Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Hell is for Heroes" (1962) -- Initial Thoughts

I just watched a movie that I should have seen many years ago. It's a WWII movie called Hell is for Heroes that came out in 1962. Here's why I should have seen it before now: not only do Bobby Darin and Steve McQueen star in it, but it's written by Robert Pirosh! Ye who read this blog may not know it, but Robert Pirosh is the creator of my favorite show, Combat!. He only wrote the pilot and then left (maybe to make this movie?), but still, he came up with the main concept of a show about American GIs in France.

Hell is for Heroes has a lot of similarities to Combat!. Bobby Darin's character, "Corby," is basically a skinnier version of Braddock...the Italian scrounger/conman/comic relief. Steve McQueen's "Reese" is Saunders all crabby and no cuddly...he's blond, he got busted down from a higher rank, he has lots of combat experience. Fess Parker's character "Sgt. Pike" is a combination of Sgt. Saunders and Lt. Hanley: he's got Hanley's tall-dark-and-handsome thing going on, but Saunders's patience and understanding too.

Some of the similarities are more obvious, like using stock footage of artillery units firing exciting large weapons. Oh, and the music for Hell is for Heroes is by the same guy that did the music for Combat!, Leonard Rosenman. But the movie does have the one thing that I've always felt C! lacks (at least, in the eps that I've seen, which admittedly is only about half...): a flamethrower!

One other thing I noticed: the title of the two-part C! ep that's generally considered the finest of the show is extremely close to the title of this film. It could be coincidence, since Robert Pirosh was only involved in the pilot ep. And the two-part ep is in Season 4, so it was made several years after Hell is for Heroes. But the title of that ep is Hills are for Heroes...and both that ep and this movie center around soldiers trying to take a Nazi-held pillbox. Could be coincidence. Or the title could be deliberate homage...I'm not sure. If I find out from any of my C! friends, I'll let you know...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I've been trying to find my own Civil Rights Hero--like an activist from the 50s and 60s that I could really relate to and kind of idolize. You know, someone I could point to and say, "Hey, this person did a lot to further good relations between the races, helped America get over stuff like bigotry, and was neat in personal life too." Now, there are a lot of people who point to activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Malcolm X as the ones we should hero-ize when it comes to Civil Rights. The thing is, all three of those activists did things in their personal lives, espoused ideas, or embraced religions that I don't agree with or that offend me. None of them are people that I can really get jazzed up about, that I can talk about with enthusiasm and fervor. I can't point to any of them and say, without qualms or exceptions, "I wanna be like this person--they did good things and stood for good stuff." So you see why I've been looking for my own Civil Rights Hero.

I think I've found one at last: Jackie Robinson. Yup! The baseball player, first African-American in the Major Leagues. I just finished reading his autobiography, I Never Had it Made, and while I know that most autobiographies need to be taken with a grain (or shaker) of salt, this one contained far less hubris than most I've read. I'll try to find some other books to read about him too, to see if my image of him seems to be a good one. So far I see him as an honest man, a dedicated Christian husband and father--someone who stood up for what he believed in, and was willing to endure all sorts of abuses and insults just to aid his fellow black people to break down the barriers white society had erected. And he also didn't gloss over the mistakes and errors in judgment that he made throughout his athletic, business, and political careers. The chapter in which he discussed the death of his son, Jackie Jr, moved me to tears several times.

So here are two things he says in this book (Robinson, Jackie with Alfred Duckett. I Never Had it Made. New York: Putnam, 1972.) that I really really like:
"The first freedom for all people is freedom of choice. I want to live in a neighborhood of my choice where I can afford to pay the rent. I want to send my children to school where I believe they will develop best. I want the freedom to rise as high in my career as my ability indicates. I want to be free to follow the dictates of my own mind and conscience without being subject to the pressures of any man, black or white. I think that is what most people of all races want." (pg 103)

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." (265)

I may elaborate more on this later. For now, I'm tired, it's been a hard day's night, and Cowboy agrees it's time for sleep.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

James N. Frey, author of a couple really great advice-about-writing books that I love (How to Write a Da*n Good Mystery and The Key: How to Write Da*n Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth) recommends doing journal entries as the main characters in your stories. Basically, letting them say some stuff in their own voice about who they are, what they're up to, why they're doing stuff, etc. This to me is an incredibly brilliant and helpful idea, and I don't know why nobody else ever suggested it to me before. I've been trying it for the main characters in my novel recently, and it's working great!

When I wrote my first mystery (utilizing the advice from Frey's book on mystery-writing)--my Angel and Combat! crossover, "Searching"--I found journaling-as-characters very helpful. Especially for Angel himself, because I just couldn't seem to write him. When writing my fanfic, I often have trouble capturing my favorite character from the show (Sgt. Saunders in C!, and Angel from his show); I think my adulation of the characters gets in the way. Anyway, I was having a really hard time figuring out Angel's attitude toward the whole situation in that story. He kept not wanting to talk or do much of anything--was being very passive and grumpy. Broodiness, I'm used to from him. Even reticence. But inactivity? I hadn't expected that from him. So I did a journal entry for him. Let him just write about what he was feeling at the moment, what was going on in his head. And it did the trick! I discovered what was holding him back, and figured out what would get him back in the game.

If this sounds a bit mystical to you...if you can't quite dig the idea of getting into a fictional character's mind and writing a journal entry (or anything else) as them...I'm not sure I can explain it (altho if you insist, I could try). But it works!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

GAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! I've been summoned for jury duty! Okay, I've always thought that being on a jury might be kinda cool, and also, it's my civic duty, right? BUT if I'm chosen to be on this jury, I'll be sequestered for 6-8 weeks! That's not so cool! I'll miss my Cowboy! Cowboy will miss me! And what if he forgets to feed my Betta fish, Archie Goodwin? When I read my summons last night, I began to wig out. Images filled my brain from every courtroom movie and tv show I've ever seen. I caught snatches of Perry Mason glaring at Mr. Berger...Gunn talking legalese to Angel...Matthew McConaughey making an impassioned plea...John Cusack on a jury...oooh, John Cusack on a jury! Hey, might not be so bad after all...but then I got Henry Fonda pounding on a table...Gene Hackman intimidating my family...

And then I went to work. Suddenly the idea of spending 6-8 weeks sequestered in a hotel room, reading things like War and Peace because I'd finally have time...that doesn't sound so bad! Six to eight weeks away from The Salt Mines! Hey, I could dig that.

So now that I'm kinda half-hoping I'll get on the jury, I probably won't.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Three things I've been meaning to blog about for a while now, but haven't gotten around to:

1. My article in Guideposts magazine is in the April edition! So now I'm published in a major, nationally-distributed magazine. Yay me!

2. Someone in the chocolate industry finally grew a brain and created Dark Chocolate M&Ms! Yummmmm!

3. There's this newish band called Ludo that has very interesting lyrics. I especially like "Good Will Hunting By Myself".

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

And now, some utter silliness for your enjoyment! Inspired in part by Dave Fuller's grand "If Dr. Suess Wrote for Star Trek", I present my own random rhyming tale:

"Seussified Combat!"
by Hamlette (aka White Queen)

"Lieutenant Hanley, Sir, you called?"
Two sergeants asked, one blond, one bald.

"I did indeed, I have some news
About some info we could use."

"What info, Sir, and where, and when?"
Asked Saunders, lighting up again.

The hairless sergeant coughed and wheezed,
He spluttered, shuddered...and he sneezed!
"I've asked you once, I've asked you twice
To please stop smoking. It's not nice!"

Lieutenant Hanley rolled his eyes.
"Bald Sergeant, please make your good-byes.
I only need one squad, you see,
To take on this great task for me."

The balding sergeant, he saluted.
"To serve you, Sir, I was recruited."

When he had gone, the other two
Discussed just what First Squad should do.

"I think you know, by now, indeed,
Why you must make all haste and speed.
Some Frenchmen know, and will explain
How you can wreck the German train."

"We will be fast, we will be fleet!
The Krauts will never hear our feet!"
Then Saunders snuffed his cigarette,
Shook Hanley's hand, made his exit.

"Hey Sarge! Hey Sarge! Give us the scoop!"
Demanded Kirby, with a whoop.

"We've got our orders," said their sergeant,
"And what more could good soldiers want?"

"Wine! Women! Song!" the squad replied.
"A chance to finally sleep inside!
A meal eaten at a table!
A dance with, oh, say, Betty Grable!"

The sergeant smiled, then frowned instead.
"You know we could all end up dead!
Our mission holds great fear and danger!
Or do you think I'm the Lone Ranger?"

Billy Nelson had to smile;
Sarge hadn't joked in quite a while.
"Aw, Sarge, we know you can do lots--
You climb tall trees! You tie great knots!
You shoot the Krauts! You lead us well!
And, gee, we think you're awful swell!"

"Enough, Billy," said Sarge, not grinning.
"We can't be all that sure of winning.
Lieutenant gave us lots to do:
Stop trains, blow bridges, kill Krauts too.
It's time this episode got started."
And so, First Squad promptly departed.

They wandered here, they wandered there,
And Saunders really mussed his hair.
Caje slithered, crawled, and skulked about,
And Kirby got to knife a Kraut.
Billy and Littlejohn laughed and joked,
And Doc made sure that no one croaked.

When they returned, did Hanley say,
"Good job! Nice work! You've saved the day!"?
Oh no, instead, to First Squad's sorrow,
He said, "Let's do the same tomorrow!"

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I just returned from one of my best birthday-parties ever! My dearest friend ED planned it around the perfect theme: Dracula! If you know me, you probably know about my vampire's one of my more sordid obsessions, I suppose. ED invited scads of people, but the party ended being small and cozy: ED, MB, Lily Snape, and yours truly. We began the evening by attending a live performance of Dracula, all dressed as movie stars (I went as Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief). It was a local community theatre group, so nothing spectacular, but still quite enjoyable. Then we proceeded back to the Dragon's Lair (aka ED's pad), where we ate chocolate cake, tortillas with taco dip, and popcorn, and consumed copious amounts of caffeine, in the form of Classic and Cherry Coca-Cola (my drug of choice!). I opened my presents (all fabulous!), and we watched "Buffy vs. Dracula", Dracula 2000, and "Once More with Feeling" (the Buffy musical). And of course, we spent a good deal of time simply palavering.

It's actually two weeks until my birthday, but Cowboy and I have a mini-break planned for that weekend, so I did my friend-oriented celebrating early...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

During my lunch breaks at work this week, I'm reading Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. It's stream-of-consciousness writing, of course...and I'm not a big fan of this style. It tends to make me dizzy (sometimes physically!), and it takes me a few pages to get into the rhythm of the words every time I pick up the book. But I figured if I'm going to take a not-so-fond stance on stream-of-consciousness, I'd better at least have read an entire book written in the style, so I know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, here's a list of the things I've read over my lunch breaks at work so far this year. It's a pretty diverse collection...
  • Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt
  • Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Half Magic by Edward Eager
  • Ringworld by Larry Niven
  • The Irregulars Strike Again by August Derleth
  • Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike
  • Land of My Heart by Tracie Peterson
  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
  • Three plays by Noel Coward: Private Lives, Hay Fever, and Blithe Spirit
  • Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams (also a play)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Guess what I got in the mail today? Season Three of Combat!!!!!!!! Yeehaw! Of the 32 eps in this season, I have seen a total I'm giddy! And I have to go to work tonight, so I can't even watch them! I burn, I pine, I perish!