Monday, June 16, 2014

Movie Talk on Sunday: Visiting Aliens

There's a Twitter movie chat that happens every Sunday, and I occasionally get to participate. The idea is that every week, Twitter user assigns a movie-related topic and asks 10 questions around that topic for people to respond to. I thought the questions (and offered answers) this time were so interesting that I wanted to share it on my blog as well. In this case, for all my answers, I typically went with the first one that came to mind, figuring I'd trust my instincts. I still stand by most of my choices, though, as you'll see, I changed one of them while writing this blog.

It’s the alien invasion. Only, they’re benign, and curious about our world. We’re an oddity, and they want to learn about us. You have been chosen, against all odds, to give them an idea of the films that this planet makes. You want to give a good variety of films for them. So, what film would you show them to show the following…?

Q1. What film best depicts human kindness, and why? #MTOS
My response: Lars and the Real Girl. You can't watch that movie and NOT feel good about people.
Other interesting choices from Twitter: 12 Angry Men, It's a Wonderful Life, The Iron Giant

Q2. What film best depicts human cruelty, and why? #MTOS
My response: I'm going to go with Se7en. It simultaneously portrays everyone as being awful and everyone somehow being worth fighting for.
Other interesting choices: Schindler's List, 12 Years a Slave, Pan's Labyrinth

Q3. What film best depicts human humour, and why? #MTOS
My response: Oh, man, human humor is so varied! I think I'm going with Modern Times, because slapstick's pretty global.
Other interesting choices: Airplane!, Monty Python, His Girl Friday

Q4. What film best depicts human history, and why? #MTOS
My response: I think right now I'm feeling Gandhi, to demonstrate that there is always chaos and always SOMEONE working against the chaos.
Other interesting choices: Metropolis, The Seventh Seal, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Q5. What film best depicts how we rewrite or romanticise our own history, and why? #MTOS
My response: Hmm. Evita. The conflict between a romanticized truth and a darker truth is a major part of the story. (Although in retrospect, I change my answer: Midnight in Paris all the way. I just didn't think of it at the time.)
Other interesting choices: Back to the Future, Inglourious Basterds, Life Is Beautiful

Q6. What film best depicts how we show our natural present day world, and why? #MTOS
My response: TV movie The Lorax (haven't seen the new one). The message is that the natural world is beautiful and we keep breaking it. (I had a tough time coming up with answer for this.)
Other interesting choices: Koyaanisqatsi, Black Fish, Planet Earth documentaries

Q7. What film best depicts how we show our man-made present day world, and why? #MTOS
My response: WALL-E. Though it's futuristic, it covers positives and negatives of new technology, plus the whole "it's making us lazier!"
Other interesting choices: The Truman Show, The Social Network, Dr. Strangelove

Q8. What film best depicts how we view potentially benevolent / hostile alien species, and why? #MTOS
My response: The 1950s The Day the Earth Stood Still. It shows how quickly we start panicking and what an alien might have to do to stay alive.
Other interesting choices: District 9 (also one I considered), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Independence Day

Q9. What film best depicts how we envisage the future could be like, and why? #MTOS
My response: V for Vendetta. Or really any dystopian future. We are SCARED of the future, folks.
Other interesting choices: Robot and Frank, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Children of Men

Q10. What single film best sums up the human condition? #MTOS
My response: Annie Hall. A constant search for SOMETHING, followed by, eventually, adapting when we don't get what we want.
Other interesting choices: Groundhog Day, Schindler's List, A Clockwork Orange

So there you have it. I would show the aliens Lars and the Real Girl, Se7en, Modern Times, Gandhi, Midnight in Paris, The Lorax, WALL-E, The Day the Earth Stood Still, V for Vendetta, and Annie Hall. That's... an interesting lineup.

Share your thoughts and suggestions!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tips for Traveling Introverts

I love traveling. I just came back from a two-week road trip. I spent a year traveling around the country doing drama at churches. I've trekked enough across the U.S. that now, the only two states I haven't visited are Alaska and Hawaii.

But traveling can be extremely draining for an introvert.

I am definitely on the "oh so very introverted" end of the continuum, so as much as I love going around and visiting new places, it's easy for me to get tired out quickly. Here are a few of the tips I've learned over the years about how to travel and stay sane as an introvert.

1. Choose your traveling companions wisely.

Traveling with just one or two people is easier for introverts than with a large group, so as much as you think you might love having a huge road trip with seven or eight good friends, it'll get overwhelming much more quickly than if you just bring along a couple. Also, traveling with people you don't know well can be tough. It's hard to relax when you're constantly around acquaintances rather than good friends. If you're the one planning a trip, plan your companions carefully. You don't want to burn out halfway through because you're surrounded by too many people. And don't discount the idea of traveling by yourself, either. I've done that before and it's super fun and flexible and if you want to make friends along the way, you can, and if you don't, you don't have to.

2. Budget extra money for introvert escapes.

Specifically, I'm talking hotels. A lot of the times when I've traveled, we've saved traveling money by crashing with friends around the country. It's definitely cheaper (you can usually get a meal or two and a place to stay out of that), and it is awesome to visit with old friends, but it can also be exhausting spending time with someone new every single night. For me, a safe ratio is spending one out of every 3-4 nights in a hotel. It gives you a chance to recuperate so that you'll be ready to socialize again the next day. (If you like camping, that's a cheaper way to get some social recovery time. I hate camping so that's not really an option for me, hehe.)

3. Don't plan too many outings -- or be ready to drop out.

There's a tendency to want to do and see everything when you're spending time in a city, but don't overextend yourself. I frequently find that after a few hours of sightseeing, I'm done for the day. Sometimes I have extra energy and can do more things, but sometimes that's all I've got in me. This means you should avoid buying multiple tickets ahead of time, thus committing yourself to spending a full day doing tourist activities. I generally try to set in stone no more than one thing per day -- with other flexible activities that I can join or not join as I wish. Keep your schedule as flexible as possible to accommodate your social energy, and you'll be able to really enjoy all the things you do choose to participate in.

4. Feel free to go do things on your own.

You really don't have to sightsee as a group. If your whole group is hanging out for the day in a city (especially if it has good public transportation), you can always get some quiet time by saying, "Hey, I'm going to go check out this museum and then do some shopping, but I'll meet up with you guys for dinner." That is perfectly OK. If you're somewhere that doesn't have public transport, you can always look up a cool place en route to where they're going to be spending their time and request that they drop you off and pick you up there. This lets you be touristy while still enjoying some introversion time.

5. Take advantage of the travel time itself.

You can get some great to-yourself time in a car, a plane, or a bus. Just have an MP3 player ready with your favorite music and a Kindle ready with some good books, and you can spend the whole travel time charging your solitude meter. Then when you arrive at your destination, you're full of energy and ready to go have some fun.

What do you guys think? Any other good introvert traveling tips? What is your favorite travel destination?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Four Silly Puns

I went looking for this last night -- turns out it was on my dad's Facebook wall -- and figured, hey, I need a blog for today, I should just post this.

So here are four silly puns all in a row, as created in a Facebook status last January:

Dad posts: From my son Nathan: If you try to destroy someone's chimney and by accident it destroys their entire house instead, then the whole building comes down with the flue.

My uncle David posts: And if you do this destruction by aiming a gun at the chimney and pulling the trigger, I suppose that would be a flue shot.

I post: And if you feel bad about it and decide to build their chimney again but just the chimney, not the whole house, and then you find that the place where you want to build it is on top of a bird's home but you build it there anyway because you're kind of a jerk, then when you finish you can point to it and say, "Ta-da! One flue over the cuckoo's nest!"

I post, a day later: And if, when you were finished building the flue, someone came to you and said that there were a bunch of cuckoos AND people trapped underneath and you should tear it down and let them out, you would have to do the right thing and destroy the flue and free them because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the flue.

Happy Monday.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Coping Mechanisms

Someone posted something on Facebook the other day about feeling guilty, and that got me thinking about the idea of feeling guilty and how to respond to that.

You all know that I deal with depression on a fairly regular basis (though this has been a good week as of writing this -- YAY!). One of the ways my depression shows up is that it makes me feel guilty about everything. It doesn't matter whether something bad is actually my fault or not, if I was in any way involved, I am probably going to feel guilty about it. Actually, it doesn't even matter whether it was something really bad, it could just be a mistake or a misunderstand that didn't cause any long-term damage. I'm still going to feel guilty.

I've discovered lately that one of my methods for coping with this in the moment is to strongly blame someone else. Even if rationally I know it wasn't their fault, even if I share some of the blame, I work hard to tell myself that it was someone else's fault. If I work hard enough, I can usually trick my mind into letting the guilt lift a little, at least enough that I can cope with it. (Also, I only blame people in my own mind -- I don't spread my blameshifting around to other people.)

Generally, after time has passed and the emotions have settled down, I can mentally return to the incident accepting the more accurate view and admitting my fault or my error in the whole situation without it triggering a whole new depressive episode. I don't just go through life blaming everyone else forever -- I just have to let it sit and move into "So this one time I did a stupid thing" territory in my brain instead of "I am doing stupid things right now." Depression can still use past things to attack me, but it doesn't hit me as hard or as deeply as mistakes that I feel like I just made.

So here's the question: Do you think that this method is wrong/unhealthy? And if so... what's a better response?

Refusing to accept blame is one of the things that is A Big Deal in Christianity. A good chunk of evangelical thinking centers around accepting responsibility for your actions, repenting, and changing your ways. Deliberately refusing to accept blame, even with the intention of going back and accepting blame later, would probably not be received well.

Here's the thing, though, I genuinely am not sure I know how to deal with guilt otherwise. Or, well, depression guilt. Regular guilt is easy peasy for me to deal with compared with depression guilt.

I started thinking about what common alternative answers might be, and all I can think about is that people would tell me to rely on God and pray and trust in his forgiveness. Which, obviously, yes, is important to do, and I do try to do that, but in the meantime, I have to be functional in the real world. When depression hits, I use every single little thing I can to attack it and fend off its lies, and sometimes that means lying to myself for a little while until I'm ready to deal with the truth. I can't just wait for God to magically fix things, because sometimes that takes time, and in the meantime I'm missing days of work because I can't focus and I'm miserable to be around because I feel crappy, and I have to do something to keep myself together.

I genuinely don't know yet what I feel about people using negative coping methods to deal with things like this. I even tried mentally comparing it to somebody who uses drugs as a coping method. Although that's obviously not the same thing, I wanted to figure out how I would answer someone who was coping by doing something that I thought was clearly wrong. And that didn't really give me any answers at all, because all I can think is, "Well, it's totally different," but without any helpful comparison to help me figure out what I think.

I'm still mulling this over. Right now, lying to myself seems like the least damaging coping mechanism I can think of for dealing with situations like this, especially if I try to go back and fix it later when I'm coping on my own.

So I'm really curious about you guys' thoughts. I suspect some of you will think, "What? There's nothing wrong with this at all, you're being way too harsh on yourself," while others will think, "Nope, whatever your justification is, that's not right and you need to find a better option," and I'd love to hear from both sides. The more opinions I get, the more I can figure out what I actually think.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Top 5, Bottom 5: Political Thrillers

Not long ago, I watched my 20th political drama, according to Flickchart, and this past week I watched my 20th and 21st political thrillers. That means it's time for a Top 5, Bottom 5 post! These rankings are all out of 2145 movies on my Flickchart thus far.

Top 5:
1. The Lives of Others (2006, #118). Calling this a "thriller" is probably a stretch, as it's a pretty slow-moving drama. But it is really, really amazing.
2. Fail-Safe (1964, #350). Man, this is a good movie. It reminds me of 12 Angry Men -- another Henry Fonda flick -- in that it's mostly people sitting around talking, but it's gripping stuff.
3. Argo (2012, #528). It's dropped down a few spots since I talked about it in my political drama blog. Still a pretty entertaining thriller though.
4. The Manchurian Candidate (1962, #552). Another one mentioned in my political drama blog. Super entertaining, even if the plot is kind of ridiculous.
5. The Crying Game (1992, #671). I just watched this one, although I definitely enjoyed the dramatic parts of it far more than the thriller parts. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, though.

Bottom 5:
5. Man Hunt (1941, #1335). I really like the end of this movie, but you have to wait through a lot of weird characterization to get there.
4. JFK (1991, #1473). This is a decent movie, but I felt every minute of those three hours. There have been plenty of three-hour movies that were really engaging throughout, but this was not one of them.
3. The Interpreter (2005, #1525). A fun premise that just doesn't live up to its potential.
2. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956, #1737). I vastly prefer the 1930s version to this, which feels very, very slow to me and gives us approximately 10 trillion renditions of "Que Sera Sera." Actually, if that song hadn't been in the movie I'd probably like it much better.
1. The Art of War (2000, #1806). And this is the other one I just watched. To be honest, it's only been like a week since I saw this movie and I still can't remember what actually happened in it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

My New England Vacation: A Photo Blog

So I totally failed at posting blogs while I was on vacation, but now I am back! And I figured I'd be lazy my first day and just post some photos from the trip with my sisters. My photographer sister has posted 600+ pictures from those two weeks on her Facebook, so I figured I'd steal a few of them to give you an idea of all the stuff we did. It was a busy couple of weeks!

Our first step was Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where we spent some time with family friends. I was sick the second day we were there (I suspect it was a side effect from the new meds I'd started that week) so I didn't get to do much sightseeing, but the girls went off exploring the area with our hosts.

We spent a day in Philadelphia and splurged on a carriage ride around Philadelphia. It was well worth it. The tour guide driver was friendly and informative, and it was an awesome way to see a lot of the history in the area without having to do a ton of walking.

We went and saw the Liberty Bell. It was a pretty long line, but it was nice to be able to check that off our bucket list. We got this picture when we asked a random stranger if he could take a picture of us in exchange for us taking a picture of him and his family in front of the bell.

We spent a day in NYC (or, well, two half-days), during which we went to the Empire State Building. It was foggy and rainy, but it's still a fun thing to do.

We went to see Phantom on Broadway. It was my fourth time seeing it in New York, but none of the girls had ever seen a show in New York at all, so I had fun showing it off to them. Norm Lewis was a pretty good Phantom, although he seemed to be having some vocal issues that evening, but Sierra Boggess was a great Christine. Her version of "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" was easily my favorite I've ever seen.

The sisters and I spent one morning at Madame Tussauds. I went there on my first trip to NYC in 2004 and really enjoyed it, so it was fun getting to go and see it all again.

After NYC, we went to Rhode Island to spend some time with my mom's family. We went to Newport, did some shopping, ate calamari, and took lots of pictures near boats.

You were supposed to have tickets to tour the grounds and the insides of these mansions, but you could kind of just walk onto the grounds. So we did, figuring that the worst that would happen was that we would get kicked out. Got lots of lovely pictures in the backyard, which was right on the water.

The aunts took us here to have clam cakes and chowder for dinner. I'm pretty sure I could happily eat clam cakes for days.

After RI, we went to Massachusetts, where the girls went to Boston and I stayed at our host home because I didn't feel like walking. But nearly all the pictures we have from that leg of the journey are from Boston.

Our pictures after this point are a little scarce. We did more driving than anything else. We drove to New Hampshire and spent the night with some friends of my mom's. The next morning, as we left, I fell on their front steps and badly sprained my ankle. This made the rest of the trip pretty quiet for me. We drove to Vermont so we could say we'd been there, then drove to Maine and stayed with another Internet friend of Mom's. (The girls drove across the Canadian border to say they'd been there, but I wasn't sure I could climb back into the van, so I stayed home. I'll go to Canada some other time.)

Then we drove back home over three days. On one of those stops, we got to hang out with our awesome NLDC friends JoJo and Jose, and we had a bonfire in the backyard.

And that was the saga of our trip.