Monday, March 30, 2015

Movie Translation Game: Answers!

All right, gang! Here are all the answers to last Monday's movie translation game. Fun fact, they're in alphabetical order except for the last one. I sorted them like to begin with and numbered them later, only to discover I only had 19. I figured 20 was a nice round number and tacked an extra one onto the end.

Nearly all of them were guessed by someone. The few that remained unguessed: #3, #9, and #17.

1. Sniper, cow, of course, became a legend in the fight to save the file. The house, the children, after the death of his wife and four of his responsibility, but if the battle begins, not for the first time. --American Sniper

2. E-in the study, the Size of the stand is perfect information with a group of friends who formed the group of the technology. --Big Hero 6

3. The role of the hero, the last day of the calendar, house, family, job, and try to help me. --Birdman

4. He went to College life, as a young man, he was a child. --Boyhood

5. In America, in a new light, and be acceptable to the head of the group, on the other hand, the best soldiers in time of war in the old story, new threat: kill the soldiers and winter. --Captain America: The Winter Soldier

6. After ten years, the flu, has the right to access, change, or groups that you have saved. --Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

7. Officially became the second man in the war against external enemies,select a date in the future, there is a good company for your business, you want to stop the conflict. --Edge of Tomorrow

8. In the same meeting, after two young people, who are recovering from breast cancer. --The Fault in Our Stars

9. The largest of the world is emphasized in the present study, the pride, the threat to humanity life, against harmful organisms can be observed. --Godzilla

10. Full speed fan operation between the stars criminal groups are forced to work together, if you want to avoid. --Guardians of the Galaxy

11. Professor of so,student education,I believe that God doesn't exist. --God's Not Dead

12. In the spotlight of the media circus, the key, which can't solve,even if it is a problem in the first place. --Gone Girl

13. If a Viking boy who went to the dragon's cave in the center of the city, where the two friends to protect the world, where hundreds of wild it. It --How to Train Your Dragon 2

14. A group of scientists of the hole, to ensure the survival of the human race. --Interstellar

15. You can also visit the more popular Newspapers to see Lark's on the planet, in an interview with amazement. In Japan, the leaders of North Korea's Kim Jong told the CIA changes to kill the task. --The Interview

16. LEGO building services, services of private security, the eternal, the purpose of which is to stop an evil LEGO tyrant of the company. --The LEGO Movie

17. Avenging Angel tracking Controller of a small honey, baby, I know that you may be the only person who can bring peace to this problem. --Maleficent (not at all surprised that nobody guessed this one)

18. It is the Creator of the world is a big problem for the post-apocalyptic flood to cleanse the world. --Noah

19. Super-heroes, one of them in the past and the events that lead us to the past to change, in a desperate attempt to avoid humans and mutants, which are sent to the system. --X-Men: Days of Future Past

20. 20 years after the first adventure, Harry Lloyd, Harry, how I found out that the dead girl. --Dumb and Dumber To

How many did you get? How many do you think you probably should have gotten in hindsight?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Weekend Reads

It's time to share a few of my favorite blogs I read this week!

Silly Stuff

Oz vs. Tara

  • Oz Was Boring; Tara Was Too Good For This Sinful Earth
  • Tara Was Boring; Oz Was The Greatest Love Interest In Television History; Remember That Animal Crackers Monologue
  • What About Kenned–

A Conversation Between The Two People I Assume Design All Restaurant Bathrooms by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast

BATHROOM DESIGNER #2: We need a full length mirror.


BATHROOM DESIGNER #2: Hanging on the inside of the bathroom door, directly facing the toilet, such that whoever uses is it forced to make eye contact with herself as she uses the facilities.

BATHROOM DESIGNER #1: Why would she…what purpose would that serve?


Another Bad Example by Escher Girls

Fashion is a weird thing in the land-where-water-floats-above-our-heads-so we-need-to-wear-floatation-devices-as-hats, I guess.  

Serious Stuff

These proverbs are meant to be the tools to grow as God’s wise people — not to poke and skewer our brothers and sisters in our effort to feel safer about our Bible or about the path of our life. When we are in such desperate need to be in control of what is often the baffling realities of life we can hurt ourselves and those around us. 

Consent Basics: It takes two to decide to be friends and only one to say "Nope!" by Captain Awkward

You don’t have to be friends with someone who constantly audits your behavior for sufficient “friendliness” and (barf) “emotional generosity.” You don’t have to be friends or get emotionally closer to someone you don’t like. You don’t have to make a convincing case for why you don’t like them or hear out their case in full. They don’t have to be on board with your decision to not be friends. You have done your part by being a basic amount of polite and cordial to this guy, and you have done more than your part by not biting his head off when he obviously tries to provoke you. You have fulfilled the social contract of how romantic partners need to treat each other’s friends. This dude has to learn to live with the fact that not everyone will like him, and he has to stop making his abject failure at this part of adulting into your problem.

Total depravity doesn’t mean what Robertson seems to imagine it means — that without salvation we are inhuman reavers, conscienceless, bestial creatures of the sort described slaughtering the atheist family in his “joke.” That idea of human nature is not just a confused distortion of Calvinism, it’s also empirically false. There are more than 5 billion non-Christians here on planet Earth, and they do not, in actual fact, act like reavers.

Here’s reality: there have been between 15,000 – 19,000 children like the one you see here– children who viewed their sponsors as part of the family and a lifeline– who abruptly stopped receiving letters. The relationships were broken and dismissed. No more encouraging notes. No more special gifts on birthdays or holidays. No more funds for emergency clothing or food rations. It just stopped.

For up to 19,000 children. Let that sink in.

Why Christians Are Wrong About Joy by Margaret Feinberg at Rachel Held Evans' blog

They’ve discovered the things that actually bring happiness are long-term loving relationships, strong social connections, the opportunity to pursue meaningful work, a sense of optimism and openness to new experiences, as well as a spiritual belief or identification with an issue or idea larger than oneself.

I was fascinated that very items scientists identify as increasing our level of happiness are the very things that God calls us to as followers of Christ. 

And Some Silly Videos

Toy Story 3 Prank - A guy shows his mother an edited version of Toy Story 3 that ends at the worst possible moment and passes it off as the real movie.

Billy On the Street: It's Not Pitbull- It's Amy Poehler! - I subscribed to Billy on the Street after this because the weirdness of this "prank" cracked me up. People's reactions are great.

How to Talk to Your Crush - Rhett and Link discuss some really terrible advice from WikiHow.

The Lord of the Rings (1944) - A "just discovered" noir version of Lord of the Rings starring Humphrey Bogart as Frodo. This is ridiculous and hilarious.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: Remember, Money Can Do Anything

Last time, Brianna and Sonya all talked about Brianna's awful plan to visit her mother's family (who wants to kill her) and demand an explanation for killing her mother. So that's about to be put in motion. This scene coming up -- though maybe not in this chapter -- is highly, highly stupid.

Brianna's on her way to Iraq and Afghanistan, supposedly to perform for the troops but she's also going to go find some murderous family members she's going to hold accountable for their murdering, right before they murder her. (Sadly, Brianna does not die. She may have been far less obnoxious than Skye, but her conversion apparently made her stupid.)
She would keep her expectations low, feeling quite certain that her family would not welcome her warmly.
Uh... well, that is quite the understatement.

Despite the looming threats of death that Brianna thinks of only as "an unwarm welcome," she's certain this will bring her closure of some kind.
Brianna knew her family was extremely wealthy and powerful, but believed her own money and fame could get anything she wanted in this country.
We will see that this is, in fact, true. The message Rothdiener sends in this book is less about forgiveness and more about the power of money. It might not be able to buy happiness, but apparently a pop star's personal money accrued over a mere four or five years can be enough to manipulate whole countries.

Oh, hey, we haven't mentioned how beautiful Brianna is in awhile.
Even dressed in camouflage apparel much of the time, her beauty— both inside and out was dazzling. At the concerts, the troops went crazy when she came out sporting a camouflage dress.
Oh, yeah, I'm sure it's her inner beauty they're cheering for.

Incidentally, why is she wearing camouflage? Is it just because she supports the troops More Than Anyone Else Because She's the Best Person? Because I'm looking at pictures of other people who have entertained soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they appear to be dressed like normal people. She's also not one to let personal danger get in the way of doing what she wants to do.

Her concerts finished, she decides to get on to the more important thing: visiting the family members who want her dead. She starts by visiting the hospital in Baghdad where she was born. She dedicates a new birth wing and hangs out with the patients. Conrad notes that she's tender with the babies. It's a good sign for him if he wants her to make lots of babies for him.

Oh, and once again, we're reminded of this:
Sonya had told Brianna the room number where her mother had died. The staff allowed her some private time there, nobody knew why, nor did they ask. What Brianna wanted in that part of the world, she got... no questions asked.
So Brianna is not only fundamentally better than everyone else in the world just by virtue of her beauty and talent and innate goodness, but she also has enough money to make people do what they want, even if they weren't already willing to fulfill her every wish because she's just so very beautiful.

She runs into a nurse who she thinks looks familiar, but the nurse gets super nervous when Brianna starts questioning her about her mother. Then there's a bomb scare and everyone evacuates the hospital, and Brianna tosses and turns all night wondering about the nurse.

That's the end of the chapter, which is very short, but I believe I've actually had my fill of stupid today, so here's a little mini bit of Brianna, and we'll return to see her hopefully for real meet her family next week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Introverts Are Not Fragile

As the whole "introverts are better than extroverts" trend (which I do not support) starts to die down, there comes another trend that I do not support, and that is the idea that introverts are fragile, sensitive creatures who are about to break any moment.

Guys, some of the introverts I know have spent every moment of their waking lives acting like they were somebody else just because that's what they thought they were supposed to do. That doesn't sound all that fragile to me.

Sad from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Loren Kerns, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
Introverts don't have to suck at being social.

Introverts don't have to curl up in a little ball every time someone talks to them.

Introverts don't always have panic attacks when they're invited to a party and sweat bullets until they cancel at the last minute.

If they do, that's not the introversion doing that. That's social anxiety or depression or something else that may be mimicking some of the outward signs of introversion... but if you're spending your life miserable at the sight of others, that's not introversion, that's something else.

Introversion may be uncomfortable and awkward in a culture centered around extroverts, but it shouldn't be painful or traumatizing.

I worry sometimes that extroverts see these posts and start to see us as fragile, overly sensitive little flowers who might wither and die if we look at us wrong. And oh my gosh, that's not true. Or it shouldn't be.

Friendship from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Corey Balazowich, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio
When I post about how to treat introverted friends, it's not because I'm begging you to handle my introversion carefully. I'm not going to fall apart if you don't act that way around me. My roommates didn't scar me for life when they invited friends over without telling me, even if it happened a lot. I'd sometimes get annoyed or leave the room if I want to focus on something, but ultimately I'd deal with it because I'm an adult and that's what you do.

When I post about the differences between extroverts and introverts, I'm not saying, "Please be careful with us." I'm saying, "We live in a culture where a lot of us feel unheard, unseen, and unappreciated. If you want to go that extra mile and make us feel valued, here are some tips."

Worst of all, I don't want extroverts to read these and think, "Apparently I exhaust them too much. Better leave them alone." No! I love my extroverted friends -- they support me, they encourage me, they make me feel like they value my time because they're excited to see me. Introverts and extroverts can and should coexist. Are extroverts exhausting? Sure, they are. But we can handle it, especially if we come to value you as a friend. And will I need some time alone sometimes? Sure, I will. And you can handle that, especially if you value me as a friend.

Let's not let the voice of the introvert become either a triumphant cry of superiority or a quiet whimper of fear. Let's simply be who we are, be strong and joyful in who we are, and use that inner strength to love the people around us -- whatever that looks like for us.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Movie Translation Game: 2014 Movies

Well, it's time for another movie translation game here on Unpublished for a Reason. Here's how it goes: I'll take several movie synopses, run them through Bad Translator, and present the finished result for you to guess. We're about three months into 2015, so I figured it would make sense to look at some of the most popular films of 2014 -- critically-acclaimed flicks, goofy blockbusters, and a couple more notorious choices -- and see how many of them you can identify! Post your guesses in the comments, I'll bold the ones that haven't been guessed correctly yet (though that shouldn't keep you from guessing them anyway just for fun!) and I'll post the answers next Monday.

Without further ado, here are some films of 2014, ridiculously scrambled. Some are... easier to guess than others.

1. Sniper, cow, of course, became a legend in the fight to save the file. The house, the children, after the death of his wife and four of his responsibility, but if the battle begins, not for the first time.

2. E-in the study, the Size of the stand is perfect information with a group of friends who formed the group of the technology.

3. The role of the hero, the last day of the calendar, house, family, job, and try to help me.

4. He went to College life, as a young man, he was a child.

5. In America, in a new light, and be acceptable to the head of the group, on the other hand, the best soldiers in time of war in the old story, new threat: kill the soldiers and winter.

6. After ten years, the flu, has the right to access, change, or groups that you have saved.

7. Officially became the second man in the war against external enemies,select a date in the future, there is a good company for your business, you want to stop the conflict.

8. In the same meeting, after two young people, who are recovering from breast cancer.

9. The largest of the world is emphasized in the present study, the pride, the threat to humanity life, against harmful organisms can be observed.

10. Full speed fan operation between the stars criminal groups are forced to work together, if you want to avoid.

11. Professor of so,student education,I believe that God doesn't exist.

12. In the spotlight of the media circus, the key, which can't solve,even if it is a problem in the first place.

13. If a Viking boy who went to the dragon's cave in the center of the city, where the two friends to protect the world, where hundreds of wild it. It

14. A group of scientists of the hole, to ensure the survival of the human race.

15. You can also visit the more popular Newspapers to see Lark's on the planet, in an interview with amazement. In Japan, the leaders of North Korea's Kim Jong told the CIA changes to kill the task.

16. LEGO building services, services of private security, the eternal, the purpose of which is to stop an evil LEGO tyrant of the company.

17. Avenging Angel tracking Controller of a small honey, baby, I know that you may be the only person who can bring peace to this problem.

18. It is the Creator of the world is a big problem for the post-apocalyptic flood to cleanse the world.

19. Super-heroes, one of them in the past and the events that lead us to the past to change, in a desperate attempt to avoid humans and mutants, which are sent to the system.

20. 20 years after the first adventure, Harry Lloyd, Harry, how I found out that the dead girl.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Weekend Reads

I'm bringing this back: on weekends (preferably Saturday, I'm posting this a day late) I'll link to some of my favorite blogs I discovered this week. Some might be silly, some might be serious, but they're all things I think are worth reading.

This week it all seems to fall into two categories: About Media and Not About Media. So that's how we're separating them out today.

About Media

Nobody Wants Community, But a Select Few Need It by Rebecca Tucker at National Post

In real life, and to many of the Community fans who show up in Harmontown, Community is a stand-in for the study room at Greendale: it’s a no-judgment zone for people whose idea of too cool for school involves a monkey living in the air ducts (and if that’s not your idea, you probably went to City College).

"Cinderella" and the Disruption of Consumption by Travis McClain at Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

I'm not admonishing Disney for making a little girl cry. On the contrary, I am acknowledging that their film, directed by Kenneth Branaugh, had such a visceral impact.

There is admonishment to be had, though, and it is leveled at the several adult members of the audience who made no allowance for how watching our protagonist - with whom we are meant to identify - endure the heartache of grieving for both of her parents. Surely, that is one of the most universally profound life experiences we must face as human beings. This child, her life experiences unknown to any of us, was forced to watch Cinderella go through that twice in the span of half an hour.

Ranking: Community's Musical Moments from Worst to Best by Killian Young at Consequence of Sound

In its first five seasons, the embattled show boasted cameos from Ben Folds, Sara Bareilles, and Sophie B. Hawkins, a co-writing spot from Adam Levine, and a huge group of great sampled and original tracks, including an entire episode dedicated to spoofing Glee. This list takes a broad interpretation of what constitutes musical moments, so you’ll see clips ranging from Britta’s pizza dance in “Remedial Chaos Theory” to Ludwig Göransson’s compositions and songs performed by cast members.

Directors Who Dominate: Billy Wilder by Jandy Hardesty at Flickchart

I’ve mentioned two or three times that Ace in the Hole was a tremendous box office failure – Billy’s eighth film would be his first unsuccessful one, with critics as well as with audiences. However, as you can tell by its ranking on Flickchart, Ace in the Hole has undergone an incredible resurgence in critical acclaim and popularity. His first film after breaking up with the more conservative and genteel Charles Brackett, Wilder took the opportunity to made a truly mean and deeply cynical picture. . . . Wilder had always been a cynical filmmaker, shining a light on the dark side of humanity, but here he spun the light around on the audience – YOU are the reason media circuses exist, he says. Ace in the Hole was ahead of its time in 1951. It seems utterly prescient today.

Chandler and Monica didn’t want to tell him about their relationship because they were afraid he’d freak out – and they were right.

This alone should be a bright red flag – if you’re afraid to tell someone about something that makes you happy because you think they’ll freak out all over it and make you feel bad … Well, you’ve got a pretty terrible friend in your life.

The brilliance and great, lasting gift of Freaks and Geeks is that neither of the girls is wrong. They’re both judgmental at times, they’re both incredible, supportive friends at other times, and they’re both disappointed by the people they thought they knew. Paul Feig, who notes that he’s “not religious at all,” wrote about how he didn’t want the show to run away from questions of faith and rebellion, because religious beliefs are “two more keys to the souls of humans, especially developing ones.” Of Lindsay, he wrote: “it’s the knowledge that she’s been forced by the world and herself to start her quest for the truth earlier and more intensely than most of the population ever will…that makes her search all the more consuming.”

Token Problems of a Token Marriage: Fireproof In Discussion by Joshua Gibbs and Kanaan Trotter at FilmFisher

The characters are threadbare because, as you said, they’re only caricature. To put it differently they’re not real people because they’re descriptions of problems, not people. This is part of the overarching issue with Christian literature— with modern, evangelical, mainstream Christian art. It is no secret that Christian movies, books, rock music are sub-par. This is, I think, due to a failure to portray real people or real issues. Rather than depictions of real people, this art portrays problems as people.

Not About Media

Consent: Not Actually That Complicated by Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess

If you say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they um and ahh and say, “I’m not really sure…” then you can make them a cup of tea or not, but be aware that they might not drink it, and if they don’t drink it then – this is the important bit –  don’t make them drink it. You can’t blame them for you going to the effort of making the tea on the off-chance they wanted it; you just have to deal with them not drinking it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean you are entitled to watch them drink it.

If they say “No thank you” then don’t make them tea. At all. Don’t make them tea, don’t make them drink tea, don’t get annoyed at them for not wanting tea. They just don’t want tea, ok?

The Critical Part of Orphan Care That Adoption Culture Totally Missed by Benjamin L. Corey at Formerly Fundie

A key example was when I adopted my girls from Peru: they were in an orphanage of approximately 74 girls, yet only five or so were actually eligible for adoption. The rest? They had relatives or a parent, but not relatives or parents with the means to care for them. Not able to live at home, not able to be adopted, many of these kids just get absorbed into institutions.

If we’re truly going to honor the calling to defend the cause of the fatherless and encourage the oppressed, we need to move beyond an adoption culture that is short sighted in its approach. Yes, adoption is both necessary and beautiful, but adoption alone is failing to actually address the problem. The key issue that needs to be addressed is, “how do we help to keep children with their biological families when at all possible?”

When we assume that our own positions are both right and self-evident, it is easy to demonize even the slightest dissent, and I find that unfortunate. I grew up in an environment where questioning the party line meant immediately getting the side eye, and disagreeing in even small areas meant being ostracized. I’d really rather not repeat that.

A Watch, Not a Read, But Still Worth It

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: Brianna and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Plan

Last time: Sermons. Lots of sermons. From Brianna, from Pastor Jeremiah, from everyone. Then Brianna told Sonya to go find her real parents because I guess she's a private investigator now. And on we go.

The chapter begins:
“Brianna, can you hear me? Brianna!” 
The entertainer opened her eyes, finally snapping out of the deep trance she appeared to be in. Remembering her past and her dramatic conversion had drawn her away from the discussion with Sonya.
Because this ENTIRE STORY was a flashback, remember? We started as Sonya returned from her journey to find Brianna's parents and Ethan, and then Brianna just sat there remembering for awhile.

Sonya expresses concern about Brianna because she was so out of it.
She tried to clear her head, wondering how much time had elapsed. Looking at the clock, she realized only minutes had passed.
Only minutes? Several minutes is a long time to just zone out in front of someone. No wonder Sonya was concerned. She probably should have called a doctor.

Brianna says she had something "like a flashback" (wink, wink, audience) and laments about her past. Sonya advises her as her lawyer not to say or do anything, but as her friend to do the right thing and 'fess up. So that's super helpful.

Brianna announces that on her next visit to Iraq to entertain the troops, she also wants to visit her mother's grave and meet her mother's family. Sonya warns her it'll be extra dangerous. Since she told us several pages ago that Brianna's family had a $1,000,000 hit put on her, I think visiting them might be a terrible idea. Sonya voices that very opinion and asks why Brianna wants to do this.
“I want to meet those who murdered my mother. I want to face them, and ask them why they did it. Then... then, I will let God show me what to say and do.”
...Yeah, she's definitely going to die.

In what scenario is it a good idea to meet up with your mother's murderer and your attempted murderer on their home turf and demand an explanation? That is how stupid people in movies get killed.

Brianna's also determined to get information from them on what happened to her father. For once, Sonya is the voice of reason, saying, "They may not know anything" and "You may not like where this leads you" and smart things like that, but Brianna is set on this very stupid plan. Personally, I think it would be in Sonya's best interests not only as Brianna's friend but as her manager to do everything in her power to keep her from just waltzing up to people who want to kill her and challenging their opinions.

As they debate it, we get this tiny moment:
Brianna blew a wisp of hair.
I'm sorry, it just cracks me up that here we have apparently the most beautiful perfect talented goddess-like woman on the planet, doing what in my mind looks like this:

Brianna complains that she's so rich but she doesn't have anyone to love.
She looked up at Sonya who had started massaging her shoulders.
It is not terribly easy to look up at shoulder massagers. It's an awkward angle. And if you're still blowing your hair wisps around, they won't like it.

Sonya tells Brianna again that she (Brianna) needs a man, and Brianna is dismissive again because this is probably like the 15,000th time Sonya's brought it up in the past four years.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the man of your dreams isn’t right in front of your eyes, but you’re too busy to notice.” The teasing faded from her eyes.
"Hint, hint! Marry Conrad, who's been super into you since you were a teenager and he was in his late 20s which apparently isn't at all creepy!"

Brianna responds:
“I read an article that said the first man a girl should fall in love with is her father.”
Ugh. I am all for strong father-daughter relationships, but sometimes the purity culture group make it sound like dads basically serve as their daughter's boyfriends until a real one comes along, and that's just uncomfortable. Family relationships are (and should be) very definitely different from romantic ones, and using romantic language for family relationships is an odd dynamic. Note that this is especially an uncomfortable statement in the middle of a book that addresses the idea of sexual abuse between father and daughter.

But that's all a little nit-picky and more a problem of a whole culture than bad writing, so let's move on.

Brianna suggests maybe Sonya needs a man, and suggests Harry (remember him? The horrible lawyer who hit on Brianna by asking Sonya suggestive questions about her and it was apparently cute and charming instead of objectifying and unprofessional?). Sonya laughs it off.

Brianna muses for a bit on her birthmark and how she hates it, Susan hated it, but Ethan wasn't ashamed of it.
Sonya could tell she was reliving the memory in her mind.
Did she then zone out for several minutes without Sonya being concerned enough to get anyone else from outside the room? Because that's happened before.

There's a crapload more exposition of Sonya saying, "Tell me how you feel," and Brianna telling her how she feels. It's super boring for awhile.

Sonya changes the subject:
“Brianna, about your meeting with Ethan Anderson... there is something I haven’t told you. He’s considered a sexual predator. Legally, he can’t get within fifty feet of you without being arrested. Do you realize that?”
That... is not true. At least from what I can find, though anyone who knows/can find other information can correct me, but I don't feel like Rothdiener's earned the benefit of the doubt with his stellar research track record.

First of all, Brianna's certainly no longer a child, so any laws like "cannot be within 50 feet of a child" no longer apply to her.

Secondly, though, this all happened in Arizona, where sexual assault restraining orders last for a year, and you have to specifically apply for them. It's been six or seven years by now, and she certainly hasn't been filing new restraining orders every year. Even if she had, she could petition for a judge to quash the order, and if she can get a judge to file adoption papers for a couple who didn't even know it was happening, I'm pretty sure she could get one to say, "Oh, sure, you can initiate contact with Ethan."

All that to say, Sonya's a really crappy lawyer.

Brianna talks some more about how she wants to find her father, and Sonya's cynical some more about this whole mission, and the chapter ends with Brianna praying that everything will work out all right.

68% of the way in. 102 pages to go.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Christian Stories I'd Love to Write

Today we visit my page for a blog request:

If you had to write a story in the "Christian" genre (like The Quest for Skye or God's Not Dead), what would the plot be?

I have actually attempted to do this a couple times for NaNoWriMo, but it turns out I do not write drama well while winging it. So sometimes I'm going to plan this out and do something for real. But since I get really serious about quality in Christian stories, I want it to be genuinely excellent before I do anything about it -- so I might never get around to putting any of these together the way I want them to be.

Most of the stories I write or want to write are not particularly Christian-centric. They're just stories about people. When I do want to write something that's explicitly about Christians, it's often because I see a Christian story done wrong (like, yeah, The Quest for Skye or God's Not Dead) and I want to do it right -- or because I want to write about something that Christian fiction doesn't typically touch on.

These are a few of the ideas I've tossed around in the past -- some have been written more than others:

  1. A fictionalized version of my year at NLDC. It changed my life, and I wish I could find a way to capture some of that on page.
  2. A story about a girl trying to be a Christian musician, focusing on her finding her mission statement, so to speak, of God and art and commercialism. (I wrote part of this for NaNo a few years ago. It was horrendously boring. Whoops.)
  3. An anti-God's Not Dead. A sheltered youth group kid goes to college expecting that she'll have to defend her faith all over the place. It almost never happens -- and when it does, it goes horribly wrong in ways she didn't expect. She's more than a little shaken up and her faith falls apart a little bit because she feels like everyone was lying to her, and has to figure out how to rebuild her faith.
  4. An anti-Left Behind. People start disappearing off the planet and one Christian is convinced they know what's going on (it's the rapture, and they must not have been truly saved) and starts leading other people during what they think is the apocalypse. (I actually wrote a chunk of this last NaNo after I tried writing #3 and abandoned it.)
There have been other stories that I've toyed with the idea of. Frankly, I'd just like to see more Christian stories with nerdy characters. Then maybe I'd have someone to relate to...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Musical Spotlight: 1776

It was about time for me to tackle another musical spotlight blog, but I couldn't decide what to go for next. I like a lot of musicals, and none were speaking to me especially these days, so I decided to let history decide. On this day in 1969, the musical 1776 opened on Broadway, starring William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Ken Howard, and Betty Buckley (in her Broadway debut). The book is by Peter Stone, the music and lyrics are by Sherman Edwards.

I've sincerely enjoyed this show for a very long time. I grew up watching the movie version (which preserves many of the original Broadway cast members). It's a musical version of how the Declaration of Independence was written and signed, and it's known for being fairly decent in terms of accuracy. There are definitely a few things that got rearranged, played up, or created entirely for dramatic effect, but a great deal of research went into it and much of the dialogue is inspired by or directly taken from letters written by those involved.

It's a funny, fascinating show that seems more like a play with music than a musical. In fact, the show holds the record for the longest stretch between songs in a musical -- nearly thirty minutes pass between "The Lees of Old Virginia" and "But Mr. Adams." I think the songs bring a lightness to the show that wouldn't have been the case otherwise. There's a lot of almost-cynicism in the story, and without the songs it would have been very easy for that to overshadow everything.

So since the songs are important for the show, here are my five favorites, in order of show appearance!

1. The Lees of Old Virginia

There's no good clip of this from the movie, so I'll have to settle for the movie soundtrack. At this point in the musical, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin want to propose independence, but Adams is extremely unpopular in Congress and he knows if he suggests it it'll never get discussed at all. They approach Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, and ask him if he'd be willing to. He enthusiastically agrees to go get authorization to do so, and on his way out he sings this fun song about how his family heritage is sure to get him the support he needs.

2. But, Mr. Adams

After Lee proposes a vote on independence, the vote is split, and the "pro" group is given the opportunity to write up a declaration explaining the reasons for choosing independence, in the hopes of winning over the other side. In this song, the declaration committee tries to decide who should write the declaration. They all have their different reasons they shouldn't -- especially Thomas Jefferson, as he has planned a visit to his wife, whom he hasn't seen for six months. The song is a silly back-and-forth between Adams, pressuring each member of the committee in turn, and the rest, protesting that they shouldn't be the one to do it.

3. Mama Look Sharp

One of my favorite songs from any show, this is a suddenly dark song in the middle of a fairly lighthearted story. A few of the messenger boys are sitting around chatting about what it would be like to be in the war and sharing stories of their friends and family members who have been. That yields this haunting tune sung from the point of view of a boy who is dying on the battlefield, and his mother is searching for his body.

4. The Egg

As Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson eagerly wait to find out whether the Declaration of Independence will be accepted by Congress, they sing about the excitement of forming a new nation and debate what bird would best represent it by being the national bird -- Adams votes for the eagle, Jefferson for the dove, and Franklin for the turkey (which he did advocate for in real life). This song is back to the show's more lighthearted tone, and it's great fun.

5. Molasses to Rum

The part of the show that takes the most liberties with history for dramatic effect is this bit toward the end, where the vote for or against independence hinges on a clause in the Declaration that denounces slavery. This leads to a dramatic walkout of every delegate from the South, who refuse to sign unless it is removed. While this passage was indeed removed from the final engrossed copy of the Declaration and it is said that two of the states opposed it, it was much less dramatic than this -- independence had already been voted in by the time this debate happened, so it was simply the wording being challenged, not the cause of independence itself.

However, that doesn't make this song any less interesting. The key player for the South in the musical version is South Carolina delegate Edward Rutledge, who in this song points out the North's complicity in the slave trade and accuses them of hypocrisy. It's a dark, unsettling tune, performed here on the movie's soundtrack by five-time Tony nominee John Cullum.

And that's 1776! I highly recommend the movie version and any of the recordings.

Also, if you have a movie you'd be interested in hearing my take on for a Musical Spotlight post, let me know! I like a lot of musicals, so it's hard for me to narrow down my choices sometime.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: A Busy Post-Conversion Evening

Last time, Brianna finally told everybody about Ethan and found Jesus, so Sonya got her way after badgering Brianna about it for four years. I seem to remember that it's all sermons from here on out, but I hope I'm misremembering, because gosh, that'd be boring. So... here we go.

So Brianna runs off to her concert and the press conference she was apparently just having before her concert for no reason.
As Sonya applied Brianna’s makeup, she asked the singer what she planned to tell her fans. 
“I don’t know what I’ll say. I guess I’ll let the Lord speak through me.”
I'd say it's funny that she's instantly picked up Christianese phrases like "let the Lord speak through me" but she's been speaking like that the whole book despite having no reason to, so this at least is consistent with her terrible characterization.

She arrives at the press conference and freezes because she's not sure what to tell them, so people start asking her questions.
A reporter piped up, “Which is your favorite song on the new CD?” 
“They are all my favorites! That’s why I wrote them.” She laughed.
The media had grown to love her wit and charm.
"So they were understandably disappointed by this mediocre display."
“The CD begins somewhat in a fantasy world, but the last one ends in total reality.” Brianna paused again, searching her mind for the right words. “Much like real life.”
Wait, what? Real life begins in a fantasy world? Does she mean like... the imagination of childhood? Because none of that describes Brianna's life. She's been pretty much stuck in an unpleasant reality for most of her life.
A familiar-looking reporter asked, “I understand that the CD is a one-of-a-kind combination, and the recording industry is predicting this is going to be your best-selling CD, possibly the biggest selling CD of all time. Why is that?”

Well, first, I have no idea what "a one-of-a-kind combination" means. Secondly, that's a HUGE prediction to make. I think it's a pretty safe bet she's not going to surpass Thriller. And guessing that it's going to surpass it before it's even released is a ridiculous suggestion. Especially since people don't really buy CDs anymore! If you look at Wikipedia's list of the best-selling albums of all time, the only one from this decade at all is 21 by Adele, and that's all the way down at #19 with about half of what Thriller made. So she's got a ways to go.

Third, "why is that?" Well, that's a good question. Why IS the recording industry predicting that? It's nonsense.

What is Brianna's answer?
“I think it’s because of the powerful message behind it. The double-disc collection consists of twenty-one songs and is almost a story.”
Is that what makes it a one-of-a-kind combination? That it's a concept album? Because while those are cool and I totally support them, they do exist already, so it's not like she's the first one to do it.
“It’s interesting that the last song on the CD relates to what happened in my life about an hour ago. You see, I was on a collision course with my past.”
Oooh, like the tagline for her book! Except that, for some reason, kept spelling it "coarse."

Brianna finally blurts out, "I found Jesus," and Sonya tells her to wrap things up because she needs to get to her concert. Good thing she didn't wait any longer to tell them, because then she would have run out of time and not been able to tell them at all.

She then says something along the lines of, "Oh, and I just decided I'm going to start touring immediately. I haven't cleared this with anyone. I'm just going to do it. I have to. Bye!" and runs off to her concert. Sonya asks her what's up with this surprise concert, and Brianna says she's doing it because, "I have . . . people I must see." And I guess she can't afford to go somewhere and see people if she's not on tour?

Brianna tells Sonya to prepare to do some traveling and that, for the unplanned tour, to "get a list of major cities throughout America, Canada, and Mexico. Set up dates, and get all the preliminary arrangements started." Seriously, if she can just be like, "Here, start a tour now, please," can't she also be like, "I'm going to go do some stuff while not being obligated to do a concert in every town I visit"? Also, Brianna kisses Conrad on the cheek and his heart goes crazy.
One of the ways she pleased her fans was with several wardrobe changes during a concert— this performance, she had seven.
Because as we all know, it's not REALLY about the performance or the songs -- it's all about the costume changes! You think Adele got the #1-selling album of the decade by wearing the same clothes at her concert? NOPE!

I mean, there are plenty of great performers who do a trillion costume changes -- one of Beyonce's tours had eight, and while I can't find a number for Lady Gaga, she has many as well -- but their image and their sex appeal are heavily a part of their brand. Given how squeamish and uncomfortable Brianna is about her self-image, I can't imagine she's pushing the sexuality as much as Beyonce does or the extreme artistic designs Gaga does. So why is she changing costumes seven times? *shrug* Hadonno. I wouldn't be as bothered by this if the entire book wasn't obsessed with how beautiful Brianna is while pretending it's all about the talent.

Before her final number, Brianna gives a LONG, rambly sermon that should just be a testimony but ends up also hitting weirdly heavily on the dangers of drug/alcohol addiction. She ends by telling people to follow Jesus, which is met by "sporadic applause that grew into a rumble", so I guess she was playing to a bunch of Christians anyway and just never knew it. Though the applause could also be because she started her song.

I was kind of hoping we'd get the song lyrics because I'm sure they're as bad as all of hers have been, but sadly, it skips ahead and Brianna leaves the stage to thunderous applause.
“I don’t have time for the dressing room,” she said, grabbing Conrad’s hand, and dragging him towards the back door.
Um, OK.

Turns out she's in a rush because she wants to go to a Saturday night church service, but when in the world WAS this concert that she can go to church after? Because most evening church services start sometime between 6 and 8, and most concerts don't start earlier than that. Bruno is SUPER confused by going to church, so I guess he hasn't been paying attention to anything going on in Brianna's life today.

As they drive to the church, Brianna tells Sonya that she needs her to go away and do other things for awhile, and says Conrad can take over managing her. Because, hey, if a lawyer who doesn't know anything about managing a musician can make her the most popular musical artist in the world about to outsell Michael Jackson, then definitely a bodyguard can be a manager! Brianna's task for Sonya: Find Ethan and her real parents.

They go to the church she got saved at, and the worship leader invites her to play with them. She says she wouldn't know the songs, and they announce that they'd been worshiping to her songs anyway!
“Think about it. The lyrics are the message. Many people can make a tune, but few can put words together to bring a truth that warms the heart, like you did in My Father’s Love.”
While I agree with this and I do frequently worship to secular music because of this, this is a cool and unusual church that regularly uses secular (or at least non-Jesus-specific) songs as worship in their service. I would totally go there. Although they apparently only use songs by Brianna, so I guess that'd get boring.

So the church has basically a Brianna concert for worship. Brianna holds Conrad's hand. Jeremiah is apparently not just the worship pastor but the real pastor, because he gives a sermon. And almost the rest of the chapter is that sermon. It's dry and boring and maybe if the characters were worth caring about I'd care about this too, but as it is... nothing. And I don't want to read it or dissect it because it's just boring, and so I'm going to skip it.

After church, Jeremiah pries into Brianna's back story with Sonya while Brianna meets with fans, including one little girl who is in foster care.
“She’s been in a lot of foster homes. We’re thinking of adopting her,” the foster mother said, noticeably moved. 
“Please don’t just think about it. Do it! Her life is wasting. This sweet girl needs good parents,” Brianna pleaded.
"Her life is wasting"? Uh, way to affirm self-worth for a little girl. "Your life basically just wastes away until you have parents."

The family says they don't have the money to adopt, so Brianna decides to make things happen. You don't find this out until a page or two later, at the end of the chapter, but she petitions the judge to let them adopt her and then just mails them the papers saying they're her guardians (despite the fact that they hadn't done any of the paperwork themselves -- I'm pretty sure you can't just adopt people on other people's behalf).

This gripping chapter ends:
Brianna’s Quest for Forgiveness had begun.
And only 65% of the way into the book. It's about time.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Church and The Sabbath

This week at church, our pastor was preaching about the Ten Commandments. While I'm pretty sure they all got mentioned at one point, I didn't notice because once he got to the fourth one, about keeping the Sabbath, I just thought about that the rest of the service.

Most Christians I know would either say that today the idea of keeping the Sabbath transfers to the modern-day church service, or that Sabbath observation is obsolete for us now because it was an Old Testament teaching. I'm going to primarily respond to the first idea here.

20121014_PH_L1020290_0022.JPG from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Royal New Zealand Navy, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio
When Christians talk about Sabbath, they point to the idea of God resting. We rest on the seventh day because God did during the earth's creation. The Israelites were forbidden from working on the Sabbath because it was a day of rest.

That, for me, is often at odds with the experience of a Sunday morning service.

As I listened to our pastor talk about the need for a Sabbath, the need for a day of rest, I suddenly thought, "Yesterday was my Sabbath." This Saturday, Jacob and I spent the whole afternoon and evening together. We had some deep discussions about serious things, sharing our thoughts back and forth. We went out to eat and went movie shopping together. We spent the evening punching aliens in the face in Halo and sending monsters to attack each other in Munchkin. And as we spent that time together, I felt more refreshed than I had all week, and for one day, I was able to let go of much of the week's built-up stress. I felt closer to God, and I found myself the next day more equipped to tackle life.

That was my Sabbath. And I wish I had realized that in the moment. If I had recognized it or set out to make it my Sabbath on purpose, I would have gone out of my way to incorporate some extra special time with God into it and throughout it.
BCM worship from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 Jeff Noble, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

While many people talk about church as a source of Sabbath, I believe that it can't be for a lot of people. For those who are in church leadership or who volunteer to run various programs, that makes it work, and Sabbath requires a break from work, a break from the ordinary. Obviously that doesn't mean they can't enjoy their work or that they shouldn't do it -- it just cannot be their Sabbath.

On my part, church cannot be my Sabbath not because I have responsibilities there (though sometimes that is true too) but because it is not a restful place for me. Through my life, church has often been a stressor, a difficulty, or a task to complete. I cannot count on it to refresh me because it usually doesn't, and relying on it to do that is a dangerous move.

When I took my first extended break from church, it was while I was in college. I had classes every day and, as a theater major, I often had rehearsals or performances on Saturdays. I started off intending to go to church every week, but I found that I desperately needed that Sunday. I NEEDED a day where I didn't have to do anything. I needed a day where I could lounge and rest and do stuff with God on my own at my own pace, where nothing was expected of me either from others or from me, where I could just be with God and myself. I needed a Sabbath.

2007-CTMT-021 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 First Baptist Nashville, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
These days, my schedule is a little different. I have more available free time throughout the week, and Saturdays often have nothing scheduled. I have more room in my life for the work of church than I perhaps will ever have again, because I know I will have a Sabbath to recover from it later. I have time I can devote to ministry, because I have room for Sabbath.

Occasionally I've gotten flak for the times when I have chosen a churchless Sabbath over a churched day of work, but I feel like the church sometimes paints itself into a corner here by making church not-restful and then being surprised by those who are not rested. Our world right now is kind of crazy. People are busy all the time. And when the idea of "a day of rest" becomes "a day of church activities," we've taken another step toward eliminating rest in our own lives. So many of us are rushing around with weeks, months, maybe even years in between our Sabbaths. We may even forget how to rest on the rare chance we get the opportunity. And for active church members, Sunday can be the busiest day of the whole week.

Obviously I'm not advocating everybody stop going to church. I think church is a good and important thing. But when our Sundays are forever filled with activities and programs and meetings, we need to realize that our Sabbath must be found elsewhere, and if we don't find it and continually sacrifice Sabbath for work -- even church work -- it's only a matter of time until we burn out.

How about you? Where do you find rest?

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: The Conversion

Last time, Brianna started talking about her past using language that makes zero sense considering who she is and where she's from, reminding us that while the author wants to SAY Brianna spent several years prostituting herself on the streets while homeless, he doesn't want her to act or speak like she did that. Sigh.

Anyway, Brianna has been talking about how she made up that Ethan abused her. Apparently, she didn't even know what happened to him until "a couple years ago," when she looked it up online. Since she's telling this story four years into her superstardom, which is more than "a couple" years ago, I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she figured it out like... the day before Sonya found her, because she clearly knew what had happened to him (at least somewhat) by the time Sonya showed up.

Sonya admits she knew this.
"I never told anyone except Conrad. I didn’t think it was my place to tell anyone else."
"But for some reason it TOTALLY was my place to tell Conrad."

Cathy yells at Brianna for a little bit about how awful it was of her to do that. Conrad wants to wipe away Brianna's tears.

Sonya updates Brianna on Ethan's divorce, his father's death, his poverty, and that he wasn't allowed to go near his kids again. Brianna is even more upset and doesn't know how to live with herself, so Sonya suggests Jesus, though Brianna's response is not so encouraging:
“Oh no! Not that Jesus thing again!” Brianna looked doubtful. . . “Does that make everything good again? Does Ethan get his life back? Do I sell another million CDs? No! Not even Jesus can fix this mess.”
Wait, what? What does selling a million more CDs have to do with this? Are her CD sales flagging because of her secret about Ethan?

Anyway, Brianna freaks out (understandably) after revealing her secret to her friends and, in this very emotional moment, hearing them chew her out and tell her she needs to ask Jesus for forgiveness. She runs away. Literally, she just sprints away and her bodyguards can't catch up to her.

They decide to split up to find her, but no luck, until Conrad gets a light bulb idea and they head to a music store, where Brianna is playing to an adoring crowd, except that adoring crowd is apparently Beatles-level crazy, because they are about to start rioting and there are sirens so apparently the police are already on their way despite everything having been calm until just this second.

They scoot Brianna out of there, but she is, at first, remarkably calm and casual for having run off in a fit of guilt. Then she breaks down in tears, they remind her about Jesus again, and they decide to cancel their concert.

The chapter ends there, but, uh, nothing's happened, so let's continue on to chapter eleven.
Through the years, Conrad and Sonya spoke to Brianna openly and honestly about her need for God. They knew what she had to do.
See, here's the problem. Yes, I'm a Christian, and, yes, I believe that God is the answer for everyone. But Conrad and Sonya are so smug about it. Sonya especially is a terrible friend to Brianna, and when she talks about her needing Jesus it always comes across as not so much about wanting to help her as wanting her to convert so they can say, "I told you so." She has made it clear many, many times that she does not want to talk about God, and they push it on her. (That's not only a terrible friendship, but a really terrible working relationship!) Maybe if they hadn't pushed her to discuss it when she clearly had a lot of baggage to deal with and wasn't ready, she wouldn't have run when she was ready. Maybe she would have wanted to actually listen.

Conrad is a bit more compassionate than Sonya, though that's not saying much. He seems to at least genuinely care about Brianna's well-being, while Sonya seems more interested in being The One to Fix Her. Either way, I wish they wouldn't say things like "They knew what she had to do." It doesn't matter what they know, she has to come to that place on her own, and their pushing and prodding does nothing except exasperate her.

Anyway, Brianna is sobbing in the car as they decide not to go to the concert, when she jumps out of the vehicle and runs across the road to see a blinking sign that says "Jesus Saves." It's the sign for a church (though I'm not sure I've ever seen a church with a blinking sign) and she runs down into the basement, where there's some sort of pre-church thing going on. The worship band is practicing and people are praying.
Brianna finally came to a startling realization— she must give full control to the only One who could truly help her.  
Still unaware of anyone else in the room, Brianna closed her eyes and began to spin around, crying out to God Almighty. “God, why? Why?”
...Why what? She's realized she needs to give control to God, and now she's asking why she has to? I don't think that's what Rothdiener's trying to say here, but that's what it seems like. Brianna's actions are a little strange to the onlookers, but they're not any less strange to those of us who get to follow he train of thought.

Brianna stops crying and is introduced to Jeremiah, the worship pastor. After this little break she cries again, and Jeremiah actually seems like a really good guy, taking this all in stride and kneeling with her as she prays.
The look on his face and the light in Jeremiah’s eyes were an outward expression of his warm, caring heart.
Which is much nicer than whatever the heck Sonya's been acting like for the last four years.

Jeremiah shares a bit of his testimony. He was a drug addict who was raised in a Christian home but left, and he came back to God after his parents' death. Brianna asks some questions about forgiveness, he answers them encouragingly, though Brianna is still uncertain:
“I have hurt, no, destroyed, so many people.”
Wait, what is this "so many"? Ethan... Ethan's kids, perhaps, though she has no idea what happened do them... is she thinking of Susan? Probably not, because Brianna was well aware that Susan had some issues to begin with and was probably not "destroyed" by all this. Who else is she thinking of? It's pretty much just Ethan and maybe one or two others by extension.

There's like another page of preaching about forgiveness and while none of it's awful and most of it's true, it's very dry to read and boring to mock. Then everybody prays, and it's dramatically written but it feels weird to mock it too because sometimes conversions are dramatic, and if this was surrounded by a much better book, this page or so could be OK.

When Brianna looks up, she feels free and instantly knows everything she needs to do to fix her life, because when you become a Christian, you get instant answers to everything. She talks in Christianese for a few minutes, and then she plays a song that was one of her first hits.
Brianna commented. “Wow! I never realized the power in the words of that song. The message sure fits today.”
I giggled out loud here. It's one thing if someone else says that, but for Brianna to be like, "Wow! My song is so good!" it is more than a little goofy-sounding.

Sonya reminds Brianna that they have to leave and cancel her concert, to which Brianna responds:
“How long before my press conference?” 
“Um... twenty minutes,” he said, glancing at his watch.

Nobody said anything about a press conference. I even did a search throughout the book, there's no mention of a press conference since the last one Sonya held before Brianna was even famous. She's got a concert this evening. Does she just do a routine press conference before every concert? Just to be like, "Hey, just so the media knows, I'm doing a concert tonight, even though I'm sure that information is already available online and since I'm the most famous person ever, my show is for sure sold out"?

But I guess they're speeding off to a press conference now, so... that's nice. Brianna preaches to Jeremiah for a little bit for some reason, and they all leave praying.

We made it through almost two whole chapters, and we are now 61% of the way through the book, with 123 pages to go.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tune In Thursday: The Farm

I don't even remember where or when I first discovered "All Together Now." But there's just something very interesting for me about the chorus and the instrumentation. I don't have any profound thoughts on it -- this isn't a song I'm in love with or deeply connect to (though the lyrics are interesting too). It's just cool to listen to.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cool People I Know: February Birthdays

It's time to praise the cool people I know who were born in February! I have such amazing friends, I have to give a shoutout to them every so often.

Me, Jessica, Dusty, and John performing, I believe, "Superhero" at someone's house.
Dusty. Dusty and I traveled together on what was probably my favorite tour of my whole time in NLDC. It was his very first tour and my fourth, Dusty was incredibly easy to travel with. He's one of the most laidback, let-it-roll-off-him people I've ever met. Nothing seemed to phase him, even when things went crazy on tour (as most tours did at one time or another). He just laughed, shrugged, and went on doing what he needed to do. He's a great guy.

Isaac. I actually just saw Isaac like a week ago in a local show. He and I were Huntington theater buddies, and we worked on more than a few shows together, including our very first, Beauty and the Beast, and then The Cherry Orchard, where we spent an entire scene dancing the same incredibly simple dance in the background for like 20 minutes. Isaac is such a friendly guy, always enthusiastically ready to chat and catch up with friends. If I was at some social event that I didn't really feel up to and needed a friend to just tag along with in, Isaac was always a good choice because he never minded the company but also didn't demand me to be any more than the quiet lurker I often wanted to be.

Ebenezer. Oh, Ebenezer. He was one of the few NDLC guys I never got to travel with, but I really enjoyed hanging out with him at our Tennessee homebase. He was extremely friendly and went out of his way to chat with all the people around him, especially the new people, which always made me feel comfortable and liked. He was very open, freely sharing stories of all the things he did wrong his first few tours. It's been a very, very long time since I got to see him, but his Facebook is full of hope and faith, and it's always encouraging to read.

One of the very few photos with me & Ashley, at a wedding surrounded by other NLDCers! She's right behind me to my left with the dark hair.
Ashley. This list is really NLDC-heavy! But it's OK, because my NLDC peers were pretty amazing. Ashley joined the drama company like right before I left, so I didn't get to know her super well there, but whenever I did get to spend a little time with her, there were two things I noticed. 1) She was hilarious, and 2) she loved God. Whether I was more in the mood to laugh or talk about deep things, she was great at both of them, and I wish I had gotten to know her better.

Me and Sara back in... a long time ago. Like 2000. Maybe earlier.
Sara. As a kid in North Dakota, Sara was my best friend. Our moms were good friends, and so we spent a lot of time together. Even after I moved to Illinois, I didn't really have friends there for a while, so Sara was still my best friend. One Christmas, her family came to visit us for the holiday. One February, I flew out to visit her for her birthday. My senior year of high school, I joined her church for a youth conference. I think our last visit was shortly before she headed off to Bible school and I headed off to NLDC, so probably seven or eight years ago. Every time we got together, we always managed to pick up where we left off, even if it had been a couple years since we'd seen each other. She's now married with three kids and a fourth on the way, so I think maybe someday I'll have to finagle a visit on down to see her.

Travis. Travis and I have been buddies for awhile now. He is four or five years younger than me, so for a long time it'd be things like I was the leader of his VBS group or I was the director of the church drama team he was in. As he got older, he ended up following some of the same paths I did; he joined NLDC for a year and worked with the drama team at church when he got home. Travis has always been friendly, enthusiastic, welcoming, and, above all, energetic -- sometimes too energetic for my introverted self :-) But watching him channel that energy into ministry is very exciting, and wherever life takes him, I'm sure he'll jump into it feet first and do just fine.

Caitlin, Annie, and me all hanging out in Chicago.
Caitlin. I didn't make a lot of close friends during my time taking community college classes, but Caitlin was one that stuck. We joined Campus Crusade together, we took creative writing together, we traded mix CDs back and forth. One semester we had an hour-long class break at the same time on Mondays, so we scheduled "Monday Morning Chats," where we'd regularly spend that hour chatting, sharing, laughing, and encouraging each other. Caitlin's love and desire to pour into others never ceases to amaze me. She got married shortly after I did, and my heart just burst for her -- she's one of those people for whom good news just makes me ecstatic, because she's so full of love and so caring and open and delightful, and it makes me happy to see when things go well for her. The past year she's been dealing with several health issues for her and her family, and watching her honest but faith-filled response to it has been truly inspirational. I only hope I can learn to conduct myself with such grace.

Dom and me as the Thenardiers, singing "Master of the House."
Dom. As you can probably tell from the above picture, Dom and I did theater together at Huntington. There were some people at college that I didn't spend all that much time with, but I felt like if I had, we could have been pretty good friends. Dom is one of them. He's great to work with -- very professional, with a great combination of hard-working and easygoing. But he's also interesting to talk to: articulate, intelligent, and equipped with well-thought-out opinions and a dry sense of humor. We've both graduated now, but I follow along with his life on Facebook and always enjoy reading his posts.

Lori, Brittany, Brittany, and me at our friend Lisa's wedding
Brittany. There are two Brittanys in the above picture, and I'm sure I'll be writing something about the other Brittany during her birth month, because I love her too, but the one I'll be talking about today is Brittany G., standing right next to me. Britt G. (who is now engaged and soon I won't be able to call her that anymore!) joined NLDC at the same time I did, but stayed longer. We don't necessarily have a lot of likes or traits in common, but she's one of those people who is extremely easy to talk to, both about silly fluffy things and about deeper issues. If I don't have anything to say at that moment, she's quite comfortable carrying the conversation for a bit. Even when I lived in South Carolina in the same town as her, I didn't get all that many opportunities to spend time with her, which is sad, because I would've loved to hang out with her more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tune In Tuesday: Superchic[k]

I was a big fan of Christian pop punk band Superchic[k]'s first two albums. They morphed after those two in a different direction that kind of lost what I liked about them in the first place, but those first two are great albums. This is one of my favorite songs from their second album, "One and Lonely," though this one is more mellow pop than pop punk. This song does what Superchic[k] does best: acknowledges insecurities and loneliness while still being like "you will be fine because you are AWESOME!"

Monday, March 2, 2015

The 2015 Best Picture Nominees, From Worst to Best

Now that the Oscars were a week ago, it's obviously time for me to chime in with my thoughts!

I went to the AMC Best Picture Marathon in Chicago with my sister Elizabeth -- the giant one where they watched all eight movies in a row. I'd already seen The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was the last one of the night, so we left before it began so we could get home at 5 in the morning instead of 7. So I managed to watch all the Best Picture nominees and have an opinion on them by the morning of the Oscars. Here's my final opinions on them, all ranked from least favorite to favorite.

8. The Imitation Game

I'm apparently in the minority on this one, but I just didn't think it was that good. I think Benedict himself did a tremendous job, really creating a fascinating and sympathetic character, but the other actors were not at all interesting, and the script was a muddled, cheesy mess... though either I or the Academy are extremely confused, as this won Best Adapted Screenplay. It's worth seeing for Benedict, but he's really carrying the whole movie.

7. American Sniper

A good movie that completely falls apart in the last 15 minutes, when it abandons the character arc it had worked so hard to establish and pretends all the problems the first hour and a half set up just never actually existed. It gets ranked above The Imitation Game because it was almost something really amazing, but it was a huge disappointment to me.

6. Selma

A good story that comes across more as a documentary than a biopic. Aside from one or two scenes that really have an emotional impact, the movie as a whole is more informative than powerful. Information is a good thing to have, but I don't think that's what the movie was going for.

5. The Theory of Everything

A sweet and interesting story that doesn't really offer anything new or surprising to the genre, but it's effective and well-told. Eddie Redmayne deserved his Oscar for his transformation in this movie -- he's fascinating.

...I didn't even realize until now that all the biopics are grouped together at the bottom of my chart. (It's also interesting to note that each one of these biopics often centers around"The story of a brilliant man and the longsuffering woman who supported him." The women in each of these movies are so similar that I frequently get them mixed up. Two of them got Oscar nominations, but I have to think hard to remember which ones because there's not really a lot of difference between the four.)

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

I watched this one back in October of 2014, and it's interesting to note that at the time I noted that Anderson films have a way of slipping away from me, and I wondered if this would have more staying power. It mostly didn't, in that I can't tell you what this is about except that Ralph Fiennes is in it, but I do remember enjoying it a lot. So, like The Theory of Everything, it didn't stand out to me but I enjoyed watching it.

3. Boyhood

And here we're getting into the ones that I really, really truly liked. Boyhood is a slow, but deliberate story about growth and change and figuring out who you are, and this makes the 12-year-filming gimmick not just a gimmick but something that fits the story perfectly. Patricia Arquette is especially good in this (another well-deserved Oscar win there). I understand the people who find it slow or dull -- it's more about scattered episodes than consistent story progression -- but much like Linklater's Before trilogy, I found it extremely watchable because the characters were likable and interesting.

2. Birdman

For most of the night, I thought this would be my favorite. It's a delightful, visually beautiful, fascinating look at fame and growing old and self-worth. It reminded me a lot of Black Swan, my favorite Best Picture nominee from the 2011 Oscars, though Birdman has fewer lesbian sex scenes. So... if you liked Black Swan, I'd suggest checking this one out, since I have the same reaction to it.

Entertainingly, the people around me did NOT like this movie. One of them loudly yelled, "BOOOOOOOO!" at the screen for a full minute after it ended and then proceeded to complain to all of her friends for the next several movie breaks about how much she hated it. I was curious as to why, so I kept listening in, but, uh, turns out she was just upset about the fantasy/reality blend because it was confusing. We would probably not be good movie buddies.

1. Whiplash

The reviews for this movie all use words like "electrifying" and "thrilling" and "intense," and Whiplash is all of these things. American Sniper had more action, Selma had higher stakes, The Imitation Game had more intrigue, but this was the movie that had me on the edge of my seat, especially in the final 15 minutes. Out of all the movies I saw, this was the one that stuck with me, the one I still remember moments from a week after seeing it, the one that I want to rent on DVD and watch again.

Did you watch any of these this year? What did you think of them? Which snubbed movies did you want to see get a Best Picture nomination?