A Quote to Start Things Off

"Passive Aggressive. It works for my mother, it works for Duolingo" Luis Von Ahn , co-founder of Duolingo from his TED talk, How to make learning as addictive as social media.

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Pictures of Memories I

Pictures of Memories I
Snow kidding! These "kids" now range from 17 to 23

Friday, August 28, 2020

Breakfast Serials Chariots of Fire Intro and Day 1

 Breakfast Serials

Chariots of Fire 


Film: Chariots of Fire 1981

... based on the true story of two athletes in the 1924 OlympicsEric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.


Clicking on characters in bold yields their Wikipedia page. (names not in bold or either fictional characters, amalgams, or historical characters without a Wikipedia page) I have included the Wikipedia pages for historic information. There are also sections in those pages that clarify the true biography from the depiction in Chariots of Fire.  One example of this is the character Sybil Gordon. Sybil Gordon was an opera singer of that time and the film portrays Gordon as being the fiance of Harold Abrahams. However, Abrahams was never engaged to Sybil Gordon. He was engaged and then married another opera singing Sybil, Sybil Evers; they did not meet until 10 years after the 1924 Olympics. Talk about a Sybil dispute. 

 Clicking on actor/actress yields their IMDB page.  In the 40 years since Chariots of Fire came out, several of these actors have passed away, which makes sense. Two of these actors have died this Summer,  I have asterisked the 2 who passed this summer and placed links to their obituaries at the end of the cast list.

Character                           (Actor) 
Eric Liddell                      (Ian Charleson)
Harold Abrahams           (Ben Cross*)
Sam Mussabini                (Ian Holm*)
Lord Andrew Lindsay       (Nigel Havers)
Sybil Gordon                   (Alice Krige)
Jennie Liddell                   (Cheryl Campbell)
Master of Trinity              (John Gielgud)
Sandy McGrath                (Struan Rodger)
Charles Paddock             (Dennis Christopher)      
Jackson Scholz                (Brad Davis)

Nominated for 7 Academy Awards and 10 British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA)

Won 4 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Screen Play, Best Costume Design, & Best Original Score)  & 3 BAFTAs (Best Film, Best Editing and Best Costume Design)

Day 1 

Note : I had to choose how  I wanted to chronicle these  15-minute segments.  There is the wiki approach: a blow by blow  scene by scene reenactment.  I could do that, probably without even watching the film again. I've seen it that many times.  There is what I call the Making of the Making of Titanic* approach.  This is where  I dredge up every anecdote I can find about the characters , the historical authenticity of the film, information about the actors, even the birth weight of anyone who ever watched the movie. Instead, I offer the HSD approach.  I try to give information that whets your appetite for watching or re-watching the film,  I make some, what I hope to be, humorous side comments while not spoiling the movie or majoring in minutia. 
* A reference to a Mad About You Episode. Ellen DeGeneres appeared in that episode as a caterer. When Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser appeared on Ellen's show to promote the reboot of Mad About You, Ellen stated she had forgotten all about being on the show.  Perhaps that was Helen who had forgotten that Ellen had been on the show. Either way, this entry is certainly an example of the making of the making of Titanic approach. 

Segment 1 is approximately 1sixteen minute and 40 seconds  as the ending scene dissolves into the beginning  scene of segment 2 mid narration.

The movie begins at a funeral in 1978. Lord Andrew Lindsay, a composite character, portrayed expertly by Nigel Havers is giving the eulogy and says:

Let us praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. All these men were honoured in their generations and were a glory in their days. We are here today to give thanks for the life of Harold Abrahams. To honour the legend. Now there are just two of us - young Aubrey Montague and myself - who can close our eyes and remember those few young men with hope in our hearts and wings on our heels.

During this speech, we can see into the audience at the funeral and see that "young" Avery Montague is now ancient, as is Lord Lindsay himself.  We are then transported back in time to (June 1924)  and place as we watch one of the most visually, emotionally and musically brilliant opening credit scenes I have ever experienced. Our eyes see the British Olympic track team running on a beach. Their white shirts in stark contrast to the overcast, gloomy yet somehow inspirational panorama. Our ears hear the Academy Awarding winning Vangelis main title theme for the first time.  In order our attention is focussed on  on 4 runners: A young Avery Montague, who looks earnest, dedicated and still somewhat puzzled.  This first impression informs the character of the part-time narrator to a tee. After Montague we get out first glimpse at young Lord Lindsay.  His few seconds of screen time reveal his character accurately as well,  a vibrancy, zeal and seemingly limitless passion for life. The last 2 runners are the stars of this drama,  Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams.  

The scene ends and we watch and  listen as Avery Montague composes a letter to his mother a week before e the 1924 Summer Olympic Games.  He writes and  we are transformed back in time once again to 1919 Cambridge, where he is meeting Harold Abrahams for the first time at a railway station as they make their way to campus.  

If this was the kind of post where I mentioned historical inaccuracies, I would mention now that Montague, while on the 1924 Olympic team with Abrahams, did not attend Cambridge with Abrahams. In fact, he did not attend Cambridge at all.  So, several scenes in this movie featuring Abrahams and Montague together did not occur, or at least did not occur with Montague.  Aren't you glad that this isn't that kind of post? 

As Avery and Harold make their way to campus, we learn that they both run, Avery hate's losing and Harold's never lost. Next is   a  scene that reinforces a line in Montague's letter to his mother.

 "Mind you, Harold has hardly changed at all, as intense as ever. Now as then having a go at anyone who gets in his way." 

The first person who gets in his way is the head porter at his lodgings at Cambridge.  Abrahams endures the porters impertinent and condescending manner, but once Harold signed in he rattles off this gem of a line.  

"I ceased being called laddie when I took up the King's commission. Is that clear?". 

As the Porter regains his footing and signs in Montague, we get our first glimpseof the anti-semitism that Harold combats through his running.  The porter says thatwith a name like Abrahams we can be sure he won't be in the church choir.

We then see the vestiges of campus life at the beginning of a new term. A Freshman dinner  a new student fair , a variety of extra curricular acrivities like Gilbert and Sullivan societies (The music of Gilbert and Sullivan acts as a 2nd soundtrack for the Cambridge part of the film), and an old campus tradition, the college dash.  

Instead of chronicling the dash scene, I will say it is one of the first of many exquisitely choreographed and filmed running sequences.   There is a dancelike quality to the running scenes.  

It is important to note that the dash sequence introduces us to 3 important characters.  First there is the 1919 incarnation of Lord Lindsay. He  runs  in the dash along with Abrahams. The sequence also introduces us  to two stodgy college officials who serve as the  Statler and Waldorf (the two old hecklers from the Muppets) chorus of the film.  These characters  demonstrate the systematic anti-Semitism of the era. As the race ends we are transformed from academic England to the Highlands of Scotland where we will begin the next installment of Breakfast Serials.  

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Breakfast Serials - Morning Movies 15 minutes at a time

I'm pretty busy these days. Working hard, spending time with family, doing lots of reading,. blogging, and a little bit of everything else. A number of years ago before I was married. I got into the habit of watching about 15 minutes of a movie each day on videocassette and would finish it up in 6 to 10 days. I still do that sometimes on streaming services. I decided to do this with one of my favorite movies and then write a blog post about each segment. Alas, the posts will take longer to write than the segments will take to watch. I am going to watch Chariots of Fire and will be back next time with part I.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Starting a good book

 I have read some exceptional books during my summer reading program thus far.    I will say this; many of the books I've enjoyed most this summer have been great from the first chapter, sometimes the first page and even the first sentence.  I am only about 10 pages into a new book and I am convinced it will be a wonderful experience.  The book is Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  Let me tell you why after only 10 pages I think it will be very good.

The first few reasons I had even before I started reading. One is I am familiar with the author's work.  I just finished listening to Anne of Green Gables, which I enjoyed immensely.  I have seen many t.v. and film versions of the Anne books and saw the musical version in Prince Edward Island a few years back.  

This leads me to another reason I think I will enjoy Emily of New Moon because I've been to Prince Edward Island where the story takes place.  I found that I have enjoyed the works of LM Montgomery more since my trip to PEI because it is easier for me to picture life on this island because of my experiences there.  

The third reason I thought I'd enjoy this book before I read it, is the reason I ordered the book from my library in the first place. I had read that Lucy Maud Montgomery had based Emily on her own experiences of growing up in Prince Edward Island.  I like fictional books based on authors' actual experiences.

I like how the cover of New Moon is evocative of Green Gables but seems to be setting a different tone for the book.

The first few pages of this book also have given me reasons to think I have happened upon a real masterpiece.  The first sentence drew me in and I related to it immediately. The chapter is entitled the House in the Hollow and begins  ...

The house in the hollow was "a mile from anywhere"- so Maywood people said.  

I really liked  this turn of  phrase; a mile from anywhere. It reminded me of how I used to say that I have lived in several Chicago suburbs that few had ever heard of but they were familiar with our neighbors.  I grew up in Elk Grove Village, and people were more familiar with Des Plaines, Arlington Heights and Schaumburg.  After I married Amy we lived in an apartment in Hickory Hills where I regularly had to tell people we were next to Oak Lawn and Bridgeview.  Our first house was in Carpentersville where Algonquin, East and West Dundee, and Elgin are better known outside of the area.  Now that we have moved to Elgin, I no longer need to give sister cities. So, from the first sentence I connected my experience to that of the novel.

I am a big fan of symmetry and also enjoy foreshadowing when it isn't obtrusive. In the 4th paragraph of the book Montgomery starts one and nails the other quite elegantly: "She remembered that walk very vividly all her life ... - more likely because of what happened after she came back from it." The symmetry comes into completion with a big reveal that's blurted out quite unexpectedly in the final sentence of the chapter. 

One of the things I liked instantly about the titular character of Anne of Green Gables is how she names things. For example calling people who understand her fully, kindred spirits, and changing the names of place names to better place names (ex. the Lake of Shining Waters). Emily does the same thing immediately with something called "the flash." I also like the pacing of the story, "the flash" is alluded to 3 times in the first page and not explained until page 7 but feels just right when it is explained.  In my own writing, I often struggle with the desire to "explain" things too quickly.  

Another enjoyable aspect of the first ten pages (about a chapter and a third) is that the second chapter takes place immediately after the first ends.  In fact chapter one stops with the reveal I mentioned, and chapter 2 begins in the same conversation. That may seem like an abrupt break chronologically, but ending the chapter on the reveal is an excellent choice.

I love quotations. I even have a space on the header of this blog for quotations I really enjoy.  If you are reading this on the computer version of this blog, you can look up and see the following quote (although you don't have to, as it follows the elipses) ... Aunt Nancy had once said to her 'The first time your husband calls you "Mother" the romance of life is over'.

I love this quote for multiple reasons: a) it's an excellent quote.  b) the quote itself is the narrator quoting Emily's father quoting Emily's mother attributing the quote to Emily's Aunt Nancy.  And as clumsily as I described, the quote is as breezily as Montgomery put it. c) the quote is a story of how Emily's father wanted to name her Juliet after Emily's mother.  The fact that he heeded his wife's advice, and they named her Emily, made me think that the romance between them was never over.  d) I related the naming story to my own experience. Before I got married, I had always wanted to name a son David, as this is not only my name but my Father's as well.  Amy, who knew me when I would stay at my parent's house between school years and other situations, saw firsthand what it was like with two Davids in one house and that name was off the table before we even married.  

I know I have mentioned twice already how I connected with the text on a personal level in the first ten pages of the book.  Some might say that's more about me than the author, but I say that good writing is written in a way that the reader can make connections to it.  Making connections to it early helped me feel great about the prospect of reading the rest.

The last thing I want to share about the way this book begins is another example of the delicious way Montgomery turns a phrase. Emily's dad is telling Emily about her mom and utters one of the best sentences I have ever read:

When she fell in love with me, a poor young journalist, with nothing in the world but his pen and his ambition, there was a family earthquake.

I mean that's more of a sentence I expect to hear from John Boy Walton. the boy poet of Virginia!

I can't believe how amazing this book has started! What I really can't believe is that I stopped reading it long enough to write this post.  If you'll excuse me, I'll go remedy that situation.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

15 From 2005 - # 1 Season Tickets

 15 from 2005

Snapshots from a Championship Season

1 - Season Tickets

Today, we look back at the wonder that was the 2005 White Sox.  Many people have already said so many things about the 2005 White Sox.  I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel here, I just want to take time and reflect and reminisce about that magical season from my point of view.

In 2005 I was working in the research department for a mortgage company.  I was just a regular hourly employee there.  However my position as the person who responded to correspondence directed to our company president and other high level correspondence made me fairly well known around  the company as I interacted with most every department in responding to these issues.  It was also fairly well known that I was a White Sox fan.  One morning one of the mailroom employees who would bring me some of the correspondence I would research came to my desk with a flyer. 

It was an extra White Sox 2005 Season ticket sales flyer that was sent to our company.  She thought I would get a kick out of seeing it.  She, of course, was absolutely right. I love all things White Sox and did enjoy looking at the different ticket plans available for the then upcoming season. 

I took the flyer home to show my wife. I really had no real thought of buying tickets.  We went  to 3 or 4 games a year, but many of those tickets we received through promotions or other modes of frugality.    I  had never had season tickets for anything, so it really wasn't on my radar and we had 2 children at home so it also wasn't in our budget

AI showed Amy the flyer and went on with my regularly scheduled life.  The next day AMy calls me  at work and say, I think we should buy season tickets. Color me flabbergasted!   Before I could un gast my flabber, she reminded me of a gift my parents gave us the previous Christmas.  

My parents (who are huge Cubs fans) had given each of their children a sizable amount of money. They had done so almost every year and almost every year we had it spent it, or at least earmarked it by New Year's Eve.  

This particular year we had held onto it, and had not really set it aside for any expenditure.  The money hadn't even crossed my mind when I  received the flyer. It evidently had crossed my wife's mind. She suggested that we could use some of that money and purchase 2 tickets to the 9 game plan (cleverly called the Minnie Plan after White Sox legend Minnie Minoso). 

I wasn't so sure.  It seemed like an extravagance to spend so much money on something that would mainly benefit me.  Even so, there was another problem lurking in the ether, an Elephant in the Stadium that needed to be addressed.  

The White Sox have been playing in the same stadium since 1991. From 1991 to 2002 IThe stadium was  called Comiskey Park, which was also the name of the stadium it replaced.  In 2003 the name  the name  changed to U.S. Cellular Field.  I attended 8 to 9 games there  in 2003 and 2004 and the White Sox lost every single one of them! This included a 7-0 loss to the New York Yankees on September 23rd.  I remember that game specifically because a) It was my 39th birthday, and b) it eliminated The White Sox from the playoffs by that loss and a Minnesota Twins victory over the Cleveland Indians. 

It wasn't like the Sox stunk at home since the name change. In fact, they went a combine 97-65 at home during those 2 years that's a winning percentage of .599! They won 6 of every 10 games but 0 of the 9 I went to! I'm pretty sure the White Sox Marquis had a sign that read Welcome to U.S. Cellular Field, except you Dave Roller! 

So why would I possibly think of  buying seasons tickets to a team I hadn't been to a home winner in since the name change? It was a valid question.  But the thing about me, is I'm an optimist.  I mean who isn't before a season starts?  It's a new beginning.  I took a leap of faith and bought the Minnie plan.  I took different people to different games.  We even went to a few more games not on the plan.  

And when we went to games, they won. They actually won.  I attended only one loss the entire season. Then they won the World Series for the first time since 1917.

Wait a minute, am I saying the White Sox won the World series because I stood up to my U.S. Cellular slump and had the courage to buy a ticket plan? Yes, yes, I am. It's not the only reason,  as we will see there is plenty of credit to go around.  The players had a lot to do with it.  Ozzie Guillen sure deserves some acclaim.  The general manager did a superb job picking up several players who did not play for the White Sox in 2004, who had major parts in the success of the 2005 season.  Even the guy who watched the waiver wire had his part to play.  What's a waiver wire? I'm both  getting ahead of myself and setting the scene for future installments of 15 from 2005. 

Join us next time, won't you?

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Keeping up with the Changes.

In the Fall of 2007  my wife started taking our 3 children to a home school cooperative (co-op).    It was a traditional co-op, where each family taught some classes and volunteered in others. The first semester it turned out amazing for the kids.  Charlie, who just graduated from high school, still has his notebook from a very cool International Space Station class he took that year.  It was amazing for the kids, but very difficult for my wife.  Each parent got at least one class period off to fellowship with the other parents. Alas, Lucy was about 1 at the time and as you know when you take a 1-year-old anywhere you never get time off.  Amy wisely decided on taking a semester off and going back when Lucy was a little older.  

Amy planned to return in the Fall of 2008.  However, Amy and I did the Old Switcheroo in the fall of 2008. (She went back to working full time, and I became Home School Dad and took over the teaching at home.) In the Spring semester of 2009, I brought the kids back to co-op and did the teaching, assisting, and running after Lucy. Soon The co-op became amazing for everyone in our family.  

For several years this is how it remained.  Then as our circumstances changed, we would quit the co-op and later, come back to it only to leave again and come back again.  Finally, (or we thought it was finally) in 2015, we stopped homeschooling altogether.  I quit co-op for "the final" time and we moved on with our life.   Our home school adventure had many twists and turns in the road and yet looking back we could see God leading us through each and every one.  

This contiued when all 3 children were in public sct hool at the same time for the first time in their lives. Charlie excelled in his last year of middle school and his first year of high school.  Emma had major adjustments and changes to navigate, going from a 3 person school with a 40 person co-op once a week to a school of 3,000 students and being diagnosed with High Functioning Autism(HFA).  (Her diagnosis was partially due to one of the many extra curricular events we went to because of our co-op. One of the former students in our co-op who has HFA was featured in a documentary that premiered at the Imago Film Festival. The documentary opened our eyes to the possibility that Emma might be on the spectrum, which helped hasten her diagnosis.)   Because of her many  home school credits from her first two years of high school she was able to finish her high school experience a semester early by taking an on-line poetry class at home. The wonder that is Lucy, continued to shine in her last 2 years of eleementary school.  She won speech contests that highlightred her flair for the dramatic, won awards for her artistic achievement, and was honored with the highest award in her 5th grade commencement. As the 2017 school year ended, more changes were in store for the Roller clan as each of our 3 students again changed schools, as we after 16 years in Carpentesville changed suburbs.

Emma was off to the local jr. college.  Charlie started his sophomore year at a new high school and Lucy started being home schooled again.  We had always wanted to home school each of our children through at least  middle school.  We did that with Emma and even got an extra two high school years with her at home.  Charlie was in 8th grad when we stopped home schooling him.  We were delighted when we had the opportunity to bring Lucy back home for her 3 middle school years.  Of course this meant going back to our old homeschool co-op and saying we needed to return if only for us to learn the actual meaning  of the word final.

  Our on-again off again relationship with our co-op taught us many things more than one post will allow, but here are a couple. My years at the co-op prepared me for my now on-again off again job  (Thanks Covid) as a substitute teacher. At the co-op, Lucy was still a force to be reckoned with;  No longer the one man wrecking ball of her toddlerdom,  she continued to blossom as an amazing orator, comedian, actress, and especially a gracious loving daughter, student and friend.   

Earlier this Lucy was accepted into a special  theater arts academy  part of the public high school Charlie just graduated from. She was  so looking forward to finishing her home school and co-op experience and then leaving home and going   to school every day in the Fall.  Then Covid came on the scene.  The co-ops did not end the way we expected and now we found out that her high school will not  start as we expected.  She will start high school as her brother and sister finished it, virtually.  

Educating our children has not always gone the way we have planned it.  However, we have seen God orchestrate all the steps and use them in mighty ways.  As with everyone else on the planet, Covid 19 life has been very challenging for our family but we are still confident that God will continue directing our paths.  In a way much more than the band at the fish in the sea dance at the end of Back to the Future could , God is more than able to keep up with the changes.  

A to Z 2023 Road Trip

#AtoZChallenge 2023 RoadTrip