Gillespie Life


A helping hand

Cody Bearden gives a hand to “Jaco,” a robotic device that helps him have an easier time performing everyday tasks. Bearden’s family is seeking donations to purchase the apparatus. — Standard-Radio Post/Richard Zowie

By Richard Zowie


After an hour of installation and almost two hours of programming, it was finally ready.

As Abe Clark of Canada-based Kinova company finished the wiring, Cody Bearden began his “test drive.”

Confined to a wheelchair due to being born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Bearden was able to increase his mobility during a 2.5-day trial use of “Jaco.”

Named after Jacques (Jaco) Forest, a Quebec engineer who designed it, this mechanical arm helped Bearden do things from his wheelchair he normally wouldn’t be able to do, such as turn on or off lights, press a button to get a drink of water from a fountain, and open doors.

On its website, Kinova describes Jaco as “an assistive robotic arm for upper body disabled persons in a power wheelchair. Its unique features will help you push the boundaries of your limitations and better equip you to live in this world with its obstacles.”


Bridging the gap

Ariana Detmar took advantage of the Rotary International Youth Exchange Program to visit Argentina for 10 months instead of entering college after graduating high school. — Submitted photo

By Austin R. Eck


Most high school seniors graduate and enjoy summer break before packing their bags and heading to college.

But after Ariana Detmar graduated from Fredericksburg High School, she deviated from the script. Instead of gathering her belongings, putting them in the back of a truck and heading to college, she packed up and headed south — for Leandro N. Alem, Argentina.

Detmar delayed her college career a year to participate in the Rotary International Youth Exchange, a study-abroad program that allows students to experience education in other countries, while being hosted by Rotary clubs.

The summer before her senior year, she began applying to colleges like many of her classmates.

“I applied to college just like everyone else because you can defer your acceptance for a year at most places,” Detmar said.


'I just thought there'd be more': Revisiting 'Boyhood'

Coming-of-age films are nothing new.

Boy starts out young and naïve, things happen, boy matures, end of film.

Filmmakers have always circumnavigated lengthy time jumps in these sort of movies by casting multiple actors to play the same part at different ages.

In the case of the Golden Globe-winning drama “Boyhood,” director Richard Linklater took the slow approach, filming segments of his movie over the past 12 years as young actor Ellar Coltrane grows up in the film around him.

The film, which missed out on the Cinematic Considerations 10 best films of 2014 (available online at, is worth a second look following an initial review in September.

A lot is made of the 12-year filmmaking process, and indeed, “Boyhood” and Linklater need to be commended for their dedication to the project.


2014: A Cinematic Year In Review

By most accounts, 2014 was an underwhelming year in cinema, with revenues dropping by over five percent and attendance dropping around six percent to the lowest figure in nearly two decades, according to “Variety.”

Film quality has a lot to do with this downturn as a lot of big name films were either pushed back out of 2014 (“Jupiter Ascending”), performed poorly (“Transcendence”) or failed to screen at theaters almost entirely (“The Interview”).

There was a large dearth of family friendly entertainment throughout much of 2014, though that genre picked up significantly at the end of the year and should continue throughout 2015.

2014 was also a year for independent, art house cinema to take center stage, with some of the year’s best films getting wider release, thanks to miscues by larger films. Michael Keaton’s “Birdman” and Bill Murray’s “St. Vincent” seem to be the clear winners here.


Do your homework, then go 'Into the Woods'

Many audiences have left the Disney-produced fairy tale film, “Into the Woods,” disappointed and with little right to be.

Certainly, the studio is to fault for not clearing up the confusion surrounding the film. Too many people have left screenings surprised they just watched a musical and many others probably were in shock when the film doesn’t end with Cinderella’s marriage to the prince.

But moviegoers should have seen this coming.

The film, a clear adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 Broadway musical of the same name, is a darker intersection of several classic fairytales, including “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Giant Beanstalk” and “Little Red Riding Hood.”

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rightly rated “Into the Woods” PG “for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.”

The film is more “Snow White and the Huntsman” than the animated classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”


'Wild' captivates audiences, thanks to Witherspoon's stunning performance

Some films are designed for escapism, a chance to remove the viewer from the everyday grind and stresses of real life and pull them into somewhere new and exciting.

Other films are meant to draw the viewer into a cinematic experience, offering us something to learn from along the way.

Cheryl Strayed’s true-life story of a newly single woman hiking the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail as a means to cope with loss isn’t meant as escapism.

There’s a passionate message of empowerment and rebirth in “Wild,” the latest film from director Jean Marc Vallée of “Dallas Buyers Club” fame. The film is an emotional roller coaster that will resonate with anyone who has lost a close loved one or feels alone with a sense of loss.

With a terrific script adapted from Strayed’s 2012 book by Nick Hornby, the film itself centers around Strayed’s journey from southern California to Canada and requires a tour de force performance from its leading actress.


'Secret of the Tomb' helps viewers bid farewell to Robin Williams

Now that the final installment of “Night at the Museum” has arrived in theaters, it’s sad to think that this will be the last time that comedy legend Robin Williams will be shown on the big screen.

Sure, we can hear his voice again as Dennis the Dog in the upcoming animated feature “Absolutely Anything,” but it just won’t be the same.

Things aren’t quite the same in “Secret of the Tomb,” the last of the “Night of the Museum” movies pitting Ben Stiller as a bumbling security guard managing exhibits that magically come to life at night.

The story isn’t really relevant and takes a general backseat to the notion, played up in the film itself, that with the death of Williams, this is the end for a heartwarming era in comedy.


'Exodus' lacks both gods, kings in Hollywood's latest Biblical epic

Biblically-inspired 3D epic film doesn’t really sound like a very appealing genre, especially after Russell Crowe’s dud “Noah” released to much derision earlier this year.

There’s a lot of unevenness to Ridley Scott’s latest feature, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which re-imagines the Biblical story of Moses as action-adventure fodder.

Oscar-winner Christian Bale picks up sword not staff to play Moses, a highly conflicted character uncertain of what actions are morally just.

Understandably, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” might not play very well with devout Christians, who could find the liberties taken in the depiction of the plagues and God’s interaction with Moses off-putting.


Area stores show creativity in Christmas decorations

By Richard Zowie


With the Christmas shopping season in full throttle, area businesses have been lighting up the town, which is known for its yule-time displays and lighted building outlines.

While clerks are busy with customers inside the Peach Basket Natural Foods, a familiar face is outside the store at 334 West Main Street.

Maria Guzman, Peach Basket’s warehouse receiver, works outside in front of the store. While traffic moves on Main Street, Guzman quietly strings up multi-colored lights along the awning and support poles. She also decorates small, wire reindeer with the lights.

Putting up Christmas lights can be a tedious task, especially when lights go out.

Guzman, however, says nothing, works calmly and seems to prefer talking through her creativity.


Redmayne transforms as famed physicist in 'Theory of Everything"

Eddie Redmayne better be nominated for an Academy Award.

He might not win, but with a pitch-perfect performance requiring such specific nuance in physicality, Redmayne certainly deserves acclaim for his turn as famed physicist Stephen Hawking in the British drama “The Theory of Everything.”

An hour into the film, it’s all too easy to forget that Redmayne is an actor portraying a character on screen.

While the film certainly deals with Hawking’s emergence as one of the world’s premiere scientists, “The Theory of Everything” focuses more on the development of Hawking’s relationship with his future wife, Jane, amid the onset of his debilitating ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

One part biopic and two parts love story, the film works only because Redmayne’s heartbreaking portrayal of Hawking pairs perfectly with Felicity Jones’ understated, yet firm Jane.


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