Thursday, February 28, 2013


The most important lesson a couple will learn in 2013:

Romance can exist between ordinary people who live ordinary lives. 

Kind of a great quote, isn't it? Simple and beautiful. Reminds us all that grand gestures aren't the only things that make up a love storythe little ones are just as significant. I don't even remember on which program I heard it, just that it prompted me to leap from the couch in search of a pen, and then scribble fiendishly on a used Post-It Note. You know, much like any other day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Worldy Wanderings

I do not travel for the cities, or the sights, or the food; I travel because I know that a friend is waiting somewhere on the other side of the world, and I must make my way to meet them.

2012 held many travels for me: I started the New Year in Houston, on a multi-person pilgrimage to visit my college roommate, and ended the year in New York City, reconnecting with two ladies who  shared a magical half year with me in Paris many, many years ago. The extreme differences between the locations, the experience, and most importantly, the people, cannot be overstated.

Over the years, I have been blessed to cast a "wide net". I have been given opportunities to see new places and try new things. My memories have become a kaleidoscope. Colorful, rich, ever moving.   Several of my friends claim to recall a particular chapter in their life through music they loved, others through a favorite t-shirt they wore. One guy even told me that he thinks of his past in terms of which watch he was wearing (the rubber, water proof, colorful rock climbers' favorite, no less). The watches defined his sport obsession of the moment.

When I think of a year in my past, I inevitably characterize it in one of two ways:
  1. Where was I working?, or
  2. Who was I visiting?
This probably says a great deal about my personality, and I won't pretend to know what exactly that might be. Worst possible interpretation: workaholic with an occasional Skymiles problem. 

There are worse things.

I firmly believe that sometimes you are pulled--by a spontaneous desire, or fateful coercion--to certain places, and all to experience one particular event. If my normally controlled, planning-oriented self had waited the responsible 6 months before running across the pond for school, I would never have met or bonded with two incredible women. One from Florida, the other from the bustling mayhem of New York City.

Similarly, if professional dissatisfaction hadn't set in during 2010, I might never have spent months living in the tundra of Minnesota, half-hiding in the guest bedroom of one of my best friend's home. Without that experience, our friendship would have never reached the sort of complex state that allows us to communicate in simple texts, over the divide of continents, time zones, and life experiences.

I travel to build bridges--not to places, but to people. To encourage the sort of friendships that will likely define my life; to meet the friends whose influence will change the way I participate in the world around me. And when I return home, I create a new bridge for them to travel across. Together, the planes, the trains, the automobiles take us further into ourselves, rather than farther away from our roots.

 So, why do you do the things you do?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Animals In Their Natural Habitat

A brief glimpse at an emerging species of Appalachia: Mulier Venatio (woman hunting).

These creatures can be found in the wild, frequently in the vicinity of vanity mirrors, and specialize in the hunting of well-muscled men.

Preferred diet:
red wine, berries, and sunshine

Nocturnal activities: 
Well, none of our biologists have managed to return from the field to tell the tale! 

 Photographic Documentation :
Vos mos rideo risi risum per 
(You will laugh excessively...or so the Author believes...
both literally and that this is the proper Latin)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Writers are Masochists, Or Things I Learned from a Movie

There is a sentiment among writers—and no, I do not believe myself a member of that erudite or eloquent clan—that to write a “true” story requires a level of sacrifice and pain.

There is also the belief that work is never truly finished. Well, combine those two, and I would say Writers are about the most masochistic set of individuals on the planet. 

No thank you. I will take “blogger” any day. Too heavy already? Check out my story about Bowling Squirrels!

I have just finished watching a rather unique film. And, as typically happens when I combine lofty dramas with a Cabernet, I get a little contemplative. Ok, pretentious. Ok, maybe pedantic. Oh do leave off!

“At some point you have to choose between real life and fiction. The two are very close, but they never actually touch.” 

Basic Plot: Film, The Words

Dennis Quaid plays a writer who is debuting his newest work, and is being quite coquettishly pursued by a Young Girl, who shares aspirations of being a writer. Through a rather twisted and confusing chronology, Quaid’s character reveals to her the central characters of his novel. Among the cast of characters are:  a struggling writer, played by Bradley Cooper; the writer’s supportive wife, Zoe Zaldana; and a rather gruff and cryptic Old Man, played by the gruff and cryptic Jeremy Irons. Over the course of the film, you then enter into a play-within-a-play-within-a-play storyline; Cooper’s character discovers a briefcase containing an old manuscript, which he eventually steals, that just happens to be a semi-autobiographical fiction written about AND by the Old Man. Still with me? I know, a play-within-a-play-within-a-play.  Only even more confusing since the deepest level of the “fiction” happens to be based on the “real life” events of the secondary fiction level (re: the Old Man). [Insert apology for my unfortunate love of dissecting film through the lens of literary criticism.]

In the film, the story within a story mechanism, presents a writer whose attempts to educate a young and idealistic girl is more than complicated: it jumps abruptly between concepts of male desire, loving and longing, the artist’s insecurity, and even the worthiness of societal approbation. Each scene could be a vignette—staccato rhythms and disjointed transitions do very little to connect Quaid to his manifested younger self in Cooper, or to the source of his anxiety and creative self-doubt, represented by the Old Man (Irons).

Quaid’s character represents a writer who is questioning his own success in life, and is wondering if all that has been thrown at him—objects of lust (the Young Girl), social approbation (the book signing), or his right to a writer’s voyeurism (the Obscenely Large Glass Loftspace)—is truly the result of his own talent, or the arbitrary series of occurrences in an ambitious man’s life? Or worse, he wonders if he is only an mediocre writer, imitating a greater man’s effort. 

What separates the great from the never discovered? Whoever wrote this screenplay had Harold Bloom’s “Anxiety of Influence” in mind. In that essay, Bloom discusses the paradigm of the current generation: an ambitious young man, in whatever age he lives, will always feel the pressure to live up the legends, or “fathers”, that came before him. The greatest fear of that young man is not necessarily that he may never be discovered and his talent recognized, but that his contributions are merely versions, subpar attempts, of the efforts of his “fathers”.  So, Quaid essentially writes about his own artistic insecurities when he saddles the handsome Cooper with thievery and the contempt of Old Man Irons. My view deviates from here quite a bit—if the young man is meant to be anxious of his own influences, for both their merits and their sins, he is then going to constantly live in fear of the so-called pioneers who inspired him. Take that a step further and you end up with a young man at war with the very sources of his inspiration. 

Some might argue that this is the heart of how art makes progress, and how fields continue to grow. I will not venture there. I cannot claim to have thought very much on the subject. But I will run with this War-With-The-Muse idea!

There is a line in the movie in which the Old Man claims, “I loved words more than I loved the woman who inspired me to write them. [That is] my tragedy.” Discarding the gender issue, and even the gargantuan character that is played by the silent character “Writing”, this sentiment builds from Bloom’s premise: we may overlook, underappreciate, or even over-appreciate the necessary influences that shape our own self-worth. In order to be happy, in order to create without fear or doubt, one must accept that choices are but choices, and inspiration is simply an advantage to the act of creation. They are springboards for action certainly, but it is the man, and not the “influences” that redirects a life, a story, a resolution. 

At the end, Quaid has a moment where he tells the Young Girl that the novel concludes with “no morals, no consequences”, just an understanding that life can go on as usual, despite the horrible and tragic choices we make. The Young Girl seems extremely put off by this, and in a rather obvious moment, Quaid counters with the aforementioned “choose between real life and fiction.” The screenwriters may have tried to tackle about four different literary/social constructs, but this one is nailed (unfortunately, when most audiences are probably too confused by the timeline to catch it): in real life, the “story” does go on, and in so many cases our villains and our heroes are no different from one another. They exist at a level beneath the epic reach of fiction—because it is only in fiction that we demand to actually learn from the human experience. Real life? Oh gracious, how often do we dance with glee when our mistakes go unpunished? My point exactly!

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, will conclude me harassing your eyes on screen. 

Cheers! Now, go read a book or clean the dishes or something. ::wink and a smile::