Friday, February 24, 2012

And the Oscar goes to ...The Help and HeLa

Updating to a post from early last year, as you read further down that older post, The Help and HeLa now have one additional thing in common, not only are they both excellent books, the former being fiction, while the subject of HeLa a non-fiction, they are now are movies.  Well, almost.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, (HeLa) is in the very early stages of becoming a movie. Oprah and HBO are collaborating.

You'll learn more about Henrietta later  below but Rebecca Skloot's book is  highly recommended. A biography on Henrietta, her family, life and science, it's  an extraordinary book!!!

Here are a couple of links:

 Rebecca Skloot's Website

Information on the Movie.  It's a bit dated but searches didn't result in any more up to date information from reputable websites on the progress or status of the movie. However, according to Ms Skloot's twitter account, no release date, perhaps production may start this year(2013).

Older post:


Having read the The Help by Kathyrn Stockett this past year, I was anxious to see the movie. So upon an unseasonably, warm New Years eve, I clicked on the remote and off I went, back into the 1960's in to the age of racial tension, assassination and the world of cleaning ladies and house maids.

As one fellow reader and movie goer pronounced to me, 'you'll love the movie, the way the characters are so brought to life and the casting is wonderful'.  I couldn't have said it better myself. The movie adaptation was one of the best, especially the cast!

I don't claim to be a prognosticator, but with the results of the Golden Globe awards being a precursor to the Oscars, my money is on The Help to clean up at least one category on Sunday night.

Now you may ask, okay, I know about the book and the movie, The Help.  But what is HeLa?

Best known in the science community, HeLa is the name given to a strand of cells that continue to grow and multiply, providing medical research the unprecedented ability to explore cures for cancer, polio and many other diseases.

Much like the story of the maids in the Help, HeLa has its own story to tell. Thanks to Rebecca Skloot's decade long research, those absent from the medical research field, now know the true story of HeLa. A story that needed to be told.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, isn't as much about science as it is about the love for one's mother, family, self dignity and pride.  Dying of cervical cancer in the early 50's, Henrietta unconsentingly and unknowingly provided cancerous cells to doctors and researchers.

Expecting these cells to die away like so many do, researchers were shocked to find they didn't. They continued to grow and live. What did these cells offer science you may ask? Henrietta Lacks' cells provided the basis to help cure many diseases ...

Skloot's writing not only tells about the life of these cells but what became of them, who they came from and why they've so effected each and everyone of our lives. People are alive today because of the HeLa cells were used to develop cures for cancer. That in itself is why the story needed to be told.

Interjecting factual events at Johns Hopkins, questionable ethical activities within the medical community, the stories of fraud and Supreme court cases signify the importance of Henrietta to the world.

The Lacks family for many years desired to learn more about their mother, how she lived, how she died and all that was left for Deborah, Henrietta's daughter, was a few strands of hair, a bible and the home-house where Henrietta was raised. All the while as their mothers cell's catapult research into a multi billion dollar industry while they can't afford their own medical insurance.

So in what the movie, The Help, provides us in entertainment and the state of society in the 60's,  Henrietta Lacks gives us something more important - - life, deserving of an award in her own right.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Grammy's and ...the passing of an icon

Sunday night's performances on the Grammy's remind us of how music is our emotional soundtrack. It can make us happy, dance with joy, celebratory, reflective, sorrowful and even sad. Then at times leave us scratching our heads wondering, what was that we just listened to or saw -- as was the case with Nikki Minaj's exorcism faux pas.

Imagine our lives without music. Rites of passage are so connected with a drum beat, dance step, strum of a string or blare of a horn.  What would a high school or college graduation ceremony be without Sir Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance? Or a wedding without the brides favorite songs? Silent.

There has been much debate surrounding the passing of Whitney Houston. Who's to blame? Her enablers? Family, friends, husband? the music industry itself? We all have choices and we all make mistakes.  Whitney had a choice to lead her life, marry whomever and thankfully a choice to sing.

And sing she did. Her songs give us one of the things we so love about music - Reflection. Reflection to the period of our youth, innocence and earlier times. Thus the reason for compilations. The Best of the 80's, Various artist's of the 80's. Top Videos from the 80's, Big Hair Bands of the 80's.  Go back to the stone age and visit a used record store or spend present day on iTunes and you'll find these collections in abundance.

Why? Because we love remembering the times we've experienced and are reminded of those through a song, melody or tune. Whitney's catalog of music is part of the soundtrack of the 80's, the MTV generation.

Whitney's death was a stunner. Step away from all the tabloidal news, photos, this or that, and listen just to her music. Think of where you were when you first heard "I wanna dance with somebody" or "The greatest love of all", think of who you were with, happy moments, sad times, loves made and loves lost.

Whitney's performances weren't about  Nikki Minaj/ Lady Gaga big-type productions, but about one thing - her voice. The Voice.

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters speaks to that in his Grammy acceptance speech, " me this award means alot because it shows the human element is what is important about music... Singing into a's not about what goes into a computer.."  Houston won six Grammys, twenty-two American Music Awards, thirty Billboard Music Awards and countless others.

She reminds us of life's fragile nature, the choices it allows us and our musical memories.

Houston blazed a trail for many artists that we've seen and heard over the past couple of decades. But very few if any just sing, sing like she did, that is until...


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sharing the memory of Eva Cassidy..

07/28/2013: Update - found this great story on Eva by ABC back in 2010:

The Eva Cassidy Story on ABC Nightline

02/02/2012  - I introduce to you, the music of...

...It was about a decade ago, a great friend was visiting and like most out of town guests, an excursion to the bevy of all shopping places, the Mall of America is on the list.

Taking in all the shops and shoppers, eateries and kiosks, we find our way to a music store.  Sifting through the CD section, yes CD's remember them? I hear my friend say, "Mike, ever heard of her, I think you'd like her."  I respond with either a verbal no or some form of body language that pronounces my answer. 

A decade will do a lot to ones memory as many other things will too. I can't recall if my friend purchased the CD for me or not, the mere suggestion was a gift in itself.  Sometime later, a day, a week, month or maybe years, I began listening to the music.  On occasion,  I'd spot another CD and even a book about the artist and add it to my collection.

Last night (2/1), as I tore the  January page off the calendar, a month that was filled with Stuart Woods' investigative character Stone Barrington, I grabbed Kathy Reich's next forensic thriller off my shelf. Sat down in a comfortable reading chair and began my journey to Montreal. But I became restless. So I hopped up, looked on my music shelf and thought, hmmmm, maybe I'll read a music bio this month too...

And there it was, Songbird, Eva Cassidy; Her Story by Those Who Knew Her.  Turning through the pages to understand a bit more about the grace of this woman, some I already knew, I  was suddenly overcome with chilling irony or perhaps a serendipitous moment?

The beautiful Eva Cassidy and I have the same birthday. Her being born one year earlier. What day is it that her and I share...Today, February 2nd.  Happy Birthday Eva!

Years pass, friends come and go. Some memories fade and some of us die too young, such is the case of Eva, having died of melanoma at the age of 33 in 1996.  Eva's music transcends itself and her heavenly voice keeps her in our presence.

So I give you the gift my friend presented to me so many years ago. A gift named Eva Cassidy.

"...She did alot of covers, yet it was like hearing a song for the first time." - Mick Fleetwood


Somewhere Over the Rainbow:

What a Wonderful World:

One of several CDs below and yes, for those of the digital ilk, her music is available on itunes as well.