Friday, November 28, 2014

No Quest for Forgiveness Today. BUT...

I will pass along some newfound silly videos for you to enjoy. Hope all my US readers had a lovely Thanksgiving! Back to the story of Brijanna next week.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Start Blogging (From Someone Who Blogs Poorly According to Experts)

From the blog suggestions collection:

How would you suggest someone go about starting their own blog?

Well, here's the thing. I break a couple of the expert bloggers' blogging rules. While this probably means I won't be making money from my blogs any time soon, it does mean that most of the time, I enjoy blogging and would categorize it as a hobby far more than I'd categorize it as work. So I'm going to speak from my own personal experience and offer my tips.

1) Figure out what you'd like to blog about.
BLOG from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Christian Schnettelker, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Here's where I deviate most from the Rules of Blogging. Most people say you should narrow down your topic and focus on one thing that can draw a niche audience. I've tried that a couple times, but I typically get so bored and run out of things to say about just one thing and want to write about other things too. Granted, it's a little harder to draw in an audience when you just have such a sprawling collection of topics, but for me, having fewer limits on what I can write about makes it way more fun to blog.

Whether you want to blog about one specific thing or a huge spread of topics, it can be a good idea to decide this first, as you may want to think about naming your blog something related to it.

2) Set up a blog.

As you can see, I use Blogger as my blogging service and host, and I have for quite some time. It's probably one of the easiest blogging to get started with. The rest of my family and several of my friends use Wordpress. There are several others, but those are the ones I see most often on other blogs. If you're looking for something with a decent amount of customizability in terms of design, stay away from Blogger. But I don't really do a lot of fancy design stuff. I'm fine just writing and not tinkering with the way the site looks. (Another pro blogger no-no.) Do a little research to find the one that will work best for you.

3) Write things!

I do suggest having a regular schedule, whether that's once a week, every day, twice a month, whatever. This makes it easier for you to keep writing things, and it makes it easier for your readers to follow along and know when you update. But if it starts feeling too much like a chore -- and if you're not doing this with the intention of making money with it -- it's totally OK to take some time off.

BLOG IDEAS from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Owen W Brown, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
As far as what to write, write whatever you want. This is your blog. Do what you wanna do. That's how I do it, anyway.

I also suggest writing things ahead of time as much as you can and schedule them to be published at a certain date and time. That way you won't find yourself desperately trying to pull together a blog at the last minute. I mean, what? I never do that. I'm definitely not trying to just finish this blog already so I can go to sleep which I should've done half an hour ago.

4. Share it.

You can link up your blog to your other social media accounts through services like (which I use). That way, it'll automatically post to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or whatever whenever you make a new post. It's a good way to keep people updated and let your friends know you blog. I have a lot of friends who blog but don't mention it much on Facebook, and while I would love to read their blogs, I often don't even know they have one until like three years after they've started it. So don't be afraid to plug your blog a little!

And, um, that's about it. Once you get going you can figure out what you like to write, what your readers like to read, and how people are finding your blog through Google. But to get started, this is all you really need. At least in my humble very-not-professional opinion.

Any other tips you guys would suggest? And if you have a blog of your own, feel free to post a link! I'll try to follow any of the ones I don't already. :-)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Top 5, Bottom 5: Family Drama

Flickchart informed me a few weeks ago that I'd just seen my 100th family drama -- note that in this case, it's drama about families, not family-friendly dramas -- and I thought it was about time I did one of these.

Top 5:
1. American Beauty (1999, #36 on my chart). I didn't get this movie the first time I saw it, but then I watched it again a couple years ago and fell in love. The first half is darkly biting and the last half is fascinating and poignant.
2. Billy Elliot (2000, #72). Gotta love a movie about a kid wanting to be a dancer. This is just a really gorgeous flick.
3. Proof (2005, #76). A really excellent play gets a really excellent movie adaptation. I rewatched it a couple years ago after seeing the play and still loved it.
4. Ordinary People (1980, #77). This is one I do have to rewatch, as it's been years since I've seen it. When I first saw it, though, I loved it.
5. Rain Man (1988, #113). One of those movies that just sucks me into the story no matter when I sit down to watch it.

Bottom 5:
5. Bee Season (2005, #2203). This movie is weird, but not good weird -- mostly just "why am I watching this?" weird.
4. The Other Sister (1999, #2144). I watched this in college and was thoroughly unimpressed. I even got to write a paper on why I hated this movie so much.
3. Horse Sense (1999, #2126). One of those cheesy TV movies by... Disney channel, maybe? Anyway, it's basically one of those movies about how rural areas teach people character, which is just not an appealing idea to me at all.
2. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002, #2124). I barely remember this, but I remember being bored.
1. The Jazz Singer (1927, #2123). The film history of this movie isn't enough to make it interesting to me.

Top 5 Unseen:
1. Tokyo Story (1953, #128 on the global charts). I've been meaning to see this one for awhile -- though, frankly, it's more because I should have seen it than because it sounds very interesting to me.
2. Fanny and Alexander (1982, #190). I like Bergman on and off, so I know I'm supposed to see this, but have never been able to quite muster up the urge to do so.
3. Five Easy Pieces (1970, #375). My mind still somehow mixes this up with Full Metal Jacket. Even when I've seen Full Metal Jacket.
4. Cries and Whispers (1972, #388). Another Bergman, but one I know very, very little about.
5. East of Eden (1955, #450). The one James Dean film I haven't seen. I suspect I'd like it more than his other two.

What are your favorites and least favorites? Which of my top 5 unseen should I see first?

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Quest for Forgiveness: Chapter 6, Part 1

Last time, Ethan's trial went decidedly not well. He left prison mentally broken and settled down in a town in Wyoming. But that's enough of how awful his life is, apparently. Back to Brijanna!

The flashback continues from Brijanna's perspective after she was taken away from Ethan. Things go badly for her:
During the trial Janna was taken to a foster home in Phoenix, and her life returned to the way it was before she met Ethan Anderson.
Which I would assume meant she was in an orphanage where she was not allowed to have ropes. It's moderately close: she's bounced from foster family to foster family, including one that abuses her for real but she keeps quiet because she's worried nobody will believe her after the charges she made earlier that she knows were false.

This would be a good point in the story to explain why Brijanna made the false accusations in the first place, but nope. Understanding our character's back story is less important than just telling us life got tough after she lied. And life gets TOUGH.

Apparently every single foster home forbids her from doing just about everything, like playing the guitar, writing songs, or doing extracurricular activities, and they pawn her belongings. Not surprisingly, she chooses to run away right before her fifteenth birthday. She gets a job in a Phoenix diner and lives with anyone who will shelter her. One day, she finds her guitar in a pawn shop, so she buys it and hitchhikes to L.A. to be a famous singer.

She gets another restaurant job and sleeps with anyone who claims they will offer her a record deal, though that never happens, so by the time she's sixteen she's jaded and has decided she's never going to love anyone again.

She leaves L.A. and goes to Nashville instead, changing her name to Brianna. She'll be called Brianna for the rest of the story, so I'm going to return to calling her that as well. She gets a waitressing job but is still homeless. On top of that:
Guilt consumed Brianna day and night . The gnawing fact that she knowingly hurt the one person in her life that cared most about her began to take a toll. Ethan Anderson was never far away in her thoughts.
Well, this is the first I've heard about it in two pages (and two years of Brianna's life). Apparently the guilt wasn't that bad until she was homeless.

Also, again, Rothdiener, now would be a good time to tell us why she did that in the first place...

One day, at work, Brianna starts playing the piano and sings a song she wrote herself. As is the problem with so many Mary Sues who are proclaimed to be The Best at things, hyping it up leads to a lot of disappointment when you actually have to show how awesome it is. Brianna's song is... less than amazing. I mean, it's decent for being written by a 16-year-old, but it's not spectacular. Consider a few tunes written by actual teenagers ("The Man With the Child In His Eyes" by Kate Bush, "Royals" by Lorde, and "Fake Tales of San Francisco" by Arctic Monkeys, to name a few of the more acclaimed ones) and you'll realize the bar is set a little higher than "put some rhyming thoughts together."

Frankly, though, Brianna can't even do that. Her song has has no discernible pattern, with random rhymes and bits that are either verses for a different tune or really really long bridges. These lyrics awe everyone and are later described as "sad, but captivating." Sad I'll give you. Brianna clearly wasn't having a good time while she was writing it. Captivating... the jury's still out on that one.

It's also extremely melodramatic and cliched. It sounds like a worse version of Taylor Swift's early music, and I have yet to hear any adults be complete blown away by the poignancy of Taylor's first album, as everyone seems to be here for Brianna's song in the diner.

In fact, gang, I think we might just have to take up the rest of this blog entry going through her song bit by bit, because the more I look at it to figure out what to comment on, the less I can make sense of it.

So here we go.
I used to sit and watch the sunrise,
Never by myself 
I used to run along the sandy beaches, 
Enjoying the sun 
I used to love without regretting, 
But those days are done
All right, we do have a rhyme here, so kudos to Brianna for that. (We will lose it in Possible Verse #2.) However, that is an awful first line. Watching the sunrise by yourself isn't a terribly melancholy image. In fact, I can think of more movies and books describing a solo sunrise viewing than a group sunrise viewing, and it's nearly always a peaceful image.

The song is quite literal (especially on Possible Verse #2), so I can only assume that that means she really never watched sunrises by herself. Maybe that's why it's especially lonely for her. Because she grew up thinking you just always watch the sunrise in pairs.

(These lyrics, btw, bear a bit of a resemblance to the opening lines of I Dreamed a Dream... except that song is easily 10,000 times better than this one.)
Now I sit and cry all alone, 
Now I walk the streets of this city 
Now I question if love was ever real, 
Before there was rain 
Yes, before there was rain
There is a nice lyrical parallel here between sit/run in the verse and sit/walk here. It's all a little dramatic and over-the-top (though I suppose it does literally describe her life), but it's OK. Note, however, that there's no apparent rhyme here. Because there suddenly will be in Chorus #2. If we thought Chorus #2 was the overall rhyme pattern, this chorus would look like it was trying to rhyme "alone" and "city." But, hey, maybe I'm jumping to conclusions. Maybe those rhyme in a Phoenix accent. Maybe they pronounce "alone" like "aloitty."

Now we expect a second verse, somewhat like the first one in format...
I look to the time of no more heartache, 
I look forward to that time coming 
I remember the time of happiness and love, 
The time I felt a part of life 
A time made just for us 
Now I see that time has ended
I feel no need to remember, 
I feel as if I’m all alone
...What? What is this?

No, seriously, what is this?

At first I thought maybe this was a bridge and she just got bored after writing the first verse/chorus, but there are even more lyrics after this before we head back to anything remotely resembling what we've seen so far. What this song looks like is: "Verse, Chorus, 14 lines from my diary that I haven't bothered to work into the song, Verse, Chorus."

There's no rhyming whatsoever here, aside from internally rhyming "time" with itself six lines in a row. And while I think you can totally do interesting things with repetition like that, you have to do interesting things with it. You can't just insert the word into random places in each line. That just sounds like you took a break after each line, completely forgot what you'd written thus far and thought when you came back, "Oh, hey, I should write something abut time."

And also, what the heck do these words mean?

We have:

  1. Looking forward to a happier time
  2. Looking back to a happier time
  3. There is no time
  4. I don't need to remember things because I'm alone
This is so random. There's no logical progression in these thoughts at all. The first and the second are connected, but there's no reason she'd be jumping from one to the next. The first couple lines sound like they're seguing onto the next section of the song, maybe a hopeful or a desperate "maybe someday will get better" theme... but then that's just completely abandoned in favor of "I DREAMED A DREAM IN TIMES GONE BYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY."

Can I write a super amazing song by just putting the same random word into eight lines that have nothing to do with each other? Because I guess that's all it takes. I think I shall choose the word "eggplant."
Are you there? 
I’m calling to you 
But I just hear silence 
Nothing coming from anywhere 
There is no hope 
Only sorrow
Yup, not sure what to do with this section either. I'd say it's a bridge but the last section might be a bridge since it in no way resembles the rest of the song, so maybe she just has two bridges because putting them together into a third verse was just a ludicrous idea.


That would be the most awesome answer EVER. Verse, chorus, rap with no noticeable rhythm or rhyme, verse, chorus. You could maybe even smooth over that awful "time" section by making it a rap. Maybe.

Also, I think this verse is talking about God? Although, since we never heard Brianna's side of the story about the abuse, we also have zero idea what she thinks of God. In the trial they said she wanted to be Muslim again, but we have no particular reason to think that's true. We don't even know if she still believes in God at all. So who knows what this part is about, really?
What can break me from this pit of despair? 
I used to hold him in the moonlight 
Look deep into his eyes 
See the depths of wonder 
It was a dream I surmise
And here, in Verse #3 (or maybe Verse #2, hadonno), we're suddenly back to rhyming, which is too bad, because if she'd just completely given up on rhyming we maybe wouldn't have lines as awful as "It was a dream I surmise." Seriously, if you don't have to rhyme with "eyes," there's no reason to include that.

This verse is as scattered as the rest of the song. While I've presented the lyrics to you exactly as they are broken up in the book, it's pretty clear that that lyric belongs with the bridge duo beforehand. The rest of the verse is a logical thought -- a simple memory of, uh, apparently holding Ethan in the moonlight and seeing depths of wonder in his eyes, which is a weirdly romantic image given that we as the audience know that Ethan did not develop a creepy romantic relationship with his adopted daughter.

Anyway, the rest of the verse is kind of cohesive. But starting the verse off with "SO MUCH DESPAIR" makes the sudden subject change really jarring. It's like she got distracted mid-sentence: "Ohhhhhh, how will I ever not be despair agai-- Oh, HEY, remember that time I held him in the moonlight?"
Why did you leave me? 
Where did you go? 
Did I ever mean anything to you? 
Or was it all for show? 
Are you there... are you there? 
Before there was rain 
Before there was rain 
Yes, before there was rain
Oh, and there's that sudden rhyme scheme that wasn't in the original chorus. It's fine if songs and poems don't want to rhyme, but rhyme-no rhyme-no-rhyme-no rhyme-rhyme-rhyme is a WEIRD way to do it.

It's also rather difficult to fit into the original chorus' rhythm. You have to smoosh two lines together to make it fit, either "Did I ever mean anything to you or what it all for show" or "Or was it all for show are you there are you there." Either way, it's awkward.

Also, we're back to talking to... maybe God again. Or maybe Ethan. But that'd be stupid, because Ethan left her because she falsely accused him of abuse, and he went to jail, and there's no reason to think his love was all for show. Either way, this song is all over the place. If you read it as a breakup song from a dumpee, it kind of works, especially the romantic imagery -- but the book makes a big deal talking about how Brianna writes from her own experiences, so I have no idea who this is about. Secret boyfriend Rothdiener forgot to tell us about?

So that's Brianna's song. Now let me be clear. This is not an AWFUL song. For being written by someone between the ages of 14 and 16, it's fine. It's clearly coming from her heart. But it is not something that should instantly amaze everyone who hears it. It sounds like it was written by a teenager who doesn't have a deeper understanding of storytelling, metaphor, and lyrical sound.

Note that these sections in the book are broken up by random gushing descriptions of people reacting:

"[The customers] stopped talking [and] listened..."
"Brianna continued her poignant tune..."
"Brianna stunned the patrons with her vocal ability..."
"...awed by the young girl's talent..."
"...mesmerized by Brianna's stage presence..."
"...she continued to enchant the small audience..."

Some of this refers to the voice, melody, and presentation, which, granted, we can't see. But Rothdiener's been gushing all book long about how amazing a lyricist she is, and, um... turns out we can't see that either.

Incidentally, if anyone musically inclined wants to make up a tune for this and record it and try to make it work... I would love to see someone try to straighten this out. Just remember, the melody has to be breathtaking haunting, poignant, and beautiful, according to the book. And it needs to be sung by someone with a voice that is amazing, stunning, awe-inspiring, amazing (again), beautiful, full, the most incredible, and that sends chills down people's arms. Easy peasy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tune In Thursday: "Boy From New York City" by Manhattan Transfer

This week's Tune In choices both landed on the jazzy side of things. This is a fun, upbeat pop jazz song that I really enjoy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blog Request: NaNoWriMo

Last week I asked you guys what you wanted me to write about, and I got quite a few very cool ideas -- I will definitely be tackling them whenever I have nothing in particular I want to write about.

I wanted to address this one first, seeing as how we've just passed the halfway point of November:

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If yes, what's it about? If no, what are the top few ideas you want to write about someday?

I absolutely am doing NaNoWriMo this year, although it's been a bit of an odd journey. I started off writing a Christian coming-of-age story, sort of the anti-God's Not Dead. The central idea was of a very sheltered girl heading off to a secular college, ready to do battle for God in an anti-Christian environment. But when she gets there, she finds that things don't seem to be lining up the way she thought they would. Most people don't seem to be that hostile about her faith, they just don't care and the few times she tries to stand up for God by challenging a teacher on evolution or God's existence, it doesn't go at all as she expects. She wonders if she's not being bold enough, but ultimately she figures out she's not even a little bit prepared for what the real world is like, and she has to find a way to re-shape her faith a little bit without abandoning it.

So I was all excited about this idea, had a lot of cool things I wanted to explore, but about four days in, I remembered why I don't ever write dramatic YA growing-up stories. They're so boring to write.

So then this happened, in the middle of my MC getting advice from her mom on the phone:
I knew she was right. But I was bored of this story. 
Let's take a detour. 
When I got back to my dorm room, it was empty. In fact, I realized, I hadn't seen another person on the way back from class. That's weird, I thought. On Monday the campus was buzzing all day. 
I pulled the curtains back and peeked out my window. Nope, nobody there. I stared at the walkway for almost a full five minutes, but nobody walked past. The ugly gray cloudy sky seemed somehow darker and more oppressive. 
I tried to tell myself I was crazy. Maybe there was a big event going on and everybody was attending that. Maybe it was a sports thing. I hadn't paid any attention to the sports things. Shannon was a sports nut, so that would explain why she wasn't here either. 
I peeked my head out into the hallway and then wandered through the halls, taking a moment to peek in doors that were open. Nobody. 
When I got to the end of the hall, I found Rachael's office, closed but with the blinds open, and with a clear sign on the door: "In from 10-6." 
It was 11:30 right now. 
Maybe she was off at lunch, I told myself, though I tried the door and it was unlocked. Rachael wouldn't leave her door unlocked when she went to lunch, would she? She had given us a huge lecture the other night about how important it was to lock our own doors when we weren't there, just as a matter of safety, because that way if anyone got into the building sneaking in behind someone else, they couldn't go into any rooms that didn't let them in. 
So why would she leave her door unlocked in the middle of the day and not be here? 
Maybe she just ran down the hall to make a copy or check on someone. 
So I sank down to the floor next to the door and patiently waited. 
And that is how my quiet coming-of-age Christian story turned into a survival horror Left Behind-style story, though the one in charge of all these disappearances is definitely not God. I'm not sure what's going on here (and I doubt I'm ever going to explain it in the story), but a huge chunk of the population is gone, and periodically more just disappear. My character is convinced it is God, although she's not sure how or why, since this isn't how she's ever heard the rapture preached. She may accidentally start a cult eventually. Still debating on that one.

Also, Jacob requested that I include him in the story as a murderer. I named a character after him and he turned out to be just the worst person (last chapter, he got punched in the face and everyone cheered) so I don't think people are going to be surprised when he's a murderer.

I'm currently about 5000 words behind, but I'm slowly catching up, so I'm optimistic that I'm going to make it this year.

I don't have any other stories currently mulling around inside my brain, but there are a few written/half-written past NaNo projects I'd love to play around with some more. I'll have to talk about those some other time.

How about you guys? Are you NaNoing? If so, what are you writing about, and how is it going?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tune In Tuesday: "Purpose" by Michael Winther

From the awesome Avenue Q Swings concert, featuring jazzy renditions of Avenue Q songs. This is one of the more family friendly ones.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Whatever Is... Honorable

Whoo, finally getting this one written! Sorry for the huge gap in between this one and the last one -- I kept forgetting to put it all together.

Today's word is "honorable," but as I said in my last Whatever Is blog, there are a lot of differing interpretations for this one:
Looking up the original Greek word, I found this: semnós (an adjective derived from sébomai, "to revere, be in awe") – properly, what is august (dignified, has "gravitas"); weighty, deeply respected because viewed as majestic (having "gravity"); grave. 
This gets translated as all kinds of things. A quick glance at Bible Gateway translations gives me answers like honorable, honest, worthy of reverence, seemly, holy, noble, worthy of respect, respected, chaste, and grave. The most common by far, however, are "honorable" and "noble."
While I definitely chose a few that deliver messages about honor and nobility, I was also really struck by the definitions that were on the side of "grave" or "deeply respected because of... having gravity." It made me think of a few movies that are really hard to watch but deliver some important messages or tell important stories -- movies that treat grave issues gravely without sentimentalizing or trivializing them. So I wanted to look at that side of it as well, since I thought that was a fascinating interpretation of the word.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988). This was actually one of the first ones that came to mind when I chose the interpretation I wanted to focus on. This has been called by many people "the saddest movie in the world," and I can absolutely agree with that. It is heartbreaking. The story centers on a boy and his younger sister living in Japan during World War II, as they find themselves orphaned, homeless, and eventually dying. It's one of the most intense stories I've ever seen about how war can seriously impact innocent citizens, not just soldiers. There have been a lot of stories about the horrors of war, but this movie was one of the ones that really hit it home for me.

Requiem for a Dream (2000). This was another no-brainer for me. I've heard people say that this movie did more to dissuade them from trying drugs than anything else, and that it should be shown in high schools. While I can't imagine a high school ever being willing to screen this, I do think it's the most powerful movie I've ever seen about substance addiction.

One cut of the movie is even rated NC-17 (though I've only seen the R-rated version), but the images earning it that rating are in no way prurient or enticing. They're terrifying. If there ever was a movie that should not be edited, it's this one. Watching this movie and the depths to which these characters' addictions take them makes plain the ugliness of their addiction. It's not romantic or exciting. It's destructive beyond all belief, and this movie is a movie that is not afraid to treat the subject the way it deserves.

Casablanca (1942). After a couple of hard-hitters there, here are a few movies that focus more on the more common meaning of "honorable" and "noble". (There are spoilers ahead, although I think most people know how this one ends by now.)

In this movie, Humphrey Bogart's character, Rick, has determined that, in his own words, "I stick my neck out for nobody." As the plot unfolds, he has an opportunity to run away with the wife of a resistance leader fighting for freedom during World War II. When the time comes for him to make his decision, he instead chooses not to take that opportunity, giving this beautiful speech:
Last night we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I've done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you're getting on that plane with Victor where you belong. . . . You have any idea what you'd have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine chances out of ten, we'd both wind up in a concentration camp. . . . Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. . . . Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that.
Rick makes the decision to reenter the fight for the right, even at the expense of his own romantic happiness. He's become bitter and cynical over the years, and we as the audience fully expect him to have the happily-ever-after ending he's been hoping for, but deep down he knows this is not the right time or place for that, and he ultimately chooses to do the right thing, the honorable thing, instead of being self-serving, as he has been for so long.

Frozen (2013). Gosh, there is just moment after moment in this film about honor -- self-sacrifice all over the place, especially in two almost-deaths, though once is more dramatic than the other. Olaf nearly dies saving Anna's life by lighting a fire to keep her warm, and Anna nearly dies dying saving Elsa's life at the end, as well as a lot of other smaller ones. And along the way, honor yields good things: lives are saved, lives are transformed, and in the end everything is restored. I've described this movie as "the anti-Little Mermaid," because for Ariel personal happiness trumps wisdom, honor, kindness, and patience, but in Frozen the exact opposite message is sent. Even Elsa had to learn this lesson -- in "Let It Go," she delights in the fact that her need to do the proper thing (not even necessarily the right thing) is no longer suffocating her, but eventually she learns that shutting everybody out for her own good is not good for her or for others.

That's my list! I also asked on my blog and on my Facebook page for people to suggest movies that exemplified the word "honorable" or "noble" and got some great choices -- here's what they suggested!

Ikiru. To find purpose to helping others without expectation of recognition. -- Lauren

Cyrano de Bergerac. That movie always makes me tear up. He stuck to his ideals past personal pain and hardships. He would go hungry and be love sick and even loved someone so much that he would try to give them the person they wanted even if it wasn't him. --Christian

Lars and the Real Girl, and Waitress. Both films deal with honorable behavior...people making noble sacrifices and doing the right thing, for the sake of someone else, even when it's hard, even when it seems impossible, even when it makes themselves unhappy, but they go ahead and do it anyways because it's what's right even when they really really don't want to. Even when doing the wrong thing seems so easy....and that it would make them personally happy. They are actions that in my opinion are more honorable then going on some epic quest or fighting in some epic battle. In many ways they are actions that are a lot harder then that, because it takes a much true sense of honor and nobility. They're films about people who do the right thing, and that's truly honorable.

In retrospect I would also include Spanglish with the two I mentioned and for the same reasons. I think Flor is deeply honorable. --Naomi

I'm gonna go brawn here and throw down Gladiator and 300, man or group of men fighting for their honor. Spartans don't back down and throw away who they are to an evil empire, even if it meant death. --Timothy

Babette's Feast. The witness of genuine sacrificial love vs. self-martyrdom. Though the movie is rather "gray," the theme shimmers with life for me! --Michelle

Maybe this is silly, but Mulan. And it highlights different kinds of honor and that sometimes the most honorable thing may be the least expected. --Sarah

What are your picks? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Next Month

Next month's theme is "whatever is right." Looking that up online found this explanation of the original word:
díkaios (an adjective, derived from dike, "right, judicial approval") – properly, "approved by God"; righteous; "just in the eyes of God". "Righteous" relates to conformity to God's standard (justice).
Other translations say "just," "righteous," and "fair." I'm thinking it shouldn't be hard to come up with some movies that exemplify that idea! I was late in posting this month's post, but let's give ourselves another four weeks and plan to post the next installment on December 22, right before Christmas. I suppose if you want to come up with some Christmas-themed movies about justice, you can go right ahead. Submit ideas in the comments, email me, post on my Facebook page, or contact me any other way!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Quest for Forgiveness: Chapter 5

Last time, Ethan had a horrible trial where everyone testified against him. The judge is clearly in his favor but the evidence is pretty stacked against him. The defense is meeting the next day.

(There is more discussion of abuse in this chapter, as a heads up for anyone who needs it. But don't worry, after this chapter, that subplot is abruptly dropped and hardly ever referred to again.)
Ethan returned alone to his empty house. Most of the furniture was gone.
What? Why? I mean, I know his family was leaving him, but they were living with Susan's parents, so it's not like they would need furniture right now, even if they were allowed to just take it. Maybe he had to sell all his furniture so he could afford a lawyer.

We also have a sentence that makes me laugh out loud:
Ethan felt as empty as the emptiness of his house.
Well, yup, emptiness sure is empty!

He wanders into Janna's room, where he finds the guitar he was going to give Janna as a present before she started saying he abused her. (It's a very confusing passage, because he says the guitar he bought for Janna after Susan smashed hers was gone, but I think he means that this new guitar was actually the third one he was going to give her for no reason.)

Frustrated with the situation, he smashes the guitar on the piano, because apparently Janna has a piano in her room, which is pretty intense. But also probably reasonable, given that Susan smashes instruments she doesn't want to hear.

He falls asleep in Janna's bed and his father wakes him up half an hour before court time. He hurries out the door and his dad talks about how he has to stop defending Janna because it could ruin his life. He responds:
“I lost Susan long ago. I thought we had something special. As the years passed , I didn’t like what she became. It was pitiful to see her so wrapped up in herself.”
Whoa. No, that was not what happened. He was pretty oblivious to things going wrong for them. That was why he was so devastated when it fell apart -- he was taken completely by surprise. This paragraph reeks of him trying to pull a "Well, I was going to dump her anyway."

He gets to court late. The judge says not to let it happen again, but I'm pretty sure this is the last court session they anticipate having, since he's not testifying in his defense and the prosecution's done. It can't take that long.

Ethan's dad takes the stand, apparently as a character witness, but he spends a lot of his time talking less about Ethan's character and more of it saying he was, for example, really good at music and foreign languages. He talks for like two minutes, the prosecution has no questions, and the defense is done with its case. Well, judge, I'm sure everyone's delighted you reserved an entire day for the defense.

The judge is not pleased with Ethan's decision to not testify for himself:
“Mr. Anderson, you do realize that the only testimony you had was a character witness. That can help in some cases, but unfortunately, most cases like yours are decided by emotions, not facts.”

Here comes the other thing that makes this trial SO RIDICULOUS.

The judge gets all convinced that people are going to decide his guilt based on emotions, not facts.

Let's review the facts of the prosecution's case:
  1. A professional psychiatrist working regularly with Brijanna says her symptoms are consistent with those of abuse.
  2. Brijanna was bruised and visibly frightened when she went to the police.
  3. Brijanna herself says she was abused and provides some details.
  4. Susan says there was opportunity for abuse, though she wasn't able to prove it actually happened.
And now let's review the facts of the defense's case:
  1. The hospital report says Brijanna was not sexually abused, which she never explicitly accused him of in the first place.
  2. Ethan's dad thinks Ethan is a good guy who can speak a lot of languages.
...If we're deciding this based on facts, as the judge is so insistent we should do, the odds are clearly against Ethan. Frankly, even if Ethan DID jump in and say he didn't do it, I'm not sure it would be terribly convincing.

As we will continue to see in this infuriating chapter, the judge has zero idea what constitutes a fact and what constitutes an emotion. Her hunch that Ethan's a good guy? Emotion. Trusting the experts who tell us their professional opinion and how it lines up exactly with what the victim says? Not so much emotion.

So the attorneys present their closing arguments. The prosecution's is, actually, pretty emotion-based, given the facts that she has far more apparent evidence at her disposal than the other side. She ends with this lovely bit:
“Guilty! Guilty! We need to put this man away for many years. I’m sure in prison he will get what he dished out.”
Whoa. Choosing to avoid a thought of "He needs to be held responsible for his crimes," and focusing instead on "I sure hope other people in prison hurt him." Way to be professional.

The defense comments on that:
“What was it you said? In prison he might get what he dished out. I would have thought you were more professional than that.”
I wouldn't blame her too much though. She's not a Christian, so she's pretty much doomed to be evil through and through.

The defense tries to come up with reasons why Brijanna must have lied:
“Imagine this. Your clean-cut son came home late one night with a giant tattoo on his forearm. Or, what if you discovered your daughter was doing drugs? Have you ever known a teenager who faced an unwanted pregnancy? How can you explain the behavior of a teenager? You can’t! Psychiatrists have been trying for centuries.”
Er, and I'm pretty sure most of those examples given have been explained by psychiatrists. And other people. Unwanted pregnancy, tattoos, and drug use are not incomprehensible inexplicable behaviors. Can they be bad choices? (Or, in the case of unwanted pregnancy, results of bad choices?) Sure. But it doesn't mean they're beyond the reach of explanation. And plenty of adults run into these things as well, so it's not unique to teenagers.

I can only imagine one of the jurors being like, "Um, I have a tattoo on my forearm," and all the others gasping and exclaiming, "WHAT MAD IRRATIONAL BEHAVIOR IS THIS?! Who can explain it? We can't!"

The lawyer warns the lawyers that if they find Ethan guilty, it will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

A couple hours later, the jury's made its decision. They pronounce Ethan guilty, and the Evil Feminist Women cheer. The judge fines them $50 each and kicks them out, to which they protest, "We're Americans!" because pfffff, Americans don't pay fines or leave places!

The judge refuses to send Ethan to prison and instead gives him two years in a state medical facility and four years under house arrest. She then tells the jury this:
“While you were running on emotions, I was working with facts.”
The first time I read this, I think this was the first moment when I really wanted to throw the book across the room -- and if it had been a physical book instead of my Kindle, I think I might have. I can deal with the judge operating entirely on her hunch that Ethan's a good guy, since we as an audience know it to be true, but I cannot handle the fact that she thinks her hunch = facts while taking the prosecution's pretty substantial evidence into consideration = emotions.

Seriously, what "facts" did she expect them to take into consideration? There was zero evidence to the contrary, especially since Ethan wouldn't come right out and say he was innocent (since apparently if he did, Muslims would instantly know Brijanna had converted and would kill her).

I have no idea what Rothdiener thinks "facts" means.

Ethan's dad blames the whole mess on Susan, proclaiming:
“If she would have welcomed Janna into your home with love and understanding, none of this would have happened.”
Which is a pretty huge accusation, considering nobody knows why Brijanna lied about it. It could have had nothing to do with Susan at all.

Ethan's time in the rehab hospital goes very well, with him teaching college courses. But then his dad dies and has his identity stolen, so soon he has no money. Because his dad was supposed to be supervising his house arrest and couldn't now, he goes on to prison, where everyone beats him up. His second year in, someone stabs him a bajillion times during lunch, and the No-Emotions-Just-Facts judge from before arranges for him to go back to the clinic.

When he's released, his lawyer shows up and we get an extremely abrupt announcement of how Ethan's doing:
Robert tried to help, but realized Ethan was mentally ill.
His paranoia is "at its peak." I'd have assumed going back to a mental health clinic for three years would be the very best place for him to be after such a harrowing experience in the state penitentiary, but it appears it has actually made him worse.

So Ethan takes off, eventually settling down in a town in Wyoming and working as a handy man truck stop.

The next chapter picks up from Brijanna's point of view. Does this mean we will find out why she randomly accused Ethan of abuse? Here's a hint: The answer begins with N and rhymes with "Go."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tune In Thursday: "Put Ur Hands Up" by Family Force 5

One of my NLDC teams listened to this album on repeat for weeks on end. But I'm pretty sure I liked it even before the Stockholm Syndrome set in :-)

Family Force 5 will definitely be showing up here again, as I have a fair amount of music by them. Because they're awesome and all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What Should I Blog About? You Tell Me!

Last night one of my friends discovered, and I thought, "Oh, yeah, I remember that site. I kind of want to use that in my blog tomorrow."

So here's the plan.

I've been having trouble figuring out what I want to blog about these days, so I figured I'd open it up to my readers and get some suggestions. You can ask anonymously at this link, and when I'm stuck for a blog idea I'll look through that and pull out one to write. (And then I'll post the link to the completed blog as the answer to the question.)

You can suggest absolutely anything -- silly or serious or big vague topics or really specific ones or questions you have or poll topics for me to expound on or just random things you've wondered what I've thought about. You can also suggest as many as you want -- the more I have, the more things I have to draw from. The goal is to get around to all of them eventually (at least the ones that I can conceivably write about).

I've also set up a link to this on my blog itself, up at the top where it says "Other Places You Can Reach Me." That way, any time you think, "Hannah should write something about this!" you can head on over here and submit an idea.

My blogs are figured out until next Wednesday, but who knows, maybe I'll pick one of yours to tackle then!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tune In Tuesday: "Angry Dance" from Billy Elliot: The Musical

Trying something new here! On Tuesdays and Thursdays (previously my not-blogging days) I'll post a YouTube video for a song I like, chosen at random from my music library. It'll give you guys something new and fun to listen to -- and feel free to suggest similar songs in the comments! Maybe I'll discover a new favorite and your song will get featured on a future Tune In post. Also, if you listen to all of these you will do SO WELL on my next music-guessing post :-P

Today, I present:

An interesting little instrumental song from the musical that I keep primarily because this was my absolute favorite part of the movie.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Walking With God in the Midst of Depression

(Having a tough time writing this, because I am actually writing in the midst of a smallish depression time. So... if you have dissenting thoughts -- or even just think this is scattered and unhelpful -- that's fine, but I may not be up for discussing that with you right now. Just FYI.)

I got this message from a friend on Facebook this week:
Hey, I have a suggestion/question. If you had stuff to say about it, would you consider writing a blog about how you walk with God EVEN in the midst of your worst depression days? Talking about how you have crappy circumstances with no control and still learning what it means to walk in "victory" without the depression necessarily "going away"? Someone was just talking about reconciliation on Sunday and how God doesn't want us to walk in defeat, and I was wondering what your take on that is in the situation of depression.
And I thought, "Sure, I can pull together a couple thoughts on that."

First things first: Depression =/= defeat. Or, well, it doesn't have to be. That was my very first response to the message I got.

Even if I feel defeated for a day or a week or a month or a year, that doesn't mean I actually am defeated. Because, guess what? My life's not over yet. There are plenty of things I have accomplished and can still accomplish in spite of what depression whispers in my ear.

(I want to note before I move on that every person's depression is different. Many people deal with much more long-term chronic depression, rather than the pattern I have, which is waves of depression followed by waves of feeling OK. I have also not ever been suicidal. So I cannot speak for their depression -- I can only speak for mine. They will have different ways of dealing and coping, and my experience doesn't necessarily reflect theirs at all. That being said, here are my thoughts as to how I deal with the degree of depression I have.)

The key, for me, is hope.

The truth is, I am not hopeless. Depression often brings intense feelings of hopelessness, and it's easy for those feelings to seep into the way I view the world, but for me, it's very important for me to be able to separate how I feel from what is true. I may feel like I'm never going to be OK again, but I know in the back of my mind that I will be. I may feel worthless and like I don't matter, but I know that I have value. Cheesy little affirmations totally work for me -- not because they make me feel better, but because they cement in my mind the truth that I can't see when depression clouds it, so that somewhere, somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that what I feel is incorrect.

The reason many people (including me) say they "struggle with" depression? It's because it's actually a struggle. It's a fight. It can be a battle every day to get out of bed and talk with people and do what you need to do. And sometimes you lose a battle and you take a step back and spend the day just crying and watching movies. But you're not defeated until you stop struggling altogether -- forever.

"Walking in defeat" (to me) means that I've accepted I no longer believe I can beat this.

"Walking in defeat" means I'm not even thinking about trying to make it through the day anymore.

And, with depression, "walking in defeat" can get really serious really fast.

There's a tendency in some circles to think that depressed people are just mentally or emotionally lazy, people who don't want to deal with their problems or fix themselves. They look at these people and think, "They've given up completely." But most of the Christians I know with depression work really hard to deal with it. They get up every day and serve in churches and pray with people on Facebook and do whatever they can do to remind themselves that they are not their depression. Sometimes all they can do is get dressed. And while that person on the outside might think, "That is not a victory," but they have no idea how hard it can be sometimes to do just the bare minimum.

For me, "walking in victory" isn't about the depression going away. It's not about walking in my victory because I feel awesome and I've conquered depression -- it's about walking in God's victory. It's about trusting that he can get me through the day, the week, the year, and my life. It's about realizing that if I can't walk any further, he can carry me, and I'm still victorious because I'm trusting him.

That "Footprints" poem where God carries you gets printed everywhere, but sometimes I think we forget that that happens when we can't walk anymore. It's kind of terrifying to get to the point where you actually can't, because we look at ourselves (or sometimes at others) who have collapsed on the ground and view it as a defeat -- but we have to trust that God can get us through that, whether it's by surrounding us with outside support, giving us the opportunity to take care of ourselves, or helping us just power on through.

So, after all that, here are a few practical ways that I try to walk with God in the midst of depression:

1) Be completely honest with God. This is especially important if I don't feel like I can share my feelings with most of the people around me. For me, not sharing it with God is like putting up a little wall to distance us -- even if it's because I'm trying to distance myself from me. But those walls can make it hard to be vulnerable and ask for his help.

2) Constantly remind myself of the truth. Like I said, those cheesy little affirmations work for me -- they may not make me feel better, but they keep me from feeling worse. When I'm depressed, it can feel extra difficult to remind myself of truths about God's love and provision because I think, "He's not providing for me!" but that means it's even more important to remind myself that he is faithful and will carry me through somehow.

3) Psalms! Psalms are awesome for depression because, wow, some of them read a lot like how I feel. When I don't have words I can express, I turn to these a lot.

4) Seek out people who exemplify joy and faith. As much as I love my snarkier and more cynical Christian friends, they are sometimes not good for me to be around when I'm dealing with depression. Instead, I tend to gravitate toward those people whose lives just shout joy and faith, the two things that get hit the most in depression times. This is not so much to ask them for prayer or advice, but just to spend time with them and let their infectious joy and faith either 1) spill over into my life on some level, or 2) simply remind me that God is good.

God is bigger than my depression, he is stronger than my depression, and that means depression never has to mean defeat, because I don't have to fight this alone.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Quest for Forgiveness, Chapter 4 (Part 2)

Last time, Ethan explained to the judge that he wasn't going to defend himself because if he did, extremist Muslims would probably kill Brijanna. The judge has now decided he's innocent. On with the trial!

(Note: This chapter does involve a fair amount of talking about child abuse. It's not graphic, but if that's something that's not good for you to read, you should probably skip this chapter.)

We start off with the judge anxious to tell everyone Ethan is innocent despite having no evidence one way or the other:
She glanced at the twelve jurors— eight women and four men.
Oh, no! Eight women? How will he ever get a fair trial? Because as we established in the last chapter, women are incapable of being objective, except for the judge, who also isn't being "objective" the way they want her to be -- she's decided Ethan is innocent entirely on a hunch.

And here begins the most annoying thing about this chapter:
The judge’s message was clear and precise. “This is one of the most difficult cases you could ever hear as a jury. First, it pits one family member against another. Both sides may sound believable. It is your job to decipher the information and decide who is telling the truth. Therefore, I am pleading for you to be open -minded. Listen carefully to both sides, and be prepared to make an unpopular decision. Start right now, clear your mind. Remove all pre-existing stereotypes or judgmental opinions.”
She makes a REALLY BIG DEAL about deciphering the information and removing pre-existing stereotypes. However, it's clear (and precise?) to the readers that what she means is, "Decide he's innocent, because I have, and if you don't, it's because you've pre-judged him."

This happens a couple times. And while I don't want to give away exactly what happens... we'll just see how that plays out.

The prosecutor's opening statement is essentially something like this: "You think handsome men can't be monsters? TED BUNDY, people. We have evidence and stuff, but you don't want to know about that now."

The defense's opening statement is like: "Ted Bundy? HA! There's no evidence! He just loves his little girl, so be fair and open-minded!"

They are the worst opening statements ever. I even went to look up some legal advice and found out that opening arguments are not allowed to be argumentative. They're restricted to stating the facts and the evidence that will be presented. Neither side here named any facts. The judge probably shouldn't allow either of these. It's hard to know whether Ethan's trial will go better or worse than it normally would, given that both of the attorneys here don't actually know how trials work.

The judge says:
“If no one sees a reason to recess, I would like to begin the trial. Is everyone ready?”
Haven't they begun the trial already? Pretty sure opening statements are called that because the open the trial. It's not like a "here's a preview before the commercial break, now everyone go get some popcorn."

When an author doesn't know how legal processes work, everybody in the courtroom becomes incompetent.

The prosecution's first witness is Doctor Alicia Burrows. When asked to swear in on the Bible, she says:
“Your Honor, I find this tasteless. Since the Bible is made up of lies and fairy tales, I refuse to abide by that rule.”
So she's gonna be a fun character. The judge gives a super loud passive-aggressive sigh and allows her to be sworn in without a Bible.

But it turns out Doctor Burrows is like... a sullen snarky 12-year-old. She won't raise her right hand, then she says "yes" instead of "I do," then she only raises her hand part of the way, and the judge yells at her, and the doctor sneers at her but finally caves.

What the crap? Is she still mad that they gave her a Bible in the first place? Was her super-strict mom a judge? Does she have a vendetta against the judicial branch? Is she Dr. Gregory House in disguise? Why on earth did the prosecution think it was a good idea to have this woman testify in person instead of presenting a written report or something?

And this section... I just... I can't... I can't do it. I'm just going to have to give you the whole chunk of it. Dr. Burrows is apparently a psychiatrist who treated Brijanna for awhile:
Dr. Burrows tensely shifted her position. “She suffered from severe mental instability brought on by continued physical, mental, and sexual abuse by her adoptive father.” 
Cain angrily jumped up. “Your honor. I object. What is this? Can she stick with the questions at hand and not let her own non-medical stereotypes enter in.” 
The judge faced the cynical witness. “Ms. Burrows, please just answer the question.”  
The doctor sighed loudly, obviously not in control of the situation like she wanted to be. “I’m telling the truth as I understand it.” 
Judge Summer’s voice intensified. “No, you are not. You are saying what you feel. I’m not interested in your personal opinion. It is the truth that we are after, your professional opinion. Remember, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.”
Non-medical stereotypes? What does that even mean?

Also, she's a psychiatrist. Her professional opinion is what she's giving. If she found Brijanna unstable and found that the most likely cause was abuse, and if Brijanna told her about being abused, then she has every reason to believe that is the case. It's not like when a doctor sets a broken bone without needing to know the cause of the bone breaking. In psychiatry, sometimes the whole point is figuring out why something has happened.

Now, granted, she can't be certain, because she never saw Ethan hurt her, and it's fair to call her on that. But she's certainly within her area of expertise to say that the instability in Brijanna was likely caused by prolonged abuse.

And the judge claiming that her professional opinion/the truth is what they are after -- what if her professional opinion was that Brijanna had been abused? Right now the doctor's acting like a doofus so it's understandable that no one believes her, but if she had been respectful and behaving like a real adult but said she thought Brijanna had been abused, would that suddenly not count as her professional opinion either?

One of the most infuriating things about this whole chapter is that the judge keeps yelling for fairness and objectivity, but she is clearly biased in favor of Ethan, and what she means by "fairness" is "finding him innocent." Just as she claims everyone else is biased in favor of Brijanna, she has just as much bias on her side, but she's so convinced she's right that she accuses everyone else of being biased.

It's like the battle of the "unbiased" news channels...

Dr. Burrows goes on to share that Brijanna hated living with the Andersons, mostly because of:
“I would have to say their Christian beliefs. They were trying to teach her false teaching, and false hopes, in a false God. At the same time, they were trying to teach her to be perfect according to their beliefs.” 
And then EVERYONE flips out because she's insulting Christianity.

The judge's response:
“Doctor Burrows, I’ll have you know that I am a Christian. You can think and believe what you want, but how dare you talk about Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, as being false teachings with false beliefs, and hopes in a false god! That is your opinion, not mine, not of this court, or the accused. This country was founded on freedom of religion, or in your case, freedom from religion. However, I already told you, do not give your opinions in my courtroom. Give facts! It is up to the jury to decipher the facts and make a judgment, not yours. I will not warn you again, Doctor.”

For one thing, it sure sounds to me like she's telling them what Brijanna thought.

If Brijanna herself had taken the stand and had said that she objected to being taught Christianity, would the judge have flipped out on her like that too?

Secondly, don't you dare try to throw that "freedom of religion" speech around. Freedom of religion means that people are ALLOWED to think and say that Christianity is a false teaching with false beliefs. If the doctor was giving her own personal opinion, sure, it'd be completely irrelevant to the case, but it would hardly be a freedom of religion issue. And since she's explaining what Brijanna didn't like about living at the Andersons, it is very relevant to the case and needs to be said.

But, no, the judge strikes it from the record because apparently Brijanna's complaints about learning Christianity don't really count because she believes in false teachings with false beliefs.

So the judge asks her again why Brijanna was so angry, and the doctor just says, "Their Christian beliefs." The judge responds:
“Why would their Christian beliefs cause anger in the child? There are millions of Christians in the world who have good, loving homes.” 
Well... MAAAAAYBE it was because she was raised Muslim and thought that the Andersons were trying to teach her false teachings and false hopes in a false God. But the doctor is apparently not allowed to explain the real reason Brijanna gave, so she has to tiptoe around it and says Brijanna was raised Muslim and was "conflicted."

(Incidentally, Ethan's decision not to speak up has done absolutely nothing to hide the fact that Brijanna was Muslim and "converted" to Christianity. Guess she's gonna get killed now.)

The doctor talks about Brijanna being traumatized and sad when she was working with the doctor, and they talk generically about child abuse for awhile. Then this happens:
“So in your professional opinion, the defendant , Ethan Anderson, abused his daughter because he did not have a physical relationship with his wife?” 
...And the judge was OK with that. WHAT? The psychiatrist wasn't treating Ethan, she'd have no way of knowing why he was abusing his kids. Apparently she's allowed to make wild guesses on why he was abusive despite not having met him, but she's not allowed to say that judging from Brijanna's mental state, he had abused her?

Gosh, I'm beginning to understand the doctor's disdain for this courtroom...

The defense takes the stand and narrows in on the fact that the doctor says Brijanna sang a lot to cope. He tries to suggest that she's actually singing because she's happy, and she must be happy because she's musically talented. (?)

They talk a bit about the sexual abuse. The defense suggests that Brijanna made the whole abuse story up, and the doctor is shocked and says no, She does eventually admit that the hospital report says she wasn't sexually abused, but that in her professional opinion it was just a matter of time before it got to that point. The defense makes a few snide remarks about the doctor being a crappy doctor and then dismisses her.

They call a detective to the stand, and he also makes the mistake of saying Brijanna was abused, and instead of just calling it out as hearsay or unfounded, the judge gives another long speech about how people are INNOCENT until proven GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt (and, yes, the book says she emphasizes those words).

This part isn't terribly interesting, it's just a detailed explanation of them talking with Brijanna. She said she'd been beaten and insinuated she'd been sexually abused but didn't say so explicitly. The defense claims again that she made the whole thing up because she wasn't detailed enough, but the detective says it was very confusing and she was bruised and terrified.
As he eyed the twelve jurors, he noticed one of them smiling at someone in the courtroom. Another was scratching her head and yawning. Obviously, some of the jurors were not paying attention to the testimony.  
He turned to look at the witness. Then suddenly, trying to capture the jurors’ attention, he yelled, “Detective!” His action startled everyone in the room. “Was Janna sexually abused or not?”
They're not paying attention... time for some BIG DRAMATIC MOMENTS!

They reiterate once again that she wasn't actually sexually abused. But here's the thing: Brijanna apparently never outright said she was, so this doesn't discredit her. She did say she was beaten, and there does seem to be proof of that. The defense tries to paint it as "only a confused twelve-year-old girl's word" but let me tell you, if I was on the jury, I'd be pretty convinced.

The defense is apparently also concerned about that because they ask for a mistrial, since the two witness "have tainted the minds of the jury" and make it impossible for Ethan to get a fair trial.

But here's the thing... they apparently tainted the minds of the jury just by giving their professional opinions that, as people who deal with abuse victims, they believe Brijanna. The psychiatrist was a little nastier about it, but her professional opinion was that Brijanna was abused. They were both doing exactly what they were asked to do: present the evidence they have, and share their professional conclusions.

Once again: If Brijanna had testified in person about the abuse, would they have complained that they were "tainting the minds of the jury"?

What does the defense expect? Does their demand for "fairness and open-mindedness" require that the professional experts say "this girl was traumatized, bruised, and claimed she had been beaten, but she probably wasn't"?

The judge refuses a mistrial, but tells the prosecutor that she will if her witnesses "step out of line" one more time. By presenting evidence of abuse, I guess.

The third witness is Ethan's wife, Susan.
He watched the woman, who once was the love of his life, approach the stand . She was dressed in a tight, short skirt, and a low-neck fitted sweater.
She's dressed like that because she's an evil heathen, you see.

She begins to testify, but before she gets a word out:
Ethan had enough! Impulsively, he jumped to his feet, shouting, “No, Susan. No! If you ever loved me, don’t say anything.”
...Well, THAT sure makes him look innocent.

Susan says that she suspected Ethan and Brijanna were having a physical relationship. They spent hours in her room together and she was weirded out by how close the two of them were.
Judge Summers was fatigued. She could only imagine how emotionally spent the defendant must be. “Does the defense have any questions?” 
Ethan gripped the edge of the table and leaned in. “No,” he shouted.
This is an inadvertently hilarious image in the middle of this "serious" scene. I keep trying to picture it in my mind: Ethan grabbing onto the table and leaning forward yelling, "NO" -- but not with an exclamation point, so I can only assume it sounds like a firm kind of "NO" that you would yell at an animal or a difficult child to get it to stop misbehaving. It makes me giggle.

Turns out Ethan doesn't want to ask Susan questions because:
“But if the truth comes out, Janna’s life will be in danger. Susan knows the truth... the whole truth,” Ethan whispered.

I honestly can't remember if there's like... a secret extra layer here. It's already come out that Brijanna converted from Islam to Christianity, so he can't be worried about that, unless he's somehow totally forgotten that happened. What the heck "whole truth" is he talking about? I guess we'll find out. Or maybe not. I don't know. I can't remember how this wraps up.

Finally Ethan agrees to let his attorney ask Susan some questions as long as he doesn't ask anything about Brijanna's past. The guy starts off by snarking at Susan for being dressed nicely for the woman's magazine journalists in the room, so he's certainly nothing like that other attorney in the courtroom who makes personal attacks on the people she's fighting against.

He pushes her to give examples of inappropriate touching but discredits all the ones she gives, explains that the time spent in her room was probably spent playing music, and then gets Susan to break down in tears admitting she was jealous of Brijanna. He accuses her of testifying against him for free publicity (because this is exactly the kind of publicity a marketing expert would want). She doesn't answer and takes off.

The prosecution rests (after the judge tries to badger Ethan into badgering Brijanna to testify and he says no), and they decide that the defense will present their case the next day, though I don't really know what they have to present, as Brijanna isn't testifying, Ethan isn't testifying, and Susan and the experts testified against him.

I thought this trial just took up one chapter, but turns out we've got some more to go. The most frustrating speech of all is yet to come. Oh goody.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reasons to Dance: #101-200

I have reached 100 more reasons to celebrate on my happy Twitter account, so I figured I'd crosspost some of them here. Cataloging things to be happy about is definitely a good thing for me, as in the midst of depression I have a tendency to forget everything good that happens to me.

So these are things I've been able to celebrate recently:

I reached 100 reasons to dance! That's a silly one, but it's nice to know I have a list of 100 things that make me happy.

Apparently my friend Tim is now listening to Jonathan Coulton because of me and Jacob. YES!

Oh, nice. All the articles I was waiting for on Textbroker were accepted in time to be added to this week's paycheck. Sweet!

Talking about songs from childhood with my siblings.

Cassettes from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Matt Brown, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
Apparently my sister Elizabeth has all our old cassette tapes. Um. I'm going to have to transfer them all to digital when I go home.

Tomorrow our friend Nate comes to visit us! Yay! It's always fun getting to see him.

The song "Lifeboat" from Heathers the Musical. Super haunting.

Giggling at crappy movies with Jacob.

Some days you wake up and feel like you just might be able to accomplish something today. That's nice.

Retweets. Shallow reason to dance, maybe, but still...

I just realized I have everything in the house I need to make tuna melts for dinner. This makes me tres happy.

Cold, cold orange juice. Mmm!

"Honey, whatcha waitin' for--" "SHUT UP, HEATHER!" #HeathersTheMusical

Those tuna melts were pretty much EXACTLY what I wanted to eat tonight. Whoooo!

"She's the horse I never got for Christmas." #HeathersTheMusical

"Now you're truly a Heather, smell how gangster you are." #HeathersTheMusical

I haven't found a new musical that I really LOVED in a long time. It's nice to love a show this much again. :-)

I'm NOT a guitar person, but, man, that solo in Stairway to Heaven gets me. It's just haunting.

Virtually any version of "Hallelujah."

Grilled Turkey Ham and Cheese from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Justin Smith, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
Discovering I can make a fake grilled turkey-and-cheese sandwich without actually using the stove, ha HA!

Slings and Arrows. Why is everyone not watching this show all the time?

So grateful for the amazing respectful men I've known throughout my life. When I'm saddened by Internet misogyny, I think of them.

Jacob worked overtime today but got to work the early shift so he was almost home when I woke up. Now we can spend all day together!

The "Prison Mike" episode of The Office.

I finally finished a blog I've been working on for a really long time.

I still have the other half of my tuna sub in the fridge.

Apparently, saying "bird" but making the vowel the French "e" sound makes Jacob laugh really hard. No idea why, but it's awesome.

I get to see my family this weekend :) It's been a long time.

Sometimes I crack myself up.

My friend Erika, whose opinion I deeply respect, said some wonderfully encouraging things about my blog. Definitely brightened my day.

I left my phone at my parents' house this weekend but it came in the mail today, whoo!

Jacob's on first shift now so we have evenings together. Yay. :-)

Mechanic from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 : : w i n t e r t w i n e d : :, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
Our car broke when we were visiting my fam this weekend. Took it in to get it fixed... turns out it was an easy fix that cost $15.

When David Brent meets Michael Scott on the US version of The Office.

I finally found the portable speakers I'd been missing for like a year.

The Evil Dead: The Musical is playing in Fort Wayne this October. I am going to buy tickets RIGHT NOW.

Friends who back you up in serious conversations, especially when you're sharing thoughts that are very personal to you.

That pretty awesome omelette I ate for lunch. Best omelette I've eaten in awhile.

Someone I felt a strong need to pray for today messaged me & said it'd been a REALLY tough week & my praying encouraged them. YAY GOD!

Snarky friends. They're the best.

There are still tickets available for the play I wanted to see tonight but forgot to order tickets for.

My microSD card came in the mail today so now I can finally use my phone's camera, Spotify, and SwiftKey.

My husband is much more cheerful when he's sick than I am... well, just in general. Extra glad to be married to him today :)

Getting to lick the bowl of cake batter.

Hearing Jacob try to explain what's going on in various episodes of Xena. This show is ridiculous.

A nice long talk with my friend Carissa, who I haven't spoken with in ages. That was refreshing :-)

Laptop from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Brian Kelley, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
While I do need to get a new computer soon-ish, I'm very glad my current one is still up and running for now.

I just exceeded my daily work goals. By a fair amount. I like when that happens :-)

My federal loan payments have been successfully recalculated. They are MUCH more manageable now.

I got some housework done. I've been feeling overwhelmed with it, so getting anything done is an awesome feeling.

Watching Puppy play with an empty milk jug. Just makes me laugh.

My shoulder was suddenly (and weirdly) arthritic yesterday, but today it's not. Phew.

A sink that is no longer full of dirty dishes. Progress!


So grateful to have a husband who supports my introversion.

The way our house smells right now while Jacob's cooking chicken with garlic. YUM.

Finishing terrifying projects and being able to breathe again.

I got Jacob to like Heathers. HA!

The bacon and cheese stuffed crust from Pizza Hut. I'm sure it's like 9 trillion calories a slice, but IT'S SO GOOD.

"And if you try to hold me down, I'm gonna spit in your eye and say YOU CAN'T STOP THE BEAT!"

An article I was not confident about at all was just accepted with comments saying it was my best ever. Confusing, but yay. :-)

"Code monkey get up, get coffee, code monkey go to job, code monkey have boring meeting with boring manager Rob."

Sutton Foster. I don't like the music for Little Women, but I'm always impressed by her version of "Astonishing."

The thunderstorm that kept making Lumps bark and wake me up this morning passed pretty quickly and I *did* get back to sleep. Phew.
We're having muffins & rice for dinner tonight. That's pretty much exactly what I want right now.

The Daria musical episode.

Our house is clean. Like cleaner than it's been since we moved in.

In the process of cleaning, we finally found my external hard drive, which I've needed for months!

I saw a blue jay today and it was beautiful.

I didn't go to church this morning, so I had the house all to myself without needing to get work done. GREAT recharging time.

Fall. I took a walk with Jacob today and it was LOVELY.

Tomorrow is my birthday!

I have a chance to do a mini theater workshop next week. I miss teaching theater.

Jacob & I had plans today, but we canceled them to lounge around doing nothing. Introvert heaven!

It means a lot to me when my friends feel safe telling me things they can't tell other people.

The "Monorail!" song from The Simpsons.

The Cape Fear Simpsons parody. That gets my vote for the best episode. Up through season 11, anyway, which is as far as I've gotten.

"Oh, no! I look like a chimney sweep!" #TheyCameTogether

And while I'm at it, Michael Shannon's cameo. I laughed a lot. #TheyCameTogether

Technology. Technology is just cool.

Creepy covers of cheerful pop songs.

The Evil Dead musical. Fantastically funny with some awesome music.

"It All Fades Away" from the Bridges of Madison County musical. Gosh.

Did my high school theater workshop today. Gosh, I've missed teaching theater so much.

That weird-but-awesome aftertaste of SUPER dark chocolate.

Gorgeous autumn days.

Long talks about philosophy and Christianity with my dad.

Figuring out how to easily post to this account with my phone. :-)

Thoughtful analysis of seemingly fluffy pop culture, like this one.

"We can start and finish wars, we're what killed the dinosaurs." #Heathers

Melted cheese. Yummmm.

The song "All Is Well." It's just so gorgeous.

Every single sad Charlie Brown joke on #ArrestedDevelopment

What has made you happy recently?