I’m expecting posting to be light over the next week to ten days. I’ll be putting in lots of hours to complete several writing projects I’m working on. I won’t be far away though, and if inspiration strikes, and if I can capture it quickly, then I’ll definitely post.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Everywhere I look in my house, I seen signs of transition. On one side of my living room, I have a shelf full of video tapes, and on the other side of my living room I have a shelf full of DVD's--as if the two can't co-exist next to each other because they are battling for attention. I have a special machine that plays both video tapes and DVD's. I have more than 100 CD's, 100 audio tapes, and 100 MP3 files. In fact, I have some LP's laying around in my basement as well. I have several blogs and several moleskine notebooks to record my thoughts.
And I have lots of pictures that show my life in transition. When I was young, I had really short hair--thanks to my dad taking the clippers out one day. When I was in high school in the 1980's, I had feathered hair that was parted down the middle (who didn't?). As a young adult, I grew my hair long during the 80's and bleached out the tips (again, who didn't?). In 1992, I had my long hair cut off and I went back to the 80's feathered look. In 2002, I was ready for a more modern look, so I returned to the look of my youth--a buzz cut. Funny how life sometimes circles back around, isn't it?
I used to be bothered greatly by transitions. I'd still rather have one medium to play music, one medium to watch movies, one medium to record my thoughts, and well, you get the the idea. But that's not how life works. I don't think it ever has. Long before technology advanced at breakneck speed, somebody was always inventing something new--the printing press, cameras, plumbing, automobiles, airplanes, computers, on and on it has gone. And on and on it will go.
I've slowly made my peace with constant change. And while I doubt that I'll ever look forward to it on a regular basis, I'm actually looking forward to a few changes. I don't know if they will ever come about, but if I had to guess, they will. And, at some point, I'll be able to add them to the ever-growing list of changes I've endured.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Here are a few of my favorite blogs. Check them out if you get a chance:
Moleskinerie: Obviously this is a blog about moleskine notebooks. It's written by Armand Frasco. He says that "Moleskine is not my obsession, it’s an attitude. I use other journals also. This site is not here to pontificate. It just is." Indeed, moleskines are just tools to use on our journeys, not the journeys themselves. I like the fact that Frasco seems quite content to just let this blog be what it is and nothing more. I've read so many great posts on this blog in recent months. Some are excerpts from people who are in a constant stage of change and feel like they have to record it somewhere. Blogs are too open, so they choose a moleskine. Some of the excerpts are from people who are switching back from PDA's to paper. That fascinates me. And some are stuck somewhere in between. That's me.
fallible: A delightful, thought-provoking blog written by a woman named Katy Raymond. I know Katy causally from a writers' group that I belong to in Kansas City. Her blog is about real life issues--things like sick parents, and children who are off making their own decisions, and family history. She also gives us her thoughts about every day events. She's a fantastic writer who is always contemplating life. She's been blogging for a long time and has a ton of great posts for you to read.
The Sheila Variations: Sheila O'Malley writes about movies, and books, and actors, and music, and really, life, in a way that draws you in. I love her stuff for so many reasons. She's well read in a variety of different areas, and therefore, able to write posts about a myriad of different topics. She's another blogger who does well with contemplative posts. And I love how when she's really "into" something, that she's able to peel back the layers of that particular topic and lets us see what she sees.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
O’Neil died last October at the age of 94. This book about the final year of his life seems to have captured him perfectly. He was a man who loved life, even though he lived through a period in America’s history in which he was never allowed to play the game he loved at the major league level simply because he had the “wrong” color of skin. O’Neil didn’t want this book to be about injustice though. He wanted Posnanski to tell people how much fun he had playing in the Negro Leagues.
At one point in their journey across the country, during a visit to New York, they both spotted what Posnanski described as a “noticeable” woman in a red dress. If I remember correctly, they were headed back to their hotel after a long day in which O’Neil had done several interviews to help promote the Negro Leagues. It’s hard to believe that a guy in his 90’s could have so much energy. Turns out that he had more than anybody realized.
When Posnanski entered the hotel lobby, he turned around and he couldn’t find O’Neil. He looked back outside and O’Neil was talking to the woman in the red dress. Eventually O’Neil came inside and he said this to Posnanski, “Son, in this life, you don’t ever walk by a red dress.”
If the afterward of Posnanski’s book, he talks about October 6, 2006—the day that Buck O’Neil died. Posnanski said that earlier in the day he and his wife bought a piano. He said that as he hit the keys in the store, he heard O’Neil’s quote about the red dress run through his mind.
Then Posnanski said this:
“I think Buck meant that we should never pass up the opportunity to live life. We should not rush by the red dresses, the baseball games, the street musicians, or the sweet smell of dessert. We should not stifle or smother our craziest dreams. I had always wanted to play the piano, so we bought it, and they delivered it to the house that day. I was playing some sort of off-key jazz thing that night when the phone rang. I kept playing. The phone rang again and still I kept playing. The phone rang a third time, and I knew.”
O’Neil had passed away.
I think Posnanski nailed what O’Neil meant about not walking by a red dress. And we could all live deeper, richer lives if we did indeed stop rushing and started enjoying the many little nuances that life has to offer us every day.
Friday, April 20, 2007
William Wilberforce, the central figure of Amazing Grace who was an abolitionist in the late 18th and early 19th century in England, put forth bills in Parliament to end slavery in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805. Finally in 1807, he gained enough momentum in Parliament to abolish the slave trade.
As I watched this story unfold, I developed a high admiration for Wilberforce. He was in the minority opinion for so long, but he pressed on because he knew he was right. His health suffered as a result of his efforts and the movie depicts him as single man on the edge of defeat when he meets a woman name Barbara in 1797. She believed in his cause. That gave him great hope and seemed to reinvigorate him. Within weeks, they were married.
The movie shows them looking at each other as the final votes were tallied in 1807 to abolish the slave trade. Stunned disbelief and joy spread across their faces as soon as they realized that they had enough votes to win.
I kept finding myself emotionally overwhelmed as I watched this movie. I really didn’t understand why and I didn’t want to try to figure it out at the time. I just wanted to stay in the moment. But I’ve had some time to think about it and I have an idea about what moved me so much.
Wilberforce didn’t really fit in with the political world of his day. At times he felt isolated because of his views, but he kept plugging away anyway. I’m not a politician, but I used to be heavily involved in politics. The problem is, I’m nowhere near the political left or right in the U.S. today. So in some small way, I can relate with what Wilberforce felt. And I felt challenged to reengage in the political world.
Wilberforce was single until he was 37—presumably because he was a bit immature and because he was so involved in his cause that he hadn’t taken the time to get married. At the age of 40, I can relate to this as well. I don’t think I was ready for marriage until about five or six years ago. But now I’d love to experience what Wilberforce had with Barbara.
Finally, Wilberforce seemed to live with the future in mind. He was confident that he would live to see the abolition of slavery one day, so he kept building alliances, doing research, and using his position in the Parliament as a way to influence people. I love his way of thinking and it’s something that I’ve been trying to develop in my own life in recent years.
This is a movie that I’ll definitely purchase when it comes out on DVD.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
We’re willing to pay $24.95 for a big bundle of them when our favorite novelist releases a new hardback book. We allow them to take us back in time when we listen to a song that captures the essence of a shared human experience. Lines from movies become part of our vernacular. Poems touch our souls. And cards, letters, and e-mails from loved ones make our days brighter.
When a seasoned writer uses the written word in such a fashion as to help us see ourselves in a different fashion, it’s a powerful experience. The written word has the ability to dig deep inside of us to root out who we really are. Sometimes when I’m writing, I’ll come to a deeper understanding of something I’m going through simply because I had to express myself with the written word. The process forces me to search, and contemplate, and struggle until I’m able to say what I need to say.
Of course, the written word can also challenge us or tear us down. And that brings me to the point I want to make. Balance. Sometimes people are too cavalier, or too careful, or too vague with the written word. Sometimes they are too afraid to write. On the other side of the spectrum are the people who treat words as being so sacrosanct that they never get around to writing any. I’m not saying that proper grammar and sentence structure aren’t important. I think they’re more important than most people realize, but that shouldn’t stop people from learning incrementally. Nearly everything in life is a process.
If you’ve been waiting to write something—anything, stop waiting. Write.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
So, at the age of 28 or 29, my grandfather hopped on a ship with a friend and sailed for the United States—leaving everyone and everything else behind. My grandfather went with his mother’s blessing. Like all good moms, she just simply hoped for a better life for her child. My mom isn’t sure how my grandfather made it from the east coast to Nebraska, but she does know that when he and his friend reached Omaha, he had terrible stomach pains.
He went to a hospital in Omaha and when his friend found out that my grandfather was going to have to be in the hospital for an extended stay, he left for California on his own and left my grandfather here. I’m not sure if he went with my grandfather’s blessing or not. But while my grandfather was in the hospital he became rather attached to his nurse, so much so, that he ended up marrying her and settling down in Omaha. (Maybe I should have paid a little more attention to the cute nurse who took care of me while I was in the ER a month ago, huh?)
Here’s a picture of my grandfather, my grandmother, me, and my oldest sister from 1969 (my grandmother died in 1974 and my grandfather died in 1978):
If my grandfather hadn’t become ill when he did, I wouldn’t exist. He would have settled in California and he would have never met the nurse who became his wife, who had my mother. Hearing such a thing really makes you think about God’s providence, doesn’t it?
Do you know your grandparents’ or your great grandparents’ story? If not, find out before it’s too late, and record it somewhere. Future generations will be glad you did.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Listening to the eye-witness accounts was agonizing. Some said they saw people jumping out of second and third story windows in an attempt to try to avoid the gunman.
Trey Perkins, a Virginia Tech student who was interviewed on MSNBC, said the gunman came into his classroom and shot his teacher. And they he started firing at the students. The gunman eventually left the room, but then he tried to come back. Students blocked the door and he eventually gave up and moved on. Perkins said that he kept thinking about what his parents were going to have to go through as a result of his death. Can you imagine going through such an ordeal?
Derek O’Dell, another student interviewed in MSNBC, was one of the many who were injured—he was shot in the arm. He said that he was one of 10 or 15 people who was shot in his classroom. He said that the gunman didn’t say anything. He just started shooting. O’Dell too spoke about the students in the classroom barricading the door to keep the gunman from coming back in.
I imagine we’ll hear all sorts of similar stories from students and teachers in the days to come. We owe it to them to listen.
Monday, April 16, 2007
The funny thing is, I’m the one who turned out to be a writer, while my friend went on to do other things. Neither choice was better, obviously. I just find it interesting to note that both of us found other interests long after we left high school.
I also played on my high school’s golf team. I’ve lost interest in the game in recent years, but I have a friend who never played in high school who has taken up the game as an adult and he’s far better than I ever was.
I say all of this to encourage you. It’s never too late to develop new passions. If you are interested in something, pursue it.
Friday, April 13, 2007
“Harvey Keitel stars as Weldon Parish, a great but blocked writer hiding from the world in Italy, in this comedy-infused drama. He is hunted down by young writer Jeremy, who follows his mentor to learn about life and art, while Parish's daughter, Isabella teaches him about love.”
Weldon hasn’t written in 20 years. He’s afraid to write because he’s had previous success and he doesn’t think he can live up to it. So, he hides. After Jeremy finds him and eventually befriends him, Weldon lets him in on a secret while they are lounging next to a pool one day:
“I used to come here with my wife. Back then, I never had time for the little things. I was always so afraid I wouldn’t get a thought down—I might forget a line of dialogue. Then one night the police came and told me that her car had...
“After that nothing mattered. Now, I wish I could go back just for one day. Time is a precious thing Jeremy. And the years teach much which the days never knew.”
This entire statement is powerful and full of truth. But at the same time, it’s not the entire truth. Weldon probably did take the little things for granted while his wife was still alive. We all tend to take the present for granted. But Weldon also chose to use his wife’s death as an excuse to stop writing, when in reality he was just afraid of failing. He just needed someone to courageously point this out to him and Jeremy was up to the task.
While Weldon is coming to terms with all of that, Jeremy is busy falling in love with Weldon’s daughter Isabella. Along the way, Jeremy learns a lesson or two about writing from Weldon as the two discuss the topic. Turns out that Jeremy has always wanted to be a writer, but he felt like he just couldn’t take the chance. He’s an editor at a major publishing company and the thought of leaving it for the unknown scares him. Weldon challenges him to face his own fears and for probably the first time in his life, Jeremy can’t think of a reason not to chase him own dreams.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I’ll remember a man who often seemed out of sorts while he was alive, but at the same time, who was always fully engaged whenever I talked to him. He desperately wanted to see his four children succeed. And he wanted us to find that special something that we loved to do, and then to do it with all our might.
He was great at spotting our passions and then trying to help us chase after them—whether he did it with a book about the subject, or by writing an encouraging letter, he always found a way to urge us on. The older I get, the more I realize that most kids don’t get that type of attention from their father.
He had some glaring flaws as well. But he was my dad. And today I miss him greatly.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
His wife said that he had a stroke on Saturday while working at his storyboard. Hearing that he died doing the thing he loved to do made me think. We don’t get to decide when our life here on earth is finished and we don’t really get to choose our final act, except in cases when a person senses that he or she is dying. But we do get to choose the way we live each moment and any given moment could be our last.
A little food for thought for the day.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
“On the eve of her twenty-seventh birthday, Catherine, a young woman who has spent years caring for her brilliant but unstable father, a mathematical genius named Robert, must deal not only with the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire, but also with the attentions of Hal, a former student of her father’s who hopes to find valuable work in the 103 notebooks of Robert’s. As Catherine confronts Hal’s affections and Claire’s overbearing plans for her life, she struggles to solve the most perplexing problem of all: How much of her father’s madness—or genius—will she inherit?”
103 notebooks. Can you imagine leaving such a legacy? But of course, the hardest thing for Catherine to swallow was that it seemed to be mostly the garbled ramblings of somebody who was in the midst of going mad. Partway through the story, we learn that she’s every bit the mathematical genius that her father was—and maybe even more so. We also learn that she fears she may suffer from the same mental illness. And the viewer is left wondering the same thing.
Then we learn that she wrote a particular proof that baffles the minds of current mathematicians, but she wanted her dad to get the credit so she put it in his desk and locked it—knowing it would be found and in some way, it would make her dad seem less crazy to a world who used to look up to him. Somewhere in the process though, she lost herself. The proof was discovered and mathematicians questioned who the author might be. Some of the theories were too new for her father to have mastered given his condition.
So Catherine admits that she wrote it, but at first, nobody believes her. They think she’s going mad as well. Eventually Hal believers her and he wants to make amends. I love the way he did it. Here’s a brief exchange between them, during which they speak about the proof, but so much more:
“It was like connecting the dots,” she said. “Some nights I could connect three or four of them. Some nights they’d be really far apart. I’d have no idea how to get to the next one—if there was the next one. It just seems really stitched together and lumpy. Dad’s stuff was way more elegant.”
“Talk me through it,” Hal said. “Tell me what’s bothering you.”
I love this insight by Hal. He understood that be digging into something she created, that he’d find out what was really bothering her. He recognized that the creation was truly part of the creator and that by talking to the creator about her creation, he’d know her much better.
How many people do you have in your life who are willing to “talk you through” the things that you invest your heart and soul into? How many people are you willing to go that deep with? Living in the peripherals of life isn't satisfying. But going deeper takes time and commitment and too many of us aren't willing to do it.
And that is sort of sad.
Monday, April 02, 2007
"London-based investment expert Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) travels to Provence to tend a small vineyard he inherited from his late uncle (Henry). When he gets suspended from his job under suspicion of fraud, he settles in to life at the chateau, remembering the time he spent there as a child. Then a determined young California girl (Abbie Cornish) arrives claiming to be the illegitimate daughter of the deceased uncle and rightful owner of the vineyard.”
As the movie begins, Max is one of those characters who you probably aren’t supposed to like. He’s cocky, arrogant, cold-hearted, a womanizer, and unethical. But for some reason, I liked him anyway. He had this sort of air about him that made me believe that deep down, he knew he was off-track—that somehow he’d drifted off course, but he had no idea how to get back, so he just sort of pretended his way through life, and most people seemed to buy the façade. In fact, in a sad way, they seemed to envy him for it—and he seemed to know it.
But I saw the real Max in the subtle moments. The look in his eye as he read a letter telling him that his beloved uncle, whom he spent summers with as a boy, had died. I could see it in the way he allowed his memories of his uncle to carry him back in time—like when he sees the tennis court that they used to play on, or when he sees the squash paddles in the hallway, or in the smell of the green bottle of ink his uncle used.
When a possible heir (Christie) shows up who could possibly have a rightful claim to the estate, Max spends some time getting to know her. Early on, they had a conversation over dinner. Here’s part of their exchange:
“Henry always was a little bit of a mystery,” Max said.
“How so?” Christie said.
“He loved England. He lived in France. He loved women—but never the same one for more than a certain period of time. He never got married. He loved adventure, but every single one of my memories takes place within about a hundred steps of this very spot.”
“Are they good memories?”
“No. They’re grand.”
I love his facial expression when he speaks this last line. He raises his eyebrows a bit and tilts his head forward just to make sure she understands how important his memories are to him.
Not only does the past have a hold on him, but the present does as well when he meets and falls for Fanny—a beautiful restaurateur who is full of spunk, and passion, and pain. She has no intentions of letting Max get close to her, but his persistence, and apparent temporary residence in France, convinces her that he’s worth spending time with over dinner. This causes Max to have even more doubts about returning to his life in London.
I won’t give away the ending. To be honest, I don’t think the beauty of this movie is in the ending anyway. Instead, in comes in watching a man slowly come alive to the real joys of life—great memories, good food and drink, friendships, and love.