100 Memorable Movie Characters…Part 3

 

“We live in a box of space & time. Movies are windows in its walls. They allow us to enter other minds, not simply in the sense of identifying with the characters, but by seeing the world as another person sees it.”  –  Roger Ebert

 

 

 

My apologies for the slow progress of our little project. I actually had this ready to post last weekend, but ran into some personal issues…sad circumstances that I’d rather not revisit at the moment. I am thankful for the diversion The Manofesto provides during tough times. This space has been a godsend for me thru the years…cathartic, even when the subject matter might not be indicative of that fact. If even one person out there has gotten half as much pleasure out of reading this stuff as I’ve had writing it then it’s all been worth it. Anyway, if you haven’t read Parts 1 & 2 please take some time to catch up. We’ll leave the light on for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

50     Scout Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird)

Her proper given name is Jean Louise Finch, and she’s the precocious daughter of a respected attorney in 1930’s Alabama. Scout also narrates the story, the crux of which is a controversial rape trial wherein her father is defending the accused. Along the way she spends time with her brother Jem & their pal Dill Harris and becomes fascinated with mysterious neighbor Boo Radley. She loves & respects her father, and slowly begins to understand the deeper issues that plague her community. To Kill A Mockingbird won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was adapted into a film just a year later. The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three. Actress Mary Badham was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Scout Finch but lost to Patty Duke for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. Badham was the youngest actress ever nominated for that particular award until Tatum O’Neal took home the trophy a decade later. Badham had a very short acting career that was essentially over by the time she was 14 years old, but I suppose when you star in To Kill A Mockingbird right out of the gate the bar is set rather high. The novel is one of my favorite books of all time, and thankfully the movie stays as faithful to it as one could expect.

 

Quotes

“Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by 9am, ladies bathed before noon after their 3pm naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating & sweet talcum. The day was 24 hours long, but it seemed longer. There’s no hurry, for there’s nowhere to go, nothing to buy, and no money to buy it with. Although Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself, that summer I was six years old.”

“Neighbors bring food with death, flowers with sickness, and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch & chain, a knife… and our lives.”

 

 

 

49     Lord Voldemort (The Harry Potter Series)

He Who Must Not Be Named!! This dude is so evil people don’t even want to mention his name, which is pretty heavy stuff. I’m a much bigger fan of the Potter books than the movies, mostly because the books are so massive that the movies necessarily leave a lot of minor characters & subplots on the cutting room floor. Obviously though Voldemort doesn’t have that issue. Thru the course of the series we learn how his life began as Tom Marvolo Riddle, his father abandoned he & his mother, the mother died so Tom ended up in an orphanage, he met Albus Dumbledore who got him into Hogwarts School, and Tom descended into a psychotic murderer who became the most powerful wizard in the world. He is obsessed with becoming immortal, especially after losing his physical body upon killing James & Lily Potter. When you get right down to it the entire Potter story can be boiled down to Good vs. Evil, and Voldemort is basically a fictionalized version of Satan. Good vs. Evil is a staple in literature, movies, & other forms of entertainment, and there is always a Bad Guy. Having said that, I think it is fair to rank the Potter series amongst the best modern fiction out there and Voldemort is one of the most memorable evildoers ever portrayed on film.

 

Quotes

“There is no good and evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

“Welcome, my friends. Thirteen years it’s been, and yet, here you stand before me, as though it were only yesterday. I confess myself… disappointed. Not one of you tried to find me.”

“Shall I divulge how I truly lost my powers? Yes, shall I? It was love. You see, when dear, sweet Lily Potter gave her life for her only son, she provided the ultimate protection. I could not touch him. It was old magic. Something I should have foreseen.”

“I’m going to kill you, Harry Potter. I’m going to destroy you. After tonight, no one will ever again question my powers. After tonight, if they speak of you, they’ll speak only of how you begged for death.”

“I know that many of you will want to fight. Some of you may even think that to fight is wise. But this is folly. Give me Harry Potter. Do this and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave Hogwarts untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded. You have one hour.”

“Harry Potter, I now speak directly to you. On this night, you have allowed your friends to die for you, rather than face me yourself. There is no greater dishonor. Join me in the Forbidden Forest, and confront your fate. If you do not do this, I shall kill every last man, woman and child who tries to conceal you from me.”

 

 

 

48     Jefferson Smith (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)

James Stewart is one of my favorite actors of all time. It’s A Wonderful Life. Harvey. Rear Window. Vertigo. I could go on, but one of the best roles of Stewart’s career is Jefferson Smith, the leader of an organization called The Boy Rangers (because The Boy Scouts refused to allow use of their name). Smith is a good-natured, idealistic, naïve young man who is inexplicably maneuvered into becoming a replacement Senator from an unnamed state. Once in the U.S. Senate others are under the impression that Smith can be manipulated to do their bidding & line their greedy pockets, but the newbie is much more astute & committed to his principles than anyone realizes. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was originally intended to be a sequel to 1936’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, with Gary Cooper reprising his role as Longfellow Deeds, but when that idea fell thru director Frank Capra retooled the story into a vehicle for Stewart, who received his first Academy Award nomination for the role.

 

Quotes

“You’re not gonna have a country that can make these kind of rules work, if you haven’t got men that have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose. It’s a funny thing about men, you know. They all start life being boys. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of these Senators were boys once. And that’s why it seemed like a pretty good idea for me to get boys out of crowded cities and stuffy basements for a couple of months out of the year. And build their bodies and minds for a man-sized job, because those boys are gonna be behind these desks some of these days.”

“I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little lookin’ out for the other fella, too.”

“There’s no compromise with truth. That’s all I got up on this floor to say.”

“Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That’s what you’d see.”

“I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don’t know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for, and he fought for them once, for the only reason any man ever fights for them: Because of one plain simple rule: Love thy neighbor. And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You think I’m licked. You all think I’m licked. Well, I’m not licked, and I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause.”

 

 

 

47     Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

The term “Baseball Annie” may or may not have originated with Ruth Ann Steinhagen, a 19 year old Chicago woman who became obsessed with infielder Eddie Waitkus and shot him in a hotel room in 1949. That incident inspired the 1952 novel The Natural, which was adapted into a movie starring Robert Redford in 1984. At any rate, a Baseball Annie is a groupie who hooks up with baseball players, and Annie Savoy might be the most well-known (fictional) example. Susan Sarandon’s most famous role before Bull Durham was probably playing Janet Weiss in the 1975 adaptation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, although she has five Academy Award nominations and one Best Actress trophy on her resume. Sarandon gives Annie the perfect blend of sensuality, humor, strength, metaphysicality, & vulnerability. She is almost motherly (in a sexual kind of way of course) to inexperienced rookie pitcher Nuke LaLoosh, while veteran catcher Crash Davis isn’t intimidated at all & calls her out on her BS, which totally turns Annie on. Sarandon was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, but lost to Melanie Griffith for her role in Working Girl.

 

Quotes

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. There are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance, but it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring, which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Makin’ love is like hitting a baseball, you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250, unless he had a lot of RBIs or was a great glove man up the middle.”

“This is the damndest season I’ve ever had; the Durham Bulls can’t lose and I can’t get laid!”

“Baseball may be a religion full of magic, cosmic truth, and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time, but it’s also a job.”

“Women never get lured. They’re too strong and powerful for that.”

“Actually, nobody on this planet ever really chooses each other. I mean, it’s all a question of quantum physics, molecular attraction, and timing. Why, there are laws we don’t understand that bring us together and tear us apart. It’s like pheromones. You get three ants together, they can’t do dick. You get 300 million of them, they can build a cathedral.”

“Cute? Baby ducks are cute, I hate cute! I want to be exotic & mysterious!”

 

 

 

46         Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid)

Who would have ever guessed in 1975 that the owner of Arnold’s Drive-In would go on to become a sage old martial arts master & building maintenance man?? Pat Morita was viewed as a comedic actor because of his work on Happy Days & MASH, so the powers-that-be were reluctant to cast him as Mr. Miyagi, a role that requires a kind of quiet wisdom. Hindsight is 20/20, and we understand now that Morita was perfect for the part, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (won that year by Haing S. Ngor for his role in The Killing Fields) and which he reprised in three sequels.

 

Quotes

 “First learn balance. Balance good, karate good, everything good. Balance bad, might as well pack up, go home.”

“In Okinawa, all Miyagi know two things: fish & karate. Karate come from China, 16th century, called te, ‘hand’. Hundred year later, Miyagi ancestor bring to Okinawa, call karate. ‘empty hand’.”

“Fighting always last answer to problem.”

“Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out of mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important.”

“Man who catch fly with chopsticks accomplish anything.”

 

 

 

45     Vincent Gambini & Mona Lisa Vito (My Cousin Vinny)

Actor Joe Pesci makes his second appearance in our countdown, but in a very different role from the violent lunatic he plays in Goodfellas. Vincent is actually on the other side of the law…a middle-aged attorney who has never tried a case. When his young cousin & a friend are charged with a murder they didn’t commit in Alabama they call upon Cousin Vinny to help. It then becomes a classic fish-out-of-water story because you have very Brooklyn Vinny clashing with the locals of a small southern town. Such tales are dime-a-dozen in Hollywood, but this one is particularly well done, and none of the depicted stereotypes are mean-spirited or small-minded. Vinny proves to be unconventional yet clever, in no small part due to the motivation & assistance provided by his girlfriend Lisa. Until Vinny Marisa Tomei had been best known for her small screen roles on soap opera As the World Turns and Cosby Show spinoff A Different World, but that all changed when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mona Lisa. Since then she has gone on to have a steady & sporadically successful career with a few additional award nominations. My Cousin Vinny is one of my go to movies when I’m in the mood to chill out & need something to simply put a smile on my face, and it holds up quite well after 25+ years.

 

Quotes

“I routinely twist the maximum allowable torquage.” (Lisa)

“You’re in Ala-fuckin’-bama. You come from New York. You killed a good ol’ boy. There is no way this is not goin’ to trial.” (Vinny)

“Imagine you’re a deer. You’re prancin’ along. You get thirsty. You spot a little brook. You put ya little deer lips down to the cool clear water…bam! A fuckin’ bullet rips off part of ya head! Your brains are layin’ on the ground in little bloody pieces! Now, I ask ya, would you give a fuck what kind of pants the son-of-a-bitch who shot you was wearing?!” (Lisa)

“When ya look at the bricks from the right angle, they’re as thin as this playing card. His whole case is an illusion, a magic trick. It has to be an illusion ’cause you’re innocent. Nobody, I mean nobody, pulls the wool over the eyes of a Gambini, especially this one.” (Vinny)

“Well, I hate to bring it up because I know you’ve got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get married as soon as you won your first case. Meanwhile, ten years later, my niece, the daughter of my sister is gettin’ married. My biological clock is tickin’ like this, and the way this case is goin’, I ain’t never gettin’ married!” (Lisa)

“Did you just say you’re a fast cook, that’s it!? Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than on any place on the face of the Earth!? Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove! Were these magic grits? I mean, did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans!?” (Vinny)

“The car that made these two equal-length tire marks had positraction. Can’t make those marks without positraction, which was not available on the ’64 Buick Skylark! You see when the left tire mark goes up on the curb, and the right tire mark stays flat and even? Well, the ’64 Skylark had a solid rear axle. So, when the left tire would go up on the curb, the right tire would tilt out and ride along its edge, but that didn’t happen here, the tire mark stayed flat and even. This car had an independent rear suspension. Now, in the ’60s, there were only two other cars made in America that had positraction, independent rear suspension, & enough power to make these marks: one was the Corvette, which could never be confused with the Buick Skylark. The other had the same body length, height, width, weight, wheelbase, and wheel track as the ’64 Skylark, and that was the 1963 Pontiac Tempest.” (Lisa)

 

 

 

44     Jack Torrance (The Shining)

I’ve been very slow to jump on board the Stephen King train, but over the years I’ve dipped my toe in the pool occasionally. The Shining is King’s 1977 novel about an schoolteacher & aspiring writer and his family who are hired to run a creepy hotel in Colorado. It was adapted for the big screen in 1980, with Jack Nicholson taking on the lead role. Jack Torrance slowly descends into madness, (spoiler alert) eventually attempting to murder both his wife & young son. King famously disliked the film and felt like Nicholson was miscast as Torrance. The author would have preferred a nicer “everyman” sort of actor in the role since it would have made Torrance’s dark turn all the more unsettling, whereas Nicholson was already typecast as unhinged & scary. By 1980 Nicholson had amassed five Oscar nominations, winning Best Actor in 1975 for his role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, so it is understandable that director Stanley Kubrick would jump at the chance to have him star in The Shining. Robert De Niro, Robin Williams (who was unknown at the time), and Harrison Ford were all considered, but King didn’t like any of those choices either so perhaps he’s just impossible to placate.

 

Quotes

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

“Here’s Johnny!”

“Wendy, darling, light of my life, I’m not gonna hurt ya. Ya didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just gonna bash your brains in.”

 

 

 

43     Fredo Corleone (The Godfather Trilogy)

Actor John Cazale starred in only five movies before cancer took his life at the young age of 42. Those movies?? The first two Godfather films, The Deer Hunter, The Conversation, & Dog Day Afternoon…all of which were nominated for Best Picture. That’s quite a track record, and it’s unfortunate that we’ll never know what might have been if Cazale lived & had a long career. Fredo is the middle son of the Don of America’s most notorious crime family. Unlike his tough & hotheaded older brother and cool & calculating younger brother Fredo is a little slow and kind of nervous, so he isn’t trusted with any kind of important responsibilities within the organization. In Part II he betrays his brother Michael, who is nearly killed by rival gangster Hyman Roth. When Michael learns of Fredo’s treachery he has him murdered. Despite the fact that Fredo is a bit of a horndog he is a sympathetic character. On a personal level I understand that feeling of being overlooked, disrespected, & thought of as somehow…less…by others. Fredo knows how people view him and he is frustrated by it because he believes he isn’t quite as inept as everyone thinks he is and just needs someone to give him a chance, but on the other hand he is shown to screw up every opportunity he is given by his family.

 

Quotes

“Mike! You don’t come to Las Vegas and talk to a man like Moe Greene like that!”

“You’re my kid brother, and you take care of me? Did you ever think about that? Huh? Did you ever once think about that? Send Fredo off to do this. Send Fredo off to do that! Let Fredo take care of some Mickey Mouse nightclub somewhere! Send Fredo to pick somebody up at the airport! I’m your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says, like dumb! I’m smart, and I want respect!”

 

 

 

42     Riggs & Murtaugh (The Lethal Weapon Series)

The buddy/cop movie formula is tried & true…but also hit & miss. The two cops are usually opposites in every way…one experienced & one less so, one by the book & one more rebellious, one a family man & the other a free-wheeling single, a serious dude vs. a wisecracking smartass. There are variations, but the tension between two individuals who see the world completely different yet are forced to work together toward a common goal is the essence of the story. We don’t remember much about the bad guys or the particular crimes involved…what sticks with the audience is the relationship between the two heroes. Arguably the formula has never worked better than with Lethal Weapon. In four films between 1987 & 1998 Danny Glover portrayed straitlaced Roger Murtaugh, a husband & father who’s been with the LAPD for many years and is on the verge of retirement, while Mel Gibson is Martin Riggs, a younger widowed detective who is grieving his wife’s death and lives on the edge because he may or may not be crazy, suicidal, or both. Thru the years the duo grow from being initially distrustful of each other to becoming brothers from another mother, all while chasing an assortment of criminals. Opinions vary on the strength/weakness of each individual film, but the franchise as a whole is quite enjoyable even more than two decades after the fourth movie was released, and that is due mainly to our affection for Riggs & Murtaugh.

 

Quotes

“What did one shepherd say to the other shepherd? Let’s get the flock out of here.” (Riggs)

“I’m too old for this shit.” (Murtaugh)

“We can’t shoot a dog. People? Okay, but not dogs.” (Riggs)

“My baby is having his baby!” (Murtaugh)

“You have the right to remain unconscious. Anything you say ain’t gonna be much.” (Riggs)

“We both know why I was transferred. Everybody thinks I’m suicidal, in which case, I’m fucked and nobody wants to work with me; or they think I’m faking to draw a psycho pension, in which case, I’m fucked and nobody wants to work with me. Basically, I’m fucked.” (Riggs)

“You’re not trying to draw a psycho pension! You really are crazy!” (Murtaugh)

“Well, what do you wanna hear, man?! Do you wanna hear that sometimes I think about eatin’ a bullet?! HUH!? Well, I do! I even got a special bullet for the occasion with a hollow point, look! Make sure it blows the back of my goddamned head out and do the job right! Every single day I wake up and I think of a reason not to do it! Every single day! You know why I don’t do it?! This is gonna make you laugh! You know why I don’t do it?! The job! Doin’ the job! Now that’s the reason!” (Riggs)

 

 

 

41         Jeff Spicoli (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

Another tried & true movie formula is the high school flick. Every generation has one or two definitive ones, and in the pre-John Hughes era of the early 80’s it was Fast Times at Ridgemont High. By 1982 Sean Penn had done one episode of Little House on the Prairie and was part of the ensemble in the film Taps, though he was certainly lower on the proverbial depth chart than George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, & probably even Tom Cruise. That changed in a big way with Fast Times, which also featured a group of youngsters…Forest Whitaker, Judge Reinhold, Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anthony Edwards, Nicolas Cage…who would go on to have rather successful Hollywood careers. However it is Penn as Spicoli, a beach bum stoner, that stands above the crowd. Sean Penn has been nominated for Best Actor five times and taken home two Oscars, but he’ll never escape the shadow of a character that he portrayed almost four decades ago. Spicoli’s interactions with teacher Mr. Hand (portrayed by My Favorite Martian’s Ray Walston) are hysterically funny, and he embodies the surfer dude stereotype so perfectly that I would argue he is the model for it.

 

Quotes

“All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

“People on ludes should not drive.”

“Hey bud, what’s your problem?”

“Hola, Mr. Hand.”

“I did battle some humongous waves. But you know, just like I told the guy on ABC, danger is my business.”

“I’ve been thinking about this, Mr. Hand. If I’m here and you’re here, doesn’t that make it our time? Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with a little feast on our time.”

 

 

 

40     Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy, & The Marx Brothers (multiple films)

Stay with me folks…I’ll try not to make this too complicated. I’ve made this a four way tie for several reasons. Actually I debated including any of these acts at all, but in the final analysis I couldn’t justify excluding them. Here’s the thing…we’re discussing movie characters, right?? Well, when it comes right down to it all of these guys portrayed slightly different characters in all of their films, none of which stand out above any others. Their movies are more about the situations they are put in and the zany antics that follow. Having said that, we must also recognize that their stage personas are characters in & of themselves, so essentially they are…in a roundabout way…portraying the same characters in all of their films. Bud Abbot & Lou Costello starred in about three dozen films from 1940-56, and around Halloween I’d much rather watch Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein or Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man than any modern slasher flick. Moe, Larry, Curly (and sometimes Shemp or Curly Joe) made over 200 films from 1930-70. The vast majority of those were “short subjects”, meaning the movie is 40 minutes or less, but The Stooges did star in about two dozen full length features, and when I was growing up in the 70’s & 80’s their stuff was on television with some regularity. Laurel & Hardy teamed together in over 100 movies from the late 1920’s to the mid-40’s. About 1/3 of those were actually silent films & 40 were short subjects, but they did star in a couple dozen full length features. The Marx Brothers…Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, & Gummo (real names: Julius, Adolph, Leonard, Herbert, & Milton)…were NY City kids born to Jewish immigrants from Europe. Gummo never appeared in any of the movies but was part of their Vaudeville act. Zeppo appeared in the first five movies but left performing behind and became an agent. Groucho, Harpo, & Chico are the trio most associated with The Marx Brothers, and they did about a dozen films together. Gabe Kaplan, the star of 70’s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter, was a big Marx Brothers fan and The Sweathogs were allegedly loosely based on the group. I am not including quotes from these acts because they provided far too much material to sift thru and narrow down. In addition, much of their comedy is slapstick & physicality that obviously doesn’t translate to the written page all that well. Suffice to say that the comedic contributions of all four holds up surprisingly well after several decades and has undoubtedly influenced comedians that have come along in the ensuing years.

 

 

 

This feels like an appropriate place to pause. Readability has always been a primary goal here at The Manofesto, so I shall refrain from pushing ahead and wait for another day.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 3.15

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 
mockingbirdSeveral months ago, when it was announced that To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee would be publishing a 2nd novel a half century after her one & only triumphant effort in literature, I was ecstatic. Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, as it is for countless others. However, the book is out and I haven’t purchased a copy…and I don’t intend to in the future. In the time between the initial announcement and the appearance of Go Set A Watchman in bookstores a few things came to light. First of all, Harper Lee is nearly 90 years old, in poor health, & residing in a nursing home. There is some concern that a shady lawyer made this book deal happen, that Ms. Lee doesn’t have the mental capacity to have made the decision for it to be published, & that if she had wanted it published she would have done so decades ago. Adult Protective Services in Alabama allegedly investigated the situation and weren’t at all concerned, but I’m still a bit apprehensive. The book is now out there being consumed by the masses, and I have read some reviews. It turns out that Watchman…though it is being billed as a sequel to Mockingbird…was actually the original idea, and a gifted editor basically told Harper Lee “This doesn’t work, but there is an idea within it that will be good if you revise & cultivate it” (or something to that effect). That modification grew into To Kill A Mockingbird. Now, why in the world would I waste my time with something that an editor didn’t feel good about in the first place, something that evolved into one of our greatest novels only after a major renovation?? Why would I pay money for something that very well could be the result of elder abuse?? And then there is the matter of Atticus Finch…one of the most beloved characters in all of literature. I’ve watchmanseen spoilers. I know what the Atticus in Watchman is compared to the treasured Atticus in Mockingbird. Some may see it as a fascinating and maybe even logical evolution. That’s fine, but I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. That’s the great thing about fiction…characters we love can stay frozen in time, always fondly remembered the way we left them. Sherlock Holmes will forever be riding hansom cabs & solving crimes in gaslit London. Santa Claus will always fly thru the air in his sleigh every Christmas Eve. Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer are still riding down the mighty Mississippi on a raft getting into mischief. And in my heart Atticus Finch will remain a man of deep character & unshakable honor fighting for the rights of the oppressed and teaching his children valuable life lessons.

 

 

lionI honestly couldn’t care less about lions or other big game being killed in Africa. It never ceases to amaze me what the media is able to manipulate people into stressing out about. I saw a story a few days ago about some 21 year old kid who buried his dog alive, and that incensed me way more than any situation in which a hunter bagged some prey. FYI the dog was thankfully rescued.

 

 

Let’s talk about baby names. No, I have not impregnated anyone and probably never will…unfortunately. A babiesFacebook acquaintance of mine is pregnant and recently asked for some ideas for names for her baby boy. I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned because I was truly stunned by some of the suggestions: Alonte, Killian, Easton, Boston, Ledger, Zade, Phoenix, Malice, Beckham, Canyon, Courtland, Maxim, Savon. These were (allegedly) serious responses and not ideas for an American Gladiators revival. Look, I understand gravitating toward less common names. The world is full of guys named Mike, John, Bob, Steve, Tom, Jerry, George, & Fred. I get it. But whatever name you saddle a child with is a burden that they’re going to have to carry for the rest of their lives. Legitimate studies have been done linking weird baby names to criminal behavior later on in life, and that’s not even counting the bullying a kid may suffer or the confidence & image issues they may have along the way. I apologize in advance if my opinion hurts the feelings of anyone with one of these odd names or parents who may have named their child something a bit outside-the-box. It isn’t my intention to offend. I just think that the world is tough enough and a person will encounter more than their fair share of adversity in the normal course of things…why start them off behind the proverbial 8-ball with a name that isn’t nearly as cool or hip as some may think it is??

 

 

gop2First impressions after the initial GOP Presidential debate:
• Donald Trump is style over substance. He’s entertaining and says what a lot of people would like to say & what many believe, but at the end of the day he doesn’t have the temperament, finesse, or applicable experience needed to be President.
• Marco Rubio & Ben Carson strike me as solid potential VP choices. Their stock could improve.
• Mike Huckabee is sincere, intelligent, & articulate…but not Presidential material. He could be a good cabinet member.
• If the GOP nominates Jeb Bush or Chris Christie it won’t play well with hardcore conservatives, a detriment that won’t be equalized with support from Reagan Democrats.
• Rand Paul is passionate, thinks outside the box, & brings some interesting ideas to the table, but I don’t see him as Presidential either at this point. I’m flexible though.
• I didn’t watch the undercard debate, but I hear that Carly Fiorina did well. Hopefully a few of those folks get an opportunity to make their case at the big table the next time around.
• Ted Cruz is my frontrunner, but Scott Walker has tremendous potential.
• Oh yeah…John Kasich was there too. I almost forgot. I’m not sure his campaign will make it to September.
• I wasn’t impressed with Fox News’ presentation or the performance of their moderators.
• This race doesn’t truly begin until the field is cut in half. That may take awhile.

 

 

My physician recently put me on a low dose of blood pressure medication and indicated that meds for high sodiumcholesterol could follow. I have 6 weeks to alter my lifestyle, and he suggested a website/app called MyFitnessPal to help track my dietary habits. In just a week I’ve already figured something out. I’ve been trying to eat low fat for awhile because I kind of saw these issues on the horizon, but one thing I’ve been overlooking is sodium. I am single, financially challenged, & can sometimes be lazy, which means I look for quick & easy eating choices. I am aware that fast food is mostly unhealthy, but in focusing on fat we shouldn’t ignore the contribution sodium makes to poor health. I have been paying more attention to such things and have been truly surprised at the enormous sodium content of a lot of foods. Pretty much anything that is prepackaged for our convenience is a minefield. Fruits & veggies have never been a big enough part of my diet, but going forward they’re going to have to be. That doesn’t mean I’ll never eat another cheeseburger, piece of chocolate cake, or bowl of pasta…it simply means that one should always partake in moderation.

Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. If you are blessed enough to still have your own father around please take some time out of your day to call or visit and tell him you love him. I daddon’t have any children myself (that I know of), but I’d like to think that I would have been a pretty good father just by following the examples of my own Dad and his father, my Papaw Jim. At any rate, I thought today might be a good time to take a look at some fun examples of fatherhood as presented to us thru the prism of literature, movies, & television. So it is with deep admiration & respect to all good fathers out there that I present…..

 

from the home office in Worth County, Iowa, which contains the cities of Manly & Fertile…Worth County, where Manly men meet Fertile women…..

 

The (Supersized) Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads:

 

 

 

7 Sam Baldwin (Sleepless in Seattle) & Danny Tanner (Full House)
sbTwo widower Dads. 1989’s Sleepless in Seattle ranks 45th of my 100 Favorite Movies, and even though it is a rom-com there are no shortage of scenes showing Tom dtHanks’ Sam interacting with his young son. The sting of the death of the wife/mother is addressed and it is touching how father & son are getting thru the loss together. Okay sure…Sam loses points for his kid hopping onto a plane for a cross country trek to The Big Apple by himself, but all is forgiven when he chases after the boy and lovingly embraces him after he finds him at the Empire State Building. Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner may be the most unrealistically sweet father in TV history and he too loses points for needing his brother-in-law Uncle Jessie and best friend Joey to move in and help raise three young girls, but who the heck wouldn’t want such a nice guy for a Dad??

 

 

6 Daniel Hillard (Mrs. Doubtfire) & Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch)
doubtfireA divorcee & and the patriarch of one of entertainment’s first blended families. All that needs to be said about Robin Williams’ eponymous character in 1993’s Mrs. bradyDoubtfire (43rd on my list) is that the dude is willing to dress up like an old woman in order to spend time with his children. That’s devotion. I like the fact that Mrs. Doubtfire addresses divorce realistically. The parents don’t magically get back together, but they do find a way to focus on the children and do what is best for them. One thing that always struck me about The Brady Bunch was how the boys called Carol Brady Mom (she was their stepmother) and the girls called Mr. Brady Dad (he was their stepfather). Blending families is rarely that easy in the real world, but in the 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s the powers-that-be understood that folks watch television to escape from reality…a fact that seems to have been all but forgotten these days. I was dumbfounded when as an adult I learned that Robert Reed was a) gay and b) hated his role as Mr. Brady.

 

5 Bob Cratchit (A Christmas Carol)
Cratchit is mostly known as grumpy old miser Ebenezer Scrooge’s underpaid & overworked clerk in Dickens’ tale, but he is also shown to be a dedicated husband and father to six children. One cratchitof those children is Tiny Tim who is what we might call a “special needs child” in modern parlance. It is never explicitly stated what Tiny Tim suffers from, although it is likely to have been rickets, kidney disease, or tuberculosis. The problem is that Bob only makes about $2 per week and can barely afford to feed his family let alone pay for the medical care his son needs. Despite these struggles Bob Cratchit keeps a smile on his face and forges ahead, doing what must be done to provide a decent & happy life for his children. He reminds me just a bit of my own father, who had a demanding job that paid the bills but certainly never allowed us to be wealthy, and also had to spend a disproportionate amount of time, energy, & resources on me because of my disability.

 

 

 

4 Clark Griswold (The Vacation Series) & Howard Cunningham…aka “Mr. C.” (Happy Days)
cgYes Clark Griswold is a dufus. And yes he had a weird flirtation with a nameless babe in a convertible. But when you watch the Vacation movies one thing that is very clear mrcis that Clark loves his children and is devoted to his family. That’s nice to see, especially these days. Howard Cunningham forgot that his eldest son Chuck even existed, but otherwise he is the quintessential sitcom Dad. He was always around to give sage advice to Richie & Joanie, put up with Richie’s goofy friends Ralph Malph & Potsie, and even became a father figure to Fonzie. And let’s not overlook the fact that Mr. C was a business owner as well. Role models rock.

 

 

3 Cliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show) & Vito Corleone (The Godfather)
Cliff HuxtableSpeaking of role models, I have commented previously about the interesting way that the Huxtable family was presented on The Cosby Show. No housing projects or blue corleonecollar jobs for this upwardly mobile & well educated black family. Mom was an attorney and Dad was a doctor. As a father Heathcliff was patient & funny, and even when he became exasperated by the trials & tribulations of raising five children he exhibited an enviable level of composure & mercy. Now I know that mob boss Don Corleone seems like an odd choice (especially paired alongside Dr. Huxtable), but though his…imperfections…are far different from those of the aforementioned Clark Griswold I think there is a lot of similarity in the love & devotion they show their family. When eldest son Santino is gunned down and Vito sees the body in the funeral parlor he completely breaks down, distraught over “what they did to my boy”. He is clearly unhappy about Michael becoming involved in “the business” because he had higher hopes for his youngest son. Don Vito opines that “a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man”, and I think he’s pretty spot on.

 

 

2 Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
What can I say about Atticus Finch that hasn’t already been echoed by a plethora of fans of both the Pulitzer Prize winning novel and the Academy Award nominated film?? Atticus is kind,  atticus-and-kidspatient, wise, intelligent, honorable, & decent. He has been hailed as a hero by some…maybe the only time in history that lawyer & hero have intersected. His two children, Scout & Jem, love and respect the man to the moon & back. The entire town of Maycomb, AL admires him. Author Harper Lee based Atticus on her own father, and I have to say that if he was half the man that Atticus is shown to be then Ms. Lee was a lucky girl indeed. Gregory Peck brought Atticus to life in the 1962 movie, and his portrayal is a nearly perfect reflection of the man we see in the book. However I would strongly urge anyone who has seen the film but not read the book to go out right now and buy the book!! As good as the movie is the book is 10x better. And if you have not partaken of either then you need to do so ASAP. The subject matter is far from pleasant, but it is presented in such an accessible way by Harper Lee that anyone who enjoys reading even just a little bit will breeze right through it in a few days. Heck I think I might just have to read the book again myself.

 

 

1 Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)
No one knows exactly what Heaven is like, but I’d like to think that somewhere up there a TV room exists where The Andy Griffith Show plays on an endless…dare I say eternal…loop. Sheriff atTaylor is a widower with one child, 6 year old Opie. Opie’s mother is never named and barely mentioned. We only know that she died when Opie was a baby. The relationship between Andy & Opie is probably one of the purest, most accurate, & honest father/son interactions we have ever seen in television, books, or movies. I say that because Andy isn’t always saccharine sweet with Opie and he doesn’t treat his son like he’s a perfect angel. Opie gets into mischief occasionally, and when that happens his father exhibits slight anger & disappointment. However Andy isn’t mean. He is always fair with Opie and desires for his son to learn from mistakes. There are times when Andy jumps to the wrong conclusion and discovers that though Opie may have technically done the wrong thing he did it for the right reasons. Sure Aunt Bea moves in to do the cooking & cleaning and to manage the household, but Andy never dodges his responsibility to raise his son. He spends time with Opie, whether it is fishing at Myers Lake, chillin’ on the front porch, or just hanging out at the courthouse on a slow day in Mayberry (which is pretty much every day in Mayberry…a huge part of its charm). He disciplines Opie, but he also talks to him, providing valuable lessons about honor, integrity, love, respect, friendship, accountability, & courage. As a matter of fact Sheriff Taylor seemingly teaches those lessons to the entire town of Mayberry. He doesn’t scream, shout, show off, or crave the spotlight…he just leads by example and does what’s right.

To Kill A Mockingbird

It has been said that everyone has a book inside them. I’m not sure who said it, and I don’t know if it is all that true, though I have always felt it to be so for me. Of course we live in a world now where lots of folks want to be famous, and even more want to be rich, and therefore they are always looking for ways to make that happen. I suppose writing a book is just as good of an option as any, and maybe even better than most (for example doing “reality TV” or making a sex tape). However, there are a couple of perils. First of all, our bookstores become polluted with crap that it is difficult to believe was ever published in the first place (much like the plethora of asinine television shows & movies that should have never been greenlighted). Secondly, authors who achieve success right out of the gate are encouraged to write more, oftentimes with specious results. Sometimes it really is better to quit while you are ahead.

 

In the annals of one hit wonders I think most folks would agree that author Harper Lee ranks right up there with Soft Cell, Mark Hamill, John Adams, and Dexys Midnight Runners. I am tempted to say that it is a shame that she only wrote one novel, but when that one novel is the Pulitzer Prize winning To Kill A Mockingbird then there is really nothing left to prove and nowhere to go but downhill.

 

Though they really aren’t all that similar it occurs to me that Mockingbird and the previous novel we examined…Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine…have a few things in common. They both take place in the same general era…Mockingbird in the mid-1930’s in the midst of The Great Depression, Dandelion Wine in 1928 just before the Depression. Both are set in a sleepy small town, the kind that we wax nostalgic about in 21st century America. And both have children as the main protagonists, allowing the story to be told thru the eyes of a child and therefore necessitating an accessible writing style without sacrificing literary elegance. But the comparisons end there.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird is an unflinching look at racism in the early 20th century, and though it is at times uncomfortable (especially when observed thru the politically correct prism that has almost become the standard in modern times) there is such an easygoing innocence from the point-of-view of the narrator that the rough edges seem much more palatable.

 

The story is about the Finch family in Maycomb, Alabama. There is the narrator…9 year old Jean Louise, nicknamed Scout…her older brother Jem…and their widowed father Atticus, a wise, even-tempered lawyer with a strong sense of morality. Scout & Jem spend their days in school and their evenings & summertime playing and hanging out with a neighbor boy named Dill. Scout, Jem, & Dill become obsessed with a reclusive neighbor named Boo Radley who for many years has been the subject of rumors painting him as some kind of freaky monster and hasn’t been seen by anyone since he was a teenager. Meanwhile, Atticus takes on the case of Tom Robinson, a poor black man accused of raping his white female neighbor Mayella Ewell. Robinson’s trial is a major event in Maycomb, and it exposes the children to the racist outlook of a town that they had heretofore only known to be filled with friendly neighbors & schoolmates. Eventually the two storylines intersect, although if you want to know how you’ll just have to read the book.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird is an important book. I wouldn’t hesitate to place it in the mix with The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the works of Shakespeare & Dickens, and The Holy Bible as one of the most significant things ever written. That will sound like hyperbole only to those who have not had the pleasure of reading it. It embodies a time, a place, and an attitude that we still haven’t completely laid to rest. Yes we have made remarkable strides, but we cannot truthfully say that racism no longer exists. They may be fewer in number, but there are still people with an “us and them” outlook. The difference between now & then is that we are fully aware that it is wrong. To a certain extent the racism in Mockingbird is portrayed in such a matter-of-fact way that we can conclude that many folks back then didn’t realize how wrong they were. It was the way it was. There was a hierarchy and everyone had their place and played their proper role in society. Even the ethical hero of the book Atticus Finch employs a black housekeeper, something that we see today as a racial stereotype. When reading a story like this we are forced to confront our own views and one wonders how various people have been impacted as society has evolved over the past few decades.

 

I would be remiss if I did not mention the fantastic 1962 film based on the book and starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. Like most movies based on books there are some minor characters left out and substantial subplots that are shortchanged or eliminated, but overall it is a faithful adaptation and quality production.  As usual in these cases I strongly caution against skipping the book in favor of just watching the movie. The book is an almost breezy read, which is surprising given its gravitas. If you haven’t read it you really should. God knows it’s better than watching The Bachelor or anything starring a Kardashian.