Movie Discussion – “The Man Who Invented Christmas”

This is something a bit different for me as it doesn’t generally cross my mind to discuss/review movies on my blog. I have opinions, of course, but I have previously viewed what I post here to lean more literary than pop culture. But change is good sometimes, right? And there are certainly spoilers ahead.

Jumping right in: “The Man Who Invented Christmas” is the story of the writing of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – from the initial inception of the story to the creation of the title character and everything that goes with him. Dickens financed the publication of his book since his publishers didn’t believe they could have the book available in less than 6 weeks for purchase by Christmas.

What enthralled me about this movie had less to do with the story and more to do with the portrayal of Dickens’ process in writing A Christmas Carol. As a creative writer, I have similar process; and my characters are not names on a page, but real people with real personalities and voices. Watching Dickens become wrapped up in his work was almost like watching myself on a movie screen. I understood his exuberance at finally naming Scrooge, and then smiled as he turned and saw the manifestation of his character. These were all experiences with which I could completely relate.

And then Dickens’ father came into the story, and again, I could relate. I know what it’s like to be so utterly disappointed/abandoned/betrayed by one of two people in the world who should never be the source of abandonment or betrayal – parents. In the movie, the father is a thorn in the writer’s side, a constant irritation and festering wound that had never fully healed. I hurt for the character (Dickens) and support his icy attitude towards his father/parents. As a writer (and knowing the plot of A Christmas Carol), I knew that there would have to be resolution to the rift between father and son. But I didn’t want Dickens to have to apologize, but rather the father come to his senses and beg his son’s forgiveness for the lifetime of hardship and betrayal. And yet, that’s not how it happened. I will stop now before giving away too much of the movie, but the happy ending happens because of Dickens’ change of heart. He redeems his wretched book character even as he redeems himself.

I knew that my issue with the father character had to do with my still unresolved hurt with my own father. After a few days of mentally chewing on the movie, I finally allowed God to show me what I need to see: there will be people in our lives that we must show mercy to because it is the only way we will be able to deal with them. The mercy isn’t completely for those people, but also for us – because if we hold on to the hurt, it will be a poison that will kill our joy. Mercy isn’t just the best option, but sometimes it’s the only option.

Side Note: There is a comment from one of my writing books that I enjoy quoting, even though I don’t remember the book title or author’s name: A writer has been successful is he/she has made the reader care. Even if the work you read makes you angry, the writer has succeeded if his/her work has caused you to react emotionally.

Well, I certainly reacted emotionally to this movie, producing both positive and negative emotions. And I was still thinking about the movie hours/days after leaving the theater. The story of this movie not only elicited an emotional response, but also caused a fair amount of introspective thinking.

Brett Lot states that all literature (regardless of the medium) should “give the reader back to himself.” And in a way, that is what the script did for me.

the hypocrisy of the person writing this post

I had a recent experience with a former suitor (not quite a boyfriend, but almost 2 months of dating) that has left me annoyed and a little hurt. And also contemplative.

Said person re-entered my life after about 7 months of silence. He supposedly just wanted to be friends because he was still wounded from his divorce. He wasn’t ready for a relationship, but he missed talking to and hanging out with me. And then an ex-girlfriend called, and suddenly his status changed. And we also couldn’t be friends anymore. Awesome.

I won’t go into the a lot of details of the first go-round with the suitor, but our relationship/thing ended because he was abducted by aliens and forced to give up his cell phone and laptop and not allowed to responded to any messages. That sounds more fun than the truth. And yet, I forgave him and agreed to be friends. I was okay with him not wanting to date because I didn’t trust him that much yet. But he flirted and it was nice. And then came 4 days of silence, and then I was done. Again.

There was also the sense of rejection that has left me smarting somewhat. I didn’t want to date him again, but it still stung that he didn’t want to date me. He was open to being in a relationship, but not with me.

And once again, I was disposable. That’s the part that bugs me the most – I was kept around until he didn’t want to deal with me anymore, and then I was discarded.

So – jerk, right? Yeah. Completely. But not just him. Me too.

It took most of the day of wallowing and ranting before I began to see the hypocrisy of my actions. Had I stopped looking/talking/etc to other guys while the suitor and I were being friends? Of course not. Why would I? He and I were only platonic friends. It’s not like I had a string of potential dates lined up at my door, but still – I wasn’t limiting myself because of him. And he was equally free to pursue someone.

So what’s the big deal? A man I didn’t have any romantic interest in didn’t want me. That’s it.

Now I did find out about him lying to me about something fairly significant during our relationship, but there’s nothing I can really do about it now.  I suppose I could “confront” him via text, but how would that help? Plus, I’m old enough to think before I act.

As I calmed down, I found myself remembering times when I had treated someone with the same “disposable” action. I didn’t do it to be malicious, but the action was still the same. We have all been this way, as much as we don’t want to admit it. We have all been the jerk suitor at some point in our life. We’ve all been hypocrites.

What now? I shake the dust from my feet and move on. I will remember two things from this experience: not to allow anyone to treat me as a disposable bottle, and also not to treat others as though they are discard-able. I have more value than that, and so does everyone else.

 

Road

I saw the road you took –

just a simple, black asphalt path

with the old wooden rails

that looked like they could barely

hold their own weight,

let alone everything that was between us.

Nothing grand about that road

except it’s where we stood at that moment.

But then you left –

left me, left what used to be us.

We could have been great.

Or not.

Either way, now we’ll never know.

Leaves crunched

under your boots as you walked,

never looking back.

And then I lost sight of you

because I was staring at the trees –

lining the road like sentries,

green gems shining under the sun.

No wonder you chose

to go this way. Maybe I should too.

The Solo Path of Redemption

I’ve had this sort of rant for a while regarding Star Wars and Han Solo. I rarely get to expound on it because I rarely meet people who (1) dig Star Wars as much I do and are willing to listen (2) care about the actual story and characters like I do. But then I remembered this here blog – hooray for making your own platform. So, here it goes.

 

Han shot first. Those of us who remember the original movies before George Lucas jazzed them up for the DVD version already know this. There isn’t a debate at all – he shot before Greedo before Greedo could shoot him.

So what’s the big deal about it? Well apparently something for Lucas to change the scene so it looked like Han fired his weapon in self-defense. Perhaps he didn’t want Solo to look like such a bad guy in the beginning. Maybe outside pressure forced the director to soften Han’s rougher edges and make him less like a villain and more like an okay guy who just happens to be a smuggler for a mobster. Not so bad, right?

But softening the edges actually does the character more harm than good. Han Solo is a scoundrel – he says so himself in “Empire Strikes Back.” He’s not a good guy at all, and in the beginning, is only out for himself. He agrees to take Obi-Wan and Luke to Alderaan for two reasons: (1) money and (2) to skip out on the boss who just tried to kill him.

The boss, of course, is Jabba the Hutt. Think of Jabba as the Godfather – how many guys worked for Corleone and never killed anyone? It’s probable that Greedo wasn’t the first guy/being killed by Han. Highly likely.

Han Solo is a scoundrel who thinks of himself first and foremost. He is, without a doubt, flawed. And unlike Luke and Leia, who were already focused on helping others before themselves, Han’s character was in need of redemption. His journey actually began in the final scenes of “A New Hope” when he decided not to abandon his new friend Luke and run off with his reward money.

One of the best stories told throughout Star Wars is that of a man who went from caring about no one but himself to caring about everyone else first before considering himself. And not only does Han end up fighting with the rebels, but he is willing to step aside when he thinks the love of his life is in love with his best friend – that is not the Han Solo that we meet at the beginning of the story. And the depth of his story is shortened (and we are robbed) when you/society tries to make his edges less rough, less unpleasant and “bad.”

Even at his worse, Han is still a relatable, very human character. How? Because he is flawed and in need of redemption. We all are. For those who don’t like the religious undertones of that word, let’s say amends/atonement/rescue – from behaviors or decisions or points in our life that weigh us down and make us scoundrels. We have all been a scoundrel at some point in our life, and few of us probably wanted to remain as such. Han found a way to a new life and a better version of himself – another something that most of us can relate to and desire.

So why make him less scandalous in the beginning? Changing the timing of his trigger pull not only lessens his character’s transformation, but it lessens us a little too. It’s okay that Han shot first. We want him to. We might even need him to – for the story, and for us too.

 

 

Things that make me gasp…

Favorite quotes from Archipelago by David Jacobsen

“I believe that every time I put a word down with the intention of making something to last, whether a story or novel or essay, I am inside a moment in which I better be attempting to wrestle with a matter of life and death.”

“I believe even the sheer act of writing is a matter of life and death, that if I am not here in my place and writing, that I am not seeking with the means I have been given – an ability with the written word – to find meaning that will matter.”

“…where I am sitting when I write is the sacred beginning of any attempt to make concrete via words those matters of life and death the worlds inside my own books seek to explore.”

“…I want to remember why I am here, and why this whole writing thing deserves my deepest attention, and my innermost focus.”

“Words and what they can do are important, because in the beginning was the Word.”

——————-

I am finding my place again and remembering the importance of being where I am now, writing and creating and telling the story that I was born to tell.

And when I am not writing, not working on the story, I am away from the world I have fallen in love with and I miss it. I miss her, my sweet Jaelith, and I am only biding my time until I can return to a world as real as the place where I live and breathe. I like to think that she also misses my company – that they all miss me and will not continue with their lives until I am back and in my place.

Find your place, wherever it is and whatever you are meant to do. Find your place and refuse to be moved from it.

 

yay naps

Naps can be tricky. Sometimes they help because they allow the body and rest and rejuvenate, and sometimes they just make you groggy and lethargic for the rest of the day/evening. And sometimes, they help wake you up.

I live in the Houston area, and most of the country has probably heard something about Hurricane Harvey. I was blessed to not have been one of the thousands of people who was flooded, and I have spent the past several days volunteering at my church and helping provide supplies and hot meals to people affected by the storm.

Yay volunteering, yes? Sure. As can be expected, there was so much work to do and not ever enough people to do it. And the lunch/dinner times were completely hectic. And I ended up physical and mentally exhausted and stressed, and most of the stress was my doing because I let all of the little things that happened become personal.

And while helping out is a great thing, I put aside work important to me and forgot everything else so I could wear myself out several hours a day and several days in a row. Basically, I got lost.

This evening, as I was attempting to return to the church to help with dinner, my body changed my plans and demanded rest – i.e. I almost fell asleep in the drive-thru at McDonald’s. So I went home and napped. And almost 3 hours later, I woke up. A lot.

Maybe the book I am writing isn’t important to anyone else, but it’s important to me. Maybe it seems more worthwhile to throw all of my time into volunteering, because it’s just this writing thing I do, right? (I do also work as a writer and am paid for it).

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Martha in the bible, when she complained to Jesus about her sister not helping her. I was looking at that story from one particular perspective (because I am absolutely a Martha), but I suddenly see it differently. She was so lost in the stress of the work at hand that she forgot to balance herself. She forgot to stop and enjoy her guest and dear friend. I lost my balance, and my nap was the thing I needed to wake up and remember that.

Moral? Naps can be good.  And don’t lose balance – everything should have a place in your time table.

who knew “not sheer” was prude-ish?

For all of my non-girly ways (no heels, little make-up, sci-fi fan, sarcasm aficionado), I still enjoy looking at pretty dresses. Pick an awards show and I used to watch it just to see the dresses. And then I would buy the magazines to look at pages filled with more pretty dresses.

This may not be good to admit, but I pretty much ignore anything to do with the Cannes Film Festival, with the exception of the dress pictures. I may not be overly young (I’m closer to 40 than 35), but I am up on current fashion trends – even if I don’t get them – and I am not shocked by the show of skin. That being said, I was fairly surprised at the dresses I was seeing at Cannes – almost everything was sheer. And a lot of models. I had flipped through more than 30 pictures before I came upon an actual actress.

Back to the dresses: I couldn’t help but feel a little sad and disappointed. What has happened to fashion that sheer dresses over body suits is considered tasteful and glamorous? It’s somewhat reminiscent of the tale of Emperor’s new clothes, but this time around it’s well-known designers trying to convince us that there really is a beautiful dress worth seeing and remembering. Again, showing skin doesn’t shock me. One of my favorite Oscar dresses is Halle Berry’s Elle Saab and it was essentially a sheer bodice with strategically placed embroidered roses. What is the difference in that dress and almost every dress that some model named Bella wore (sheer, split nearly to her waist, backless, or all of the above)? Subtlety and illusion. The idea of “sexy” is no longer left to the imagination, but put on display for all to see – nude panties, nipples, and all.

When did NOT showing your underwear and breasts stop being fashionable? I am probably way behind the times on this rant/concern/diatribe. It’s sad to think that the idea of modesty has been reduced to actually wearing underwear beneath the sheer dress and using pasties. Bella the model (as I will now always call her) told a reporter that she is usually demure on the red carpet; the article then proceeded to show off several dresses from Cannes that the model donned – every single dress was sheer. She attended an after-party in a short black mini dress with black tape (?) over her nipples. Thanks Bella…super classy of you.

I remember a guy friend of mine once telling me about some lingerie he purchased for his girlfriend. It was a black sheer teddy that was cupless, backless, and crotchless. It cost him $65 and he was really proud of it. My response? Just buy her a few feet of black chiffon and tie it around her waist. Boom – another dress for Bella the model.

the woes of Theon No-joy

I was recently introduced to “Game of Thrones” – I am quite late to this party, but I suppose “better late than never” still applies. My reaction to the first episode: “Wow.”

I have repeated that sentiment often throughout the past three seasons. “Game of Thrones” is a show that flaunts the true selfishness of human behavior. Nearly every character is guilty at some point of acting/reacting with only their interests in mind. But just as the author enjoys showcasing such horrible behavior, he is also clearly a fan of demonstrating the cycle of karma. As I complained repeatedly about how horrible Dany’s brother was, my friend simply responded with “Comeuppance.”  And wow, did he ever get some comeuppance. Martin definitely knows how to deliver Karma’s defining judgment.

And this leads me to Theon Greyjoy. Poor Theon – though technically a prisoner of the Starks, he grew up in better conditions and with a more loving family than his own. He refused to let go of his bloated sense of entitlement. Theon wanted power and respect, but the lesson he never learned from Ned Stark was the power of humility and integrity. His initial intentions for be allowed to visit his father were honorable – get ships to help Robb Stark in his fight against the Lannisters. But, like most of us, Theon craved acceptable and respect. He did not recognize that he already had both with the Stark family, but he quickly chose to betray Robb in order to win his father’s approval. That’s bad enough, but Theon took it a step further and attacked the Stark home (and Northern capital) of Winterfell. He even went so far as to fake the death of Robb’s two younger brothers in a desperate attempt to prove he was something that he wasn’t – a leader.

Theon’s reign doesn’t last and he soon finds himself captured and tortured by the son of a Northern ally. Comeuppance, right? Yay karma. Except Theon comes to himself during a brief respite from the torture and confesses to the man he thinks is a friend that he made the wrong choice to betray the Starks. Theon sadly muses that his true father lost his head at King’s Landing (Ned Stark). Theon doesn’t die, but he does endure more torture from the sadistic son, including being disfigured.

Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us can relate to Theon on some level. Do we have that person/persons in our life who we greatly desire acceptance from? Does it haunt us and blind us from seeing the people in our life who already love us just as we are? Have we ever shirked a friend because our new friend or boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t like that person? I have been on both sides of that – I have shied away from people because my significant other preferred so, and I have been betrayed because my friend believed her boyfriend over me. Does she deserve some kind of comeuppance for that? Do I deserve the same for my actions? The answer to both is yes. Yes, we do. But what if we were granted mercy? What if we granted mercy to those who hurt us?

Mercy is not a virtue that makes many appearances on “Game of Thrones.” People are either too selfish or too righteous, but the “right thing” isn’t always the right thing to do. Ned Stark should know that better than anyone. Sometimes people need mercy.

hello again

I haven’t posted in a while – I have been so busy with life that I forgot to write about it.

I don’t even know where to begin, but it’s best to not attempt to summarize the past. So  much has happened, and also not happened.

The relationship that I thought would be my last didn’t last. I don’t like to think that I am on any kind of quest for love because I am beginning to understand it to be more of a quest “to be loved,” and am already quite loved by the people who have always loved me. And even the relationship didn’t last actually did, but not in the same way. I found a true soul mate and he is my best friend, but we don’t know how to do the romantic part very well. Or maybe I didn’t know how to do it well. But he is still in my life and still the person who knows me better than I know myself – he just isn’t my romantic partner anymore. But does he love me? Absolutely. And I think it’s stronger than when we thought we were going to live happily ever after. Actually we are living happily – as friends.

I published a collection of poetry last May (Pen in Motion on Amazon.com) and I am elated that I finally did the thing I have long wanted to do. And when I finally held the book in my hands and saw my work in print, I don’t think I cried…but I smiled and laughed. I might have cried a little later. Sometimes it still feels surreal that it even happened, but then I look at the copy sitting on my desk and I remember that it is truly real.

I finished my MFA program (!!) And more exciting than this, I finally began writing the story of Jaelith…the beautiful and fierce warrior character I created over 15 years ago. I have been trying to write her story since her inception, and now it is happening. The book began as my thesis project, and I am continuing the work. It is finally real and I grow all the more excited with every sentence I write.

And now I have returned here, and it feels so good.

 

 

 

 

Good Stuff

Writing has always been this wonderful, beautiful, exhilarating, and somewhat scary process for me. The excitement and terror of that first blank page – what is meant to go here? What story will unfold? Much like taking a journey down a new road at night with a blindfold, I rarely have much of an idea of where I am going when I begin to write. That is part of the exciting process, but it’s also a little daunting. What if I get lost? Or worse – what if what I write isn’t good?

The latter questions bothers me more than anything. I love to write. I love to create, and I love do it with words. But I want what I make to be good, which is how it’s supposed to be. We were made to want to make, to want to create. And we were made to want to look at our creation and say “this is good.” I can still remember remnants of a Dorothy Sayers article/book chapter called “Why Work?” in which she makes the same declaration. The desire to create is in all of us, and it surfaces in different ways. For some, it’s in music or art. For others, it’s in business. But if you look at the foundation of the artist and the corporate giant, you will likely find a similar root – the yearn to make something and say “it’s good.”

My art, my creation is with words. Whether it’s poetry or fiction (or this post), what I write is of high value to me. It’s precious because I made it. It’s my precious. (yeah, I went there) I should love it more than I fear it. And really, I shouldn’t fear it at all. What am I afraid of anyway? I have read a lot of books on writing in the recent years, and one of the most endearing nuggets of advice is this – write what you love. And I might add, write how you love. I write because I love – the words, the world, myself, my craft, my creation. I love and that makes my creation good because it has truly been “made with love.”

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