Archive for the Daily Prompt Category

My Life: The Movie

Posted in Daily Prompt with tags , , , , , on August 28, 2014 by cueball

I first really noticed that people think of their lives as movies when the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal exploded.  Every talking head on sports television had to get out and scream about how if they had been Mike McQuery and they had seen Sandusky with the boy in the shower they would have gone all caveman and beaten Sandusky and rescued the boy and got him to the police.  Just like in a Bruce Willis movie. 

Whether they would have or not is irrelevant to this blog post (though it is interesting how a lot of guys on ESPN keep getting other people in fictional fights), what is relevant is that they all thought about it like an action movie.  We all think of our lives in that way at least a little.  We all day dream our lives like they were on the big screen.  We all have the same question, “Who would I cast as me in a movie of my life?”

Now, here is the interesting thing, I don’t have an answer to that question.  I do think of my life as a movie, complete with soundtrack.  Even if I am walking somewhere without my iPod, I hear some cool song playing in the background. However, I never cast the movie of my life that is in my head. 

I think there are two reasons that are slightly combined and another reason that stands on its own.  The first two reasons are 1) that I think of the people in this movie of my life in terms of characters and not as actors and therefore 2) I would need to see someone read for the character to cast it properly.  This probably comes from my attempts to write fiction and develop characters, who are inherently based on people I know, have known, and/or have talked to for 15 seconds.  I’m too close to the characters to see them as anything other than who they are as characters independent of any actor.  That is kind of weird, because often when I am reading a book, I cast the characters in the book as known actors in my mind.  I always have thoughts like, “If this becomes a movie, Sam Elliot would be perfect for that character.”

The other reason I do not think like that about the actors for My Life:  The Movie, is that until recently, I have not seen many true representations of me or the people I know in movies or television by actors.  I don’t just mean African-Americans, I mean Southerners both white, black, and Latino with whom I work and with whom I am friends. 

Rectify and to a lesser extent Justified are the first television shows, certainly in a long time and maybe ever, that have representations of any true Southern characters to me.  Rectify is the first television show I’ve seen in a very long time that doesn’t treat a Southern drawl as a sign of stupidity.  It does not treat small towns as some place that time forgot filled with all these quirky and interesting characters that show our protagonist, usually a white northerner, the true meaning of life.  Rectify treats its small Southern town as the living and possibly dying place that small Southern towns actually are and the people that inhabit that town as complicated actual humans and not caricatures. 

Speaking of caricatures, there is one other show on television filmed in the South and that is Reckless on CBS.  I will give them credit for filming in Charleston, which is the setting of the show.  However, my favorite thing about the main cast is that they only have one cast member from the traditional South, Anna Wood originally from Mt. Airy, North Carolina who plays a character originally from Chicago.   

The actor who I would cast as me in My Life:  The Movie?  I haven’t seen him.  At least not an African-American actor who I would cast, since only the same 10 guys audition for and get all the “black” parts on television.  This is another reason for me to go digging into African-American independent cinema.

Happily Ever After

Posted in Daily Prompt with tags , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by cueball

Happily ever after doesn’t exist to me.  Not that happiness doesn’t exist, but the conception of happily ever after doesn’t exist.  Happiness is a fleeting emotional spike.  It is like a drug high that you must continue to chase until it eventually kills you.  It is impossible to stay in a constant state of happy without using lots of substances or perpetually fooling yourself or both.

Happiness is not something I consistently strive to achieve.  Again, it isn’t that I don’t think happiness exists.  It does exist.  I prefer contentment.  That is the idea that you are in the place, emotionally, psychologically, and physically you should be.  Your life is what you want it to be.  You will have moments of happiness, but you will also have moments of trial and pain.  However, you know that you will make it to the other side because you are where you are supposed to be.

My favorite movies and literature almost never end with happily ever after.  The characters always end up in a different, sometimes better place than where they started, but rarely do they end up happy.  The lucky ones end up content that they have done right and comfortable with where they have landed.  These characters either already know or spend the bulk of the movie, book, or short story learning who they are.  Once that is achieved whatever happens helps them turn out all right.

I love romantic comedies and my favorite is Roman Holiday.  My second favorite is probably When Harry Met Sally.  We all want the When Harry Met Sally ending, but most of the time we get the Roman Holiday ending.  Harry and Sally are soulmates destined to be together.  Everything that happens points to the inevitable end.  Joe and Ann are also soulmates and have a wonderful time and a wonderful moment of happiness together as Joe teaches her how to be a human and not just a princess, but it has to end and they both know it and they both accept it.  It isn’t without pain, but it is necessary for their lives to continue and they will both look back at it with fondness.  (The best time of the year for these movies is Christmas.  The Hallmark Channel and Lifetime run them constantly starting Thanksgiving week.)

Whenever someone asks me if I’m happy, I usually lie so as not to have the debate.  I won’t here.  Am I happy?  No, but I’m not trying to be.  I’m just trying to find my place in the world and be content with who I am.  Don’t get me wrong, I know myself and I like myself.  I just don’t constantly strive for momentary emotional satisfaction because there is so much more.

That sounds bad.  I’m not Eeyore.  If you want to see me happy, talk to me after a big Tar Heel basketball win or the moments after the USA/Algeria World Cup match in 2010 or find me when I’m two hours into listening to my favorite albums.  Those are just moments in a much longer life.  The emotion I think of when hear happiness is fleeting, and while it is worth finding it is not something I chase or hope for constantly.

So, no, I don’t believe in happily ever after.  I believe in finding your place and finding your contentment and letting the moments of happy find you.

My Plot Of Land Or What I Would Do With My 40 Acres (Daily Prompt)

Posted in Daily Prompt with tags , , , on February 20, 2013 by cueball

So, what would I do with what is basically my 40 acres (I guess no one gives out mules anymore)?

First, I would find the highest point on the land and that is where I would build my house.  It would be a decent sized house.  I would build it with two bedrooms, a galley style kitchen, living room/dining room and an entertainment/game room.  I would make it two stories to keep the footprint down.  I would build a covered patio area just off to the north or south side of the house so I could have great views of sunrises and sunsets.

On the flattest part of the land I would have a garden plot for vegetables and hops.  Yes, I want to experiment with growing hops, more on that later.  The vegetables would be a rotation of different lettuces, cucumbers, carrots, beets, snap peas, corn, and sweet potatoes.  I would grow enough for me and family members plus I would donate the rest to local soup kitchens and other charities.

I would build three other structures on the land: a barn to house the surplus food and needed equipment, a separate office space to write, and a small brewery (that’s why I’m growing the hops).

The barn is self-explanatory.  If I’m going to grow food, even on a small plot, I will need somewhere to store the food and the equipment I will need.  The office will be pretty simple.  It will have a desk with a laptop docking station and Wi-Fi capabilities, a book shelf with classics and dictionaries, a docking station and speakers for an iPod, and a nice window to look out of when brainstorming.  Outside the desk and the bookshelves there would not be much furniture.  Maybe I would have two additional comfortable chairs for reading, but nothing else.  A writer doesn’t need much and anymore would actually be a distraction.

The brewery would actually be a big homebrew operation.  It would be a 10-gallon system and I would only make maybe one or two barrels a year.  The goal would be to have a brew day and then a bottling day once a month.  The bottling day especially would be a party.  Friends come over, we keg and bottle the beer and I give it away most of it.  It would be just another way to spread the gospel of good beer.

The only other thing I may build is a small woodworking area just off the barn.  I don’t need or want for much.

The life of an independently wealthy gentleman farmer would be awesome.  I would spend my time mostly writing and reading.  With the rest I would tend my garden, tend my beer, and build the occasional table or jewelry box.  I would relax in the evening by sitting on my patio in a rocking chair smoking my pipe and while watching the sunset quietly behind the Smoky Mountains.

But, until I win the lottery or someone is stupid enough to give me a big book deal, I’ll keep going to my place of employment 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and try not to slowly go insane.  I will keep writing or thinking about writing in what free time I have that isn’t dedicated to eating and sleeping.

Daily Prompt: This Is Your Life

Posted in Daily Prompt with tags , , , , on January 11, 2013 by cueball

If you could read a book containing all that has happened and will ever happen in your life, would you? If you choose to read it, you must read it cover to cover.

No.  That is an easy answer.  Sure I would want to read how the first 37 years of my life played out in a narrative.  Not very interestingly I would guess, but I don’t want to know the ending.

Part of the joy of life, part of the point of life, is to live it in wonder.  It is a less interesting life if you know how it plays out in the end.  I am a person who loves sports (at least I think I still do, it’s complicated).  As such I have occasionally saved games on the DVR and watched them later, even if I knew the outcome.  I don’t watch those games the same way as I do when I don’t know the outcome or watch the game live.

The urgency is gone.  I don’t live and die with every touch of the ball or every mistake.  That is the part that is great about sports and about life.  Everything has the potential to be life changing and important.  If you knew the ending, and the path leading to that ending, you would treat individual moments and the people you encounter differently.  That would probably also effect the ending of your story.

How do you function after finding out what the next 4 days or 40 years of living will be?  Honestly, what if the last page of the book is you finishing the last page of the book, getting in your car to go to the grocery store, and getting plowed into by an 18-wheeler and dying on impact?  That has to effect what your next step is going to be.

Or perhaps, you find out the date and time that you meet the person you’re going to marry, but you also find out the date and time of the final divorce proceeding in which they take half of everything you own.  Do you allow yourself to meet that person knowing the fiscal and emotional crater they will leave with you?

We live in a fast forward/microwave era, so I am sure many people would love to know how it all plays out to the end.  The internet and Twitter are constantly trying to proclaim something as the greatest of all time.  We are in a constant state of skipping to the end.  We forget to enjoy the ride, because the end is going to be the same for all of us, death.  It may happen today, tomorrow, or 40 years from now, but I can assure that is how it ends.  That is why you must enjoy the journey and live as if you may die today.

Then again, this could be a good thing.  Maybe reading the book that was written for you today is not the book that will be written next week.  The act of reading the book and seeing where your life is destined could force you to change things and change the ending.  Maybe, like Ebeneezer Scrooge, seeing your bleak and lonely future will make you change your ways for the better.  Or maybe you burn it all down and end it sooner rather than later.

What is there in this world

Posted in Daily Prompt with tags , , , on January 4, 2013 by cueball

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Hamlet (1.5.166-7), Hamlet to Horatio

This is my favorite singe quote from one of my favorite pieces of literature.  There are two works who continue to speak to me and help me understand myself and the world around me that I read usually once a year or so, The Great Gatsby and Hamlet.

What was Hamlet getting at in this quote?  This is one of the most straight forward passages of Shakespeare.  He is saying that there is more to this world that what we can immediately see or grasp.  There are forces outside of scientific explanation that help control the universe.

That sentiment has always guided how I view the convergence of science and philosophy/religion.  Science and religion are not mutually exclusive in my mind.  They are complements.   They each try to explain the functioning of the world around us.  Science through theory, experimentation, and observation.  Religion through thought and faith.

To me a good scientist uses the rigorous skills of science to explore the “unknowable” tenants of faith.  Not to destroy or discredit those tenants, but to actually find the “god” behind them.  A good theologian on the other hand should use the curiosity and searching nature of the scientist to explore what he believes in order to strengthen his faith.  For to me blind faith is not true faith.  If you never question what you believe or know, how can you truly say you believe or know anything.

You should always question everything.  Everything you do or say and everything others do or say to you.  Most of he problems in the world cannot be fixed with one simple answer.  A crazy guy goes on shooting rampage.  We swing wildly for easy solutions to fix the problem.  Ban all guns.  Eliminate all violent entertainment.  Put armed guards on every street corner.  Those all feel good but they don’t solve the problem and they all come with their own problems.

We can only solve problems like that when we look honestly and deeply into the issues.  When we look past what we want to believe and what we want to be true.

That is what I get when I think of Hamlet’s admonition to Horatio.  Look past the immediate to try to find what it real and what is true.