This is a blog dedicated to the healthy practice of grammatically correct writing (yes, you may correct me), the observation and analysis of human behavior (including my own), and the praise and criticism of higher ideals (including, but not limited to, ethics, social norms, and bodily functions).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

With METTLE, I'm Back in the Saddle Again

METTLE [met-l] -
1. Courage and fortitude.
2. Disposition or temperament.

And thus, with great courage, and not a lot of time or energy, I begin again.

Happy Chinese New Year, my readers! Or, as the Chinese might say - Gong Xi Fa Cai! I'm still working on how to pronounce that.
Yes, it is now the Year of the Water Dragon, and all signs point to EXCITING NEW ENDEAVORS! Okay, so I'm a sucker for any excuse to get excited about trying new things or starting projects. Never been good at finishing them, but that would be new and exciting, wouldn't it? Actually accomplishing something? My one and only requirement this year is to GRADUATE! BFA in Screenwriting in May, if all goes accordingly. But, I digress.

What isn't new for me, but may be new for you, is Astrological forecasts. Here's the best one I've seen so far. A general forecast for the year ahead, including Love & Money, and then an individual forecast, with surprisingly specific suggestions. As a Metal Monkey (you do the math), I will apparently be susceptible to "road rage" this year. And how is this different than any other year? Well, they suggest listening to podcasts or audiobooks to help me enjoy the prolonged time in the car. What a great idea! I've been meaning to listen to more free podcasts anyhow, and there are a few books I can think of already I'd love to read, but don't have the time to.

On an equally enthusiastic note, there were multiple suggestions about taking a risk and starting a business. HA! I still have to graduate this year! A business? They had better check their charts again...

Then again... it does bring to mind all those things I've been saying I'll do and then never do it. Like writing my book. I've been a Massage Therapist for almost 10 years now, and for all the suggestions and advice that I've been handing out, to clients and fellow therapists alike, I'm dying to get it all down on paper so I can just say "read pages 5-15 and get back to me in the morning". HA! Okay, so not the "in the morning" bit, but still... There are so many people that have valued my summations and observations that it would be a shame not to share it with the world at large. Both my personal and professional experience helping to enlighten and empower the masses? How cool!

AND... I think it will be a catalyst for a much bigger dream, if I were to be so bold as to believe the predictions of an internet Chinese New Year forecast.

What do you think of your forecasts, readers? Any good news?

What would you do if you could not fail?
Food for thought!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Reflection Paper: Is Film Art?

I had to write this for my Film Theory class, and enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd share it with you, readers!

Please know that it is four pages, double spaced, so it will take a little while to get through. But I'll put some pictures in to break it up. Also, please note that I cut my comparison between the experience of theater for an audience versus the experience of film to shorten the page count, but I could easily go on. And may later on... Hope you enjoy!

Initially, when I began fleshing out my opinions of art as they apply to the cinema, I was reminded of a pivotal time in my theater career when funding for the “arts” was being cut from public schools. It was junior year of high school, and I had just begun to tackle community theater as well as our rigorous high school productions. Luckily, I had time for both because we were able to do work on our productions during theater class time. We were asked to write letters, petitioning that the state not eliminate classes for the arts. If work could only be done after school, we’d either loose valuable sleep or do a subpar job. It’s amazing how hard teenagers will fight to be able to slave over something they feel passionately about.
The above is a definitive high school theater mentality, especially during "hell week".

Later as a young adult, I explained this plight to a friend, who promptly responded that taxpayers shouldn’t be supporting attention-starved teenagers who just end up getting “real” jobs anyway. As the daughter of a professional actor and an educator, who thrive on public speaking and presentation, I was appalled. Is this how the layman sees the arts? A waste of money?
As a result, I began to philosophize about the function of science in society versus the function of art, and yes, I did so long before this class. This may sound very high-brow, but the truth is, I was looking for a simple answer that reflected my own experience in theater; functional and inspirational.
Here’s what I came up with: “Science is the fine art of answering questions. Art is the science of questioning.” If we don’t allow ourselves to question, then there is no room to grow, or invent, or discover. I always like using the example of the original Star Trek series. Long-range personal communicators had never been seen before Star Trek, and in the 60’s, it sparked the question – can we make those? How would we use them? Who would use them? Decades later, cell phones are almost mandatory, and those questions, from the creativity of a science fiction television show, are now answered.
As if you didn't pretend your first flip-out phone was a Star Trek communicator. Please.

If that was not evidence enough for my skeptical friend, then I’d like to add that Gene Rodenberry, who created Star Trek, served in World War II and was a police officer for the LAPD for years before Star Trek ever aired. It is more likely, in fact, that “normal” people just have something to say, and find a way to express it.

*There is a great quote from the recent film "Anonymous" (2011), when Ben Johnson meets Oxford for the first time and Oxford explains that all art (and writing) is political because all artists have something to say. You'll have to watch the movie to see/hear the quote.

But I think that very simple definition of art also simply explains the purpose of art in society – to make us question. We are made to questions ourselves, our perceptions, our morals, our priorities. So, while it is arguable that Star Trek might not be the most cinematic or “beautiful” expression of a possible future, it certainly did implore its audience to think and question.
            But perhaps these “questions” seem more relative to the “fine arts”: sculpture, painting, literature, each seemingly only evoking higher ideals. Or so we assume. Isn’t film made for the entertainment of the same layman who thought it was a waste of money to train the youth who would become filmmakers? O, so ironic.
*By the by, this same jackass tried friending me on Facebook recently. Some people, I tell ya...

            There should be a distinction made, however, between the artistic ability to present something – a scene, a person, an ideal – and the fully expressed art form that is film. I believe the balancing factor between the artistic execution and the art form is entertainment. Entertainment, from the artist’s viewpoint, means that the “art” was created with the audience in mind. Entertainment, from the audience’s viewpoint, means that the “art” is an original presentation of old information; a sort of comfort zone where the audience can enjoy the technical skill (which is part of the definition of “art”) without the highbrow concepts interfering with its “entertainment value”. If a film is to become a form of art (not just expressed artistically), then it must allow the artist’s intentions to out-weight the artist’s need to “entertain”.
This film was discussed in class because it is extremely artsy, but does it loose its entertainment value because there is not enough story for the audience to relate to? I say no.

            This is very similar to the balance between art and science I theorized about earlier. It is not a black and white distinction, but rather – entertaining films can be artistic and art films can have commercial value.
            However, it could also be stipulated that because film synthesizes so many aspects of the other arts, that if one aspect is employed that audiences enjoy, the whole will, thus, be entertaining. For example, someone may say they don’t like foreign films, but they love dance in film, so a film about Russian ballet would still be “entertaining” for them. Also, by virtue of the fact that film can do some things other arts do and also employ techniques that other arts cannot, the “art” of film is unique, and thus, entertaining. The same ability to become immersed into a fictional world in theater because of sets, costumes, and acting is amplified with locations and the ability to come closer to actors in film.
My boyfriend was inspired to read the Lord of the Ring series after obsessing over the movies, but even with the details of the books, he prefers the vision and the excitement of the films.

As I have a strong theater background, I would argue that theater is unparalleled with its ability to express fictional, narrative stories. But, perhaps that is because when deciding how to present theatrical productions, a director must remember that the audience is an interactive part of the performance. With film, a baby crying, or a lady laughing a little too long does not interrupt your vision. With theater’s single, stationary audience perspective, the “artist” must engage the audience in creative ways so that they continue to “suspend reality”. It could be said that film requires the audience to suspend reality moreso than theater, because we do not see forty-foot faces in reality. But emotionally, film duplicates a human experience more accurately. In theater, instead of a close-up, we’d make the stage dark and put a spotlight on the single actor, but we still have to relate to the actor at a distance. Not realistic. But regardless of the criticism of film as an art form, whether it be more entertaining or more artistic, if it evokes emotion, then it is effective.
The film, while entertaining, does not do justice to the energy and performance the stage can provide. Of course, theater enthusiasts still enjoyed the film ;-)

Interestingly enough, as much as film has become the most recent art form, a friend of mine did her senior thesis at University of Texas in Austin about how comic books will become the new modern art form because they read like storyboards of a film. And as we know from class – the human mind has a way of “filling in the gaps”. People can now read films through comic books. Talk about irony.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

No Longer Crying Over Broken Toys

As a Massage Therapist of almost 10 years now, I know quite well the associative properties of the elements of my work - smells, sounds, and touch. For example, we are taught early on that aromatherapy has the deepest connection to memory. So, if you have fond memories of baking pies with your grandmother, you may smell fresh apple pie and think of your family. This tends to be a direct relationship, but it can also be associative. That is to say, if you remember something unrelated to the smell, you may still remember it when the smell arrises. I think this association, this indirect connection, is more true for sounds than it is for smells.

For example, I remember a co-worker once working on a woman, seemingly healthy, no complaints, but tense... and then the satellite radio piping through the spa played a slower, remixed version of "Lullaby and Goodnight", and she began to sob. Unbeknownst to the therapist, she had just miscarried. It's what we call a trigger. A smell, sound, or touch that opens a traumatic experience without necessarily being able to articulate why, but still "triggers" the emotional response. I never really understood the full power of a "trigger" until now.

I heard on the radio not too long ago a song that always seems to choke me up, but this time, it made me sob. And tonight, I saw the movie it was in - "Toys" with Robin Williams and Joan Cusak.

The song plays within the first 3 minutes, and I was already sobbing. It went away, and so did the tears. The movie did nothing for me, not even a hint of emotion, really, which is unusual for me. But the song would blend with the ending theme, and I'd start crying again.

What in the world is going on?! I confess to being a sensitive soul, but this is ridiculous! Song, tears. No song, no tears. Hint of song, tears starting again. Ahh!

The movie ended and it became all to clear - made in 1992. The year Perry passed away.
Actually, he may have passed away in '93. Crud. Well, it was still a difficult time!

The last time I saw my father as a child was in September, 1991. I was 10, and revved for the 5th grade. That Christmas was the first where I did not see my father, but visited Perry's family instead. They were very kind to me, even though I was more than a little uncomfortable.

The next summer, Perry and my mother were to be married, but they never made it. Perry died 4 days before the wedding, and sadly, his father passed away a month later. It was like one of those horrible Jane Austin books where each woman wants a man, whether it be a suitor or their doting father, and no matter how hard they try, something always keeps them from a "happily ever after". Honestly, I think Perry's mother had it the worst, but she just kept on.

For the record, the chorus to the song goes "I may not bring you comfort, but at least I bring you home". It sends the pain of my father, consciously leaving me, and the pain of my mother, whose would-be husbad fatefully leaving her, searing through me.

And the bitch of it all is that just yesterday, I was working on a client who said something to stir this pot before it had the trigger to make it boil over. I mentioned my birthday was on the 1st, and he said, "Oh! That must have been lonely!"
To which I replied, "Well, only as a child."
"Oh? I was thinking recently. Did your parents neglect you?"
"Well, no."
"Then why lonely?"
"Well, my father wasn't around so much."
"Ahh, and it still upsets you."
"It doesn't? Why not?"
"As a 31-year-old, I've learned to forgive and move on."
He laughs and says, "I'm 55, and I still haven't done that. Unless you're a master, I think it's still a wound."
This conversation happened within the first 5 minutes of meeting him, and I'm trying not to go off  like a mad, starved Tasmanian devil just because the guy is a consultant and thinks he can presume to know anything about my life... rawr.
So, I shut up.
Lucky for me, he found another subject. Lucky for him, he was big enough to take the wrath of my deep tissue. Rawr, I say.

I don't know, today. I could theorize that it is all a sign and try to make amends, or maybe I'm just emotional before the Full Moon. But what I do know is that every time we remember, we remain human and humble. And every time we embrace our humanity and forgive ourselves for our frailty, we reach a little closer to divinity.

I blamed myself for so long for driving men away from me that I truly believed I would never find one strong enough to stay with me. And if I couldn't find a mate, how could I ever have children. My belief in my own infertility manifested into a softball-size cyst that could well have killed me.

But I must be far along in my forgiveness of myself, because I eliminated the threatening cyst, and I have a wonderful family that loves me, and I even have a caring, sweet man who loves me, even when I become drenched in my own uncontrollable tears from a silly 90's song.

Now, if only I can forgive myself for gaining 50 lbs. and wasting the last 10 years of my life. I hope I have many more years to try...

Here's to new, happier and brighter associations! May your days be merry, my readers.

***This post is dedicated in loving memory to Carol W. Dias, who remained a mother-figure and a friend to my mother, and made welcome her young, head-strong daughter. Mrs. Dias passed away Oct. 31st, 2011, Lord Bless Her Soul.