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Writer's Block: Once upon a time…

`Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

Little Women is a book that I read dozens of times as a child and I still revisit it often.  I love the characters and have always felt that they were more real than so many other characters from books.

I even love the movie versions which is unusual.  Ordinarily, when you love a book, no film version can match the picture you've created with the author of the characters in your mind.  However, each of the film adaptations of the novel have something to recommend it - not as a replacement for the novel, but as a complement to it.

1933 - Obviously, the strong point of this version is Katharine Hepburn as Jo.  She is suitably odd and angular and strong willed.  She is not my favorite actress, but she was the obvious choice for the part.  Unfortunately, none of the rest of the cast particularly stands out and this version falls prey to the curse of miscasting Laurie.

1949 - This is my favorite of the adaptations I've seen.  The script is nearly identical to that of the 1933 version and it has the added bonus of color and Elizabeth Taylor as Amy.  Even as a blonde, she is stunning and perfect for the role.  It is also one of the few times in which Amy is played by the same actress throughout the film.  She matures believably and is a good match for Peter Lawford as Laurie.  I like June Allyson and she is fine as Jo and she plays well with Lawford.  He is a good choice for Laurie - tall, dashing and handsome but  not as strong willed as I've always pictured "The Lawrence Boy."    Even the smaller roles are well cast - with many familiar faces such as Mary Astor and Leon Ames as the parents and such notables as Connie Gilchrist, Lucile Watson, Harry Davenport and C. Aubrey Smith as friends and relatives.  I also think that this film has Margaret O'Brien's best performance - she is wonderfully quiet and timid as Beth and she is a nice contrast to the more flamboyant Jo and Amy.  Rosaano Brazzi is a pleasant surprise as the romantic Professor Bhaer.  He is likable in a thankless role.  (To me it's thankless because so many of us read and re-read the book hoping that this time Jo and Laurie will see reason and get together.)

1978 - This TV Movie/Miniseries starred Susan Dey as Jo.  I don't remember much about it since I haven't seen it since it aired (even though it is out on DVD).  I remember really liking Dey's performance as Jo and thinking that she was more physically the type for the part and thinking that some of the older parts were well cast, but that Richard Gilliland,  who I generally like as an actor, was neither strong or handsome enough to be Laurie.  And William Shatner as Professor Bhaer?  Really?  I do want to track this down and see it again.

1994 - Revisionist version of the book, it draws on aspects of Alcott's own life as well as that of her characters.  I do like Susan Sarandon as Marmee - she fits this more liberated forward thinking version.  I also believe that incorporating aspects of the Alcotts' progressive beliefs and lifestyle gives more dimension to the characters and makes their motives and actions make more sense.  

   I've always like Winona Ryder and I think that she is really very good as Jo.  She also has great chemistry with Christian Bale as Laurie.  I think that he is perhaps the first actor to really get the role right.  He is rebellious and conforming and he shows the fiery spirit and temper that Alcott writes about.  He is the emotional young man of the book. 

Another favorite book with numerous film versions is Alice in Wonderland.  Maybe I'll take a look at that one day. ;)

Writer's Block: It's a wonderful life!

What's your favorite holiday TV special or movie, and why?

There are so many great ones that it's very hard to choose.  I love the animated Grinch and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer; they bring back so many memories from my childhood.  

A Charlie Brown Christmas is beautiful in its simplicity and really slams the commercialism and crass aspects of the season without being heavy handed.

White Christmas is just gorgeous eye-candy and ear-candy and A Christmas Story is full of classic moments; I never tire of either of those.

But I must say, I have a super soft spot in my heart for the Rankin-Bass stop motion animated Jack Frost.  There are great lines and the villain, Kubla Kraus, is awesome with his ventriloquist dummy "Dummy" and his steam powered horse Kleinschtomper.  I have great memories of watching that with my mom and my Uncle Donnie.  It, too, digs at the commercialism of Christmas with the scene where the family passes around an empty box and everyone gets to open the present - "It's just what I always wanted!"  It's a nice sentiment.
What is the best new TV series of 2010?

Television in general, has gotten so depressing.  Each year there are fewer and fewer shows that I might even be interested in checking out.  This year, however, I did find a few that I really like.

The Good Guys.  It's clever, over-the-top, action-packed and laugh out loud funny.  And canceled. :(  (Of course they buried it on Friday night, so that's to be expected.)

The Defenders.  Defense lawyer with a conscience.  Interesting twist on the genre.  And I really love Jim Belushi.

I wanted to watch Boardwalk Empire.  It looks like it has everything that I would love, but I'm not springing for HBO just to watch one show.

19 Years is a very long time

19 years ago today, November 24th, Freddie Mercury died.

He left behind a marvelous legacy of incredible performances. 

I had so much more that I thought I wanted to say, but now words fail me.

I can't help but wonder what treasures we missed because he died so young.

Writer's Block: Vampires, again?

Is there a TV show that everyone around you watches that you really don't get or like? If so, what is it? To what do you ascribe the odd fascination?

I watch a fair amount of TV but I just don't get "Reality" shows.  I also don't get "Sex and the City", and the longevity of "24".  What happened to clever writing and likable characters?

I watch "Bones", but Temperance Brennan is not a likable person.  I like all the characters around her.  I had the same problem with Buffy on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". She was a self centered, stupid bitch but the rest of the characters were great.

The trend toward reality is sickening.  It's like being a peeping tom into the worst moments of all your neighbors.  I have enough real drama in my life without watching these trainwrecks advertise theirs.  And there really is something seriously wrong with a society where you can become famous because you procreate too much.

Writer's Block: Father nature

What is your fondest childhood memory of your father or grandfather?

Fathers can come in all shapes and sizes and a father figure is not always your biological father.  I have been blessed not only with a wonderful super marvelous Dad, but with grandfathers and uncles who are just as special.

I have so many great memories of my Dad.  I loved (and still do love) to go see him play music.  It's always great and there's a real sense of pride in his work.  I'm his biggest cheerleader.  I'm always so awed at all he's accomplished in his career.  And with all of that, being nationally known, having been on Ed Sullivan and all that - he still did a duet on guitar with me in the Scouts Talent show when I was 7.  That did major things for my rep back then.  (Not many 7 years olds have an electric guitar.)  I know that he's always been disappointed that neither my sister or I went into music, but we appreciate his talent and I think that he has embraced the paths we have chosen.

My Grandpa Stueve died when I was not quite 9 years old.  He was always pretty distant, because he was mostly deaf, so we weren't close.  But I remember vividly the Christmas I got my tricycle.  He brought it to our house and was holding it up over his head.  I thought he was the tallest man in the world and he had just brought the coolest gift ever!  I must have been around 4 at the time.

My Grandpa Scherrer was pretty laid back and I loved to go to their house in the summer and listen to the baseball games with him on the radio out on the front porch.  And when we went to Six Flags as kids he rode all the rides with us, even Tom's Twister and never got sick!  He had a little bit of an accent, not really an accent, but a very South St. Louis German way of talking that you only hear in elderly people.  I miss that, a lot.

I have a few fuzzy memories of my great-grandpa "Pop" as he was called.  He died when I was 6.  Much of this is supplemented by family pictures and stories, not all of it is actual memories.  He was bedridden and very sick when he died, but even toward the end, we all climbed up on his bed and talked to him and played in his room.  I don't remember him ever fussing at us that he was tired or we were loud, he always seemed to like having us around.  The pictures we have of him date back to the 1920s and he is always smiling, especially if great-grandma was nearby in the picture, too.  By all accounts he was fun-loving and that was passed down to his daughter, Ethel and her sons, my dad and his brothers.  It is a trait that I adore in all of them.

And I also want to mention my Uncle Donnie.  From the time he came home from the service when I was 5, he was a huge part of my life.  I was very lucky to have him around.  It was like having an extra Dad.  When my dad was busy working and being famous ;), And even though he never married or had children of his own, he treated us more than nieces.  Donnie was there to chauffeur my friends and me around, he told great stories and knew tons of trivia and was generally just fun to be around.  He helped us with our homework and came up with the weirdest facts and then challenged us to look things up if we didn't believe him.  He was so much fun.  He would have loved the internet!  Nearly every day, I see something and think to myself, "Donnie would be interested in that." or "I wonder if Donnie knows about that."   I miss him very much.

My Uncle Royal died when my mom was only 7.  I've heard do many stories about him.  He sounds like a wonderful guy and it's a shame he died so young.  I wish I could have met him.

I don't think Uncle Mel really knew quite how to deal with me.  I was much more studious than my cousins and more reserved than my sister.  But, he was always willing to come rescue me when my car broke down, which happened more often than not and he was never grumpy about it.  He was fun loving and fun to be around.  He liked a good joke and a bad one too.  And his laugh was contagious.  One of my fondest memories was going on vacation with him and Aunt Sheila, mom & dad and my sister as adults.  We had so much fun.  His death left a gaping hole in the family.

But his death gave the rest of us a new perspective and a new appreciation of the time we have together.  I love just sitting and chatting with Uncle Mike and playing games with Uncle Denny.  I treasure those moments that we all spend together as family.  I love it when Denny and Mike start cutting up and being silly.  I wish I had a video camera to capture those moments.  They are priceless.

I have truly been blessed with all the fathers and father-figures in my life.

Writer's Block: Facts of Life

What was your favorite childhood sit-com? Why do you think you loved it so dearly?

I absolutely loved The Addams Family.  They always seemed to have so much fun and the decor was so cool.  And when I rewatch it now, I love how engaged the adults are in the lives of the children.  It's a great example.

I also loved Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie.  How cool would it be to have powers like that?

And Hogan's Heroes.  I loved how clever they were and the tunnels were cool. 

I liked so many shows from the 60s and 70s.  I think by the 80s we lost something magical and fun in television.  And now, there's very little imagination.  I still watch entirely too much TV, but it doesn't engage me the way those shows did and on some levels still do.

Writer's Block: 420 friendly?

A number of U.S. states are planning to legalize marijuana. Do you agree or disagree with this policy, and why?

I agree. Legalize it, standardize it for safety and tax it. It's no more or less harmful than liquor or tobacco which are legal and taxed.

Seven Deadly Sins Quiz

Envy:Very Low
Pride:Very Low

The Seven Deadly Sins Quiz on 4degreez.com

Writer's Block: All About My Mother

Who is your favorite mother (the character, not the actress) from television or the movies?
Marmee, in all of the film versions of Little Women.  I especially like Mary Astor in the 1949 version.