Cinematic memories, film schools and mentoring students
Green tea reveries
Fueled by green tea, I launch now into a reverie of film nostalgia. I love movies and have since I was a toddler. Some of my earliest—as well as some of my most traumatic—memories are of films, beloved and reviled. But before I introduce that diversion, I’d like to share a couple of current great film ideas.
Glen Ellen neighbor, scholar, dream interpreter and visionary, Terry Ebinger, has been holding classes at the Santa Rosa Junior College for some years, introducing new audiences to old classic films through her film forums in the Community Education Program at SRJC. Terry’s latest offering is a close look at director Alfred Hitchcock, master of suspense, who brought his work to us locally by filming at Bodega and in Santa Rosa. Hitchcock’s films still thrill audiences and Terry’s insights into his work are awesome.
Terry’s early spring class at the JC this semester will be “Symbol and Psychology in Hitchcock.” Here’s how Terry describes the four films of this series: “This course offers four great films by a grand master. Cinema virtuoso Alfred Hitchcock specialized in the human psyche—in tales of ordinary people transported by fate into defining life-or-death oppositions with shadow forces. He ingeniously embedded symbolic cues into every element of his films, serving to underscore psychological transactions and heighten emotional stakes.”
Terry continues, “We will watch each film in full followed by a review of key scenes, where we will practice identifying and tracking symbolic content. We’ll explore how Hitchcock used lighting, camera placement, sound, editing and production design to convey encoded levels of meaning. Lectures and discussions will amplify mythic motifs and depth psychological dimensions in the maestro’s art.”
The films that Terry Ebinger is planning to share with her class include the classics, “Shadow of a Doubt,” with its themes of innocence and awakening; “Notorious,” featuring the archetypes of willing and unwilling sacrifice; “Strangers on a Train,” showing the carnival as an underworld realm; and “Vertigo,” a midlife descent as dreamscape.
Terry is not only a lover of great film and an interpreter of symbols and meaning, she brings 25 years as an in-depth psychological educator, dream consultant, and group leader in unique programs bridging film studies, archetypal psychology, and cultural anthropology. Terry can be reached at email@example.com. For more information about the Santa Rosa Junior College class go to their website www.santarosa.edu/communityed or call 707 527-4372.
Meanwhile, Terry will also be speaking at a monthly film discussion group sponsored by Cinema Numina held in the historic sanctuary of The Church of the Incarnation, 550 Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. Terry’s next film there will be the cinematic gem “I Know Where I’m Going!” As Terry tells me, “this film takes us to the mysterious realm where fate, true love and destiny intersect. In classic mythic fashion, a willful-yet-loveable protagonist struggles against invisible forces of her soul intent on defeating her best-laid plans. All around her, the unruly sea mirrors the unpredictable wildness of her own heart’s affections.
Luminously photographed, the film is deeply infused with the spirit of place, and steeped in the everyday poetry of the blessings, curses, legends and traditions of the Scottish Isles. Renowned masters of beauty and depth, director Michael Powell and producer Emeric Pressburger created many other treasured British films, including “The Red Shoes,” “Black Narcissus,” and “A Matter of Life and Death.” This film, “I Know Where I’m Going,” will be shown at the Cinema Numina at The Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa on February 2 at 7 p.m. See you there.
Meanwhile Sweetie and I have, once again, begun our weekly trek over to Sonoma State University’s Ives Hall in Warren Auditorium near the south entrance to the campus where we watch the Sonoma Film Institute’s offerings gathered by Eleanor Nichols. She has an eye for unique films that set the mind arolling, full of thoughts and questions. Her films offer an enlightened way to examine one’s own life.
Way back in the day, when I was a student at Sonoma State University, I started going to SMI’s films, even back then chosen by Eleanor and shown in the biology lecture hall.
Shortly I aroused the enthusiasm of my Sweetie, and hence our two boys. The four of us made a ritual of attending almost any film that Eleanor offered. The boys have long since left home, but Sweetie and I still attend many of these unusual films, not ones readily available elsewhere. It continues to amaze both of us how the audience for the Sonoma Film Institute has dropped off and aged over the years. Now, at the weekly offerings of unusual films, we are often among an audience of fewer than 20 folks, all clearly senior citizens. We wonder what has happened to the younger viewers? Maybe Terry Ebinger’s classes will inculcate a younger group to enjoy art films. As for Sweetie and me, we both well remember being part of film societies at our respective colleges back in the day.
Last week we trekked over Sonoma Mountain with playwright and poet of renown local Sonoman Lin Marie deVincent, whose four-wheeled Subaru tackled the frosty roads with aplomb. Glad to be with her and to share a pre-show simple repast of dal at Shangri-La, named for James Hilton’s mythical paradise in his novel Lost Horizons somewhere high in the Himalayas. It was a delightful evening with the ride back to Glen Ellen sparked with a lively discussion on the photographs of master photographer Gregory Crewdson, whose film featured his techniques for creating “the most gorgeously haunting pictures in the history of the medium [of photography].”
“His meticulously composed, large-scale images are stunning narratives of small-town American life—moviescapes crystallized into a single frame. While the photographs are staged by crews that rival many feature film productions, Crewdson takes inspiration as much from his own dreams and fantasies as the worlds of Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Edward Hopper and Diane Arbus. Shot over a decade with unprecedented access, Ben Shapiro’s documentary beautifully bares the artist’s process—and it’s as mesmerizing and riveting as the images themselves,” so states Eleanor’s riff on the film.
Finally, don’t miss Eleanor Nichols first March film of the spring season, “Margaret.” The title is based on Gerard Manley Hopkin’s poem, “Spring and Fall,” which begins with
Margaret, are you grieving// Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Like Margaret mourning over her own mortality, the film’s protagonist, Lisa, battles emotional turmoil after witnessing (and even possibly causing) the death of a pedestrian hit by a bus. The film has been touted as “a wrenching drama of moral crisis in post-9-1-1 New York.” Another offering from the Sonoma Film Institute that I anticipate with gratefulness. For more information about the Sonoma Film Institute, go to their website, www.sonoma.edu/sfi.
Of course, among all of these film offerings my favorite in this valley remains Roger Rhoten’s beautiful hometown Sonoma theater, The Sebastiani. This week Roger is offering the hit comedy, “Silver Linings Playbook,” starring Bradley Cooper, as a teacher recovering from an attack of raging anger that caused him to be institutionalized, with Jennifer Lawrence as a mysterious widow with relationship problems of her own. Backed by Robert DiNiro as the quirky father and Jacki Weaver, as a middle American meddling mother, the film takes us to places we don’t expect to be, and causes us to examine our own neurotic tendencies. It’s a hero-conflict story, not unlike “Rocky” where you’ll find yourself rooting for the down-and-outers, knowing you are one with them.
On Monday, January 28, Roger will be showing, in cooperation with the Sonoma Praxis Peace Organization, “Shift Change,” a documentary about workplace democracy, featuring a few Bay Area and Spanish worker-owned businesses that remain successful despite economic hard times.
Then, as part of the Friends of the Sebastiani Foundation’s Specticast Film Presentations, the spectacular opera “La Rondine” featuring the San Francisco Opera will be shown on Sunday, February 10 at 1 in the afternoon.
Movies are a medium I’ve loved from my childhood days at the Eureka Theater, the nearby State Theater, and the notorious flea-bag, the Rialto Theater. Oh no, not Ky Boyd’s Rialto of today, at home in Sebastopol, but the Rialto of a by-gone era, 1950s in Humboldt County, when no self-respecting parents would ever allow their darling daughters to enter that flea-infested emporium of C-rated movies. Yes, enter, and even attend, my sister Carol and I did. “Worth the scratch,” we claimed. It was one of our favorite summer haunts while Mama and Papa worked all day.
After rapidly completing our assigned chores, designed (I now guess) to fill an entire day, Carol and I would walk downtown (a jaunt of no less than three miles) to catch the matinee at the Rialto Theater. That’s where I saw most of the 50s horror films that still haunt my dreams. The films I saw at that old Rialto, a building long since abandoned and remodeled into a cluster of small shops, remain my primary contact with horror, never to be outshone.
“The Incredible Shrinking Man” is one such horror flick I’ll always remember. Boating through a miasmic cloud of radiation and chemicals (looking not so unlike a typical Humboldt County fog) the main character is instantly transformed into a shrinking being, destined for oblivion. But not before he encounters a series of fates that are designed to thrill and panic the audience. From snarling cats to stalking spiders, the creatures of this feature are frightening. Even for an audience of adults. As for small girls, such as we were, it was more than terrifying, more than horrific, it was an impossible-to-forget nightmare. I can still see details if I close my eyes and seek to remember . . . which I don’t do. This is a cautionary tale, not what you want to subject your eyes, your mind, your heart, your courage to. This is demon film personified.
I also remember, as a fifth-grader, going with the entire Lafayette Elementary School population, including teachers and principal, to see “The Ten Commandments” with Charleston Heston playing God, of course, and why not? Titillated by the swaying dances of the women worshipping base idols, I think I failed to get the message of that extravaganza. But a day off school, made it all worth it.
Wizards and mentors
My first film memory is watching the famous “Wizard of Oz,” at the Eureka Theater. Later, I perused the local library for every single L. Frank Baum novel of that realm keeping myself busily reading throughout second and third grades. I loved Oz in every manifestation (and still do: hence the flag we fly at Creekbottom).
Write or email me with your favorite film memories and I’ll take a stroll with you down memory lane, a pastime I frequently enjoy in my daily reveries. But to move on . . .
To quote from a wise editor: “January is National Mentoring Month and the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance is ramping up its annual campaign to swell the ranks of mentors to match all the kids who need mentoring. . . You can learn more by attending the annual Mentor Recruitment Reception on Wednesday, Jan. 30 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at MacArthur Place. There’s no obligation, no one will twist your arm (off. . .” It makes sense and it’s good advice.
Twistings of the arm
For a number of years, a dear friend of mine was twisting my arm (though not off) to join the Sonoma Mentoring Alliance. I resisted, smiling at her offers, yet refusing to try it. Because, in all honesty, there is no try; it’s one of those do or do not propositions. And I kept falling on the do not side. That is, until one day I emailed Mary Jane Arner, and asked, “Is it a good time to jump on board?” Her resounding Yes! was my answer and my impetus.
Now, I’m in only my second year of mentoring, and like M.J., I shout it’s joys. How wonderful to be associated with my beloved local school, Dunbar, once again. As when our boys were there, it’s an exciting, dynamic, learning environment, with dedicated teachers, hopeful parents, lively students and a campus that is the most beautiful in the valley. All around: a good place to be, to help, to enjoy. And enjoy it, I have. Principal Melanie Blake is happy to have a strong and vibrant mentoring center on the Dunbar campus and M.J. makes it a place of loving connection and gracious welcome.
M.J. Arner’s room at Dunbar is a delight. I once described it (in this column even) as a bit chaotic and messy. Of course, M. J. protested, “It’s not that bad.” Indeed it isn’t. It’s a lively place with a surfeit of games, books, art supplies, and, in a separate room, a quiet couch covered with huggable pillows: lots to do and lots to see. M.J.’s Dunbar mentoring center is a place to connect your heart with another human. You, the adult mentor, and the child, the mentee, form lasting bonds that foster a lifelong connection as the child moves through the school system, off to college and into adulthood. It is undeniably, a place of heartfelt love and service. Easy to experience.
I totally advocate mentoring. If you have any questions, please call me. My number is up there at the top of the column in the paper version and at the end of both the print paper and the online column. Really, do call me. I’ll share the joys that I’ve discovered through mentoring. And I promise not to twist your arm (off).
As editor David Bolling pointed out in that above quote I’ve included above, there will be an informational meeting on January 30, 5:30 to 7 p.m. at MacArthur Place, sponsored by Suzanne Brangham who has long been a supportive friend of Sonoma’s Mentoring Alliance. Every current mentor is invited to bring along a friend or two, introducing them to the joys of mentoring. So far, I haven’t recruited anyone to be my guest. That’s where you come in. I’d love to escort you to this gathering where you can learn more about mentoring, particularly if you’re in range of Dunbar, or are willing to drive out here. The lovely campus and the lively mentoring center run by M.J. Arner, will welcome you. Give me a call if this offer interests you and we’ll chat.
Walks in the park
Meanwhile, a recent column of mine prompted an invitation that both Sweetie and I thoroughly enjoyed. While on the trail at the Regional Park one day last week, Sweetie and I ran into fellow hiker Jim Tonery, off on his afternoon walk. Jim mentioned in passing that my recent column on soup had warmed him, and even made him hungry. I smiled a thanks and invited Jim to join us for dinner that very night, sampling a bit of the very soup that I featured in print. Initially, Jim declined protesting that he had a guest coming that evening. Later, back on the main trail again, after a side jaunt to the Lupin Spur, we saw Jim again. He said he’d reconsidered, and wondered if we’d welcome another guest? Of course.
Hence, a lively and lovely repast of homemade chicken soup with Jim and his pal, Janet Arent filled our evening. I couldn’t imagine a nicer Sunday night: warm fire, good soup, fresh bread and a fine bottle of red brewed by Bruce Cohen. All the world is well and in fine order when such alliances exist. We were all content.
Who was that poet?
I have another offer up for the first reader who responds. Maybe dinner, maybe a hike, most likely a calligraphed copy of one of my favorite poems. Here’s the story, with the offer subtly and mysterious hidden. Some weeks back, in the deep dark of winter, I alluded to one of my favorite poems, one that inspired a family photo and comes to mind on many a day. I gave the poet’s name and gave a sideways shout-out of the poem, expecting some curious reader to inquire. Did I mean “such and such a poem, by famous poet so and so?” Alas, no one has asked. Do you remember the column (hint: check “Deep-dark-winter-looking-to-the-future-a-brush-with-the-wild-in-GE” under my archives)? If you can identify the poem and the poet and tell me something special about your acquaintance with the words, and you may win the prize. I’ll await calls from you, my readers.
While I might ordinarily be at column’s end right here, my mind is having trouble stopping, thence to proofing, fixing, titling and stopping. It’s the distraction of a chattering squirrel just outside the window where I sit keyboarding. He’s noisy and insistent, awaiting an offering of organic almonds, fresh from a farm in the central valley. I once made the mistake of adding a small handful to the bottom of a flowerless window box on the porch. The squirrel delighted in the gift and has since insisted that I replenish his supply. Alas, I think not. As summer disappears into the past, and the next crop of almonds is not due until our Glen Ellen Farmer’s market re-opens in May, I am hording my almonds.
Years ago, when the world was still new and bright with all possibilities and veiled in innocence, Paul McCartney wrote a song with the line, “I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in and stops my mind from wandering . . . where it will go . . . . “
This week, it’s not the rain, or at least not as I keyboard this, it’s the darn squirrel who frolics on our rooftop in the morning, races up and down the bay tree outside my work table all day and generally raises havoc and chaos at Creekbottom. He’s noisy, persistent and troublesome. And so life goes, my mind can’t focus because of a lone marauding squirrel. Such power for such little size. Meanwhile, I attempt to stay on task. What’s that you may ask? Yes: writing a column of adequate length and depth (not just surface trivia like raging squirrels and swirling mind). Have I succeeded? I think not . . . not yet, in any case. That will come, revealing itself, word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence, in time, with patience and persistence. Maybe the squirrel has lessons to teach after all. Therefore, if you encounter an excessive number of grammatical, usage, spelling and punctuation errors in this column, I hope to be forgiven, it’s all squirrel.
Playing with food
Last week, in her Friday column in the Index-Tribune, Kathleen Hill wrote: “After all the baking, emailing, promoting, driving and voting, the results are in for this year’s Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance’s Gingerbread Contest. First Place went to Susie and Squire Fridell’s Glen Lyon Winery and Two Amigos Wines with gingerbread baked by their mystery ‘crew.’ Second went to B.R. Cohn Winery’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ entry baked and sculpted by divine Crisp Bake Shop, and Chateau St. Jean garnered third with Kelly Cleaver’s ‘Polar Express Departs from the Chateau.’ Congratulations to all of the entrants.”
We weren’t surprised to read that all of the winners are our delightful neighbors in Glen Ellen and nearby Kenwood. Meanwhile, back at Creekbottom House, we too celebrated the gingerbread phenomenon with a family contest orchestrated and led by Amy Goldhammer Crawford. Here’s to our own new Christmas tradition: creating gingerbread houses. I baked all the house forms, like an industrious architect, following a pattern suggested online. All visiting family members arrived with bags and bags of candy to decorate the houses. After mixing buckets of icing to construct the houses, they were decorated over several nights, with Christmas Carols playing in the background and the tree twinkling with all the decorations done by Hilary Jane Holbrow and Amy Crawford, with a bit of help from their Sweeties (and mine, as well), Gabriel and Schuyler.
Farewell to Holiday celebrations
Now, all ornaments have been stashed, trees hauled away by hearty girl scouts, and gingerbread houses assigned to the trash, nibbled about by hungry mice. The year marches on, and I, not to be left behind, scurry to catch up. Blessings to you, all my dear readers, on this fine winter’s day.
Share your good news with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 707 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at Creekbottom@earthlink.net. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks before the run date.