Sunday, April 28, 2013

From Bookworm to Spooky Mom

American television is filled with families of all types. On the one end of the spectrum you have families like The Brady Bunch and on the other you will find ones closer to The Griffins in Family Guy. Regardless of the show, I always have played close attention the female roles in these shows,especially those of the mothers. Maybe it's because for most of my life I have lived primarily with my other and sister, my other being one of five sisters, or because I have more nieces than nephews. In any case, it doesn't change that I love Moms! 

Just thinking about all the tv Moms I grew up with, I am having a hard time narrowing down my top five list... heck, a top ten is a little easier, but not by much. In no particular order, my favorite tv Moms of all time include: Roseanne, Marge Simpson, Lisa Landry, Morticia Addams, Lily Munster, Lois Griffin, Nancy Botwin, Kitty Foreman, Sophia Petrillo, Lynette Scavo, Vivian Banks, Lorelai Gilmore, and Peg Bundy. I have my reasons. None of these Moms are perfect by any means, but the lengths they go to love and care for their families is beautiful. Each of these mothers are also very different at the same time. One is a senior, one is a single mom, one has dissociative identity disorder, one is wealthy, and one lives a weird girl named Marilyn. Today, I am going to talk about one of these Moms in particular and her name is Morticia Addams. 

Carolyn Jones is the actress that played the role of Mortica Addams. She is one of the few tv Moms that had made spooky and eerie things seem normal and showed a side of motherly love that  people did not expect. Carolyn Jones lived an interesting and amazing life and on this day, what would have been her eighty-third birthday, I would like to share some things about her life with you. So without further delay, here are some interesting facts about Carolyn Jones!

1. Carolyn Jones was born on April 28, 1930 in Amarillo, Texas to Cloe and Julius. Her mother was a homemaker and her father was a barber. Carolyn had one sister. 

2. When Carolyn was four, her father abandoned his family forcing Cloe to relocate herself and daughters to live with her parents. 

3. Carolyn grew up having severe asthma which prevented her from doing normal, physical childhood activities. As a result, Carolyn was an avid reader. She especially enjoyed reading Hollywood magazines and attending movies. This is where her desire to act stemmed from.

4. When Carolyn graduated from high school, her grandfather paid for her acting classes and soon after she moved to California to pursue her acting career.

5. Carolyn established a contract with Paramount Pictures and acted in her first film in 1952. It was called The Turning Point. 

6. During her acting career, Carolyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in The Bachelor Party and was nominated for two Golden Globes. One for The Bachelor and the other for The Addams Family. She won the award for her role as Morticia Addams. 

7. During her life she was married four times. The first time to a fellow she met in acting school and the divorced shortly after. Her second marriage was to Aaron Spelling. Yes, The Arron Spelling. They were wed for over ten years before divorcing and never had children, thank goodness! I would hate to think Morticia Addams was responsible for the birth of Tori Spelling. Could you imagine!?!! Her third marriage was to Tony Award winning, Broadway musical director, Herbert Greene. They were married for nine years until they divorced. Her final husband was close to the end of her life. She married Peter Bailey-Britton, her boyfriend of five years. He stayed with her until the day she passed away. 

8. In 1981, Carolyn was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was so bad that she ended up having two thirds of her colon removed and even then, the cancer spread to her liver. She didn't tell anyone about it. She just told people that she was weak from having ulcer treatments. During this time she still filmed during the day and had chemotherapy at night. During this time in her life she was in a tv soap opera called Capitol. Even though she was weak she finished out the season she was in during her initial diagnosis and spent a good deal of the show acting from a wheel chair.

9. After a while, it seemed like Carolyn's cancer had gone into remission, but it returned in late 1982. All treatments failed. In July of 1983, Carolyn went into a coma at her West Hollywood home and passed away there on August third of the same year with her husband, Peter, by her side. She was 53 and was laid to rest next to her mother, entombed at The Melrose Abbey Memorial Park Cemetery. 

10. A few other things you may not have known about Carolyn involve her love for reading. Carolyn was a huge advocate for libraries and their importance. She was always encouraging people to donate money to them. She also wrote a book in 1971 called Twice Upon a Time. It is the story of a girl from Texas who moves to Hollywood to act. The story talks about the characters career and romantic life. This book was very similar to Carolyn's own life and some people viewed it more as a bio and less as a work of fiction. 

I hope everyone has enjoyed this post and learned a little something about this late actress that went from a bookworm to one of America's favorite tv Moms. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Netflix Addiction Vol 1

Hi. My name is Sara and I am a Netflix-a-holic. I know, big whoop, so is half of the world. What can I say, I am addicted to horror movies and Netflix is my dealer. I knew Netflix had something I knew I already liked and I got my kicks. Then, Netflix said, hey... if you like violent slasher films, then you should check out some serial killer movies. You like scream queens? Check out some movies with a strong female lead. Ohhh, you watched Hick? Why not check out some more movies because you watched that one... Ohh, you wanted to re-watch an old fav called But I'm a Cheerleader? How about some more gay and lesbian movies... And before you know it you are on the last episode of season five of The L Word. Granted this was the short version of my five year love affair with Netflix, but I think you see what it is capable of. By the way, I literally am on the last episode of The L Words fifth season. Lord knows what I will start watching next!

This being said, I know that there are a lot people out there that love Netflix and I just wanted to share some of the awesome things I have watched recently and some of the ehhh, alright and some of the not so good ones as well. 

First off, in case you didn't know, Netflix has it's own shows that are only available through Netflix.  Two of which are called Hemlock Grove and House of Cards. Also, coming soon, new episodes of Arrested Development. I have watched a few episodes of House of Cards mainly because it was filmed in Baltimore and because I like Kevin Spacey. It's a political drama filled with the typical sex, lies, greed, and power hungry politicians... so kind of what you might expect. This show has already been done once before. It was a BBC miniseries of the same title and even the main character, Francis, has the same name. It's a really good series, but if you aren't into political drama and people using lingo you might hear in a law class, then this may not be for you. 

Hemlock Grove, is completely different! This one is a mystery/drama series. It is about a town where a teenage girl is found murdered and people suspect a wild animal of sorts is the culprit. I have only seen the first episode and I feel like I need to re-watch because I was distracted at the time, bu it seems like it has a lot of potential. Plus, it has an amazing cast! Famke Jannsen and Lili Taylor to name a few. Ohhh and I can't forget to mention Peter Skarsgard, what a looker! 

As for movies... I haven't watched too many lately since I have been in my L Word phase. This show is pretty good. It is overly dramatic, I hate half of the characters, everyone is sleeping with everyone, and I have seen more T & A than the bartender at Larry Flint's Hustler Club. That being said, that characters that I do like I am in love with. This show makes me laugh, cry, yell WTF so loud I scare my pets, and I am almost in the last season. I think that last bit should say something. You don't invest that much time into a show if it is completely awful. Not to mention the music is awesome and the cast is killer. I'm talking Jennifer Beals, Pam Grier, Mia Krishner, and guest appearances by people like Jane Lynch, Cybill Sheperd, Alan Cumming, Sandra Bernhard, and Rosanna Arquette. If you like over the top drama and are comfortable with the gay/lesbian scene... this could be a good match for you as well. 

Three movies that I have checked out in the past month are all a little bit different... They are LOL, Bachlorette, and Hobo with a Shotgun. LOL is the Miley Cyrus/ Demi Moore movie that wasn't in theaters for too long. It takes place in Chicago and is about teenage Lola aka Lol and her heart aches, teenage drama, her relationship with her mother, and finding a new love that was always right in front of her. It was an okay movie, but I don't know that I will watching that again anytime soon. 

Bachlorette is what it sounds like... a lady is getting married. However, the bride to be is Rebel Wilson and her bridesmaids are Isla Fisher, Kirsten Dunst, and Lizzy Caplan. This movie was super misleading for me. I hear Rebel Wilson and my first reaction is, "Bitch is gonna steal the show!" Yeah... not so much. Wilson's character is a mellow bride that tells her bridesmaids that she  doesn't want to have a crazy bachlorette party and wants to keep things low key and call it a night early. Her bridesmaids, who don't even like her all that much to begin with, decide to party it up and fuck the bride's wedding dress up in the process. The entire movie revolves around two things: fucking the dress up even more while trying to get it fixed and reflecting on their own fucked up lives and their own bitterness and mistakes. This movie does have a lot of funny parts, but overall if felt like more of a drama/therapy session for the bridesmaids. I could watch it again, but only if I am in the right mood. 

Hobo with a Shotgun. I know... one of these things is not like the other. This movie has a grindhouse feel to it. It's one I have seen a few times in the past and the first fifteen minutes are fifteen minutes you will never forget. The film is about a homeless man that ends up taking the law into his own hands. His neighborhood that he currently resides is harassed by The Drake and his sons as well as some other seedy characters. The kill scenes are bloody and will either have you laughing or saying what the fuck did I just watch... This film also has some great lines... though I am not sure that they were intended to be as funny as they were to me. Like, "When life gives your razor blades you make a baseball bat... with razor blades."

Well, that is all I have for my first installment of My Netflix Addiction. There will be more of these to come, especially after I am done with The L Word!

Friday, April 26, 2013

When Did A Memorial Become Taboo

A few weeks ago I was checking out some photos and I was reminded of when I took a photography class forever ago. On the first day of class, my teacher asked everyone if we knew one of the most popular uses for photography when it first came about. Many people said family pictures or portraits, and we weren't wrong, but we weren't hitting the nail on the head either. As it turns out, taking photos of deceased family members was a trend in the early mid 1800's to commemorate the loved one(s). This practice is known as post-mortem photography. 

Post-mortem photography is a practice that has greatly changed in the past 200 years. It began in the Victorian Era, peaked around the end of the 19th century, and is rarely seen today. I say rarely because it still is seen and I'm not simply referring to someone taking a photograph at a wake, but I will explain this later on. In order to fully understand this type of photography and how technology, the news, and art have changed it's meaning, I must start with a bit of history.

When post-mortem photography first became a trend, children were most often the ones seen in these types of photos. Now, before you get up in arms about how morbid and disgusting this seems, you should take a few things into consideration. First off, children in the 1800's had a very high immortality rate. When you factor in the limitations of medicine back then as well as the lack of birth control, this shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Secondly, we are talking about a time when society wasn't overrun with technology just yet. Unlike today, not every household owned a camera, in fact, it was common practice to hire a photographer. People didn't always have the money to have photos taken at every significant occasion in a child's life and many times a post-mortem photo was the only picture a family might ever own of their child. Lastly, snap shot photography wouldn't be developed for some time and until then photos required two things: patience and being able to sit still, both things a child might lack. These photos were viewed as memorials and helped families mourn their loved ones. Even the layout and setting for the photos had special meaning as well as a style of their own that was always evolving.

It is fairly easy to determine whether a post-mortem photo is from this trends early days or closer to when the it began to die out based on the setting the deceased is shown in. In the early days these photos were usually a close up of the deceased face or a full body shot. It was extremely rare to see a person photographed in a coffin. The subject is usually depicted in a deep sleep or posed in a lifelike position. Children were often shown in their crib or posed with their favorite play thing. It was also common to photograph a deceased child in the arms of a family members, most often the mother. Adults were posed is more lifelike positions, especially with their eyes open. Flowers were a commonly used prop and hold so much symbolism that it is hard to really understand if they were used simply as a prop or to hold a deeper meaning or association to the subject. Another trick used to make the body look more lifelike was to paint pupils on the prints or add a rosy tint to the cheeks. Later on there was less of an effort to make the deceased seem alive. There was no longer a desire to make the subject appear lifelike and awake. Often times the deceased was photographed in their coffin and sometimes seen surrounded by loved ones. In any case, whether the picture showed a baby in a crib or a grandmother in a coffin, the fact that someone wanted to remember their loved one stands clear. 

Today, post-mortem photography is still alive, but it falls under two different names: art and the news. Photographers like Enrique Metinides and Joel-Peter Witkin are well known photographers that document grim and shocking scenes. 

This photo was taken by Enrique Metinides
Metinides is well known for his photo journalism in Mexico City where he documented crimes, murders, and even a plane crash. Witkin was one of the photographers during the Vietnam war and also photographs death, corpses, and dismemberment. He also explores more touchy and taboo subjects such as dwarves, transexuals, hermaphrodites, and the physically deformed. 

This photo is by Joel-Peter Witkin

On the other hand you will find artists like Maeve Berry and Lyn Hagan. Berry is an Irish photographer who is well known for a series called Incandescence. Incandescence is a filled with photos taken at a crematory that show burning ember of bodies. Hagan's work is a bit different. She has several pieces that are hand embroidered portraits of children in Paul Freckers collection. She also does a lot of work with bones of animals and thread. 

One of the pieces in Maeve Berry's series: Incandescence

While the news and art do not depict death in the same way post-mortem photography originally did, is it safe to call this type of work post-mortem photography after all? If you break down what post-mortem photography is you may come up with the simplest definition: a photo of a deceased person. However, the meaning and symbolism behind the photo has drastically changed. I read somewhere that these images, "reflect a fascination in how people react to impermanence and how such photos were 'a means of capturing the image of the person in one last futile gesture that denies their loss whilst at the same time admitting it totally". I am unsure of who said this, but that's Wikipedia for you. 

Honestly, when I started this post I thought I was going to give a matter-of-fact history lesson that would hopefully teach someone a thing or two about photography and past traditions when it came to death. However, what I ended up finding upon my own research was I had way more questions that I would like to leave open for people to comment on and give their own opinions. 

Here are my final thoughts as I end this post: Is history really that morbid? Were our ancestors such ignorant neanderthals that they couldn't see how disgusting what they were doing really was? Or is it us-society today that is ignorant? So often we are quick to judge and dismiss something because we don't understand it or are afraid. Death is what it is. It makes people uncomfortable and even makes them question their own values and beliefs. People get upset at just the thought of dying, let alone talking about what is waiting in the afterlife. 

I don't question that this is a tradition that will never be as popular or as sentimental as it was in the past, but I also don't question the love, memories, and sorrow each photo must have held for the loved ones of the deceased. Everyone mourns in their own way and if it isn't hurting anyone, why should we care?

We live in an age of technology that is rapidly growing and consuming our time, cell phones in particular. Yes, they do have great uses, I will admit that. We use our smart phones to keep in touch with family, call for help when our car breaks down, check the weather, keep up on current events, and find a better route in heavy traffic. On the flip side, we don't always use this technology constructively. We use this same device to stalk our exes, start feuds with loved ones, cheat on our lovers, and take a million self portraits in contribution of our own vanity. This being said, in a world where people document their every thought and even share pictures of "what's for dinner", would post-mortem photography ever have the same value and sentimentality that it did in it's early days? I think not. Even weddings don't stand a chance in these days of Facebook and Instagram. I can't tell you how many times I have heard about a newlywed couple upset because their friends or family tagged them in pictures in their own wedding on Facebook before the couple could even change their relationship status to married. I guess even social media has it's own etiquette and guidelines these days. Not that I think someone is going to Instagram or tweet a picture of Aunt Sally dead in her own house while they wait for the ambulance to arrive, but stranger things have happened. 

In the end, I think post-mortem photography holds so much mystery, beauty, love, and sweet sorrow. I don't think there will ever be a way to give it the justice and acknowledge it for the real reasons it was started in the first place.

I hope everyone enjoyed this post. Please share your thoughts and own questions in a comment below.