Godspeed, Robert Osborne: A Millennial Mourns

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Mr. Osborne, the way we remember him: educating us about classic movies, helping us understand their current and cultural significance

Our Family Mourns, with the Millennial Out in Front

My 19-year old son made this heartfelt post on Instagram last night after learning of the death of Robert Osborne, the longtime public face of Turner Classic Movies (TCM):

Hearing of this man’s passing today hit my whole family pretty hard – Robert Osborne was, as the LA Times perfectly summed up today, “everyone’s favorite movie date”. Hosting the bulk of Turner Classic Movies’s weeknight programming, he always presented the perfect cure for a rough day at work or school or just in general – the best and most beloved movies America’s rich cinematic history has to offer. Sometimes it was a movie already heralded as a masterpiece (i.e. Casablanca, Roman Holiday, In the Heat of the Night, etc.), and sometimes it was something you’d never heard of before but were bound to love (The Louis Pasteur Story, The Day of the Jackal, etc.).

And regardless of the movie, you always felt a sense of a shared experience with the TV knowing that Robert would be there at the beginning to tell you a bit about it, and again at the end to make a few closing remarks and perhaps share a quick funny story or two.

This man shaped both my parents’ admiration for the power of movies, and by introducing me to TCM as a child, they allowed him to do the same for me.

Godspeed, Mr. Osborne.

Oh my.  I feel this on so many levels.  TCM has truly been a bedrock platform for my son’s childhood, with Robert Osborne its magnificent maestro.

Superficial, and Yet…Not

60003605Movies are so trivial, you may say. Why is the young man so upset about the death of a movie-describer? Well sure, movies are not on the same level as these topics: religion, philosophy, civic responsibility, political movements and unrest, historical milestones, war, social mores, filial devotion, deep friendship, great loves and sacrifice…but oh, I guess they are, actually.  Movies are a reflection of us, of our culture, in all its brilliance and trivial insignificance and intransigence.  Movies cover every one of these important areas of life, and can at the same time reflect our most idealistic and our most base instincts and beliefs. For example, my son mentioned “In the Heat of the Night”; was there ever a better movie to expose the stupidity of institutional racism? Robert Osborne’s introduction of this movie is a thing for the ages. With all of his movie intros and outros, he helped us understand the context of the time in which they were made, and their historical and current cultural significance.

Family Bonding; Movies as Connection

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William Powell as a butler in My Man Godfrey
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Our cat, Godfrey, resembling his namesake

I was a single mom for a time. My one little boy-child and I watched movies together on TCM on a nightly basis – when there wasn’t a school event, a baseball game, rehearsal for a church play or a family event.  Fred and Ginger were frequent companions, Errol Flynn was a familiar face, and we even named a cat after William Powell in My Man Godfrey.  My son can wax poetic about the virtues of The Philadelphia Story vs. the remake, High Society; the same with regard to Fred Astaire vs. Gene Kelly.  He paid me one one of my favorite compliments ever:  “Mom, you remind me of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”(that would be the Marilyn Monroe character, and yes, I’m vain enough to think that is a compliment).

The kid is a man-child now and off to college to study jazz composition.  I think of movies, randomly, and text him.  Have you seen The Graduate?  Yes, saw it at Grandma and Grandpa’s last summer.  The Night of the Hunter?  Yes, watched it with Dad.  Sunset Boulevard? Yes, Aunt Julie showed it to me the last time I was in Virginia.  The kid definitely gets his movie appreciation from both sides of his family.

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A text from me to my son earlier this year of a movie that was showing on TCM; we have seen this movie together about a dozen times

Guys and Dolls is one of our favorites, and when I sent him a text with this clip during his first semester of college, he said:  “Recognized it before i even hit play! #askmehowdoifeel”, which is a reference to the song from the movie, If I Were a Bell.  (This would be the point where I should acknowledge that my own love for movies comes from my Dad, who introduced me to all of these classics the first time around.  Thanks, Dad!)

Goodbye, Mr. Classy

Ben Mankiewicz gave a brief farewell to Robert Osborne tonight before the start of the movie I’m watching right now, Anne of 1000 Days.  He described Robert Osborne as a man who loved movies, actors, and fans, who had “class, wit and charm”.  Yes. Below is a short tribute, in advance of a longer one TCM will air later this month.

What We Mean Is…

It is really hard to explain why we are so sad about losing Robert Osborne.  We didn’t know him.  He didn’t know us.  But.  His introductions to the movies that became the vernacular of our lives shaped our understanding of them, and their meaning.  Movies become shorthand for power-packed pellets of meaning:  how many times have you quoted a brief line of a movie to make a point?

  • “We don’t need no stinking badges!”
  • “Tomorrow is another day.”
  • “At long last, have you no sense of decency?”
  • “There’s no place like home.”
  • “You can’t handle the truth!”
  • “Plastics.”
  • “We’ll always have Paris.”
  • “There’s no crying in baseball.”
  • “Go ahead, make my day.”
  • “May the Force be with you.”

Robert Osborne translated these truisms and anachronisms for us when he explained the meaning of classic films, and made them accessible.  He also just seemed like a very nice guy.  To quote my son the millennial, “Regardless of the movie, you always felt a sense of a shared experience with the TV knowing that Robert would be there at the beginning to tell you a bit about it, and again at the end to make a few closing remarks and perhaps share a quick funny story or two.”

Are You a Classic Movie Lover?  Win a Prize

Do you share our love of classic movies?  We will send a copy of the book Turner Classic Movies Essentials to the first follower to correctly identify the movies from the ten quotes above in a comment.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

Telling the Story of a Picture

img_1334My Dad is an amazing person.  Faithful, honest, smart, steadfast, loving, fair, funny, interesting, loyal, hardworking, generous, talented, a true “servant leader” – there just aren’t enough superlatives for me to describe him.

I know how blessed I am to be able to say that about a parent when so many others have not been so fortunate.  I am thankful. Every day.

Dad with Fancy CameraNot one to sit still, Dad worked as a consultant part-time well into his 70s.  Since he finally retired, he has had a little more time for his hobbies, including travel, woodworking (see my cutting boards), vegetable gardening, reading and photography.  But mostly, he and my Aunt-Mom have been super-busy volunteers, serving on the boards of various churches and charitable organizations.    Over the past few years, when they weren’t organizing food drives, or community repair days for shut-ins and the elderly, or fundraisers, they were spending nearly 40 hours a week revitalizing and relaunching a charity resale shop and food pantry. This drive to serve wasn’t new – both of them have been active in church leadership and taught Sunday school for almost all of their adult lives, and Dad was on the school board where I grew up for 15 years.

Dad and my Aunt-Mom didn’t just focus on the organizing and planning of these charity endeavors – they rolled up their sleeves and got dirty.  I called Dad once last year on his cell phone and after speaking with me for a moment, he said, “Well, I’ve gotta cut this short, I’m at the top of a ladder with my cell phone in one hand and a 2 x 4 in the other.”  He was repairing a roof for an “elderly” person during a community work day they’d organized.  At 77.  That’s my Dad.

But Dad has had a kick in the pants lately with some unique health issues that are proving challenging to resolve, and has a little more time on his hands to do inside things.  He’s making a beautiful table / kitchen island with various types of wood that my Aunt-Mom has designed – you can count on seeing photos of it here.  And he has documented this wonderful story for me about an original piece of art that has been in the family as long as I can remember.  I never knew about its origin and asked about it one day recently when I was visiting.  Here’s what he told me.

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Fred Olds in 1957

In 1964, I was attending North Texas State University (now North Texas University) and working my way through college at KDNT radio station, selling ads and doing the voiceovers.  You were less than a year old.  Your mother was working as an RN, the head nurse on a medical floor at Flow Hospital.  One of my clients was The Nation Bank of Texas.

One day,  the bank representative called and wanted to buy a 30-minute on-site live interview of the artist Fred Olds to draw customers into the bank.  Evidently Mr. Olds was all set up in the lobby with his brushes, paint, paper and easel and I was going to interview him while he was painting.

As I started to interview Mr. Olds, he said,”Can I paint you a picture?” I said yes, and he got out a box of crayons. I really did not know where this was headed, but in no time at all he painted a beautiful picture of an Indian using only crayons, all while doing the interview.  

I took picture home, had it framed and put under glass to protect it. We still have it 53 years later.

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The crayon Indian drawn in less than 30 minutes by Fred Olds in 1964

The American Indian in the drawing is proud, noble and free; you are drawn into the image and can sense his dignity.  It’s a remarkable piece of art, even more so because it was done so quickly and informally.  Dad didn’t realize Mr. Olds was a renowned Oklahoma artist until we Googled him after talking about the drawing.  What a cool story.  Dad has lots more stories to tell, and hopefully will share many of them here.

Fred Olds died in 2005.  Here’s an excerpt from his obituary:

Born to Dr. Frederick C. and Rena Olds on April 27, 1916 in Fremont, Ohio, Fred grew up in Warsaw, Indiana. He served as a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Corps in North Africa and Europe for four years in World War II. He was educated to teach and coach at Ohio Wesleyan University and received his Master of Fine Arts Degree from Columbia University.In 1949 Fred married Flora Anne Conner in Port Washington, New York where he was teaching art and coaching football and track. In 1950 the young couple established a home in Warsaw where Fred taught art and coached in the public schools.

Fred painted every day. His artwork depicted his love of horses, cowboys, Indians and the West. Achieving success in art shows in the Midwest and Southwest, he moved his family to Wynnewood where he fell in love with Oklahoma when he taught Oklahoma History and art in the Wynnewood public schools. He taught art in the Yukon public schools. The family moved to Weatherford where Fred taught various art classes to student-teachers at Southwestern State (College) University to teach art. He helped to set up the College Rodeo program. Fred was a foundation breeder of Longhorn Cattle and won four national championships with his Appaloosa horses.

In 1972 the family moved to Edmond then Guthrie where Fred was engaged to rehabilitate the Oklahoma Territorial Museum and Carnegie Library. He served as director there for fourteen years and his paintings and sculptures are exhibited worldwide, in museums, churches, universities, on public grounds and in private collections of neighbors, statesmen and celebrities. He painted more than one hundred pictures of the Oklahoma Land Runs. In 1996 his “Horses from the Sea” was unveiled in the Red Earth Indian Center. Fred wrote poems describing most of his paintings and in 1999 he earned the Westerners International Poet’s Award for his volume, “A Drop in the Bucket.”


If you’re interested in learning more about Fred Olds, check out this article about him from 1957 (it is warm, wry and amusing), or this one from 2013.

Still More Music for a Sunday Evening: “Like Poppies”

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It’s that time again!  I’ve got some new music to share with you.

My son is a jazz composition major on scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music and is writing new songs almost daily.  Really.  What a great program they have!  If your kid is planning to major in music, put the University of Texas on your list of schools to check out.  The experience my son is having is challenging, diverse, culturally rich, creative, and of course, educational.

“Like Poppies”

And so, f at Bates Recital Hall on December 1st, 2016, under the direction of Ross Margitza.

There’s More

Watch this space!  I’ll be sharing lots more original jazz.  (I’m not proud or anything…)

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

A Little (More) Music for a Sunday Evening

11850707_858255924222944_657006352718227083_o-2Happy New Year!  I’ve just checked my Glover Gardens stats for 2016 and am proud to report that my most popular post last year was:  A Little Music for a Sunday Evening.  It includes a wonderful (free) recording of one of my son’s original tunes. He is a jazz composition major on scholarship at the University of Texas’ Butler School of Music and is writing new songs almost daily.  Really.  (My empty nest issues are all about the silence emanating from the piano and keyboards here at Glover Gardens.)

For your New Years and Sunday evening listening pleasure, I’m sharing my son’s first commercial release, The Madness Method.  I know I’m biased, but I think this kid is going places.  Let me know what you think if you download the album.

 

My son wrote, arranged, produced, recorded and performed all of the music, with the exception of a guest performance on one of the tunes by a young guitar player who is on scholarship at University of North Texas majoring in jazz studies, and who is also going places.

Watch this space!  I’ll be sharing lots more original jazz (some of it free), and if my most popular post for this year turns out to be about my son’s music, that’s just fine with me.  I am very much about my son and bonus son (who is a rocket test director for SpaceX).  They are both Eagle Scouts (again, I’m not proud or anything).

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Thomas Wenglinski, musician, composer, Eagle Scout, son (I’m not proud or anything)
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That’s us before our annual trek to the Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker

I just realized there’s a haiku in this post!

The Madness Method:
A little more music for
a Sunday evening

See also:

Let me know what you think about the album if you buy it!

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Haiku: Ode to My Christmas Tree

I love to decorate the Christmas tree each year and remember the where, when and who of each ornament. We have tinsel from my paternal grandmother’s tree dating back to the 50s, kitschy baubles we picked up to remember family holidays, ornaments from my mother-in-law’s native Germany, handmade treasures from craftsy folks and schoolchildren, and gifts from years and years of stuffed stockings and generous colleagues.  Decorating a Christmas tree together and talking about the ornaments is almost like a family’s oral history.  I woke up this morning with this haiku about the tree in my head.

Ode to My Christmas Tree

Decorated, you
  are evergreen memories,
  ghosts of Christmas Past.

A Gorgeous Thanksgiving Table; A Family Legacy from Strong Woman to Strong Woman

Thanksgiving is about food and family and memories and connections.  Sometimes those connections are new, with folks who would be family, only if they were near and known.

I made such a connection tonight, with a marvelous lady named Cathy,  from the land of Facebook in Pantsuit Nation.  She posted this picture and story about a table setting from her mother’s depression glass, and the legacy of strength and faith passed down from woman to woman.

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Cathy said that her grandmother collected these beautiful dishes in West Virginia during the depression on a meager teacher’s salary, and was a dedicated public servant, working at the voting polls every election in her community until her mid-seventies. Cathy’s mother inherited the dishes, and passed them on to Cathy when she turned 50.  She has followed her mother and grandmother in public service and is a special education teacher.  Cathy’s daughter, a lawyer representing workers who have been treated unfairly, will inherit these dishes one day. Cathy says:  “We will endure, we will create beauty in the midst of chaos, we represent hope.”

Cathy’s Facebook post about these dishes, her family and the legacy of strength, conviction and public service on the matrilineal side garnered 500+ likes in its first 30 minutes, and spawned dozens of comments from women who, like me, feel a connection with her story.  Family legacy objects like Cathy’s depression-era glass serve as a talisman to help us believe in better days, better people, better lives.  I have many such items from my grandmothers on both sides that remind me daily to do my best, try my best, be my best.

Thank you, Cathy, for your story.  The ladies in your family are role models for all of us.

I Love Thanksgiving! Run-Up to My Favorite Holiday

I love Thanksgiving.  I really do.  It’s the only holiday that is just about gratitude, being together and enjoying a meal.  Thanksgiving means food and family and fun, and I enjoy the process of getting ready for it.  I’ve got Thanksgiving tubs up in the attic that come down a week or two beforehand.

Thanksgiving Tubs

Thanksgiving Tub
It’s always fun to open up my Thanksgiving tubs and get reunited with my runners and silk flowers and silly little turkey salt-and-pepper shakers.

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