The Opposite of Glee

I have a confession to make: I just finished binge-watching all four seasons of “Glee.”

When the show first aired, I was in my last year of university, and didn’t have cable. I had interest in the show, but couldn’t convince myself to download it illegally. Esso and I weren’t sure we were going to get cable when I moved to this town, so there wasn’t any point getting into a series, even if it seemed like a fun premise.

I always meant to check it out on Netflix, and just…didn’t. That is, until I heard of Cory Monteith’s death last week of a mixed drug toxicity (why don’t they call it “death by misadventure,” as with Jason Rae?). I realised, if I wanted to have an informed opinion on Monteith’s talent, I needed to watch the show.

Reader, I can tell you now that I am SO ANGRY with Cory Monteith.

That baby face hid a lot of pain and demons, and he managed to channel them into something pure and noble and good and joyous through his work in Glee. Now he’s gone, and it’s his own fault. There is no one else to blame.

He slid back into a lifestyle that he had worked so hard to escape over a decade ago. His work family and his real family worried about him so much, they kept an eye on him when they could…but he knew exactly where to go and who to talk to when he wanted the poisons that killed him.

So much potential. So much to live for and to do. All thrown away for yet another high, another escape. I can’t understand what happened, what made him relapse?

For me, the scary thing is that there are more kids like Cory (although how you can call a grown-ass 31-year old man a kid, I don’t know) than like Finn—and there are a lot of kids like Finn.

I have more thoughts on the show, itself, but I wanted to separate them from my thoughts on Mr. Monteith. Stay tuned.

 

Some Things That I’ve Learned

Time to do the Janus face: look back and reflect, look forward and plan.

As part of the reflection phase, I present a handful of truths I have learned, in no particular order.

1. Be More Than Just a Pretty Face.

Develop your character more than you develop your physical appearance. The most interesting, intelligent and worthy people I know aren’t necessarily the most attractive; they are the people who have the most thoughtful insight into our world.

This isn’t to suggest that all beautiful people are shallow; more that the people of substance are more interesting, vibrant and alive.

2. Take Care of Your Body.

I know this is going to sound contradictory, but your physical body does need to be taken care of as much as your intellect. I mean this as a health care issue. I learned, almost too late, that a sedentary lifestyle is not good.

If you want to live to an old age, and your family history suggests a preponderance for chronic diseases, do your best to head them off before they make your life difficult.

3. Be Generous.

Being generous starts with the desire to impact someone else in a positive way. It could be regular donations to an organization you support, and yet, generosity is more than monetary.

Every year, I participate as a volunteer with the London Fringe because I believe in their principles. The creativity and passion behind the performing arts is important, and I believe artists should not have to jump through a lot of money-obsessed bureaucratic hoops to get their messages heard.

Everyone has a story; every person is creative and has the right to express their creativity. The Fringe circuit in Canada and the U.S. offers just that opportunity. I don’t go to the fundraisers for the festival, and I have rarely been able to donate financially, but I give 12-13 days of my time every summer to help the artists who put themselves out there.

4. Learn to Say “NO.”

Again with the contradictions! Be as generous as you want to be, but remember, all your effort has to come from somewhere.If you don’t stop and give your own batteries a chance to recharge and realize goals independent from any other person or cause, something will burn out.

The word “no” has the power to change any situation, any circumstance, and you owe it to yourself to hitch onto that power once in a while.

5. Fiction Is Not Reality.

You cannot live in a fictional world. I read a lot of paranormal mystery and romance novels, and I am aware they are escapist fantasies.

For awhile, I wished I was Jane Eyre, or Clary Fray, but I’m not. I’m glad I’m not, really, because those girls had a lot of freaky stuff to worry about.

The problems of life are rarely solved in under 44 minutes. Real CSI police detectives don’t solve cases in less than a week—often, the cases take months, even years to be satisfactorily completed.

Brilliant people make serious mistakes—as a real-life doctor, Gregory House would probably kill a lot of his patients before his team could figure out what’s wrong with them.

Pre-teen girls are not secret rock stars or actresses, and there are NO SUCH THINGS as vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or magical beings.

Life is hard sometimes, and it’s better to take strength from the lessons you learn from the stories you see and read and hear than it is to try to actually live them.

6. It’s Good to Have an Imagination.

A healthy imagination helps you learn to solve problems. If you can never conceive of alternate way of fixing something, or figuring out a puzzle, if everything goes from point A to point B in your life, you will never be successful.

Life is about making choices, and about the randomness of choice. Take out the random, the imaginative path, and you remove some of the magic and beauty of Life. I hate the phrase, “Think Outside the Box,” but the spirit of the message is sound. Don’t be afraid to daydream a new idea into reality.

My favourite Edgar Allan Poe quote is, “It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic.” Be fanciful, be analytic, be imaginative.

7. Forget Lemonade, make Lemon Sorbet

There is no situation in life which cannot be improved by a calm attitude, and sometimes, that means finding your inner cool. Take a walk, leave the room, put your headphones on and listen to music you love, distract yourself for a few minutes (or hours), then look at things again.

Sometimes, it may seem this is not possible, but it is. It’s not just for task-oriented problem solving.

I come from a family of hotheads. My bio. father and my sister use snark and vicious tones to attack and put their target on the defensive. What they haven’t learned is, you can never take something back once you’ve said it.

The person they say nasty things to may forgive them—he or she may even forget exactly what was said—but that person will always remember how that conversation made them feel, and it will scar them.

I’m learning (emphasis on the present, active tense) to curb my own tongue, to step back and cool off. It will take awhile, but I have faith in me. Life gives you lemons, etc….

Okay, so I’ve learned other stuff, but these are, in my opinion, the most important.

Some Thoughts On Loss

In a recent panel at the Fertility Planit conference, the contributors discussed how and when to consider letting go of the dream of having your own genetic child.

One of the panelists, a psychotherapist, suggested that when you finally choose to move forward without having a baby, you experience not only the current loss of your dream, but every other loss you have experienced.

I have personally found this to be true.

One of the other panelists said it reminded her of losing her grandmother, and that her grief process in coming to terms with her loss in this regard was helpful in letting go of the grief of her childlessness.

I did not find this to be true in my own grieving process.

I’ve written before about my grandmother; how attached I was to her from a very early age, how she and my grandfather formed the base elements of my personality and guided me, through their unconditional love, to some sense of self-acceptance.

While my grandmother lay dying, I was daily, hourly, minutely reminded of the strength of our bond, and the importance of it in my life.

I was also reminded that I won’t be passing down a similar bond to children of my own. The buck stops here.

I won’t be passing down the family stories or recipes to a new generation. At some point in the near future, there will be no children at our family Christmas—or perhaps even a family Christmas at all. These thoughts make me sad.

It’s the continuity, and my part in it, which I mourn the loss of. I’m the twig that doesn’t grow a fruit on our family tree—a tree that was heretofore strong and healthy.

I worry what that says about me as a human being.

30 Days of Film #3 The Film I Watch to Feel Good, and #4 The Film I Watch to Feel Bad

It’s an anathema to me to choose films to provoke a response in me. I’m more likely to gravitate to certain films when I’m already experiencing an emotion. So, these two are films that best express my good or bad feelings. As much as this entire list is subjective, these are probably the most personal categories. And be warned, the films change from time to time, so in a week, I might have a different answer.

#3 Good Roman Holiday (dir. William Wyler, 1953)

roman holiday vespa

 

A princess, tired of her royal duties while on a European tour, escapes from her palatial rooms after taking a sleeping pill. She is found on the street, half asleep, by the worst possible Samaritan: an American journalist who needs a hot story to stay in good with his boss. So begins this lighthearted tale of romance.

Why do I like this film? Why does it exemplify my happy world view?

1. We all long to escape our lives at some point, to experience a different perspective; that’s what vacations are for. Princess Anya gets her vacation after all.

2. Joe does the right thing, in the end. He is tempted to expose Anya, but changes his mind when he comes to know her.

3. It’s an unconventional ending to an otherwise conventional romance. I don’t want to ruin it for people who haven’t seen the film, and those of you who have seen it will know what happens. Suffice to say, in a conventional romance, there are certain “beats” which make the story a romance. Roman Holiday hits <i>almost</i> all of them, and it’s the ending, the beat that is missed that is the most satisfying to me. I love genre films, but I get bored when they slavishly follow the beats—without variation, what was the point in making another genre film? (Except for the money, perhaps, never a satisfactory reason to make a film in my opinion).

 

#4 Bad Bob Roberts (dir. Tim Robbins, 1992)

Some would say that cynicism is a cancer which erodes our willingness to change things that we perceive to be wrong. I can see that. However, I also see it as the flipside to blind optimism. This film has both. The followers of Bob Roberts are willfully ignorant of his corruption. They see the smiling, folksy guy who promises a return to a simpler time, and they believe him. The film, as a whole, pokes fun at this idealism by showing just how blind these people are.

When I think of the state of the world (as I know it) today, I think of this film. I don’t love this film, but I appreciate it for reminding me that there is a fine line between realism and cynicism. I try not to be the latter.

Where the Hell Have I Been?

For my readers who found me through Wonders in the Dark: I apologize for not keeping up with the 30 Days of Film list. The truth is, I got stuck on the “film I watch to feel good,” and “film I watch to feel bad,” and rather than go on to the next one, I just kept putting it off. Look for a combined post soon.

So, Where the Hell Have I Been?

Short answer: Here. I’ve been at home, as usual.

Longer answer? I’ve been planning our trip for next year (you can see some of my thoughts on the process at my London 2013 blog here), getting my Christmas plans sorted out, writing a little, and watching TV. Oh, and my driving lessons. I have one lesson left, and then I’m on my own to learn how to drive in the snow. Urgh.

We visited our friends R-dot and Deesh and had an anniversary dinner and then helped R-dot’s Mom celebrate a milestone birthday. Grin!

We started up our bi-weekly D&D game again, only to have it cancelled after one session because a bunch of us got sick one week, and half the group became suddenly unavailable. Sigh.

The other day, our Property Manager came over to have me sign some cheques and asked me if I had seen any movies lately. I had to wrack my brain to answer him, because the truth is, if it’s not on Netflix or TV, I don’t get to watch movies I haven’t seen before anymore.

Our local movie theatre only shows films in the summer, and then only ones in wide circulation that you could catch anywhere. Of course, this is nothing to the fact that Esso and I rarely agree on movies. My taste is a bit more wide-ranging than his, but there are only so many sci-fi and action films I can watch before I feel my brain melting. (I should point out two of my favourite films are Dark City and Blade Runner.)

My sister and I seem to have patched things up. My mother and her sisters, on the other hand…. I suppose it’s good to know Mom and I are more alike than we are different in this regard.

Another important relationship I have is wobbly, and I’m starting to question just how important it is for me in the first place. I often find myself on the other side of the fence from a past situation with another person, and I’m coming to grips with some uncomfortable truths about myself.

Anyway, that’s where I am.

Optional

Yesterday, I fulfilled part of my duties as the Treasurer for our Condo’s Board of Directors by signing a few cheques. The Property Manager and I then discussed the plan to re-re-re-mark the parking lot thanks to the almost endless complaints of one particularly vocal neighbour.

In discussing the situation, the PM told me this neighbour is the gossipy kind (which I kind of knew), who takes great pleasure in discussing everyone else’s business when they are out of earshot—including yours truly.

Apparently, the fact that I rarely go anywhere has been noticed by my neighbours, and this particular one seems to think there must be something wrong with me.

Now, I could go through all the reasons I don’t get out much, but the fact is, none of those reasons are any of her business.

None. Of. Her. Business.

Ultimately, though, my reaction to her gossiping about me is my choice.

When I think about it, I’m really quite angry. Who the hell is she to comment on my lifestyle? She barely knows me, knows nothing about the changes I’ve had to go through in the last five years. Screw her.

BUT, if I approach her to discuss it, it’s just going to end up being a messy neighbour thing, and really, one of the major reasons I don’t stand around on the lawn jammering with her (or her new BFF at the end of the row) is to avoid messy neighbour things.

 

#2 My Least Favourite Film

Dungeons & Dragons (dir. Courtney Solomon, 2000)

First, I should tell you two things about me:

1. I am a late player of Dungeons and Dragons. I resisted the lure for many years due to its stigma as a game for nerds and weirdos. Then I married one, and I resisted just to be contrary. Then I played it, and found myself enjoying the experience.

2. Fancy costumes, over-the-top special effects and ham-handed attempts to draw out my emotions do not impress me if the story is not as rich and detailed.

Before I started playing D&D, my friend told me, “They made a film out of D&D. You have to come watch it with me!” Now, I am a fan of fantasy novels, and have seen some really trippy non-narrative films (my pal, Humbo, makes ‘em), so I was game for the pseudo-medieval costumes, crazy-scary monsters, and valiant heroes. I was prepared for a little stretching of belief, and mostly I was hoping letting my friend pick the movie wouldn’t be the waste of money  so many of her picks had been in the past.

I was wrong, so wrong.

About everything.

This film bears no resemblance to D&D in any edition. As an adaptation, it is a silly, ill-contrived waste of celluloid. While it has taken some inspiration from the game, ultimately, it fails to give a real sense of the characters or nature of the iconic RPG.

There are some pluses. Jeremy Irons is at his scenery-chewing best, and Thora Birch looks beautiful, if uncomfortable in her costumes:

 

However, as a film, it fails as a story, and that is the greatest condemnation I can give.

 

30 Days of Film #1 My Favourite Film

Umberto D (dir. Vittorio De Sica, 1952)

In first year university, the film that resonated with me most strongly was De Sica’s classic, Ladri di biciclette (1948). Suddenly, and for the first time, I was presented with a film that really and truly looked like it could have been plucked straight from life, a story that could have happened to someone I knew. I realized that movies were not just entertainment, they were commentary, universal and relevant.

I was having a rough day when I saw Umberto D. I had had an argument with Esso the night before, and just before the Professor started the film, a classmate decided to inform all of us that if we didn’t sign his petition against Canadian Blood Services and their refusal to accept blood donations from gay men, we were guilty of homophobia and bigotry. His attitude got my blood up (forgive the pun), and I was primed to have a rotten screening experience.

I had forgotten how lyrical and raw De Sica’s work was.

Umberto is an old man. He’s been living in a boarding house for a number of years, mostly on good terms with his landlady, but the war is now over, and she has decided she wants to make some money from the prime real estate she owns. In a fit of renovation, she is removing anything old from the house—including Umberto and his little dog, Flike.

Umberto has been a bad fiscal planner, and finds himself unable to move, and unable to pay his back rent. He and Flike go through several scenarios to borrow or beg money from friends and strangers, all to no avail.

The dilemma of how to make sure Flike has a new home drew shuddering breaths and wracking sobs from me, so much so, that my friend, Lina, rubbed my back and asked me if I was okay. I was literally in floods of tears. Umberto and Flike love each other; Umberto needs Flike as much as Flike needs him. Ultimately, there is no neat, pat ending—you will wonder what happens to this duo—but whatever happens, Umberto and Flike will weather it together. That’s what family is, and it’s clear that Umberto and Flike are a family.

Five reasons this is my favourite film:

1. It paints an almost unsympathetic picture of an old man. As much as I feel for Umberto, I don’t like him much. He’s rude, crass, and incredibly stubborn to the point of nonsense. This is refreshing.
2. It’s a cautionary tale, universal in scope: make sure you save for retirement, because you never know what can happen.
3. It shows a true, unconditional, and deep love.
4. For all of its dark themes, this film has a biting sense of humour and some slapstick (as does most Italian Neo-Realism).
5. It is timeless—it could have taken place at any time, and is probably taking place right now, in any city or town in the Western world.

30 Days Hath September…

For the next month, as an exercise, I will be writing my 30 Days of Film.

Below are the 30 categories, within which I will write each day. My answers will be entirely subjective, however, I will attempt to supplement them with things I learned at school, and to find slightly wider perspectives for discussion. I REALLY hope my friends at Wonders in the Dark will chime in!

30 Days of Film:

1. Your favourite film

2. Your least favourite film

3. A film you watch to feel good

4. A film you watch to feel down

5. A film that reminds you of someone

6. A film that reminds you of somewhere

7. A film that reminds you of your past

8. The film you can quote the best/most

9. A film with your favourite actor (male)

10. A film with your favourite actor (female)

11. A film by your favourite director

12. A film by your least favourite director

13. A guilty pleasure

14. The film no one expects you to like

15. The film that best depicts your life

16. A film you USED to love, but now hate

17. Your favourite Dramatic film

18. Your favourite Comedy film

19. Your favourite Action film

20. Your favourite Romantic film

21. Your favourite Sci-Fi/Fantasy film

22. Your favourite Horror film

23. Your favourite Thriller/Mystery film

24. Your favourite Animated or Children’s Film (I don’t understand why everyone always insists on lumping these two together)

25. Your favourite Documentary film

26. Your favourite Foreign Language film

27. Your favourite Independent film

28. The most obscure film you have ever seen

29. Your favourite film as a kid

30. Your favourite film this time last year

My Parents Are Real People

I guess I have been fortunate to know this all my life. My parents were always surrounded by friends, and I can’t recall seeing them on a weekend without at least one visit with a friend.

I was never under the illusion that their children were the sum total of my parents’ lives. There was no doubt we were the most important part, but we were a little off-the-centre in their universe. I realize in today’s climate of child-coddling, this may seem selfish, but the truth is, it was a relief to know my mother’s day didn’t depend on my behaviour.

The day I broke the Corelle bowl on purpose* is a good example. Was my Mom mad? You bet your sweet bippy she was. I got grounded, and had to do all the dishes by myself for a week. But it didn’t ruin her day. Her friend, Karrin, had a baby, the neighbour’s kid offered to mow the lawn for the summer, and the contracts for her new job were signed. There was always a lot going on in her life, and in my Dad’s life. We girls were part of it, but we weren’t IT.

Mom and I had issues in my 20s and 30s. She seemed to lose sight of the fact that the majority of her job was done. I was caught in some post-adolescent adolescence where I did everything possible to get out from under her thumb. It wasn’t until I remembered that I was married, and had a separate unit from her, responsible for my own twists and turns in life that I began to accept that Mom was just not my main concern. Unfortunately, it took creating real distance and then her COPD diagnosis for us to agree with each other about our relationship.

I once told Esso that talking to my Mom about my assignments and deadlines at school was a sure way to get her back up, since she didn’t agree with my decision to return to school. Instead, what worked in talking with her about my education was explaining what I was learning; sharing with her theory, history, sociological phenomena associated with my field of study. Mom LOVES to learn, and she firmly believes no education is wasted. This new approach has made all the difference in our conversations.

Dad is more of an enigma. He has never tried the whole “But I’m your father!” crap, and has been more of a lead-by-example guy. It’s made getting to know him as an adult both easier and more difficult. I think Dad sometimes doesn’t know quite what to say to me. I don’t give him much to be angry, despairing or confused by, and so we sometimes have nothing to talk about.

I sometimes wonder if the reason he got deeper into hockey was as a way to get out of our house full of estrogen and wailing. I can’t fault him for that. I’m not an overly “girlie” girl, and I do like male company, but if I only had males in my house, I’d—okay, I am surrounded by males in my house, but two of them are cats, so I’m not sure I’d count that. The point is,  I’d want female company once in a while, too.

What I do know is, getting to know and understand your parents as real people, and friends to boot, is a never-ending process–and a worthwhile one at that.

 

 

*hey, Mom said it was unbreakable! I was just testing it, and let me tell you, those Corelle people are liars.