To boldly go

Today is the 47th anniversary of the Star Trek universe. Like many, I grew up with the show and it’s an important cultural reference point for me. It’s also been on my mind lately because I just discovered Star Trek: Enterprise via Netflix. I don’t know how I missed this, but I am enjoying being able to watch new Trek.

We learn a lot from our parents, our faiths, and our friends but we can also learn a lot from the programming we watch and the books we read. I think it’s important to keep this in mind and it’s one of the reasons I don’t watch shows that focus on violent amoral people. I’ve learned a lot from Star Trek that I use in my day-to-day life. For example:

  • Never give up. Aliens may be attacking, a virus is about to kill everyone on board, and the plasma warp core is beyond repair. You’ve got to keep going because there is a solution and you will find it if you stay calm and work cooperatively with those around you. Sometimes you don’t make it–especially if you’re wearing a red shirt–but that is the exception and not the rule.
  • Respect other cultures. They may seem odd; they may seem rude; I may not understand them but I try to remember that they live by a different set of rules. Although I don’t often have the funds to travel, I have lived in several different regions in the United States. I grew up in New York and then moved to Minnesota where I experienced massive culture shock. The same thing happened when I moved to Seattle. I interact with many different cultures here that frustrate me: skateboard kids, druggies, and aggressive homeless to name a few. I try to remember that their needs and culture are different than mine. It helps.
  • Risks are a part of life. If you don’t boldly go, you’ll miss out on a lot of new experiences and contacts. I’m not about to try extreme sports or jump out of a plane but I do throw myself at the universe with joyful abandon. I moved to Seattle without knowing anyone here and I committed before even visiting because I couldn’t afford a trip first. It’s sometimes rocky, but I have met many people I now consider my family. I’ve learned a lot from my adventures.

I hope the Star Trek franchise keeps going strong so that others can benefit from the many positive messages that it has to offer. Besides, I love it, and joy is as good a justification as any. Thank you, Gene Roddenberry and the many people who have made the series happen. May it live long and prosper.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
258. What are you watching and reading? Is it contributing positively to your life? Consider doing a little decluttering if it’s not. If you are a fan of Trek, what has it contributed to your life? Feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Something to see

Happy Sunday! On Sundays I often spend at least part of the day watching movies and eating dinner with friends. We’ve come to treasure this little ritual. Usually we watch movies at someone’s house, but occasionally we go out. I’ve recently seen two treasures you might want to look out for. They may not yet have been released where you are—that’s one of the perks of living in a big city like Seattle.

The first is Slumdog Millionaire (2008, Danny Boyle). There’s already Oscar talk about this little gem, and it’s well-deserved. This movie is about the Indian version of the television show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? A contestant from the slums is about to win the big prize, and everyone wonders how he could know all the answers with his background. The movie tells you. I love a movie that can surprise me like this one does, and many scenes in it will stay with me. Unique and uplifting.

The other is Milk (2008, Gus Van Sant). Sean Penn has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk, who was the first openly-gay elected official. Although Milk was assassinated, this movie is ultimately uplifting, and Sean Penn is amazing here. I should have known better than to wear eye makeup the day I saw it, but I left the theater feeling good. I also love the movie’s tag line—Never Blend In. I couldn’t agree more.

On a related note, there’s a short internet film I just adore. It’s called Prop 8 The Musical, and it’s a three-minute star-studded musical about the recently enacted ban on gay marriage in California. Here’s the YouTube link, but if that doesn’t work, just search the name. I hear there’s talk of making this into a full-length musical. I would love to see it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5-fZKg4Uj4

See you tomorrow!

More pervasive than Comic Sans

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of movies, and I saw another cool one this week. If you love geeks; if you love graphic design; if you want to know more about something that most likely pops up everywhere that you go; then see Helvetica (Gary Hustwit, 2007). Yes, it’s a documentary about a typeface, but it is so much more than that. Be ready to shift your perspective on the written word and the written world.

See you tomorrow!

I loved the watch

Looking for a movie to watch while you relax into your weekend? I’d like to recommend Stranger than Fiction (Mark Forster, 2006). This is an odd little film that gives both readers and writers some amusing things to think about. It’s an uplifting movie, and the book that it talks about has some very nifty lines. It also has some very nifty acting, including Will Ferrell—whom I normally dislike—in a very charming role. I also adore Emma Thompson, who has been good in everything I’ve ever seen her do, and is particularly funny here as a melancholy writer. I liked it so much I watched it twice. Perhaps you will too.

See you tomorrow!

Such great female characters

I’ve been having one of those low energy sorts of weeks. Lots of times I work work work and get a lot done, but sometimes I just don’t seem to have the drive. I try to respect myself when that happens. I get done what I must, but I realize that my energy will only come back if I rest and give myself the break I must be craving. Otherwise my body will have to get sick to make me stop working so hard. I don’t want it to come to that, so I slow things down a bit. I did that at the beginning of the week and I watched some great movies. It helped to inspire me again.

I finally got to see Volver (2006, Pedro Almodóvar). I am so happy I did. Almodóvar has been one of my favorite directors ever since I saw Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). I haven’t seen everything in between, but this movie has the same spirit as the first movie that got me hooked. This a crime story without mean-spiritedness. It’s uplifting in weird little ways, and I always feel like his movies are shot like modern art stills. The colors and panoramas in the film stun me. The dialogue is funny and weird, and I learned from the extras that the director truly is a man of La Mancha. This grounding in the Spanish countryside gives him some of his imaginative background and helps to inform the quirky traditions he portrays in his films. I also love both of these films because the original Spanish sounds so intense—these movies are subtitled, but even if they could dub them in English it just wouldn’t be the same.

This is a movie I’ll probably see numerous times. It intrigues me. I also liked the soundtrack. The director always chooses very evocative music for his films, and I’ve got a compilation disk of music from his movies that I listen to all the time. I am glad that I discovered his work so long ago, and I look forward to seeking out films I may have missed. If you haven’t seen one of his films, I suggest one of these two to start with. You’re missing something really special.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

192. Share a favorite movie with a friend who hasn’t seen it. Pop some popcorn, share some snacks, and relax. Next time, watch something your friend suggests. What did you learn?

No pie for me, thanks

When you worship someone, you tend to talk about them often. Today I am back to gushing about William Shakespeare. I am enamored of his work, and the many permutations it can take now that the plays are wandering the world without his direct authorial input on production matters.

I saw another brilliant collaboration between Shakespeare and the modern mind this week. The play was Titus Andronicus—not the first work to jump to mind when the immortal bard gets mentioned. The film Titus (Julie Taymor, 1999) has probably altered the play’s previous lapse into relative obscurity.

I warn you ahead of time that the play and the film of it are more violent than Shakespeare’s other works. The play is far too violent, in fact, for my normal viewing tastes. I made an exception to see this film because it was Shakespeare, and I’m very glad that I did. Titus is an examination of different types of violence, attitudes towards violence, and the beauty that is sometimes found in destruction. It provided a lot to think about.

The director, Julie Taymor, put a somewhat surrealistic spin on the tale. She sets the play in an odd mixture of historical periods that somehow merge to form a timeless new reality. The music, cinematography, and art direction all contribute to make this film a breathtaking work of art.

The acting is also superior. There are well-known talents here, such as Anthony Hopkins, Alan Cumming, and Jessica Lange. They shine, but so do a host of other actors whom I did not immediately recognize. As a writer, I also admired the complexity of the villains in this piece. They do unspeakable things, but there is an inherent humanity in them that tugs at the heart. This play demonstrates how easy it would be for most ordinary people to fall into demonic behavior.

The lovely Shakespearean language is all there, too, but it doesn’t get in the way of things. The words are simple and direct, the meaning clear. Everyone involved in the film used all the tricks available—including some very modern music and movie conventions—to make this a stunning film. I highly recommend it.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

188. See two different productions of the same play by any playwright you enjoy. These can be on film or on stage, or a mixture of both. How did the work change?

Maybe rabbit ears would help

Did you ever start doing something and just have your brain seem to go empty? I feel a bit like that today. It’s not writer’s block. That’s something I don’t get. I don’t believe in it, which is probably why I haven’t been cursed with it. I’m just not sure what to talk about in the blog today. Lots of things are going on, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a lot of time to process it all. Today might be a little bit random. Please bear with me, or skip along and wait until tomorrow to read again.

The sing-along version of Mamma Mia was really fun. My friend and I sang through the whole thing, and we weren’t the only ones in the theater raising our voices. It made an already joyful movie into an even more joyful experience, and as I was dressed for brunch in a 1940s hat I felt equal to the occasion. I love to have a chance to dress up now and then. I highly recommend the experience, and my friend plans to buy the DVD when it comes out and have a costume party to honor Abba’s unique and wayward sense of fashion. It should be frightening.

The brunch I attended was celebrating the twentieth anniversary of my chapter of Toastmasters International. Each chapter of the group has a different feel to it, and I particularly like the one I attend because I find the people to be charming, supportive and interesting. Some groups are more business-like than ours, too. We have an informality about us that suits me. It was fun to get together and celebrate the chemistry we share as we improve our speaking skills. I’d recommend Toastmasters highly, and suggest that if you went to a meeting and did not like it that you might wish to try a meeting in a different place. The atmosphere may be totally different.

See you tomorrow, when I may or may not be more focused. You’ll have to come back to find out.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

181.  Next time you’re feeling a little bit random, just go with it. Serendipity may lead you to some amazing discoveries, or you may simply learn that it’s okay when things aren’t perfect and organized. Once you’ve spent a random day, figure out if you learned anything from the experience.