Nora Ephron – Self Help

This list kills me, reminds me. focuses me, shuts me up, angers me, softens me, and inspires me to grab life and wring every last drop out of it.  It forces me to look at the time I have wasted and vow to never waste any more.  I love Nora Ephron for so many reasons, but this list is what I think about most when I think about her:

nora

The great Nora Ephron passed away at the age of 71, following a battle with leukemia that began in 2006. She had many strings to her bow, but most notably wrote the screenplays to some of the best loved films ever to grace the big screen, many of which she also directed and produced. She wrote the following lists — of things she won’t and will miss — in 2010 and used them to close her book, I Remember Nothing.

(Source: “I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections” by Nora Ephron)

What I Won’t Miss

  • Dry skin
  • Bad dinners like the one we went to last night
  • E-mail
  • Technology in general
  • My closet
  • Washing my hair
  • Bras
  • Funerals
  • Illness everywhere
  • Polls that show that 32 percent of the American people believe in creationism
  • Polls
  • Fox TV
  • The collapse of the dollar
  • Bar mitzvahs
  • Mammograms
  • Dead flowers
  • The sound of the vacuum cleaner
  • Bills
  • E-mail. I know I already said it, but I want to emphasize it.
  • Small print
  • Panels on Women in Film
  • Taking off makeup every night

What I Will Miss

  • My kids
  • Nick
  • Spring
  • Fall
  • Waffles
  • The concept of waffles
  • Bacon
  • A walk in the park
  • The idea of a walk in the park
  • The park
  • Shakespeare in the Park
  • The bed
  • Reading in bed
  • Fireworks
  • Laughs
  • The view out the window
  • Twinkle lights
  • Butter
  • Dinner at home just the two of us
  • Dinner with friends
  • Dinner with friends in cities where none of us lives
  • Paris
  • Next year in Istanbul
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Christmas tree
  • Thanksgiving dinner
  • One for the table
  • The dogwood
  • Taking a bath
  • Coming over the bridge to Manhattan
  • Pie

 

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Don’t Do It For Anyone Else – Self Help

Today is my last day working for a company that I should have left a year ago.  The stars had to align, I had to find the best next step for me.  Basically, I had to run to something and not run away from something.  I think that I have found it and just like with most major changes, it happens so slowly it is almost undetectable, but with a blink of an eye, it was the new reality.  If I could give advice to my coworkers today, it would be to apply and interview everywhere, know your worth, make sure your obligation is to yourself first.  A long time ago, I got some advice from a coworker on her last day at that very large .com retailer I used to work for, she said “Don’t ever love a company because it is incapable of loving you back.”  It seemed harsh at the time, seeing I was still there and she was leaving.  Over the years, I have understood more of what she was saying:  Keep your priorities in check, Your obligation is to yourself first, Do not lose sight of who you are. It is true, we all fall into it to some extent, but unless the company is your creation, do not let it become your identity.  Hopefully, your company finds value in you and is active in creating a path that allows you to grow along with it and you are recognized for your efforts and participation in it’s success.  The successful company part of you is great, but it is not your identity.  Keep something for yourself.  Do something that is you and only you, that you enjoy.  Don’t do it for anyone else.

There is so much I could and want to say about Keith Haring, he is a personal inspiration and style icon.  I think of this advice quite a bit and is a lot to do with how I structured waldina.com.  I wanted to chronicle what inspired me, good and bad, but mostly good.  I didn’t think too much about what it would mean to anyone else, I figured it would be somewhat interesting from time to time and maybe every now and then, someone would find something they could use in their life.  But I knew I would only think it was good if I only did it for myself.

It’s incredible to think that Keith Haring was only alive for 31 years, given the impact of his work. In New York particularly, his public pop-art greeted many thousands of people every day, and internationally is highly regarded and recognized as a major art influence. He also left behind a valuable legacy that includes, alongside his artwork, the Keith Haring Foundation; launched in 1989 “to assist AIDS-related and children’s charities”, said disease being the cause of his death just a year later.

Below: a brief letter of advice he wrote to an aspiring artist and fan of Haring’s work, circa-1987.

KEITH HARING

676 BROADWAY N.Y.C. 10012 212-477-1579

Michael -

Thanks for your letter. I draw everyday. When I was 15, I wanted to be an artist so I drew all the time. It was my only visible talent.

Whatever you do, the only secret is to believe in it and satisfy yourself. Don’t do it for anyone else.

Good luck,

Keith

Thank you, Mr. Hitchcock

Today is the birthday of arguably one of the best film directors of all time, Alfred Hitchcock.  His films are perfections of the suspense/thriller genre.  Please consider watching one of them the next time you are planning movie night.  We have the box set out at the lake house and I sometimes just pop one in and catch a bit of it as I come and go throughout the day.  They are like old friends you never tire of seeing.

In March of 1962, Alfred Hitchcock took a break during filming of The Birds in Bodega Bay and visited a local school to greet the pupils. Soon after, the school’s principal wrote the following letter of thanks to the filmmaker, and described the visit’s positive effect on one particular child.

Transcript follows.

Transcript

WILMAR UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT

3775 Bodega Highway

PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA

April 3, 1962

Mr. Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock Productions

Bodega Bay, California

Dear Mr. Hitchcock:

I wanted to take the time to say that your stopping one morning on your way to Bodega Bay to give a group of children a drawing and autograph of you was certainly a deed of thoughtfulness. It is realized that taking the time from your busy schedule is not an easy thing to do.

The real purpose of this letter is to inform you what your deed of kindness did for a boy to whom you gave your drawing and autograph. This boy is quite shy and does not participate readily in class activities, such as sharing his experiences before others during sharing time. He was so thrilled and moved by his experience that he proudly shared his experience and autograph not only with his own class, but in every classroom in the school. The boy never before has done such a thing. Many times it takes such a spark as this to help a youngster out of his shell and on the road to confidence. You don’t realize what your act of kindness has done for this child.

I realize that many other people since then have tried to take advantage of the same opportunity and this has made it difficult and impossible for you to fulfill. None the less, your thoughtful act will not be forgotten by youngsters and teachers alike.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Duncan Coleman

Principal

The Golden Bowl Is Broken

I remember reading this letter years ago.  I used to spend many rainy afternoons in the college library avoiding any course-related work by devouring the biographies of the “Lost Generation” writers, artists, composers, dancers, and their benefactors.  This letter has remained with me and I am reminded of it whenever I or someone I know experiences loss.  I used to include the “golden bowl” line in sympathy cards, but I think it really only meant something to me.  After reading several biographies on the Murphy family, I felt very fond of them, their loss of their two boys, while having all the treatments and specialists money could buy, hurt as if I actually knew them.  The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald was an often-borrowed book from several libraries from Seattle to Interlochen (until I found my own copy in a second-hand book store) and it’s content I think of at least once a week.  I hope you like it too. 

On January 30th of 1937, two years after his older brother, Baoth, succumbed to meningitis, 16-year-old Patrick Murphy passed away following a seven year battle with tuberculosis.  The boys’ 20-year-old sister, Honoria, remained.  A few days later, the children’s distraught parents, Gerald and Sara Murphy, received the following letter of condolence from their friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

January 31, 1937

Dearest Gerald and Sara:

The telegram came today and the whole afternoon was so sad with thoughts of you and the happy times we had once. Another link binding you to life is broken and with such insensate cruelty that it is hard to say which of the two blows was conceived with more malice. I can see the silence in which you hover now after this seven years of struggle and it would take words like Lincoln’s in his letter to the mother who had lost four sons in the war to write you anything fitting at the moment. The sympathy you will get will be what you have had from each other already and for a long, long time you will be inconsolable.

But I can see another generation growing up around Honoria and an eventual peace somewhere, an occasional port of call as we all sail deathward. Fate can’t have any more arrows in its quiver for you that will wound like these. Who was it said that it was astounding how deepest griefs can change in time to a sort of joy?  The golden bowl is broken indeed but it was golden; nothing can ever take those boys away from you now.

Scott

Why I am an Atheist

In 1903, Kentucky-based newspaper “Blue-grass Blade” asked its readers to write in and contribute to a forthcoming feature named, “Why I am An Atheist.” Hundreds of letters soon arrived and many were subsequently reprinted in the paper; over a century later, in 2011, they were compiled to form the book, Letters from an Atheist Nation.

Below is just one of the letters. It was written by Minnie Parrish, a 23-year-old divorced mother of four who later went on to become the first female doctor to practice in North Texas.

Why am I an Atheist

 

Because it has dawned upon me that it is right to be so, and upon investigation I find no real evidence of the divine origin of the scriptures. And because I cannot, as a refined and respectable woman, take to my bosom as a daily guide a book of such low morals and degrading influences. Written by a lot of priests, I cannot accept a salvation that is based wholly upon the dreams of an ancient and superstitious people, with no proof save blind faith.

 

Everything that so many people think transpires from the supernatural, and many things that would really perplex the average mind, have a natural and material foundation in the workings of the human mind; that is, things that are not connected with our solar system.

 

It is ignorance of the scientific working of their own natures and mind that keep so much “mystery” in the air; and as long as there is a mystery afloat the people will ascribe it to the supernatural.

 

I am an Atheist because I know the Bible will not do to depend upon. I have tried it, and found it wanting.

 

In fact, I found in the scriptures the origin of woman’s slayer, and that it was one of God‘s main points to oppress women and keep them in the realms of ignorance.

 

I am in the ranks of Liberalism because of its elevating principles, its broad road to freedom of thought, speech, and investigation.

 

MINNIE O. PARRISH
23 years old
Leonard, Texas

Letters of Note: Why I am an Atheist.

I’m unhappy, hope you’re unhappy too

Here we have the first letter sent by 21-year-old Morrissey to his Scottish pen-pal, Robert Mackie in 1980, in response to a personal ad in Sounds magazine. His note was written on the back of a James Dean photo (James Dean was of course the subject of a book written by Morrissey around that time), and as a result of the letter Morrissey and Mackie became pen-pals for 18 months. The Smiths formed in 1983.

Steven Morrissey

384- Kings Rd

STRETFORD

Manchester- M32 8GW

Dear Person,

So nice to know there’s another soul out there, even if it is in Glasgow.

Does being Scottish bother you? Manchester is a lovely little place, if you happen to be a bedridden deaf mute.

I’m unhappy, hope you’re unhappy too.

In poverty,

Steven

Smells Like Teen Spirit

We drive by Kurt and Courtney‘s old house a lot on our way home, we drive by the park where there are always people taking pictures of the bench and leaving flowers and candles.  For some reason, I like the idea that people are still drawn to his tiny little park.  His enormous hedge of rhododendrons is threatening to bloom and will do just that any day, I will share a photo when it does.Kurt Cobain hand-wrote the following to-do list mid-1991, as Nirvana prepared to film the now-iconic music video for Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was eventually filmed on a sound stage and directed by Samuel Bayer.

Transcript follows. Image from the book, Kurt Cobain: Journals.

Transcript

Smells Like Teen Spirt

needed

1. Mercedes benz and a few old cars

2. Access to a abandoned mall, main floor and one Jewelry shop.

3. lots of fake Jewelry

4. School Auditorium (Gym)

5. A cast of hundreds. 1 custodian, students.

6. 6 black Cheerleader outfits with Anarchy A’s Ⓐ on chest

The Bulk of all Human Utterances is Plagiarism

In 1892, deafblind author Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism after a short story of hers, named “The Frost King,” was identified as being extremely similar to Margaret Canby’s “Frost Fairies.” An investigation followed, as did a tribunal in which she was eventually acquitted. Amazingly, Keller was just 12 years of age at the time.

A decade later, her friend, Mark Twain, learned of the episode after reading Keller’s autobiography. He then wrote her the fascinating letter of support seen below.

 

Riverdale-on-the-Hudson

St. Patrick’s Day, ’03

Dear Helen,—

I must steal half a moment from my work to say how glad I am to have your book, and how highly I value it, both for its own sake and as a remembrance of an affectionate friendship which has subsisted between us for nine years without a break, and without a single act of violence that I can call to mind. I suppose there is nothing like it in heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off. I often think of it with longing, and how they’ll say, “There they come—sit down in front!” I am practicing with a tin halo. You do the same. I was at Henry Roger’s last night, and of course we talked of you. He is not at all well;—you will not like to hear that; but like you and me, he is just as lovely as ever.

I am charmed with your book—enchanted. You are a wonderful creature, the most wonderful in the world—you and your other half together—Miss Sullivan, I mean, for it took the pair of you to make a complete and perfect whole. How she stands out in her letters! her brilliancy, penetration, originality, wisdom, character, and the fine literary competencies of her pen—they are all there.

Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men—but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington’s battle, in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite—that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.

Then why don’t we unwittingly reproduce the phrasing of a story, as well as the story itself? It can hardly happen—to the extent of fifty words except in the case of a child; its memory-tablet is not lumbered with impressions, and the actual language can have graving-room there, and preserve the language a year or two, but a grown person’s memory-tablet is a palimpsest, with hardly a bare space upon which to engrave a phrase. It must be a very rare thing that a whole page gets so sharply printed on a man’s mind, by a single reading, that it will stay long enough to turn up some time or other to be mistaken by him for his own. No doubt we are constantly littering our literature with disconnected sentences borrowed from books at some unremembered time and now imagined to be our own, but that is about the most we can do. In 1866 I read Dr. Holmes’s poems, in the Sandwich Islands. A year and a half later I stole his dedication, without knowing it, and used it to dedicate my “Innocents Abroad” with. Then years afterward I was talking with Dr. Holmes about it. He was not an ignorant ass—no, not he; he was not a collection of decayed human turnips, like your “Plagiarism Court;” and so when I said, “I know now where I stole it, but whom did you steal it from,” he said, “I don’t remember; I only know I stole it from somebody, because I have never originated anything altogether myself, nor met anyone who had.”

To think of those solemn donkeys breaking a little child’s heart with their ignorant rubbish about plagiarism! I couldn’t sleep for blaspheming about it last night. Why, their whole lives, their whole histories, all their learning, all their thoughts, all their opinions were one solid rock of plagiarism, and they didn’t know it and never suspected it. A gang of dull and hoary pirates piously setting themselves the task of disciplining and purifying a kitten that they think they’ve caught filching a chop! Oh, dam—

But you finish it, dear, I am running short of vocabulary today.

Every lovingly your friend

Mark

Things to worry about – F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

On August 8th of 1933, author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the following letter of advice to his 11-year-old daughter, “Scottie,” who was away at camp.

La Paix, Rodgers’ Forge

Towson, Maryland

August 8, 1933

Dear Pie:

I feel very strongly about you doing duty. Would you give me a little more documentation about your reading in French? I am glad you are happy — but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed pages, they never really happen to you in life.

All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs “Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”

Have had no thoughts today, life seems composed of getting up a Saturday Evening Post story. I think of you, and always pleasantly; but if you call me “Pappy” again I am going to take the White Cat out and beat his bottom hard, six times for every time you are impertinent. Do you react to that?

I will arrange the camp bill.

Halfwit, I will conclude.

Things to worry about:

  • Worry about courage
  • Worry about Cleanliness
  • Worry about efficiency
  • Worry about horsemanship
  • Worry about. . .

Things not to worry about:

  • Don’t worry about popular opinion
  • Don’t worry about dolls
  • Don’t worry about the past
  • Don’t worry about the future
  • Don’t worry about growing up
  • Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
  • Don’t worry about triumph
  • Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
  • Don’t worry about mosquitoes
  • Don’t worry about flies
  • Don’t worry about insects in general
  • Don’t worry about parents
  • Don’t worry about boys
  • Don’t worry about disappointments
  • Don’t worry about pleasures
  • Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

  • What am I really aiming at?
  • How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:
  • (a) Scholarship
  • (b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
  • (c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

Daddy

P.S. My come-back to your calling me Pappy is christening you by the word Egg, which implies that you belong to a very rudimentary state of life and that I could break you up and crack you open at my will and I think it would be a word that would hang on if I ever told it to your contemporaries. “Egg Fitzgerald.” How would you like that to go through life with — “Eggie Fitzgerald” or “Bad Egg Fitzgerald” or any form that might occur to fertile minds? Try it once more and I swear to God I will hang it on you and it will be up to you to shake it off. Why borrow trouble?

Love anyhow.

Something Extraordinary

I had quite thought that I would be spending this spring reading Agatha Christie mysteries in order of publication, maybe D.V. again, obviously The Perks of being a Wallflower, and who really knows what else, but it looks like I may need to crank through The Great Gatsby one more time.  Partially because of this letter, and partially due to the release of the movie.  I adore the 1973 adaptation so very much, I do hope that the new one is as gloriously and festively sad.  The book had quite possibly the most perfect last paragraph of a novel that ever has been written.  So much so, it is Scott and Zelda’s epitaph.

July, 1922. In the final paragraph of an otherwise unremarkable letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, author F. Scott Fitzgerald passionately announces his desire to begin writing “something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.”

The novel he had mentioned for the first time was The Great Gatsby.

Dear Mr. Perkins:

Glad you liked the addenda to the Table of Contents. I feel quite confident the book will go. How do you think The Love Legend will sell? You’ll be glad to know that nothing has come of the movie idea & I’m rather glad myself. At present working on my play — the same one. Trying to arrange for an Oct. production in New York. Bunny Wilson (Edmund Wilson Jr.) says that it’s without doubt the best American comedy to date (that’s just between you and me.)

Did you see that in that Literary Digest contest I stood 6th among the novelists? Not that it matters. I suspect you of having been one of the voters.

Will you see that the semi-yearly account is mailed to me by the 1st of the month — or before if it is ready? I want to see where I stand. I want to write something new — something extraordinary and beautiful and simple & intricately patterned.

As Usual

(Signed, ‘F Scott Fitzgerald’)

via Letters of Note.