Disney Wisdom That Will Set You for Life

I mean, really, what else do you need?

The Lion King

The basics.

Mufasa: Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.

Simba: But, Dad, don’t we eat the antelope?

Mufasa: Yes, Simba, but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life.

Aladdin

Things to know.

Jafar in disguise: You’ve heard of the golden rule, haven’t you? The one who has the gold, makes the rules (add disgusting wheezing laugh).

Bambi

Manners.

Thumper: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.

Sleeping Beauty

Skillfully telling your family you met someone.

Prince Philip: I said I met the girl I was going to marry. I don’t know who she was, a peasant girl, I suppose.

(Shortened quote follows)

King Hubert: You’re a prince, and you’re going to marry a princess!

Prince Philip: Now, Father, you’re living in the past. This is the 14th century. Nowadays –

King Hubert: Nowadays I’m still the king, and I command you to come to your senses –

Prince Philip: And marry the girl I love.

King Hubert: Exactly!

The Little Mermaid

Understanding teenagers (because at some point we’ll all need to).

Sebastian: Teenagers. They think they know everything. You give them an inch, they swim all over you.

Pocahontas

How to make friends and share hobbies.

John Smith: Pocahontas, that tree is talking to me…

Pocahontas: And you should talk back!

 

TV Shows to Watch if You Work in an Office

The shows listed below are enjoyable all on their own and I could talk about The Big Bang Theory for hours, quoting and reenacting my favourite parts, which measure whole episodes. Obviously the list I’m posting here is based entirely on my personal opinion and experience. There is a lot of cool TV and film content (let’s use the modern word, darlings) to choose from across countries and decades, should you feel the burning need to find fictional visual representation of what you may have witnessed in the workplace.

(I didn’t watch The Office because I just have other tastes and I did need a bit of mental distance, preferring to transfer what I had seen back and forth on my own terms.)

Any office is a world of its own, where we might sometimes have to come up with a bit of a character to survive encounters with all sorts of other characters. And so, I lean heavily on…

The Big Bang Theory

This is arguably one of the best sitcoms and TV shows ever made. Whip-smart writing and jokes, memorable characters, relatable humor and immediately recognizable situations, a talented cast that only got better season after season, terrific comic timing, masses of quotable quotes and that constant influx of nerdvana and pop culture that I feed on in my daily life. The Big Bang Theory was also more than the comedy in it, reminding of the bigger things beyond the laughs – friendship, love, family, movies, physics…

The reason that it’s perfect fuel for navigating an office job is because it’s like a catalogue of quote cards for the inevitable absurd or funny situations we encounter. Pull up a scene from TBBT and it adds some sparkle to a frustrating moment, or creates a shared laugh with a coworker who might also be a fan. The best part, of course, is seriously quoting suitable passages at someone who has no clue. This trick also applies to the other two shows I’m about to mention, and they are…

The IT Crowd

Another one for the books. This is a British show from some years back, starring the brilliant Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade and Katherine Parkinson, as well as many other wonderful actors.

The IT Crowd literally saved me from succumbing to a bad case of nerves during the first weeks of my new job. Not being an IT person, I had the typical episodes when trying to deal with a computer problem and then I had to actually contact someone about it. That was only half bad, being new and a shy person, but trying to explain what I thought was wrong and then attempting to answer additional questions was terrifying. But because I’d watched The IT Crowd and some of the things happening during my conversations with the lovely people trying to help me out were verbatim what I’d heard on the show, I knew this was real and that I would be alright.

In addition to the above, plenty of scenes in the show do deal with working in an office space and the resemblance to what I had seen in real life was, as they say, uncanny.

Downton Abbey

I got on this train rather late, after the first hype and leveled out a bit (or has it?). There’s something about all those British accents that makes me sit up straighter and feel like I can take on the world. Even when a chain of sudden social occurences threatens to create a scandal of horrific proportions one will never, ever recover from, the characters still sound like they could carry on. Or at least affect that posh accent and regal bearing while desperately figuring out what to do.

In the case of the “upstairs”, if you take away the grand setting and manners, it’s clear that the near constant upshoots of intrigue, emotional and social manipulation, mind games, but also attemps to work on things together are not much different from the day-to-day of interacting with other people while working on projects or creating something between the time spent at your desk.

Just as with the other two shows, a quote never hurts when someone tries to catch you out. In which case I would recommend either turning to the inimitable Lady Violet (hat off to Dame Maggie Smith) or Lady Mary, because whatever you may think of her, she certainly never has to look for words in her pocket, as the Russian saying goes.

 

Mary Higgins Clark, a True Writer

I saw the news that Mary Higgins Clark had peacefully passed away at age 92, with her friends and family near her. At first, of course, you don’t quite believe it, seeing as how this author has been around for so long and for so many readers. Decades of reading memories in my own family are attached to her unforgettable suspense thrillers, and my bookshelves are full of her novels that I pick up again and again and again.

Reading was and continues to be an enormous part of my life. As a child I was always curious about what the rest of the family was reading and I vividly remember my mother being immersed in the newest Mary Higgins Clark, a sight that I continued to enjoy year after year. I would ask her what she enjoyed so much about the novels and we would talk about different points as I grew up. Later on I’d see my father and my sisters with a new thriller in their hands. Once begun, the book was impossible to put down and I’ve been known to read some of her novels in one day. We would talk about whether we had guessed “who did it” and which bits scared us so much that we didn’t want to turn the lights out.

Some volumes from the family library made their way to my own after I moved away from home. Others I collected by myself since my university years, browsing second-hand bookstores for older novels, regularly checking international sections in bookstores across Europe after the release date for a new book was announced. It was so exciting. One of my favourite gifts ever was a beautiful autographed copy of The Shadow of Your Smile from my mother.

Mary Higgins Clark was not only a truly gifted writer and creator of suspense in her stories, but she also brought to life so many memorable characters. Menley in Remember Me, Celia in No Place Like Home, Maggie in Moonlight Becomes You, Ellie in Daddy’s Little Girl, Laurie in the Under Suspicion series, written with the talented Alafair Burke. How lovely and poignant that Laurie got her happy ending. The list of characters we grow attached to goes on and on. It includes both men and women, children, older characters. The people our characters have lost remain just as vivid through recollections of past actions, things said that contributed to where our heroines and heroes find themselves when we open the book.

While suspense thrillers build the bulk of fiction written by Mary Higgins Clark, she is also the author of many gripping short stories, an autobiography of her amazing life titled Kitchen Privileges, and she has co-authored several lovely books with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark, a successful and gifted writer in her own right.

You start to create and image of what your favourite author is like as you read more and more of their works, then actually find out about their life. Mary Higgins Clark was amazingly prolific and successful as a writer, but her life story is truly an example of not only a gifted storyteller, but a woman of exceptional strength and depth. All the hardships she experienced didn’t take away any of her vivacious joy of living, the drive to overcome.

A full life well lived, no unfinished business, a treasure trove of stories to keep forever, a true grande dame in more ways than one. Simply and from the heart, thank you, Mary Higgins Clark.

 

 

Downton Abbey the Movie

Downton Abbey the movie is a beautifully filmed 2-hour bit of escapism. Gorgeous English landscapes, a magnificent mansion of a house bathed in history, fabulous costumes and loads of accents to feast your ears on. It’s 1927 and they’ve been expecting me.

Is it possible to follow the film if you haven’t watched the show? I’d say yes. The story is very neatly wrapped up, without getting tangled in itself. Otherwise a bit of Wikipedia reading and some wonderful behind-the-scenes interviews on the Downton Abbey YouTube channel are both very helpful if you want to know more about the characters and their backgrounds. The Internet has your back.

Dame Maggie Smith is unforgettable as ever, playing Lady Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham. I bow. She both scared and surprised me way back in the day in The Secret Garden, delighted as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies, just to name a few examples, and she’s given us an array of quotable zingers from Lady Violet.

I’m not a die-hard fan and I haven’t seen all the seasons of the show, but I have a lot of respect for the many examples of impressive acting in there. Step aside from the inevitable (and, of course, necessary) discussions about what life in England was like back then in terms of class, society, British aristocracy, women’s rights, equality, and it’s still a vast collection of stories about people and family.

The Woman in Black

October is a great month for ghost stories. The leaves change color and then start to fall, bare tree branches stand out against the sky, cloudy weather sets in, the days become shorter and it gets dark earlier – a perfect set for a mysterious, even spooky atmosphere. You just want to either curl up with a scary book or watch a movie with plenty of suspense in it. The Woman in Black, originally a novel by Susan Mill published in 1983, is a great example of a story with spine-tingling thrills of terror that don’t leave you for at least two weeks (speaking from personal experience).

This blog post isn’t about the book, though, which I have yet to read. One Friday evening I was sitting in the audience of the English Theatre of Hamburg with two friends. The lights went out, two actors appeared and the stage adaptation of The Woman in Black began.

I had managed to stay away from spoilers and had only read snippets from a few reviews which all repeated the play was terrifying, chilling, scared audiences everywhere etc. To be honest, for the first half hour I was a bit sceptical and wondered whether I’d manage to get at all absorbed in the story, since there was quite a lot of narration going on. But there was no need to worry.

The moment of transition to the action unfolding, rather than being remembered or talked about, was hard to pinpoint later, and I was on the edge of my seat (at times also shrinking back into it), waiting with everyone else when the woman in black would appear next. This play is also yet another good example of the impact of a well-crafted, well-played wordless role. The story becomes increasingly spooky and atmospheric, using lights and sound to their fullest advantage, coiling tension like a rope. We’re told at the beginning about an audience using their imagination, but I don’t need to. I’m completely drawn in.

What many might remember when seeing the title, and which I did as well, is the 2012 movie adapation with a very telegenic, fresh after Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe.

Which is scarier? The play or the movie? Or the book? Take your pick. Don’t forget the 1989 film version as well.