Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hey, 11

I already had a seat.
What convinced me in that split-second to look for a better one, to find the one next to you?

Seriously though.
What if I hadn't decided this was worth skipping church for?
Was it luck that drew me to notice this author's session just a few days before?
What if my friends had been unsuccessful in convincing me to buy those tickets?
I nearly didn't.

Looking back further, what if I hadn't read that author last summer?
It took months of another friend urging, it took a Powell's recommendation, it took that book staring at me from my shelf for quite some time before I capitulated.

"Is what we read really that important?"  I've always thought so.  Now I have no doubts.

And what if I hadn't just gotten my pixie, which in turn determined my costume, which was the same as yours?
Would we still have met?

A book. A tv show.  A costume.
So many small decisions--decisions that seemed wholly unrelated to "important life questions."
And yet.  It was all of these seemingly insignificant decisions that all led me to that one, very important question:
"Hey, 11, is that seat open?"



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One month.

One month from today, I'm packing up my worldly goods and heading down I-5 to begin a new season.

It's beginning to feel very real.

It's so good and so exciting!  I absolutely cannot wait for a new pace of life, a new way of being.  There will be things I've missed - like books and discussions and OED access.  For the first time, I will be living alone.  And, since I'll be an Oregonian, there will be no sales tax and no pumping gas for 2 whole years.  I'm trading the corporate for a classroom and a bus commute for a 5 minute bicycle ride.  It's not going to be like undergrad and it's not going to be like working full time.  It's going to be wonderfully new!

At the same time, I'm leaving dear friends--the kind I feel comfortable around whether we're dressing up and going out or just popping up for a spontaneous movie night.  Instead of that relational ease, I'll be starting over from scratch to forge a new community.  Not to mention that I'll be moving even further away from a certain fellow.  But it's all enough to make me a little teary-eyed when I stop to think about it.

It's daunting and exciting and crazy and marvelous--all at the same time.  I'm so close, with so much yet to do.  But when I get into my car and leave the town I have always called home, I know it's just a turning page, just a new incredible chapter.  And I can't wait to discover what's written there.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Daily clamor. 
Objects in motion. 
Vision without sight. 
Shared space,
But no shared hearts. 
And yet. 
A piece of God
Hidden within
Each being.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Metamorphosis, Pt. 5

My first conscious thought is, I was up too late last night.  It was justifiable, based on the quality of conversation, but still... snooze, please.
In the self-same moment, I hear the rain.  July rain in Seattle.
Now, I'm the girl who loves nothing as much as sun-filled, late-Spring days and who sees clouds as obstacles between her and her view of Rainier--but, today, when I detect the pitter-patter of rain drops, I smile.  It is the most delightful thing.
And now I'm lying half-asleep, half-listening to that rain.  I even catch one brief flash and count 1, 2, 3...7 seconds till I hear the coordinating rumble.  An honest summer thunder storm?  That's a gift in Seattle.
I don't want to get up.  I want to stay under my white covers, listening to this rain forever...
But, eventually the alarm does go off again.  The day makes it's demands and I must respond.  I get up. "Only 20 more 'getting ups' for this job, this routine," I think.
I may be in need of caffeine or be making the thousandth promise to myself to "get a better night's sleep," but today I will carry the rain as a gift.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Today's post is brought to you by the letter...


A little explanation... My friend Simon, over at Stuck in a Book (and also a contributor at Shiny New Books, which you should all check out), posed this little idea.  Basically, people were to come up with their favourite book, author, song, movie, and object beginning with a letter assigned by Simon via a random generator.  I got the letter U and, while it proved a bit challenging, it was a bit fun. 

Favourite book...  Unbroken

I just finished this book, so that may bias me, but it was truly incredible.  Even one story from Louis Zamperini's life is unbelievable - but the fact that all of those stories happened to one man???  I cannot even fathom...

Read the book because the movie's coming out.
Read the book because Louis Zamperini just passed away.
Read the book because it is positively remarkable.
Read the book because all of the above!

Favourite author... Unknown

I haven't read Updike or Umberto Eco or anyone who's first or last name began with "U."  But... sorting through my goodreads, there was one anonymous but particular "Unknown Author" that wins my favourite:  the Unknown Author of Beowulf.  Though the Anglo-Saxon epic undoubtedly evolved orally, one person penned down the beautiful lyrics of the hero's tale in Old English.  And I am in that person's great debt.

Favourite song...  "Ulysses" by Josh Garrels


As the title suggests, this is a song about Ulysses's (or Odysseus if, like me, you prefer the Greek) journey home after the Trojan War.  Full of both the literary allusions and Garrels own journeys, the song is, for me, the perfect blend of melancholy and hope.  Some of my favorite lines are:
Trouble has beset my ways, and wicked winds have blown
Sirens call my name, they say they’ll ease my pain, then break me on the stones
But true love is the burden that will carry me back home
Carry me with the, memories of the, beauty I have known 
Favourite film...  Up

How could it be anything else, really?  This is such a beautiful tale of love and friendship and the truth that the adventure never really ends.  On that topic, nerd-alert: Karen Hallion is putting the finishing touches on her Doctor Who / Up piece, "Come Along, Carl."  Also, I'm excited to say that I'll be going the Seattle Symphony's "Pixar in Concert" this weekend and am most looking forward to "Married Life":


Favourite object...  Umbrella

I have one of those clear, dome umbrellas and I rather love it.  Yes, I am one of those umbrella-users that Seattlites call "wimps."  Well, being a bus commuter, the umbrella is quite helpful.  And fun.

So there you have it for the letter "U."  If you would like to share some of your favorite "U" inspired things or would like a letter of your own, let me know in the comments. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Marked by Pain

Sometimes pain comes directly to us.  Other times, we are affected by dreadful pain suffered by our nearest and dearest.

But there are times when we do not own the pain outright, and yet we come to bear a piece of that pain.  Proximity allows us to absorb a small bit of the tragedy.

Ground Zero was like that for me.  Of course, everyone everyone felt pain after those horrific attacks.  But being on the West Coast meant a limit in my ability to connect the way a New Englander connected.  Yet, I stood outside of a still-rubble Ground Zero 9 months later and I no longer simply mourned, I identified.  On a solemn block, facing the Wall of Remembrance, covered in now sun-bleached "Have you seen" posters and weatherworn teddy bears and dried flowers--I could name the loss and so help bear it.

This happened again last year.  While my accounting firm was in a flurry finalizing tax returns, I heard the terrible news that there had been a bombing at the Boston Marathon.  Though not one myself, I come from a running family and, thus, am aware of the unique bond within the running community.  That bond was senselessly attacked, and I was profoundly shaken by the news.  Not four months later, visiting a friend in Boston, I stood exactly where it happened.  Yellow ribbons still tied to the gates of the Old South Church, the restaurant adjacent to where the bomb went off, Forum, had reopened that week.  Again, this far-off pain now had, albeit ever so small, a claim on me.

This happened again today.  One week ago, after much urging, I started into Laura Hillenbrand's utterly fantastic Unbroken, the story of Olympian miler and WWII POW Louis Zamperini.  If I knew nothing else when I started the book, I knew that Zamperini was still alive.  Every torment he faced, every moment of hunger, every beating--I reminded myself that this too he had overcome.  He is alive. 

Yesterday, as I was reading of his race against time to stay alive in a POW camp until the War ended, Louis Zamperini was finishing a much longer race.  

[Louis Zamperini, January 26, 1917 – July 2, 2014]

Zamperini's life was, in all senses of the word, epic.  His story of perseverance is profoundly inspiring.  In this not-quite-coincidental timing of me reading about his journey, I feel like I was able to bear just a little of his pain in a way that draws me closer to suffering itself.  And I think, in that sense, being marked by pain--however indirect--is a gift.  

Today, I finished the book and, in reading about his tearful homecoming and pondering his Eternal Homecoming, I knew I could write no review better than these familiar words:

Come with me
Where chains will never bind you
All your grief
At last, at last behind you
Lord in Heaven
Look down on him in mercy.

Forgive me all my trespasses
And take me to your glory.

Take my hand
I'll lead you to salvation
Take my love
For love is everlasting
And remember
The truth that once was spoken
To love another person
Is to see the face of God.

Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
We will walk behind the ploughshare;
We will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

I am grateful that in tranquility, in old age, "tomorrow" finally came for Louis Zamperini.  May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Adaptation Week: Nothing Much To Do

My favorite of all Shakespeare comedies is Much Ado about Nothing.  I've reviewed it, talked about the Josie Rourke production, and immensely enjoyed Joss Whedon's take on it last year.  But when I heard about a web-series adaptation of it over a month ago, I was a bit skeptical [Ok... I think I always start out a bit skeptical about these things].

But after following Nothing Much To Do for several weeks now, I have to say that it's one of my favorite current webseries!

[Via their Facebook]

"Let me explain.  No there's no time; let me sum up."  Here's the synopsis:
Set in a contemporary New Zealand high school. 'Nothing Much To Do' follows the life of Beatrice as she navigates her way through a new city with the help of her best friend and favourite cousin Hero, her school friends, and her ever frustrating rival, Benedick.
The show's creators are "The Candle Wasters" - a team of four young women: Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace, and Sally Bollinger.  They write, direct, and produce while their talented and colorful cast carry out the show brilliantly!  Using a very realistic vlogging style, this team is telling the story of Much Ado about Nothing across 3 YouTube channels and some transmedia content - particularly Beatrice's twitter.  But you can catch the whole thing in this one playlist, which makes it delightfully easy.

[Hero and Beatrice - via]
Thanks to Shakespeare's source material and many of the simply genius maneuvers by the Candle Wasters, there is much to love about this adaptation.  For Starters, Americans like myself can't help but love the New Zealand accents!  And I have to say that the "international" feel makes the classic Shakespearean names more palatable.

On top of that, the casting is top notch and the setting of "Messina High" works perfectly!  Beatrice, played by Harriet Maire, is a perfectly believable vlogger - witty, part self-deprecating, more-parts confident of her own perspective.  Benedick, Jake McGregor, is both odd-ball British Whovian and someone desperate to get a laugh from his friends, Pedro and Claudio.  Leo becomes Hero's older brother. Dogberry and Verges have their own Sherlock-styled channel, "The Watch."  And after a successful "Vote for Pedro" campaign (yes!), Pedro Donalson becomes Student Body President of Messina High.  So, of course, he hosts a costume party at his place - cue the masquerade!

Like other successfully transmuted adaptations, NMTD walks the fine line of being self-referential without being self-absorbed.  In one early video, which also serves as the cast's introduction, they have Balthazar quote a line from Mumford and Sons which is in fact inspired by... Much Ado.  They've worked in several of the original lines or at least original arguments - most notably in Benedick's episode "Olives" based on the original lines from II.3.209-210 "but doth not the appetite alter? A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age."  This is the type of adaptation that causes Shakespeare devotees to flip back through their yellowed paperback and still inspires new-comers to maybe look into what all this "ado" is about.

[Much Ado - Mumford - Nothing Much To Do]
One of my favorite things about any adaptation is how they will portray "gray areas."  For example, in Much Ado, Pedro famously asks Beatrice, "Will you have me, lady?" - which some play as a jest and others as an honest proposal.  Either way, Beatrice laughs off the question, though, again, her lines can be read either way.  The team on NMTD plays this out excellently in one of my favorite episodes of the series: "All Around Great Guy."  In so doing, they encourage me to think they will handle other moments well.

Another strength of the show thus far has been the high-school depictions.  Up until now, the majority of web-series I've been following feature all post-high school characters with post-high school problems (Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Autobiography of Jane Eyre, Emma Approved, Classic Alice, New Adventures of Peter and Wendy).  But NMTD features intelligent, rather emotionally developed teenagers - which is a refreshing representation.  But it also captures little ticks about teens in a current way:  Beatrice admires pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch, Hero is caught reading The Fault in our Stars, the characters reference several contemporary bands, the slang feels natural, and where Hero wears Top Shop, Beatrice sports a Grumpy Cat T-shirt.  These are tumblr-ific teens.  They are smart. They are aware. And they have wonderful character arcs ahead of them. 

So is Nothing Much To Do all "hey nonny nonny"?  Well, yes.  But while I love it, I have to mention that - being Shakespeare - this adaptation is far from PG.  But for more mature audiences, this is an incredible take on a classic tale.  I look forward to seeing how they tackle certain plot points like Hero's "death" and the "weddings" as those will prove to be tricky.  But I have been loving everything so far.  Cheers and keep up the excellent work.

If I've sufficiently peaked your interest, start here:

And if you're looking for something slightly different, consider one of the other web-series adaptations I've reviewed: Classic Alice and Emma Approved.