Sunday, May 31, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 103 - Taste Life

Continuing with a journal I wrote seven years ago, where I examined positive and negative reactions to people, things and circumstances, here is my latest found poem. I've taken a section of my notes concerning positive emotional reactions, and have reworked them into a poem.

Catch other poets - Ride the Poetry Train.

Taste Life

Any and all kinds
Fill me with
And joy

Shrub cutting
That first tiny green shoot
Dormant buds in spring
Intense thrill
Goes through me

Physical exertion
Being able to
Work my body
Not accompanied by asthma
Makes me feel strong and very happy

When I dance
Get into the dance trance
Extreme feeling
Of empowerment
The funkier the better

When my dog
Cuddles up to me
When we're on
The couch
Deeply-felt well-being

Densely satisfying things
Rice, beans, oatmeal
Lentils and bread
Taste life

Encircled with family love
Being hugged
Having a rub
Husband's sexy voice
Beautiful smile and deep blue eyes

Melt inside
Almost unbearable
Exquisite feeling of being truly alive

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original text 2002

Bobbi says "Husband's sexy voice
Beautiful smile and deep blue eyes" You could have been talking about my hubby!

Thomma Lyn says Visiting your blog makes me smile.

Gautami Tripathy says This is such a positive poem. Loved it!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summer Stock Sunday - 1

My blog buddy Robin at Around the Island is launching a brand new photo meme today. It's called Summer Stock Sunday.

"Each Sunday, beginning 31 May, Around the Island will be hosting a brand new summer photo project and you're invited!

Share your barbecues, your beaches, your cannonballing kids, that island sunset, an old pair of flip flops, anything that says summer to you."
- Robin

These are pictures taken in the 70's when both my uncle's family and our family would spend the day out at Polly Cove, Nova Scotia here on Canada's east coast while the men went scuba diving. The moms would set out the blankets and fix snacks and lunches, and of course hang out together, while the four of us kids - two sets of siblings, making four cousins - would run all over the rocks having a grand old time.

If you click on the link, scroll down ten rows and you will find slideshows for Polly Cove.

That's Uncle Charlie at top, and my dad below.

These are my happiest childhood memories.

Robin says Great choice for Summer Stock. Look at those wetsuits though - that water must have been FREEZING

Bim says Hello fellow (ex)film-person! I love this colour quality of prints from a time when I was a child, too.

Hip Chick says I love the 70's of it. That is one beautiful part of the world. I haven't been up there in about 20 years but I remember it as being very pretty.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Identifying Life Patterns - The Richard Armitage Way

Welcome to my second installment of Identifying Life Patterns. I've long noticed that actors and actresses seem to be attracted to repeat certain types of roles in their careers. In my new blog feature, I'll be looking at different life issues found in the repetitive choices of actors and actresses.

What can we as audience members learn from this?

All of us can identify with certain life issues that seem to haunt us. For example, we may have been stuck with a teacher who never seemed to notice our accomplishments in favor of a star pupil. In our work life, we may find we work for a succession of managers who don't give us credit for our hard work. We may feel trapped by this frustrating cycle of not being acknowledged. We may have kids who take us for granted, a partner who forgets anniversaries. Are we invisible?

"As long as a person continues replaying the pains of yesterday, they keep designing experiences to repeat the pain. They will keep going back to situations that feed the pain.

The feelings you bring from past experiences create the understandings you have for today. Only when you find the positive lessons in the event, can you move beyond it."
- Richard Flint, Breaking Free

The problem will not go away until we see it, recognize it and deal with it. And sometimes it's easier to recognize these painful life patterns when we watch a movie, read a book or hear a song on the radio.

Last week, I looked at a repeating pattern of grief I've noticed in Hugh Jackman's film roles. He's played the same scene over and over. No matter how big and strong a man his character is, he is unable to prevent the woman he loves from dying.

How could an audience member benefit from noticing this repetitive pattern in Hugh Jackman's films?

Well, sooner or later we will all come to that moment when we have to say goodbye to a loved one. Maybe we've already done so. Maybe repeatedly, like Jackman's characters. Perhaps we weren't ready at one time to hear the message these scenes give us.

But for some reason, we sit in a theatre watching one of these films and all of a sudden something clicks for us. We realize that death is a part of life, and no amount of running from it or bargaining with God against it will prevent it from happening.

For today's Identifying Life Patterns, I'm taking a look at a repetitive theme that runs through many of the TV series in which British actor Richard Armitage has appeared.

Here are stills from five of his TV series or mini-series. What is going on in these scenes? What is the dominant problem reoccurring again and again? And how would a person go about releasing this pattern once it was recognized?

Apprentice Writer says I'm not familiar with this actor but he certainly seems to inspire a lot of devotion among the bloggers I've visited!

Shelley Munro says I'm not sure, but I'd guess and say he's not a black and white character. He's always a half-step away from being a baddie, yet he struggles with this at times.

Sandy Carlson says I think that in life we run the risk of being typecast, as actors can be--we are comfortable in a particular role and we play it all the time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - 108 - 13 Reasons to Read To Rescue a Rogue by Jo Beverley

Once upon a time I didn't read romance novels.

My sister and cousin enjoyed them. My cousin had even started to write them. Now, of course, she's waiting for a release date for her 14th novel.

When she lived in Ottawa for a few years, and I lived in Toronto, I hopped on a train and visited her and her husband for the weekend. She had just finished reading an historical romance that she was certain I would love. So she loaned it to me, and I started it on the train on the way home.

My cousin knows my tastes well. She was right. I fell for that book and haven't looked back since. It was Dark Champion by Jo Beverley.

1 - To Rescue a Rogue is a 2006 Signet release, an imprint of New American Library, which is a division of Penguin Group. It is part of Ms. Beverley's Company of Rogues series, set in the Regency period.

2 - The Company of Rogues "came about when original Rogue Nicholas and the rest turned up at Harrow School. Schools in those days were almost anarchical places. Nicholas took one look at things and decided to create a small area of civilization. He gathered twelve new boys according to his own gifted whim, and formed a brotherhood of protection. They were not to bully others, or avoid proper duties or deserved punishment, but they would oppose oppression from all quarters. Most bullies and tyrants soon learned to leave them alone." - Jo Beverley, The Company of Rogues

Many of the Rogues joined the army or went to sea during the war against Napoleon.

3 - We meet the heroine just after she's fled the unwelcome attentions of a military hero and acquaintance of her brother. The main male character is an old school chum of the same brother, a family friend and someone with whom she feels very much at ease.

4 - Lady Mara St. Bride sports the devil-hair of her family's heritage. "It predicted a taste for adventure at best, disaster at worst." Though rare, both she and her brother Simon were born with it. Her latest ill-thought-out adventure opens the book, as we meet her wrapped in a scratchy blanket over a shift, making her shoeless way through the unsavoury midnight streets of London.

5 - Lord Darius Debenham returns from an evening on the town to see a sorry wretch huddled on his family's London town house front steps. Only the unfortunate girl is not a nameless London waif, but his friend Simon's sister. Knowing the society scandal that would result if anyone should see her in this state, he scoops her up and away from prying eyes into the safety of Yeovil House.

6 - One of my favorite things about Jo Beverley's writing is her complete disregard for the conventions of the historical romance. If you've read my blog for awhile, you'll know that the Sesame Street song One of These Things is Not Like The Others is my theme song.

A heroine whose youth makes her more prone to too-stupid-to-live decisions? Historically accurate age range for her, though not popular with today's readers, who prefer main female characters in their 20's even though that is completely wrong for most historical time periods? Bring her on.

A hero addicted to opium? A hero whose physical and mental distress is perhaps not Alpha enough for the average reader? Give me some of that.

Ms. Beverley has six Rita Awards for excellence in romance fiction. Bucking convention works for her, and for me - her grateful and loyal reader.

7 - Another thing Ms. Beverley does that irritates some but is a draw for me is her extensive use of dialogue. Many of her scenes read like pages of a script, and as you can imagine, I gobble that up. Her dialogue is extremely natural, which includes some repetition and inclusion of throw-away lines. She always manages to further character development or plot through her dialogue - without any obvious pointers to important-info-here.

Here's a sample:

" 'Take off the remains of your stockings and we'll clean you up.' He went to the washstand.

She sighed and carefully rolled down her silk stockings, but they no longer warranted care. They were embroidered with flowers and had cost a shameful amount, but now they were ruined. As she had almost been.

'They're off,' she said, pulling the blanket back around herself. 'But I have to get home, Dare. Now. Can you -'

'Not before I've checked your feet.' He sat by them and raised each to study it. 'No blood, I don't think.' He looked up, blue eyes steady. 'All right. What happened, Imp?'

She focused and realized what the dark concern in his eyes meant. 'Oh! Nothing like
that, Dare. I ran away.'

'So where did you have to run away from? And,' he added, looking down to dab at the sole of her foot with a soapy cloth, 'why were you there in the first place?'

It stung and she squirmed. 'You don't need to do that.'

'Stop trying to avoid the confession. What bull did you wave a red cloth at this time?'

'It wasn't my fault,' she protested, but then grimaced. 'I suppose it was. I sneaked out of Ella's to go with Major Berkstead to a gaming hell.'

He paused to stare. 'In God's name, why?'

She looked down and saw how grubby her hands were. Not a lady's hands at all. 'I've been asking myself that. I suppose I was bored.'

Surprisingly, he laughed. 'Your family should know better than to let a devil-hair have time on her hands.' "

8 - The sexual attraction between Mara and Dare travels a winding path. Their brother/sister ease with each other at the beginning provides the initial roadblock. But her youth, his addiction and his determination to kick the habit provide the heart of the tension between them.

9 - Being intimately acquainted with chronic pain and with a dependence on painkillers to get through my life, I found the scenes of Darius's journey to break free from the clutches of opium really hit the right chord. Completely fascinating and haunting.

10 - Ms. Beverley really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

"Berkstead stopped and a sneering smile curled his lip. 'Debenham. I know all about you.'

It stung, but Dare hid it. 'I doubt it, but if you don't fear me, fear her brother.'

'A St. Bride of Bridewell?' Berkstead stopped trying to rise but looked more comfortable by the moment. 'A bunch of country mice. Not one of them a soldier.'

'There are St. Bride's and St. Bride's. Simon St. Bride will kill you by inches, but the list lining up behind him will include some of the most powerful men in England, none of them squeamish about crushing lice. I could start with the Duke of St. Raven and the Marquess of Arden.'

The sneer died. 'I want to marry her!' Berkstead protested. 'She's afraid of her family. They won't let her marry out of Lincolnshire.'

'If Mara St. Bride wanted to marry a Hottentot, she would probably do so.'

'I'll buy a house in Lincolnshire.'

Mara was right. The man didn't listen. A table still held scattered cards, two glasses and an empty decanter. On a chair he saw white gloves, a pretty pink dress and a light pelerine of pale cloth. He picked them up, and the slippers from the floor.

Dare headed for the one other door that must lead to the stairs. Hand on handle, he looked back at the crumpled man. 'Remember. None of this happened. That, sir, is your only hope of salvation.' "

11 - Because this is a bit of a wrap-up for the Rogues, there is a reunion of the characters from Ms. Beverley's previous dozen Rogues books. Some readers may find all the names and references dizzying, but for fans of her series, the reunion is a dream come true. The relationships between these men have real history, and you can feel it in their scenes together.

12 - Jo Beverley has published:

4 Medievals
9 Georgians (with a new one due in 2010)
8 traditional Regencies
14 Company of Rogues Regencies, featuring former soldiers returning to Society
11 novellas
3 science fiction/fantasy stories

Click for a list of Jo Beverley's works.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

" 'Some young men burn to take risks,' Dare said.

'Like you?' said Mara.

'Not really. I met some officers who only seemed to come alive when in battle. Lacking that, they tended to stupefy themselves with drink, or seek danger in high-stakes gaming.'

They were nearing the inn, and Mara had to ask, 'How will you manage the night here?'

'I'll take an extra dose.'

She turned to him, knowing what that meant. 'Oh, Dare.'

He smiled wryly. 'Apparently it's my next lesson. I have proved I can stand like a wall, Ruyuan says, and must now prove that I can bend like the willow. Or something like that. He becomes metaphorical.'

He took out a finger-sized vial of deep blue glass with gold Chinese lettering. 'I am even in charge of my destiny.' His voice had taken on a bitter edge.

'May I see?'

He passed her the bottle and she saw that on the top of the cap was an etching of an Oriental warrior wielding a sword. 'Laudanum?' she asked, trying to keep her tone mundane.

'Of a sort. Strong and without sugar. I prefer it bitter. I would prefer it to be in an ugly container, but there is some other lesson in that, I gather.'

Mara touched the picture of the warrior. 'Do you still have my favor?'

'Always.' He took back the vial and put it away, then took her hand to lead her down a lane between a house and a cobbler's shop.

There he drew her into his arms and pressed his lips to hers. She sensed he meant the kiss to be brief and decorous but tender need swept through them. She cradled his face and parted her lips to join with him in the only way allowed.

Rough wall pressed at her back, and Dare's strong body enfolded her. Mara lost all sense of reality other than him, and pleasure, and a building desire that could drive her mad.

They pulled apart, staring into each other's eyes, only to press together again, this time bodily, with Mara's head on his chest, within which his heart pounded frantically just like hers.

'Oh, but I want you so much, Dare. I want to be yours completely. I wish it were now.'

'My adored, beloved Mara,' he whispered into her hair. 'Thank God for control, or I'd take you here against the wall.' "

- Jo Beverley, 2006

Join me next week when I review Baby in Her Arms by Stella MacLean.

Journeywoman says I'll have to give it a try.

Ms. Snarky Pants says As if I need to add any to my TBR list. hehe

Anthony North says You always do excellent deep analyses of these books.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - 101

Photo by Norman Phillips

Brooke says You both look so happy and I can almost hear the giggles hehee..

Akelamalu says Aw that's just lovely!

VaBookworm says That's cute! I'm sisterless... total bummer.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Through the Opera Glasses - 18 - Romeo and Juliet

Imagine my joy on Sunday morning when I sat down to coffee and breakfast with my mom - and she pulled out the TV listings and told me Romeo and Juliet would be on PBS that afternoon!

It's been three weeks since I went to see La Bayadere at Empire Theatre's ballet-in-HD series. Long enough to long for another ballet.

When you are a ballet freak like me, you'll take whatever you can get. Even when it's a super-charged emotional story like Romeo and Juliet, performed by a company like the New York City Ballet, known for its non-story ballets, its crisp purity - essentially, not for emoting.

Mom and I sat down in her living room at 3:30 for the whole tragic tale. I was very impressed by Juliet, played by Sterling Hyltin. She had me in tears when she awoke from Friar Lawrence's potion to find Romeo dead.

You can check out some rehearsal footage and part of an interview with Ms. Hyltin here:

Clip from Romeo and Juliet rehearsal

Mom and I were both knocked out by Daniel Ulbricht's performance as Mercutio. He's the dancer in purple clashing swords with Tybalt, in yellow. Mr. Ulbricht gave a solid dramatic performance alongside his superb dance technique and brilliant height with his jumps.

You can check out some weapons rehearsal footage for the sword fights here:

Clip from sword fight rehearsal

The production which aired Sunday is a new work choreographed by Peter Martins. It's always interesting for me to see a new interpretation of something. Whatever form the story takes, I'm willing to go where the director or choreographer, composer or poet points me.

I've seen five different full-length versions of the Romeo and Juliet ballet:

The National Ballet of Canada's version by John Cranko

The Bolshoi Ballet's version by Leonid Lavrovsky

The Northern Ballet's version by Massimo Moricone

The Royal Ballet's version by Sir Kenneth MacMillan

The New York City Ballet's version by Peter Martins

I've enjoyed each one of them.

But nothing moves me as much as Cranko's version. He captured everything there is to say about falling madly, irrevocably in love. Below you'll find the original dancers on whom Cranko set his ballet, Marcia Haydee and Richard Cragun in the balcony pas de deux, filmed for German television in the 1970's:

And because the weapons rehearsal footage got me psyched for more sword fighting, here is a compilation clip from one of my favorite shows, Legend of the Seeker:

Nikki says Great Post!! I know so much more about Ballet now.

Deeptesh says post I've ever read Julia.

Shelley Munro says I especially enjoyed the weapons training video.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 102 - Does It Ever End?

Last week I turned part of a journal into my latest found poetry. I'm going to continue with the same journal for awhile.

Here's a look at some of my negative emotional reactions to situations and things.

Ride the Monday Poetry Train Revisited.

Does It Ever End?

I often get
Scenes which include
They come to me
In my writing
It's like being haunted

Raw meat
Really hate looking at it
Handling it
Rarely cook meat at home

Flogging scenes
Come to me
Haunted by the
Sounds of it

Human musculature
Really, really hate
Anatomy drawings
As long as there is
Skin present
Dancers, athletes
I'm a big fan of
Well-developed muscles
But not the raw-meat variety

It's like being haunted
By the sounds of it
By the cries of pain
I try to work this out
Through my characters

Circumstance in life
I complain about:
Manager who tries to
Demean me
Put me in my place

Faults I notice most
In others:

Injury or disease
I fear:
Any pain purposely
Re-injuring my knee

I purposely avoid:
Won't beg
Or plead
For anything
Had to learn
To ask for

Still difficult

Not keen
On addressing crowds
Don't really like it
Everyone's looking at me
For me to speak

Experience or activity
I especially fear:
Having to bear
Horrible pain
Loss of the esteem
Of those I love
Truly losing control
When I'm
I fear
Hurting someone

By the sounds of it
By the cries of pain

I try to work this out
Through my characters
They come to me
In my writing
It's like being haunted

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original text 2002

Stills are from the Russian film 1612.

Susan Helene Gottfried says Oh, I so relate to a lot of this. The need to work things out, the recurring images, the need to let my characters speak for me...

Anthony North says So much of ourselves goes into our writing.

Robin says Some of my best writing comes to me completely unbidden, no rational reason behind it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Identifying Life Patterns - the Hugh Jackman Way

In my most recent poem, I examined my natural attractions and repulsions to people, things and situations. It's a starting point when learning to identify patterns in a person's life, especially with regards to past life trauma and the quest to meet the life challenges presented this time around.

It's often noted in present-life therapy that people repeat negative patterns as a subconscious means of trying to deal with underlying issues. Once the 'student' is ready, a 'teacher' will come. For example, a child from an alcoholic home will often grow into adulthood choosing romantic partners that mirror the alcoholic parent. Once the adult version of that wounded child is ready, a situation will present itself - most often painfully - to allow that person to make a new choice. This choice represents the giant internal shift for that former child to rewrite his or her story into a positive outcome at long last.

These breakthroughs are never easy. The path to the breakthrough can sometimes leave collateral damage. So why is this inner knowledge so hard to find?

In my view, the greater the value and significance of the ah-ha moment, the higher the price tag.

No pain, no gain.

And there's no escaping it, either. The longer a person tries to put off learning an important soul message/lesson, the more curve balls life will throw at you. Repetitive curve balls, ones that will hopefully become obvious after awhile.

I keep my eyes and heart open to recognize the negative patterns in my own life. When I realize what's going on, I make a real effort to understand why the pattern is there, what I'm supposed to learn from it, and then to transcend my previous pattern.

I've been actively doing this for the past twenty years. Is my life in perfect harmony? No.

But I have made a lot of progress in several key areas. When dealing with trauma from a single life, it's hard enough. When dealing with past life trauma, that's baggage I've been carrying around for a lo-o-o-ong, long time. So I give myself a break and realize that any progress made is hitting the spiritual jackpot.

It's taken me two years to reveal my belief in reincarnation here on my blog. Is my fear of revealing this tied to a problem I had as an earlier version of myself? Absolutely.

Now where does Hugh Jackman come into all of this?

As a film-lover, it's easy to notice patterns emerge in the film choices made by actors and actresses. I've often thought that these repeating patterns are likely an attempt by the Universe to get the attention of the actor or actress. I presume that the issue behind these patterns is likely the dominant life challenge brought into this life by that person.

I'm going to start another feature here at A Piece of My Mind. It won't be an every-week kind of post, but will return on a regular basis.

For Identifying Life Patterns, I'll highlight the pattern I've noticed in the performances of actors and actresses. I invite readers to guess what the life challenge is for that person, based upon the issue we can observe.

Why do this? Well, I find that fiction is a safe sounding board for painful truth. It's easier to weep over a movie than it is to face things inside oneself. But fiction can also be a key that unlocks answers to questions we can't verbalize to ourselves. Recognizing patterns in films helps me to identify my own patterns when they crop up in real life.

So let's Identify Life Patterns - the Hugh Jackman Way.

Here are stills from five of his films. What is going on in these scenes? What is the dominant problem reoccurring again and again? And how would a person go about releasing this pattern once it was recognized?

Films: Van Helsing, X-Men3: The Last Stand, The Fountain, The Prestige and X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Bobbi says Wow, Julia, this is a deep topic. You've certainly given me food for thought this beautiful Saturday morning. I look forward to more of these posts!

Apprentice Writer says I hear you on the 'sometimes easier to deal with/work through hard emotions in fiction' thing.

Thomma Lyn says Some people catch the curve balls, others miss them, and yet others pretend they don't see the curve balls at all, even when they're being pitched at their heads!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - 107 - 13 Reasons to Read March by Geraldine Brooks

You may have noticed the badge I have in my sidebar.

And that I've joined a reading challenge held in her honor. Dewey was a book blogger who posted indepth reviews of wonderful books. She also acted as the hub of many blog communities, such as Weekly Geeks, 24-Hour Readathon and Bookworms Carnival.

I'm only a fringe book-blogger, more of a writing-life blogger. I knew of these blog communities and I was a regular visitor at Dewey's blog, The Hidden Side of a Leaf. I left comments for her, and she left comments for me.

Like this one:

"It's nice to read about a family with so many generations still so close!" - Dewey, Aug. 5th, 2007

Here's a wee conversation we had over in her comments section, after her review of Neil Gaiman's Stardust:

Me - "As a film sort of person, I have naturally seen ‘Stardust’ but haven’t read the book. I really enjoyed it, as I did the British TV miniseries ‘Neverwhere’, which is one of my favorite miniseries ever. Of course, didn’t read the book!

Book lovers are often highly displeased with film versions of their favorites. Something is always left out that the reader enjoyed so much. Personally, I always find it fascinating to see different adaptations of stories. One story can be a poem, novel, film, opera or ballet. Each version has to morph into something completely new."

Dewey - "My husband is ESPECIALLY prone to hating any movie made out of anything he’s read. I can sometimes manage to take them as two separate things and enjoy them for what they each are, but other times, like with Shakespeare/Danes/DiCaprio fiasco, not." - (LOL!) Nov. 9th, 2007

Imagine my shock when I clicked over to her blog last Dec. 1st to read these words:

"I’ve got a piece of sad news to deliver. Dewey passed away on Tuesday evening. My wife was unwell and in a lot of pain; I don’t believe she ever discussed that side of her life here, and I’ve no desire to go against her boundaries, just know she was in a lot of pain. I am sad that my wife is no longer here, but she’s not in pain any more."

I read this at work. Luckily, no one saw the tears running down my face.

Dewey's blog friends quickly set up several reading challenges in her honor. Participants are asked to choose 6 books from her 2003-2008 book review archives. This is my first review from the Dewey Reading Challenge.

1 - First of all, as with Kailana's Four-Legged Friends Reading Challenge - the first one I ever joined - I've been led towards a fantastic book I never would have been able to read if I had not crowbarred the time into my schedule.

2 - March is the second book of fiction for Geraldine Brooks, a former journalist. Far from a sophomore jinx, this second offering won Ms. Brooks the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

3 - Ms. Brooks is also the author of Year of Wonders and People of the Book.

I'm currently reading Year of Wonders as the second book for the Dewey Reading Challenge.

Ms. Brooks has also written two non-fiction books:

Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey from Down Under to All Over

4 - March takes us to familiar territory and then spins our expectations in wild directions. Brooks bases her characters on those of Louisa May Alcott's from her novel Little Women. It is fiction that sees a contemporary author visiting the work of a well-known classic and expanding on the world created by the original author. The whole sub-genre of the parallel novel intrigues me, and the following books are on my wish list:

H. - The Story of Heathcliff's Journey Back to Wuthering Heights

Wide Sargasso Sea - saw the film. Loved it.

Rhett Butler's People

5 - The story is told through two first-person accounts: Mr. March's POV - he's an army chaplain for the Union side during the American Civil War, and Marmee March's POV - she's his wife and the mother of four older girls known to us as the Little Women of Alcott's book.

The changing POV's are handled beautifully. In Little Women, the absent father is at war when the family receives word that he is gravely ill, and Marmee must go to him. March begins in Mr. March's POV, where we remain until the illness sets in. At that point, the POV changes to Marmee's until he is somewhat recovered. Then we end the book once again in Mr. March's POV.

6 - In an inspired choice, Brooks gives us a Marmee very unlike the one we get to know in Little Women. That Marmee is kind and good, self-restrained and the epitome of the loving Woman. Of course, she's also a single mother in practice while her husband is away, and never shows she is unequal to the task of providing a secure home for her daughters. Marmee is an early version of today's Super Mom.

Daughter Jo is hot-headed, dramatic, tomboyish and intellectual. Her sister Beth is often trying to gentle Jo's behaviour.

In a wonderful role swap, we meet a Marmee who is the genesis of her future daughter Jo. Marmee exhibits all the characteristics we know so well as Jo's domain. And in a touching echo of Jo's and Beth's relationship, Mr. March spends quite a few scenes attempting to diffuse his wife's powder-keg temper.

7 - Rather than Jo's vibrant inner world of fictional stories and dramatic plays, Marmee is a passionate abolitionist. Ms. Brooks writes several real life figures of the time into the book: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and John Brown. Louisa May Alcott's father Bronson - the inspiration for Ms. Brooks' character of Mr. March - was a contemporary of all three and was influential upon those great thinkers and rebels.

When he meets Marmee, who already runs a station for the Underground Railroad, he cannot help but join his flame of idealism to hers.

8 - The only cause of the war that means anything to March is the one to free the slaves. His early experiences on a plantation, which begin the novel, and his relationships with slaves bring us deep into the heart of the novel. What truly drives a man like March to temporarily leave his family for an ideal? Ms. Brooks introduces us to numerous characters who are flesh and blood incarnations of the ideals March cherishes. Later in the novel, in Marmee's POV, we discover what living for one's ideals can take from a man - and from a woman.

9 - The relationship between March and Marmee is very he said/she said. Several identical scenes are told from his POV and then later from hers. Being on the receiving end of a Marmee outburst with March, and later discovering how it hurts Marmee when her husband negates her feelings gives a poignant, complex look into a very intense marriage.

10 - Ms. Brooks really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

"I didn't know what I'd be able to do, but this time I had to do something. I moved forward, parting the corn with my arm. A blow to the back of my knees caused me to crumple. 'Stay put, marse,' hissed Jesse, behind me. 'Now ain't no time to make a move.'

'Gentlemen, move out!' the major called. 'We have an appointment to keep.' He lifted a battered
chapeau de bras and swept it across his body in a mockery of a bow, and turned his horse for the woods. I saw that Zannah was running after the party, the need to be with her son more powerful than her fear of reenslavement. One of the irregulars also saw her, and turned to alert the major. The major shrugged, and so the guerilla pushed Zannah forward into line with the tied slaves and roped by the neck.

When they had disappeared into the ragged scallop of cypress woods, Jesse grabbed my hand and started after them, keeping to the corn rows. He had a trash-cutter's knife slung across his back. 'If we can just keep sight of them till nightfall,' he said as we advanced at a brisk jog, 'then maybe when they's sleeping we just might git a chance to cut loose some of them.' It was a better plan than any I had, and so we followed them into the trees."

11 - There are many, many scenes that stay with me. Geraldine Brooks' background in journalism helped her develop a punchy style that paints image-rich scenes with a beautiful economy of words. Her story is often heartbreaking, but that's a place I long to go with open arms. March really took me there.

12 - What did Dewey have to say about March? Click HERE to find out.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

"When we were admitted the colonel was still pouring over engineer's drawings and seemed to listen to my complaint with only half an ear.

'Very well,' he said when I had concluded. He turned to the offending soldiers. 'The chaplain is quite right. I won't have civilian women molested, even if they are the wives and spawn of rebels. I understand why you felt driven to do it, but don't be doing it again. Dismissed.'

The soldiers left, their relief propelling them swiftly from the room. Only the corporal paused, to give me a swift grin of contempt. The colonel had taken up a compass and commenced measuring distances on the engineer's drawings.

'Sir-' I began, but he cut me off.

'March, I think you should reconsider your place with this regiment.'


'You can't seem to get on with anyone. You've irritated the other officers...Even Tyndale can't abide you - and he's as much of an abolitionist as you are. I've got Surgeon McKillop in one ear complaining that you don't preach against sin, and yet here you are sowing discord in the ranks by seeing a great sin in harmless soldierly pranks...'

'Sir, such wanton destruction is hardly -'

'Keep your peace, would you, March for once in your life?' He jabbed the compass so hard that it passed right through the chart and lodged in the fine mahogany of the desk beneath. He came around the desk then and laid a hand on my arm. 'I like you alright; I know you mean well, but the thing of it is, you're too radical for these mill-town lads. Most of these boys aren't down here fighting for the nig - for the slaves. You
must see it, man.'

He shot me a hard look. I held my tongue, with the greatest difficulty. He went on, as if speaking to himself. 'Why do we have chaplains? The book of army regulations has little to say on the matter. Odd, isn't it? Well, in my view your duty is to bring the men comfort.' Then he glared at me and raised his voice. 'That's your role, March, damn it. And yet all you seem to do is make people
uncomfortable.' He plucked the compass out of the desk and rapped it impatiently against the chair back. When he resumed speaking, it was in a more civil tone. 'Don't you think you'd do better with the big thinkers in the Harvard unit?'

'Sir, the Harvard unit has famous ministers even in its rank and file - men from its own divinity school. They hardly need...'

He raised his big meaty hand, as if conceding my point. 'Well, then, since you like the Negroes so very much, have you thought about assisting the army with the problem of the contraband? The need is plain. Ever since Butler opened the gates at Fortress Monroe to these people, we've had hundreds streaming into our lines. They are upon our hands by the fortunes of war, and yet, with war to wage, officers can't be playing wet nurse. If something is not done, why, the army will be drowned in a black tide...'

'But, Colonel,' I interrupted, taking a pace forward and putting myself back in his line of sight. 'I know the men in this regiment. I was with them at the camp of instruction; we drilled together. I prayed with them when we got the news of the defeat at Bull Run...'

'Good God, man, I don't need to hear a recitation of your entire service...'

I kept talking, right over the top of him. 'I've been through defeat with these men, I've been covered in their blood. No other chaplain -'

'Silence!' he shouted. He walked over to the window, which opened onto a remarkable prospect of faceted cliffs falling sharply to the crotch of merging rivers. The light was falling and a red glow burnished the surface of the water. He spoke with his face turned toward the view so that he wouldn't have to look at me.

'March, I tried to put this kindly, but if you insist on the blunt truth, then you shall have it. I have to tell you that McKillop is lodging a complaint against you, and some of what he plans to put in it is rather...indelicate. I'm not about to pry into your personal affairs. You may be a chaplain, but you're a soldier at war, and a man, and these things happen...'

'Colonel, if Captain McKillop has implied...'

'March, let me do you a kindness. Do yourself one. Request reassignment to the superintendent of contraband. Who knows? You may be able to do a deal of good there.' "

- Geraldine Brooks, 2005

Join me next week when I review To Rescue a Rogue by Jo Beverley.

Janet says Dewey was one of the first bloggers I read back when I started...I was shocked to hear of her passing, too.

Kailana says I am like Dewey's husband. I almost always hate movie adaptions of books I love!

Hootin' Anni says I have that sitting on my night table, [March] to read eventually.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - 100!

Apprentice Writer says Completely natural and unforced. I even like that it's not completely centered.

Claudia from Denver Cereal says You are adorable!

Robin says Congrats on reaching 100!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Through the Opera Glasses - 17 - X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I've been waiting to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine since the first glimpse of this character in the first X-Men film.

You know the scene. His back to us in the cage fight sequence.

My husband Brad and I are big superhero fans, and on Saturday mornings in the 90's when I was getting ready to work the matinees at the performing arts theatre in Toronto, X-Men: The Animated Series was always on our TV. I just loved the opening credits music. We both loved waiting for Cyclops to yell, "Jean! No!" at some point during the episode. So I was already familiar with the character of Wolverine when we gratefully sat in our seats at the movie theatre in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 2000 for the first X-Men movie (we lived there for two years.)

Hugh Jackman hooked me with Wolverine the moment he turned in that cage with his raised eyebrow and his keep-away persona. Of course he was a badass. Of course he couldn't turn his back on runaway teenage Rogue. No! He's my perfect kind of male character. Because lurking there somewhere was the revelation that came in X-Men 2: X-Men United. Wolverine had endured a hideous physical transformation that gave him those claws. And he had the disturbed repressed memories to prove it.

When he stumbles upon the scene of the crime in X-Men 2, Wolverine flashes back to the top-secret military experiment that resulted in him.

These flash backs came to us as they came to him. Horrible scenes of agony, thrashing in a tank of liquid, breaking free of the perpetrators, trying to make sense of what had been done to him.

But they were only flashes, and Wolverine blocked them out as soon as he could.

Knowing an origins film was in the works simmered in the back of my mind for what has seemed like an endless torment. Not as tormented as Wolverine, mind you. But close.

Finally, finally X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened on May 1st. At last I could find out how he got in that tank, could brace myself to see the awful truth for myself.

Except that I couldn't. My personal hell of migraine plague was raging. This winter has been my worst on record, and by May 1st my endurance level was hitting critical failure. The Wolverine origins film was sure to be flashy and loud. No Wolverine for me.

I read reviews which said:

The movie is somewhat limited in its denouement in that as a prequel, Sabretooth and Stryker must live to play another day (in X-Men and X2) and Wolverine must remember to forget these events. Nonetheless, it’s engaging action, and a spur to watch X2 again on DVD. - David MacDonnell, Starlog

Which begs the question - why do I want to see an origin story so badly when I already know what happens to this character in the future?

This past Friday, all systems were go. My head was bugging me but not so badly that I couldn't grit my teeth and bare the flashy parts. And the explosion parts.

I met up with Brad and we greeted the long weekend finally sitting down in a theatre to see how Wolverine got to that opening cage fight scene back in X-Men.

For me, the irresistable call of the origin story is going through the transformation along with the character. Instead of having zero interest level because I already know what's going to happen to him in the future, for me this moment shown above is so much more gripping and heart-crushing because I know so much about Wolverine.

He readies himself for something we already know will be excruxiating in the extreme. It will change almost everything about him. The true transformation of one incarnation into another is my favorite type of story - a thread that runs through all of my own stories.

The echo of transformation resonates so strongly in us because so many of us experience its painful process.

We leave home, move to a strange city, experience hard times and must rely on ourselves to get through it. The new being that emerges has some battle scars, but stands straighter, taller.

A woman goes into labour and emerges as a new being - a mother. The transformation is painful. But the new persona created by that event provides the baby with its own personal superhero, someone who can push past the boundaries of the previous woman who existed before the birth transformation took place.

The chrysalis mythos is a basic element of the human condition. Without transformation, there is no growth. Without growth, there is no life.

When Wolverine endures the inevitable, I endure it with him - gladly. It reminds me that all the days that absolutely suck are not just meaningless torture. They are part of my chrysalis.

When Wolverine erupts out of the tank roaring with new life, a lean mean fighting machine, it reminds me of the way in which I meet my own personal pain, my own personal Black Moment. It's really my cue to show my true character. The transformation changes almost everything. The thing that remains is character.

The opening credits show this as Wolverine and his brother Sabretooth ennact their version of the Universal Soldier. A really nice sequence. Sabretooth's true nature is uncovered by each successive battle they're in.

And having Sabretooth portrayed by Liev Schreiber only adds to the joy for me.

Because I write about vampires, this scene above where the two brothers, Sabretooth and Wolverine are about to be executed by firing squad - when they and the audience are aware that they have the ability to regenerate and will now have witnesses to their unexplained ability - sets up a delicious anticipation.

One of the complaints about the film is the inclusion of various Marvel Comics characters without giving fan-favorites enough screen time. Because the X-Men stories are really about a team of beings that work together, I don't see how you could tell an X-Men story without them.

My favorite of the new characters is Gambit, played by Taylor Kitsch.

I really liked his wizard-y fighting staff.

And Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool gets particular flack from fanboys and I assume fangirls because of mysterious retooling of the character's basic elements. His wisecracking personality, to be specific. Not being one of these, I enjoyed Reynolds performance and his swirling katana swords. You know I love me some swords.

Travis says It sounds great when you analyze it. But for me, I'd have to give the film a B-.

Ms Snarky Pants says I did always kind of have a crush on Gambit, though, so my expectations may just be a bit high. LOL Every other aspect of the film, however, I found absolutely delightful.

Bobbi says My youngest daughter is not a fan of X-Men, she went to see the movie just for the Hugh Jackman factor!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 101 - Greatly Enjoy / Great Fear

For today's found poetry, I'm heading into a workbook journal I started in 2002. It's a past life journal, following the exercises in You Can Remember Your Past Lives, a used paperback I picked up when I was out with my husband. We were on our way to see Black Hawk Down, which is something I noted in the journal. Coincidences should always be noted when you're dealing with past life stuff.

I've always believed in reincarnation, even when I was young and hadn't really been exposed to the concept of it. Likely because I've personally had break-through memories come up for which I had no explanation as a child. My recovery of past life info has been a constant thread in my life. I saw a past life therapist while I lived in Toronto and had five sessions with her.

Once I moved back to Nova Scotia, I did personal meditation work and mindful observation of things in my life. When I found this book, it really helped me pull my personal work together into something I could look at and learn from.

My poem today is taken from the results of a rating-system quiz called Reactions to Stimuli. Ratings from 5 to 1 were given to various cultures, people, animals, weather and environments to take stock of my natural attractions and repulsions. This is a beginning marker to see where I have past life issues and strengths. 5 represents greatly enjoy, totally comfortable. 1 represents great fear, distaste, discomfort.

Greatly Enjoy / Great Fear

Greatly enjoy
Totally comfortable
British gentry accents
Scottish accents
Swedish accents
Russian accents

Enjoy kings or queens
Enjoy Catholics
Enjoy liberals
Enjoy teachers

Dancers, musicians greatly enjoy
Writers, directors enjoy greatly

Brunettes, totally comfortable
Blue eyes greatly enjoy
Grey eyes
Toned muscles
Correct body weight
Tall - enjoy greatly
Long hair, comfortable

Babies to 3 years
Enjoy, enjoy
Little girls and little boys
Adults aged 20-40
Total comfort

Enjoy, comfort
Totally great
Enjoy. Great
Comfort - total

Being in water

Being alone outdoors


Total comfort

Crowds, part of the masses

Books and reading

Enjoy greatly

Great fear
Evangelical faiths
Fringe groups

Fear conservatives
Fear fringe political parties
Fear fundamentalists

Bureaucrats - distaste
Corporate executives - distaste
Salesmen - distaste

Thin body types

Bulky muscles

Mice as pests

Arid climates

Loud noises

Great fear - tornado
Great fear - lightening
Great fear - sensation of falling
Great fear - crowds as mobs

- Julia Smith, 2009 / original text written 2002

Ride the Poetry Train! Click HERE.

Michelle Johnson says Your poem was great. You drew off your earlier observations and found a certain kind of peace.

Anthony North says The therapeutic value of reincarnation is beyond doubt.

Andy Sewina says Phew, fascinating stuff Julia.