meirwen_1988: (1977)
Right now, I'm watching Galaxy Quest, because no one plays a better Leonard Nimoy than Alan Rickman (sorry Zachary Quinto).

"Change is the essential process of all existence," Spock once said. Death is change, and that Mr. Nimoy, by the evidence of my own eyes an artist in many fields, and by all accounts a human being of inspiring empathy and passion, should die is inevitable. Yesterday, he did. On Facebook I put pictures, but no words. Changed the banner on my page. Changed my profile picture. Put up one of the saddest pictures I've ever seen. But no words.

I've known he was seriously ill for some time. I read when he disclosed his COPD. I've followed him on Twitter. Saw his announcements slowly, inexorably scaling back. Read the posts that spoke of time, and beauty, and impermanence. And, the logical part of my brain said "He is in his 80's. It is coming."

So I was not surprised. Still, when I saw the announcements, 20 minutes before I was to walk into film class and face 60 students, many of whom probably hated the film I showed on Wednesday (White Heat, Warner Bros., 1949), it took some effort to not walk in red-eyed and unable to function. A man I never met died, and it rocked me to the core.

I remember with crystaline clarity when I "met" Leonard Nimoy, in the alter ego of Mr. Spock, First Officer of the United Federation Starship Enterprise, NCC-1701. When the TV Guide for Premier Week came out, as usual, Daddy, Momma, and I (9 years old, and able to stay up until 10 o'clock now that I was in 4th grade!) went through it and marked the shows we wanted to watch, especially the "new" shows that we were going to "try out." For Thursday, Momma and I had marked Tarzan at 7:30, which meant Daddy lost out on F Troop at 8:00. But, we were pretty much in agreement to try out the show on NBC at 8:30--something called Star Trek. We had watched CBS's Lost in Space the night before (now in its second season). It was okay, but while I liked it fine, Mom and Dad weren't too impressed. Still, it was better than the other offerings.

So once Ron Ely finished swinging through the trees (still my favority Tarzan, by the way), we settled in for the new show. My little brother was asleep by then, and we just sat around our little round table, and watched the show.

When it was over, Daddy took the TV Guide and said "I guess we know what we're watching Thursday nights." Momma and I enthusiastically agreed. We were all three fans until the end of the third year, even though we knew that much of the third season was horrible. I remember the day I came home from school and my mother told me with great excitement that William Shatner had appeared on Jeopardy! that afternoon to thank everyone who wrote in to protest NBC's announcement that the show was going to be cancelled, and to announce the network had retracted that decision. It was the first thing she said to Daddy when he came home, and he said, "I know, it was on the radio in the car." He had a pleased smile on his face. If my parents' had had the money, I if I knew they existed, I know they would have given me any Star Trek toy I asked for. They did get me the model kit for the NCC-1701, but I got too discouraged by my imperfect efforts. It is still partially constructed in a box somewhere. But I digress.

My childhood, like most childhoods, was not easy. When I relate my experiences to some people, they always seem to say things like, "My childhood was rough, but nothing like yours." Maybe so. I have no scale of reference. But I do know that Spock saved me.

I think I realized, even before "Amok Time," that it was not, as McCoy often claimed, that Spock was emotionless. It was that Spock was determined not to let his pain, his passion, his frustration, his fear control him--he would be in control. He would think his way through, around whatever challenges were presented to him. His body, his emotions, would not control him--his mind would. And so, I became Spock. A pre-adolescent female human took as her role model and mentor a half-human Vulcan male. As did hundreds of thousands of others.

And I did it so completely, so perfectly, that it terrified my mother. I remember the day she exploded in frustation, "Stop being Spock. You can't keep all of that inside--it will destroy you!"

But while my Momma was wise, and right, about many things, about that one thing, she was wrong.

Yesterday, Leonard Nimoy died. He brought into perfect instantiation the creation of Gene Roddenberry--the conscience of the Enterprise, and, to many extents, the Federation of Planets: the brilliant, loyal, compassionate, logical son of Sarek and Amanda. That character SAVED MY LIFE AND SANITY by giving me hope, and a path, that enabled me to live through childhood sexual abuse at the hand of a trusted man; an alcoholic father; a chronically, ultimately terminally ill brother;  a mother who existed on the verge of death due to too many illnesses to list here; and crippling poverty.

I owe Gene Roddenberry, and Leonard Nimoy, more than I can ever express or repay.





11 of 52

Aug. 13th, 2013 03:05 pm
meirwen_1988: (table tag)
True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My LifeTrue Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life by Kevin Sorbo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


So, confessions first. Confession One: I've always loved celebrity bios and autobios, especially the ones that are "I did this" more than the gossipy, feet of clay (themselves or others). I don't really want to know that Errol Flynn liked his women "young"--I'd far rather read Chuck Heston's journals (he always kept journals on the set, and they are chatty, about the craft, and not political). So, when this book came out, it went on my "read it some day" list.

Confession Two: I loved, loved, loved Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. I loved it for what it was--beefcake and cheesecake in nearly perfect balance; totally unrealistic, but very athletic fight scenes; campy humor; memorable characters--who can resist Aphrodite windsurfing on her seashell, Autolycus, and the venal, but ultimately moral Salmoneus?; and all the other over-the- top, we-aren't-taking-ourselves-too seriously-and-neither-should-you, plots and contrivances. And, well, the infant WETA work was fun, too ("Eye of the Beholder" and all the episodes with Typhon the Giant laid the groundwork for the LotR SFX). Moreover, the series helped me through a really dark time. Physically, 1995-January 1997 were very tough, and the wonderful distractions of silly mythology wrapped up in beautiful packages (can you say Ares? I knew you could), was sometimes better medicine than the handfuls of pills I had to consume every day.

So, with that out of the way, let me explain what finally led me to read the book. Over the last few months, Sorbo has been in the news for a number of reasons. Some are connected to the book. Some are connected to politics and faith. Like many Minnesotans, he is a real mix of conservative, liberal, and Christian philosophies. The first and third have hit the news lately, with the most recent his speculation that he is being blacklisted in the industry because of his faith. So, finally, I felt I needed to read the book, because the person coming across in the press is a right-wing, whiny, has-been.

So I read. The book went amazingly fast (given how slowly I've been reading this summer). I started it one evening, and I finished it the next afternoon. It's the length books commonly were "in the old days." But some of the chapters are rather short, and there's a lot of white space.

It has a little of the "here's how I got to Hercules" that I expected. But the bulk of the book is about dealing with the aneurysm (discovered between seasons 3 and 4) that nearly cost him his arm (really), and the strokes that nearly cost him his life, and probably are responsible for where his career is today. There are some guest-authored chapters (notably Michael Hurst and Bruce Campbell), and they give an interesting added perspective.

What I like most about the book is his unflinching self-assessment (he was NOT a good patient), his willingness to give credit where credit is due (some of the medical personnel, some of the alternative therapy practitioners, but especially his fiance, now wife, Sam), and his acknowledgement that faith was an important part of his own healing process, without getting up on a pulpit claiming "and it should be for you." Some of the book really isn't very flattering, but ultimately, I'm glad I read it. I think it does do what it sets out to do--give people suffering from an illness encouragement and an example of how it can go, and a small measure of "you aren't alone," even though, ultimately, you're the one who has to deal with it.

It made me melancholy, though. You see, he was one of those smart jocks, with little patience for people who are sick, full of drive and arrogance, and a certain "center of the universe" mentality. I know a fairly high number of those types, most of them male, but not all. Always have. I have a weakness for them. And the whiny, angry man sitting on the couch, making everyone around him miserable because he can't do the things he wants to, that he used to be able to (work out, play golf, drive, work a 12 hour day, walk across a room), is familiar. And Sorbo's most devastating injury was to his brain. I remember standing in the yard, looking at my beloved, and wondering "If he survives, will he still be him?"

I'm happy for Sam Jensen Sorbo that it looks like she got back not just the man she loved, but a better version than he was before.

But, I wish he'd shut the hell up in interviews about politics and being blacklisted. Makes him come across more like the whiny guy on the couch than the one who ultimately seemed to develop a good sense of priorities. Even if he's right about all of it, really, Sorbs--just shut up about those.





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meirwen_1988: (table tag)
Yesterday I went to WW to do my monthly weigh-in (except I'm doing it weekly for awhile until I get things under control again). There was a woman there from the meeting I went to a couple of weeks ago where the leader, Sheila, had asked me if I would "tell my story," since it was about going off the rails.

The member thanked me for what I said that day. She said it was "powerful" and helped her feel less alone.

There's that. Now to just get back down to healthy weight. *sigh*

10 of 52

Jul. 23rd, 2013 11:23 am
meirwen_1988: (table tag)
The Map of the Sky (Trilogía Victoriana, #2)The Map of the Sky by Félix J. Palma

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


It is very rare that I get more than half-way through a book and finally give up.

Hmmm. What to say? Not a single likable character was encountered, Dear Reader, by this visitor to the pages of this tome. The author's attempts at re-creating a Victorianesque tone was only equaled in its ineptitude by the structure of the work.

Perhaps I am hampered by the fact that I have actually read a great deal of Victorian and Edwardian era fiction, and therefore know how precious (not a compliment in this context) Palma's prose is. When I found myself routing for certain characters--okay, all the characters--to die horrible, bloody deaths at the hand of the extraterrestrials I knew it was just time to step away from the book.

Fortunately, that saves me from having to read the other two volumes in the series. I win.



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9 of 52

Jul. 23rd, 2013 11:11 am
meirwen_1988: (table tag)
The Magician (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #2)The Magician by Michael Scott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm a bit embarrassed to say I'm hooked on this series. Maybe it's the puzzle of how the author is going to bring in various mythologies and historical/legendary figures. Sometimes it's the locales. I'm not saying it's high art--it's Young Adult fantasy, and not the best. But it's readable, compelling at times in its plotting (if I read it just before I start to drive somewhere I find myself wondering what's going to happen next, which is generally a good sign), and the characters are reasonably complex.

As a diversion, I really think it succeeds.



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8 of 52

Jul. 23rd, 2013 11:00 am
meirwen_1988: (table tag)
Boy, am I behind this year. Again, part of it is that the books I'm reading are LONG, except the ones that are really, really short. This one was a monster.

A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, #14; A Memory of Light, #3)A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Well, that's done.

Because this is such a huge book, and because I know many people are waiting for the paperback, I'm going to make this as spoiler-free as I can.

It starts slow (at least it did for me), but once it picked up I found myself reading in that way that makes you resent having to attend to things like, oh, eating and sleeping, and being frustrated that I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to read "one more chapter." Speaking of chapters, the chapter "Tarmon Gai'don" is over 100 pages long--in the hardcover! And, well, it needs to be.

And so you know, in comparison to other works, the body count of friends and loved ones has been fairly light in The Wheel of Time series. Until now. People die. It's a war--these things happen.

I'm not sure the last book lives up to the promise of the first (which is on my list of top ten fantasy novels), and certainly there were dead weight volumes and passages along the way, but all in all I'm glad made the journey. There are days I wish I wore the serpent ring. Awhile ago someone asked what color my shawl is. I'm fairly certain now it is grey. But, well, one never knows until after The Trials.

I will miss these friends I've made over the years of reading the series, especially Min, Mat (though I frequently want to shake that one), Moraine Sedai, and Lan. Time to move on, though, to new worlds, new friends.

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”



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meirwen_1988: (Hope)
I've mostly been spending my electronic time on tablets or smartphones of late, and those do not lend themselves to this forum, so I've been absent for the most part. Still here, boys and girls.

*Oh, look--Boreananz still isn't good looking.*

Things in the big house in the valley are...chaotic. Since my course got cancelled the summer income got cut by 1/3. Ouch! And I just got the oil bill for the coming year. Mega-ouch. And there's the trying to clean out, clean up, etc. so we can bring a realtor in, which is "back ouch!"--or would be if I could get motivated.

*Really? Red 2? Oh well--it has the fabulous Helen with firearms: I'll probably see it. Eventually.*

I'm having a serious problem with focus. I have 6 awesome books going at the moment, yet I seem to find myself spending more time doing stoopid hidden object games than reading. I need to get going on the Fall courses, but whenever I think about doing that something really critical comes up--like researching the flying speed of swallows. I would really like to finish at least one of the pairs of socks I've got started so I could start the shawl, but, well, suddenly it seems really important to reprogram the Favorites list on the TV menu.

*Did you know that apparently old barn lumber is valuable in various sizes, and that cutting them out of a dilapidated barn creates interesting viewing angles?*

So, this weekend is a memorial service for a wonderful man, a birthday party for one of my favoritest peoples, and a graduation party for a cherished young man, who one week later leaves for boot camp in Oklahoma. And the Duchezz leaves for NYC Saturday morning. So, no trip to Rochester or Buffalo for me this weekend. I'll go to the grad party on Sunday, and call it good.

*The Olive Garden going up on Commercial Drive has its signage! Maybe open soon!! Yes, dozens of wonderful Italian restaurants in Utica, all of which serve some variation of Calabrian cuisine. It will be nice to have other options, even if courtesy of Darden Corp.*

Last week was lovely on a variety of levels. Tracey and I finally got our spa day. She didn't listen to me, and scheduled me for a massage. I felt sorry for the poor guy, but he worked within my restrictions, and I have to admit that my left leg (the one that does 80% of the work of moving me around and holding me up) felt wonderful afterwards. Of course, I ate too much food with fats and salts (the two primary components of commericial food establishments, regardless of status) despite my attempts to be sensible, but it was a lovely getaway. Then we had guests come to our house Sunday and that was wonderful. Tried out some new sides recipes, and one was a huge hit. So, there's that.

*Hmmmm. Maybe Man of Steel*

Well, it's raining again. Reasonably dry around the house (we had some flooding earlier this week, but nothing serious), but if it's raining further north the Unadilla could rise, and that would make things challenging.

*Oh, look, hummingbird!*

Yeah--concentration. I wonder what that would be like.

Later.
meirwen_1988: (table tag)
Having a dialogue about replica glassware with Elizabeth Chadwick, one of my top five historical fiction authors. *bliss*

You may now resume your day.
meirwen_1988: (morning person)

Very eventful four days--actually, the whole week is a blur. Conference last Monday (mixed review); strange Tuesday; Eastern Star and other things on Wednesday; biopsy Thursday; Dr.'s call (qualified "all clear"), Assistant Dean's call, and graduation Friday; drive to Buffalo for Weaselmas on Saturday; drive home and missing Haakon's fabulous party on Sunday; brunch with Ruth and Phil today, and soon leaving for OES rehearsal; tomorrow is in-service--wash, rinse, repeat Wednesday and Thursday; OES "Big Deal"Tuesday night; 3 meetings (including President's thank-you lunch) on Friday; drive to Long Lake on Saturday. I'm tired just thinking about it.

meirwen_1988: (Strive)
"As you know I have made a vow never to give you information that could potentially alter your destiny. Your path is yours to walk, and yours alone."

That said, because my friend Tom requested it, here are my thoughts about Star Trek: Into Darkness. (Tom asked for a review, I'm not sure this is that, but here goes.)

I should start by saying I still vividly recall watching the premiere of Star Trek in 1966, sitting in the living room with my parents. I remember coming home from school one afternoon to a delighted mother who said "William Shatner came on Jeopardy today to thank all the fans for saving Star Trek--it'll be back for another season!" I remember, in the days before VHS recorders, setting up a tape recorder in front of the television in the dorm to record the episodes so I could listen to them when the show wasn't on.

I remember my first model kit: Enterprise NCC 1701. I still have my Enterprise necklace, and I cried when my posters finally died after moving to the 5th apartment. I sobbed so hard it disturbed the guys in the row in front of me when Spock died in Wrath of Khan. I'm a total fan girl. I watched all the other series iterations of the franchise, have seen all the films multiple times (even, painfully, Nemesis). I have some favorites among them, but for me, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are...everything.

So when the reboot was announced, I was nervous. But J.J. Abrams managed, with the first film, to make me happy. It was respectful, without being slavish. It found a clever way to allow the original universe and the reboot to actually co-exist without competing with each other, a way to write a new "canon" in a way that allows preservation of the original, and will allow the novels and games set in the Federation to be one, or the other, or perhaps, in the spirit of the Mirror Universe worlds, cross the boundary and exist in both.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (colon optional, apparently) continues in that vein. Though there have been spoilers sprinkled liberally on the internet for months now, I want to avoid them here, which makes talking with any detail about the film torturous at best. But Abrams, and his cast, have yet again managed what I thought was impossible: he took something so beloved as to be sacred, put his hand to revisioning it, and did it beautifully, due in no small part to Benedict Cumberbatch's performance, and the rest of the cast was outstanding as well. Simon Pegg, in particular, is becoming more solid in his role, with the irascible Scot we came to love in James Doohan's hands shifting ever so slightly into something thoroughly Pegg's. The script is solid, the XF never felt forced, and Abrahms remembered that ultimately the Star Trek franchise is about characters, and character. My only disappointment was in one role that was badly written, and even in the hands of a good actor was nearly cartoonish. But that is a small disappointment in a film that otherwise was completely satisfying.

Twenty-four hours after watching the film, thinking back, I can see all the ways Abrams manipulated the audience, the tropes and inversions, the twists on convention, the exploitation of memory. It was masterful puppeteering, and if I were to describe each one, the film would seem trite and shallow. But the film was neither. Abrams and his cast created an experience that was funny, and bleak, that made me laugh, and gasp, and cry--in all the right moments, in all the right ways. If Abrams doesn't make another Trek film (and that's likely since he's taking over the Star Wars films), I will be content. The two he has done are outstanding.
meirwen_1988: (girlhawk)
So, back in the Fall I asked for a jury duty postponement until May. Got the new summons. For May 20. Okay, annoying that it was for the day of a conference I was supposed to attend. And even more annoying that if I got called to serve it would be during my summer class.

What really tore it, though, is that on the 23rd I have a second biopsy. Other breast. The fun never ends. Which I really can't move since it is already as late as the doctor is willing to go. He understood why I wanted to do it then, and since this is more of a "let's make sure it's the same as the one in the left" and not "Oh my God, we'd better find out what this is!" But since the one on the left was a tumor, albeit benign, and not something cysty or calciumy or scarry, he wants to be sure. Okay. Got it. I would rather be safe.

So, called the Commissioner of Jurors. When she understood it was a non-elective procedure, she was quite helpful. New start date is July 2. I'll take whatever, whenever. Apparently there are a couple of trials scheduled for July, so it's likely, and that would be lovely. July or August would be perfect for me.

In other news my students today were stunned--stunned I say, when they realized we only have two more classes for the Tuesday/Thursday schedule. We have 5 for the Monday/Wednesday/Friday crowd. As Jubal Early would say, "Does that seem right to you?"

Tonight Duchezz and I work on her letter for OES, because our Matron and Secretary couldn't do their damn jobs themselves, I grade, she collapses, since she got in from Amsterdam (NY) last night at 1 AM--they made the "Big Announcement" about her state position to our District. Now the endorsement letter goes out, and in October, barring something really wonky, her name will go forward in the uncontested ballot. And then life gets interesting, because, gee, it wasn't before.

Okay, time to get back to work.

7 of 52

Apr. 28th, 2013 04:05 pm
meirwen_1988: (reading)
The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes NovelThe House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I came, I read, I slogged.

Not a convincing Holmes, Watson, nor Lestrange. Conan Doyle wrote more fully realized villains, the McGuffin that wasn't was too extreme to be credible, and the sense of "peril" was only authentic for one, minor, character.

Just say no.



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Passages

Apr. 26th, 2013 12:28 pm
meirwen_1988: (Default)
This has been an ... interesting ... week. If I get through to 2 PM I'll call it a victory.

Little things, nothing major, but the end of semester exhaustion, the enervating effects from the careful controlling my full-on rage monster this weekend, hormonal cycles, and health vagaries have me clinging to the edge of...something...just until I can get to a place where I can sleep. It probably doesn't help that last night was the first in more than a week when I didn't wake up between 3:30 and 4:30 and pretty much stay that way until finally falling asleep somewhere around midnight.

Nothing big, nothing major, just...stuff.

Not really connected, but something I need to have in front of my eyes, was the notice from Cathy yesterday that they're putting Ray on Hospice today.

Cathy is the oldest sister of my first real boyfriend, Jimmy, in that real way 15 year old Catholics have. Jimmy has since found that he prefers boys, but we were very "serious" about each other, and all the reasons we were are why we are still good friends today. His older sisters and I also became good friends (long years after Jimmy and I broke up I was in both of their weddings), and our family friends became each others friends. Of course, it helped when those groups also had overlapping interests. My friend Joan Kenyon was one of those. She had met my mom when Momma had gone back to school when I was in junior high (Joanie was 18 at the time), and they became friends, mostly because Joan starting dating my mom's friend Ray. We went to their wedding, were there when their daughter Kim was born. Joan and I were in musical theatre in Hamilton with Jim and his sisters, and the circles overlapped.

The Kenyons marriage fell apart when I was in college. After the divorce I dated Ray briefly during the summer. At the time Cathy was dating my ex-boyfriend Jeff. When I came back for Christmas, Cathy told me, with just a bit of embarrassment, that she was "seeing" Ray. I didn't care, and if I privately thought he was too old for her (in his thirties and she was only in her early 20s--I know, I dated him, but there's a big difference between "dating" and "being in a relationship"), I didn't say anything. They seemed happy. But then, so had he and Joanie at one time.

Remember that wedding? It was theirs.

When he started having problems finding work, he re-enlisted (just missing the age cut-off) and stayed in the military until he retired, and then became a civilian employee at the last base where he'd been assigned. About 10 years ago he got brain cancer, and "beat it." Until about 18 months ago when it came back. Thirteen months ago they gave him a month, but when he seemed to be fighting it well they decided to try a "new chemo." Sometimes the chemo does as much damage as the cancer, and this is one of those times. The cancer halted, but at a horrible price. And now it's back. As Cathy put it, "There will be no more chemo."

They have a son and two grandchildren. Ray wanted to live long enough to see his grandson one more time (he lives with their ex-daughter-in-law), be there when his granddaughter was born, and vote in November's election.

He got those three wishes. And now Cathy will become the second McDonald sister widow (Margaret, 3 years my junior, lost her husband to MS 3 years ago).

The saddest thing is that they don't know how to find Kim. She vanished from his life, her mother's daughter. She doesn't know her father is dying, and may not even care.

But we know. And we do care. He is a good man, with flaws and virtues. He was an Army clerk (their "Radar") in Saigon during the Tet Offensive and was told to "hide under a desk and stay the hell out of the way." He holds grudges without cause, loves the NY Jets, and has the strangest way of taking turns in a car I've ever seen. And Cathy loves him, which is what matters most to me.

When this is over she will probably come back here. She is a blue-hearted girl in a very red state, and hates it in Kansas. I hope she does, but I hate the reason.

But for now, it's just the waiting. And praying.

And here is the only picture I have of the three of us--it was the day Cathy told me they were together, Christmas Eve, 1977. I'm sitting with Cathy, and Ray is the one looking at her.
Christmas 1977

Edited April 29, 2013:
Ray died yesterday.

Raymond Gerald Kenyon JR lost his long battle with cancer on April 28. 2013.
He was born June 19, 1947 to Raymond and Ida (Baiguini) Kenyon in Cortland, NY.
After graduating from DeRuyter, NY schools he spent three years in the Army with the Army Security Agency, serving two tours in Vietnam and a tour in Hokaido,Japan.
Ray then earned degrees in Business and English from SUNY Morrisville and SUNY Brockport.
On September 2, 1978 Ray married Catherine McDonald in Hamilton, NY.
After working in New York and Texas, he reentered the Army and he and the family served in Alabama, Germany and Kansas. Ray completed his service in 1993 at Ft Riley Kansas.
Ray worked for both the Topeka VA Hospital and Irwin Army Hospital on Ft Riley.
Besides his wife, Ray is survived by his son Erik Kenyon of Ogden and his brother Lew of Cortland, NY. He also leaves his grandchildren Caleb Loggins, Ethan Kenyon and Kaiya Kenyon as well as many neices and nephews. Funeral arrangements are pending with Irvin Parkview funeral home of Manhattan, Kansas

Hmmmm

Apr. 22nd, 2013 09:09 pm
meirwen_1988: (tea comfort)
I'm watching House of Cards and Kevin Spacey's character is working out on the gym his wife (who was Buttercup in Princess Bride) bought him. It makes me think of his character in American Beauty working out because he has a crush on his daughter's cheerleader best friend. Strange connections are strange.

Today a friend I've never met, but wish I had, Deborah, posted about the loss of her beloved German Shepherd, Oka (http://deborahjross.livejournal.com/283069.html) and then shortly thereafter about the loss of Cleopatra (http://deborahjross.livejournal.com/283365.html), and my beloved Ekat lost her Alex this week (http://baronessekat.livejournal.com/740819.html). I had the privilege of spending the weekend with Ekat, and on Sunday morning she said of Miss Alex, who was first and foremost Nikodemus's cat (Niki, the much beloved who left us too soon), "If she had a 'human' it was probably you." On Saturday my friend Linda lost her mother, Iris. Today she took the train to her mother's service, and took the train home, to her waiting husband, where they returned to their new home, much of which is still in boxes, as they've been there less than a week.

In recent months friends have lost homes, parents, pets, jobs.

Each of these losses is equally profound, and entirely different. I know this, because I have lost, at various points, all of them. While the point of origin is different, the point of impact feels the same. It is devastating, each in it's own, particular way. One removes our security, one removes our history, on removes our sense of self-reliance, one removes our faith that we can care for others. And yet, none of them do those things.

Because one lose our job, it doesn't mean we lose the ability to care for ourselves. We must find new ways, and that process is horrible in many instances, we we find a way.
Because we lose our parents doesn't mean we lose our history. We have our memories, good and bad. And we have who our parents helped use to become. Sometimes that person is flawed and broken, sometimes strong and whole. But we are ourselves, and their part in that is eternal, or mutable. Which is up to us.
Because we lose our homes it is not a failure. It is like starting a new book, both as writer and reader. It is full of possibilities.

Because we lose our pet it does not mean we have proven ourselves unworthy to care for others. We have loved them, cared for them. Given them home, and hearth. Their lives were warmer, and safer because they joined us at our fire. And if they were with us for many years, as were Oka, and Alex, and Cleopatra, they were our pack, our pride, our lives. And we were part of theirs. The food we shared (for that is what their treats were, and the food that came from our hands), the shared warmth in the cold winter, the shared sunlight, the strokes of love, the sandy kitten kisses, the exuberant puppy leaps...there is joy and life in all of that. And if, at the end, there is a gentle holding as Grizabella sings, if there are toys and biscuits waiting for the gentle healer to come for one last breath, we have not failed. We have soared. For they have had wonderful lives of love and trust. They have belonged not to us, as objects, to to "us"--that whole that is more than "me" or "mine."

When we lose a parent, it is crushing. Our foundation is pulled out from under us. That element, for many of us, that is our first memory, our anchor in pain (even when sometimes the cause of other pain), our constant--is gone. We must become our own anchor, our own constant. That is hard.

When we lose the one who we have accepted the obligation to care for, it is different. We feel a sense of loss, but we also cannot help but feel that, on some level, we have failed. We may console ourselves that they have had a longer life. A safer life. They were warm, and loved, and well-fed. They were stroked, and played with, and been our companions. We sheltered them from the storm, and delighted in the affection they offered. And yet, when they go, we wonder--did we give them enough? Were their lives as full as they would have been had they not been leashed to our lives? Did we give them all they needed? Did we fail them? And we excoriate ourselves for being too little for those who made us so much.

And I would say that parent or pet, their loss affects us the same, as we affected them the same.

It is true, without a doubt, that we have never, will never, do all we can, all we could, for those who love us, whether parent or pet, lover or child.

There will always regret--for the call not made, the gentle stroke on the fur that was not given because we were too busy. But thinking back, it is not the omissions in my life that I recall.

It is the the gentle word when I was broken. The gentle touch when I was in pain. The perfect bowl of soup. The card game that went on too long, filled with laughter and perfect joy. It is not what we did not do--it is what we did that lives in memory. The biscuit and the toys. The laying in a beloved lap and gentle touch as the music swelled. The last fleeting memory of a loving face saying "Momma." These are what matter.

It is about what we do, and how we love. Those are what remain.
meirwen_1988: (table tag)
Yesterday, while we were having dinner, the Duchezz looked over at me and said, "Who was the film guy who died today?"

I looked up from my plate, and said "Roger" and then my throat closed up, and my eyes filled, and I rasped out "Ebert."

Her eyes got big and round, and she started to apologize for asking. "I didn't know it would make you...oh, I'm sorry."

How could she have known?

I don't generally go to pieces when a celebrity dies. Oh, there is a sense of loss--of books that will never be written, performances I'll never see, music I'll never hear. And I fully expect to be a watery mess when the last of the Gibb brothers dies, though I got through the first three with barely a sniffle.

So why the pain, the tears, because a pudgy, opinionated critic from Chicago lost with dignity the fight for life he'd waged with courage and openness over the last decade? How could she have known.

I didn't.

But when I saw on my Twitter feed yesterday that he was gone, I could barely move. When friends posted something totally clueless as a comment on my FB post about it I had to stifle the urge to ban them from my feed. My reaction was visceral and passionate.

So, why?

Because he is why I do what I do.

Growing up, we were, not to put too fine a point on it, poor. Even with Daddy's job at General Electric, and the very generous medical benefits package all the union guys got, my mother and brother's health issues kept us with disposable income below the poverty line. Add to that my father's alcoholism, and both parents' nicotine addictions, and money was very tight. Plus we lived out in the middle of the country, only Daddy drove, and once he'd made the hour commute home the last thing he wanted was to take anyone anywhere except maybe a grocery store to get something for dinner (which is why dinner usually went on the table sometime around 8:30 at night). Going to the movies didn't happen.

But we watched movies on television a lot. Back in those days the networks usually had a big movie night once a week. And the local stations usually filled up the weekends with movies. And I watched them all. Everything from the B westerns and sci-fi (Oh, I still love Them!) and cheesy Steve Reeves Hercules movies with the bad dubbing to really good films, like Laura and How Green Was My Valley and The Shape of Things to Come and The Best Years of Our Lives. At night we'd watch the "big" films, like A Lion in Winter, and The Group, and Lawrence of Arabia and Anne of a Thousand Days. In black and white. With commercials. The handful of movies I saw in a theatre before the age of 16 doesn't even take two hands to count. But I loved movies. So did my parents, I think, but the surprising one was my dad.

There were some movies he wouldn't watch because of his PTSD from World War II. Anything set in the European Theatre of action was off limits. And he wasn't wild about romantic comedies (I inherited that one). Otherwise, he'd watch. But his taste was excellent. He never forgave the academy for giving the Oscar for Best Picture to Around the World in 80 Days rather than to Picnic. He was totally blown away by Duel when it premiered on the ABC Tuesday Night Movie (the series which made me believe that "made for television" films could be every bit as good as a theatrical release), and decided he'd keep track of the then-unknown director to see what else he could do. Some kid named Spielberg. Because of that, when I was in college he and my mother went to the movies (something I'd never known them to do in my entire live) to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind--and he never got over how wonderful he thought it was. He took me to see Blazing Saddles because "Mel Brooks is a genius." For my very straightlaced father, sitting next to his daughter through of the Madeline Khan scenes was not comfortable, but we survived. And it's still one of my favorite memories.

So what does any of this have to do with Roger Ebert?

I was a consumer of films. Good films, bad films, with a little nudging from my dad to respect the really fine ones.

And then along came Sneak Previews and my world changed. My then lover and I would lay in bed on Sunday mornings, drinking coffee, eating bagels, reading comic books, and watching the local PBS station. First came Dr. Who, which was lovely, if sureal to wake up to, and then Sneak Previews came on. Ed loved movies, so we would watch, and argue with the television, and make mental notes to see, or not see, something they'd reviewed. Then we'd get up and head to the campus to grade papers, or go to the library, because, well, that's what one does in grad school. But the show always stuck with me during the day.

Truth to be told, I always "liked" Gene more. I found Roger harsh, argumentative, and not very "nice." But the way he, even more than Gene, talked about movies made a world open up to me that I'd never known existed. He dug into films with passion (because he loved them) and intellect. He could break them down into their pieces to see how they all came together, but more how the pieces worked on those of us in the seats, and how the choices the filmmakers made could triumph or wreck havoc. He treated films with great seriousness, but was never stuffy, but more, he and Gene treated those of us who watch films as important, and deserving of a good experience, and smart. I started to ask of movies the same questions I was supposed to be asking about the books I was studying as an English Lit grad student--and found the answers as complex, and the texts as rewarding. When I started work on my Ph.D. I found a way to make movies as important in my projects and papers as the written literature, and my dissertation proposal was about how texts metamorphose in adaptation, with the intention of digging into the philosophical questions of the role of medium and story and whether even an entirely faithful adaptation is in fact the same story since our aesthetic response is so very different depending on the medium through which we receive it. Heady stuff. And in the film classes I took, from truly good professors, and the critics I read (all the big ones, and then some), the voice I heard in my head was Roger Ebert's. Pushing me to dig deeper, ask harder questions, because I loved movies, and they were worth all that time and energy.

So now, I teach film. Because of him I tell my students with confidence that it's alright to love a popcorn film. To not enjoy an "important" film. But that they have to know why they are reacting the way they are. They have to respect the work that went into even the worst movie, and that, ultimately, movies are for us. Because of Roger Ebert.


Roger Ebert died yesterday. I never sent him a fan letter. Never told him he was the mentor of who I became as a thinker about this wonderful art of the moving image. But he is.
meirwen_1988: (anger)
it ain't about LOVE.

The state has no business talking about love. They're bad at it, and need to stay the hell away from it, and so does everybody else.

It's about the state interfering in the ability to MAKE CONTRACTS between two adults so that the property, debts, and entitlements which accrue to the individual follow a stipulated path (currently defined by state and federal laws regarding obligations of and to spouses). My social security would go to support a man I married, whether I loved him or not, whether I had sex with him or not, whether I lived in the same house with him or not. But if I die unmarried, it goes to no one, even if I had lived with, supported, and loved someone, male or female. So, the state doesn't CARE about love, and people need to stop using that as the argument, compelling reason, etc.

It's about inequity in the ability to make contracts. And it's wrong. And it needs to get fixed.

But it isn't about love. The state doesn't give a f*ck about love.

Sometimes

Mar. 19th, 2013 01:01 pm
meirwen_1988: (mischief)
...I hate Facebook, but then there are days like today.

Today I posted a link to a SCOTUS ruling and the variety and range of my friends revealed itself in the series of comments that ensued. My friends are truck drivers and lawyers, doctors and teenagers, politicians and anarchists. They are *usually* polite and respectful to each other, at least, as Ashley would say, "on my porch," and it's just delightful to overhear their conversations.

Alright, enough of this. I've been informed "this tummy isn't going to scratch itself, you know." Must get back to my job.

Il Papa

Mar. 13th, 2013 03:45 pm
meirwen_1988: (table tag)
This Pope has a history of conscience, charity (in the most religious sense), commitment to the welfare of the congregations under his direct care, and of human beings in general. Many churchmen, of all denominations talk the talk, but he talks it less than he walks it, and he talks it a lot. At 76, he doesn't have a great deal of time left do make whatever changes he could in the church--had he come to the position in his 60s, time would have been more on his side. We see how the office ages our Presidents--it ages popes as well, perhaps more. One quarter of the population of the US identifies as Catholic (either practicing or "recovering"). The worldwide population is massive. And he is the shepherd.

I'm sad because I suspect he was selected BECAUSE he is older than many, and they believe any of the substantive changes he would like to make will never happen because he won't be alive to see them through. Granted, they thought the same of John XXIII (who in my family was always called "The Good Pope," and who spearheaded Vatican II), and they were wrong there. But I fear that the Jesuit who seems to live more like a Franciscan than many in that order will leave no lasting mark--and he is one who I think could save the church. Oh, I don't think he'd allow for the ordination of women, or that priests could once again marry (they used to, for the first 1100 years of the church), but I think his concern for social justice, and his reputation for compassion, could, if he is given enough time.
I am sad because I think the College of Cardinals elected him because they think he will die, but until then it will give them breathing space to prepare for the one they really want. And I fear what that could be.

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