Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dreaming: Stranger Than Fiction

As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be okay. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren't any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.

Marc Foster's Stranger Than Fiction, starring Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, and Will Ferrell, relays the story of how a frustrated wristwatch redeems and then saves the life of its unhappy owner, Harold Crick, an IRS auditor.  Harold, a routine driven government employee, finds his life suddenly turned upside down when he hears a voice narrating his future, a voice that soon predicts his death.  Mr. Crick, as most people would, views this development as both unnerving and upsetting.  In an attempt to return order to his now chaotic world, Harold first visits a psychiatrist and then an English Lit Professor.  The latter informs Harold he is the unwitting main character in a novel.  Whether he survives depends on what type of fictional narrative he's living: A Comedy or A Tragedy.  As the story progresses, Harold breaks out of his dull routine and begins fulfilling his dreams.  He buys an electric guitar, learns to play, eats homemade cookies for the first time, falls in love, and then pursues Ana Pascal, a wild but fascinating bakery owner Harold is auditing.  Foster's narrative is one about choosing to live life intentionally.  At the end of the story, the Narrator must choose between producing the best piece of English literature in the last decade or killing Harold Crick.  Harold must choose whether to accept his fate and save another life or sacrifice his own.  In my opinion, its a beautiful film and worthwhile watch.

Now, there is some debate between my best friend and I on the subject of Harold.  Maggie likes him while I love him.  To my way of thinking, Harold Crick is unbelievably sexy.  One of my favorite moments in the film comes when Harold looks at Ana who is perplexed by him (Crick unintentionally rejects her when he offers to buy the cookies she made especially for him because he did not understand the gesture until it was too late) and professes his desire for her.  For me, Harold's confusion at how to explain himself to Ana and his attempt to make up things up to her by purchasing her 10 different types of flours is thoughtful and romantic.  In the scene, Miss Pascal is still stinging from Harold's offers to pay for her gift until she realizes how sincere he is. Then she melts.  

Ana Pascal: What are they? 
Harold Crick: [quietly] Flours. 
Ana Pascal: What? 
Harold Crick: I brought you flours. 
Ana Pascal: Um... , and you carried them all the way here? 
Harold Crick: Miss Pascal, I've been odd, and I, I know I've been odd, and... I want you. 
Ana Pascal: What? 
Harold Crick: There there are many reasons, there are so many influences in my life, that are telling me, at times, quite literally, that I should come here and bring you these, but I'm doing this because I want you. 
Ana Pascal: You want me? 
Harold Crick: In no uncertain terms. 
Harold Crick: Because I want you. 
Ana Pascal: Well... I... isn't there some... very... clear and established... rule... about... fraternization? 
Harold Crick: Auditor/Auditee protocol? 
Ana Pascal: Yeah. 
Harold Crick: Yeah, but I don't care. Why? Because I want you. 

Not sure about other ladies, but in my book "because I want you" might be the most moving profession I've ever heard. Its simple, to the point, and yet endearing.  Who doesn't want to hear that? But for a film I own and adore, I rarely watch it.  Why you ask?  Because when contemplate Stranger Than Fiction, I start believing in dreams, the importance of wristwatches, the kindness of a friend, and the significance of our choices.  For as long as I can remember, my dreams, both waking and sleeping, have always been vivid.  When I awake from a good dream, I feel contented and warm but the feeling only lasts until I remember that dreams are illusions which lead to disappointments.  Despite what the Muppet Movie suggests, there is no Rainbow Connection. (When I was small, I marched around belting out the lyrics to that song and banging on my Casio Keyboard.  Insufferable.)  I'm always torn.  I hate dreaming but can't help it so I'm perpetually anxious and worried about the willfulness of my heart.  Its a pickle I tell you. But something happened earlier this week that renewed my faith in dreams.  No, a narrator has yet to step in and predict my days (I'd be so grateful!) and I haven't seen my wristwatch in a long time (I'm an Ana not a Harold), but I had a small dream come true.  Dreams, you see, are controlled not just by hearts but by the loving actions of others.  Perhaps to some such a moment is unimportant but not to me.  To me, that moment makes all the difference in the world.  Little dreams are like those 10 bags of flour.  Its not the flour or the dream that matters but the heart behind them.

Now I'm heading into the weekend and my track record suggests troubling is brewing.  On my own for the next few days and worried about train wrecks, but I think instead of fretting, I'll remember those 10 bags of flours, the purpose of pleasant dreams, and the one that came true.  I'll put on my movie and hold onto that unexpected delight rather than letting it slip away.  And just maybe everything will be okay.  "Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Barvarian sugar cookies, reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, a kind and loving gesture, a subtle encouragement, a loving embrace, an offer of comfort, not to mention soft-spoken secrets.  And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause.  They are there to save our lives.  I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true.  And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick."

The Woman in Black: "I Didn't Know You Were Funny"

Every once in awhile, I go bananas, lose all sense of reality, and experience a Class A, Level 1, Chernobyl-Type Meltdown.  While the initial explosion is impressive, the fallout afterward also deserves some recognition.  Similar to Haley Joel Osment's character Cole from The Sixth Sense, I become pale, twitchy, frightened, and yell: "You're a stuttering Stanley" at anyone who annoys me.  In these morbid and creepifying moments, I often seek out my friend Maggie whose known me long enough to understand the protocol: Keep Calm and Carry On...and Distract Me.  As a means of distraction this past weekend, she benevolently agreed to see The Woman in Black with me starring Daniel Radcliffe and the dog who out acted him.  The movie's plot centers around a Bitchy and Irrational Female Ghost who offs children for the hell of it.  Unfortunately for director James Watkins, the only scary part of this Gothic horror is the acting, or lack thereof, namely Radcliffe's.  But despite this flaw, Watkins' Ridiculous Drama does have one redeeming quality.  It'll make you laugh.  Like traumatized little Cole, you'll sigh and say: "I didn't know you were funny."  Below are Five Reasons Why The Woman is Black is Awesomely Bad and Kinda Hilarious.

Maybe Radcliffe should try harder drugs
1.) Daniel Radcliffe's Face: Last July, this Harry Potter star revealed he spent much of his Wizarding days drunk off his ass.  Thus, Mr. Radcliffe often suffered from hangovers while portraying Hogwarts Favorite Golden Boy.  This fact lead me to wonder: Will Daniel's acting improve now that he's sober?  Answer: Nope.  Watkins' Woman in Black is most notable for Radcliffe's frozen face: unsmiling and emotionless throughout.  No wonder Gary Oldman slapped Radcliffe around back in 2007 in order to elicit some expression from this Soulless Automaton.    While Watkins seemed to understand Mr. Frozen Face cannot handle speaking (Radcliffe, the main character, has very few lines), he unfortunately used up most of his shots on Daniel rather than the Ghost, the Haunted House, or even the Shrubbery which still might have been an improvement.  By about forty minutes in, I found myself laughing hysterically every time I looked at Old Harry.  In fact, at one point, The Boy Who Lived shares camera time with a dog.  To the audiences horror, even the growling pup produces more emotion than Mr. Radcliffe.  Its a mystery.  How could both Radcliffe and Watkins never notice this unchanging and awkward expression?  Perhaps someone should have called Oldman on set to bitch slap Harry one more time.

Who buys a child this fucked up doll?
2.) Masturbating Windup Toys:  The Woman in Black is the only movie I've ever seen in which a child's room is filled with Self Pleasuring Dolls, most notably a Monkey Shaking His Bongos and a Wild Eyed, Red Nosed Clown Sticking out his Tongue and Rocking Back and Forth. (See Picture on the Left) Again what were they thinking?: "Sex Crazed Toys are Terrifying!" Nope, they are not James Watkins.  But they are the point of scarring.

3.) Ideas For Tormenting Your Dinner Guests: The only scene I truly enjoyed during the movie centered around the characters of Sam and Mrs. Daily, played by Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer (both fine actors who are overshadowed by the Automaton).  The Dailys lost their little son, Nicholas, to the Spiteful Bitch-tastic Ghost years prior.  Since that time, Mrs. Daily has gone round the twist, referring to her dogs as "the twins", spoon feeding them at the dinner table, and rocking them to sleep each night (If you think this behavior is normal I suggest you see a psychiatrist immediately).  As the Dailys, their Dogs, and Harry Potter sit down to dinner, Mrs Daily looks at Radcliffe and exclaims:

"Nicholas wants to draw you picture!"  Then Janet McTeer picks up her knife and begins carving a hangman's noose on the dinner table.  Personally, I believe, in the right circumstances, this behavior would be great fun.  The next time I'm forced to go somewhere unpleasant I plan to fake a trance and carve up my host's furniture.

These little darlings jump out the window in the opening scene
4.) Moronic Baby-Making Townspeople: It is clear from the outset of the movie that all the townspeople understand that there is a Serial Killing Phantom slaughtering their children.  In fact, the villagers are so terrified, they attempt to keep Radcliffe, Arthur Kipps, from visiting the ghost's former estate.  My question: Why don't these people either A.) Move away? or B.) Stop Having Children?  Its baffling.  I want to feel empathy for the bereaved, but it seems to me that their continued pain is a matter of choice.  Stop producing Rug Rats to feed to the Creepy Ghost.  Done!

"Its scary because I can't move my face."
5.) Three  Strange Morals:
a.) Suicide Is Good: When the narrative begins, Radcliffe's character, Arthur Kipps, has been mourning the death of his wife, whom he lost in childbirth, for four years.  Kipps is, apparently, so depressed that his little son draws pictures of him frowning (yes this Tiny Child out acts Harry Potter as well).  Rather than perking up and trying to parent his motherless son, in the end, the unhappy Kipps dies along with his child.  Then the now Happy Duo merrily trot off to join his late wife, the Woman in White (how original)  Everything is perfect again.  What kind of fucked up moral is that?

b.) Ghost Sex and No Consequences: At the end of the movie, Radcliffe's late wife is greeted by her husband and dead four year old.  Why are they dead, you ask?  Because Radcliffe refused to hold the kid's hand while standing alongside train tracks.  That's nothing less than child neglect. Yet, his wife is thrilled to see them.  Why isn't she pissed?  She perishes while giving birth and he spends the next four years moping around, ignoring their son, and finally allowing the youngster to get ran over by a train.  The look on her face says: "We're gonna have the best ghost sex ever."  I'd think she'd be saying: "You're in for a long dry spell buddy!  What the fuck?  You can't be bothered to hold onto his hand? That's too much to ask?"

c.) Once a Sadistic Bitch Always a Sadistic Bitch: The final problem with the Woman in Black is that the Ghost is  not a sympathetic character.  Yes, her son was taken away from her and then the child died, but her family, not the townspeople, caused this tragic situation.  We've no idea why this Sadistic Woman eats children other than she just seems to get off on it and the villagers are too stupid to move away.  From her Afterlife Behavior, I can only assume her family made the right decision in removing the child from her care no matter the outcome.

Conclusion: Go watch The Woman in Black if for no other reason than seeing is believing.  No words can describe something that Amazingly Stupid. Oh, Daniel Radcliffe, we didn't know you were funny.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Lama and The Cave: It's All About Perspective

"Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but -I hope- into better shape." Charles Dickinson, Great Expectations

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that." ~Martin Luther King Jr.

In Harold Ramis’ 1980 classic Caddyshack, Bill Murray plays Carl Spankler, a gopher obsessed groundskeeper who relays a story of how the Dalai Lama once stiffed him. Spankler explains that after caddying for this Fount of Wisdom, he approached his Temporary Employer and said:  "Hey, Lama, how about a little something, you know, for the effort?  And he [the Dalai Lama] says “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.”  So I got that goin’ for me which is nice.”  Now every single time I hear this line I just lose it. Why you ask?  Well here it is: In my humble opinion, personal history, as well as national or global, is about imagination. Each day we write our own mythologies using select bits of evidence, half truths, and misconceptions to accept our present and map out our future. Now, I know, what I just said sounds negative and hypocritical, but in reality I think this Personal Rewriting is healthy and natural. The human brain, not to mention the heart, can only handle just so much weight before those organs begin to break. In the darkness, we long for explanations, linear progressions, and something that resembles a plan. We need hope and part of acquiring that particular intangible means believing there is order amongst the chaos.  Finding this order often requires a bit of imagination so we choose our perspectives, choose our evidence, and then choose a conclusion.  Its that simple yeah?  Well, no its not.  Lets be honest, part of our worldview is shaped by events in our lives beyond our control: Falling in Love, Waiting for Change, Celebrating Success, or Coping with Failure.  Then factor in genetic predisposition, upbringing, and environment.  After we take all that baggage into account, with the tiny space left we exercise our Freedom of Perspective.  There is no controlling whether the Lama will give us a little something for our time and effort but we can control our mindset, a that belief in gaining "total consciousness" on our deathbeds will be nice.  Because when it comes right down to it my friends, we either throw our hands up in defeat or we fight through the pain and decide, as someone quite special recently reminded me, that “little by little we achieve our goals”. The question then becomes: How do we hold onto hope?

Well, for me, holding on starts with a mantra. To be quite honest, like The Rolling Stone's Ruby Tuesday, its difficult to hang any name or refrain on me for too long, but at the moment I keep repeating lines from a Mumford and Sons song called "The Cave" from their Sigh No More CD (See Song Below)  Now, if you do a bit of research, you'll discover that many different theories about the meaning of the song's lyrics are floating around the internet.  Some claim "The Cave" is about a relationship between two people.  I, personally, reject this theory and believe adherents to that particular ideology are illiterate at best and half-witted at worst.  In my opinion, the lyrics reference an inner struggle between holding onto hope, discovering the truth, and gaining freedom versus succumbing to the dark, listening to personal siren calls, and losing our identities.  "The Cave" is about contending with inner demons.  

You want evidence? Well, go ahead and listen to the song.  The refrain begins: “But I will hold on hope.  And I won’t let you choke on the noose around your neck.”  In other words, Hope is down for the count but rather than letting it perish we protect it.  What comes next?  “I’ll find strength in pain.  And I will change my ways.”  Thus, in our darkest moments, when our identities begin to slip, we have two options: Lose Hope, Give into the Pain, and Fade Away or Hold on, Find Strength, and Change ourselves, as best can, for the Better.  Doing the latter allows us “know” our “name as its called again”.  In my most painful of moments, I begin to lose myself. Like Guy from Galaxy Quest, even when I am assured I have an identity, I reply: "DO I? DO I?"  I'm just Crewman Number Six. Completely Expendable. It takes strength and belief to hold onto our names, allow who we are at our very core to survive the storm, and emerge shining and new in the light of day.  

Banksy's Balloon Girl
To my way of thinking, surviving the Oncoming Storm requires Three Rules: 1.) Know your Call 2.) Ignore Your Inner Sirens 3.) Find a Friend Who Understands and Can Accept your Baggage.  Let's begin with knowing your “call” or, in words, what you are meant to do and who you are meant to be.  Most humans (other than the 1% which include the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian) need a purpose and a mission to survive. Thus, if we have any chance of finding our way out of the Cave, then we need a reason to pick ourselves up and stumble forward no matter how overwhelming the darkness. Now on to Number Two: Tell Your Inner Siren to Fuck Off. Often times, just as we decide to have faith and believe in our call, we hear “sirens”. These nasty inner voices assure us we have no hope, no purpose, no plan. Perverted Little Demons whisper that we're not good enough for those we love and not worthy of a call. Hope is a delusion. Tantalizing and Cruel, they lead straight to Destruction. But what can you do? I'll tell you what. Ignore them.  Its not True.  Sirens will consume what’s left of your “broken mind”. So when those Twisted Fucks begin to sing, transform into Teresa Heinz Kerry, tell those Sick Bastards to "Shove it!", go find a hopeful mantra, and then repeat it over and over again. But lets be realistic here. You're in the middle of a Flippin' Cave without a flashlight and Mother Fucking Sirens are howling your name. You're gonna need some help while you crawl toward the light so, Number Three, find a Friend. Here is the deal: Its easiest to help someone carry baggage when its similar to your own. Or as C.S. Lewis puts it: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  Listen, most of the deepest intimacies in life come from common understanding and experience.  Anything that matters or lasts, whether Friendship or Love, requires the "What!  You too?" moment and that is especially true for anyone whose had to crawl out of a cave.  Lifetime Sunshine Dwellers are not bad people but their Above Ground existence has not provided them with any conception of what life in the darkness is like.  Some things must be experienced to be understood.  So hurry along and go find a Fellow Cave Explorer before you bounce off another wall or crack your head on another stalagmite.   

Now what have we learned?: Find a Mantra, Remember Your Call, Ignore the Fucking Sirens, and Find a Familiar Friend.  Finally, remember, no matter what, hold onto hope even if every part of your heart and mind tells you otherwise.  Sure things seems bad but Neil Gaiman, himself, wishes: “Your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”  Listen I can't promise you any of that will happen though the good book part is really just a matter of effort.  In all likelihood, only after lugging some pampered Guru's golf clubs on your back and saying "Hey Lama, how about a little something, you know, for the time and effort?", will you find out he's a Cheap Bastard.  But maybe that's where imagination and perspective come into play.  Tip or no, you met the Lama and that's a pretty cool story.  Cards on the table here, I've no clue how to ensure my upcoming year will be filled with pleasant intangibles (no way to know), however, I'm holding fast to hope, finding strength in pain, and waiting for a pleasant surprise.  What that isn't detailed enough for you?  Well, the particulars are none of your business!  But, I'll give you one specific.  For now, my plan includes waiting for the Dalai Lama to return to Bloomington, Indiana so I can meet him. You see, if nothing else, I'm hoping he'll allow me to achieve total consciousness on my deathbed so I'll have that going for me...which will be nice.  Its all about perspective.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Edelweiss: Because You Had Need of Me

All the darkness of the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”  St. Francis of Assisi, The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi

“I like it when when a little flower or tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete.  Its so fuckin’ heroic.” George Carlin

“The flowers in the mountains have broken through the rocks.” Tennessee Williams

“There is always flowers for those who want to see them.”  Henri Matisse

Edelweiss, otherwise known as Leontopodium alpinium or Lion’s Foot, belongs to the Sunflower family. Yet, unlike its warm and sunny cousin, this particular plant lives alone in the bleak and snowy Alpine Mountains.  One of Nature's Wonders, the delicate little flower prefers to grow in rocky climates at altitudes of between 1,700 to 2,700 meters.  Perhaps due to the difficulty associated with acquiring such a rare plant, Edelweiss, traditionally, symbolizes “daring, courage, and noble purity”. Among this Blossom’s admirers were King Ludwig of Bavaria (who built the Neuschwanstein Castle), Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, Kaiser Wilhelm I, and Adolph Hitler. (Note: In German “edel” means “noble” and “weiss” means “white” thus “edelweiss” means “noble whiteness”; rather Aryan no?)  But, in my opinion, the reason Edelweiss is a Rockin’ Blossom is due to its role in a children’s story entitled: "The Flower that Lived Above the Clouds" (published by Philadelphia's Society of Friends in 1920). Would you like to hear the tale? Sure you would!  

The narrative begins with All the Flowers of the Earth choosing a Climate to Dwell in and a Color for its Petals.  First, the Grass chose to “cover the ground and make the bare soil gay with green blades,” while the Daisy, the Buttercup, the Cornflower, the Poppy, and the Clover all laughed and said they would “live in the Fields and by the Roadsides”.  Next the Water Lily chose the Ponds and Lakes, while the Irises, Cowslips, and Jacks-in the Pulpits chose the Streams and Marshes.  Before long, the Shy Forget Me Nots and the Wood Violets retreated to the shaded and ferny Woodland Spots, while the Roses, the Pansies, and the Sweet William “wished to be Petted in Gardens.”  Finally, the Cactus declared with some exasperation: “there is not enough warmth!  I will go to the sandy desert.”  So all the places of the earth except the Bare Mountain Ridges were chosen.  But no flower wished to dwell in Craggy Ridges of the Mountainside without nourishment, warmth, or moisture. The Pretty and Newly Settled Blossoms declared: “Surely the bleak mountains must do without flowers!  How foolish it would be to make the ragged, bare mountain-tops lovely!”  And as most Happily Planted and Totally Oblivious Individuals do, the Unsympathetic Flowers collectively decided to send the Grass Moss into the Mountains because it had "not yet chosen!”  And because the Gray Moss had no means of Fighting the Flowery Mob, it followed their indifferent instructions, climbing over the bare rocks past the places where forests grew.  “All was desolate and silent up there.”  Higher and higher it crept until the Gray Moss went above the clouds where the ragged rocks were covered with ice and snow.  And when it reached that lonely destination, the Gray Moss looked on in amazement at a “quiet-star shaped flower clinging to the crags and blossoming.  It was white like the snow around it, and its heart was of soft yellow.”  To survive in the bleakness, the Little Starry Flower had encased its leaves in soft wool to keep warm.

Moss: "Oh! How came you here where there was no warmth, no moisture, no nourishment? It is high above the forests, high above the clouds! I came because I was sent. Who are you?"

Starry Flower: "I am the edelweiss. I came here quietly because there was need of me, that some blossom might brighten these solitudes."

Moss: "And didn't they tell you to come?"

Starry Flower: "No. It was because the mountains needed me. There are no flowers up here but me."

And so the story goes: "The edelweiss is closer to the stars than the daisy, the buttercup, the iris, or the rose. Those who have courage, like it, have found it high above the clouds, where it grows ever gladly. They call it Noble White — that is its name, edelweiss! Love, like the edelweiss, knows not self-sacrifice."

This plant is referred to as "coniferenmos" or "Edelweiss Moss"
In my opinion, when we are still young, most of us hope to be Petted Rose or a Laughing Daisy. And true enough, some Lucky Individuals develop into those Happy Flowers which exist in the Comfort of the Gardens and Splendor of the Fields. But for some of Us Would Be Flowers, like myself, we learn that Fate did not intend for us to Stay in the Garden or Dance in the Fields. The Blinders come off. Reality hits. We accept, often with much sorrow, that we were never meant for Bright Light or Sun Worship. We are Gray Moss so we climb higher and higher into the bleak mountains and we despair. All is desolate. All is silent. No warmth. No nourishment. Yet, if we are lucky, when we reach the Ragged Rocks, we look on in amazement. There clinging to the Crags is a Starry Flower. Those are the People who dwell with us in the Mountains, not because they were sent, but because they knew we had need of them. They are Edelweiss. With them, life in the Dismal Gray Mountains becomes more bearable. A "single candle" in the "darkness" helps us soldier on. And then something special happens for those who live Above the Clouds. With time, grace, and the aid of a Starry Friend, Gray Moss transforms into Edelweiss, shedding its Gloomy Form and becoming a symbol of hope. It is a breathtaking metamorphosis. But a Word of Warning for First Time Mountain Climbers: As anyone living in the Desolate Crags will tell you, the transformation is never permanent. Just as Gray Moss, with help, might become Edelweiss, Edelweiss will take its turn reverting into Gray Moss once more. We change with the seasons. The two are intimately linked. Only those who dance between the Dual States, Beautiful Flower and Outcast Moss, understand the pain and the wonder of transformation. Choice defines us. Edelweiss chooses to live in the Mountains with it Broken Counterpart because they have need of each other. A Laughing Daisy or a Proud Rose could never comprehend the Ecstasies and the Despair of this Duality. Understanding requires nothing less than agonizing experience. Only the Gray Moss and the Starry Flower can be so Intertwined by Connection, Healing, and Understanding.* Each assuring the other: "I came here quietly because there was need of me, that some blossom might brighten these solitudes."

*While Edelweiss means courage, daring, and noble purity, moss is said to symbolize healing, intimacy, connection, and integration.

**Two musical Offerings: The first, I mentioned before. In Hebrew the word "timshel" means choice. Thus, when Mumford and Sons declare "You are Not Alone in This", they are saying we choose to stand by one another because we have need of each other.  And Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is a guilty pleasure. I suppose, like most Would Be Flowers, I always found the idea that Someone is Sailing Right Behind both comforting and romantic.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Rory Curve: Leningrad and the Pandorica

“At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow.” ~Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

“The Prince found Buttercup waiting unhappily outside his chamber doors. 
'It's my letter,' she began. 'I cannot make it right.' 

'Come in, come in,' the Prince said gently. 'Maybe we can help you.' She sat down in the same chair as before. 'All right, I'll close my eyes and listen; read to me.' 

'Westley, my passion, my sweet, my only, my own. Come back, come back. I shall kill myself otherwise. Yours in torment, Buttercup.' She looked at Humperdinck. 'Well? Do you think I'm throwing myself at him?” ~William Goldman, The Princess Bride

"Time is very slow for those who wait." ~William Shakespeare

Human lives are marked by periods of waiting.  Waiting for recess.  Waiting for summer.  Waiting for graduation.  Waiting for a job.  Waiting for a love.  Waiting for a new life.  Waiting for death.  With all this anticipation, its no surprise that so many authors produce around this theme.   Just to provide a quick and obvious example, take William Goldman's The Princess Bride.  His Star Crossed Lovers, Buttercup and Wesley abide in agony, each believing the other either married or dead.  Or as Buttercup blatantly puts it: "Come back. Come back.  I shall kill myself otherwise.  Yours in torment."  Aw, Buttercup, a gal after my own heart: Honest, Embarrassing, and Sincere.*  But, despite my fondness for the Princess, I have mixed emotions about this waiting theme or to be more precise the happy endings.  Holding on and hoping is part of the human existence but I'd find the process more palatable if I knew the outcome ahead of time.  Hasn't someone written the days of my life down in a book?  I need to read the ending.  Due to the uncertainty, my answer to "Good things come to those who wait," is "Do tears not yet spilled wait in small lakes?" Pablo Neruda.  Yet, despite my sarcasm and grim outlook, I've a secret: Down deep, like Doctor Who's Amelia Pond, I'm the Girl Whose Waiting.  
The Rory Curve

"You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful-and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later, they're as dull as a brick; but then there's other people.  And you meet them and you think, 'Not bad, they're okay,' and when you get to know them...their face just, sort of, becomes them, like their personality's written all over it, and they just--they turn into something beautiful.  Rory's the most beautiful man I've ever met." Amy Pond, The Girl Who Waited, Series 6

"It can't be.  Rory isn't here.  I didn't know.  I didn't, I honestly didn't till right now.  I just want him." Amy Pond, Amy's Choice, Series 5

Steven Moffat's Series 5 of Doctor Who introduced British and American audiences to a phenomenon known as "The Rory Curve."  What is "The Rory Curve" you ask?  Well, let me explain.  During this series, the Time Lord's new companion, Amy, has a love interest (i.e., Rory).  Now the funny thing about Rory is that, at the beginning of the season, his presence was insignificant to the storyline and seemed unimportant to Amy as well. The audience paid little attention to forlorn Rory, assumed he was a Red Shirt, and waited with little sympathy for him to die.  But by mid-season, we, the audience, had begun to warm up to Nurse Rory.  We, not only, liked him, we, also, liked him with Amy.   And when Series 5 wrapped up with the Pandorica and the Big Bang, we met Rory the Fucking Robot Roman Centurion and he rocked our worlds.  Who doesn't love the Boy Who Waited!?  And that's the thing: Something special happened during the transition from Red Shirt Rory to the Rockin' Roman Robot. As the season progressed, Our Centurion increased in awesomeness while Our Doctor became less and less attractive. Ladies can you imagine a life of: "Didn't anyone ever tell you? There's one thing you never put in a trap if you're smart. If you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there's one thing you never, ever put in a trap. Me."   Waking up to that little speech day in and day out?  That Time Lord is obnoxious, suffers from a Telephone Box Fetish, and in all likelihood is a selfish lover. (Not big on taking cues from others, is he?)   Not to mention, history tells us that our Dear Doctor has high a Companion Mortality Rate.  In other words, the Doctor's "friends" have a short shelf life. You still want to be a companion?  Consider this: No less than Nine Companions have succumbed to Dalek Attacks, Bomb Laden Explosions, and most often Self Sacrifice to Save the Dear Doctor.  You're a fucking human shield.  This Dude's a Death Trap.   Despite this fact, its true that Amelia Pond is the Girl Who Waited for the Time Lord not first.  That's the key, at first.  

When Doctor Who finally comes, takes Amy away, and leads her on fantastic adventures, Amelia has been waiting on him for a long time.  The Time Lord is a childish ideal she compares everything to including Rory.  She ignores the Doctor's faults and exaggerates his strengths.  Yet, to her surprise, Amelia finds she cannot leave Rory behind.  The childhood fantasy does not compare to the reality that is her Roman Centurion.  But, as in most dramas, just as Amy realizes she loves Rory, he's taken away from her.   And what happens when the Girl Who Waited finds her Rockin' Sexy Roman again? He shoots her.  Fitting I suppose.  It was unintentional and, thus, forgivable, yet, the end result was a dead Amelia Pond.  In order to make it right, Rory, like any gentleman, locks his lady in the Pandorica (to save her life not punish her) and then guards it for nearly two thousand years.  He at once becomes The Last Centurion and the Boy Who Waited.  In the end, the Girl Who Waited reunites with Rory the Roman.  Perhaps its Amy's choice, Rory over the Doctor, that bonds me (and most) to this particular series.  As children, like Amy, we learn to wait but we often we spend our time waiting on the wrong things or the wrong people.  We wait for the Time Lords and we ignore the Rorys. (Confession: I  waited on Great Stupid Grizzly Bears).  And that's the kicker: Being a Girl Who Waited often means  spending time romanticizing the Grizzlies, no matter how distasteful, until we grow up, gain a little experience, and realize the Boy Who Waited is the Last Fucking Centurion.  He kicks Grizzly Ass.  But back to my original question: What happens when we wait?  What happened when Amy was waiting in the Pandorica?  Waiting to be brought back to life?  That's the question isn't it? 

Preparing for the Pandorica

"I died and turned into a Roman.  Its very distracting." ~Rory, The Pandorica Opens, Series 5

Rory: "I don't understand.  Why am I here?
The Doctor: "Because you are.  The universe is big.  It's vast and complicated and ridiculous and sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles..and that's a theory.  Nine hundred years and I've never see one yet, but this will do me. ~The Pandorica Opens, Series 5

Well, in my opinion, if you want to find out what waiting looks like then allow me to turn your attention to the Siege of Leningrad.  Aw, did you think I was going to offer a more romantic example?  Sorry. But I believe preparing for the worst, only to be pleasantly surprised, is safer than hoping for the best and being devastated.  Now back to Leningrad.  In September of 1941, Hitler sent the German Army Group north to capture Saint Petersburg (i.e., Leningrad).  In no time, the Germans severed all of St. Peterburg's supply lines.  For a year and half, the people of Leningrad starved.  Finally, in Janaury of 1943, the Soviets opened a narrow land corridor to the city.  Yet, starvation and suffering continued until St. Petersburg was freed on January 27, 1944.  The Siege of Leningrad, lasting 872 days, was one of the longest and most destructive blockades in history.  In terms of lives lost, around 1,500,000 soldiers and civilians died within the city, while many of the 1,400,000 citizens, mostly women and children, who evacuated also succumbed due to the starvation and bombardment.  The suffering was particularly gruesome during the winter of 1941 to 1942.  From November until February, the only food available to the people of Leningrad was 125 grams of bread, of which 50-60% consisted of sawdust and other inedible mixtures.  As if this wasn't enough, the extreme temperatures (down to -22 degree Fahrenheit), made walking even short distances to acquire one's daily Sawdust Meal a death march.  As a result, in January and February of 1942 about 700-1,000 citizens died every single day, most from hunger.  In such dire conditions, it is no surprise that after the birds, dogs, and rats had all been consumed reports of cannibalism began appearing.  In the worst cases, Hungry Bands of Citizens wandered the city Zombie Style eating defenseless people.  Eventually, Neighbor Munching became such a problem that the Leningrad police formed a special unit to combat the attacks.  Historians estimate that the total death toll for the Siege ranges from somewhere between 650,000 and 1 million people.  Ironically, after the  city was freed most of the Leningrad's survivors were marched to Soviet Gulags for failing to report back to Moscow frequently enough, thus, acting like "mini-tsars" who believed themselves capable of running St. Petersburg themselves.  Papa Joe Stalin, apparently, did not believe starvation was a sufficient excuse for failing to phone home.

Alright, so what is the moral of this story you ask?: Be prepared for a hellish life in the Pandorica.  No one enjoys waiting.  In the best of circumstances, waiting makes us bored and anxious.  In the worst, we make meals of sawdust and the proceed to eat our neighbors.  Has anyone questioned Steven Moffat?  Maybe even Amy ate a few rats while waiting to rescued by her Rory.  We just don't know.  And remember, Doctor Who is a television series.  It is entirely possible that your release from the Pandorica will be followed by a trip to the Gulag.  Papa Joe, not the Boy Who Waited, might be standing right outside the moment you finally get a breathe of fresh air.  But then again, maybe he won't.  You never know.  Let's face it.  No matter my sarcasm and cautionary tales, I'm still the Girl Whose Waiting.  The Universe is vast and complicated and ridiculous.  Sometimes Impossible Things happen.  We call those events Miracles...and that's the theory.  In my 29 years, I've yet to see a miracle but I've packed my bags, I'm sitting outside, and I'm waiting all the same. 

* Buttercup's profession makes me think of a poem by Dorothy Parker.  See Below:

“Lady, lady, never start 

Conversation toward your heart; 

Keep your pretty words serene; 

Never murmur what you mean. 

Show yourself, by word and look, 

Swift and shallow as a brook. 
Be as cool and quick to go 
As a drop of April snow; 
Be as delicate and gay 
As a cherry flower in May. 
Lady, lady, never speak 
Of the tears that burn your cheek- 
She will never win him, whose 
Words had shown she feared to lose. 
Be you wise and never sad, 
You will get your lovely lad. 
Never serious be, nor true, 
And your wish will come to you- 
And if that makes you happy, kid, 
You'll be the first it ever did.”