All posts by CarryOn

"Do what you love. It's going to lead to where you want to go." - Wayne White My name is Reina. I am an elementary school teacher with a creative side. I have two cats who keep me company as I explore movies and books, art and yoga. There is so much to do and never enough time!

Amélie: Every Shy Young Woman in the World

“I know [true love still exists]. After 30 years behind a bar, I’m an expert. I’ll even give you the recipe. Take two regulars, mix them together, and let them stew. It never fails.”

Photo from Film Streams

Amélie took the world by storm over a decade ago, making $174 million worldwide, earning  five Oscar nominations, and winning four Césars (French film award). It’s a modern fairytale that sweeps you off your feet and takes you through the life of Amélie Poulain (played by Audrey Tautou, who also co-starred in The Da Vinci Code with the wonderful Tom Hanks).

Photo from Chamelle Photography

The movie was filmed on location in Paris. You can see familiar sights, like Montmartre and Notre-Dame. The film put a few other spots on the map, a must see now for fans. The grocery store Amélie frequents by her apartment is called “Chez Ali” instead of “Maison Collignon”, but it sells fruits and vegetables as well as Amélie souvenirs. All they may be missing is Lucien and his infamous boss.

Photo by Edwin van Eede

The cafe Amélie works at exists as well. Georgette’s tobacco stand is no longer there, but you can buy a cremé brulee named after the movie’s star and enjoy the ambiance with other fans. I did not visit Amélie’s neighborhood, so don’t take my word for it. There are quite a few articles on taking a walk through the film that would be a great guide when planning your Amélie trip.

Photo from Film Grab

When you go on your walk, though, you may have a hard time really imagining yourself in the film. This is because of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s alterations to the romantic city. Jeunet prefers to film in a studio, allowing him full control of the set and no need to worry about the sun (or lack thereof). Recreating the Montmartre proved to be beyond the film’s budget, though, so Jeunet was forced to film on location. He still managed to maintain control of his set. Before filming, he had cars removed and graffiti painted over.

Photos from Evan Richards
The top is a screenshot from the film and below is an unedited version. Just an example of Jeunet’s alteration post production

Further changes were made post production, one most notably being the warming of the footage. Reds, yellows, and oranges take over the screen, giving the film a fantastically retro feel. Blues are almost unheard of and just used to contrast the warm colors. Jeunet was creative with his camera use and placement as well, pulling the audience into Amélie’s world (to be honest, pretty much all the film talk went WAY over my head. I’m not even going to attempt to explain it. If you are interested, Jeunet’s filming is a popular topic of discussion. There are plenty of posts and articles) Jeunet’s filming was met with some criticism, critics saying that Jeunet wasn’t filming the real Paris, but a cartoon version. Still, others fell in love with his Paris, believing that Jeunet brought the magic of Paris alive in the film.

Photo from Screen Musing

Jeunet is not the first person in France to try something new in entertainment. France is the location for the first photograph of a human ever taken on a daguerrotype camera. Louis Daguerre took a photo of Boulevard du Temple, a busy street in France, using the daugerrotype of photography he created. In the photo, the street looks empty because the moving traffic wasn’t captured, but if you look at the bottom left corner, you can see a man getting his shoes shined. The man was never identified, but he stayed still long enough and became the first person every photographed.

https://allthatsinteresting.com/louis-daguerre-oldest-photograph

France took it a step further and created the first film as well. You may be aware of the 50 second film of a train arriving; the one that, according to legend, sent the audience running from the theater because they feared the train would burst from the screen. That silent film was created in a coastal town of France named La Ciotat, but it wasn’t the first film.

The first film was created by French inventor Louis Le Prince in 1888. He films a group of people in a garden, the video being less than three seconds. It is still considered a movie and is considered the oldest surviving film. I’d like to think Jeunet was inspired by these revolutionary Frenchmen when he filmed Amélie.

I would compare Amélie to another movie on the movie bucket list, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Jeunet and Anderson each told a whimsical story, following the characters more than a plot. Amélie is more plotless than The Grand Budapest Hotel, but the main characters in both are equally captivating. Amélie was a lonely child who grew up to be a shy adult. She is a learned observer, and events following a news report on Princess Diana’s death resulted in Amélie discovering how good it feels to be a part of people’s lives instead of just a bystander. The scene of her discovery is a whirlwind of her feelings as she guides a blind man through the busy streets and describes everything around them. She goes on to help others, including her co-worker (though, I do have to question her judgement when she sets her up with a guy already stalking another woman)

From Giphy

Following the fairytale feel, Amélie does find love in a quirky man who hangs out around photo booths. You watch her struggle with her fear of being vulnerable and her desire to talk to the man (probably the most relatable part of the film). Amélie’s confidence grows through her new found friendships and you, as the audience, are cheering her on along the way.

Photo from Cinematheia

The film is well-loved. It’s a romance not centered on the romance (if that makes any sense at all), quirky and weird. Boyfriend enjoyed the strange character development. It made the plot difficult to predict, a fun ride.

Next movie up on the list is Boyfriend’s pick. I have heard of the film, but don’t know anything about it, so there’s no telling what’s going to happen! In the meantime…

From Giphy

Tea Time With the Forgotten Queen

You have crossed the pond, so it time to do what the British do (kind of). When the clock strikes four, put on you best blazer or your finest spring dress. Look sharp because it is time for tea.

Picture from History of Royal Women
This website gives a brief summary of Catherine’s life outside of tea. Check it out if your are interested in the forgotten queen.

King Charles II’s wife, Catherine, introduced tea to England in 1662. The dried herbs and leaves were an exotic treasure. Originally from Portugal, Catherine arrived in London with a large chest of tea as part of her dowry (I would’ve arrived with a large chest of coffee). Drinking tea started out as a closeted affair. The kettles and cups weren’t kept in the kitchens, but in the women’s private chambers (pretty much their closet) where they would invite their friends to join them for a cup of tea. I know this probably wasn’t the case, but I’m just picturing two Victorian women sitting in a small walk-in closet, surrounded by overstuffed shelves and curtains of clothes, dressed in their finest while sipping tea and gossiping.

I googled tea in closet. I wasn’t disappointed.

For a while, tea was enjoyed just by the aristocracy. It was an exotic drink from India, difficult to come by (and buy). When trading ships improved, more tea was brought to England, making it available across the whole population by the 1800s.

Picture from Hear a Tale

Tea was expensive, but it still loved in England. A politician (and poet) named Edmund Waller wrote a poem honoring Queen Catherine for her birthday, celebrating her and the fact that she made tea fashionable among the upper class:

“Venus her Myrtle, Phoebus has his bays;

Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes (gives) to praise.

The best of Queens, the best of herbs, we owe

To that bold nation which the way did show

To the fair region where the sun doth rise,

Whose rich productions we so justly prize.

The Muse’s friend, tea does our fancy aid,

Regress those vapours which the head invade,

And keep the palace of the soul serene,

Fit on her birthday to salute the Queen”

A very English poem for a very English topic. I think Waller succeeded in exactly what he set out to do. Praise the queen and tea!

The story behind the afternoon tea you may endulge in (you might enjoy afternoon tea a few times if your trip was like mine) while visiting England is actually a legend supposedly taking place in 1840. It’s the story of Anna, Russell the seventh Duchess of Bedford.

Picture from High Tea

Anna was hungry. The problem was it was four in the afternoon, and dinner wasn’t set until eight (I can relate). Instead of waiting hours to eat, Anna asked for a snack to be brought to her (I know you are all on the edge of your seat at this point. Tensions are high here). So Anna sat down to enjoy a cup of tea, small sandwiches, and perhaps a scone or cake to finish off the late afternoon meal. She enjoyed her early evening snack so much, that she began inviting friends to join her. By the 1880’s, Anna’s grumbling stomach turned into a fashionable event. Around four or five in the evening, men and women got all dressed up and went to afternoon tea.

Photo from EnglishHeritage.org

In the late 1800s Queen Victoria took the event outside. She also introduced adding a lemon wedge to a cup of tea, something she picked up in Russia (don’t we all pick up habits in Russia? Oh the aristocratic life). By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, afternoon tea became a national pastime.

Meat Pie anyone?
Picture from The Chirurgeons Apprentice

Another tea time origin story points to the lower class as the original afternoon tea-ers. The hardworking lower class didn’t tend to have time to take a lunch break, so when they finished their work around four or five in the evening, they were starving (probably a bit more hungry than Anna). They would take high tea (named after the high tables they sat at, as opposed to low tea tables. Real stretch for the name there…). This looked different than Anna’s afternoon tea. Instead of a light snack of sandwiches and scones, the lower class would sit down to hardy meat pies, cheese, vegetables and a hot mug of tea. Sounds like the perfect way to satiate their hunger.

https://giphy.com/gifs/tea-time-g6VWn4bujbz2w

Traditional tea includes the following: crustless finger sandwiches, including cucumber sandwiches (Yum!), scones with cream and preserves, cakes, and tea brewed in silver tea pots and served in bone china cups.

Are your stomachs growling yet?

You can find traditional afternoon teas at fine hotels and tea rooms. Afternoon tea is served there, though they can be mistakenly called high tea. High tea is traditionally the heavier food break taken by the lower class after work. Afternoon tea is the tea Anna made popular with her fancy snacks. The difference is subtle, I understand why they are easily mixed up.

It’s mad! Get it?

Today, those who enjoy a daily afternoon tea, aren’t setting up the large spread of traditional tea every time. An average afternoon tea would be a little less glamorous, usually consisting of a biscuit or cake and tea brewed with a tea bag (Blasphemy!)

Still, traditional afternoon teas look different from Anna’s early evening snack. Anna’s tea time was practiced until World War I. During the two World Wars, the tradition slowed down quite a bit because of food rations. After, the English fell in love with coffee (I can relate). Afternoon tea became a tourist attraction, not practiced much by residents. It was the turn of the 21st century that brought back the custom. Afternoon tea became the social event it used to be, but instead of just light snackings, tea time is a meal and a half. If you are planning on going to an afternoon tea, there is no need for lunch and possibly dinner.

Photo from Cooking4Noobs

The British didn’t stop at afternoon tea time . The 20th century brought Middle Earth’s elevenses to England. Late morning breaks of muffins or scones and coffee or tea became a “vital element of our traditional way of life,” according to an article from Telegraph. It’s like morning recess in elementary school. I’m not hating the practice!

In 2009, Court Services at Kent planned to take away the late morning refreshments from magistrates. This led to outrage. Judges and other court employees could not believe that Court Services was taking away their late morning snacks. They claimed to be unable to make it through the day, that the break is needed to do their best work. And Kent is not the only place in Europe to take their tea time seriously. The European Commission’s Working Time Derivative have laws in place protecting tea breaks. I wouldn’t take away the magistrate’s caffeine and sugar fix, especially if I needed to go to court to fight a speeding ticket.

Photo from Tea Time Tutorial

Despite the images of afternoon tea you may see on television, like Downton Abbey, tea time is supposed to be relaxing. All these rules are thrown around: The women must be seated before the men enter the room. The men take their gloves off before sitting down, but women have to take them off after sitting down. Your napkin must be folded in half, placed on your lap, with the folded side closest to you body. Tea MUST go in before the milk. Never stir your tea, just move your spoon back and forth from the 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock positions. I could keep going, but I’ll stop.

In reality, as long as your napkin is on your lap and you are using basic manners (not being the loudest one in the room would be at the top of my list….), you’ll be fine. One quick fun fact about the pouring the milk before the tea, though. Servants used to have tea cups made of clay, so pouring in the hot tea first would crack their cup. The milk went in first to act as a coolant. Today, it’s just a matter of preference. There isn’t a correct or incorrect way.

Finally, here are some tea terms and tips to ensure that you have the afternoon tea you are looking for:

Cream Tea: tea and scones with cream and preserves

Afternoon Tea: tea, sandwiches, scones, and cakes

Royal Tea: A glass of champagne served with tea for a special occasion (I think a visit to England is a special occasion all on its own. I pick the Royal Tea!)

How long do you let your tea brew? 3 to 6 minutes

Pinky up? No, it looks silly and pretentious, a common faux pas.

Have you ever been to an afternoon tea? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

https://tenor.com/search/tea-time-gifs

12 Angry Men: Is it 1957 or 2019?

Photo from: Talk Film Society

The courtroom (or jury room) drama, 12 Angry Men (1957), is not only a window into 1950’s United States, but is also a timeless story that has remained relevant through time and across countries.  The screenplay was originally written by Reginald Rose for television in 1954. Rose was inspired when he was on jury duty. He saw the drama of the courtroom and noticed that most television and movies focused on the courtroom and never showed jury deliberation. When proposed as a movie, many producers were reluctant to take on a film whose setting was only a jury room (a very boring looking jury room). Henry Fonda (juror number 8) took the risk with Rose and produced the movie.

Being made so long ago, I didn’t expect to recognize any of the actors. There were a few faces I knew though! Juror number one was Detective Alborgast from Psycho.

And juror number seven played Saul in While You Were Sleeping.

Photo from Bustle

The rest of the actors had other roles, but there was something else that drew my attention when I first saw the twelve jurors on screen; they were all middle-aged white men. Talk about a window into the 1950s! (from what I understand, an all white jury was unlikely even in the 1950’s, but the film was meant to be symbolic. I get the message they were intending.)

Photo from Carolina Theater

The cast was small (I mean, if you think about it, you can only fit so many people into one room). The only actors credited in the film were the twelve jurors. The accused wasn’t even in the credits! I think that is what makes this movie relatable over sixty years later. The original vote for guilty was driven by prejudices (racial, gender, and every other kind of perjudice there is). By not shining a light on the accused (there were hints that the accused murder was Hispanic, but that wasn’t clear), the audience was forced to rely on the juror’s words to picture the defendant. He was a “common ignorant slob” from the slums. The race could be filled in to suit the audience. In fact, the film was remade forty years later, directed by William Friedkin (I didn’t recognize his name until I looked him up on IMDB. He just directed a little film, The Exorcist). It was also redone in Germany (1963), Norway (1982), India (1986), Japan (1991), Russia (2007), France (2010), and China (2014). I think it’s safe to say that this movies message is universal.

Not only does the message come across time and space (throwing in some sci-fi for you there), it’s done so well. Producers were hesitant taking on a film with twelve cast members and one room, but the drama was so strong. It had me hooked through the whole movie.

Photo from Letterboxd

The scene is set when the jury is excused to the jury room to deliberate. Juror number one does his job as the jury foreman and asks the other jurors to participate in setting routines and ground rules for their discussion. They start with a vote. All vote guilty except one. The men are frustrated and hot (because there is a tropical storm going through New York and the fan in the room is broken. No central air conditioning either. Sounds rough). So the men just talk. It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but the actors do a great job!

Photo from Tiff

There are some tropes among the jurors. There’s the guy who wants to vote whichever way gets him to his ball game fastest. There’s one who is so racists that the rest of the men tell him to just stop talking and he stands in the corner shunned by everyone (that was a good scene). Then there’s the heart broken father who just sees his son in the defendant. There were so many reasons the men voted guilty the first time, whether it was prejudice, past experience, or peer pressure, but none of it was because the evidence proved the boy was guilty. Juror eight, the only one to state not guilty imparted wisdom throughout the movie:

“Well, there were eleven votes for guilty. It’s not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.”

Photo from Movie House Memories

The bottom line being that our justice system is based on the honest efforts of the twelve jurors. The stakes can be at their highest and the system is fragile. It’s a scary thing. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was inspired to go into law because of the film. I can see why.

Photo from Decider

I was surprised by the dry humor in the script. Tension is high throughout the whole film, but there were characters continually sticking their foot in their mouths (mostly because they were wrong, but too stubborn to admit it. I have no idea what that’s like….). It was a relief chuckling at the snarky remarks towards the horribly racists comments.

“Juror #10: Bright? He’s a common ignorant slob. He don’t even speak good English.

Juror #11: [who has a foreign accent] He *doesn’t* speak good English.”

The grammar teacher in me was cheering on the sidelines.

Photo from The Ace Black Blog

Drama was all in the conversation between the jurors. I loved it, but I do have to point out that visually, there wasn’t much going on. I was untangling yarn while watching this movie which helped keep my eyes busy so I could focus on the deliberation. The actors do a great job expressing there frustration and anger in their voices as well as their body language and faces. It goes to show just how good the script and cast were to have a movie that was visually stagnant, but still so nicely made. That’s why the movie has been remade around the world, The conflict is strong without obvious action.

After such a heavy topic in this movie, I’m going to pick something lighter from the list next time. I think it’s time for a drink and a good laugh!

From Giphy

Notre-Dame De Paris: From Pagans to Tourists

I was very excited to visit the Notre-Dame de Paris. My sister was my travel partner for this trip and we are both Victor Hugo fans. We embraced that nerdy side of us and visited the Victor Hugo Museum, the underground sewage system that Jean Val Jean escaped through in Les Miserables, and finally, Notre-Dame. The angsty teenager in me couldn’t get enough of Hugo in Paris!

The home of Victor Hugo, ladies and gentlemen

The cathedral is the most popular tourist attraction in Paris (beating out the Eiffel Tower). The church was built in the gothic design between 1163 and 1345 (talk about construction lasting forever!). It’s one of the largest religious buildings in the world and still a functioning Catholic Church. In 1905, it was decided that France State owns the building, but the Catholic Church retains the right to use it forever.

Before Notre-Dame

The site of Notre-Dame has a long spiritual history. Archaeologists digging in the 1960’s and 70’s discovered the remains of an ancient temple beneath Notre-Dame. The temple was built in the pagan city of Lutetia honoring Jupiter before Christianity existed in France. This piece of history could have been lost forever under the streets of Paris.

Lutetia was the capital city of Parisii, a tribe in what was then Gual. Based on the three baths unearthed (baths were all over Europe) it was believed to be a larger city, but you could walk the town in an hour.

https://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_genevieve.html

One woman in particular came out of the city of Lutetia. Between 420 and 502 Genovefa, better known as Saint Genevieve, protected the city. She was appointed as deaconess by bishop Germanus, and lived as a nun, and her faith made her the Mother Teresa of her time. When Atilla and his Huns were to attack Lutetia, Genovefa convinced the townspeople to stay with her power of foresight. Through her prayer, she saved the city; Atilla attacked the town of Cenabum instead. When Lutetia found themselves under siege by Childeric, king of the Franks, Genovefa was part of the group bringing in food. She also went to Childeric and convinced him to take better care of the prisoners of war. The king also granted her permission to build a monastery in enemy territory. When she passed, she became a patron saint of the city.

Napolean’s Reign of Terror

The Letutian temple was forgotten for many years. Notre-Dame itself  may never have been a symbol of France, if it wasn’t for Napoleon and Victor Hugo. Napoleon Bonaparte decided to crown Pope Pius VII as emperor in Notre-Dame in 1804 (if this sounds like something Napoleon would never do, hang tight. I’ll get there). The church was rundown at this point. It wasn’t just that it was an old building (built with a lot of wood, material not known for lasting centuries. In fact, the cathedral contains the oldest timber frames, made from 52 acres of forest cut down in the 12th century. Each beam was made from an individual tree, giving the woodwork the nickname “the Forest”).

Notre Dame was also vandalized during the French Revolution. Revolutionist pulled down statues of French kings and decapitated them. The original bells were removed from the towers and melted down into cannons. After the revolution, Napoleon invited the Pope to be crowned emperor in the beautifully decrepit Notre-Dame. At the last minutes, though, he snatched the crown from the Pope’s hands and crowns himself as emperor (there’s the Napoleon I know).

https://imgflip.com/i/11nv95

Hugo Takes a Crack at It

“[Quasimodo] therefore turned to mankind only with regret. His cathedral was enough for him. It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence. The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him – he resembled them too closely for that. It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at. ”

-Victor Hugo

The coronation in Notre-Dame didn’t fix the structural deterioration, though. It wasn’t until Victor Hugo wrote his novel, Notre-Dame de Paris, that the building was brought back to its former glory. The translated title of the novel is The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, but Hugo didn’t intend for Quasimodo, Frodo, or Esmeralda to be the star of the show. The church was to take the limelight. The book was a success and the restoration of the book’s star was underway.

The Visit

Today, Notre Dame is 115 feet (35 meters) tall with the towers standing at 223 feet (68 meters). The towers aren’t identical. The north tower is slightly bigger than the south tower due to the amount of time it took to build the cathedral. The whole building is a culmination of many artists’ work.

The church is free to enter, but a tour of the towers is 10 euros. The view alone is worth the price of the ticket. The gargoyles and other statues were amazing to see up close as well.

The monsters guarding Notre Dame are actually more modern than I expected. They were added in the 19th century (between 1843 and 1864). The architect in charge of restoring the church, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, was so inspired by Hugo’s description of the gargoyles that he added them in the restoration. Unfortunately, the monsters are starting to decay now, some needing to be removed entirely.

While admiring the view of Paris from Notre Dame’s rooftop, keep an eye out for bees. A small hive of Buckfast bees was installed in 2013. This strain, developed by a monk named Brother Adam, is known for their gentleness. They get their nectar in gardens nearby and the sweet honey is given away to the poor.

Photo by Messy Nessy

Speaking of gardens, there is one I plan to visit the next time I find myself standing in front of Notre-Dame. If you look at the cathedral’s facade, a small blue door can be found to the left. The door is marked “Entrée”. Behind the door, you will find Paris’s oldest hospital, Hôtel Dieu. The once overcrowded disease ridden hospital, now is a quiet escape away from fellow tourists. You can explore the empty halls, described as the perfect set for a zombie movie by Messy Nessy, and then take a break, eat your lunch, and enjoy your view.

Why not check out some vendors while waiting in line?

The streets outside of Notre Dame are just as memorable and beautiful as the church itself. Street vendors take advantage of the tourist trap, so it is a great place to shop for souvenirs. I ended up with a print of the church to remember my visit by. Watch the sidewalks while you are shopping too. There is an eight point star installed in 1924 with the words Point zére de routes de France printed on it. Cities were measured from this point for the distance from France.

There are so many other pieces of history at Notre-Dame. I didn’t even mention the crown of thorns or the organ! The ancient landmark really is a must see during your trip to Paris. Be sure to read Hugo’s novel too. It’s great for that gloomy day where all you want to do is curl up on the couch with a blanket and maybe a pet to keep you company.

Alien: Not just a parody on family guy

If I didn’t absolutely adore Sigourney Weaver before, I’m in love after watching her play Ripley in Alien (1979). Written by Dan O’Bannon  and Ronald Shusett (who also wrote Total Recall (1990). Highly recommend if you haven’t seen that one. They remade the movie in 2012, starring Ryan Reynolds. I’m going to have to check it out!), Alien rode the sci fi wave created by Star Wars. But instead of just hanging out, it improved it as a popular genre.

https://letterboxd.com/film/alien/
http://www.horrordvds.com/community/threads/alien-1979-review.48170/

Alien won an Oscar for visual effects (before there was CGI, so that’s cool. In fact, they were forced to have a man in costume play the alien, instead of using effects because effects would have turned out cheesy. To keep the alien from looking too human production hired Bolaji Badejo, a six foot ten inch Kenyan discovered in a bar in London. He was studying graphic designm but took the part. He was sent to take lessons in mime and Tai Chi to learn how to move slowly. That must have been fun to put on his resume after finishing graphic desing school).

https://www.retroandcollectables.co.uk/alien-movie-overview

The movie won an award for its effects, but the story and characters were great too. The studio intentionally sought out a diverse cast. In the imagined future the movie was set it, the corporation would want and have the ability to hire the most qualified crew, despite race or location. So they casted a crew that was African American and British, as well as male and female (because that is all the diversity there is in the world, ladies and gents. I’m reminding myself it was 1979 and am moving on).

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/alien-ultimate-moment-not-covenant-could-top-1005483

The captain, Dallas, was a nothing special (I’ll get more into him later), but there were some distinct personalities among the rest of the crew. Kane and Brett had fun banter, worrying constantly (and annoyingly!) about their share in the job. They were buddies who must have been the life of the party when going for a beer after work. Ash was the academic, constantly observing (and, in hindsight, very robotic). Lambert was not my favorite. She gave me flashbacks of Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds, just there to whine and scream.

https://tenor.com/view/anna-lee-fisher-out-of-breath-space-astronaut-panting-gif-3519142

Ripley made up for Lamberts weak character, though. Fox studio head Alan Ladd made the decision to make Ripley’s character female. The director, Ridley Scott (not to be confused with the star character Ripley), agreed, believing the change in gender would distinguish the movie from so many with heroes. Ripley became a heroine by casting alone. Nothing in her character was changed beside her gender to avoid any gender stereotyping.

https://horrorfreaknews.com/modernized-trailer-alien-1979-best

I think it worked out wonderfully! Ripley was quick on her feet and tough. She had this RBF and confident attitude that kept her in charge on a ship full of men (even before the captain was killed and she became officially in charge). I felt an inner feminist I didn’t even know existed inside of me come out during this movie. I was infuriated when the men didn’t listen to her. Especially Ash. I really didn’t like him (and it turns out that was how I was supposed to feel). Even Dallas sided with the scientist over Ripley’s warranted caution. She was right on all counts (except when she sent Brett off by himself to look for the cat. Come on! Rule number one in a horror movie: stick together!).

https://cinefilesreviews.com/2017/03/04/alien-1979-movie-review/

I heard Sigourney Weaver’s character in Holes the whole time. When Ash opened the ship doors to let Kane in with the alien stuck to his face, I wanted Ripley to put her hand on her hip, lower her sunglasses (because space is so bright) and say with all her attitude, “Excuse me?” In short, I loved Ripley. I want to be her best friend.

https://wifflegif.com/tags/3547-holes-gifs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anRRVyZhP7g

The setting and premise of the film was great too. As a nerdy, sci fi fan, I loved that the ship was just a run of the mill transport vehicle. I admit, I had to look this up because I couldn’t remember what they were transporting, but the crew picked up 20 million tons of ore. The ore obviously came from somewhere far, far away from Earth because after collecting the ore, the crew went into those pods that seemed to freeze them as is, keeping them from aging or needing to eat during the long journey.

https://kecasfilm.blogspot.com/2012/07/alien-1979-film-analysis.html

This all happens before the movie starts, so you just have to pick all that up while they are trying to figure out why the ship woke them early. Mike McGranaghan puts it perfectly in his article for Screen Rant. They were the truckers of the future, the embodiment of average joes (and janes). I wouldn’t have been surprised if Brett ran into the Doctor (from Doctor Who, in case you don’t get my reference) while searching for Jonesy, the cat, and David Tennant ran around with his trench coat billowing behind him while pointing his sonic screwdriver at the mess the alien left behind (but I digress).

http://www.david-tennant.co.uk/2013/06/doctor-who-50th-anniversary-countdown_26.html

If the Doctor did show up, Ripley probably wouldn’t have been the only survivor (and Jonesy! That was a sweet addition). Movie reviewer Roger Ebert (great reviews by the way. Check him out), compared the premise of the movie to the 1940’s magazine Astounding Science Fiction (Did read Ebert’s review and then go to ebay and buy an anthology of the magazine? Maybe…) This isn’t a story of space explorers or adventurers; it’s the story of future working men and women caught in the twisted agenda of a corporation. What’s not to love?

https://avp.fandom.com/wiki/Alien_Director%27s_Cut

Fun fact! The scene where Dallas’s fate was revealed was re-added in 2003. It was originally a deleted scene because director Scott believed it broke the tension of Ripley running for her life. The fact that Dallas was killed was a great twist for the time. The leading man was killed off, leaving Ripley to be the heroine. I thought it was poetic justice. The fact that he kept disregarding all of Ripley’s ideas and suggestions (the right ideas and suggestions) was so frustrating!

https://alienseries.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/interview-with-sigourney-weaver/

For a movie boasting of forward thinking in casting and story, James Cameron made a point of criticizing Ripley’s strip scene towards the end of the movie. This was the scene where Ripley had made it onto the escape pod and began to peel off her gear until she was only wearing her underwear and a tank top. The scene was criticized for sexualizing Weaver in a film that supposedly empowered women. Weaver argues for the scene. She disregarded the criticism saying, “Are you kidding me? After five days of blood and guts, and fear and sweat and urine, do you think Ripley wouldn’t take off her clothes?” That left me thinking about my routine after work and how quickly my pants come off when getting home. I have to agree with Sigourney on this one. Rancid sweat soaked clothes would be off me as soon as I could!

https://tenor.com/view/pants-off-party-gif-4803778

Back in 1979, the movie was a hit. Early screeners were mortified by the alien bursting out of Kane’s stomach (the graphic nature of the scene wasn’t even revealed to the actors in an attempt to get a genuine reaction out them. The scene was done in just one take, so I think Scott achieved the reaction he was looking for). The movie made a total of $60 million dollars. Today that would be $272 million. It’s not up there with today’s high grossing movies like Avatar and Jurassic World, but still pretty good. I wonder how it would compare to those movies when it came to how much it cost versus how much it made. If anyone has an answer to that, let me know.

http://byrdtheatre.org/byrd-event/alien-1979/

I asked Boyfriend what he thought of the movie. He didn’t like how Ripley defeated the alien, thought it wasn’t exciting enough. He wanted a full on fight scene. I point out that the alien is supposed to be this perfect weapon. It has no weakness (except for open space apparently), so any fight it were to have with Ripley it would win. We decided to agree to disagree before it turned into an argument. Other than the ending, he enjoyed the movie.

https://bloody-disgusting.com/movie/3508941/terry-gilliam-weirdly-craps-alien-reveals-turned-sequel/

What did you think? Should there be a final battle between alien and Ripley? Should there have been an alien strip tease instead of Ripley’s? I read that the quality of the sequels are lacking. Are they worth a watch anyway? Let me know what you thought of Alien in the comments below!

Next movie up is another blast from the past, about twenty years earlier than Alien. Who knows, maybe I’ll be inspired to go to law school after this one (probably not…)

https://talkfilmsociety.com/articles/a-reasonable-doubt-12-angry-men-1957

Bath England

Photo Credit: J. F. Penn 
Check out her article on Bath!

Visiting a hot spring and soaking in the warm water is my kind of vacation. It would be a dream to book a whole spa mini-vacation and make a weekend of it. I got so close to achieving this dream when I visited Bath, England. I was only about 2,000 years too late.

Print by Thalia Took

Bath was named after the only hot springs in England. Why is the water hot, you ask? Well, the city sits on lava (duh!). It sits on the mouth of an extinct volcano, so there are no eruptions and the water is warmed for a pleasant dip in the pool. Win win! The springs were originally used by the Celts. A shrine was built honoring the goddess Sulis, a sun goddess worshipped for her seer abilities and healing powers. The mineral-rich water from the hot springs itself was believed to have healing elements. The goddess had the power to heal as well as punish wrong doorers. Archaeologists found “curse tablets” around the springs asking for Sulis’s aid. When the Romans occupied Britain, Sulis was renamed Sulis Minerva, connecting her to the Roman goddess. They named the town Aquae Sulis.  

Under Roman rule, the shrines replaced by baths. A temple was built honoring Sulis Minerva and the hot springs became an ancient spa. The temple was started 60-70 AD and was added on for the next 300 years. Through leaded pipes, the Romans guided the heated water through several chambers. The water is still naturally heated to about 114.8℉ (46℃). Three hundred and nine thousand gallons (1,170,000 L) rise from the ground everyday. This allowed the Romans to build the main bath (5.2 feet or 1.6 meters deep), now an open space, but back then covered by a vaulted roof, and smaller hot rooms. There was also one cold bath available to patrons. In the 12th century, further construction was done to the bath to include a King’s Bath at the northwest corner of the baths.

Baths were not new to the Romans. There were many created back in Italy, their main purpose being cleanliness. The second purpose was socializing. Entrance fees were low enough to allow most citizens in (with some free days thrown in by a politician or emperor), so people would go to the baths, clean off the grime of ancient city life and hang out. Men and women didn’t bathe together (no shocker there). Depending on the bath, they would either bathe at different times or in different rooms. A typical Roman bath had a room for changing, a large warm bath in the middle where people would meet and socialize, a steam room, a room with a cold bath, and gym for bathers to exercise. Essentially, Roman baths were ancient 24 Hour Fitnesses (though, I’m not too keen on getting into a large warm pool with a bunch of other people that haven’t bathed in who knows how long. The largest known bath is the Baths of Diocletian built in 306 AD. Those baths could hold 3,000 people. I don’t want to stew with 3,000 people…)

Be like the Romans, go to the gym

England’s Roman bath tends to be more well known today. It was rediscovered in 1727 when workers were digging a sewer trench (ew) and discovered the gilded head of Minerva. Further excavation was done over the next fifty years. The sight were surprisingly intact and the warm mineral water still flowed into the baths. The building and temple were lost when the Romans left Britain. Silt from a river nearby eventually covered the whole site, hiding it until the 18th century. The site was reopened then, the baths made popular since bathing was in fashion (I hope it continues to stay in fashion). You can see evidence of this in literature. Jane Austen lived in Bath for a while. Two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were set in the city (Side note. I’ve read Persuasion. Good book, but it can be summarized quickly. Boy likes girl, girl thinks boy is too poor and rejects him. Boy goes off and becomes ruggedly sexy. Boy returns and girl changes her mind. Boy rejects her. They separate again, both damaged by unrequited love, and finally meet again one last time and get together. By the end of the book I just wanted to knock both Boy and Girl over the head). Mary Shelley was inspired by the city and finished her novel, Frankenstein. Finally, Charles Dickens was also a frequent visitor of Bath, staying in the city’s oldest pub, The Saracen’s Head.

Today, Bath, England is a globally recognized heritage site (the whole city, the only one in the UK). The city meets three criteria for to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These criterion include: (i) human creative genius (for its architecture), (ii) interchange of values (for the additions made on the baths in the 18th century), and (iv) significance in human history (for contributions in Roman and Georgian society). The takeaway? It’s a great place to visit. Bath is historically significant. You can see the baths and a museum with Minerva’s gilded head and other artifacts. The building is what you would expect from the Romans. The main bath is surrounded above by stone guards and ladies. Pillars enclose the baths below. We arrived as the sun was setting, giving the baths a beautiful glow by torchlight.

You can’t go into the original baths anymore because of the lead pipes the Romans used. You can experience the waters at spas in the area though. Thermae Spa is one that opened in 2004. The metallic mildew smell of the ancient baths might not exactly make you excited to try the healing powers of the mineral water yourself, but you also have the option to visit the Pump Room. This room overlooks the baths. The upper class visited the room to drink the water for their healing power. You can visit the Pump Room today, now a restaurant, and try the water too (for a price). I didn’t get a chance to do this, but I’m not shocked to hear that the water doesn’t taste good.

Bath is visited by millions each year, a great example of history meeting present day. I feel like I have just scratched the surface on Bath. I’d need another visit to see it all!

Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Photo Credit: The Australian

“Always look on the bright side of life.”

https://www.empireonline.com/movies/monty-python-life-brian/review/

It was the song the crucifix victims sang, tapping their tied up feet and waiting for death and it will be the song running through my head as I write this post. Long story short, Boyfriend and I (at least we agree this time!) didn’t like Monty Python’s Life of Brian. It took us three different sittings to get through it (one of us, or both of us kept falling asleep). I could see where the movie was going, where it was supposed to be funny (Fun Fact! We watching this one on Netflix and Netflix has a “see this again button” for the scenes that are extra funny), but we couldn’t get into it. I laughed more at Boyfriend getting sick of watching men’s butts than the movie (Another Fun Fact! Brian, the star of the movie, is a Jewish man who would have been circumcised. Graham Chapman, the actor playing Brian is not circumcised. So when shooting the full frontal nudity scene, they had a problem. According to Chapman, the problem was fixed with a rubber band. Ouch.)

https://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/88622/life-of-brian-1979-lookbackreview

Life of Brian was conceived in Amsterdam, planned in Barbados, and filmed in Tunisia (the same deserts Star Wars was filmed). The cast and crew knew the film would be controversial since it was a satire of organized religion. Brian spells out the message of the movie when begging his cult-like fans to stop following him.

“Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re ALL individuals!”

When it was time for the movie to be released, the Monty Python comedy troupe decided to premier the movie in the United States, despite the fact that their act originated and was much more popular in England. They did this because the US didn’t have any blasphemy laws. Around the same time Monty Python was made, blasphemy laws were being used in England over an erotic poem about Jesus. The comedy group was worried their movie would be banned, so they opened in the United States. Turns out they were correct to worry. Every religious group opposed the movie because of its anti-religion sentiment. I think these groups just come off as having no sense of humor, though. The movie is based in a time period where religion played a huge role in society, but apart from a few jokes (there was a religious official stoned for proclaiming the lord’s name. That was one of the scenes you could rewatch), most of the conflict had to do with the Romans.

https://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/32217/monty-pythons-life-of-brian-the-immaculate-edition/

To summarize the movie, Brian lived a life parallel to Jesus. He was born in a manger right next to Jesus. The three wise men actually mistakenly visited Brian and presented their gifts. We see Jesus one more time, preaching to his followers, two of them being Brian and his mom (a man dressed in drag, by the way). Brian has the “cheap seats” though and can’t really hear what Jesus is saying. So he moves on with no real passion. It isn’t until he runs into the People’s Front of Judea (not the Judean People’s Front. “Wankers!”) and Brian finds a purpose in life: freedom from the Romans.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/life-brian-review-1979-movie-1030493

One scene I did enjoy was when Reg was rallying up the members of the People’s Front of Judea, demanding to know what the Romans had done for them. He was going for nothing, to prove his point that the Romans need to be kicked out of Jerusalem, but the members are all able to come up with something great the Romans gave them. They made roads, sanitized the streets, provided education, and brought wine. This list ended with someone suggesting peace, completely derailing Reg’s point. Probably didn’t come out well in writing, watch it below. It’s comical.

Brian joins the People’s Front of Judea and gets in trouble graffiting incorrect latin conjugations on Roman walls and breaking into the palace. So he’s now a wanted man. While he is running, he finds himself standing in front of a market, on a pedestal next to other men who are preaching nonsense to an uninterested crown.

http://vodzilla.co/reviews/netflix-uk-film-review-monty-pythons-life-of-brian/
https://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/88622/life-of-brian-1979-lookbackreview

Brian does the same to hide in plain sight from the centurions (anybody else think about Doctor Who anytime centurions are mentioned, or that just me being nerdy?), but the people in the market actually listen to Brian.

http://www.bbcamerica.com/shows/doctor-who/cast-crew/rory-williams

They follow him, demanding more. They worship his sandal and his gourd. Brian became a reluctant messiah. When he is eventually caught by the Romans and sentenced to crucifixion (could be worse), the group deems him a martyr and leaves him tied to the crucifix as a sacrifice to their cause. Naturally, the others being crucified break into song, ending the bizarre story. There was a crash landing of an alien spaceship thrown in there as well. The first time we attempted to watch the movie I dozed off and woke up to the alien eyeball held in place by a hand. It was a WTF moment.

http://alienexplorations.blogspot.com/1979/06/space-ship-sequence-from-monty-pythons.html

Religious sects may have banned the movie, but the general population loved the comedy. It wasn’t as good as The Holy Grail, but many people enjoyed the dry witty humor. I can see why it was popular. Boyfriend and I understood most of the jokes, but the satire wasn’t for us.

https://fathersonholygore.com/2015/08/17/monty-pythons-life-of-brian-1979-review/

What did you think of Life of Brian. Am I way off? Do you think we needed to understand the history more? Or do we just have no sense of humor (I hope that’s not true!)? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.

Next week is a movie that I am a little disappointed in myself for never having seen before. There were only two on this bucket list that I dropped the movie watching ball on (more on the second one later!). You should all shame me.

By the way, happy Valentine’s Day!

Narusawa Ice caves

https://www.yamanashi-kankou.jp/foreign/english/spot/052.html

Layer up because it is about to get cold in here! All around the world, ice is glimmering underground, some of it year round. I recently visited the Narusawa Ice Cave in Japan, but before I get to that, here are a few honorable mentions of other feats of ice.

photo credit: https://matcha-jp.com/en/2680

Iceland has a few ice adventures available for tourists and residents. They make it clear that visitors understand the difference between glacier caves and ice caves because the country has both. Ice caves are caverns formed in rocks that maintain a cool enough temperature to contain frozen water either through winter or year round. Glacier caves are caves formed by ice (ground breaking stuff here, I know). This creates a beautiful crystal-like sight that can be white, blue, or even black, a real Winter Wonderland. Pictures have convinced me to add Iceland’s glacier caves to my travel bucket list (but let’s be honest, I don’t need much convincing).

https://adventures.is/iceland/day-tours/ice-caves/

The United States doesn’t have glacier caves, but there are a couple ice caves to visit in Washington and Wisconsin. The Washington ice cave is created when avalanches drop snow and ice down the north face of the Big Four Mountains. The run off of snow and water creates caverns. These are not caverns that you can enter, though. It can been seen between August and October (before the trails are closed) and cave ins are common. There are very serious instructions given: no walking on top of or in the caverns. It’s a see, don’t touch ice cave.

http://outdoor-society.com/big-four-ice-caves-collapsing-stay-out/

The ice cave on Lake Superior plays hard to get as well. Over the winter of 2013 to 2014 tens of thousands of visitors flocked across the frozen lake to see the Apostle Island Ice Caves. The ice looks beautiful besides the colorful cave walls.

https://www.rittenhouseinn.com/Lake-Superior-Ice-Caves-2015

Five years ago it was a sight to see. Unfortunately, since then, the lake conditions have not been safe for travel. The hike is 1.1 miles across the lake and park rangers regularly check the condition of the ice. The ice needs to be 10 to 12 inches thick and spread from land to land, meaning there isn’t a breakage that had since frozen over. Strong wind often breaks the ice, making it too weak for people to cross safely. Even when the lake is safe cross, the hike is difficult. Park rangers recommend visitors to wear good winter boots, bring ice picks (and know how to use them), a first aid kit, and your cell phone so you can call 911 if there is an emergency. You are also not supposed to stand under the ice for too long because the ice will break off and fall (preferably not on top of you). So who’s ready to go to the Apostle Island Ice Caves??

t3.17.18 Bob King — 031818.N.DNT.ICEc1 — Pushed by a gentle southwesterly wind, a thin sheet of ice on Lake Superior break into thousands of individual “puzzle pieces” or plates along the beach just north of the Lester River Saturday morning. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

If you are touring the United States, but don’t want to go on a possibly dangerous hike to see some ice, you can always visit the Minus5 Ice Experience in Las Vegas. Not only can you sit on the ice, you can take comfort in knowing that no ice will break off and fall on your head while sipping a chilled cocktail (because it is a bar. Shocker, right?!) Unfortunately, the bar located in the Mandalay Bay shops has a strict no picture policy. I got to see on the ice version of the throne of swords (always happy to make a Game of Thrones reference) , so there were no complaints on my end. The price of the bar was worth the experience! Coats, gloves, and hats are provided because it’s cold!

Luckily, the Narusawa Ice Cave didn’t come with many safety warnings. We were required to wear helmets because the ceiling is low (at one point you had to walk crouched down), but otherwise you could treat the cave like stairs while it’s raining.

We’re ready to explore the caves!

The cave is around the base of Mt. Fuji on the edge of the infamous “suicide forest”. It was formed by a volcanic eruption in 864. The molten lava melted caverns in the rock where the temperatures stay around 0 degrees celsius (32 degrees fahrenheit) all year round.

They were used as a natural refrigerator before there were refrigerators in the world. To demonstrate this, the ice is stacked in blocks along the trail.

It’s an easy visit by tour bus, and the location on the edge of the forest is beautiful. You’ll have time to take a hike too, because the cave is small. The whole visit took twenty minutes, tops.

The Goonies: There’s no such thing as too much Sean Astin

“Goonies never say die!”

https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/goonies-turns-30-now/story?id=31534000

The 80’s cult classic always brings with it this sort of comfort that only comes from 80’s movies. Admittedly, I didn’t live through the 80’s, but there’s something about the fashion, lose language, and ludacris storylines that is strangely comforting. And The Goonies didn’t scare the bejeezus out of my as a kid, unlike Gremlins.

The Goonies was directed by Richard Donner, but other big names like Christopher Columbus and Steven Spielberg (supposedly Spielberg directed the pipe and well scenes). were also involved in the creation of the movie. The movie was filmed in about five months on location (minues the pirate ship scenes) in Astoria, Oregon. It was shot entirely in sequence and only one scene was cut. Check out the terrifying (at least for this move) octopus attack. It doesn’t add anything to the film and its just another scene of Stef and Mouth bickering (more on that later), but the anamantronic octopus is cool.

The movie didn’t win any big awards, but its cult following more than makes up for that. Even today the film is being screened in theaters across the country, and a website is dedicated to the movie. You can check out an interview with Ke Huy Quan (Data) given by original goonie, Andy Petrou.

We’re going with a “then and now” theme with the pictures. I thought it’d be fun.

https://thefw.com/the-goonies-cast-then-and-now/
http://toofab.com/photos/18872cf1-7ba0-57a1-8c54-81afb228ae1c/

And what’s not to love as you follow this oddball group of kids on a pirate treasure hunt? Sean Astin is the adorable hero (and he does not wear netted t-shirts and drink protein shakes in this movie!)

https://imgur.com/gallery/VwaLqkv

Boyfriend was excited to see Josh Brolin’s name in the credits (which I respond by looking up the actor. Really the only other film I have seen him in was Infinity Wars. Big shocker there when I didn’t recognize him…).

http://blog.tvstoreonline.com/2013/05/chunk-from-goonies-speaks-actor-now.html

Watching Chunk in the age of political correctness was a bit cringe worthy, but his friendship with Sloth is my favorite part of the movie! Fun fact: Sloth was played by a football star. He wears an Oakland Raiders t-shirt in honor of his football team. The Superman t-shirt is a shout out to Donner’s big break, the 1978 Superman film.

5 hours of makeup right there. Not surprise.

https://www.reddit.com/r/MovieDetails/comments/944ckb/in_the_goonies_1985_sloth_is_wearing_an_oakland/
http://www.macomelosai.it/2017/04/12/i-goonies-ma-che-fine-ha-fatto-la-banda-fratelli/

And if you love Sloth, you also can’t help caring for his family, despite their murderous intentions. The villains are very Home Alone like, with one brother singing opera (Robert Davi really is an opera singer) and the other constantly losing his toupee while still claiming he doesn’t wear a toupee.

https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/goonies-turns-30-now/story?id=31534000
https://imgur.com/gallery/x11NV12

The only character I didn’t like in the movie was Andy’s friend, Stef (played by Martha Plimpton). She whines through the entire movie! And if she isn’t whining, then she is yelling at Mouth. Then there’s this weird sexual tension between Mouth and Stef that is wildly inappropriate. A bit of a segue, but it connects, I swear. I’m actually listening to Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places right now, and there is a similar scenario. In the novel the crush is between an older boy and younger girl, and the families involved rightfully freak out! Big difference between a Gillian Flynn novel and an 80’s movie (in case you didn’t already know that).

https://www.maxim.com/sports/25-facts-about-the-sandlot-2018-4

Boyfriend enjoyed seeing the actors in the movie really young. He compared it to Sandlot. Both are entertaining movies about a group of boys going on an adventure, whether it is against a giant English Mastiff or a one-eyes pirate named Willy. Speaking of willys (my not so suave transition here …*cringe*), one of Boyfriend’s favorite scenes was when the boys broke the mini naked man statue and end up gluing his member back on upside down (may I remind you that this movie has a PG rating). Does anyone else completely forget about that scene until you see it again?

https://www.maxim.com/sports/25-facts-about-the-sandlot-2018-4
https://www.theodysseyonline.com/11-ways-stranger-things-basically-goonies

Recent TV, like Stranger Things, brings back the nostalgia of being a child in the 80’s (and guess who is a character on the Netflix show!), it is still fun to go back and watch the movies from the decade. The kids are innocent (despite the language they use) and there is a happy ending you can count on while still sitting on the edge of your seat wondering if the kids will make it down the fireplace before the Fratelli’s get back. Or if they will fall into the giant pit because Andy didn’t practice piano enough. Who didn’t dream of going on an adventure like the goonies when they were kids?

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/stranger-things-star-sean-astin-012935794.html

Next movie will be one I’m going into cold. I have heard of the comedy series and I actually saw The Holy Grail on stage when I was in middle school. I still don’t know what to expect, but Boyfriend and I are ready for some British humor!

https://quadcinema.com/film/monty-pythons-life-of-brian/

Mt. Fuji: Ancient Beauty

https://japan-magazine.jnto.go.jp/en/1306_fuji.html

In the Pacific Ocean, there is a mountain that is revered by a country as the bringer of life and death.  Mt. Fuji is a physical and spiritual symbol of Japan. In 2013, it was recognized as an important symbol around the world when it earned its place on the UNESCO World Heritage list, joining other landmarks like Stonehenge and Yosemite. This means that Mt. Fuji is legally protected by international treaties (so no Iwo Jima like battles on this mountain). It stands 12,380 feet (3,776 meters) tall. The base of the mountain is  78 miles (175 km) around and sits on the junction of three tectonic plates, making it an active volcano. The last time Mt. Fuji erupted was in 1707. Despite its three hundred year nap, Japan still has an evacuation plan for the hundreds of thousands of citizens who live around the base of the volcano.

Mountain of Destruction

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-pacific-12709850/march-2011-japan-hit-by-tsunami-after-massive-earthquake

This has recently become a more serious concern. The 8.9 earthquake that hit Japan in 2011 caused devastation. The earthquake shook the island country for five minutes (beyond terrifying!) and was followed by numerous aftershocks (over 100). Japan’s building codes kept the high rise buildings upright, but they swayed as the ground shook and continued swaying long after the shaking stopped. Japanese citizens could not relax after the earth stopped shaking because the shift of the tectonic plates caused a destructive tsunami and whirlpool along the east coast of the island. Japan’s countryside was wiped out by the rush of water. Power was cut at the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The backup generators couldn’t keep the core of the plant cool and an explosion followed. This has left the plant and the surrounding area a wasteland of radiation poisoning. Even today the area is unsafe for humans and remains abandoned. The Netflix show Dark Tourist has a fascinating episode where Farrier, the show’s host, takes a tour of the abandoned towns. It’s eerie.

If the repercussions of the earthquake weren’t enough for Japan, then geologists have another possible disaster to add to the list. The earthquake spread along the island, shaking the Mt. Fuji area and increasing the pressure under the mountain. The last eruption in 1707 was triggered by an 8.6 magnitude earthquake. The eruption wiped out shrines and towns at the base of the mountain and the ash and debris spread as far as Tokyo (called Edo then). The ash was so thick that people had to use candles to light their way during the day. On top of the deaths caused by the lava flow, the eruption caused famine for a decade. After the 8.9 magnitude earthquake in 2011, Japanese officials have come up with an evacuation plan that would displace 750,000 residents from areas where lava would flow and an additional 470,000 people living in areas where ash would make the air unsafe. Water and food supplies would be contaminated. Airports, trains, and highways would have shut down. It is estimated that an eruption of Mt. Fuji would cost $21 billion. Geologists continue to monitor the volcano, ready to sound the alarm is tremors exceed a safe size.

The Beauty of the Mountain

As I said earlier, Japan recognizes this amazing landmark as a source of life and death. There are many theories about the origin of the name Fuji, one of them being “fire”. However, Japan also recognizes the fertile soil and beauty of the mountain. Farms of all sizes can be found around the base of the volcano. The green views are breathtaking. I couldn’t get enough of the sites and you can’t beat a lakeside view for lunch! So it is no surprise that despite the destructive nature of the mountain, the Chinese ideogram used to write Fuji gives the name a sense of good fortune and well being.

Religion and Origins

The spiritual relevance of the mountain has been around as long as the country. Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, and other religious sects worshipped and continue to worship the beauty of Fuji. The Shinto tend to be the most present religion around and on top of Mt. Fuji. Their shrines sprinkle the mountain, believing that the mountain represents the gods. Monks and other worshippers make pilgrimages up the mountain. Interesting fact, women were not allowed on these pilgrimages until 1945 because they were believed impure (curse you Aunt Flow!).

https://www.wdl.org/en/item/7354/

One Japanese fairytale explains how Mt. Fuji became a volcano. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter  (I’m just going to summarize it here. Click the link if you’d like to read the full story) is said to be the world’s first science fiction story (love it!). In the story a bamboo farmer finds a girl in the fields. She is only three inches tall. He takes the child home and raises her with his wife. It turns out she is the beautiful princess from the Moon who was sent away to protect her during the celestial wars (I wonder if they have made this story into a movie. Someone must have…). The princess grows up and has many admirers. Maybe she wasn’t comfortable with interspecies marriages (she is an alien after all), but she tells her father that she just isn’t ready to be married (very 21st century girl). So the princess turns all her suitors down. Even the emperor asks for her hand in marriage. She says no. The Moon people then show up and demand that the princess return home. The princess is reluctant, but she is really given no other choice.  She insists on writing to her friend, the emperor. She sends him a letter and a potion that would make him immortal. The Moon people wipe her memory of her time on Earth and forced her on a chariot back to the Moon (leaving behind a heartbroken father. Not so sure I’m liking these Moon people…). The emperor receives the princess’s final gift but could not bear the idea of living without her. He ordered that the letter and the bottle of elixir be sent to Mt. Fuji and burned so the smoke can travel to the Moon. The fire that burns inside the mountain was created when the emperor’s orders were carried out.

Art

artelino.com

Mt. Fuji’s significance is seen throughout history in stories and art. One of the most famous depictions of Mt. Fuji is Katsushika Hokusai’s 36 views of Mt. Fuji. Many of us would recognize the water of The Great Wave (though, I have to admit, I never noticed Mt. Fuji in the background before), but Hokusai has dozens of others prints (46 total. This could be confusing since the series is called 36 views. The series was so popular Hokusai made ten more) showing the beauty of Mt. Fuji. He began this series in 1830 at age 70 (just goes to show that it is never too late to make your big break!) and finished them five years later. They have been an inspiration in Japanese art ever since.

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Exploring Mt. Fuji

The artwork doesn’t do the mountain’s beauty justice . The view really is breathtaking and the majestic mountain in the background never grew old. I explored the towns and parks at the base of the mountain. Since my visit was in June, Mt. Fuji itself was closed to hikers. Hiking opens July 1st and continues until mid September. These are the months when there is no snow at the top of the mountain so it is safe for even novice hikers. Thousands of people flock to the mountain, many beginning their journey up at night so they could see the sunrise once they reach the top. You may want to avoid Obon Week in mid August, when the number of hikers will hit a peak, but it is said that hiking with others is part of the experience. There is a sense of comradery.

I would love to return to Japan to hike up Mt. Fuji. A trip to add to my bucket list. In the meantime, I will just have to enjoy memories of the views from below.