Which Button Do I Push?

It’s Friday night. My mates and I have driven 4 hours north to our cabin near the lake. It’s a long drive, but every time I stand on the deck/porch I tell myself it’s worth it.

We have no cable, no Internet (except for a hot spot, which I am using as we speak), no TV. Radio, okay. CDs and Tapes if we are in the mood. Being four hours away from the small town/city I live in makes all the difference in the world.

So here I am Friday night, wanting to watch a DVD, and I’m confronted with four controllers, one TV, one VCR, one gaming device, and one DVD player.

Good luck trying to figure out how to watch a movie.

One machine shows DVD, Tape, TV, SAT, and several other choices. Pick a device, pick a controller, and hopefully you’ll find your way to a movie.

Not me.

It’s not that technology has passed me by — I just can’t figure out which dang controller goes with which dang machine. Or which order I’m supposed to push the buttons. I don’t consider myself technically challenged until I get into the comfort of my own home. One wrong button and I’ve changed cable channels, input mechanisms, and devices.

I don’t get it. I’ve learned new programs at work like Wrike and Google Analytics and Agora Pulse, yet the mere appearance of more than one TV controller sends me into Flipper Hell.

Why does everything need to be so complicated?

My hubby and I like to play video games, especially Gauntlet on PS2. But by the time I change input and turn this machine on and that machine off, I’ve given up and resolved myself to watching  Deadliest Catch reruns.

This is the part of getting older I hate. Not remembering which machines to turn on, which buttons to push, how to get back from pushing the wrong button.

I wonder if that’s a metaphor for my life.

I don’t have time to think about the cosmic applications and interpretations of such. All I want to do at the moment is watch The Mummy on DVD.

Buttons be damned.

 

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I Don’t Like That I Don’t Get It

I had an odd reaction to a movie I watched the other night, and I’m not sure I want to talk about it. Yet it affected me in ways that I don’t like, because it makes me reflect on parts of me that I don’t like.

I watched one of those Barbershop movies. I don’t know if those comedy/dramas that happen in the ‘hood interest you, but I enjoy the hip language and colorful culture that’s portrayed.  The first two movies were more about the barbershop starting or moving, and the interactions between those who decided to stay and make the shop their own. The third one was more about the same barbershop owner trying to keep his kid out of gangs, along with the effects gangs were having on the ‘hood. This installment was darker, edgier, the gangs scarier, and the vocabulary a lot more raunchy.

I enjoyed the darkness — I didn’t get what all the T&A had to do with it.

The first thing that comes to mind when I don’t like something is that I’m turning into an old fogie. While there’s no doubt that’s true, I like to think that I keep up with the younger generations fairly well. I know it’s more than bro and bae, and I try and keep and open mind. After all, my parents rolled their eyes at me, and their parents at them. And I’m not aghast at swearing or sexual innuendos or basic raw sex.  Been there, done that, too. I can cleavage with the best of them. But there was something about the sexual volleys between the sexes that seemed so raw and offensive, I wondered what the point was.

Look. I know I’m whitebread. I’ve never denied that. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to understand. I don’t want to walk through the world with blinders on. I know with every new generation the boundaries are looser and farther away, society is wilder and more demanding, and the chances of success fewer and fewer.

But this…

This is why I didn’t want to talk about it. My prudish self is coming out. But I couldn’t help but react to the big, tightly-wrapped booties sticking out and shaking and cleavage falling out to one’s belly button and sizes of anatomy parts. What are they saying? What image of life are they trying to portray?

Just like I can’t wrap my head around today’s politics, I also can’t wrap my head around the plight of inner city situations. I am removed, so there is no way I could understand. And because I can’t understand I have no idea what they’re all going through.

And something tells me I should.

Everyone’s life is different. From Africa to the south side of Chicago, from Buckingham Palace to small town Hebron, everyone’s story starts where they are born and ends where they die. And every single thing that blows by affects our lives whether we want them too or not.

I’d like to think that there is still such a thing as self respect. That being sassy, being cool, being a smart ass is a show of confidence. That talking trash about body parts and sexual positions are signs that the we’re not afraid to bring these taboos into the light.

But sometimes I wonder. Is it them — or me?

Chinese Magic

chinese-dragonI have a confession to make.

Sometimes in the evening, all by myself except the dogs and cats, doing a little research (not real writing), I’ve found myself checking into Netflix for background entertainment. Not so bad, really…

Except I’ve been watching these really strange, weird, truly localized movies from China and Japan. Period pieces especially, but fantasy ones too. Mojin: The Lost Legend. Journey to the West: The Legend of the Monkey King. Fearless. Seven Samarai.

And I have to tell you, it’s strange fun.

As one might expect, although there are universal themes that run through every movie, every culture has its own take on how to present those themes. Chinese and Japanese cinematography is every bit as amazing and imaginative as its partners in other countries. There may be a bit more martial arts  (at least there are in the movies I’ve chosen), and their approach to the walking dead and magic and monsters is unique to their audience. The music might sometimes be off (Jazz in Mojin?), but that might be to contrast modernism with ancient worlds. They do a lot of swearing in these movies, too, but since I don’t understand a word of it, I’m not offended.

There is something wonderfully mysterious about ancient Chinese and Japanese culture. To many who are born and raised in the United States in general and the Midwest in particular, these countries are as far away as the Andromeda Galaxy. The language, the traditions, are so different that you can’t help but be wrapped up in their heady perfume. Even if the genres are fantasy, you can learn a lot about a culture from the way they interact with each other. The things they say. The things they don’t say.

I am finding this true in art, too. I feel like I’ve lived so long with blinders on that I never knew there was art outside of Monet and Renoir. That a painting, a sculpture, a movie, can speak thousands of words about a person’s heritage, beliefs, and history. That the art of the Netherlands is just as mysterious and beautiful as that of Harlem. That there is a place in history for shoguns as well as scullions.

And all the fields of Creativity are speaking to us.

Of course, the main reason I don’t get much writing done is that I have to read the subtitles on the screen. (That’s how I know about the swearing.) And you really have to concentrate, because each movie has different inferences. Like the one I just watched was big into Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The one the other night was big into Buddha. And Fearless was about the founder and spiritual guru of the Jin Wu Sports Federation. Important conversations and innuendoes that you would miss if you were merely listening to the movie while, say, doing the dishes.

The Han Dynasty. The 18th Dynasty of  Tutankhamun. The Age of the Vikings  from 8th century to mid 11th century A.D. The Middle Ages. Genghis Khan, Emperor of the Mongol Empire in 1206. Worlds we can only imagine. Worlds only writers and historians can imagine. I just can’t resist books and documentaries and movies that put only a toe into those oceans of the past. Time travel of the most extraordinary kind.

Maybe that’s why these exotic Chinese movies interest me so much. Even if made in modern times, they reflect ancient traditions. Ancient worlds. Places I will never experience except in my mind.

But Ho! I’ve learned something too —  who knew they had the same swear words in Ancient China as they do today?

Sweet, Sticky Christmas Movies

91QU10iPjGL__AA1500_I do not consider myself a cynic. Maybe a bit disillusioned, but for the most part I’m a pretty good-natured gal.

As THE day approaches,  TV is wrestling with itself to see how many Christmas movies they can squeeze into 24 hours.

Apparently a lot.

I find that movies at Christmas time can really divide a family. If I say there are so many sappy movies on that it makes my teeth hurt, I’m a curmudgeon. If I watch them with devoted fervor, I’m a sap. Every movie is a reflection of Harlequin novels, which have a specific outline. For example, here are a few requirements for one line of Harlequin novels.

Harlequin Heartwarming

  • Clean, emotional, satisfying romances that readers can feel comfortable sharing with their friends and family of all ages
  • Romance, family and community are strong features of these stories
  • Characters demonstrate traditional values, but exhibit flaws and overcome hurdles similar to those in other contemporary series romances
  • Conflict between the main characters should be an emotional one, arising naturally from the story
  • Plots unfold in a wholesome style and voice that excludes explicit sex or nudity, pre-marital sex, profanity, or graphic depictions of violence: references to violent incidents or pre-marital sex in the past are acceptable if they contribute to character development
  • Physical interactions (i.e. kissing/hugging) should emphasize emotional tenderness rather than sexual desire or sensuality: low level of sexual tension; characters should not make love unless they are married

A clean, healthy dose of falling in love. And little (if any) sex.  Fall in true love first, ruffle the sheets later. Oh. And happily ever after. MUST have happily ever after.

Now, before I go further, know that I am for writing anything as long as it holds the reader’s interest and your heart. The same should be true about romance movies, too. But these syrupy sweet movies  make my teeth hurt. The men and women are always beautiful but flawed, their hangups based on past incidents they never quite got over, their kids sweet, the snow perfect.

I have yet to see a made-for-TV movie where the woman is middle-aged, chubby, and works at a diner. I have yet to see young men working as truck drivers or fork lift drivers wind up with the rich debutante. I know these are supposed to be feel-good, make-believe types of stories — ones that give hope to those who have less-than-perfect holidays.

I have had less-than-perfect holidays, and all those movies do is make me itch.

I’ll be the first to admit that one reason I back away from feel-good confections like these is that I’m afraid I’ll start to cry, and the doors to the tear bank won’t stop until I’ve refreshed them with a sandwich or glass of wine. That’s why I stay away from sappy crybaby stories all together. Old Yeller. Beaches. Turner and Hootch. Bambi.

Another reason I tend to stay away from TV Christmas movies is that there are so many commercials they make my eyes sting. It’s like little needles going into my forehead. I hate commercials. Beautiful people selling fun, beauty, and car insurance.

Okay — I’m not really against feel-good movies. The ones I watched last week were pretty decent, considering I saw the same theme played out 3 different ways. And I did wind up admitting they were “cute.”

Maybe I hold a little resentment because my Christmases are always a madhouse. Some is my own doing; some because others hold the strings to my Santa Claus puppet heart. It’s all done with love, but there’s really not much rest, either in front of a fireplace or under the mistletoe, like in the movies. It’s run, hug, kiss, eat, drive to another place, hug, kiss, eat, go home, wrap presents, fall down frozen from exhaust until 5 a.m. when grandbaby comes in and says, “Granny! Santa came!”

I think I’m beginning to hear that sappy Christmas movie music again….

 

I’m Coming to Get You…

scaryWhat does it take to scare you? Rather, what does it take in a movie to scare you?

Things have certainly changed since Boris Karloff chugged along as Frankenstein. These days readers and movie goers have seen just about everything there is to see in the blood and guts world. I mean, most of what is considered “horror” is really more “disgust.” How much you can do to the human body and still let them live. Even when the story is clever, there’s nothing about losing limbs and buckets of blood that make those little hairs on your head stand up.

Writing horror isn’t easy. It’s not easy to twist plots and rattle windows and whisper in someone’s ear and have them be truly frightened. Portraying that same creepy feeling on film is not easy, either. I get it. But the more we grow spiritiually, emotionally, and psychologically, the more it takes to catch us off guard.

My son gets Netflix, so I decided to take a ride down the horror road and see what I could see. Half of the movies I’ve seen, half I have no interest in. Maybe it’s being older, but just because someone has pins in his head doesn’t make someone scary. Yet, the way Hellraiser talked, the way he held himself, the way he slowly pried his way into the lives of the unsuspecting — now that was pretty creepy. It turned pretty bloody/gutsy, but the earlier ones threatened more and showed less. I tried one from France: some kids climbing over a locked gate and mountain climbing into the horror pit where some hillbilly wacko lived. (Teenagers are always so dumb.)

I’ve tried old ones (The Scream series), I’ve tried new ones (The Walking Dead). I’ve tried ghosts, monsters, psychos, and snakes. Some make it to kinda creepy, others are just d-u-m-b. The Saw series is nothing but bloody psychological terror, one fingernail at a time. But it’s not horror.

Back in the day, movies like Psycho and Halloween  brought “real life” horror into the realm of the everyday. The Exorcist and Night of the Living Dead put normal people in abnormal — and often deadly — situations. Alien and The Thing took those same situations and put them in outer space or in the future.  Devil possession, zombies, psychos in masks — how can you deal with those?

But as the years passed, what was once novelty became remakes, each one more technically savvy but emotionally empty. By the time Halloween VI or Alien Resurrection came along, nothing was new. We’d been there, done that. Only the stars had changed. And the ability to frighten us.

So what kind of movies twinkle my creepy twinkie?

It’s obvious that humankind wants to be frightened now and then. Controlled frightened. Like frightened for the length of  a movie only.  The Grudge was pretty scary, with dead bodies scurring across the ceiling and up the stairs. The first couple Aliens were pretty scary, even though by the second one we knew the formula (pick off people one by one). Even though my husband and kids disagree by miles, I loved Cabin in the Woods, because it brought all possible endings and villians to the end. I’m hooked on The Walking Dead — I mean, sheriff driving around, looking at overturned trucks and abandoned cars, wondering what’s up, and the next thing you know — Armageddeon! How can you not be creeped out by that?

I loved the old “The Haunting“, and pffffted the remake. I wasn’t scared by windows turning into eyes and canopy beds coming down to squish the heroine — I loved the old black and white because you couldn’t see the adversary. Who can forget the lion’s head doorknob turning evvver-soooo-slooowly? Or the banging and breathing of the bedroom door? You never once saw a bloody hand or face or someone’s entrails spilled on the floor. It was your imagination that frightened you.

And that, I think, is the heart of anything scary. The victims on the screen have to be you, but not you. To be tortured would be cruel beyond imagination. To have a child see dead people everywhere — that’s another story. To be able to capture your imagination and be three steps ahead of it is the true heart of a scary story. To not be able to tell what is real and what isn’t — that’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Movie or not.

So tell me — have you seen any good scary movies lately?

HaChaCha Hermione

tumblr_m6nj6jcdgM1rvv4n8o1_500I came across an article the other day that confirmed what I’ve thought all along. According to J.K. Rowling, Hermione should have ended up with Harry Potter, not Ron Weasley. (http://time.com/3680/j-k-rowling-says-hermione-should-have-ended-up-with-harry-potter-not-ron/ )

Duh.

Although I LOVE the books (and the movies), I could have told you that there was never any real chemistry between Hermione and Ron. None. Opposites attract, you say. Looking at my husband and me, that could very well be true. He’s logic, I’m pretzel. He’s smart, I’m trying. He has the patience of a saint, I would rather stand and complain and fidget. But seriously. Hermione was smart, resourceful, and outgoing. Ron was dull, jealous, and a little thick. Hermione sparkled every moment she was around Harry. Her sparkle was practically non-existent around Ron. I mean, anyone who read the books could see that. So it made me start to think.

What other characters in books and/or movies should never have gotten together?

The revised, re-pumped Star Trek movie franchise. Spock and Uhura? Naw. Even if he does dip into his emotions now and then. She’s so smoldering she should be in her own spaceship. Indiana Jones and any of his female co-stars. Was there really any hachacha between any of them? And don’t say it was more of a satire/drama. So was The Mummy. And Rick and Evelyn O’Connell made danger take a back seat to hot teasing.

J.K.’s admission also made me take a look at my own characters. Book One and Book Two: the same two stars. Book One the heroine doesn’t get the hero because she’s busy trying to stay alive. Book Two she goes back to look for him and they spend most of the book dancing around previous commitments. My third novel is more an independent-woman-in-a-situation sort of book, romance more a hint than a possibility. (I may have her connect with the hero in the sequel).

Maybe I’ve been skirting the real issue – chemistry. a.k.a Sex. Admit it. Sex sells. Chemistry makes you want to strip off your clothes and get shamelessly amorous. Like you can’t keep your hands (oh..and mind) off of the other person. But we all know there has to be some kind of depth behind the chemistry/sex to make it last more than one night. Harry and Hermione were always hugging, touching, and adventuring together. There was never any such show of affection between Hermione and Ron. Actually, Ron was more of a third wheel (as was Ron’s sister who wound up with Harry).

But all this is hindsight. J.K. had a real belief in her pairings, and it was up to the reader to see her world as she did. And hers was a delightful world to get lost in.

So I wonder. Do you have books or movies where the pairings have been less-than-satisfying? Have you seen coupling that doesn’t really make sense?

Flirtin’ With Disaster

star_trek59Hubba Hubba! I’m in the mood for flirting!

Now, before you get your panties in a pretzel twist, it’s not a real flirt. That I still do with my husband. But I’m talking about the 4th or 5th dimensional me. The young, hot girl I never was. The one who was so confident from the get-go that I could have anyone I wanted. Anyone. I have no idea who I would have picked years ago if I were she, but now and then I wonder who I would pick if then was now. Which personas from the movies would I scoop up and flirt with in this day and drive?

When I was young there was no one more charming than Paul McCartney. A little older, Davy Jones. Those floppy mops, those sweet smiles…I would have hit on them in a second and made them mine.  I don’t remember what sort of maleness made me a mad hatter in my 20s or 30s…I was pretty busy changing diapers or running to soccer games back then.

But now — now that I’m sassy sixty, I seem to be attracted to icons that were nothing like my clean-cut boyish dreams of yesteryear. But who is appealing? I just watched “Thor, The Dark World” for the second time, and I clearly am more attracted to the suave, sexy, slightly naughty Loki than his caveman brother Thor. Yeah, Thor’s got muscles and that boyish roguishness, but Loki has a quick wit and great smile. I think Henry Cavall in “Superman” is dashingly good looking, but he doesn’t look like he’d be much fun at bowling or a Superbowl party.

Other studlies that I should have a thing for — but don’t — Bradley Cooper. Leonardo DiCaprio. Brad Pitt.  All woofies, but at this age I’m think I’m more for the off-center boys-to-men. You know — the kinda bad boys. Robert Downey Jr. Russell Crowe. Kiefer Sutherland. Even sweet-southern-talking Walter Goggin (Boyd Crowder to Justified fans) seems to hold my interest a lot more these days than smoothies trying to be naughty. I mean, Tom Cruise never came across as a bad boy, no matter how many roles he attempted.

Maybe it’s a bit of voyeurism in this old soul. I never hung around with the bad boys. I was too insecure to even look at them. But that’s just fine — I grew up and married the fun boy that always danced at the edge of naughty.

But sometimes when I watch a movie I don’t always want to see the sweet boy win. Let the naughty-but-nice guy win once in a while. How bout you? Different flirts at different ages? Or do the same heart throbs from your youth throb your heart now? I’d love to hear your flirts —

And this includes you, boys —

Some Good Reading Back There!

Paths 7I have a few blog ideas floating around in my head, but I need to do a little research first. So it got me thinking….I bet you’ve missed some really great stuff from the Goddess through the years (two, but who’s counting). So how about a little explanation and a little link to send you back through time?  Not too many though — too much humor might distract you from the seriousness around you.

They Said WHAT??      http://wp.me/p1pIBL-n8   th

Famous people are always trying to stay in the spotlight…but being in the spotlight doesn’t make you smart.

Everyone’s Life is a Best Seller    http://wp.me/p1pIBL-gk

27 Everyone's Life is a Best Seller 1

Ever think you have a family worth writing about? We all do! Let’s compare crazies!

Harry Potter vs. Hannibal Lecter       http://wp.me/p1pIBL-5P

Comedy Tragedy masks - Symbolic represe

Okay…so I alternate between simple and savage. Does that make me unstable?

Have fun and read well.

Movie Stars Apply Here

rhettI am an avid reader, along with being an avid writer. I love stories that jump out and surround you from the very beginning, making you feel what the characters feel, understand why they think and feel as they do. Writing is an arduous undertaking, cutting volumes of text in order to be able to turn on a dime.

Many great movies were great books first. Some movies, such as the Bourne Series, were nothing like the book. But both were great in their own way. Others, such as Shogun and Gone With the Wind, took a highlighted version of the facts, toning it more towards a visual, rather than a cerebral, experience.

Certain movie stars had the ability to assume and consume the main characters until you couldn’t tell the difference. For better or worse, Rhett Butler will always look like Clark Gable, Harry Potter will always look like Daniel Radcliffe.

Now. For all you writers of novels, poems, short stories, and blogs. Have you ever had an actor or in mind to play YOUR main characters?

I have written three novels (unpublished…any one know a publisher?  Ha…) Two of them are a set of stories about a middle-age woman who crashes her car and wakes up in 1880, and falls for someone half her age.  My wandering mind always tosses this guy or that girl around as to who would be perfect for Anna and Darren. But there’s some blockage in my brain that I have yet to find someone who matches my daydreams.

My third novel is about another kinda middle age woman who travels with a visitor to his planet half way across the galaxy to help him find a murderer (see a pattern here?)  Also a  zero on those two, although a younger Derek Jacobi might work for the man; one of the King’s Consuls looks like Jafar, and the King could be an Aragorn lookalike. But the woman?

Well, for me, I can’t see my leading lady looking like Angelina Jolie or Kiera Knightley. I just can’t see those women playing women with age issues or body issues or insecurity issues.  They don’t seem … vulnerable. Plus they’re way too skinny for my books.

What about you?

Who would you like to see play your leading man or woman?

Movie, Movie, Who’s Got The Movie?

I wrote a blog not too long ago called Hannibal Lechter vs. Harry Potter  https://humoringthegoddess.com/2011/07/27/harry-potter-vs-hannibal-lecter/ .  In that ditty I had just finished watching Hannabal’s first movie, and wondered if I was a reflection of that movie. Having decided that I am everyone and everything I see and do, I took the cosmic message and moved on.

Well, there I was, alone for the weekend, hubby gone up north, no one here but  me and the girls (2 dogs and one cat) and the boy (TomCat), and, left to my own whim, in charge of not only the TV but the movies.  And I am sorry to say I found myself falling into the same familiar grooves. I did watch a brand new movie sent to me in the mail…Wrath of the Titans…which said something about my taste to begin with. But I found myself falling into the same familiar pattern of watching movies I’ve seen ten times before.  Does that mean I’m more predictable than I ever imagined?

In my Lechter vs. Potter rant, I found myself defending polarity ― or bipolarity, if you wish. I found myself saying:

 But back to the crazy movie. In watching this psychological mess, I oft-handedly wondered if this kind of movie reflected my inner self. I have many friends who talk about the movies they watch:  middle-aged love comedies; retro pot-smoking, chick-banging absurdities; historical pieces.  Some are huge fans of horror; others cannot live without  lots of sex and drama. Do these favorites define who they are? Do these choices influence our cosmic journey?

 I was content thinking that we are not our movies. We are not our job, we are not our clothes or our car or our choice of beverage. But the older I get, the more I see that we are all of the above ― and more. On the positive side, I believe it’s good for us to go outside our comfort zone now and then. Finding a new job, trying tofu burgers, watching a documentary on polar bears or the creepy world of Hoarders, all are experiences that may or may not add to the wonderful sparkling jewel we call ME.

Yet, when I find some real free time, all by myself, my energy level not high enough to write a sonnet or a novel, I find myself searching the cabinet for movies that will make me feel good. And, most times, there are the “eternal” movies. You know ― the ones you can watch over and over again and over again. Mind you, not all movies fall into this “special” category. There are many, many movies I’ve seen once, and once is more than enough. There are some that I enjoy if I come across them on TV or if I walk into someone’s house and they’re watching them, but wouldn’t go the extra mile to bother with after that.

Then there are the die hards that I always, always enjoy. For me, Avatar, The Rock, The Mummy, Con Air, and Closer reruns, all can entertain me almost any time. (It used to be tearjerkers, but menapause has turned me into a crybaby.) I sometimes wonder if that means something. For my fun stuff is not my son’s fun stuff. Or my husband’s fun stuff. Or my friends at work’s fun stuff. And I’m sure my stuff is not my kid’s stuff. At least some of my stuff.

On further reflection, I think age, social circles, emotional states and personal history all fine-tune us in one direction or another. There are no “right” or “wrong” movies ― what makes one person feel wonderful makes another sick to their stomach. What is righteous to one is sacrilegious to another.  I suppose that is why humanity is such a varied, colorful tapestry. And I do love tapestries.

Are there movies that you return to time and time again? Do you think they reflect a deeper part of you?  Or are they just oddities in the rainbow of life?  Actually, this isn’t a cosmic question.  Just think about the movies you love to watch time and time again, and let them be a wonderful reflection of your heart and personality. 

And, hey — don’t worry if you love the Freddie Kruger or Saw genre — there’s a place in this world for you, too.

Just don’t move next door to me…

CHOCOLAT AND THE TUSCAN SUN PART II

A while back I wrote a story about two of my favorite movies: Chocolat and Under the Tuscan Sun.  https://humoringthegoddess.com/2011/04/28/chocolat-under-the-tuscan-sun/.   It was an irreverent observation of the main characters (thin, lovely 30ish beauties) and their ability to start new lives in quaint surroundings filled with friendly neighbors, gorgeous scenery, and hunky men.  There was drama, of course; some sort of “obstacle” the main character had to overcome. But it was artistically woven into the background, and it left me with a positive attitude about life after 30.

I just finished watching Tuscan again, and I find a little uneasiness creeping into my positive attitude. While I know that movies and fiction books and television are all pretend, I wonder why so many of us are drawn to such escapism. I mean, flying spaceships through outer space or sitting at the other end of the table from Henry the Eighth are out-and-out fantasies, not available in this (or any) lifetime. But modern-day escapism is a lot easier to imagine.

It’s not that I want to leave what I have behind (although the thought of never having to change the kitty litter again does sound enticing); it’s more the attitude of pretend that seems to strengthen me. I spend most of my waking hours trying to deal with life.  Some of my friends are planning early retirement, others planning to have kids, some trying to get out of bad jobs, and still others taking second jobs to make ends meet. I have lost parents and friends to the Reaper, and sat besides others who have cheated him one more time. I can see how the world is unfair, unyielding, and unacceptable. So I can see how a happily-ever-after movie ending rates right up there with dark chocolate and the 1812 Overture.

But after watching my favorite movies for the umpteenth time, I see my creativity being put to the test. I don’t confuse fake gazebos that overlook vineyards with the pot of geraniums on my back porch; I don’t think making homemade chocolate would be any more rewarding than making homemade spaghetti sauce. I know I will never look like Diane Lane or Juliette Binoche — too many babies and too many cookies and too much menopause has taken care of that.   But that doesn’t mean I can’t follow my own Yellow Brick Road now and then.

Moviemakers are dream makers in the ultimate sense.  Not only do they manipulate scenery into idyllic settings and everyday conversation into romantic poetry, but take us just where we think we want to go. As the observer, we never see the cameramen, construction workers, caterers, painters and all the other thousands of people who make our trip to la la land possible.  We never see the accounts payable clerk at her desk, the plumber fixing the waterfall, the cleaning service scrubbing the toilets or the mountain of programming needed to make a glass of champagne bubble someone’s name.

And we don’t want to see it.  We don’t want to see the mess the cleaning crew has after a day’s shooting; we don’t want to be reminded of the endless peanut butter sandwiches the street sweepers and lighting technicians had to eat just to stay on the production company’s payroll.  Why?  We don’t want to see the behind-the-scenes efforts because they remind us so much of our own daily life.  If we were to watch the women wash the floors of the Italian bungalow, we would be reminded that our own kitchen floor needs scrubbing. If we were to watch the crews paint the set to look like old world France it only reminds us that our house could use a fresh coat of paint.  If we were to know that all the food on the banquet table were fake except for what the actors were eating, it would bring home the fact that some of the food we bring home from the grocery store tastes pretty fake, too.

Is that all bad?  Not really. As we get older we find that reality distorts a lot of things.  The length of the rope seems to be longer behind us than in front of us.  We know that today could be our last chance to drink a glass of wine or hug our kids or listen to Louie sing What A Wonderful World. If we keep on track and bring light into our lives, we can make the length of the rope in front of us infinite. And how do we do that? We make our own version of pretend.

As I said before, a pot full of geraniums can be just as rewarding as the French countryside, be it in a different form.  A piece of Hershey’s chocolate sitting on a fancy plate from Good Will can be just as alluring as an exclusive delicacy served in a five star restaurant in Italy.  Toga parties can mimic ancient Rome (or Animal House), and calling the gang over for game night can rival any three-dimensional chess game Spock and Kirk could play. We just have to understand that reality is all in one’s point of view.

I am learning not to take the movies seriously. Not that I ever did, but there were times I was genuinely tempted to build a greenhouse like the one in Practical Magic or rent an atmospheric cottage in rural Scotland to write my breakout novel like Demi Moore in Half Light.  The point is, don’t let pretend pass you by.   Just know it for what it is, respect its limitations, and let it fly in and around and through your life.

Besides — if a librarian can travel to Egypt and discover mummies and telephone repairmen can have close encounters of the third kind, there’s no telling where a wife/mother/grandmother can go.

Want to come along?

You Didn’t Read Which One??

With the Madness of Summer burning the bottoms of our feet, there is not often much time to do any deep reading. A news headline here, a gossip column there, is about all one can squeeze in between State Fairs and Renaissance Faires and Italian Fairs.  So I thought I’d make it short and sweet this time around…come along and check out some of my oldies-but-goodies and see for yourself how fun managing the madness and magic and middle age can be!

Sharpening the Tool  — https://humoringthegoddess.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/sharpening-the-tool/

I hate it when people say that many middle-aged people “aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.” It’s condescending, insulting, naive and just plain wrong. What I hate even more, though, is being one of those dull tools. Alas, there are times when I feel I’m struggling to stay in the shed, period.

Dancing in a Too Tight Tutu — https://humoringthegoddess.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/522/

I was sitting around the other day with my gal friends, sharing tales about the weekend. We all seemed to have gone through the same delightful experience, albeit in different ways. We all were relaxed, having a good time, and probably drank a little too much, for we all said, “I’m too old for this.”  One sat with friends and sipped with friends all day, one went to an outdoor concert, and I party hopped.  I’m sure the situations were on the same astral plane as many others “my age.”  Time flows, excitement and comfort wraps around us, the atmosphere make us feel good, and before you know it we are waking up the next morning with a headache, saying, “I’m too old for this.

Dinner With the Queen https://humoringthegoddess.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/dinner-with-the-queen/

In the mundane throng of your very predictable life, don’t you now and then want to just break out of the box and do something different? Now that you have the experience of all those years behind you, don’t you want to make that experience mean something? Don’t you ever want to be bigger than life? Just for a day?

The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwursthttps://humoringthegoddess.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/the-importance-of-unicorns-and-bratwurst/

The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst. This is one of those ethereal, out-of-body titles that try to connect the cosmic to the ordinary, the magical to the mundane.  I was hit by this title some time ago, not having a clue as to what it meant or what I would eventually write about.  Even now, as my fingers hit the keys, I have no idea where this storyline is going.  But isn’t that so much like our everyday lives?

Merlot at the Lake House — https://humoringthegoddess.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/merlot-at-the-lake-house/

Quick.  Name a handful of your favorite movies. Not the “great” ones that are in your library ― the ones that define you. The ones you don’t admit entertain you time and time gain.  Are you what you watch? Are you big enough to admit that you are what you watch?

Merlot at the Lake House

Quick.  Name a handful of your favorite movies. Not the “great” ones that are in your library ― the ones that define you. The ones you don’t admit entertain you time and time gain.  Are you what you watch? Are you big enough to admit that you are what you watch?

 It’s Saturday night: the boys are sleeping, the dogs have had their bonies, and I have settled down with a glass of merlot. Been a long day, a long week. Having just come off of my father-in-law’s passing and pressure-filled days at work, I find my emotional state still dancing on stalagmites. So I pull out a movie ― one I haven’t allowed myself to watch in some time. The Lake House.  Why is that?

There is nothing wrong with movies and books that reflect our inner selves. We are, of course, a reflection of many things around us — movies, books, the weather, the heart.  We develop our creativity based on what we’ve learned and what we’ve experienced. That is why self-help and raw human confession books are so popular. We are a world lost in the chaos of ego, everyone needing to be heard, no matter what the cost.

But back to movies and books. Both are tools of escapism; both reflect a little bit of what fascinates us deep inside. Not that we would live that life ― just that that life seems to resonate a bit with something Freud or Nietzsche would have had a field day with. Some connections are obvious; others are as nebulous as the morning fog.  My husband is nut when it comes to John Wayne ― any form, any era. Is he a big, larger-than-life hero type? Maybe not, but I can see flashes of the Duke in the way he struts sometimes.  Another good friend of mine loves books by Stephen King; I don’t think she is off on some modern-day blood and gore pilgrimage, but I can see her fascination ― the impossible becoming possible.

So what about The Lake House? Does this genre define who I am?  Am I lost in the fantasy of two time periods communicating through a mailbox? I am a preacher that we are  all multi-faceted diamonds in the rough. That we are so much more than the whole of our parts. And we are. But there are still signs in the universe (and in the media) that are plainly obvious.  Some resonate louder than others. Let’s ramble off a few of my favorite movies: The Lake House, Passion of Mind, Practical Magic, Chocolat. I’m sure that says a whole lot about my inner and outer spirit. That I am an escapist, a romantic, a time traveler. Funny that I also write about time travel, modern day women thrust into arenas not of their choosing:  alien worlds. Does my writing parallel my movie and book preferences? Does yours? Not just your writing, but your artwork; the books you read, the homemade cards you design, the jewelry you make, the dishes you cook when you are free to be yourself.

Sometimes we fall prey to pressure from the outside to be or think or watch what everyone else is being and thinking and watching.  As we get older, we fear we will be made fun of if we do not get the meaning of Barton Fink or Super Bad, or we don’t get rap or MTV, or we don’t laugh at movies filled with stoned characters or girls with their breasts hanging down to Brazil and back. I myself tremble at the thought of telling others I enjoy listening to Glen Miller and Frank Sinatra as much as Gaelic Storm or Steely Dan or Metallica. How can I be spread so thin over the planet? How can music and movies and books reflect who I am, who I’d love to be, when I’m in a hundred places at one time?

 As we get older our needs change. What thrilled us at 20 bores us at 50. Not that our youth is invalidated; on the contrary. We have evolved, just like everyone else. The things we thought risqué at 25 make us smile knowingly at 40. I suppose that’s because the world ever evolves, ever moves forward. And even though we move forward as well, we have the ability to focus on whatever era we wish. I have a friend who loves science fiction; the science part, the infinity part. This person works with computers, a field infinite and definitely scientific. Is sci-fi merely an extension of their reality? What about another friend who is very logical during the day yet hooked into murder mysteries all other times? Is her enjoyment of figuring out “who did it?” a reflection of working things out in her life?

 I suppose the point of this story is to encourage you to follow whatever direction your spirit guide sends you. When I was younger I questioned everything. “Does this mean something?” “If I turn right and go through the woods, instead of left and down to the field, does it mean something?” Now I know that every decision is just that. A choice. Turn left, turn right. It doesn’t matter. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a choice. Both turns take you back to who you are. Just like whatever movies you watch, whatever books you read. Enjoy adventure, enjoy historical sagas. Enjoy accounting manuals. It doesn’t matter.

 Having found that contentment regarding my decisions, I wonder what it means that my other favorite movies include Boondocks Saints and Con Air.

 Put… the bunny…back in the box…

Harry Potter vs Hannibal Lecter

 I just finished watching the movie Silence of the Lambs. This movie is brutal and unnerving and psychological and graphic. It forces the audience to watch in fascination one minute and hide our heads under the blanket the next. It’s kinda like people who slow down to take a peek at an accident on the side of the road ― it’s scary yet fascinating.  Voyeurism at its worst. And it makes me wonder why a simple, hard-working, middle class wife and mother, catalog coordinator, ex-soccer mom and spaghetti queen, watches a movie about someone who kidnaps women and strips them of their skin.

Why do we watch what we do? Why does society make movies like they do?  Movie making, like writing, is a bizarre connection of our deepest fears and highest nspirations.  The thought of such travesties existing outside our sphere of consciousness practically takes our breath away. Yet movie moguls make cinema magic focusing on psychos, mass murders, and psychological monstrosities all the time, and most of us have shared at least a piece of their legends. Writers such as Stephen King and Dean Koonz strip away our walls and prey on our vulnerable humanness. So I have to ask ― do movies and books reflect our true self?

 The human mind is a confusing labyrinth of thoughts, impulses and memories. That’s why it’s so easy to get lost in it. Not only do we want cuddly children and sentimental songs and feel-good endings ― we want to be confronted with things that terrorize us. Things that unconsciously test the possibility of taking us to that last fishing hole in the sky. Because of this always-changing labyrinth, we find ourselves asking eternal question, “What if?”  What if we/you/they had made a different choice? What if the chick that was captured in Silence of the Lambs decided to stop for a beer with her girlfriends and got drunk and wound up in Cleveland instead of helping the dude with his sofa? What if Melanie in Gone with the Wind had not died? If Luke Skywalker had grown up hanging around with his dad?

 When we are young, there are many choices in front of us. Our love life, our jobs, our cars, all are ripe apples to be picked from the abundant tree of life.  Life is nothing  but one big choice. But often the energy and pressures of our existence make our choices come from circumstance and necessity rather than free will. Hence, one of the trials of being human ― the ever eternal million-dollar question.

But back to the crazy movie. In watching this psychological mess, I oft-handedly wondered if this kind of movie reflected my inner self. I have many friends who talk about the movies they watch:  middle-aged love comedies; retro pot-smoking, chick-banging absurdities; historical pieces.  Some are huge fans of horror; others cannot live without s lot of sex and drama. Do these favorites define who they are? Do these choices influence their cosmic journey? Does Star Trek and Fried Green Tomatoes influence mine?

I think I make too much of a simple case of being human. For more years than there are leaves in a tree,  homo sapiens have been pigeon-holed into categories and titles and labels that may or not be true. Not only are we defined by our religion and our politics, but by our style of dress, choice of music, and our diet. Eventually, many of us figure out that labels, like time, mean nothing. They are nothing but illusions created to give us a feeling of being in control. Which is an illusion in itself. We all know there is no such thing as control ― only the temporary organization of chaos.

Are we too old to appreciate the humor of movies that showcase bare breasts, devil lawyers, psychos, marijuana, and farts? On the contrary! One of the challenges of getting older is there are so many new thoughts, impressions, and attitudes in the world that we cannot possibly keep up. The older we get, the more we want to show the world that we can indeed fit in with the aforementioned thoughts, impressions, and attitudes. And you know what? The gift of experience gives us the tools to do so. It may be that our attention span is much narrower, our need to shoot off at some erratic angle not as strong as hen we were 16…but it shows us that the more the world changes around us, the more it stays the same.

You see, the voice of individuality has never really changed. An individual can be Frank Sinatra mixed with Elvis mixed with Metallica mixed with Keith Urban.  Why can’t we like chocolate and vanilla and tooti fruiti too? Why can’t we talk about football and Texas sheet cake and transcendental meditation in the same breath? Why can’t we wear silk one day and denim the next? We should revel is our uniqueness; revel in the fact that we can enjoy all of the above and not compromise who we are.  Peeking at a horror movie doesn’t mean we are going to dismember the neighbor; watching two women run away and drive off the cliff does not mean we will get the same uncontrollable driving  urge.

I am quite satisfied with the landscape of movies and music before me. The only problem is that I keep dreaming of Harry Potter vs. Hannibal Lechter. Both powerful main characters that keep you wanting to know more. Where does this polarity leave me?

            Satisfied.

Middle Magic

Surfing the television the other night, I came across a quite entertaining program — one of those behind-the-scenes pieces on the making of a current hit movie. I snuggled in my oversized chair and listened as cast and crew glowed about the setting, the camaraderie, and the overwhelming feeling of family that pervaded the movie set for those two years. Envy tinted with wanderlust began to fill my mind. After it was over, I found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t that be great? Escape the drudgery of my everyday, boring  office job and go off with wildly artistic people to exotic locations and be a part of something big and exciting and creative — like making a movie.” Flashes of famous people danced in my head: cast parties, flights to locations I’ve never seen, working in thunderstorms and desert heat side by side with fellow creative spirits…

I was eventually knocked back into reality through a number of obnoxious commercials, and came to the realization that my exotic movie set was right there before me. Middle Magic. Middle Age.

Middle Age. A word that is still hard to identify with. A word that gives most of us the willies. What does it mean?  It used to mean one’s half-life — half way between the cradle and the grave. Near the turn of the century middle age was 30; decades earlier it was as young as 20. My parents’ generation viewed middle age somewhere in their 40s; my own personal interpretation pushes it to at least somewhere in the mid-60s. But magic? At this point in my life, how could my life cycle resonate with the energy of  Merlin or Dumbledore?

As I dreamt about life as an actress or a jet-setting hotel heiress, it became obvious to me that we are all a result of our choices. I could have chosen a different path. If I had truly wanted to be a part of the acting community I could have gone the way of high school plays, summer theater, or politics. But my choices took me along a different path: family, children, a place to call home. I came to understand that we all hear the call of destiny, but it’s up to us what we do with that calling. Middle Magic goes beyond those initial choices. This sort of magic is a whirlwind of the past and the present, the switching of life’s gears, so to speak. It is a tugging of our soul, asking to finally be set free to wander and explore the world in its own way. You know ― living the “stepping out of the box” cliché way of life. This sort of magic is an empowerment that breaks us from the monotony of routine and propels us into the world of extraordinary. Middle Magic is experience tinted with awe, reality mingled with fantasy. It is part who knows, part who cares. After all, isn’t that what we’ve spent all this time wanting?

Middle age is merely a threshold ― let’s not be afraid to cross it. We’ve got nothing to lose except our inhibitions.  Who needs those, anyway?  The wonderful thing is that we have this power in every thought we have, every moment we live. It starts with an acknowledgement of where we are, and opens doors to a future we only now can  reach.  It is through this energy that we finally connect with our self. Only at this point do the gates of the palace open before us.

Perhaps Middle Magic is nothing more than coming to grips with our own mortality. The Reaper has no discretion with its scythe; it strikes down the young and old, dashing dreams and breaking hearts without discretion. But it is precisely because of the Reaper’s indiscretion that we understand how important it is to live life to its fullest day to day. How important it is to open doors to new worlds, encouraging others to do so as well.  To continue to learn, to continue to share what we’ve learned, to know that our ability to learn is as vast as the stars above.

As I turned off the television, there was still a part of me that wished I had been a part of making that movie: the friendship, the excitement, the stress and the secrets. But I realized I have all the above with me every day — friendship, stress, and secrets   With a flick of the pen I can live in 1880 or 2050, on a space station near Jupiter or in an apartment in Manhattan. Pick up a book and I can walk with hobbits or Sioux Indians or Japanese Shoguns. I have music and movies and my own imagination to take me wherever I want to go. And when I run low on imagination, I have my friends’ imaginations to fuel me.

True magic is the magic of the moment; the feeling that you are making a difference, a riff, in the routine of reality. Magic is realizing that you can be a creator and a dreamer along with doing dishes or being a catalog coordinator or taking care of kids or grandkids. Everywhere there is a story to be told, and every story has a bit of a smile in it. All you have to do is stop and share it. That is what Middle Magic is about. Chuckling at the absurdity of the world around us, taking what we have learned through the years with a grain of salt and a cup of schmaltz and sharing it with everyone.

We can only go one way on this road of life; we should make a point to share a smile or two or a thousand with as many souls as we can. Don’t you know? We are all magicians. We are all whimsical, swirling motes of dust in the sunshine of life. Powerful, crazy, magical motes.

Gandalf would be proud.

 

Paint Who’s Wagon?

What does it mean to be middle-aged? Is there a line drawn across the cosmic playfield that says on this side, you are old, on this side, young? If you love Big Band and Glen Miller, are you old? If you like Rhianna or Jay-Z are you young? If you like InSync or Boy George, are you just … weird?

The older I get, the fuzzier the line gets. I have friends on the 40/70-year-old line that lead fairly “normal” lives:  Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Oprah. Then there are those who are a little more wild: The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, AC/DC. Where do most of us fit? How do we know where the line is between antique and hip hop? Between dancing and throwing our back out?

The trigger mechanism tonight was Paint Your Wagon, a musical made 40 years ago. Imagine:  Clint Eastwood singing. Lee Marvin dancing and singing about beans. This movie is 40 years old; twice as old as my youngest son. Yet there are some of us who sit around, laughing and singing the songs as if they were still on the top of the charts. When I watch musicals like Brigadoon and Sound of Music and Camelot, my kid looks at me like I’ve grown a second nose. Musicals give most teenagers the willies. If it’s not High School Musical or Glee, it’s not a musical. He shakes his head and goes to watch movies where people get their limbs cut off or that showcase breasts that hang out like watermelons in the summer sun or guys sitting around smoking weed and talking about getting laid. It’s at these times that I feel so disconnected. So…old.

I know that every generation has to evolve. What was fascinating, entertaining or daring to one group is not necessarily to the next. I find myself cringing at songs like Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and The Bird is the Word. And those were from the generation right before me. I’m sure that same generation shivered at songs like Transylvania 6500 and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree. Even my parent’s generation had dissenters: I have a song in my collection called If Swing Goes I Go Too by Fred Astaire, singing about “some old fogey wants to ration swing.” Imagine! Our parents being rebels!

Of course, there are many other reflections of generation gaps, many other blank looks from both sides of the fence when music and movies and clothes come to the forefront. I am not the first to discover that there are a number of meanings for the same word, and not everyone is on the same page of the dictionary. My son is fond of chillin’ and hangin’; I can imagine what that would mean to my grandfather’s generation. While I try not to use phrases that date me like groovy and far-out, I can’t help but fall back on standbys like cool and hunky dory, words that dance on the edge of fogey-ism.

I think alot about the generation gap. Not so much how I am on one side or another, but how I can bridge that gap. Sooner or later everything revolves back onto itself. Not back to exactly the same spot; not to the same beat (eight-to-the-bar, jive, waltz), nor to the same words (commie, greaser, beatnik), but to explanations for the same situations that haunt all human beings. As much as underwear sticking out from atop blue jeans and skull caps shake our interpretation of fashion, I imagine mini-skirts and go-go boots did the same for those who wore spats and garters.

All generations wander through the fog; some with purpose, others just along for the ride. All generations start out with a dream, a hope that they will somehow make a difference in their world. One way or another everyone wants to be noticed; everyone wants to be remembered. Some make slasher movies; others cures for diseases. Some climb Mt. Everest, others walk the track for Breast Cancer. For some of us the best we can do is pass along our lasagna or apple pie receipe. We all contribute in our own way.

But back to the over-the-top musical from 1969. Listen to the words to the title song:

Where am I goin?  I don’t know

Where am I headin’? I ain’t certain

All I know is I am on my way…

When will I be there? I don’t know

When will I get there?  I ain’t certain

All I know is I am on my way

We are all wanderin’, we are all goin’ somewhere. And few of us know when we’ll get there. And yes, we are all chillin’ and hangin’. We are all part of the same cycle, mixing and blending and blurring the lines of old AND new. Amazing what happens when all generations fall into the same pot — we become one amazingly flavorful stew.

Groovy.

Frivolous Facts and Falderal

Why not fill your head with useless — but amusing — information? Here’s a few facts that you can toss around with friends and family.

 

In the Lord of the Rings, although Bill the Pony is a feature of the novel, the writers initially decided not to include him as the Fellowship make their journey for the simple logistical reason of transporting a horse deep into the mountains.  The problem was solved in the more difficult shots by using the classic pantomime trick of dressing two people up as a horse, one at the front and one at the back.                                                                                                                                                                                              

The average American’s vocabulary is around 10,000 words — 15,000 if you are really smart.  Shakespeare had a vocabulary of over 29,000 words.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

47 elephants and dancing bears survived the sinking of the Titanic and got jobs in New York thereafter.

In the movie Carrie, the slow motion scene at the end of the movie was filmed in reverse to simulate ghostlike movement effects. If watched vigilantly, cars can be seen driving backwards in the upper left hand corner of the screen.

For the movie The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland got paid $35 a week, while Toto got paid $125.

The national anthem of Greece has 158 verses. No one in Greece has memorized all 158 verses.

Almonds are a member of the peach family.