Wednesday, January 30

Let's All Go to the Movies!

Ah...the movies! For a very long time I did not enjoy going to the fact there is a tremendously long list of movies that I have not seen that will shock and awe my friends. Movies like the Lord of the Rings (the whole trilogy), the Star Wars prequels (saw 4, 5, 6...just not 1, 2, 3) and the Austin Powers movies (how many of those were there?). I also never saw Gone with the Wind (somebody pick my sister Karen up from the floor). The fact of the matter was I fell asleep when I went to the movies because I had un-diagnosed sleep apnea. I think that I realized it was a real problem when I took my nephew (he was about 9) to see the movie Racing Stripes - as the movie neared its exciting climax he attempted to wake me up so I could see it. Apparently I snapped at him, "leave me alone, the zebra wins."

Since I started treatment for the sleep apnea (soon after) I have rediscovered my love for going to the movies. I also admit that I love the popcorn with white cheddar salt. My sister Denise and I often go to the movies together now (usually every Saturday, when I get to drink Coke). This year we decided to see how many of the Oscar films we could fit in - and to date we have seen: Lincoln (loved it, but I am quite tired of Sally Field. I know she will lose a lot of sleep knowing that I don't like her, I really don't like her), Les Miserables (loved it, seen it twice...I even liked Russell Crowe's singing), and Silver Linings Playbook (even wearing a trash bag, Bradley Cooper was awesome). Denise has also seen Life of Pi (though she enjoyed it, my brother Gordon is tired of CGI trickery) and my nephew Jack saw Django Unchained and declared it too gory for my taste. (I'm also counting Brave...nominated for Best Animated Film...and The Hobbit...nominated for Makeup). That is a lot of quality films that I have seen lately. (trust me, I have also seen some non-quality films - most recently I "enjoyed" Jackass: The Movie. There's two hours of my life I'll never get back. Thank goodness the company was enjoyable!)

So - when I recently headed to see the premiere of a film that was produced locally - a friend asked if I thought I would be disappointed in the level of quality. I said that I wasn't sure, but that I would try to avoid being hypercritical. I needn't have worried. Finding Faith exceeded my expectations on almost every level.

The film is not completely without its flaws, but it is a compelling drama that I hope every parent will take time to see. The movie, based on a true story, is about a teenage girl who is kidnapped by a predator who she met online. She is held captive and destined to be sold to human traffickers. The exchanges that lead to her kidnapping are seemingly innocent - she is "friended" by a boy who claims to be a friend of a friend. They begin a flirtatious online relationship. The problem is...he isn't the cute teenage boy in his profile picture...

The "star" of the film is Erik Estrada, portraying Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown who started Operation Blue Ridge Thunder back in the 1990s after a local parent complained that her 14 year old daughter had been solicited online to make a pornographic movie. That task force was a blueprint for other operations across the country and led to a lot of arrests and a push for more education on safe web surfing. (In fact, I helped create one of the early "Safe Surfin'" videos when I worked in video production!) Although Mr. Estrada bears little physical resemblance to Sheriff Brown, he did a great job of portraying a leader who encouraged his team to follow every lead and utilize every available resource to accomplish the goal of making the internet safer.

I was impressed by the cast, which was a mix of local talent and film industry professionals. The production values were outstanding - especially considering the challenges of filming away from the controlled turf of a Hollywood sound stage. Dealing with the heat and humidity of Central Virginia in the middle of a very hot summer, the crew created a film that let me just pay attention to the story. I wasn't constantly critiquing sound quality or picture quality - I was completely focused on the impact of the storyline. And as a person who spent a long time in television production, I recognize that I can be very hard on producers.

For me, the highlight of the movie is watching the creative talent of my good friend Jamie Watson. I have fawned over Jamie in this forum on a couple of occasions. I admit that I am predisposed to admiring him...but I honestly found his performance as Faith's father to be among his finest work. Whether chuckling at his attempts to be the cool dad - planking in a stairwell, for example - or feeling the cold dread wash over me as he realizes that Faith is gone...he delivered believable and stirring interpretations of Sam's character. When I told him what my favorite scene in the movie was - he responded with "but I didn't have to DO anything in that scene." That's the point Mr. Watson. The scene that I described to you wasn't ACTING - it was a completely natural extension of Sam. And that is the epitome of your craft. And that was when I cried.

No, the movie Finding Faith is not without its flaws. It is kind of a fluffy-bunny version of human trafficking. The Bedford County Sheriff is oddly "just cruising past Thomas Road Baptist Church" one evening. And don't get me started on that stick in the woods (you'll understand once you see it), and yes, it is a bit TRBC/LCA/LU-centric for my taste. But it is compelling and I urge you to take the time to see it and share it with others.

Monday, January 14

To be or not to be?

I sat down to write a post and since I couldn't really think of a topic (my brain is dulled by the remnants of a cold/respiratory thing) I headed over to the Random Questionizer to grab a topic...and the question actually was a question that has been running through my head for over a year. Maybe this is a sign that I should stop and consider the answer. The question as it was posed to me on the Random Topic generator: "Would you rather be poor and work at a job you love or be rich and work at a job you hate?"

That is the $64,000 question.

I do not hate the job that I'm doing right now. But I have to admit that I don't exactly love it either. I believe in the mission of the organization that I work for - to provide housing opportunities for people with disabilities and low incomes. I adore the people that I work with in the office - and I adore most of our tenants. I'm frustrated by some of them (even some of the ones that I adore) and the spiderweb of federal/state/local/funder/etc. compliance can be daunting. But I do not hate my job. I also do not roll out of bed every morning foaming at the mouth to get to work - since I'm not a morning person, that may be an unrealistic goal anyway.

My sister Karen will tell you that when I was just out of high school I swore that I would live in a ditch and eat government cheese to work in the theatre! I was young and stupid - but I did have a passion for the work. And for a few years I did work as a professional theatre tech at Kings Dominion - but the pressures of finding short term work during the off season got old after a few years. I still get a rush when I walk into a theatre...sounds cliche' but there is a certain smell, I don't know if it is really the smell of the greasepaint. But there is something that is completely unique. When I was working on the Christmas musical extravaganza and I had to set lights for the show, I felt back in my element.

Today I met with the district superintendent of the United Methodist Church to discuss the possibility of pursuing ordained ministry. One more step in a process of exploration and discernment. I think there is a place for me there...somewhere...I just need time and reflection to figure out where that may be.

There are a lot of things that I have passion for that I might be able to turn into a job. Some have even suggested that writing could be in my future. For now, you folks get that for free! Having read a whole lot of HUD regulations lately, I may be able to utilize my writing talents clarifying THOSE! Talk about communication problems! I also have great passion for food and teaching people to cook.

Would I rather be poor and work at a job I love or be rich and work at a job I hate? I think I choose poor (I think I already did...) and happy. But I know there are a lot of people who are poor and still work at a job they hate because it is the best that they can do and need to provide for their families. I hope that there are other sources of joy in their lives...through the years I've discovered that you can't rely on your job to provide satisfaction and happiness in your life. That comes from a whole different place.

I was watching an episode of Undercover Boss one night (if you've never seen it - you really should check it out). One of the workers in that episode was a man who cleans portable toilets...port-a-johns. (I have a sister...or two...who can't bear to USE one, let alone CLEAN one) That man did that job with gusto, taking great pride in doing the job well. He treated the "trainee" (really the owner of the company undercover) with respect but impressed upon him the importance of doing the tasks to the best of his ability.

So is the secret loving the job you're working on? Perhaps it is. In the meantime though, I will still try to figure out what I want to be when I grow up...sometime before I actually do!

Tuesday, January 8

Random Conversation Post

I had a dream last night - well, technically it was this morning...and dang, it was ODD! I've had odder (I think the one with the lime green alligators and the one with the little jeep rank right up there) but I'll share anyway. In the dream I was involved in a production of a musical with children (right there, you know this is a departure from reality because I don't like working on musicals or with children). The musical seemed to be an original production that was a combination of The Little Rascals aka "Our Gang" and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The kid who was playing Tom was acting like a little diva before the show one evening and the director decided to punish him by having "someone else" perform the role that night. So the director turned to me and said, "you can do it, go put on his costume and get on stage." the dream it all seemed to be perfectly logical. I would go out and lip sync to a recording of the little brat doing the role. But then the sound booth didn't get the message about using the recording so suddenly I'm on stage in a child-sized sailor suit trying to do the show with a script in my hand. Then we got to the part in the opening number where Tom gets hit by a car - which I did spectacularly and then the opening number continues around my supposedly unconscious body. I just remember feeling so relaxed as I lay there on stage trying to find my place in the script while the cast was singing "oh Tom...why'd ya have ta do it?"

#1 - what?  #2 - I think there may be a viable musical in this...

My deep thinking co-worker found it all to be very much related to my life and work - feeling put into a situation where I don't know what is going on, but going forward anyway. Getting hit by the car is some sort of foreshadowing of crisis.... I forget the rest of the analysis. I need him to go back to the alligator dream and figure that one out now.

Since this can't possibly be a complete post - I shall go and spin the Random Questionizer for a random topic: What is your favorite store in the mall? hahahahahaha! The Questionizer doesn't know me very well does it? I hate to shop. I only go to the mall to go to the good movie theater (and that is 75% for the popcorn). I went to the mall one other time in recent memory and that was to go get a sandwich at Hickory Farms...or whatever they call the sandwich shop now. I always loved the #3 sandwich with beefstick and smokey bar cheese. But I must admit that I found it unsatisfying. The pita bread immediately tore, the ratio of mustard to mayo was unbalanced, it needed more cheese and I think that the Italian dressing they provide now is gross. It has a strange viscous texture that I find off-putting and when you put it on torn pita - you get Italian ooze on your shirt. Yep, not going to the mall for anything but the movies any more. But I do have fond memories of the mall of yesteryear: the waterfalls were a great place to sit and read, the original Original Cookie Company made rocking cookies, Orange Julius had great fries and drinks and hot dogs with unusual toppings, KB Toys was a place you could easily kill an hour....

One more: is an interesting one. What is your dream job? I want to be clear - I like the job that I am doing now. And I think that I do it well. But I also know it isn't my dream job. I haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I have been exploring several options for my future - some that I'm not ready to share with the world. I know that I enjoy sharing knowledge with people - all kinds of knowledge. I have great passion for food and cooking, but I know that I wouldn't be happy as a line cook in a restaurant. I have been enjoying cooking lessons with the JIFF kids on Thursday nights. There are a lot of possibilities.

If money were no object and I could do anything I wanted for a job? Can I be a culinary instructor librarian who preaches on the weekends? Restaurant critic/wine educator? Can I be Alton Brown? Maybe tonight's dream will be about a dream job!

Saturday, January 5

Restoring My Faith in Humanity

Recently while trolling through Facebook I saw a link that a friend had posted - and since I was feeling a little blue, it looked like something worth clicking on: 26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year. Five minutes later I was sniffling and felt a whole lot better about the world. I thought I'd share a couple of the 26 Moments and then maybe add a couple of my own.

I think many of you already saw this one: Police Officer bought shoes for homeless man. A visitor to the city snapped a picture of a scene that probably happens more often than we know...a person seeing another human being without a basic necessity, in this case shoes, and filling that need without any expectation of reward. It reminded me of something from my teenage years. My family occasionally visited Washington DC, to see relatives and tour the city. It was pretty common to see homeless people on the street. I often stopped to give someone a dollar or some loose change. My sisters thought me a pretty easy touch and sometimes would cynically point out that they would probably just use the money for alcohol or drugs. (They are much less cynical now.) Karen would say to look at the person's shoes...if they had nice shoes then they didn't really need the money. I always figured that I would leave their use of my money between them and God. He could tell who was really in need. And I have never regretted that philosophy. (And I think I have rubbed off on my sisters - I have seen both of them open their wallets to a person in need.)

Texas A & M students blocked Westboro Baptist Church protesters by forming a human wall. Yeah. This one really teared me up. I live in a college town and see a lot of students. Some of the students that I come in contact with (not all) are MTV Real World wannabees. They party all night, skip classes, drink a lot and their Facebook statuses are usually about getting wasted. So, sometimes when I think of college students, the initial image is not favorable. Seeing this image of a human wall of students between a grieving family and a hateful protest reminds me to be careful about generalizations.

Which brings me to the next image: Brave kid stands up to hate.

Nothing makes me sadder than watching people who profess to be Christian act in un-Christian ways. It frustrates me when it happens in my church (yep, it happens in churches...don't be shocked, churches are full of human beings...but it is okay to be disappointed and try to keep it from happening) and it astounds me that an entire faith community could dedicate itself to professing hate as a Christian value. I think that the leadership and congregation of Westboro Baptist Church has lost their way. God hates no one. The kid is on the right path.

And the last I will share from the list of 26 is this: Girl who loves her dog unconditionally. This was posted by a vet who had to amputate a dog's leg after it was hit by a car. I know an awesome three-legged dog who lives near the Riva Howse. His name is Spud but we call him Tripod. When that dog's owner rides off on his motorcycle Spud runs after the bike all the way from Red & Dot's to the Riva Howse (about 2/10 mile). That dog is FAST! And then he ambles back to lounge on the porch of the store until his Dad comes back. You never met a nicer dog. He doesn't care how many legs he has...he enjoys the sun on his fur, a pat on the head, a good bone to gnaw on and the companionship of his family. Would that we all could be so content with what we have - and learn to ignore what we lack.

A few thoughts about what lifts my soul when I'm feeling down:
- The smile of any of my nephews or niece...and especially the joyous sound of someone calling excitedly "Aunt Chris"...yep, you can't stay blue then.
- Spicy Scallop Roll at King's Island. It is not spicy...and doesn't resemble the part of the scallop that you usually eat...but I can't be sad when I'm eating one. I often give the last piece a little kiss and tell it how much I love it.
- Relaxing by the fire
- Getting a hug from my favorite person in the whole world. If you think I'm talking about you - you're right!
- Dozing off in the river. Yep, IN the river. Since I am blessed with being a floater (some people sink right to the bottom) then I can swim up river a little ways and then just lay back and float and nap. It is better than any mattress or waterbed that money can buy. But it is too cold for that right now.
- Singing
- Laughing
- Reading
- Writing

Life is good. I am going to try to remember that more often this year.