Monthly Archives: April 2014

A little story about an old car

So, I’m at Starbucks. Not terribly unusual for me, I love “girly” coffee with lots of sugary drizzle on top. In fact, I’m a bit of a bona fide addict. Seriously. They see me coming and start prepping my order.
But as much as I love Starbucks coffee, I’d rather not be here right now. I’d much rather be doing something else…I’d rather be driving home from work. But I can’t; driving requires a car and mine’s in the shop. Again.
Okay, that last bit’s not fair. It’s been a good six months or more since my car last broke down; for the most part she is a sturdy old thing that gets me where I need to go–as long as it’s not in Louisville. She’s a sunny-side only kind of girl (for those of you not fortunate enough to live in the Kentuckiana area, “sunny side” refers to the Indiana side of the Ohio river). True, she’s not glamorous or luxurious and none of my friends will get in her…they’ve heard too many stories, I guess. But she’s my first car, only cost me $2,000 to buy her and the frame is as sturdy as the engine. Not that I’ve been testing the limits of said frame, mind you.
She’s ancient, made in ’91. Actually, she’s a year younger than me, but I’m holding my age better. Like me, she likes to go fast (if you don’t believe me, ask my mother). The heater puts out heat like a furnace, which is just fine by me. I like it hot. I’ve had her for three and half years and I’ve accumulated a lot of history in that old thing. I’ve cried, laughed, sang songs at the top of my lungs in her. I’ve puzzled out large sections of writing in her. When I first was looking at her, I hated her, but she was the only working vehicle within my budget. Since then, we’ve hammered out what you could call a “complicated, semi-dysfunctional” relationship. I cuss at her and look at other cars. She breaks down at regular intervals and refuses to do Louisville traffic.
But the engine runs great and she’s gets amazingly good gas milage, so I guess I figure, better the devil you know. Or the damned old car, as the case may be.

Come on, mechanic’s. I want my old beater back!

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Categories: ordinary life | Tags: , | 4 Comments

The power of Superman

Spoiler warning: all of Man of Steel movie.

The internet is a funny thing.
If I really liked a book or movie, I tend not to read as much about them online. So many opinions swirling around, too many haters, etc, etc. It’s just easier to deal with if I don’t feel as invested in the story under review. Consequently, I was mostly unaware of the massive hate-storm on Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel until recently.
By the way, I really loved Man of Steel. It’s very much a classic story, retold for today’s audience. My brother has spoken often of how it is the quintessential Sun-god story. I loved how it was action-heavy (as is expected of a summer blockbuster), but still found lots of time for the quieter moments and the motivations of each character. Many people are complaining about Superman killing, and blaming him for the extreme destruction shown in the movie. I was reading this stuff and before I knew it, the words were flowing from my fingers in response…so I suppose I’m doing a blog post on it! Huh.

Yes, the film-makers could have cut a lot of action from the film. I’m not debating that, nor am I claiming that Man of Steel is a perfect movie. Not at all. It is, however, in my opinion, a good movie with important themes running through it. Zack Snyder had stated that he wanted this movie to explore the real-world consequences of having someone as powerful as Superman…and in terms of collateral damage, I’d say he succeeded. But though excessive, I don’t believe the destruction was gratuitous, serving no purpose but to amuse the audience’s fascination with chaos. Quite the contrary; I believe that by end of the movie, Clark/Superman had discovered a very important lesson through the destruction. In rewatching the movie, two snippets of the Metropolis battle stand out to me. One is when Faora kills a human soldier by snapping his neck. In the process, she drops him out of the camera frame. At the end of his final battle with Zod, Superman wins by breaking his neck in an eerily similar move…but Zod remains in the camera’s view the entire time.
So what’s the significance?
Man of Steel is filmed in the same style as Battlestar Galactica: a hand-held, “found footage” kind of style. This means the relationship between the characters and the camera is very important. Back to Faora. In dropping the soldier out of the camera frame, she has communicated something to us: that soldier wasn’t important to her. Neither his life nor his death meant anything to her; he was a temporary obstacle at best. Killing him simply didn’t affect her, anymore than tossing out the trash would.
But Superman keeps Zod up in the frame even while he kills him. He didn’t want to kill Zod and begged him to stop…until it was quite clear that there was nothing else he could do except kill him. It was taking all of Superman’s strength just to hold Zod still and to split his focus to attempt a non-lethal solution would almost certainly mean the death of the human family. So he breaks Zod’s neck and the camera lingers on his fallen enemy. Killing the homicidal maniac responsible for God only knows how many deaths affected Superman in a very fundamental, very personal way. He stares at Zod’s body as if he can’t believe that his hands, hands that had held his mother and Lois, could do something so violent. There’s also something else in his eyes, a look that telegraphed to me that he’s just discovered how easy it could be to kill.
But he’s so much stronger than anybody else on Earth; with the Kryptonians gone, it’s doubtful he’ll have an opponent as strong as himself again. So, the question remains: does Superman have the right to kill anyone who is not his physical equal? We saw with Faora just how quickly and easily he could permanently dispatch human threats…but where is the line between what is easy and what is right?
The age we live in now is hardened and cynical. We like pushing the envelope, testing definitions and labels. We like gritty and edgy and dark, and because Superman is such a straight-shooter, such a “boy scout”, I think Snyder and co made a smart call showing us why Superman won’t kill: it’d be far too easy for him; far too easy for someone as powerful as he is to get into the habit of killing his enemies. Man of Steel, in my opinion, did an excellent job of showcasing exactly how powerful Superman really is. Take the battle of Smallville, the destruction of Metropolis: this is exactly what he is capable of if he wants to be, or even if he’s just being careless or distracted.
Jonathan Kent told him that he would have to decide who he wanted to be, how he wanted to live. Just by virtue of being what he was, Clark would always be an important force in the world. But who he was…what rules he lived by…I think he realized then that the only force that can truly control Superman is Clark Kent’s moral compass. And to prevent himself from slipping down Zod’s slippery slope, his morals are going to have to be consistent and firm.
I suppose they could have told us all this in dialogue…but this Superman is more expressive with his physicality than with his words. Killing an enemy, even though it was necessary, clearly left a foul taste in his mouth. His lack of experience in hand-to-hand combat resulted in major death and destruction. Going forward into the Superman-Batman movie, I can totally see this Superman saying “This can’t ever happen again. This situation will not happen again.” Going forward, this Superman is going to make himself into the biblical definition of meek: strength under control. He’s more powerful than anyone else around him, so he’s holding himself to higher standards.

Props to my mother for providing a thought-provoking conversation on meekness. Seriously, you need to write up your thoughts on Karl “Helo” Agathon from Battlestar.

Categories: reviews | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Too funny

Helo (aka Karl Agathon) is my all-time favorite character on Battlestar Galactica. He’s a good man who continually gets the short end of the stock and still continues to be a good man. What’s not to like?
Anyway, I was just doing a little catch-up on BSG alumni and found this. It’d probably be funny anyway, but to see Helo running around in a ridiculous outfit, spouting swords-and-sorcery-talk…
Let’s just say that breathing was a bit of a challenge for a second.

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How do you say goodbye?

The hardest part about my job is losing a resident. It hurts…but you have to keep moving. And while you never really “get used to it”, you do learn how to handle the death of someone you’ve cared for.
The last time I lost someone, I grabbed a paper napkin and jotted this down. I’m not even sure it counts as a poem as it doesn’t even rhythm; I suppose I could have tightened it up a bit…but I don’t want to. Raw is how I felt when I wrote this. Raw is how I feel when I remember.

A last kiss on your forehead,
Still warm to the touch
But soon you’ll be cold
How do you say goodbye?
A last whispered “I love you”
Because it’s not just money
That’s luring me here
How do you say goodbye?

You were dying when I met you
They called it “going downhill”
Every day just a little worse
And now you’re dying no more
But how do I say goodbye?

Sponge down your body
You shouldn’t be so still
Wash your face, fold your hands
New sheets for the bed
I can’t say I’m sorry
You’re in pain no more
How do you say goodbye?

A last touch, then I’m done
Move on to the living
I can’t help you anymore
Seven other people
Still need me today
You’re gone and I can’t cry

Tomorrow’s here
And you’re still gone
A new face in your bed
New stories to learn
I have to keep working
And so I move on

It’s a year down the road,
And your face is fading
Sit down and cry
Because I can’t remember
How to fix your coffee
How do you remember
Everyone you’ve ever lost?
How do you say goodbye?

Categories: CNActivist, Writing | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Wildflowers

I love the wild flowers that grow on the edges of the rural roads around me. They’re just so damn tenacious and pretty.
And their presence says spring is here to stay! Woohoo! I’m so over winter.

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Wow

WordPress just informed me that my record daily hits has just been reset. Thanks guys!

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Edit: and just a few minutes later, I get another notice. Record high for daily hits has been broken and reset to 54. Cool!

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The 100

I read the book and it was, to put it mildly, crap. The TV show, however…
Seriously, this is an amazing show. It’s still recognizably a CW show, with “pretty” people and unnecessary drama of the romantic kind. But still…pretty freaking good. For those unfamiliar with the show, it is set after some kind of global catastrophe that seems to be radiological in nature. Humanity survived through those who managed to escape to an orbiting spacecraft known by the original title “The Ark”. Because of the need for order and the extremely limited resources, the justice system has become rigid and harsh. Any crime is a capital crime and executions are carried out by “floating”; i.e. shoving a person out an airlock while they’re still alive. Cruel and horrific? Yes. But the fear of it seems to be an effective tool of a desperate society.
So what happens if you’re under the age of majority and are convicted of a crime? You’re put in jail until you’re 18, then retried and most often floated. The show starts after something’s gone wrong aboard the Ark…after nearly a century of sheltering humanity, the poor thing is falling apart. We’re told that the Earth still needs another 100 years to heal, but the increasingly desperate folks in charge decide to kill two birds with one stone: free up resources and test the Earth’s habitability by sending all 100 juvie delinquents to the ground. Heading up this plan is Dr. Abby Griffin…or as we’re introduced to her, the mother of our leading lady Clarke Griffin, who is in jail for a crime of conviction and just a few weeks shy of turning 18.
So, is Abby cruel enough to use her own daughter as a lab rat or loving enough to give her an another (admitted long) shot at life? Or desperate enough to be both?
I won’t say too much more because my family is going to watch it when it comes out on Netflix, but here is a basic, spoiler-free version of why I’m addicted.

• Follow-through.
It is a CW show, so there’s no guarantee that this will continue, but so far I have been pleased. The show will present a challenge, an impossible choice, and then the characters have to make that choice and live with the consequences. Actual character development ensues. I guess ten years of blood, sweat and tears (as Michael puts it) from the Smallville team really did some good for the network. They’ve really stepped up their game with Arrow, The Tomorrow People and now The 100.

• Battlestar Galactica feels.
I miss my Battlestar. I really miss Helo and Starbuck and the Adamas. And The 100 feels like Battlestar-lite…not as gritty, not as deep, but still thought-provoking. I especially like how the show does not conveniently forget that these kids on the ground have all been convicted of crimes. I rather expected the youngsters to start acting like teenaged heroes, but no. These aren’t the cream of the crop; these are teenagers who have seen and done some rough stuff. Clarke is from a more privileged background but she is treated differently because of it. Multiple characters refer to her as “Princess”…which I find a realistic reaction. Speaking of which…

• Mostly authentic characters.
Now, every fantasy/sci-fi story has The One Big Lie, usually related to the set up. And however far-flung and unrealistic the situation, the characters have to be relatable, their reactions authentic for the audience to suspend disbelief. For the most part, both the kids on the ground and adults in space are behaving like people, not plot points. Okay, the adults more than the kids, but isn’t that to be expected anyways?
Probably the most compelling characters are the Griffins, both of whom are healers by nature and leaders by necessity. Also, the relationship between Bellemy and Octavia (the only siblings on the show) has a very natural, very organic feel to it. You honestly believe that Bellemy would do literally anything for his little sister and Octavia both resents and relies on him.

• Genetic diversity in the cast.
The Chancellor of the Ark, the most powerful human in existence…is a black man. Holy cow! And you want to know what’s even better than that? Nobody ever mentions it. The color of skin is a bit of a non issue when humanity is on the brink of extinction. And a bit of a rant here, but with humanity in the thousands and huddled on one spacecraft, pretty much everybody is going to be of mixed racial origins. And I love that the show reflects this and a lot of the characters are not pearly white Caucasians. Yeah, I know all this sounds funny coming from a pearly white Caucasian girl…but hey, you’re only looking at the outside, people.

• Forward momentum.
There’s a sense that this train is headed somewhere and going there fast…unlike the book, which kind of squished it’s way from drama to melodrama. Seriously, the show is 100 times better than the book; as in it is actually interested more in the premise of the story than the hormones of its teenage characters. Never thought I’d say that!

There’s no guarantee that this show will keep up its steam. But so far, The 100 is an intriguing premise with decent execution. Looking forward to Wednesday’s new episode!
By the way, even though it’s written as “the one hundred”, it’s called “the hundred”. Drives me nuts, but there you go.

Categories: reviews | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Questions: A review of Captain America: the Winter Soldier

Massive spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Michael and I have a tradition of going out to the movies frequently. It’s our special sibling tradition. Last week we went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Confession time: I don’t really like Marvel movies. There are exceptions, of course, like Thor…but for the most part I don’t really get involved with them. I should explain that for me, stories are like people and those that I like, I invest in. I build a relationship with them; I spend hours exploring their depths, their subtleties, their themes. And Marvel movies feel more like product than art to me…like they are made to pull in cash and not to explore an idea. I loved Thor because it was felt about brothers. Even then, it still felt a bit hollow to me.
Not so The Winter Soldier. As soon as I first heard the title, something felt different; the combination of those three words made me think of mystery and sadness and something precious that’s been lost. I wasn’t mistaken.
I loved this movie and, more so than any Marvel movie to date, I’ve invested in it. If Thor, my previous favorite was about brothers, the Winter Soldier is about friendship. In a refreshing turn, they withhold a romance from this movie, so as not to distract from the critical relationships in The Winter Soldier: Steve and Bucky; Nick Fury and Alexander Pierce.

That Pierce would betray and attempt to kill Fury, his own friend, was bad enough. That he would use the man who had once been Steve’s friend to do it is pure evil. Even in the world of story, there’s no good reason to spend so much effort to brainwash Bucky…except that he was Captain America’s best friend. “Even when I had nothing, I had Bucky,” Steve says mournfully and that has to be the reason Hydra spent so much effort to turn Bucky, to strip Steve of everything. Bucky as the Winter Soldier is the perversion of everything Steve wanted to be. In the previous Captain America movie, Dr Erskine asked pre-serum Steve if he wanted to be a soldier to kill people and Steve replied no, he just didn’t like bullies. So Hydra took his best friend, a fellow soldier of honor, and striped him of everything but the killer. Gone are the motivations, the reasons why, the drive to protect those weaker than himself. They even take his voice. The man who once Bucky is now nothing but Pierce’s weapon.

You can trace Bucky’s return to humanity in his few lines of dialogue and the gradual destruction of his uniform. First Natasha shoots off his goggles: he must now look at his victims with his own eyes. Then Steve rips off his mask and we realize it was never a mask. It was a gag. It’s only after the mask comes off that he really speaks and even after, his speeches are short, mostly questions and statements of fact. “Who is Bucky?” “Who was that man?” “But I knew him.” He says everything in flat tone, no inflection. Sebastian Stan does a terrific job of containing the emotion. His facial movements are sparse and it’s only in the eyes that we see the raging confusion. But his tentative questions go unanswered…the only response he receives from his master is the cold command “Wipe him and start again.”
He is sent out again and while the mask remains off, it’s almost more painful for Steve, for the audience…because Bucky’s face has become the mask. “You know me,” Steve pleads, using almost the same words the Winter Soldier used earlier with Pierce. And the response “No I don’t!” about broke my heart because it is the first to be spoken above a monotone. There’s a world of emotion in these three words, battering around the inside of a man who has forgotten how to feel…has forgotten how to be a man. The next line “Shut up!” is a desperate plea for everything to stop. It’s so much easier not to think for yourself, to take orders without question. Freedom is a hard responsibility and the cost is high. His transformation echoes the question of security raised in the film. Can humanity be trusted with its own freedom? Wouldn’t everything be simpler, neater, if we were all unquestioning like the Winter Soldier?

The bad guys started losing the moment the Winter Soldier uttered his first question…because this is what it means to be free. Yes, the world would be “safer” if we were all gagged and labeled. It’d certainly be quieter. But the freedom to use our voices means the responsibility to use our minds. Free will is meant to be exercised. That’s why God gave it to us. The heartbreak of that final fight is a man caught on the edge and what he does with Captain America is a metaphor for what he does with his life. Mission: a black and white world and the ease of letting others decide the course of your life. Friend: a riot of colors and questions and choices. What kind of world do you want? One in which we strip a certain few of questions and morality and send them to do the dirty work? Or a world in which we all bear the responsibility to make hard choices and live with the consequences? Do we lock our questions behind a mask or do we find our own voices, no matter how broken?

In the end, Bucky dives into the Potomac after a drowning Steve, in a scene that strongly invokes the imagery of a baptism. And even though he walks off and leaves Steve, we can see that he is truly and only Bucky. Confused, broken, but full of questions and seeking answers. His own answers: not Hydra’s, not SHIELD’s, not Steve’s. His own.
The Winter Soldier never came out of the river.

Categories: reviews | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Going gluten-free

I’m allergic to milk. Yes, it sucks.
I’m also allergic to eggs. Again, it sucks.
Whenever I eat these two things, my face breaks out in cystic acne…and it’s scarred. They never healed.
Recently my health coach of a mom suggested that I give up gluten for a week and see if that made any difference to my face. She’d read something about a link between wheat protein and the casein in dairy and eggs…basically I heard “blah, blah, dairy and wheat, blah, blah, you should give up another giant and delicious food group!”
I grumbled but I did it. And the results are staggering. I present to you before and after, photos taken about two months apart.

So wheat and it’s byproduct of delicious pastries are off the menu indefinitely.
Somehow, seeing the results, it doesn’t suck as much as I would have thought

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Categories: ordinary life | 3 Comments

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