Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Month: February 2017

A Short Biography of Fashion Icon Coco Chanel and Coco Chanel Quotes

Coco Chanel’s Life is a Rags to Riches Story

Coco Chanel was born in 1883 in Saumur, France, and she spent her earliest life, along with four siblings, in a one-room house.

When Chanel was 12 years old, her mother died, and her father abandoned her and her two sisters at a Catholic orphanage at Aubazine, where the Order of St. Mary had been established to take care of the poor–especially the young, poor, and dejected girls. There are conflicting reports about Chanel’s childhood. Chanel herself is said to have embellished her own humble history, but most reports say that it was at Aubazine that Chanel was named Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, and that it was at Aubazine that Coco [Gabrielle] learned to sew. Apparently, the children at Aubazine were expected to work hard, and they live a frugal and disciplined life. It was the sewing that she learned as a child at Aubazine that probably saved her from a continued life of poverty.

When Chanel was 18, she was too old to remain at Aubazine and was sent to study at the Notre Dame School at Moulins. While she was at Notre Dame, Chanel was united with her aunt who was only a year older than she. Her aunt’s name was Adrienne. While she was was at Notre Dame, Chanel continued to study sewing.

“The Mother Superior at Notre Dame found employment for Adrienne and Gabrielle as shop assistants and seamstresses in a draper’s store on the rue de l’Horloge, which sold trousseaux and mourning clothes to the local gentry, as well as layettes for newborn babies. The girls shared an attic bedroom above the shop, and also worked at the weekends for a nearby tailor, altering breeches for cavalry officers. It was there that Gabrielle and Adrienne were spotted by half a dozen men, who started taking them out to La Rotonde, a pavilion in a park in Moulins, where concerts were held for audiences from the local barracks.

“They were rowdy affairs – a combination of music hall and soldiers’ saloon – but Gabrielle was determined to start singing on stage, and eventually found a regular slot. She had only two songs in her repertoire: ‘Ko Ko Ri Ko’ (its refrain was the French version of ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’) and ‘Qui qu’a vu Coco? ‘, a ditty about a girl who had lost her dog. Soon the audience greeted her with barnyard cockerel calls, and christened her…[Coco].”

“There are people who have money and people who are rich.” – Coco Chanel

On several occasions, Chanel expressed a suspiciousness about richness, wealth, and luxury, but her life’s mission seems to have been that of escaping her own poverty. I feel quite sure that Chanel’s efforts to “pull herself up by her boot strings” was less than delicate.

“Gentleness doesn’t get work done unless you happen to be a hen laying eggs.  – Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel formed liasons with rich lovers, and that undoubtedly helped her elevate herself, but the Coco Chanel fashion statement was one of simplicity.

“It is always better to be slightly underdressed.” – Coco Chanel

Chanel’s earliest business venture seems to be that of designing and creating hats. Although some of her hats were extravagant, most were not. In fact, Chanel began her career as a milliner by buying very plain Boater Hats and by decorating them with simple bands of ribbon.

The above image is from the Sony film Coco before Chanel. It shows the actress Audrey Tautou wearing a Boater Hat like the earliest Chanel creations.

“Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.”  – Coco Chanel

During the 1920’s, Vogue Magazine lauded Coco Chanel as the creator of the simple, Little Black Dress

The Little Black Dress that Audrey Hepburn wore was designed by Hubert de Givenchy, but there is no doubt that the Audrey Hepburn look is rooted in Coco Chanel.

Coco Chanel Also Turned the Simple Sailor Stripes into a Fashion Staple

In the following image, the Audrey Tautou is shown wearing the type of striped T-Shirt that is synonymous with Coco Chanel.

Coco Chanel Marinière et pantalon en 1928

“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”  – Coco Chanel

In 1858, the striped shirt or Marinière was designated as the official shirt of the French Navy.

In 1913, Chanel opened a shop and sold her interpretation of  the  Marinière, as well as other sports and casual clothes and hats. Unlike fashion before that time, Coco’s clothes were made of jersey or underwear-type material.  Before then, French fashion had been a heavily corseted and overstated affair, but Chanel had the courage to break with fashion tradition and to forge a new path–one that forever changed the course of fashion history.

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” –  Coco Chanel

The Chanel-like striped shirt, which is also called the Breton, is still a fashion staple, and a must-have part of the maritime look.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – OCTOBER 18: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge leaves the Copper Box Arena in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after attending a SportsAid Athlete Workshop on October 18, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.”  – Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel Was Also the Mastermind Behind Redesigning Men’s Fashions and Interpreting Them for Women

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” – Coco Chanel

Although Coco Chanel was desperate to break from her bondage in poverty, she had the courage to move out of the safe zone, to think for herself, and to create what she felt compelled to create.

“Those who create are rare; those who cannot are numerous. Therefore, the latter are stronger.”  – Coco Chanel

 

How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone. –  Coco Chanel

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. – Coco Chanel

Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.  – Coco Chanel

I am not young but I feel young. The day I feel old, I will go to bed and stay there. J’aime la vie! I feel that to live is a wonderful thing.” – Coco Chanel

©Jacki Kellum February 28, 2017

The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss – Illustrated Video Read by Jacki Kellum

Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.



But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking.

When the Star-Belly children went out to play ball,
Could a Plain Belly get in the game? Not at all.
You only could play if your bellies had stars
And the Plain-Belly children had none upon thars.

 

When the Star Belly Sneetches had frankfurter roasts
Or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts,
They never invited the Plain-Belly Sneetches
They left them out cold, in the dark of the beaches.
They kept them away. Never let them come near.
And that’s how they treated them year after year.

Then ONE day, it seems while the Plain-Belly Sneetches
Were moping and doping alone on the beaches,
Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars,
A stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars!

“My friends”, he announced in a voice clear and clean,
“My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
And I’ve heard of Your troubles. I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that, I’m the Fix-It-Up Chappie.

I’ve come here to help you.
I have what you need.
And my prices are low. And I work with great speed.
And my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed!”

Then, quickly, Sylvester McMonkey McBean
Put together a very peculiar machine.
And he said, “You want stars like a Star-Belly Sneetch?
My friends, you can have them for three dollars each!”

“Just pay me your money and hop right aboard!”
So they clambered inside. Then the big machine roared.
And it klonked. And it bonked. And it jerked. And it berked.
And it bopped them about. But the thing really worked!
When the Plain-Belly Sneetches popped out, they had stars!
They actually did. They had stars upon thars!



Then they yelled at the ones who had stars at the start,
“We’re still the best Sneetches and they are the worst.
But now, how in the world will we know”, they all frowned,
“If which kind is what, or the other way round?”


Then up came McBean with a very sly wink.
And he said, “Things are not quite as bad as you think.

So you don’t know who’s who. That is perfectly true.
But come with me, friends. Do you know what I’ll do?
I’ll make you, again, the best Sneetches on the beaches.
And all it will cost you is ten dollars eaches.”

“Belly stars are no longer in style”, said McBean.
“What you need is a trip through my Star-Off Machine.
This wondrous contraption will take OFF your stars
so you won’t look like Sneetches that have them on thars.”
And that handy machine working very precisely
Removed all the stars from their tummies quite nicely.

Then, with snoots in the air, they paraded about.
And they opened their beaks and they let out a shout,
“We know who is who! Now there Isn’t a doubt.
The best kind of Sneetches are Sneetches without!”


Then, of course, those with stars got all frightfully mad.
To be wearing a star was frightfully bad.
Then, of course, old Sylvester McMonkey McBean
invited THEM into his Star-Off Machine.


Then, of course from THEN on, as you probably guess,
Things really got into a horrible mess.

All the rest of that day, on those wild screaming beaches,
The Fix-It-Up Chappie kept fixing up Sneetches.
Off again! On again! In again! Out again!
Through the machines they raced round and about again,

Changing their stars every minute or two. They kept paying money.
They kept running through until the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
Whether this one was that one or that one was this one. Or which one
Was what one or what one was who.

Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
The Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up. And he went.
And he laughed as he drove In his car up the beach,
“They never will learn. No. You can’t Teach a Sneetch!”

But McBean was quite wrong. I’m quite happy to say.
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day.


The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches.
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether
They had one, or not, upon thars.

My House Is My Hideout, My Refuge, & My Home

When I am attacked by a case of social anxiety, nothing spells relief like H-O-M-E–not house–but home. The place where I currently dwell isn’t fancy. In fact, in many ways, it is downright crude; but my home is my haven–a shelter from life out there, a harbor from the arduous task of survival. It might seem that any 4 walls and a roof could serve that purpose–could offer a kind of refuge or a closet where I could hide from the world. Yet, while my house is far from adequate and while it lacks many of the creature comforts that I would enjoy, the things that make this space my home are far more complicated than that. Following is a list of some of the things and places that have transformed my house into my home:

  1.  My Garden

july13c

Both working and sitting in my garden are probably the activities that most keep me sane. I have written blog posts in which I have tried to catalog all of the reasons that my garden is vital to me.  For exmple, there are health benefits in my being able to root around in the dirt and become part of what nature, plants, and seeds can produce.  I have built a waterfall, and the sounds that it makes are soothing to me and watching the cascading water is mesmerizing. I also have bird feeders and bird baths.  Being able to sit, just feet away from my feeding and bathing birds is an invaluable treat for me.  While not exactly part of my house, my garden is no doubt one of the areas of my home that I consider to be most important.

2.  My Sunroom

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Sunroom1

A house that does not have one warm, comfy chair in it is soulless.  – May Sarton –

During the spring, summer, and fall, I spend most of my waking hours outside in my garden. My sunroom is a place where things can continue to grow and bloom even when things outside are not, but  I actually built my sunroom to serve as my inside link to what I have created outside.

In my sunroom, there is a great big and soft loveseat-like chair that is situated just in front of a wall of glass that opens to my side garden, where I have planted a a bit of what I consider to be nature’s best.  My birdfeeder and bird bath are in view from this chair, and I can also see my cherub statue from there.  My sunroom has become the place that I sit, especially during winter, when I need to lavish myself with the healing balm and blessings of what lies outside.  When it snows, I especially love to sit in my sunroom, toasting by my fireplace, watching the world, as nature transforms her into a white and silent maiden.

Some days, after working in my garden, I spread a bit of bird food, go inside and pour myself a glass of wine.  Afterward, I come into my sunroom and sink into my sunroom chair, which literally seems to wrap itself around me.  Then I begin peering through the glass at nature as it unfolds on the living, big screen in front of me.  I think to myself that life just doesn’t get much better than this.  My sunroom is literally the window to my soul.

3.  My Fireplaces and Firepits

woodstove

“If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If youre a pretender come sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
Come in!
Come in!

– Shel Silverstein –

My attraction to burning logs is complex.  In short, nothing transports me more than the smell of a wood fire.  I currently live in a suburb that has very strict laws against torching things outside, but before I moved here, one of the things that I most loved about fall was the smell of burning leaves; and when I was a child, I spent my summers at camp, where night time and campfires became absolutely mystical to me.  My fireplaces and my outside firepits are the ways that I keep that part of myself alive.

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains. – Diane Ackerman

wappapello

4.  My Studio

Tulipslaststudio

During the winter, which is normally both brutal and long in New Jersey, I spend most of my active hours in my studio.  Every season but winter, I create outside; but when it gets cold and ground freezes, my studio becomes my garden.  It is the place that I myself go to grow–to listen to my own spirit and to follow its call.

Although I could paint and create in virtually any room of my house, having a designated studio makes the process easier.  If every time I wanted to create, I had to wag out my art supplies and then put them back up again, I simply would never paint again.  That being said, my studio is more than a set of handy shelves and other storage devices.  It is the cornerstone of much that makes me who I am.  Even when I am not painting, my studio is a shrine that reminds me that there is a secret and magical place within myself and that I have a package, waiting to be opened.

Being an artist is a way of Being–of Becoming Aware–of Increasing from Within–of Wondering–and of Inventing because of that Wonder.  – Jacki Kellum –

5.  My Bed

MBR

If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.  – Gaston Bachelard

While I have a lovely sunroom and a terrific studio, the place that I do most of my recharging and creating is actually my bed.  Whereas my home is my haven, and my garden is my retreat, and my sunroom is my soul, and my studio is my shrine, my bed is a cornucopia of all of those things, in one integral place.

I am a very active person, but I am probably more mental.  I think and rethink everything that I do and then I research it on my laptop, chart it, notate it, graph it, plan it, and rethink it some more.  95% of the mental part of myself happens while I am propped up on the feather pillows atop my bed, which is truly a spot that transforms my house into my home.

You can never go home again. – Thomas Wolfe

When you finally go back to your old home, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed but your childhood. – Sam Ewing

Fortunately,  our true homes are not merely the places where we lived with our parents.  Like turtles, we carry our homes with us–inside ourselves.  Our homes are actually the places where and when we are most rooted and most grounded.  During the better parts of our childhoods, most of us did experience a sense of home; and in my opinion, the only way that we can become happy adults is to find ways to reesablish that same essence again and again.

There are things that we can do to our houses that help us to recreate our senses of home.   As I look back, I believe that my true mission in life has been that of finding ways to make myself at home–wherever I happen to live.  I am currently residing in at least the 10th house since my childhood, and I have been fortunate in that I have learned to find ways to make each of those houses my home.  It is the only way that I know to actually live.

[Note: I first wrote this two years ago, and I hate to admit that during this past summer, I did not tend to and care for my garden, and I have allowed my sunroom to become cluttered with an never-ending remodeling project, and my spirit has suffered. My house is still my hideout. When I return home from a day of working or running errands, I still sigh in relief that I have finally been allowed to get home again, but I realize that without my gardening and my sunroom and my fireplace, my house is not my sanctuary. I vow to do better this summer and get back into my garden and back into my home.]

©Jacki Kellum February 21, 2017

Hideout

Addicted to Staying Busy – There’s A Fine Line Between Living Life Fully & Racing Through It in a Blur

I am quite sure that I am addicted to staying too busy. Are you?

I must hate being bored. I certainly never allow myself to become so. For as long as I can remember, I have had a line of hobbies and tasks waiting for me to accomplish, and I dart into each task with the daring and tenacity of the Roadrunner. I amaze people. I even amaze myself. But is all of this staying busy and accomplishing and achieving a desirable thing? Probably not.

I found a great article in Psychology Today, and it talks about people like me–people who do too much. The author, Lissa Rankin M.D, admits that when she has too much time on her hands, she becomes too aware of unpleasant things:

Like my flailing marriage.

Or the fact that I feel shame around how I’m missing out on some of Siena’s sweetest childhood moments because my job requires travel.

Or how uncomfortable I am with feelings of boredom.

Or how afraid I am of being ordinary.

Or how I tend to feel unworthy and unlovable unless I’m overachieving.

Or the fact that my mother isn’t getting any younger and I don’t get to see her very often, and I wonder if I’m unconsciously pulling away from her because I’m terrified of losing her one day so I’m practicing what Brené would call “dress-rehearsing disaster.”

Or how uncomfortable I am with realizing that, although a lot of people online care about what I have to say, I’m not very good at cultivating and sustaining lasting relationships with real people who really know me and love me.

Or how restless I feel when I’m not making myself feel more worthy by doing something to help others.

Or how lonely I often feel, even when I’m surrounded by a crowd of people.

See More Here

Wow! I certainly see myself in those words.  Many years ago, the book I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can was published. I didn’t read the book–I was too busy “dancing as fast as I could,” but the title of the book has haunted me. Amazon says the following about Dancing As Fast As I Can:

Barbara Gordon’s groundbreaking memoir tells the extraordinary story of a woman who has it all, or thinks she does-a career as an Emmy-award-winning documentary producer, a man she loves, a world of friends, and a beautiful apartment in Manhattan. But beneath the façade, Barbara’s life is spinning out of control. Amazon Here

Several times lately, I have observed to other people that at one time, I truly thought that I knew quite a lot and that I had a lot of answers, but only in the past year or so, I realize that I have very few answers and that I have many more questions than answers. I wish that I could write a Self-Help article about how to cure the problem of staying too busy, but I cannot. I do recognize that I have that problem, and in many ways, I am relieved by that realization. Like many other issues, Busyness is an addiction, and admitting that we have an addiction is the first and enormous step forward. Here’s to finding the courage to walk [and not race] the rest of the way.

©Jacki Kellum February 19, 2017

 

Blur

Silences – Times When No Sound Is Good

Withered White Hibiscus – by Jacki Kellum

When you look at my paintings, it is obvious that I leave out or omit many details that might have made my paintings more realistic. I do this intentionally. When paintings reveal everything that a camera or some other machine might see, the viewing simply becomes mechanical–data in—data out.  The viewer might be impressed—even awed by the painter’s expert ability to render details; but that is about all that the viewer is allowed to experience because the overly technical or realistic painting is too filled with detail and explanation—there are no quiet spaces for meditative observation—there are no silences—there is no emptiness.  Everything is spelled out—there is no need for interpretation.  There is no mystery—no intrigue.  No invitation is issued to the viewer to participate and to do some imagining or even thinking of his own.  You might say that the technically perfect painting suffers from “too much information.”

The same principle might be true of some novels, essays, and nonfiction writing. They also may have too much information to be appealing–to evoke an emotional response. I have often said the while good novels tend to be good oil painting, good watercolor painting tends to be poetry.

“What delights us in visible beauty is the invisible.” – Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

I believe that all creative work needs places of Zen-like emptiness—pools that can be filled by the viewer’s spirit.  Or conversely, they should evoke a quiet emptiness within the viewer—pools that can be filled by the spiritual essence that resides in the invisible, silent spaces within the painting or the poem. In my opinion, paintings and writing should be meditative, spiritual–and the mechanically, technically perfect–the fully exposed–cannot be either.

It is my belief that when viewers look at paintings, they should not be looking for technicality– they should be LISTENING to the Sounds of Silence. Similarly, when one reads poetry, he should not strive to fully understand–to know all that there might have been–but to enter the poet’s word-ship and sail.

Silences can be good and they can be bad. In art and in poetry, some silences are more important than sound.

©Jacki Kellum February 15, 2017

Sound

Listening to the Rain – Sounds Flood Us with Memories of Our Pasts

Moments ago, I happened to be outside, and I had the rare opportunity to hear the rain just as it was beginning to fall. In other words, I heard the rain before I felt it touch my face, and like a soothing balm, calmness washed over me. I have said this many times before: I love the rain.

campcabin2

The rain reminds me of the summers that I spent in camp, and the nights that I lay awake listening to it, filtering through the trees and then tapping the tin roof and sliding from it one drop at a time.

The softer rains would ultimately pierce through the crust of leaves that lay on top of the ground. The leaves would rustle, crackle, and snap. The aroma of the moistened earth would fill the air. The smell of the evergreens would be refreshed, and the woods would take on  the scent of a  rain potpourri that I wish I could bottle or bag.

When it rained hard at camp, the trees got involved with the ceremony and waved their arms, shook their heads, and wildly swayed.  Like savages dancing around a ring, preparing for a bountiful hunt, the trees would toss spears into the air and fiercely hurl things about. A tree limb would occasionally scrape across the metal shelter, screeching as it slowly etched its way over the top.

Also when it rained hard, the drops of rain would pound the tin top, and the belting would become a roar. Torrents of water would form at the edges of the galvanized roof and would flood, like water being sloshed from a tub, down to the ground below. The river of rain water would get behind piles of leaves and branches on the ground and push them downstream.

When the rain was not pouring, I liked to put on my squeaky, new rubber boots and my cold, stiff raincoat and walk outside. I loved the way that a misting rain would form on the exposed parts of my body. When there were actual rain drops falling, I liked to feel them pat my face and then roll.

Like Mother Nature’s bathtub, rain is how the world is washed clean, and when I am in the rain, I feel that I am being cleansed, too.

In my bedroom now, my bed is immediately next to a window, and I love hearing the rain from my bedroom eyrie. That sound is different than the one that I heard moments ago, standing outside. And the sound of rain falling on my sunroom roof is all together different. That roof has no attic or ceiling beneath it, and the sound of rain is not tempered or buffered. Regardless of where I am, I love the rain, and I love the sound that it makes. The mere sound of the rain brings back summers half a century ago, when I had the time and the inclination to lie still and hear and feel. I love the rain.

©Jacki Kellum February 15, 2017

Sound

Birdman of Alcatraz 1963 Oscar Winner in 4 Categories – A Review – Countdown to the Oscars

The Birdman of Alcatraz was a 1962 movie that won 4 Oscars in 1963. Many say that it was Burt Lancthaster’s defining role, and he plays the role of  Robert Stroud who was an actual criminal and who was the real life Birdman of Alcatraz.

“Robert Franklin Stroud (January 28, 1890 – November 21, 1963), known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz”, was an American federal prisoner and author who has been cited as one of the United States’ most notorious criminals.[1][2][3] During his time at Leavenworth Penitentiary, he reared and sold birds and became a respected ornithologist, but because of regulations, he was not permitted to keep birds at Alcatraz, where he was incarcerated from 1942 to 1959. Stroud was never released from the Federal prison system.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPAZfiLXVVQ

 Stroud in 1912

“Born in Seattle, Washington, Stroud ran away from his abusive father at the age of 13, and by the time he was 18, he had become a pimp in the Alaska Territory. In January 1909, he shot and killed a bartender who had attacked one of his prostitutes, for which he was sentenced to 12 years in the federal penitentiary on Puget Sound’s McNeil Island. Stroud gained a reputation as an extremely dangerous inmate who frequently had confrontations with fellow inmates and staff, and in 1916, he killed a guard. Stroud was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to hang, but after several trials, his sentence was eventually commuted to life imprisonment.” Wikipedia

[In the movie, Stroud’s mother begged for leniency from the wife of President Woodrow Wilson, and Wilson commuted Stroud’s sentence to life.]

Image result for thelma ritter birdman alcatraz Thelma Ritter played Stroud’s mother, and she won an Oscar  for Best Supporting Actress. She did a good job of representing the typical overbearing mother who used her affection as a weapon. It is reported that Stroud was an aggressive homosexual, and his mother issue may have caused his homosexuality. The homosexuality is not part of the movie. Perhaps showing his relationship with his mother was the best way to hint of that in 1963.

Telly Savalas won an Oscar for  Best Supporting Actor. He played the role of a Stroud’s cell neighbor–a person who Stroud persuaded to share his interest in birds.

Image result for telly savalas birdman alcatraz

“Stroud began serving life in solitary confinement at Leavenworth, where in 1920, after discovering a nest with three injured sparrows in the prison yard, he began raising them, and within a few years had acquired a collection of some 300 canaries. He began extensive research into them after being granted equipment by a radical prison-reforming warden, publishing Diseases of Canaries in 1933, which was smuggled out of Leavenworth and sold en masse,[4] as well as a later edition (1943). He made important contributions to avian pathology, most notably a cure for the hemorrhagic septicemia family of diseases, gaining much respect and some level of sympathy among ornithologists and farmers. Stroud ran a successful business from inside prison, but his activities infuriated the prison staff, and he was eventually transferred to Alcatraz in 1942 after it was discovered that Stroud had been secretly making alcohol using some of the equipment in his cell.” Wikipedia

Although Ritter and Savalas did a good job playing their roles, the movie Birdman of Alcatraz is almost a one-man show. Burt Lancaster won the 1963 Oscar for Best Actor.  I question whether the movie would win any Oscars at all now, but when we remember that this feature was made almost half a century ago, we begin to understand why it was a hit in its day. At times, the movie is more like a documentary than a movie. Throughout the show, there is a monotone narration that is reminiscent of the 1960s Dragnet.  In my opinion, Birdman of Alcatraz is not a great drama, but the facts of the story were represented well, and the story itself is fascinating.

“Stroud began serving a 17-year term at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary on December 19, 1942, and became inmate #594. In 1943, he was assessed by psychiatrist Romney M. Ritchey, who diagnosed him as a psychopath, but with an I.Q. of 134. Stripped of his birds and equipment, he wrote a history of the penal system.

“In 1959, with his health failing, Stroud was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, where he stayed until his death on November 21, 1963, having been incarcerated for the last 54 years of his life, of which 42 were in solitary confinement. He had been studying French near the end of his life. Robert Stroud is buried in Metropolis, Illinois. Author Carl Sifakis considers Stroud to have been “possibly the best-known example of self-improvement and rehabilitation in the U.S. prison.” Wikipedia

©Jacki Kellum February 1, 2017

Throughout the month of February, I’ll try to post an Oscar movie daily. It is my annual Countdown to the Oscars.

 

 

© 2017 Jacki Kellum

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