1000 Words: Why I Write

Dear Mr. Wendig,

You asked your readers to write a thousand words on why we write.  My honest answer is, “I don’t really know.”  Truly.  Like most writers, I’ve written off and on ever since I could pick up a pencil and make words come out of it.

I couldn’t tell you why I feel compelled to sit down and write every day.  What I do know is that since I made the commitment to myself to put my butt in the chair every single day and do something creative, something has shifted.  Profoundly.

The only mentors I’ve had are the authors who bare their souls about their process, and what it takes to be a writer.  There was no parental encouragement, no teachers taking me under their wings, nothing of that sort.  I would write, then I would set it aside.  Then I would try again.

Two years ago, I got laid off.  My job was eliminated based on a salesperson’s promise to someone who had no idea what I did.  At the time, I thought my path was photography, and an advocacy blog for young women in the form of letters to my nieces.

The photography wasn’t selling, and it was hard to find my writing voice in an overcrowded field of advocates.  None of the resumes I sent out were getting responses.  I was running out of money and had cashed in everything I could.

On top of this, a very dear friend of over 30 years, who was more family to me than anything, was dying from terminal cancer.  I had no energy to do anything except recognize I needed to break out of the loop I was in, even while I was perpetuating the loop.

Books have always been my solace.  In a tumultuous childhood, reading was the one thing I could do guaranteed not to get me in trouble.  A few months ago, a book fell into my life which literally changed my life.  A cliche I wish I could avoid.  Anne Lamott‘s, bird by bird, contained an essay about “shitty first drafts.”

All my life I’d heard and read the worn out axiom, “A writer writes.”  And the advice to just put one word after another, never mind the self-critic.  I would nod in agreement and then get caught up with the internal naysayer who told me what I was writing was silly and stupid; that no one would ever want to read it, not even me.

But Anne Lamott said it in a way that got under my skin.  “Wait, wait, wait,” I thought.  “You mean… you’re seriously telling me to just write for the joy of it?  To write because I want to, every day, with no thought as to who might be reading it?  That if I don’t like it I can toss it and no one will ever know?”  This was like the magic incantation I’d been waiting for.

I can’t tell you why it was this book and this advice which finally took root.  Many writing mentors I’d never met had been saying the very same thing everywhere I looked.  But somehow, Anne Lamott is the one who got through.

Nothing else was working.  I was still unemployed with no assets, surviving only through the good graces of my dead friend’s family.  I was supremely miserable and couldn’t see a way out.  Photography seemed like a broken relationship I couldn’t restart.

What the hell?  I’d commit to butt in chair every day doing something creative.  It didn’t matter for how long, or how many words.  It just mattered that every damned day, no matter my mood, I would be creative.  No word counts.  Just me and the computer.

When I didn’t know what to write about, I wrote about the books I read.  Then I started writing other things.  Little 500 word things, developed because I wanted the discipline of writing something I liked within 500 words.

Around July 4th, I posted a temper tantrum on Facebook.  There was an interview that I had absolutely nailed, but someone fumbled the communication between hiring manager, company HR and the temp agency.  I lost the job for no other reason than someone misconstrued something I said and would not believe otherwise.  When the recruiter told me, “I’m sorry we lost this job for you,” I didn’t know what to do.

A long-time friend in Australia read my tantrum and contacted me via Skype.  We had a really long talk in which I cried and told her everything.  And then she said the words I’d been waiting for someone to say to me, “I’ll be your mentor.”

She completely understood where I was coming from and that I recognized I needed to take small steps towards my goal of making money being creative.  Or rather, the goal of paying the bills with something I loved instead of just another office job.  Only I didn’t know what those steps were or how to take them.

“You are a writer,” she said.  “You write so well, this is what you should be doing.  Seriously.  I’ll help.”  After two years of praying for a mentor, here she was.  Not quite a month later, I’ve established a reasonable publishing schedule and have a calendar reminding me of what’s in progress.  I’m happier than I’ve been in some time.

I’m not any less broke or worried about paying rent and bills.  But I’m writing every single day, even the ones I don’t feel like writing on.  And my mentor is just a Skype away.  And it’s led to my first paid writing job, writing blog posts for her because her business is successful enough that she doesn’t have time and can afford to hire someone to do it for her.

Of all the ways to make money, writing wasn’t one I’d considered.  I was just writing for me.  I was compelled to write, it makes me happy.

Maybe the reason I write is that simple, it makes me happy.

Reading Ovid: Metamorphoses – Book Eleven

Translated by David Raeburn

Title: Metamorphoses
Author: Ovid, translated by Daniel Raeburn
Published: Reprint, 2004
ISBN-13: 978-0140447897
Publisher: Penguin Classics

Book OneBook TwoBook ThreeBook FourBook FiveBook SixBook SevenBook Eight Book Nine Book Ten Book TwelveBook ThirteenBook FourteenBook Fifteen

Book Eleven has 795 lines on 39 pages.

Book Eleven starts with the death of Orpheus at the hands of the “wild Ciconian women.”  They tear Orpheus to pieces because after Eurydice’s second death he refused to get involved with women, but rather immature boys (see Book Ten).  At last, Orpheus and Eurydice are reunited in the underworld and can walk side by side.

Bacchus punishes the women by turning them into trees.  Further, he is so displeased with Thrace that he takes a band of dancers and heads for the kingdom of Midas.

After Midas has performed a good deed for one of Bacchus’ followers, he is offered any gift he wants.  Ovid portrays Midas as a slow-witted buffoon, greedy with little thought.  He asks for the “golden touch,” so that anything he touches will turn into gold.  It’s not too long before the misfortune of this boon is found.

Literally, anything Midas touches turns to gold.  His food, his servants, his clothing, his … everything.  He begins to starve because he can’t eat gold.  So he asks Bacchus to take the “gift” away and return him to normal.  But Midas isn’t done being stupid.

When he’s observing a musical contest between Pan and Apollo, he calls the decision of Apollo as the better musician “unfair.”  Which, of course, pisses Apollo right off.  Midas’ reward for this opinion?  Donkey ears.  Apollo gives him donkey ears, which Midas tries to hide from everyone.

Right there, that’s the origin story of the phrase “the Midas touch”  and the meaning of having donkey ears as stupid.  I love learning things like that.

I am mostly going to skip the details of the story about Peleus and Thetis because it’s  another story about rape, and it’s becoming easier to get fed up with these stories.  However, it’s an important story because it leads to the argument which began the Trojan War.

The story of Peleus and Thetis is also important because it leads into the story of Peleus being exiled for the murder of Phocus, his half-brother.  Peleus winds up in the court of Ceyx, in Thessaly.

There’s a story about the giant wolf rampaging on the beach eating and destroying all the livestock.  After the wolf has been turned into a marble statue, King Ceyx decides that he must consult the Apollonian oracle at Claros.

This involves a sea voyage, Ceyx’s wife, Alcyone pleads with him to go overland instead.

Just tell me you’re journeying overland, then I’ll only miss you
and won’t be also afraid.  I’ll fret without being frightened.
But no, you are going by sea, and that is the ugly picture
which fills me with terror.  I recently noticed a wrecked ship’s boards
on the shore, and I’ve often read names of graves containing no bodies.
(lines 424 = 429)

And then the mother of all storms hits.  This being an epic poem featuring Roman mythology, I should rephrase that.  A great big storm happens, caused by nature, not by gods (surprise!).  Everyone on board is killed, the ship itself is destroyed.  Ceyx dies wishing he could see his wife Alcyone again.

Meanwhile, Alcyone is at home weaving new clothes for them to wear once Ceyx returns.  She has no idea that disaster has struck.  She goes to Juno’s temple frequently to pray for her husband’s safe return.

The catch with Juno is that praying for dead people is considered unclean, and she no longer wants her temple polluted by Alcyone’s prayers.  Juno’s solution is to send a messenger to Sleep telling him to send a dream lifelike enough for Alcyone to know that her beloved husband is dead.

Iris arrives at the palace of Somnus, and  delivers her message.  Sleep rouses himself long enough to choose Morpheus:

… the master mimic, the quickest of all to capture
a person’s walk, his facial expressions and tone of voice;
he’ll also adopt the original’s clothing and typical language.
(lines 634 – 637)

Morpheus enters Alcyone’s dreams and convinces her of the truth her husband is dead.  In deep grief, she returns to the spot where they said their last goodbye.  Off in the distance is something which looks like a body.

As it gets closer, she recognizes it as Ceyx and jumps onto a groyne (new word!) to get a better look.  She is turned into a bird, and flies to Cyex’s body to try to kiss him.  He too is turned into a bird and they fly off together.

This story, while sad, is refreshing in its portrayal of love and devotion.  It happens sometimes in Ovid.

Personal Log: July 20 – July 26, 2015

Disney, Green Army Guy, 1999
Green Army Guy, 1999

Working with my first client to create images and write a blog post for her. So nice to be able to work as a creative person for people who want me to try different things. I love this life.

An interview which didn’t turn into an offer.  Shunned by my temp agency again.  Okay, Universe, I hear you.  I don’t belong in an office.  Please bring more clients so I can pay my bills.

Shift change at the career center.  I will be no longer attending “success team” meetings.  They weren’t a good fit for me because I’m looking for creative work.  Wonderful support and encouragement from my career advisors.

Writing, writing, writing.  Publishing schedule is set for:

Sundays = Personal Log
Tuesdays = Review
Thursday = 500 Words or Photographic Evidence

A lot of research and installation of stuff on the back end to make things easier both for me and my readers.

And, apparently, Chuck Wendig wants 1,000 words on why I write.

500 Words: The Friend I Want to Be

My friend Don died too young from cancer at the age of 57 in 2014.  We were friends for over 30 years and I’ve never felt so helpless as  when he was dying.

Throughout our lives together Don challenged me to be better.  Whether  thinking  through a problem, or how to take a breath and not to take things so personally.  I learned by watching, and he changed me greatly.

Over the years he pulled me through scrapes with a patience and generosity that sometimes made me stand in awe.  We frustrated each other, laughed together and helped each other.

He’s the only friend I’ve had who would sit across the table from me and read while having a burger at our favorite place.  We both loved to read and we were that comfortable with each other.  It just seemed natural for this to be one of our shared activities.

One of his great loves was playing blues bass guitar.  When he joined a band, I became the band photographer because it was a way to practice my own craft.  As members came and went, I watched him guide and mentor many of them.

One was a singer with a great raw talent whose confidence would get shaken occasionally.  He would buy CDs of the great blues singers, including Candye Kane, and tell her, “This is what you need to learn to do.  This is how the greats sing.”  He taught her about the blues in general and sat with her while she learned new songs.  He treated many others with the same mentorship.

Ten years before he died, I moved into my own apartment. Often he would contact me to say, “If you’re not listening to/reading/watching xyz, you really should be.  I think you’d like it.”  He was almost always right.  Almost.

As maddening as he could be, Don taught patience, compassion, and a level of generosity far beyond what I already knew.  We often talked about what friends did for each other, especially when one was in crisis mode.  I would tell people that of course I was going to help Don, it’s what friends do.  There were things I would rather not have done for him (a certain pee bottle comes to mind), and I did them anyway because he needed me.

He reinforced the notion that true friends will do everything in their power for each other.  In learning to be the friend I wanted, belief in myself became stronger, and the friends I wanted to have began appearing.  I strove to be more kind, patient, compassionate, tolerant and generous.  I can’t imagine living my life any other way.  I’m not sure Don understood how instrumental he was in these lessons.

As his epitaph, Don’s father chose, “A gentle man.”  How perfect.   Don was indeed gentle, and he is missed.  I give thanks for all the things he taught me and strive to continue living the lessons I learned from him.

Reading Ovid: Metamorphoses – Book Ten

Translated by David Raeburn

Title: Metamorphoses
Author: Ovid, translated by Daniel Raeburn
Published: Reprint, 2004
ISBN-13: 978-0140447897
Publisher: Penguin Classics

Book OneBook TwoBook ThreeBook FourBook FiveBook SixBook SevenBook Eight Book Nine Book Eleven Book TwelveBook ThirteenBook FourteenBook Fifteen

Book Ten has 738  lines on 37 pages.

If someone were to ask me if I thought they should read Metamorphoses, my response would be “should?  no.”  No one “should” read anything.  But I would definitely encourage them to try.  This book is not for everyone, it is big and challenging.  It can be a struggle, there have been times when I’ve just wanted to walk away from it and say, “I tried.”  And yet I keep slugging it out.

It is worth trying.  It is worth wrestling with.  Metamorphoses has influenced twenty centuries of western culture and art.  There are recognizable stories and imagery.

Be gentle with yourself when the going gets tough.  And if you find you cannot, or do not want to, finish, be gentle.  This is a tough book, and it requires stamina and vigilance and devotion.  There is no shame in putting it down.  Metamorphoses can be graphically violent and filled with stories which test the reader.  It is also filled with beautiful language and relates tales of the Roman gods, and the mortals who worship them.  It can be silly and uplifting.  To me, it is a challenge worth pursuing.

My edition comes with a two page overview of each book, and excellent end-notes.  The translation is easy to read.  Even then, I turn to others’ expertise to better understand what I’m reading.  There is no way I could read this book without help.

Before we meet Orpheus, famous bard and poet, who loses his wife, Eurydice twice in Book 10, mention must be made of the irony that it opens with an invitation to a wedding.  It’s not the wedding itself which is ironic, it is that Hymen, the god of  marriage ceremonies is invited.  The very thing society has cherished in women as proof of their virtue is male.

Eurydice is walking to the altar when she is bit in the ankle by a snake and dies from its venom.  Orpheus follows her to the underworld to plead for her return. Everyone is so moved by his song and tears that even the Furies cry real tears for the first time.  Proserpina and Hades release Eurydice with the admonition that Orpheus is to walk in front of her on the way and not look back until they are both out of the underworld.

I’m sure you see this coming.  Orpheus reaches outside a few steps ahead of his wife and looks back waiting for her to come even with him.  Since she is still in the underworld, she disappears back into its depths and Orpheus loses her the second time.

Sounds like Lot in Genesis in the Old Testament, doesn’t it?  Only it’s Lot’s wife who is told not to turn back and look.  Of course she does look back and is turned into a pillar of salt.

From that time on,  Orpheus refused the company of women.  Here again, it is the homosexuality (or bisexuality) of men which is accepted, and only with very young men.

Orpheus even started the practice among the Thracian
tribes of turning for love to immature males and of plucking
the flower of a boy’s brief spring before he has come to his manhood.
lines 83 – 85


Hyacinth and Phoebus adore each other, always together hunting, playing and relaxing.  One day, they are playing what amounts to a game of Frisbee, only with a heavy discus.   Phoebus throws it, and as Hyacinth runs to catch it, the discus bounces off the ground and hits him in the face, killing him.  Instead of allowing Hades to take him to the underworld, Phoebus turns Hyacinth into a flower.

Pygmalion, the sculptor, fell in love with his own creation, much as Henry Higgins did with Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, which became the musical and movie, My Fair Lady.  (The play has a much different ending than the musical and movie.)

The gist of Pygmalion’s story is that he was so sickened by the vices of women that he eschews them, instead sculpting the perfect woman.  She was so perfect that Pygmalion would caress her much as anyone would caress a living woman.  Praying and making sacrifices to Venus, he asks for a woman just like his “ivory maiden.”  Hearing his supplications, Venus turns the statue into Pygmalion’s dream living woman.

Myrrha‘s story is just as icky as Byblis‘ (see Book Nine).  While her mother is away from home participating in the annual rites for Ceres, Myrrha confesses her love to her nurse.  Nursie then sneaks Myrrha into her father’s bed, who thinks she is some other young girl.  For nine nights they have sex.  King Cinyras is outraged when he finds out it’s his daughter he’s been sleeping with, he tries to kill her.  Myrhha runs away and, while pregnant with her son, Adonis, is turned into the myrrh tree.

Adonis is born and grows into a very beautiful man, one which Venus falls in love with by accident (because her son Cupid grazed her with one of his arrows.)  As they are lounging one day, she tells the story of Atalanta and Hippomenes (not the Atalanta found in Book 8).

Atalanta is a highly pursued beauty who can outrun anyone.  She is warned by an oracle to avoid men,

But you shall not escape.  You will lose yourself, without losing your life.
(line 366)

Suitors continued their quest, despite Atalanta’s rule that any man who does not outrun her will be killed.  (Much like Red Sonja who receives incredible fighting skills, on the condition that she never sleep with a man unless he defeats her in fair combat.)  One day, Hippomenes arrives on the scene and Atalanta is smitten.  There follows a soliloquy in which she examines her feelings and argues with herself about actually racing Hippomenes.

In the meantime, Hippomenes has prayed to Venus for help to win the race and thus, the hand of Atalanta.  Venus answers his prayers by giving him three golden apples with which to distract Atalanta.  Hippomenes wins the day and takes her as his wife.  But he is so filled with lust that they profane the temple of Cybele with their love-making.

Cybele is so angry she decided summarily sending the couple across the river Styx is not harsh enough punishment and turns them into lions.

At this point, Venus admonishes Adonis to stay away from lions and other animals “that won’t turn tail but bare their teeth for a fight.”  (line 706)

Venus leaves Adonis, who goes hunting and finds himself cornered in a cave by a boar which impales him in the groin with its tusks.  As Adonis lies dying on the floor of the cave, Venus hears his cries of pain and rushes back to him.  Unable to save him, she changes Adonis into a pomegranate.

Anemones5” by Aviad2001Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.

… But this new flower has only a short life:
flimsy and loose on its stem, it is easy shaken and blown
away by the winds which give it the name of anemone – wind-flower.
(lines 736 – 738)

Ovid continues to pack quite a bit into just 37 pages.

Personal Log: July 13 – July 19, 2015

7StillwellWhile thinking about the events of last week, it seemed nothing of great consequence had happened.  Unless you count the design of my new logo and masthead.  Followed by some mundanities of behind the scene work on 7 Stillwell like installing and configuring plugins.

There was an interview for a job I didn’t get and appointments to talk with people to make sure my head’s still screwed on right.  Support for my creative path coming from unexpected places.

This really cool font identification site.

And this from my reading of Book Ten as posted on Facebook:  “Wait, wait, wait … just started Ovid’s Book 10 and the first line says Hymen is the male god of the marriage feast? Hymen is MALE?”  This is one of the many reasons I keep slugging it out with Ovid.

And then this about my encounter with a young man who wanted to talk about writing:

It was both hot and muggy outside today. All I had been thinking about while standing at the counter was how much I just wanted to go home, change my clothes and sit down to eat lunch. The money handler got my total wrong and went back to fix it. My sandwich maker looked up as I said, ‘Yeah, that’s a lot of words to write.’ And then he wanted to talk about writing and what my writing was about and what I did. As I disengaged and walked to the door, my thought turned to how I hadn’t taken him seriously. This kid just wanted to talk about writing and ask questions. Whether he is serious about it or not, I regret that I didn’t take a few more seconds to listen and encourage him as I wish people had when I was that age. So much to learn.

I think I also walked away because I felt like such a fraud in a way.  It’s the first time anyone outside of my tribe has asked about my writing and my tap dance was a mile a minute because I didn’t know what to say.  Since I’ve finally begun to own that I am a writer, it sort of took me by surprise.

How was your week?

Book Review: People of Darkness

People of Darkness Tony Hillerman
People of Darkness
Tony Hillerman

Title: People of Darkness
Author: Tony Hillerman
Series: Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee (#4)
Published: 1982
ISBN: 038057778-x
Publisher: Avon

Part One Part Two

Tony Hillerman is a part of my formative years.  I discovered him while living in New Mexico, probably during high school.  Reading his books are sort of like coming home for me.  Even though I lived along  north I-25, and the books take place along west I-40, the descriptions of Navajo culture resonates deeply.  I can still see the vivid colors and smell the Indian Fry Bread.

In the Navajo language, the word for mole translates to People of Darkness, those who come from below.  The book hinges on the origin of the mole fetishes carried by six Navajo men, who survived an oil well explosion in the late 1940s.  These men also belonged to a peyote church whose leader had a vision which warned them to stay away from the well on the day of the explosion.

People of Darkness is the introduction of Jim Chee into the world Tony Hillerman has created.  Chee is faced with big decisions; FBI or Navajo Police, cop or singer and healer for his people.  As he gets pulled deeper into the mystery of a stolen box filled with mementos, a hired assassin and six deaths from cancer, Chee nearly gets killed himself.

Hillerman’s mysteries are kept from being run of the mill by the intersection of white and Navajo culture.  Since they’re set on Navajo land which has sketchy boundaries at best, there’s always jurisdictional issues.  FBI or Navajo Police?  Sheriff or BIA?  Some combination of that or someone else?  In Hillerman’s books, FBI almost always thinks it’s their jurisdiction.

What I’m most appreciative of are the descriptions of manners and customs.  One does not drive up to someone’s home and knock on the door.  One parks 30 feet away and waits for someone to come to the door and invite you in.

Navajo religion plays a big part in these books as well.  Navajos seek harmony and believe that a person’s illness is caused by being out of harmony.  A healer determines which ceremonies must be performed in order to bring the person back into harmony.  Cancer isn’t a disease of uranium poisoning through mole fetishes, it’s being out of harmony.  It’s Chee’s understanding of this concept and his training to be a singer which helps him understand how the pieces fit together.

People of Darkness is also the introduction of Mary Landon, a white teacher from Wisconsin.  Hillerman has Chee and Landon do the dance of inter-racial suspicions before they settle into a friendship.  She’s described as the typical white woman Chee knows so well as someone looking for a good time with him because he’s Native American.  He’s described as the typical Navajo who is suspicious of anyone white.  It’s fun to read how the dynamics change between them as the story progresses.

Tony Hillerman’s mysteries are not deep, most books run right around 200 – 300 pages.  They’re a fun way to pass an evening, and some days that’s all anyone can want.

Review: Minions

The Minions Movie
The Minions Movie

I have loved the little yellow absurdities known as the Minions since Despicable Me.  I giggle at their antics and their lovable interactions with the three adopted girls, Margo, Edith, and Agnes.

Are there problems with the movies?  Yes.  Sexist tropes by the handful, stupid scatological jokes, and mean parents, and violence to name a few.

And okay, I get that there are huge problems with the gender stereotyping in Minions.  My friend, Melissa, at Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies has a great article about the problems of gender in animated movies, in general, starting with specific issues with Minions.

When Melissa first brought this up on Facebook, I was a little chagrined that I hadn’t actually noticed.  Minions have always been genderless, or gender-fluid to me, so the fact the three main minions were named Kevin, Stuart and Bob just kinda flew by me.  Yeah, okay they’re male names but honestly, I didn’t see anything particularly male about them.  Except Bob.  Bob has always been a goofy little boy who flirts with yellow fire hydrants pretending to be a player and failing.  As the narrator says, “Bob’s an idiot.”  Bob has always been like that, in all three movies.

Kevin is the leader.  He’s the one who steps up to go on a quest to save the minions from the mind-numbing leaderless time they’re spending in ice caves.  Minions need someone to serve, and Kevin volunteers to lead the quest.  When he sees Scarlet Overkill, it is game over for him.  He falls in love with her, not because she is some ideal of feminine beauty but because she is the most evil villain in the world and he wants to work for her.

And loveable little Stuart hauls his eyeless, over loved teddy bear with him everywhere, adopting animals along the way, including a rat he names Butchie.  He’s afraid to enter the larger world and Kevin and Bob make sure he knows they’re right there for him.

I still think it’s brilliant that Scarlet Overkill is the evil villain.  She is so deliciously over the top and up to no good.  There’s even a little girl sitting in the audience when Scarlet makes her first overblown entrance who stands on her chair and excitedly proclaims, “I want to be just like Scarlet when I grow up.”

Scarlet’s dream doesn’t reach far enough.  She only wants to steal the Queen of England’s crown because she wants to be a princess, because, “everyone loves princesses.”  Scarlet clearly didn’t get enough love as a child and her stunted childhood dream is to be a princess so people will love her.  No super villain has come from a family where there was enough joy and love and support.  They wouldn’t be villains if they had.

I also thought it was brilliant that when the minions stole the crown, the Queen started hanging out at the pub drinking pints and telling jokes with the common man.  (And yes, they were all men.)

Things happen, Kevin is made king because he stole the crown and that makes Scarlet very angry.  But all Kevin wants to do is serve Scarlet, because that’s his purpose in life, to serve.  So he abdicates, and then her coronation day gets spoiled by another super villain.

Make no mistake, Scarlet turns into a whiny, petulant child when she doesn’t get her way.  She is stuck in a childhood dream which makes no sense.  She believes that she must be pretty and have a tiny waist to be adored.  And yes, that’s a big problem in terms of gender stereotypes.  There’s also a stereotypical gay hairdresser who doesn’t quite understand why his vision isn’t better than the childhood crayon drawing of a stick figure princess with “curly” hair.

At the end of the movie Gru arrives on the scene, uses his freeze ray gun and Kevin knows where the minions belong.  This is really the story that connects Despicable Me and the minions, it’s the story about how Gru and the minions found each other.

The biggest problems I had with the movie were not the gender stereotypes but the violence.    And the stupid jokes given to Bob who flirts with yellow fire hydrants and shows the audience his thong underwear.  That was just idiotic.

For all of that, I’m glad the conversation is ongoing about problems with representation of boys and girls in movies.  About how movies sell women and girls short on a regular basis and how men and boys are shortchanged on learning to be anything other than stoic, protective, fumble fingered with emotions, and yes, stupid.

Director Pierre Coffin didn’t help himself by saying he made the minions boys because “boys are stupid” and he couldn’t imagine girls being that stupid.  If what he meant to say was that little boys do goofy things because they’re little boys and little girls don’t tend to do the same goofy things, that’s a different story.  Saying girls are smarter than boys doesn’t help.

Yes, I see the point of the criticisms of Minions, and I’m glad Melissa’s post addresses some of the larger issues in cartoons and how girls/women are portrayed.  I do get it.

From a story-teller’s point of view, it’s the story of three yellow things (out of thousands) who go on a quest to find their purpose in life.  It’s the story of how the minions met Gru.  That’s the point of the story.  That one of the villains is a woman inspiring a little girl is something we should cheer for.  That the Queen became a “regular” person is something we should cheer for.  It’s a step forward.  A small one to be sure, but it is a step.  And that’s something to cheer for too.

Personal Log: July 6 – July 12, 2015

July 2015
July 2015

This was the week of my 56th birthday and my friends made sure I celebrated well.  Money was made available for treats, especially my favorite pizza, and there were shared meals.

The reminder of what it feels like to be able to do something that was once within reach was a good one.  I felt good going and doing things as I once had, it reminds me of the possibilities.

But it wasn’t just about the food, it was the company, of course.  The deep conversations I find so satisfying.  About what’s happening, the self-revelations and the next steps.  Nothing but encouragement as I recommitted myself to Butt-in-Chair every day to do something creative.

Then there was the brave step I took to meet people I didn’t know for trivia night.  That was right too.  The people were kind and fun to be around.  First Monday in August will likely find me back making jokes over stupid trivia questions I don’t know the answer to.

I continue making contacts with people for informational interviews in order to fill out my application for a training grant.  I’m looking for people who are Salesforce Admins, so give me a shout in comments if you are one or know someone who wouldn’t mind talking to me.

It’s been a while I’ve been to a movie, much less opening day.  So much fun to be in a theatre filled with kids watching the Minions and giggling.  That felt good too.

Another friend sent a copy of Frozen because I have apparently missed out.

But the absolute best gift was reconnecting with a friend in Australia who has offered to be my mentor as I dig back into building a way to make money on my own.  This has been a prayer in motion for two years and I am so grateful to have her take me by the hand and help me along the baby steps.  She’s keeping me focused on the beginning, offering advice on what I should be doing now and what doesn’t need to be worried about later.  Which, of course, serves as a continued commitment to Butt-in-Chair every day.

I am grateful for the way my life is unfolding and for the help I am getting along the way.  Not having a paycheck sucks, not knowing how I’m going to pay the bills and the rent really sucks.  I’ve managed to survive for two years, and don’t plan on giving up.  It is more than hard some days, but this past week has shown me I can keep doing it and there are people who love me and will help.

Reading Ovid: Metamorphoses – Book Nine

Translated by David Raeburn

Title: Metamorphoses
Author: Ovid, translated by Daniel Raeburn
Published: Reprint, 2004
ISBN-13: 978-0140447897
Publisher: Penguin Classics

Book OneBook TwoBook ThreeBook FourBook FiveBook SixBook SevenBook EightBook Ten Book Eleven Book TwelveBook ThirteenBook FourteenBook Fifteen

Book Nine has 797 lines on 40 pages.

I have this idea I should  read the book the author has written, not the book I wanted him to write.  Ovid is a first century poet whose stories reflect the times and norms in which he lived.  In Book Nine, we encounter two stories of “inappropriate” love, and the way Ovid handles them says more about his world than anything else.

We meet Hercules and learn about the contests he’s had to prove his strength and worth.  Achelous, the river-god, challenges Hercules to a fight for a woman named Deianira.  In the end, the god’s superior strength and shape-shifting ability are no match for Hercules who breaks off one of the horns while Achelous is in the shape of a bull.

The story of Hercules and Nessus reminds me of the story about the woman who helps a scorpion cross the river.  In order to get her help, the scorpion promises not to sting her but halfway across stings her anyway.  When questioned, the scorpion replies, “You knew what I was before we started across.”

Nessus is a centaur with poisonous blood and a deep desire for Deianira.  When Hercules and his wife encounter a raging river, which she can’t swim, Nessus volunteers to help.  Hercules will swim across and meet them on the other side.  Except, you know how this goes.  Nessus tries to make off with Delanira and Hercules kills him with arrows.  In his last act, Nessus gives Delanira the shirt he’s bled on as a gift which would “excite” Hercules.

Never take gifts from those whom you know to be untrustworthy.  The final price isn’t worth paying.

In “The Death of Hercules,” Rumour spreads gossip about Hercules to Delanira, who believes what she hears.

Rumour whose joy it is to embroider the truth with falsehood
and grows by her lies to gigantic proportions from tiny beginnings.
(lines 137 – 138)

In Delanira’s brief soliloquy she weighs her options, leave Hercules or try to “regain” his love.  Not realizing the poison which Nessus’ shirt is soaked in, she has a servant  deliver the shirt, as a gift, to Hercules who is performing his ritual in the Temple of Jupiter.

Of course, Ovid writes “revolting to detail” (line 167)  and then proceeds to graphically describe the effect of this poison on Hercules.  This also gives Hercules the opportunity to list the Twelve Labors he’d performed.  Basically he says, “I did all these heroic deeds, and this is how I die?”

Jupiter steps in, saying that since Hercules is half mortal on his mother’s side,  and immortal on his father’s (Jupiter) side, only the mortal parts of Hercules will burn away, making him an immortal welcomed to the halls of Olympus.

Next is a different story of love.  To say Byblis has issues would be putting it mildly.  Hers is a story of unrequited love and her struggle to not give into her darker impulses.  Because the man she burns for is her twin brother.

She makes many arguments trying to reason through why incest isn’t such a bad idea.  They are not yet adults, it can be blamed on their youth.  The gods slept with their siblings, why can’t they?  She would never turn Caunus’ advances down if he were to make them, so why shouldn’t she make the advances herself?

The ick factor is high with this one, but the way Ovid writes her is almost sympathetic.  If she were a young woman burning for a man not related, one could feel compassion for her.

Byblis’ solution is to write a letter to Caunus describing her deep abiding love to him, expecting him to reciprocate those feelings.  Of course, Caunus is appalled and livid to receive such a message, throwing the tablet it’s written on across the room and threatening to kill the messenger.

Shocked at the response she receives, Byblis loses her mind and travels the country exhibiting her grief quite publicly.  Exhausted, she falls to the ground weeping and the Carian nymphs try to console her.  She is quite inconsolable and turned into a spring.

And finally, there’s the story of Iphis, whose love is also problematic.  While her mother is pregnant, her husband threatens to kill the baby if it’s not a boy.  To save the life of her new-born girl, she lies.

Iphis is raised as a boy.  At the age of thirteen, her father arranges a wedding between her and her best friend, Ianthe.  Ianthe comes from a wealthy family and will provide a large dowry.  She’s fallen in love with Iphis believing she’s male.

but Iphis loved without hope of ever enjoying her loved one,
which made her passion the stronger – a girl in love with a girl!
Almost in tears, she sighed:  Oh, what will become of me now?
I’m possessed by a love that no one has heard of, a new kind of passion,
a monstrous desire!  If heaven had truly wanted to spare me,
It ought to have done so.  If not, and the gods were out to destroy me,
they might at least have sent me some natural normal affliction.
(lines 723 – 730)

Iphis’ soliloquy is heart wrenching as she mourns for the love that cannot be.  She prays to the gods asking why they were causing the wedding to go forward when they knew Iphis would never know the physical love of her wife.

Her mother is equally troubled and does all she can to postpone the wedding day.  Here, it’s made clear that Iphis has no idea why the lie has been told, and that her father has remained clueless all these years.

The day before the wedding is set, mom takes Iphis to the temple of the Egyptian goddess, Isis, and prays for help.  It was Isis who had visited during childbirth offering exhortations to lie about Iphis’ gender, in order to protect her life.  The temple trembles as the prayers are offered, which is taken as a “propitious omen.”

As mother and child leave the temple, Iphis’ body changes, and she becomes a boy.  Joyously, Iphis takes his place beside his bride, Ianthe, knowing that he will be able to fulfill his husbandly duties.

While reading the story of Iphis, I  had to remind myself that Ovid’s audience was not twenty-first century citizens who had just witnessed the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US.  His audience would have had very real phobias and concerns about homosexuality.

Only the very rich men, and the scholarly, were allowed to sate their sexual desires in any way they chose.  Though they were often portrayed as bisexual rather than homosexual.  Women were not allowed this freedom.

As with all hierarchical patriarchies, what is okay for the upper classes is definitely not okay, and can often be seen as shameful, for the lower classes.  Thus, the reflection of the times in the story of Iphis who must become a man before getting married to his love.