Monthly Archives: May 2016

My Unsolicited Thoughts on Johnny Depp and Woody Allen

Being a Gryffindor, I believe, is not about being fearless.  It’s not purely bravery.  It’s true courage: it’s being scared and doing it anyway.  So here’s where I admit that I am terrified of getting these words wrong, but I have to share them anyway.

A few weeks ago, Woody Allen was recognized at the Cannes Festival.  I’ve only ever seen one of his movies and, even though I enjoyed it at the time, I can’t watch it anymore without feeling queasy.  It makes me think of Dylan Farrow, and it makes my heart hurt.

In the same way, Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland are starting to remind me of Amber Heard, and that breaks my heart too.

Already there are people who’ve never met Johnny Depp wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Inevitably, in cases like this, that has to go somewhere.  But my belief is that is belongs with Amber.

Statistically, only about 26-37 % turn out to be unsubstantiated.  That’s not proven false, that’s just reports that can’t be proven either way.  In this case, a judge thought there was proof enough, seeing as Heard was granted the protective order.  Speaking out against an abuser is difficult in the best of situations–why put yourself through it, plus the media attention and public scrutiny in this instance, if you don’t have to?

But the fact that people need this much justification to believe a woman, especially considering she showed up to court with a bruise on her face, is troubling to me.

Of course, in some circles, there’s another argument: who cares?  You think you can separate the man’s art from his private life.

This is not a matter of politics.  This is not disagreeing with a creator’s opinions, which they all have a right to have.  All the talent in the world does not give a person the right to abuse another human being.  And continuing o support him and his movies suggests that it does.  It says he can get away with doing this and no one is going to care.  To me, it says that the victims’ pain matters less than what their abuser can do on a movie screen.

I’m not generally one for boycotts.  There are a few companies I don’t support for various reasons, but I don’t tell others unless they ask.  In this case, I’m making an exception: if you can stop shopping at Target because you disagree with the bathroom policy, you can skip a few movies a year to show that the talents of Woody Allen and Johnny Depp are not more important than the people they hurt.

I’ve often heard we “vote with our wallet,” and wondered if mine really makes much of a difference.  Maybe it doesn’t.  But even if that’s the case, even if all I’m doing is standing in solidarity and silence and no one else notices or cares, that’s enough for me.  If that’s all I can do for Dylan Farrow and Amber Heard, then that’s what I’m going to do.  Pirates be damned.

 

 

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On Quitting

Almost a decade ago, I attended a conference called SLU, a program meant to instill leadership and activism in Christian students.  I don’t remember many details, but I recall someone spoke that week and bragged that he finished every book he ever started.

He was trying to make a point about keeping true to your commitments, and I respect that.  There are so many things in this world that are hard but worth it.  For example, I don’t always want to go to yoga.  Sometimes, it hurts.  But I am always glad that I went.  Krav Maga is the same way.  Relationships, your education, the life you want to live: these are all worth committing to and fighting for.

But life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy.

(On the other hand, if they’re for school or a book club, those are different circumstances.  There’s a different endgoal and you may want to fight for those too.)

This week, I picked up The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, a book that caught my eye while I was working as a librarian.  I like children’s books, but this one was too juvenile for me.  Plus, the main characters’ excuses for kissing another girl while he supposedly liked his friend left a sour taste in my mouth.

It’s not an awful book.  For Juvenile Fiction, it’s good writing.  The short chapters are easy to get through and the core plot (where Jackson returns to his cons to take down a corrupt class presidential candidate) is entertaining, even though the side romantic plot makes me wince.  It even addresses racism and privilege more overtly than many books I’ve read.

But the romantic side plot does make me wince, and none of the characters have endeared me to them yet.  It’s not exciting to me, and I gave it a hundred pages to change my mind.

(I mean, any book is better than none and it was all I had at work that day.)

Sometimes I don’t know when to quit, but I’m calling it: The Great Greene Heist is not for me, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Now I have more time (and shelf space) to devote to books I’m actually going to enjoy.  Life’s too short to do otherwise.

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The End of the Great Coffee Drought of 2016

I found out after the fact, when I couldn’t do anything about it.  Not that I didn’t have a choice: I could replace the pot, the only part that was actually broken, or just get a new coffee maker.

The most advanced feature on the old coffee maker was an on-off switch, so upgrading was a no-brainer.  I’d never chosen one before, but I thought it would be a good idea to make a list of the features I wanted.  That way, I could make sure the new one met my needs.

  • Programmable auto-on
  • Programmable auto-off
  • Brew pause
  • 12-cups
  • Pink
  • A brand I had heard of before (usually my mother’s standard)

But when I went to Wal-Mart to look for one, none of the choices they presented had everything.  Still, the one I picked was much better than my old one.

I could set it to start brewing so I didn’t have to go downstairs first thing in the morning to flip the switch myself.  It would automatically turn off after two hours—not as good as letting me set the shut-off time, but better than going off after a single hour when I still wasn’t done or staying on all day because I forgot to hit the button.  It was the right size and had the brew pause option so I could pour a cup before it was done.  I wasn’t familiar with the brand, but that wasn’t a huge sticking point with me.

The biggest disappointment was that it wasn’t pink, but it was pretty in its own way.  Besides, it did the most important things, so I was happy with it.  I expected to use it a while, probably taking it to my own kitchen when I finally moved out of my mother’s house.

The next morning, coffee slowly dripping into the pot, it was even prettier.  I was pleased that I had made such a good, adult purchase.

But the morning after that, I went downstairs to an empty pot, despite having set it the night before.  I pushed the brew button, toggled some switches, even unplugged it and plugged it back in.  The clock still said the correct time but, no matter what I did, it would not give me any coffee.

I couldn’t do much about it at the time, so I went to work and left it alone.  When I got home, I glanced over to see if there had been a delayed response.

Nope. Still nothing.

I’d had a miserable couple of days without my caffeine boost.  I was perfectly willing to compromise on some features, but it didn’t do its most basic job—if the coffee maker didn’t actually make coffee, what was the point of it?

I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond that night ready to be picky.  We had to special order it and I had to wait a few more days, but I got the pink one.  It has all the features I listed.  And, so far at least, it keeps making the coffee.  Five pots so far to the last coffee maker’s one.

And it’s pretty damn delicious too.

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Going Away Shoes

Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle was both the hardest and easiest thing I’ve read in weeks.

A collection of short stories, they are mainly about different ways love ends. With her vivid imagery, dramatic sense of pace, and true-to-life characters, there was more than once that I felt McCorkle was pulling my heart out through my stomach, but the warmth in her voice was a comfort throughout.  Each time I could hear it telling me everything would be okay.  And she did not disappoint: though the stories did not have traditional happy endings, they did end with hope.

My personal favorite, “Midnight Clear,” is the story of a single mom’s first Christmas after her divorce.  In the midst of disaster, she meets Mr. Morris Settle, who’s been there and found love after it.  He leaves both the narrator and reader with a new sense that everything will be all right.

It was that feeling that kept me reading.  Through the little boy who refuses to accept that his dad was never happy with his mom despite growing into a man who makes the same mistakes; through the woman writing a letter to a marriage counselor after he failed to save her marriage so she can tell him she no longer looks like “shit on a stick;” through the intervention and the trip to the moon…even through “Magic Words,” which scared me so badly and broke my heart so thoroughly that I had to tuck myself into a corner to finish it.  No matter how dark it gets, McCorkle always leaves a light shining somewhere.

The way she weaves that light into her prose is part of the undefinable magic, but I think I’ve figured out part of it.

You can find every kind of love in this book: romantic, coming and going, sibling, the daughter caring for her aging mother, the mother caring for one who is not her own, and so on.  But in each comes a moment when the main character learns to love herself.  Sometimes it takes the form of leaving a bad situation, sometimes it is in the staying, in finding the strength to move forward.  It’s not all freedom and it’s not all “settling down.”  It’s learning to love themselves and their moment, whatever it might look like.

It makes for entertaining stories, even uplifting ones despite their bleak beginnings.  They’re about love and loss and loving through the loss.  We’ve all been there, and these stories are encouraging and uplifting to all of us.

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Short Update

There is a lot going on in my life right now.  I just got back from Disneyland and am in the midst of planning a long weekend in Arizona and a massive road trip in October.  I’ve bought three books and reached out to three writing teachers to figure out how to get some writing published.  I have taken three classes in Krav Maga and officially joined the gym, plus I’ve been going to yoga pretty consistently for the last two months.  I’ve been in therapy for the last three.

All of these things deserve their own post, and I will eventually discuss each of them.  But after the Coffee Drought of 2016 and the week I’ve been having…I really just needed to half-ass something tonight.

You know, half-assing things gets a bad rap, but it saved my life in college.

There are things you should never half-ass: relationships, for one.  But I think part of being an adult is about learning your limits.  Part of being an adult is showing up and doing what you can.

The truth is that it’s not always enough, but usually…usually I think our best is enough.  Even if it doesn’t work out, even if your best isn’t necessarily good enough, sometimes it has to be.  Because these are the other options: you overreach and wear yourself thin so that you don’t know what way is up anymore, or you don’t bother trying and you don’t get any points for that.  Sometimes I think half-assing something is a form of self-care…provided you don’t do it too often.

Next week, it will be back to planning and editing, and a blog post I’m proud of.

But tonight, I showed up, and that’s going to be enough for the week I’m having.

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How Glad Are You That I Didn’t Finish the Walt Disney Biography?

I made enough progress in Bob Thomas’s book to know that Walt Disney and I would have gotten along well.  I just didn’t make time to read about the man’s life when I was surrounded by his work, and I was too tired to read on the plane ride home.  So it’s time to blog about another little book: The Trouble Woman by Clara Morris.

Despite being published in 1904, it was very easy to read.  Morris has an artful style that creates a vivid image of the story’s events.  The voice is compelling in both its childlike innocence and its maturity.  It clearly shows why the story is important and how it affected the narrator.

The story itself wasn’t at all what I expected.  From the title, I anticipated something more like Dekker and Middleton’s The Roaring Girl.  Instead, it featured a different kind of strong woman.  There is an appeal to that, though I took issue with her repetition of “You call that trouble? I don’t!”  While going out of her way to help anyone experiencing a setback, she’s still saying they shouldn’t be too upset.  Later on, it becomes evident that her reasoning is basically “I’ve had it worse,” which is not an acceptable standard for suffering.

And yet, it adds an interesting level of complexity to this otherwise ideal woman who gives of herself until everything is taken from her and then gives even more.  Her actions and her mere presence exude sympathy and compassion while her words belie that by suggesting they have no real reason to be upset.  Even her interaction in the woods with the young narrator shows her many facets, as she comforts her like a daughter before telling her of her own sorrowful past.  It gives her depth that many modern writers struggle to bring to their female characters.

If you want to read older books, this is a good one to start with: it’s short, interesting, easy to ready, and yet not too simplistic.  It’s not one of my favorites, but I did enjoy the time I spent with it.

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Tuesday Update: Disneyland Edition

I attempted a video to talk a little about my appreciation for Walt Disney.

 

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For the Lovers, the Dreamers, and You.

So ends the dedication in Before You Leap, a “self-improvement” book written by Kermit the Frog, with a little help from Jim Lewis.

(As you can see, we are staying on theme, as the Muppets are something I had no interest in before my four months at Disney World.)

The book actually fits better in the Humor section, though there is some genuine advice for lovers, dreamers, and those aspiring to be either.  Some of my favorites include:

  • “So we put our panic aside-temporarily-and got down to business.” pg. 45. (Technically, something they did and not actual advice, but I think it’s got legs.)
  • “Remember, these are the best years of your life…The heck with everyone else!” pg. 94.
  • “Let time pass and the hurt will go away, though you may walk with a limp.” pg. 111.
  • “It may not be normal, but this is your life, so make yourself at home and go a little crazy too.” pg. 121.
  • “Do your best and treat others well, and I guarantee the best is yet to come.” pg. 122.
  • “First, there are far too many people in the world to please everyone. Second, you won’t meet most of these people in person, so why bother trying? And third, if you’re going to please anyone, make it moi.” pg. 185.
  • “Consider what is most important in life to you and be true to those things.” pg. 186.
  • “Success is believing in yourself, then convincing everyone else that you’re right.” pg. 187.
  • “A spectacular failure is better than a humdrum success.” pg. 209.
  • “…you can’t amaze the world until you first surprise yourself.” pg. 210.

Though gems like these can be applied to your life, you’ll mostly just be laughing as Kermit explains how he navigates through life in Hollywood among his louder, wilder costars and friends.

My main complaint about this book is that they are a few too many jokes at Miss Piggy’s expense.  Clearly the ghostwriter (Lewis) has forgotten some of the finer points of the Muppets’ films, since it’s obvious Kermit loves her too.  He almost figures it out in chapter 12, but since he spends most of the other 17 chapters talking about her like she’s an annoyance to be tolerated, humored, and/or avoided to make life easier, I don’t blame Piggy for socking the frog a couple of times.  I mean, yeesh Kermit.  “Accept and appreciate her” my foot.

Aside from those wince-inducing bits, the writer handles everything else with the heart and good humor Kermit is known for.  He speaks nostalgically about Jim Henson and Sesame Street, giving a firm background for what the character has become.  He also discusses the other Muppets, especially Gonzo and Fozzie, with true affection, make the relationships (and the Muppets themselves) seem more realistic.  The book reminded me why I loved The Muppet Movie so much: it may have been puppets, but the way these wacky characters came together and followed their dreams feels human.  The way they come true is inspiring.

And though Kermit’s dream and journey to it are make-believe, we should remember that Jim Henson’s (and Walt Disney’s for that matter) were very real.  Henson created the Muppets in 1955 and they have a show on ABC 61 years later.  Disneyland is celebrating its 60th anniversary now and, as Walt always said, “It all started with a mouse” 28 years before that.  When you dream and you work at it, there’s no telling where it can go.  It’s a reminder I needed right now, and maybe you do too.  So, for the lovers, the dreamers, and you and me…

“Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
When wished on a morning star?
Somebody thought of it, and someone believed it.
Look what it’s done so far…”

Keep looking for your rainbow connection, sweetheart.  You’ll make it eventually.

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My Top 5 Disney World Stories (Well, 4 of them)

I don’t have a single place I call home; I am lucky enough to have three.  There’s my hometown of course.  As much as I complain about it, it’s where my mom lives, where my dad’s buried, and where my bar’s at, not to mention the two closest friends I’ve got.  No matter how far I go, I’ll always come back to it eventually.

My second home has been Chapel Hill.  It’s where I formed so many of the ideas and friendships that shape me now, even if they aren’t still part of my life.  I had a hard time leaving UNC, but I knew it would have been harder if I hadn’t been heading to the other place I consider home: Disney World.

I spent four months working and living there, but it was a home to me before that, before I took the ferry alone, shivering against the breeze coming off the lake, and caught my first look at Cinderella’s castle in three years.  It was the moment I pulled up to the apartment complex and showed my ID to the man at the gate.  “Welcome home,” he said.

I had driven eight hours to get there, crying part of the way.  I cried because I knew how much I would miss my mom, my boyfriend, and Cora.  I knew I wouldn’t stay forever, that I had another home I would go back to, and gladly.  But man, did it feel right to hear that.

This Saturday, I’m flying to California to visit Disneyland for the first time.  I’ve been craving the familiarity of it, but I’m also excited to see what new stories I’ll get to experience while I’m there.

In that spirit, I’ve been thinking of my favorite stories from those four months I spent in Disney World.  I can’t tell you the best one because somebody from the company may hunt me down and kill me—or worse, never hire me again—but here’s the rest of the Top 5 list.

(It’s possible a few of these are also Top Secret, though not AS Top Secret…but you won’t tell on me, will you?)

  • I once overheard a security guard asking a little girl if she knew who his boss was. When she guessed Mickey Mouse, he said, “I don’t know how it works at your house, but Minnie runs the show around here.”
  • One night, after the park was closed, there was an exclusive event for Cast Members where we got to ride the Rock’N’Roller Coaster (basically my favorite ride ever) with the lights on. It’s incredible seeing the difference.  I did it three times.
  • I worked Fantasmic, helping Mickey get into his Sorcerer’s Robes for his big scene. When Maleficent is at her highest point, there’s a moment when the lights go dark.  It’s bad luck for someone not to wave.  Usually Mickey does it but, on my last night, he let me.
  • Also on my last day, I got to test the lift before the show. I was literally on top of the mountain.  The view is spectacular and being so far up with so little holding you back is thrilling.

Honorable mentions to:

  • The time a cute boy working in Epcot’s France Pavilion called me “Princess” in a French accent. (Even a taken, demisexual girl is not totally immune to that; it’s like a Southern boy calling you “darlin’.”)
  • The time I went on a scavenger hunt through Magic Kingdom.
  • The time my cousin (and my whole family) met Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie backstage between Fantasmic shows because I had connections.
  • That time I thought I passed Johnny Depp in the park.
  • Getting to be there when Hollywood Studios celebrated 25 years. Also, being among the first to work with Darth Goofy and the gang.
  • Meeting Belle (yes, again) and discussing books with her. (I recommended Of Mice and Men because it’s what I was reading at the time.)

Walt Disney World is full of stories, and these are just a few of mine.  (If you want some trivia about the park itself, comment and I will respond with one random fact/story each.)  I’m taking all of them with me on this new adventure, and I can’t wait to see what new magic I experience while I’m there.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss a single story, follow me on Snapchat (Wordsmith92) and Twitter.

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