Friday, April 30, 2010

Animation vs. Live Action

No, this is not a debate about the merits of animation or live action films. Or about adaptations of books. Or anything as deeply intellectual as that.

Here's the question:

Why is animation so lovable? Why are animated characters so much more lovable than real people sometimes?

I'm watching Wall•E right now. And I'm about 8 or so minutes in and he's absolutely adorable! And he's 1. a robot and 2. animated. Very words have even been said so far, and yet you feel this deep connection with this character that's been created. I mean ... you even like the animated cockroach! For goodness sake.

What is it about animation that makes it immediately more accessible than live action? Is it because we watch films to escape and animation, being not real, allows us full escape? Is it because we have complete control over how animation appears because we ourselves are the creators and controllers of it? We control the virtues and flaws of the animated characters, so we accentuate those said virtues and minimize the flaws? And there have to be flaws. If there aren't flaws than we can't identify with said character at all and there is no catharsis or connection I think.

Is it because something about animation reminds us of our childhood, which we long to access and free? Is it because animation comes from the human imagination, which, as it turns out is one of the most beautiful things in all of God's creation?

Generally I've found recently that the movies I feel most guilty about watching are romantic comedies (maybe appropriately so). And sometimes I long for my life to be most like the lives of the characters in those films. But the films which really affect me and which I'll watch over and over again and will relate to most, those are the animated ones. And maybe it's just because I live in a time of really high-class, high-quality animation films ... especially from Pixar. Whatever or whyever, I love animated movies.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Twitter Made Me Do It

I was just on Twitter and saw that "#Dearsomeone" was a trending topic on Twitter. That means a lot of people are using that phrase in their thoughts. So I read a few of them. And now I feel like I've been let into a secret room that's normally kept carefully guarded. This leads to two thoughts.

1. There is a lot of heartbreak in this world. And suddenly I felt very much not alone. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are not the only people to have broken hearts. Not because we need to belittle our brokenness, but I think in order to fully heal, we need to dwell in and acknowledge the heartbreak. It's part of this world we live in. It's part of now. It's part of the moment. It's part of the life. Just as much as sunshine is. And in order to really feel and acknowledge it, we need to know we're not alone. That there is no shame in experiencing heartbreak. And. That other people seem to have survived it. So we probably will too. There is hope in heartbreak ... but only in community. Even Twitter community.

Which leads to the second thought.

2. I feel like I know these people. I frequently experience this. Especially with Relevant Magazine. I follow their Twitter feed. I listen to their podcast. I subscribe to their magazine. I respond to some of their questions. And sometimes I get a response back. And I have found myself before in conversation referencing something I heard a staff member say as something "my friend" said. Then I catch myself. This is especially embarrassing when I'm talking to one of my actual friends who is also actually friends with a few of the Relevant staff members. But what is this virtual community doing to us and our minds and our actual sense of community and knowing and being known. I know this is a common and very popular comment ground. But what do you think?

What do you make of this virtual community we have?


Because I went to NCSA and I watched movies there, I've learned to always sit through the credits and acknowledge all the people who worked to make the film happen. If a single one of them was missing, the movie would not be. So I try to read the acknowledgments of a book, too - especially if I like the author. So I read the thanks in Donald Miller's book and now I want to be one of those people mentioned - maybe in his book, maybe in someone else's, maybe just in someone's life. I would like to be thanked for helping someone finish a project, realize a dream, obtain a goal and not merely stand by.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chicago: 14, Cleveland: 15

Well, I've been debating for a long time now. Weighing my options trying to decide where to move in the fall, after all the adventures of the Halo Ensemble in Europe have come to a close. Chicago is where my heart is and looks like where Halo will be ... eventually. But when it came down to it, Cleveland made the most sense and has the most to offer for me. So I'm going to keep playing in the Erie Philharmonic (if they'll keep me) and I'll keep working at Starbucks (if they'll let me transfer) and I'm going to try to save money, pay off more of my student loans and credit card bills and get an English horn, etc etc. And I'm going to do it all in ... Cleveland. Let the new chapter begin! Cleveland's a little bit like my own personal Ninevah, and I can't say I feel particularly called there, but it does seem that I am most set-up for life there. So here goes. I don't want to be eaten by a big fish, even if I do get spit back up eventually. I can't imagine how many showers I'd have to take to wash that stench off.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I've made a very interesting discovery this week. I am poor. I mean, really. Like according to America, I live below the poverty line. But I don't feel poor! Isn't that great? I know, weird thing to rejoice about, but it makes me feel a lot better. I have always thought I've been moderately good with my money, but things have been getting tighter and tighter these days and I thought it was because I've been irresponsible. And it's true, there are some unnecessary purchases that I've made. But the truth is ... I'm just poor! Luckily, I have very supportive, very kind parents, who let me live in their beautiful home rent-free and who let me drive their nice car when I have to go long distances and who let me eat all their food. Hence not feeling poor. And there's a big announcement coming up tomorrow that will also relate to this topic, but man. It's a relief to know I'm not as irresponsible as I've been thinking! But I still keep offending people and saying the wrong things, apparently. Still have to work on that ...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The thing about Ugly Betty ...

... and Pride & Prejudice
... and probably many, if not most, other girlie stories. I think it's less about the man being initially not-attracted and then an attachment forming (i.e. Daniel & Betty, Lizzie & Darcy) and less about changing minds, and more about actually changing. Daniel was promiscuous and shallow. Betty was uptight and unfashionable. But through Betty's continual good influence, Daniel deepens and softens, but strengthens. And comes find himself genuinely caring for someone (Betty, of course!). And Betty changes, too. Becoming bolder and more aware, but still true to herself. And Darcy was prideful and filled with disdain, but because of Lizzie changed. And Lizzie was prejudice and quick to judge, but later acknowledges her judgments to have been wrong. (Interestingly enough, the things she was most wrong about were related to her. How often does that happen to us? We can see other people's situations so much more clearly than our own. And it probably ought to be the other way around.)
We want to be a force for good, I think. So we're drawn to stories where the characters are flawed, but in the same way/degree we're flawed (so we can identify with them), but who manage to positively affect someone else's life.
It was important that Daniel end up the way he did. It was a sort of redemption. And we need stories of redemption. We need to know both 1. we can change and 2. we can affect change. Especially by wholly ourselves -- like Betty.
It is significant that neither case set out to change the other, but it was a natural process -- there was something intrinsically attractive about the nature of the other person that drew the other person into their life and their way ... each slowly transforming the other.
Given the option between love at first sight and this slow transformation, I think I'd choose the latter. There is something very romantic about love at first sight, but something more enduring about the metamorphosis -- more organic, more secure, more lasting and deeper ... but I think this is only to me, or at least, not for everyone.

As a side note, I was at work today and overheard the mother of a girl I've know for years saying her daughter had receive a fullbright, etc. etc. "my daughter's so awesome" sort of things, but with such an air of nonchalance that it was even more annoying like "of course my daughter received a fullbright ... she's brilliant and my daughter! She got that brilliance from somewhere, you know?" Anyway, I found myself judgmental and annoyed (in case you didn't pick up on that) and then I wanted to go get a fullbright. I mean, I've wanted to get a fullbright for a long time anyway, and have looked into the process several times, but have found other things to do, other ways to live. And that ought to be fine. I mean, I have a job in an orchestra! And am a founding member of an exciting new musical venture! Beat that. But still, I feel the need to prove to that mother and that daughter that I'm just as smart as she is. That I can be smart, too. But I know I'm smart. (Not to brag.) And I've been the places she's been before. (Again, not to brag.) And my story is just a different story and my journey has a different path. Not better or worse. Just. Different. But still ... Grr ...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Old War Stories

I'm reading through the Bible chronologically with my friend Julie. She lives in Austria right now. Isn't that fun?! We're reading the Bible together, even though we live very VERY far apart on a regular basis. Anyway. Right now I'm reading about David and his life and adventures as a rogue soldier. Did you realize he's kind of like the original Robin Hood? Running away from the king? An outlaw? Robbing from the rich to give to the poor? It's great! Anyway. So I'm reading through 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles today. Super exciting right? Actually ... yeah! I was reading these stories of David's Mighty Men and began to hear them in the same voice that you hear veteran's talk about the battles they were a part of. I realized ... war stories! These are just old war stories. Told by these old men who shared these experiences together. I mean, obviously they're IMPORTANT war stories, but still ... they're just old war stories. Isn't it great? Can't you just imagine these old men writing down these stories going ... "remember that time Benaiah chased that lion down into a pit and killed it even though it was snowing and icy?" or "what about that time the whole army chickened out and Eleazar and I were the only ones who would fight the Philistines and God gave us victory anyway?" The Old Testament takes on a different light when you remember that people are people ... even Old Testament people ... and that people have always been people. They're just stories. Some about war. Some about love. All about life.

Monday, April 19, 2010

To Finish or Not To Finish

Related to the last post and Amy's thoughtful and honest commentary, I got to thinking.

I am reading a book right now called Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. It's pretty marvelous. I'm really enjoying it. Even so, I find myself flipping to the back page and calculating how many pages I have left to read until it's finished. If I read x number of pages per day, it will take me y days to finish. Could I finish it today? And yet, I really like the book! So why am I looking to the back to see how soon it will be over? Why am I even reading? Is it only to check it off my to-do list too? Is this typical of our get-it-done culture? Maybe my generation, or my part of the generation ... the culturally-aware Christian group who tries to simultaneously simplify their lifestyle and increase their impact ... has moved on from trying to accumulate stuff to trying to accumulate accomplishments. It's not about how much you attain, but how much you achieve, how much you can check off your to-do list. Even how many stories you have to tell. Stories are great, but maybe we're meant to live them, not tell them?

I'm thinking about starting something that I know I won't be able to finish, something that will last my lifetime and maybe beyond. A lot of those things are already involved in my life. You know, being part of a family, creating a family (well, I haven't gotten quite there), being a Christian, being a musician, etc. etc. But what if I intentionally pursued something that I could never finish, never check off my to-do list. What if I couldn't even put it on my to-do list?

Any suggestions?

To Do Lists

It's Monday and I've had a rather productive day thus far. But my productivity seems to have slowed to a near stop. And I just realized that I will never get everything done until I die. I'm never going to be able to accomplish everything on my "to do" list and then be finished with those lists forever. This depresses me a little and threatens to extinguish completely what little drive remains in today. What do you do with this thought?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Questions and Conversations

I just finished reading Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It's been a much longer process than I would've liked - because I allowed myself to read only one chapter per day. But I'm so glad I took the time. I didn't want to miss anything and even though I'm sure there are things I've already forgotten, I'm equally sure there are lessons that have sunk deep into me - through my skin and into my marrow - waiting and working to change me. But to say a book changed me (even one of Donald Miller's books) is false and unfair. It is unfair pressure on the book and the author; it is unfair simplicity ascribed to my divinely complex personhood. A book cannot change me. Only I can change me. And yet, even as I type that, I know it is untrue. I want it to be true, but it's not. I can feel God tapping me on the shoulder, forcing me to turn around and sigh. Because not even I can do that. Only God can change me. He is the only one who knows my true capacity. My desires, my potential and how to realize them. He is the only one who can sort through my complexities and make sense of it all. But a book can make me think, and ask questions and start conversations. So may I begin these conversations with God about "what happens now?" and "what if?"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Following a Fast

Now that Lent has ended and we are a full week into the Easter season, I thought I would write a post about my response to my experience these last 7 weeks.
I honestly had no idea what I was expecting out of this Lenten season, and I didn't really have any idea even why I entered into it in the first place. If I'm completely honest and spent some time evaluating my past experiences, I think the times I've had no idea what to expect have blown me away far more than times when I've had expectations .... even if they're low. I was reading in A Million Miles that Denmark is the happiest nation in the world. Because they have low expectations. This has been my philosophy for a long time, that if I have low expectations, then they are either met or exceeded. However, if I have no expectations, it still leaves room for surprise.
So Lent.
Week one = excited about the challenge; even grocery shopping because a life experience; filled with intention and unity with the Israelites (who aren't even involved with Lent)
Week two = accidental cheating, but grace for myself abounded, still excited, but a little less time and will to experiment with new recipes
Week three = becoming more difficult, life gets to be more stressful, or seems that way
Week four = A little better, but still hard. Body has really started rebelling. Lots of sleeping, lots of other parts breaking down and malfunctioning.
Week five = Ready to completely throw in the towel by Saturday (community kept me going. I was moments from quitting completely, but my small group encouraged me to make it the last couple of weeks and found things for me to eat)
Week six = Surviving day by day. Experimenting almost completely ended. Generally not eating or eating the same thing (pasta plain or with pesto) every day. However, the week is marked by a point of brokenness at the Lord's hand. Would I have heard His voice so clearly or so poignantly if I had not been carefully breaking down my physical dependencies through the previous five weeks? Don't think so.
Week seven = Not willing to go out with a bang, trying just to make it through. I really wanted to finish über successful, including a complete fast from everything but water from Good Friday service until Easter. Gave up at dinner on Saturday ... too isolated, too hungry, too irritable. Everyone was suffering, me probably least of all. That's sort of the opposite of the point.

At Easter, it was glorious! Everyone asked me if I just completely feasted and went crazy. But I've been long enough in church to know that that is the best way to make yourself sick after fasting. My stomach had literally grown probably a full size smaller, so even eating my fill of meat was significantly less than it had been. I tried to carefully work myself back into eating my normal diet. But the feast itself wasn't the point, it was the option to feast that was the point. It was knowing I was free. Free to eat anything I wanted. Free to listen to anything I wanted. Free to do anything at all. The metaphor is clear. Christ died to set us free. And Paul says should we sin more so we can be forgiven more? Just because I'm free from my fast, should I eat the whole angel food cake myself? No! I will still get a stomach ache. Just because I'm free from the consequences of sin, should I sleep with every man I desire? No! I will still do serious damage to my body and my spirit.

Now that I've been fast free for a week, I miss it a little already. I eat way more frequently, which Americans will probably say is good, but honestly, it's not necessarily. I eat now because I can and because it's there, not because I actually need it. It's surprising to me that it's only taken a week for me to get back to this point. I will miss the physical plus of losing weight because of the fast, although that was not the point or even a consideration when I chose this fast, or it chose me. I also miss the intention I had. I still feel somehow guilty when I listen to non-Christian music, like I'm still cheating on my fast, like I should still be choosing to listen to my "normal" music. Like I was visiting friends in California for seven weeks and when I return to Indiana, I feel as if I should still be calling my friends in California every day. Although, music is not people and you don't have a relationship with its soul the way you do with peoples'.

Anyway. I am now beginning to wonder how to balance these two extreme worlds - 40 days of very strict fasting with a lifetime of American excess. Where is the balance? I'd like to say I can listen to my body and it will tell me, but I don't think I can trust it. I think it needs some rules, not strict ones, just some boundaries to prevent excess. The balance between two worlds, isn't that really where much of this life is spent?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Best Birthday Ever

My birthday was this past week. It was not the best birthday ever, although it was very pleasant.
The best birthday ever ... that I can remember ... was my 20th birthday and here's why:


Yup. My sophomore year of college, I had my own room on the same floor as my best friends'. I, being from a small town in Indiana and then living in the South, never locked my door. Seriously. If something got stolen (which it never did for real), I was going to be okay with that. And sometimes people needed things that I had when I was not around, so I just left my door unlocked. Of course, that is bound to lead to unexpected discoveries and practical jokes. More than once I returned to my room after class and opened the door to find Cary-from-down-the-hall asleep in the papasan chair. And whenever I would see that, I would smile and quietly close the door, puttering down to another friend's room. That was why I left my door unlocked. Cary needed a place that was clean and quiet ... a place to rest and retreat ... and I could offer that.

So on my 20th birthday, I went to class. And when I came back from class, I opened my door to find a veritable daisy explosion before my eyes. There had to be no less that two dozen vases of assorted shapes and sizes filled with handfuls of daisies. There were some actual vases and several makeshift ones as well ... emptied bottles of water, mostly.

Daisies are my very favorite flower. They are commonplace, unassuming, and yet, beautiful. I dare you not to smile when you come across daisies. [I don't actually dare you to do that, because if you happen to be able to, which is I'm sure possible, then 1. I lose and 2. that's really sad.] And there they were, everywhere I looked there was a vase of daisies clearly visible. There were so many vases that even a week later, I was still discovering new ones.

It's pretty simple. No rock climbing, or death defying, or expensive shopping trips. But I really felt loved that day, that moment, when I walked into my room and was greeted by a visible expression of my friends' care for me. They weren't even there when I found it, but they were at the same time. In each of those flowers, telling me a story of joy and leaving me a message of love.

Sometimes I forget that story, but I hope I keep remembering it at just the right time, so I remember how important life is. And how great people can be.

"I know the heart of Life is good."
-John Mayer

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday and Children

I just finished with a Good Friday service at my church. It was a Stations of the Cross experience. There were five stations, each accompanied by a portion of the crucifixion story of Christ, a reflection and an action of response. It was good. Very good. While I was going through the Stations, my visits lined up with a mother and her three daughters. The oldest was probably 13. The youngest, probably ... 7? I'm really terrible at guessing age. And weight. Those carnival guys win big on me every time. Anyway. One of the stations pointed specifically to the brokenness in the world, for which Jesus died. It was a flash movie filled with tragic images from the world - natural disasters, the holocaust, starvation, abandonment, massacres, accidents, explosions. It was pretty ... dark. And this mother stood with her three young daughters and watched it and reflected on it. And that was amazing to me. At first, I didn't really think anything of it. But then it hit me as they walked away ... it seems so strange to take children to a Good Friday service. Almost bad parenting, and borderline extreme/brainwashing. But I admire those parents. This world is broken. And though it's true that we don't want our children to experience any more of that brokenness and pain than we have to, although we want to shield them as much as we can, want to bear the weight of it for them, we cannot. They will encounter the reality of this world the second they step out the front door. There is no shield, there is no protection. But to enter into that pain with your children. To acknowledge it. To recognize it. Is somehow to take away its power. It's still horrible, but the brokenness of the world does not have to become your brokenness.
I do not particularly want to have children, or if I do have them ever, I'd rather adopt them at an older age -- where no one else wants them, where they're almost beyond help. Part of why i don't want to have them is that I don't want to break them. But I'm learning, from my friends who have children, that kids are resilient and much stronger than I'm inclined to think. Madeleine L'Engle, of A Wrinkle in Time fame, has a quote that says something like "If you have something important to say, put it in a book. It it's really important, put it in a children's book." There is something in a child's spirit that can endure so much more than adults can, I think. They are not tired. They have not been disillusioned. Their imaginations (and therefore their hope for something better) are still fully intact and functioning at optimum levels.
And no one really knows how to raise them, children. But somehow, we all have gotten to be adults, who are, and we're none the worse for the wear. We all have problems and we all have victories.
I hope that mother and father go home with their children and talk about what they thought about, what they saw, and the hope that we have through it. Perhaps it is bad parenting to expose young children to that pain without the hope of redemption, but because we have Christ, because we have Hope and because that does not HAVE to be the end of our lives, I think it is beautiful and right and strong and hard.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Life and Movies

As you know, I'm a fan of Donald Miller's and at some point in the past couple of days he's suggested (not personally) that I try writing a scene from my life, because 1. our life is a story made up of memorable scenes and 2. writers should write every day, like musicians should practice. Now, I don't consider myself a writer, but I do like to write.
So I've been wracking my brain to come up with a memorable scene for me to write about. And I can't come up with anything. All I come up with are intensely boring or painful scenes ... neither one do i want to write about. And the ones I do come up with that I could write about are not more like something out of a movie.
And that got me thinking. Why do we so frequently refer to events of our lives as "just like a movie"? Why don't we ever watch movies and say with the same sort of fondness "that's just like real life"? What's wrong with real life? Okay, so I know what's wrong with real life. People say mean things to and about each other. People hurt each other. We get disappointed. I get it. But sometimes life is all right. Just the way it is. It doesn't need to be like a movie.

But with that said, I'm watching Driving Miss Daisy right now. I've tried to watch this movie/play so many times through my life, but have never been able to get all the way through it. But watching this movie now makes me understand my grandmother a little bit more. My mom's mom, that is. I think she and Miss Daisy have quite a bit in common. Quite a bit. I wonder if I'll interact with her any differently after seeing this.