someday, I’m all for the publishing industry’s survival.

Here in the Seattle area – where much of the books’ activity takes place – Shades of Grey has become Topic A among moms at the gym, the grocery store, charity league meetings and dinner parties.

The phenomenon has spread across the nation. In fact, last week an LA-area friend posted a Facebook photo indicating that a dozen or so of her book club members tackled a 50 Shades discussion with cold beverages in a hot tub. Now that’s a meeting I would have liked.

As for my own book club, our tastes have recently ranged from The Help to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. We advocate a low-pressure approach – understanding that most of us juggle zillions of obligations – and stress attendance and fun over book completion. And so, over the past few weeks, when I have run into my fellow book clubbers in public, conversations have taken place in hushed tones: “Are you reading it?”; “How far are you?”; and “I couldn’t put it down, and now I’m finishing the third book.”

In truth, I haven’t found much inspiration from the book. I am, and always will be, a somewhat prude Midwesterner at heart (just ask some of my former boyfriends). I don’t dream about Christian Grey, and I certainly don’t fantasize about cheating on my husband of 21 years.

And, yet, I’m still reading – mostly on the elliptical at the gym – and I’m determined to finish the book before my club’s meeting.  Maybe that’s the point: because my book club and just about every other 30-plus woman in America is reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve given myself permission to do so, too. And, really, what’s the harm in that?

–       Linda Williams Rorem, 21 May 2012
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Making Your Bucket List

In the hit 2007 film The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, two terminally ill men assemble a personal-life wish list of things they would like to do before they die. Since the movie’s release, the term “bucket list” has entered the cultural vernacular as a short-hand way to communicate what we aspire to experience during our lives.

The list might include places to visit, foods to eat or adventures to tackle. Just making the list can be exhilarating and inspiring. However, depending on age or economic where-with-all, it can be a depressing exercise, as it might represent a list of things that will never be.

Recently, a bucket list has widely circulated about Avery Canahuati, a six-month-old girl who suffers from the genetic disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Avery is not expected to live beyond age 2.  SMA is a progressive disease of the motor neurons in the brain stem and spinal cord that will eventually rob Avery of the use of her muscles for swallowing, breathing and movement of her limbs. Some degeneration has already occurred. To read more about SMA, click here: http://www.fightsma.org/sma-guidebook/what-is-sma/

Her father, Mike Canahuati, began an imaginary “bucket list” for his daughter to spread awareness about the illness and to ensure that the family enjoys the limited time they have together. Each week, Canahuati shares photographs and experiences and crosses items off Avery’s bucket list. The blog is joyful, humorous and poignant.

On Saturday, April 28 Avery knocked off items that included going to her first baseball game and shaking hands with “super hot baseball players.”

A few days prior, Avery’s dad had crossed off, “Wake up smiling, Have a bad hair day, Eat a cupcake and a Blow Pop.” Each entry concludes with, “Up Next: Whatever I bring to life, because I don’t have time to wait for life to bring anything to me.” Click here to visit Avery’s blog: http://averycan.blogspot.com/

While the Canahuati family’s situation is tragic beyond description, Avery’s list offers great perspective that life, and one’s bucket list, does not need to be full of monumental accomplishments. It is also an important reminder to prioritize spending time on joyful and satisfying simple pleasures. As the oft-cited saying goes, “No one on their deathbed ever wishes they spent more time working.” If we are lucky with our health and mindful of the way we live, we will certainly have a very full bucket when we die.

Carol Lewis Gullstad April 30, 2012

email: permssionslips1@gmail.com

Super Tuesday Every Day

The Republican U.S. presidential primary election season is well under way and this week was Super Tuesday, the day in which 10 states held primaries and caucuses. It is the Super Bowl of the political season and there was nearly frenetic chatter about all the resources and energy that converged on this one coast to coast “race” day, March 6.

The pundits and talking heads have discussed the manic pace of the candidates as they charge around early morning to late evening through multiple locations and settings in a single day. They say the candidates are approaching complete exhaustion and look tired and worn out.

In listening to the radio there was something familiar-sounding in the story line that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Hmm, the politicians are scheduled every minute, regularly eat on the run and need to switch gears constantly as they interact with groups and individuals.

Finally my thoughts became clear 6:00 a.m. Saturday while loading the mini-van with sports equipment, all-weather clothing and a contraption made of cardboard, a dolly and duct tape. As I contemplated the day I knew that from that moment forward every minute would be crammed with activity. I would be driving all over the county from auditoriums to outdoor venues. I would be loading and unloading the vehicle at several stops. I would be setting up, breaking down and gathering equipment for several kids. I would be constantly switching gears and interacting with small and large groups of people and grabbing a meal to-go. Yes, it was “Super Saturday!”

While Super Tuesday only happens every four years, Super Saturday is a weekly occurrence in most families. Although running a household is certainly not the same as running a national political campaign, there are more than a few days each week that feel like a chaotic convergence.  Wouldn’t we all love to have a scheduler, handler and “advance people” to help us through the week?

Then it hit me, I had it backwards. The stories about the campaign trail resonated because as a mom I am the support team, not the candidate. We help our kids so they can always be prepared and “fresh on their game.” But, in our enthusiasm to provide opportunities for our kids we have to be careful that the candidate (our child) and the campaign manager do not burn out.

As reminded by the election news and advised in the documentary, Race to NowhereI need to find more ways to cut back on “Super Saturdays and Tuesdays” every week. More importantly, I need to always be mindful of  maintaining personal balance and not lose sight of the real goal – raising a healthy, happy human being.

Carol Lewis Gullstad, March 5, 2012

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Mother of the Tried

Regardless of the outcome of the Amanda Knox drama in Perugia, as the Italian judge read the verdict last week, my strongest emotion was profound relief for Amanda’s mother, Edda Mellas.

From the moment our children enter our lives, we love and support them – by and large, unconditionally. We revel in their successes – often inordinately — and secretly feel that our great genes or effective parenting may be responsible.

Whether our kids’ strengths are academic, athletic or artistic, most parents puff up with pride when a child performs well. (For proof, read some of the exuberant, long-winded Christmas letters that fly through the air each December.)

But here’s the rub: if you take credit for your kids’ successes, must you also bear the blame for their failures?

Amanda Knox is a lovely girl who studied at a high-caliber high school, was successful in sports and attended the University of Washington, a well-regarded university. She seems strong, capable and independent; she chose to study abroad, mastered a foreign language and landed a part-time job soon after arriving. Amanda’s achievements must have made her parents proud.

So, how did Edda Mellas feel four years ago, when the shocking news was broadcast from Perugia? All at once, the entire world heard reports that her 20-year-old daughter was having sex with a young Italian man, drinking alcohol and smoking hash. And what’s more, if the Italian media could be believed, she was engaging in drug-fueled sex games, and was potentially an accessory to her British roommate’s grisly murder.

Did Edda ever doubt her daughter’s innocence? Did she wonder “what went wrong,” or what she could have done differently? Did she look back at her own choices as a parent, and kick herself for mistakes she had made?

I can’t begin to understand the feelings that went through her head, but I do know that, like most parents, Amanda’s mom and dad gave everything they had – their love, their time, their encouragement and their money – to support their little girl. Over the past four years, they mortgaged homes, drained retirement accounts, used up vacation time, called in favors from friends, asked strangers for help and donations and worried themselves sick.

Not 30 minutes after hearing the Knox verdict, I received a phone call alerting me to one of my own child’s transgressions. It was nothing on the scale of murder, but serious enough to leave me shaking and wondering what my preventative role could have been. “Am I to blame? Is this the result of bad parenting? Did I miss signs of problems leading up to this?” I literally gasped for air and braced myself for the conversations with my child, husband and school adminstrators that would follow.

By the day’s end, the situation was more or less resolved, and I had stopped beating myself up. I accepted the fact some kids simply need to make mistakes to learn how to be act appropriately, and often it takes a dramatic incident to effect a necessary course correction. But through it all, I couldn’t help thinking about Amanda’s mom, and how we naturally feel pained by our children’s errors.

Later that night, I called up videos of the day’s drama in Italy, and watched an interview with Meredith Kercher’s sister and mother. The drained and desperate look on Arline Kercher’s face said it all: nothing will bring her baby back, nothing will right the wrong that ended her life too soon. Life will never, ever be the same for the Kercher family.

Over the past four years, Arline may have wondered if she was right to send her girl to Perugia, if she should have suggested a different living arrangement, if choices she made, or didn’t make, impacted her daughter’s involvement in whatever unfolded that night. But clearly, her demeanor in the courtroom showed that none of those questions or emotions is worth a shilling.

All we can do is love our kids for who they are, and accept that they are unique beings who make both good and bad choices, and who experience both successes and failures – and a lot in-between. Our primary job is simply to love and support them for the individuals they are, through thick and thin, for whatever time we have together.

Linda Williams Rorem, 10 Oct. 2011
PermissionSlips1@gmail.com

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