Unrelated Lessons This Week

Northern Cardinal

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~ William James

“We can’t understand when we’re pregnant, or when our siblings are expecting, how profound it is to have a shared history with a younger generation: blood, genes, humor. It means we were actually here, on Earth, for a time – like the Egyptians with their pyramids, only with children.” ~ Anne Lamott

I have no book movie connections to write about this week. I am reading, just not books that I’ve stacked up to include in this blog. So, today I’d like to write about some random things that happened that I’ve been thinking about.

Story One
Yesterday I met with my independent study student. It’s the dramatic structure class that is normally taught during fall or spring semester. She’s taking it now because she’s going off to a four year institution in the fall and the theatre program at her new college doesn’t offer a class like this. This young woman is remarkable. She just graduated from high school and already has a number of college classes completed toward her theatre degree. Though she’s a fantastic actor, she was in my spring production of Measure for Measure, her first love is theatre tech.

I could talk about movies all day. She and I have fun talking about the movies we’ve watched, but yesterday I had reason to be further impressed with her. We were discussing Cloud Atlas, a movie/book connection I’ve written about before in this blog. The movie can be very confusing because it switches back and forth among six timelines. Because of this, I created a movie guide to help the students notice important aspects of the movie. My student impressed me when she said that because of my guide, she got what was going on during the first viewing. It helps that she’s also taking a film class at the same time.

As we got to talking about the many themes of the movie, she connected them to things she has learned in her life. And I have to say, I was so happy to hear that she has already learned things it took me well into my fifties to understand. I find this to be true of many of my students. They are so self-aware. It gives me hope that what I believe really is true: When I do my personal work and gain insights, they are passed on to future generations. We talked about that too, because it’s one of the major themes of Cloud Altas. Even if no one remembers our names, our experiences help those who come after us.

I told my student I was happy that she was so much farther along in her development than I was. Don’t be fooled that the younger generation is going to hell in a hand basket. It’s just not true.

Story Two
A week or so ago, I wrote about the book and TV show Dietland. I don’t think I mentioned that I also watch the show, Unapologetic with Aiysha Tyler which airs right after. It’s a talk show linked to, but not exclusively about Dietland. In fact the main part of the show is discussing women’s issues. I hope it stays around. Aiysha has three guests on each week, they discuss current events as part of the format. About a week ago, Aiysha had a woman, who had been part of Obama’s administration, on her panel. Sorry, I don’t remember her name. The woman said that signing petitions and making phone calls to our elected officials really does make a difference and to keep doing it. I loved that, because in recent weeks I have been tempted to give into battle fatigue. But no more. I’m going to speak up as often as possible.

Story Three
Barry and I have a friend who is a lesbian. She and her wife just celebrated fourteen years of being together. Today, on her Facebook feed, she wrote a moving story about a conversation she had with a gentleman while they were getting their cars inspected. He talked of his wife and family and what they were going to do this summer. When he turned the conversation to find out what her summer plans were, she felt a bit panicked to come out to him. At first she made her plans with her family generic, but finally she just came out with the facts. When he realized that she had used the word, “wife”, his face changed for a moment, but then they continued their conversation as if what she had said was perfectly normal. Wow! I want to become that vulnerable. As an introvert, I don’t like revealing too much about my personal feelings and beliefs. But our friend, Joy, who has much more at stake than I do, taught me a valuable lesson. Being vulnerable, open, and honest can help us change the world.

One final little tidbit. Last Sunday David Edelstein, the film critic for CBS Sunday Morning, urged the viewers to go see Won’t You Be My Neighbor? a new documentary about Fred Rogers and his groundbreaking children’s show on PBS. But he said something that I completely disagree with, that seeing the movie will make you feel good until you go back out into the real world. He implied that treating everyone with respect and love is abnormal. I disagree with him. I believe that, for the most part, we come into this world with open hearts and a desire to love everyone, but those natural impulses are altered by the time we reach adolescence. I will go see the movie and aspire to be loving and respectful at all times just like Mr. Rogers.

Thanks for reading, liking, and commenting. Have a fantastic weekend. And by the way, The Space Between Time is half off this entire month at Smashwords. Click the link below to get your copy.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Dune – Evil Kills Itself

Dune SONY DSC

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will let it pass over me and through me. And when it has passed I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where it has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ~ Paul Atredies in Dune

The other morning as I was in that nether world between sleep and waking I heard a voice say, “Evil always kills itself.” I opened my eyes and thought back to all my favorite novels, movies, and events in history and confirmed the truth of what I’d heard. It may take a long time, but people who lust for power are eventually crushed under the weight of all they try to control.

Later that week several things happened, too numerous to relate here, in which various people expressed fear over current events. These two ideas converged in my head and I thought that I’d write about the book and movie/mini-series, Dune, which is one of the great examples of what I heard in my head that morning.

One of the things I love about the fantasy/sci-fi genres is that they can take the things we struggle with everyday and show them in a new way. The authors and movie makers put their stories of human experience on a distant planet, in space, in a parallel universe, or in the struggles of superheroes so we can examine ourselves at a safe distance.

Frank Herbert’s Dune, is such a story. The power struggles in his story are not confined to one planet, but to an entire universe. Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV is trying, desperately, to hold on to his power, but there are many forces against him, The Baron Harkkonnen, the Spacing Guild, and the Bene Gesserits, an all female order, all want to control the spice melange on the planet of Arrakis. This spice extends life and enhances certain psychic powers. Whoever controls the spice, controls the universe.

In the middle of this struggle is Duke Leto Atreides and his family. The Duke has no taste for power other than to rule his own home planet of Caladan. He’s a benevolent ruler and his people love him. His humility and humanity makes him popular with the lesser nobles in the universe as well and a threat to the balance of power. This makes him a target. The Emperor and the Baron, commanded by the Spacing Guild, join forces to destroy not only the Duke but his entire family.

Meanwhile, extended use of the spice has caused the Spicing Guild leader to become something other than human. He can see the future and knows that the precarious balance that exists will be upset by the unexpected coming of a super being created by ninety years of genetic manipulation of the Bene Gesserits. This being is called the Kwisatz Haderach. The Spicing Guild wants to kill this being to maintain their power, the Bene Gesserits want to control him to gain theirs. Their plans are upset, however, when Duke Leto’s concubine, the Lady Jessica, a Bene Gesserit who was to have had only daughters, disobeys because the Duke wanted a son. This makes her son, Paul, a dark horse, and a target for all those struggling for ultimate power.

The Fremen, the native inhabitants of Arrakis, are another dark horse element in the struggle. Everyone assumes that the Harkkonnens, who have governed spice production on the planet for centuries, have killed off most of them. When the Emperor orders Duke Leto to become the new governor of Arrakis, the Duke sends out a trusted ambassador and discovers that the Fremen have been living in hiding in the deep desert. Their numbers are vast, and they want their planet back. Duke Leto vows to help them do that, but before he can put his plan into motion, he’s betrayed and killed. Jessica and Paul escape, unbeknownst to the four groups struggling to gain the upper hand.

In the end, Paul, Jessica and his young sister Alia, become Fremen. It is revealed that Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach. When he announces himself after the Fremen win the final battle on Arrakis, all power shifts to them. All the maneuvering, to gain power by the four main combatants falls apart and balance is restored to their universe.

I love all versions of this story because it shows that the lust for power destroys those who attempt to control everything. It also shows that “the powerful” really aren’t. They live in fear for their safety far more than those they dominate. They think that what they have accumulated will protect them. It won’t. It’s like mist and can dissolve in a moment. What the power hungry don’t understand is that there are larger forces that work to maintain true balance.

Frank Herbert and the movie/mini-series makers did a fantastic job of weaving an intricate story to show that real power is embodied by the humble, intelligent, loving and fair rather than the arrogant and cruel. It may take a very long time to restore the balance of power, but it always happens.

And I believe what our good friend John Berger used to say, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” So, going back to our current political situation in this world, though it appears that people’s lives are ruined, or they die as a result of cruel leaders, those “victims” have volunteered on some cosmic level, to help us choose which master we’re going to serve. The stories I love the most all have characters who choose to stand up to cruel tyrants and claim their personal power. I want to do the same.

I just occurred to me that, though it doesn’t look like it, this is an appropriate post for The Fourth of July.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. For those in the United States, happy Fourth of July. I hope you remember why we celebrate this day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Outlander

Sam, Caitriona, and Diana at Outlander Premier.

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.” ~ Richard Bach

“The relationship between husband and wife should be one of closest friends.” ~ B. R. Amedkar

“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary.” ~ Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

I honestly can’t remember if I’ve written about the Outlander series before now. Barry and I binge watched season three recently, which made me want to write something about what I know of the story so far.

I can’t think of any exceptional stories that are NOT about relationships. Even movies like Castaway, where the main character is alone for most of the movie, has the heartache of a loving relationship interrupted. Outlander has that element to it as well, with a little twist.

I once heard, or maybe I read it, Diana Gabaldon say that she wanted to write about a fifty year marriage. That’s one of the things I love about this series. In general, I’m not a huge fan of romance novels mostly because they end shortly after the wedding. We don’t get to see the couple dealing with the ups and downs of their relationship. But the Outlander series is full of fights, and make ups, danger and heartaches that need to be resolved. I love that.

Though romance, and lots of sex, are a big part of Outlander, that is not the only focus of the series. It’s category is hard to define. It’s historical, with time travel, and paranormal aspects to it. Readers get to learn practical things such as medicinal plants and other healing techniques. There are lots of heart wrenching events and fun adventure too. At the heart of it all, are Claire and Jamie Fraser.

The series begins with Claire Randall just returning from being a combat nurse during WW II. She and her husband Frank, are in Scotland on a second honeymoon trying to get reacquainted after so many years apart. While in Scotland, Claire and Frank secretly attend a ceremony at some nearby standing stones. While there, Claire sees a plant she wants to study and goes back the next day to get it. When she approaches the stones, she hears voices emanating from them. Curious about the voices, she touches one of the stones and is transported to the 1740s. Disoriented about what has happened to her, she is plunged into immediate danger when she meets a man who looks exactly like Frank. A group of Scots save her from being raped. And that’s when she meets Jamie. The first thing she has to do upon meeting him is to save his arm from much more serious injury by his friends. She resets his dislocated shoulder, much to the amazement of the gathered men.

Claire is immediately taken away from the stones to an estate a few days away. She has no idea how she will get back to the stones so she can return to Frank. And she must conceal who she is and why she’s dressed so strangely. This makes her mission to return extremely difficult. The Laird of the manor does not trust her. Nor does anyone else, which isolates her.

Against all odds, she and Jamie form a friendship. Her healing skills come in handy, and eventually gain her a measure of trust. But later, to protect her from Black Jack Randall, the man who nearly raped her, she must marry Jamie. Though Frank will not be born for two-hundred years in the future, Claire is torn. She’s attracted to Jamie, but her heart is still with Frank back in her own time period. However, an undeniable bond forms between the newlyweds, which further confuses Claire.

Of course, danger is never far away and there are bumps in Jamie and Claire’s relationship since they are from two different time periods. Claire never gives in to Jamie or any of the other men. And slowly, Jamie accepts that Claire is a strong minded, independent, educated, capable women a fact that attracts him more than he’s, at first, willing to admit. Claire is also a healer, kind and knowledgeable. She saves lives and since she’s seen more death than anyone else in her new time period, she knows how to ease the passing of those she can’t save. This earns her respect that she might not have had otherwise.

I read the first four books before the series even came into existence. I love this new trend of paying particular attention to themes of the source material for television series like Outlander. The producers, directors and writers take great care with each episode, and while some of the situations are slanted differently than the way Diana Gabladon created them, the overall look and feel of the visual series is closely related to the book series and make compelling television viewing. The two versions of the story enhance each other. I love that.

I realized just now that maybe I really wrote this post because I’m working on a section of my next novel in which Jenna and Jack have some issues to work out. It’s difficult for me because I, like most new novelists, want my characters to be perfect. But as great stories like Outlander show us, real to life characters dealing with their problems is much more interesting than fluffy, syrupy sweet stories are. I’d much rather read or watch stories where the characters go through tough times, and come out the other side changed for the better, than one where the characters aren’t challenged in anyway. I aspire to write satisfying stories where the characters learn from their trials and help the reader gain insights as well.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Dietland

“The problem for all women is we’re identified by how we look instead of our heads and hearts.” ~ Gloria Steinem

“Women tend to be conservative in youth and get more radical as they get older because they lose power with age. So if a young woman is not a feminist, I say, ‘Just wait.’” ~ Gloria Steinem

I’m not generally interested in contemporary fiction. I don’t comb the best seller lists for my next read. I prefer classic books, or books that are on the “back list”, which means they’ve been around a while but they are well worth my time to read. So, picking up Dietland by Sarai Walker was unusual for me. Okay, technically Dietland is a back listed book. The hardback came out in 2015, but it has come into the public consciousness again because it is now a summer series on AMC.

I didn’t pay attention to the first trailers for the series. It looked like a women’s revenge show and I wasn’t interested in lots of violence. However, one trailer caught my eye. It was centered on Plum Kettle, a young “fat” woman who works, interestingly enough, as a ghost writer at a fashion magazine. Barry and I decided to take a chance on it. I was hooked from the first episode so much so, that I decided I had to read the book.

Though I haven’t finished watching the series, I have finished reading the book. The two mediums diverge a bit, but I like that the TV show allows us to see women in different roles, with different attitudes and approaches to slogging through a male dominated society.

Both versions of the story center around Plum (Alicia) Kettle, who works for Kitty Montgomery, editor of a teen magazine for girls called Daisy Chain. Kitty is much too busy running the magazine to answer her own emails, so she hires Plum to ghost write her responses. But, of course, Plum does not fit the image of the women that litter the pages and offices of the magazine, so she works from home. She and Kitty meet once a month so Kitty can keep her finger on the pulse of her readers. I love those scenes. They show just how shallow Kitty is. Plum barely gets a word in edgewise, and, of course she has to endure Kitty’s condescension. Kitty is not someone you want to mess with. The book doesn’t concentrate on Kitty much. But the series capitalizes on the difference between Kitty and Plum, which I find appealing.

Plum has struggled with her weight and her self-image all her life. She’s dieted once with a Jenny Craig kind of meal plan. With this plan, she eats the “food” they send her, but she’s saved from future health issues when Eulayla Baptist, the owner, dies in a car crash That’s when she joins Waist Watchers. Though she must count calories, at least on that plan she’s eating real food.

Shortly after the book and series begin, Plum meets Verena Baptist, daughter of Eulayla who started The Baptist Plan, that Plum was sucked into. Verena is on a mission to help women, especially those harmed by her mother, find self-empowerment.

In another storyline, men are being pushed off freeway overpasses, off buildings and out of airplanes. These men are all sex offenders. The first of these men has a piece of paper stuffed in his mouth with the name “Jennifer” on it. It is determined that Jennifer is a group of “terrorist” women. They are taking revenge on men who got away with harassment and rape. Plum is minimally connected to this group through a strange young woman named Leeta, who is also the one who sends Plum on her journey toward self-love and empowerment.

This is a woman’s book. It shows the struggles that all women go through as they try to make their place in this male dominated world. For example, Plum hates to go outside because when she does she’s confronted by nasty looks, harassment, and judgmental comments from all kinds of people. Kitty goes on a funny, and sad rant that describes her fears of losing her position as she ages. The Jennifer women have had enough of men getting away with raping and abusing women. Though I don’t believe violence solves problems, I thought the book did a fantastic job of helping the reader understand why they chose the course of action they did. And I have to admit, it was satisfying to see male characters cower at the prospect of being treated the way they treat women.

But my favorite part of the story has to do with Verena Baptist and the other women who work together at Calliope House. They have already faced their demons and help other women, particularly Plum, find their power too. They are the ones who espouse the main message of the book, which is: To change the world, you have to love yourself first.

To me, Dietland is a feminist manifesto. Watch out men! Women are on to your games and tricks and we’re not going to play anymore. That’s a bandwagon I can wholeheartedly jump on.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. Have an empowering weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.