Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

As November rolls around every year, I have a few things that I always look forward to: the start of basketball season, autumn weather, the changing color of leaves, and most of all Thanksgiving! Not only is it a five day break from school (just when we're all starting to go crazy), but it's a wonderful time to gather with family and EAT! And so, in the spirit of giving THANKS, I thought that on this Thanksgiving Eve, I would record a few things that I'm thankful for this year.

First, the trivial:

I'm thankful for great books and good movies. My Harry Potter adventure earlier this year was a highlight of 2011. And I can't wait for The Hunger Games to come out in March.

I'm thankful for Jillian Michaels' Ripped in 30. Although it's difficult and she makes me want to yell at the screen, I feel stronger when I complete one of her workouts.

I'm thankful for Special K Cracker Chips...I can eat 30 of them for only 110 calories. WooHoo!

I'm thankful for college football on Saturdays--especially watching the Oregon Ducks and their unique style of play and over-the-top uniforms.

I'm thankful for the pillow case my mom made me. It's fuzzy and warm and is just what I needed to sleep in my somewhat-chilly bedroom. Plus it has little ducks on it. Cute.

I'm thankful for commercials that make me laugh no matter how many times I see them.

I'm thankful for Facebook, Pinterest, E-mail, Sporcle, and all the other internet stuff that keeps me entertained and involved in the lives of my friends and family.

I'm thankful that CSI (the original show in Las Vegas) has bounced back this season. Ted Danson has been a terrific addition to the cast and the show feels fresh and new again. I truly look forward to watching it every week.

I'm thankful for jeans and hoodies--my favorite outfit choices.

And now to give THANKS for a few of the significant things in my life:

I'm thankful for my fiance Matt, who proposed on November 5th. He is kind, intelligent, athletic, and insightful. It took patience, prayer, and the advice of friends and family...but we found one another and can't wait to get married. And I'm thankful for Matt's family who have accepted me into the Ortman clan.

I'm thankful for my family--my parents, my sister, aunts, uncles and cousins--who have shown me such love and support. Thank you to my mom and dad who are the best parents and who provided Matt and I with a great weekend in Oregon in October. Thanks for my little sis, who always knows how to make me laugh and is always up for new adventures. Thanks to all of my extended family who have promised to travel from all parts of the globe to celebrate at my wedding in June. :)

I'm thankful for my friends. For my friend Michelle who has done more for me in the past year than anyone will ever know. Her advice and support physically, emotionally, and spiritually have helped me get through some very difficult times. And not only that, but we have laughed and shared in some great times as well. For my friends at school-especially Rachel and Krista- who include me in their lives and listen to me vent when necessary. For my church friends and my "old" friends who I've known forever--and are so excited for me. Thanks right now go out to my friend Vicky, who is taking some of the stress of wedding planning off my hands. I truly am blessed by my friendships and I give THANKS for every one of them.

I'm thankful for the girls I coach in basketball and golf. For their dedication to the sport, and their willingness to be coachable. I'm also thankful for my fellow coaches, both those I coach with and those who join me in our weekly coaches bible study. It's a wonderful thing to have a coaching support system like the one we have at ONW. I'm thankful for Ryan--our FCA Coaches Ministry Leader--who introduced me and Matt. Enough said.

And most importantly, I'm thankful for Jesus Christ and my salvation.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving all. My love and THANKS to all of you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Expecto Patronum!

It's been quite awhile since I wrote a blog post. No excuses really...just didn't feel as though I had anything to report. Until now...

As you probably know, unless you're not in tune at all to the world of Harry Potter (or never watch TV), last week marked a very important time for all Harry Potter fans as the last movie in the series debuted on July 15th. To mark the occasion, my friend Michelle invited me and our friend Rachel to attend the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 with her family. And not only were we going to go see the movie, we were going to dress up as some of our favorite Harry Potter characters. Yeah that's right!

In addition to the craziness of preparing our costumes and the excitement building up to see the movie, Michelle and her kiddos decided that they would make a day of it and try to be the first in line--which meant getting there early and spending nearly 15 hours in line outside the AMC theatre.

To be honest, I think I was just as excited as the teenagers, especially since I hadn't ever "camped out" to see anything. It was a memorable day that culminated in seeing the movie at 12:01 am.

So, how did I become a Harry Potter fan? I started reading the Harry Potter books after the fourth book, Goblet of Fire, was published. Before I read the first book, I wasn't sure what the big draw was to these "children's books," but I decided to give it a try when one of my book club friends-who also taught 4th grade-told me to read the first book before making a judgement. Honestly, from the first few chapters, I was hooked. I read the first four books in just a couple of weeks. Then I started the waiting game along with millions of Harry Potter fans for the next book.

I joined the Harry Potter mania after the first movie had come out, so it's the only one I didn't see in the theatre. And, of course, I have my own opinions on the movies, how well they represent the books, the characters, the plot twists etc. Before I saw the last movie (of which I'll reserve my opinion until I've seen it a few more times), the 3rd and 5th movies were my favorites. And the books, well, they're all so integral to one another and provide so much information that I can't really choose a favorite. I enjoyed them all for a number of reasons.

So, at 9:30 am Michelle, Kayla and Seadon arrived at AMC and set up camp.

That's right--FIRST IN LINE!!! WooHoo! I showed up an hour later at 10:30 and the fun began. We decided to hang out in shifts, although for the most part, the 4 of us along with Kayla's friend Meredith were there for most of the day.

Arty, Ariele, Jill, Riley, and Rachel joined us for parts of the day as well. It was another scorcher in Kansas. Temperatures were in the 90s, but lucky for us, our line to see the movie in 3D had shade near the door until late afternoon. (Of course, I got sunburned while sitting in the shade all day--go figure.)

I decided weeks before that Professor McGonagall would be my alter-ego for the evening and began the process of collecting items to transform a 21st century English teacher into the Hogwarts Transfiguration professor and head of Gryffindor house. I purchased a few of my costume items off the internet, a couple from the Salvation Army store, and I hand-crafted my own wand, which I thought turned out pretty stellar actually. (Kayla did a fabulous job with her Luna wand and Michelle's was almost a perfect replica of Bellatrix's wand.) It was so much fun getting ready for the Harry Potter Extravaganza and the build up was exciting. Finally seeing everyone as the character of their choice was awesome. Not to mention we were pretty much celebrities once we all arrived-because of the awesomeness of our entire group. (Arty's Voldemort was especially popular; he looked great.) I would guess that our pictures are on facebook pages across the KC metro area. :)

As we could, we left one or two at a time, to make our transformations into the wizards and witches from J.K. Rowling's magical world. Starting around 6:00 pm various members of our group showed up in costume and by 7:30 we were all there decked out as our favorite Harry Potter characters. Here's a pic of the crew:

I may be biased, but let me just say that we had the BEST costumes/characters: Professor Trelawney (Rachel), Luna Lovegood (Kayla), Hermione Granger (Meredith), a Muggle (Ariele), Harry Potter (Seadon), Professor McGonagall (Me), Bellatrix LeStrange (Michelle) and the evil Lord Voldemort (Arty-Michelle's husband).

It was about 9:30 pm when they finally let us into the theatre (and the air conditioning). With only 2 and half hours left we were sweaty and tired, but we scored terrific seats-right where the girls wanted to sit. So, we waited, took a few more pictures and finally got to see the 8th and final Harry Potter movie. Admittedly, I teared up a couple of times.

Here's my favorite picture from the evening---Yep...that's me with two of my very best friends, after experiencing a wonderful day of Harry Potter magic. Thanks to Rachel and Michelle--Sybil, Minerva, and Bellatrix never looked so good!

Overall, it was an awesome day. I had such a good time and it will be an occasion I'll remember forever. Here are just a few more pictures of the event.

What do you think? Do I make a decent Professor McGonagall? I love Maggie Smith's portrayal of the deputy headmistress. She's awesome!

Dueling wizards...a preview of the final battle...

And finally, a professor with her students. Good times!

And now the countdown begins to...what? Perhaps The Hunger Games?

Finite Incantatem...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mr. Fforde!!

So, last night I had the privilege to hear/meet my favorite author of the past nine years...Mr. Jasper Fforde-author of The Eyre Affair. I'm a huge fan of his, so when I read online that he was going to be in Kansas City, I couldn't have been more excited. I was also psyched that his 6th book in the Thursday Next series was out, and I was going to be able to get a signed copy. Sweet.

Those of you who have, alas, not heard of Jasper Fforde should definitely check out his website. But I'll fill you in on a few things I've learned as a fan of Mr. Fforde.

Let's see... Jasper Fforde is a British novelist who lives in Wales--the country of my ancestors. He worked in the movie industry for over 20 years as a "focus puller" or "1st AC"--which apparently has something to do with assisting the camera operator and director of photography. Mr. Fforde is intelligent and humorous. He takes some awesome/intriguing pictures, which I have introduced to my good friend Michelle who was nice enough to accompany me to his appearance at the KC Library. We both enjoy checking out his photographs, especially when he posts a new Picture of the Week.

His first few novels were rejected by numerous publishers, but he persevered with The Eyre Affair which was published in 2001. In the question/answer section of his website you would find this description of Fforde's first novel.
Q: In a single sentence, how would you describe The Eyre Affair?
A: The Eyre Affair is a literary detective thriller with romantic overtones, mad inventor uncles, aunts trapped in Wordsworth poems, global multinationals, scheming evildoers, an excursion inside the novel of Jane Eyre, dodos, knight-errant-time-travelling fathers and the answer to the eternal question: "Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays?"

According to Wikipedia: "Fforde's books are noted for their profusion of literary allusions and word play, tightly scripted plots, and playfulness with the conventions of traditional genres. His works usually contain various elements of metafiction, parody, and fantasy." And according Jasper himself from his website--the books include "an odd mix of Fantasy, Crime and Sci-fi. There's romance, too, and literary stuff, and satire, and .. well, you name it."

I couldn't describe his books any better than that, and I recommend that you pick up either The Eyre Affair, Shades of Grey or The Big Over Easy (the three first books of three different series) and let me know what you think. :)

So, we ventured down to the Kansas City Library near the plaza to hear Jasper Fforde speak about his books, his writing process, his inspiration, and whatever else happened to come up throughout the two hours. It was pretty awesome. Mr. Fforde is articulate and very funny. Just from hearing him speak, one can surmise that his writing is original, witty, and creative.

Toward the beginning of the talk, Jasper mentioned what he calls "The Narrative Dare." Michelle and I were both intrigued by that phrase. I'm not sure I can really do it justice to explain what he was talking about, but essentially, he thinks up circumstances (or dares) that he has to write his way out of or find a solution. The Narrative Dare (or a number of them) is what drives all of Mr. Fforde's books. One narrative dare that he created became the main plot point in The Eyre Affair--Jane Eyre is kidnapped from the pages of her book...

Anyway, it was a very exciting evening for me--and Jasper Fforde met or exceeded all of my expectations. It was also pretty cool to share this experience with Michelle-who hasn't read any of Fforde's books, but has agreed to appease me and do so as soon as she has the opportunity. Getting my books signed was awesome. I hope to be able to meet Mr. Fforde again someday, perhaps I might even be able to attend the Fforde Ffiesta one day.

For now, however, I am going to settle in and get busy reading. I have my newly signed copy of One of Our Thursdays is Missing right here on my coffee table.

Oh, and thanks to the folks at the KC Library for hosting a great event. The library is a pretty cool place. I especially liked the circle of books--perhaps Michelle is entering Fforde's "prose portal" and will get sucked into the book-world to become a member of Jurisfiction. Which novel would you choose to enter if you had the skills and talents of Thursday Next?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Final Favorite Movie Post

A colleague of mine--who reads my blog-- was getting after me the other day for my lack of timely writing. Obviously, it's been ages since I wrote the last post and I'm sure everyone is "on pins and needles" awaiting my top 50 movie choices from my Top 100 list. So, let's get right to it-- and this time in reverse order...oooh...Can you feel the suspense?

49. Saving Private Ryan
48. My Fair Lady
47. Clue
46. Twelve Angry Men
45. Cool Hand Luke

Interesting mix in #49-45. I remember seeing Saving Private Ryan in the theatre when it came out and was just floored by the first 45 minutes of action. It was incredible. Also, it was one of the first movies I'd ever seen where the audience sat stunned throughout and applauded at the end and you could just feel the emotion throughout the entire movie. Clue was a movie my sister and I had on VHS. We thought it was hilarious--plus I liked the board game. My Fair Lady, Twelve Angry Men, and Cool Hand Luke are just classics, and Paul Newman was gorgeous.

44. Brassed Off --Interesting movie about the suffering of mining communities in Britain as mines were being closed due to the lack of profitability. The "Brass" part reflects the plot line surrounding the brass bands that were made up primarily of miners. I was introduced to the movie by my uncle--and I guess I feel a connection to the movie because my great-grandfather was a miner in Wales.

43. Raising Arizona--Surprisingly, Nic Cage actually makes more than one appearance on my list, as does Holly Hunter, but she's great in this and in a movie that falls in my top 10.

42. The Truman Show--Classic movie that is a bit dystopian with a humorous touch. I love the premise of this movie--it was basically reality tv before all those crazy shows exploded on our televisions.

41. The Fugitive
40. Rear Window
39. Searching For Bobby Fisher
38. Glory
37. Back to the Future

Of #41-37 Searching For Bobby Fisher is probably the least known--best movie about chess that I've ever seen. I love the thrill of The Fugitive, the anticipation of what will happen in Rear Window, the patriotism and history lesson presented in Glory, and Back to the Future is one of the best science-fiction-comedies of all time.

36. Beauty and the Beast--I love this story and can sing every word of every song. "Little town, it's a quiet village. Every day, like the one before..."

35. Pretty Woman
34. Tin Cup
33. Singing in the Rain
32. Four Weddings and a Funeral
31. Benny and Joon

#35-31 are all romantic comedies of some sort. Of course, Pretty Woman made Julia Roberts famous. Tin Cup made taking a 12 on the last hole of the US Open plausible (sortof). Singing in the Rain has the best/classic/light-hearted singing and dancing numbers. Ever. Four Weddings and a Funeral is funny and touching with a unique storyline. The ensemble players in the movie were fabulous. Benny and Joon stars the quirky Johnny Depp in yet another interesting role.

30. The Dirty Dozen--Who doesn't love a movie where a ragtag bunch of soldier/convicts come together as an elite team to take out Nazis on the eve of the Normandy invasion? I mean come on...

29. Fried Green Tomatoes
28. The Sound of Music
27. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
26. Good Will Hunting
25. Sleepless in Seattle

#29-25 are all popular, feel-good movies, and I would guess that all of the folks who read my blog have at least one or two of these on their favorite movie lists as well. Fried Green Tomatoes is a great story, and I actually really enjoy eating them too. :) I didn't actually see The Sound of Music until adulthood, and it can't outshine Julie Andrews first movie...but it is terrific. Ferris Bueller's Days Off has inspired students everywhere to embrace their inner charismatic charmer. Some of the best scenes ever are in this one movie. Wrigley Field, The Art Institute of Chicago, the parade through downtown, and the scenes at school--makes me want to be truant...why isn't this movie higher on my list? Good Will Hunting is my favorite movie about a slacker-genius. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck definitely deserved the Academy Award. And Sleepless in Seattle isn't my favorite Tom Hanks movie or my favorite Meg Ryan movie; but it's the best Tom and Meg movie, even though they only share a couple of scenes.

24. Life is Beautiful--Another WWII movie. I'm fascinated by this time period in history. My grandfather served in the Royal British Marine Corps and I enjoy reading about WWII endlessly. Life is Beautiful took a look at the Holocaust through the eyes of a Jewish Italian and his son. It is a sweet story of love and sacrifice.

23. Rudy--I always cry at the part where the starters march into Coach Devine's office and place their jerseys on his desk in order to give Rudy a chance to play in his last collegiate game. Then the tears come again when the crowd starts chanting his name. "Rudy. Rudy. Rudy..." You know the rest.

22. An Affair to Remember
21. While You Were Sleeping

I suppose it would have been better to have An Affair to Remember matched with Sleepless in Seattle, but I wasn't really thinking about the connection between the two when compiling my list. Anyway, these are two more wonderful romantic comedies.

20. Little Man Tate--Not many folks have seen this Jodie Foster directed movie about a boy genius and his relationship with his mother.

19. Notting Hill
18. Bull Durham

Hugh Grant and his pals in Notting Hill--brilliant. Bull Durham is the second-best baseball movie starring Kevin Coster and has some of the greatest lines in sports movie history. For example, I love this visit to the mound by Larry the pitching coach:

[Larry jogs out to the mound to break up a players' conference]
Larry: Excuse me, but what the hell's going on out here?
Crash Davis: Well, Nuke's scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man's here. We need a live... is it a live rooster?
[Jose nods]
Crash Davis: . We need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose's glove and nobody seems to know what to get Millie or Jimmy for their wedding present.
[to the players]
Crash Davis: Is that about right?
[the players nod]
Crash Davis: We're dealing with a lot of s**t.
Larry: Okay, well, uh... candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she's registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern. Okay, let's get two! Go get 'em.

17. To Kill a Mockingbird
16. The Sandlot
15. Mary Poppins

Three great ones at #17-15. I hadn't read To Kill a Mockingbird until college, and hadn't seen the movie either. But when I did, the novel jumped to the top of my list and the movie to the top twenty. Atticus Finch may be one of the greatest characters of all time, and the portrayal by Gregory Peck was perfect. The Sandlot is a another movie with classic lines that represents that innocence of childhood. And if you had asked me for a top ten list when I was a kid, my number one movie would have been Mary Poppins--still love it.

14. A League of Their Own--Aha...the last Tom Hanks movie on the list. Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Geena Davis playing a little baseball...great movie. And I have now proven that I have an overwhelming affinity for sports flicks.

13. National Treasure--I love history. I love mystery. And Nic Cage doesn't ruin it.

12. Groundhog Day-- I could watch it over, and over, and over, and over again. . . repeat.

11. Dances With Wolves--As a high school student we actually missed school and went on a field trip to the movie theatre (72 miles away) to see this fictionalized account of the west in the late 1800's. It was a social studies assignment and I was riveted. I think that living so near the Wind River Indian Reservation gave me a different appreciation for the movie. And, the music was absolutely fabulous; it perfectly fits the sweeping landscapes and the narrative. Well done Mr. Costner.

10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail--Another movie introduced to me by my Uncle Steve. I think that makes 4 total on this list. Who doesn't think that the Monty Python boys are comic geniuses? Anyone? Nope.
Some Quotes:
"I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries."
"It's just a flesh wound."
"Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."

9. When Harry Met Sally--I love romantic comedies and this one is simply one of the best ever. Rob Reiner's direction and the collaboration with Nora Ephron was superb--and I love that he gave his mom the best line in the movie: "I'll have what she's having..."

8. Pleasantville--Another utopian/dystopian vision of American suburbia. Director Gary Ross said, "...when we're afraid of certain things in ourselves or we're afraid of change, we project those fears on to other things, and a lot of very ugly social situations can develop." Indeed, the theme of Pleasantville is a great one for all of us to learn from and remember.

7. Always--Not a well-known movie, but one that I've watched a number of times. The romantic drama was Audrey Hepburn's last film appearance. "The film follows the same basic plot line: the spirit of a recently dead expert pilot mentors a newer pilot, while watching him fall in love with his surviving girlfriend." (Wikipedia) I think it's the only firefighting movie on my list.

6. Hoosiers--The greatest underdog movie of all time, and it's about basketball--you knew it would make my list, right?!

5. The American President--Again, a Rob Reiner directed movie earns a place on my list. (He also directed #9 and #3.) The American President became the basis for the Emmy-winning series, The West Wing. Michael Douglas and Annette Bening have great chemistry, and although I'm one of the least political people you could meet, I enjoyed the political banter and the idealism.

4. The Cutting Edge--Yeah, so this hockey player gets injured and can never play again...he thinks he has another shot at the big time when a coach approaches him with an offer involving, wait for it, figure skating. :) It's silly, yes. But I love it. DB Sweeney and Moira Kelly have that love/hate competitive relationship perfected in this movie. "Toe Pick!" But when Kate and Doug complete the ridiculous Pomchenko at the winter Olympics...I get a bit teary-eyed. "Just remember who said it first."

3. The Princess Bride--A wonderful frame story involving the reading of an adventure-romance-comedy novel by a grandfather to his grandson who has stayed home sick. The actual Princess Bride is a girl named Buttercup who falls in love with Wesley a humble farm boy. Great story, great characters and eminently quotable. Andre the Giant as Fezzik, Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, and Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, basically steal the movie, although Billy Crystal as Mad Max is pretty hilarious as well.

2. The Shawshank Redemption--Ah the voice of Morgan Freeman. Narrating the story of his friend Andy Dufresne, Freeman's character Red, tells the story of a man wrongly convicted of murder who must adapt to life in Shawshank State Prison. I won't give the plot away to anyone who hasn't seen it and strongly suggest that those who haven't had the pleasure do so posthaste. It is one of the most satisfying endings to any movie I've ever seen.

1. Field of Dreams

So, when I was in 7th grade, I read a book called Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella. Two years later, on the advice of my friend Hailey, I saw Field of Dreams. The book was so special to me that I was a little afraid to see the film based on the novel. I wasn't much of a reader, so the fact that I loved a novel and read it more than once was somewhat memorable. Anyway, I watched Field of Dreams on VHS in 9th grade and it made the top of my list immediately--even though I didn't have a tangible list at that age.

The Voice (as himself) delivers some of the most important lines in the movie...starting with "If you build it, he will come." Kevin Costner plays Ray Kinsella perfectly and James Earl Jones is author Terrance Mann--a character that in the novel is originally written as famous recluse J.D. Salinger. Jones has the best monologue of the movie: a turning point nearing the end of the film.

"Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

For me, Field of Dreams is the most chill-inducing movie I've ever seen. There are at least 4 different moments in the movie where chills run up my spine, including the end when Karin falls from the bleachers and Moonlight Graham transforms into Doc Graham to save her. Awesome.

So, that's the list. Feel free to leave your comments--whether you like some of my picks or believe them to be ridiculous--I'd love to hear from you.