Friday, December 30, 2011

Musings of an Introvert

As we welcome the new year, I've realized just how much has happened over the past year that I hadn't planned on. I was promoted at work to a completely different branch library and a totally different position. Lots of new and fun learning experiences there, plus lots of new responsibilities. I started classes at a new university, this one a Christian university out east (online) that I really, really love. I hadn't realized just how much I yearned to be in a Christian learning environment until I was actually in one.

Most of all, I realized that I'm actually an introvert. What's more, that introverted side of me is becoming stronger now that I realize it's actually there. There's a board game night at a local church on New Year's Eve. Caitlin's planning to go with a young coworker of hers, also named Kaitlyn. I'm invited too but I have absolutely no inclination to go. Which has me wondering if my being this introverted is actually a bad thing. I've always been shy at social events with people I don't know. It's hard on me emotionally and my conversation skills fly right out the window.

Yet, despite my thoughts that this is actually a bad thing, I'm not unhappy in my introvertedness.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mini Period Drama Review: Little Dorrit (2008)

So, it seems that I have a Femnista article due on Little Dorrit in a few weeks (you can find most of my Femnista articles listed here). I believe January 17th, to be precise. Now comes the issue of what to write! I'm a verbose person who, if you give me a novel to write about, I could probably write an article as long as the book. Well, maybe not Little Dorrit, but some books. I'm wavering between writing about the tragedy of Mr. Dorrit's life or the gentle faith of Amy Dorrit. I could even do something on the nature of Mr. Clennam because I do have some intriguing notions about him. Sometimes the weakness of heroes is that they are too kind and therefore are either trod upon or they are too indulgent of weaknesses in others. Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House anyone?

a little Charles Dickens love

So, it seems that I have a Femnista article due on Little Dorrit in a few weeks. I believe January 17th, to be precise. Now comes the issue of what to write! I'm a verbose person who, if you give me a novel to write about, I could probably write an article as long as the book. Well, maybe not Little Dorrit, but some books. I'm wavering between writing about the tragedy of Mr. Dorrit's life or the gentle faith of Amy Dorrit. I could even do something on the nature of Mr. Clennam because I do have some intriguing notions about him. Sometimes the weakness of heroes is that they are too kind and therefore are either trod upon or they are too indulgent of weaknesses in others. Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House anyone?

I'm extremely fond of Little Dorrit, despite the sorrows and agonies experienced by most of the characters. This is what makes Dickens such a master of prose. His characters are brilliantly imperfect. An event will occur and the audience groans in horror because it could have been easily avoided due to one action or another. But that is life. Oftentimes hindsight lets us see the mistakes that we wish had foreseen before actually making them. Ahh, the beauty of humanity.

Isn't it remarkable how God loves us regardless of our flaws? He knows we're going to make mistakes and loves us anyway. A friend reminded me the other day that we cannot disappoint God. To disappoint him would mean He had high expectations of us, which He does not because He already knows our sin nature. However, that does not give us free rein to just say "Oh, because that's in my nature I shouldn't fight against it." That's absurd. My heart grieves when I see Mr. Skimpole returning again and again to Mr. Jarndyce's home. Why can't he see the man is a snake in the grass?! He's an enabler, thinking he can fix and change everyone. That is his flaw, albeit you wouldn't necessarily see it as a sinful flaw, but it is one that does him no good. Our sinful nature, whatever it might be, is something we spend our entire life fighting against. And we should fight againt it. God is not going to be disappointed in us because He never expected us to exceed expectations in the first place.

Charles Dickens, more than many authors, had the gift of perceiving human character. Why else do we feel frustration at Mr. Jarndyce's inaction? Why else do we despise Mr. Skimpole's snake-in-the-grassing? And why else do we love Mr. Clennam and little Amy Dorrit despite any weakness? Because they remind us of ourselves. We see the best and worst of ourselves in these beloved literary characters. Just writing out some thoughts on Dickens has given me more ideas for my article. I'm reminded once again just how much I love Charles Dickens! A world without him would be a bleak place indeed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Movies

The Christmas Card

I wavered a bit on this 10th choice. It was between The Christmas Card and The Santa Clause, but I decided to go with the more obscure because it is a beautiful and romantic story that should be acknowledged. When officer Cody Cullen arrives at the town where he received a Christmas card, he finds the coldness that had begun to seep into his heart start to melt. When he meets the lovely Faith Spellman, is welcomed into the home of her parents, finds himself working as a carpenter at her father's mill, everything reminds him that his life does go on and that, even though he's lost good friends in the war, there is still reason to hope. I've never seen such a typical idea done so originally and with such a genuine desire to get it right. The acting is exquisite, the setting is magical, and every year I find myself awed by the warmth shown to this lonely soldier who need to find rest. It's beautiful and if you haven't seen The Christmas Card, I urge you to do so, either now before Christmas, or even after the new year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

An "Ugly Sweater" tribute to Michael Bublé

Look what I found at Gordman's today!
 For the uninformed, Michael Bublé is crazy about "ugly" Christmas sweaters, even though ugly is a relative term. But seriously, now. Who would have thought there would be a coffee brand name called "Ugly Sweater!" This is proof positive that you just never know what you might find!

So, Michael, if you stumble on this post (unlikely) in about 6 months or so this bag of coffee might make its way to you. Providing your agent is kind enough to forward it to you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

And the award goes to. . .

Upon the return of his family after a 10 day vacation, Garth awarded me this. How he knew they would be visiting Hollywood, I'm not sure, but I love the sentiment. It'll fit right in next to my James Dean doll and Michael Buble picture frame. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When life gives you lemons . . .

There are just some things you can never predict. Take today, for example. I woke up this morning only to find that one of the tires on my car had sprung a slow leak. This also happens to be the day where it's a bit of a challenge getting everyone to work with just three cars and four family members. My only option was to head to Pep Boys where, thankfully, my Dad had already called ahead to let them know I was coming. Mom is going to pick up my sister and take her to work on her lunch hour and the lovely folk at Pep Boys let me drive my car to work and then they drove it back to get the tired fixed or replaced.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Books - A Redbird Christmas

I'm taking a break from watching Silence of the Lambs on my Clearplayer. My heartrate was starting to pound a little and I'm all on my own in the house if you don't count the cat. Creeeeeeepy. I'll never look at Stottlemeyer the same in Monk again, that's for sure. *shudders*

Anyone have a clue why my Inkheart post gets hits every week? It's always #1 on my popular posts and I have no idea why. I guess whoever it is is a kindred spirit. :)

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

This is one of those books that I would have never picked up if not for it being recommended to me by my library volunteer. Thanks, Margaret!

Turns out the story is rather predictable, but in a good way.

The book follows the life of an elderly man whose doctor demands that he get away from the city and stop drinking if he wants to see another Christmas. So the doctor recommends this little sleepy town by a river in Alabama that has barely 100 inhabitants. Oswald Campbell packs up his life (it fits in one suitcase) and heads out for what he expects to be one last adventure. Raised in an orphanage and named after Campbell soup, Oswald has no earthly ties. Even his marriage fell apart years ago so he literally has nothing to lose.

Yet, there's something about this little town that attracts him. He meets Roy, the man who owns the general store and keeps a redbird (or Cardinal) as a pet. He encounters a little handicapped child named Patsy who was abandoned by her father and taken in by one of the local women. He tries his hardest to avoid romantic entanglements with the widows of the town who've taken a shine to him even though he looks like a "little elf." He learns that life might just be worth living again and the best part is watching his heart soften.

I'm more romantic around Christmas and usually drag out all of my inspirational romances that involve the holidays. While the plot is a little slow around the middle of the book, I just couldn't put it down. Not hard since it's only about 200 pages long. This book is one I wouldn't have chosen for myself but the lack of sexual content and language, plus the gentle and loving natures of the characters, appealed to me. It's cute, it's heartwarming if not original, and it's perfect to read at Christmastime!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Logic? On 21 Jumpstreet?

Never read Ralph Waldo Emerson and then watch 21 Jumpstreet. After so many hours of struggling to make sense of Emerson's mayhem (an impossible feat, by the way), the logical part of my brain simply refuses to switch itself off. Hence, the birth of actually finding a purpose in Richard Grieco's role as Dennis Booker. Wow, I never thought that would happen.

I first started watching Jumpstreet about 5 years ago. I'm a Johnny Depp nut, what can I say. Plus, I'm hooked on 80s fashion, crazy thought it may be. When Richard Grieco joined the team, I couldn't stand him. Maybe it was those disgustingly dark eyelashes of his (it was eyelash envy). Or it might have been that I saw him as challenging Johnny's character Tom Hanson. Everyone knew Grieco joined the team so Johnny could avoid participating in certain episodes of which he didn't approve. Grieco was unwanted and disliked so I just went along with the fad, albeit about 20 years too late to have an impact.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Nathaniel Hawthorne strikes again!

I first encountered the estimable Nathaniel Hawthorne in high school. Back then I despised the man for his dim view of those claiming to be Christians. You could even say I angry at him because I was still very young and immature and couldn't imagine anyone having such a low and depressing opinion of Christians. Now I pity how muddled his mind must have been by expecting Christians to be shining examples of perfection only to be disappointed. Have you ever once met a Christian who was perfect? If you have I'd like to meet him/her because I certainly can't make the same claim.

Now, don't get me wrong, as a believer myself I'm not knocking my fellow Christians. What I am saying is that I see the sin in my own life and so I can see the sin in the lives of others. I'm very aware of the temptations with which I struggle and it sometimes feels like I'm in a constant battle with myself. I look at every other person who is sanctified by the blood of Jesus as someone who also struggles, just the same as I do. This will be a life-long battle with sin. Our problems and temptations don't just vanish when we accept Christ. Christ never promised we would never be tempted, only that we wouldn't be tempted beyond what we can bear. There's a huge difference between the two. Christ gives us the strength to turn away from temptation just as He is there with loving arms to catch us when we fall.

In the realm of Nathaniel Hawthorne, he pens the stories of depressed and melancholy individuals who lose their faith, either in Christians themselves, or in God's ultimate power to save the lost through Christ's sacrifice. In The Minister's Black Veil, I noticed how the idea of the black veil as a representation of sin had warped both the man and those around him. While it is true that God worked throughout the minister's life and that many, many people found themselves convicted of sin, what good did the black veil do him, personally? It was as if he made a personal statement to himself that he would not allow God to purify him, wash him clean of sin, until he had actually died. As if, through his suffering, the lost could be saved.

There is a book by Francine Rivers called The Last Sin Eater that follows this same hypothesis, where only by the solitude and sacrifice of the sin eater, who took all the sins of the townspeople upon himself, could they be saved. He suffered so that they might find truth. But doesn't that defeat the purpose of Christ dying for humanity on the cross? "I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father, but by Me" is what Christ said in John 14:6. He doesn't need an interim or a go-between for the message to be spoken. He certainly doesn't desire for a godly minister to veil himself as a symbol of the lurking sins inside each man's heart.

I distinctly recall reading Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter in high school and disliking the man's propensity for wanting the Christian to be either wholly good or wholly evil. In reality the Christian, just like any other person, is a mixture of both. The veil might have served its purpose in urging people out of fear to turn away from sin, but I don't see how living that life of intense loneliness separated from God's love did the minister any good. Once we're saved, we're saved, washed clean. There is no need for a physical veil because Christ offered us the veil of His blood on the cross.

All this was to say that as much as I respect Hawthorne's obvious talent as a writer, I cannot agree with his dim view of Christians. We might have the occasional hidden blemish deep in our hearts but I'm firmly convinced that God roots out evil wherever He might find it. Usually, for those who know Him, He provides a pretty solid wake-up call. And it doesn't come in the shape of a terrifyingly shrouded minister.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Attributes of the Wind

The wind is a very deceitful characteristic of nature. A day, much like today, can look sunny and warm outside. From behind the curved windows of the library, I could assume that the temperature is well up into the 50s or even 60s. It's such a beautiful day. But, when I went outside for lunch, I discovered that seemingly beautiful day was actually 30 degrees or lower. It wasn't what it seemed and made me grateful that my mom, who had come up to join me for lunch, was sweet enough to grab my coat from the car so I wouldn't freeze. That appearance of a warm and beautiful day deceived me and became a cold day. In so many ways, humans exemplify this very characteristic, being something other than what they seem. It's called the hidden nature of sin.

People intrigue me too, just like the wind that lowers the temperature in the winter. Working in a library I encounter a lot of windy people. You can never judge how someone will behave just by their outward appearance. Someone might look like a wonderful and sweet person, but they could be having a really rotten day and before you know it, you've become another victim of that bad day. Or, and more likely, a person has interests you would never expect. It's funny how those little hobbies or private sins can be so well concealed. That is, until I shelve someone's holds and find myself blown away that anyone would ever read that book, let alone the adorable young teenager in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt and distressed jeans. Does her family know? She probably thinks no one ever notices or even cares that she's reading something that raises eyebrows.

I've been in that exact some situation before. I've got those same bad habits that would shock some people. They look at my smile and blue eyes and never imagine the temptations I struggle with beneath the surface. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love anime and manga. You could even call me obsessed. That said, there is a little something known as Shonen Ai, which means a mild perceived attraction between boys. It's not ever to the point of romance, but just questionably close attachments. If it arose in a show I watched myself sometimes, well, was that wrong?

Turns out that, YEAH, there was something seriously wrong! My last anime club meeting brought up some ugly truths. Our lone male attendee was absent and that absence gave certain of my female members a bit of freedom to discuss their alternative manga and anime loves. One of those loves is Yaoi, meaning full-bore boy x boy relationships that had me literally quavering in my boots in discomfort. Firstly because it made my other girls uncomfortable and secondly, because Yaoi is only about two steps farther down the road than Shonen Ai which even I occasionally watched. Yikes!

These are seemingly normal and healthy young women, yet their fascination with Yaoi and Shonen Ai had them pairing boys together in their fantasies and even in their cosplay outfits where they all dressed as boys. It was like I had gotten walloped over the head with a truly blunt object, probably the holiness of God. Why? Because my ignorant watching of Shonen Ai was not nearly as innocent as I had originally perceived. These girls are sweet and charming, yet this secret sin of the heart is slowly corrupting them. It looks like it's a balmy 60 degrees in their hearts but it's actually a frigid 30 degrees! Their minds are now totally twisted with thoughts of romance between boys so they have no real interest in any guys of their own, just guys together. How is that healthy?

Needless to say I've chopped any and all Shonen Ai from my anime and manga. Series have been sent back completely unwatched and books have had their holds canceled before I could be even tempted to read them. Why? Because we are called to keep our minds holy. It doesn't matter than Shonen Ai is so very mild. What does matter is that the prick of conscience can become dulled by this mild attraction and that might lead down the road to worse things! The Lord has cleansed His children of sin but that doesn't mean we'll never be tempted again. But Christ still promises us that we will never be tempted beyond what we can bear, which literally means I will survive without the small amount of Shonen Ai I had allowed in my life.

Can you see the connection between the hidden effects of the chilling wind and the hidden effects of sin in our lives? Both shock us at first with that initial impact. But as we grow accustomed to the cold wind it numbs us and the impact lessens until we hardly feel it. Usually this comes right before unconsciousness and then death. Sin is exactly the same way. It lowers our standards and we find ourselves compromising in our thrill-seeking journey. That private sin grows and grows until all we want to do is indulge that sin! Fortunately for us, the Lord sends little wake-up calls like the one I experienced.

I might love my anime and manga, but this experience made me realize how careful I must be. This genre is just like any other genre. Some stuff is appropriate for Christians and some stuff isn't and we need to be discerning what to put in our minds. I don't want to become accustomed to the cold wind that occasionally sweeps through my life. I want to be sensitive to it and realize that it's there to prick my conscience and send me in the opposite direction. I thank God that sin NEVER attacks us without a prick of conscience!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Lights

I get these fun little itches around the holidays that just have to be scratched. So, on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I decided it was time to hang those Christmas lights on the house. All while my parents were at work and only my sister was there to hold the ladder and hopefully keep me from tumbling to my death. Well, that's too dramatic since I actually spent most of the time up on the roof, leaning over the edge. It took only about 2 1/2 hours to get everything hung, and that's not even everything, but everything that requires me being on the roof. Whatever's left can wait for another day. But you know the really fun thing is that all of these lights on the roof are colored lights!


Because I can't get enough of colored Christmas lights! Oh sure, I know, the white drippy icicles on all the eaves in town are pretty and pure like snow. Maybe that's my problem! They're just too. . .white. It makes me think that I'm walking through a land of tinsel or something. Or maybe it's just the simple fact that those colored lights bring to mind Bing Crosby, Miracle on 34th Street, and the lights my grandmother had on her tree.

There's nothing wrong with white lights. For some people they will induce beautiful memories. For me, it's those humongous colored bulbs that make me think of a runway for Santa. You see, the last couple of years we haven't hung those lights on the house and it felt like something was missing. It probably sounds silly, but when I turn the corner to my house at night, and those lights have been switched on by a loved one, that's when it really feels like Christmas. It's the coming home that makes Christmas a celebration, the love we hold for one another, and the love Christ extended to us that first moment when He was born in a manger. Let's just say those gaudy Christmas bulbs strung on the outside of my house are the first step towards immense amounts of Christmas cheer! Plus, I didn't break my neck! *grins*

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brideshead Revisited

Anthony Andrews & Jeremy Irons in Brideshead Revisited
Have you ever noticed how authors will name their characters something significantly similar to their personality? Dickens was notorious for his use of names. So too it seems was Evelyn Waugh. I'm about 3/4 of the way through Brideshead Revisited (a remarkable feat considering I started it less than a week ago). He couldn't have chosen a better surname for Sebastian than Flyte. He spends nearly the entire book either running away from his troubles (real or imagined) and/or drowning his sorrows in drink.

A more flighty young man I've never met. And yet he doesn't frustrate me for some reason. Rather, I pity him. He has such pathetic misconceptions about life and his place in the world. Sebastian's devoutly Catholic roots seem to haunt him. He learns to despise people once they meet his parents. Take Charles, for instance. For years those two were almost literally joined at the hip. It is possible that their relationship was far less than healthy (in fact, that's most likely the case), and yet the two needed each other, Sebastian most of all. But once he introduced Charles to his family (not really his idea), their relationship faltered. All Sebastian's mother needed to do was draw Charles into the intimate workings of the family and Sebastian started distancing himself from his friend.

Why would Sebastian feel that Charles was tainted somehow by liking his family? I just can't quite grasp his reasoning. Charles is the same man that he was when they first met, even after having encountered the dreaded family members. Why should anything change? I suppose it really had nothing to do with the family and everything to do with Charles' approaching maturity. It's one thing for young men to meet at the age of 19 and behave ridiculously together. It's another thing for one of them to reach the age of 21 and start thinking seriously about life and its goals while the other still prefers deep bouts of drinking ad partying. I do believe Sebastian felt that Charles left him behind.

It's sad really, when friendships start as childhood chums but can't develop into adult relationships too. Charles' fondness and adoration for Sebastian is unsurpassed. Even after their relationship shatters. But Sebastian becomes such a pitiable creature that you can no longer love him, only weep for the life that is being drunk away. Sebastian is one of those charming characters that draw you towards them. There's something magnetic in their personality. You can't help liking them. Poor chap. I just know this book must end in his death. There's no other alternative since he sees no use in changing his lifestyle.

I've only the 3rd section to go and then I'm on to the miniseries with Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons. I know, I know, there's a newer version, but I'd rather see two of my favorite actors in these pitiable roles than ones I'm unfamiliar with. It will make me sympathize with them more.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Manga in My Life

{Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge icon by sailorprinzess @ Livejournal}

Well, Tokyopop is closing its doors to North America. I normally wouldn't care about a manga publishing company but since I've started reading manga, this actually hits me pretty hard. The very first manga I purchased is published by Tokyopop. Just thinking about not getting Shinobi Life updates is depressing! Oh well, it looks like scanlations will be my life for now. Unless another company picks it up, which is entirely possible. I'll be praying. Either that or I could learn to read Japanese. Yeah, right, not! Learning to read Japanese could take my entire life. Speaking it however, that I'm considering.

You know how sometimes an interest or hobby seems completely out of character? Well, that's how manga is for me. None of my friends read manga, almost none of them watch anime, and certainly none of them watch Japanese live action dramas. Yet from the moment I picked up that first volume of Shinobi Life I was completely hooked. Why? I keep asking myself that question. It really doesn't make any sense. I don't speak Japanese. I don't understand the language except for the most minimal terms like "thank you" and "please." So why would I be drawn to such a completely foreign entertainment experience?

I guess I needed a change. These mangas take my mind to a completely different world. It's so totally unique from what I know! I love reading the little habits and polite behaviors the mangas so accurately represent. Most of the main male Japanese characters have the most amazing little ticks and reactions. They move differently, speak differently, and even love girls differently than American men. Most of the mangas I like express a pure love between the main female and male characters. Yoh and Haruna in High School Debut learn to love each other through trial and error. Neither one of them is experienced in love. It's beautiful and funny and awesome to watch them grow together.

Maybe, just maybe, these shoujo mangas and Japanese tv dramas have reignited my hope that true love exists. I watch Kyohei in Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge learn to love, learn what love actually is, and it warms my heart. It makes me think "Wait a minute, maybe this is possible." I admit to becoming, not embittered exactly, but definitely disillusioned with the idea of romantic love. Especially over the last couple of years. Manga has reinstilled that belief in me, that true love can and does exist. It may not find me for years or ever, but that's okay. Just so long as I know it's out there somewhere.

That's why I read manga.

It gives me hope.

It makes me laugh.

It makes me cry.

It reminds me to live.