The Bourne Identity

As I was cruising through the book section of Felton’s local thrift store last week I came across Robert Ludlum’s “The Bourne Identity.” Being one of those people who like to read the book either before or after seeing the movie I decided to by it. I was a mere 100 pages into this 575 page novel when I concluded that the MOVIE IS NOTHING LIKE THE BOOK. Did the screenwriter read anything past the story synopsis on the first page?

I have this theory that some movies are “based on” books and some are “inspired by” books, or historical events. Movies based on books are defined as being relatively true to the plot and characters of the book, but do have changes deemed necessary by somebody. Movies inspired by the book retain the title and the main characters names, but not much else. The Matt Damon version of The Bourne Identity most definitely falls into the “inspired by” category.

For one thing, I’m 300 pages into the book and there has not been a single car chase. Granted, the car chases in the movie pretty much rock, but still. Also there are NO similarities to the movie Treadstone and the book Treadstone. Treadstone isn’t trying to kill Jason, they are trying to help him complete his mission which is to lay a trap for the world’s most notorious assassin, Carlos. In the movie Carlos is killed off in the first couple of minutes. In the books he continues into The Bourne Supremecy and his dearest desire is the kill Jason, aka Cain. And the character Marie in the movie has no comparison to the book Marie. Marie St. Jacques in the book has advanced degrees in economics from 3 universities including Oxford and works for the Canadian government. Her experience in the financial underworld of various governments and her connections are a great help to Jason.

It really annoys me when screenwriters and directors take an interesting and complex story and dumb it down until it is unrecognizable. It’s an insult the many hours that the author put in to create the story. Hopefully, Mr. Ludlum was paid well.

 

Meatless Fridays

You’ve heard of meatless Mondays, I’m sure. An invention of the Vegan/Vegetarian groups in the US, meatless Mondays is encouraged as a way of saving the lives of food animals, saving a little money, helping the environment and improving our health. These are all very good reasons. As a former vegetarian and sometimes Vegan, I loved the idea of saving animals who are raised in deplorable conditions and hated the environmental damage caused by CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).

But eventually, while I still believe these issues are important and need to be addressed, I lost my activist zeal  and went back to eating meat. Honestly, it’s too hard to be vegetarian, especially if you like to eat out weekly as my husband and I do, and I lost my taste for Vegetarian foods. Most meatless recipes are too exotic/spicy for my taste. I love a veggie pizza or burger and the only burritos I’ll eat are bean with cheese and rice, but you can’t eat those all the time. Plus I got tired of saying “no” all the time. I began to feel a real sense of deprivation and for a diet that’s supposed to improve your health, that’s not good.

But, swap the word “penance” for “deprivation” and you’ve got something worthwhile. It’s a sin to abuse animals for our pleasure. It’s a sin to abuse our planet’s environment for our pleasure. And so, for the animals and for the planet God created and that we humans cannot survive without, I’ll abstain from meat on Fridays as an act of penance.

I will also abstain in remembrance of Christ’s suffering on the cross. And in solidarity with the poor who, too often, go to bed hungry at night. And, of course, for my own sins of which there are too many.

It’s not enough, I know. One little old lady giving up meat one day of the week isn’t going to change a thing.

But, it’s a start.

 

 

Going Beyond

I’ve been reading Bishop Robert Barron’s Letter to a Suffering Church these last two days, and as always with the good Bishop, it has given me much to think about. If you are like me and you’ve been struggling with your faith in the church after the McCarrick and Pennsylvania revelations, then click on the link above and order your free copy ASAP. It’s well worth the $5.95 in shipping costs.

It’s a short read at just over 100 pages, and an easy read, but if you’re like me, it won’t necessarily be a quick read. There are plenty of points in his letter that you’ll want to mull and pray over. Yesterday I came across a tidbit that I had to write down because it struck me as somewhat profound.

In the chapter Why Should We Stay? the Bishop writes about how Jesus’s teachings are meant to, in some cases radically, change us. Bishop Barron then refers to Mark 1:15 in which Jesus says we should “repent.” However, the original word “metanoiete” that is most often translated as repent literally means “go beyond the mind you have.”

Think about that for a minute. Let it roll around in your brain and work it’s way into your heart.

Go beyond the mind you have.

The mind formed by your childhood experiences and lessons. The mind influenced by secular media and culture, by politics, by teachers and professors, by friends and family. The mind influenced by your biological urges for pleasure: sex, food, comfort, love, acceptance. The mind influenced by our consumer culture’s belief that being rich, famous and powerful are the only goals worth pursuing.

When Jesus says metanoiete he’s not just telling us to recite our sins and ask for forgiveness. He’s telling us to go beyond this world where are minds are firmly entrenched and enter into a better world. His world. His mind. His life.

So much meaning packed into one little word.

Go beyond the mind you have.

 

Fantasy Writing Workshop

I recently returned from Oxford, England where I attended a 7-day Fantasy Writing Workshop led by David Farland. It was a fantastic trip in many ways including the sights, the sounds, the food and the people. I met many warm, generous people on this trip most especially my fellows writers in our class and on our field trips in and around Oxford.

A bit of trivia: the name Oxford is a contraction of the original Saxon name Oxen-ford.

Our first outing together was to the Bodleian Library’s J.R.R. Tolkien exhibit. Couldn’t take any pictures inside, but here’s the link: https://tolkien.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/

And here’s a shot of the outside of the museum.

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The Weston Library, part of the Bodleian Library.

Tolkien truly was a multi-talented individual and when you see his watercolors, sketches, calligraphy and samples of his elvish language, you can easily see why his books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, were so beautifully written.

The next day we all piled into a mini-van and a small car and drove to Stonehenge. Yes, it is as a amazing as it sounds, even if it is super windy and packed with tourists.

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Stonehenge.

 

I spent the majority of my class and writing free time wandering around the city. It really is an amazing place, Oxford. Where ancient and modern co-exist in perfect harmony.

 

We all spent most of our time either in class sharing our work for critique’s, listening to Dave’s lectures, and of course, working on writing assignments. If you haven’t taken a class with Dave Farland, you really should. He’s a very successful author best known for his Runelord’s series, but is well known for many other writing accomplishments including acting as a judge for the Writer’s of the Future contest. He spends most of his time giving live workshops, but you can work through his online courses on your own. You can find the info here: https://mystorydoctor.com/

On my second the last day in Oxford I took the tour at the Oxford Castle and Prison. Originally a motte-and-bailey castle built by the Saxons (who ruled England about 500AD-1000AD), then rebuilt by the Normans, the castle officially became a prison in the 17th century. Up until recently, it was believed that St. George’s Tower was built by the Norman Baron Robert O’Dilly in 1071. But, recent archaeology has thrown that theory into question. It is now believed more likely that the tower was built by the Saxons and the Baron simply incorporated it into his design. As you can probably tell, the castle was probably my favorite part of my visit.

 

Overall, it was an amazing trip and this blog post only covers a small fraction of the memories and experiences I had while there. But, I hope it’s enough to inspire you to make your own journey someday.

Efficiency

After two months of drenching rains, falling trees, landslides, power outages and days long forced confinement life is slowly regaining a sense of normalcy. In my case that means predictable routine. For instance, it’s Sunday so, predictably, my husband is sitting in the living room watching bad movies. He loves movies, and so do I, but he’ll watch any movie, no matter how awful, while I tend to be more selective. Even he admits I’m better at picking out movies to watch than he is.

When my husband and I first started dating one of the first things he noticed about me was my love of ritual as he called it. I hadn’t thought about it quite that way before, but when I did I had to laugh. Properly defined ritual refers to religious ceremonies, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that I adhere to my daily/weekly/monthly routines with a near religious devotion.

When I was a kid I saw a movie called Cheaper by the Dozen starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. In this early version of the story the father, Frank Gilbreth, Jr. was a time-motion study and efficiency expert. I watched this movie several times over the years because I was fascinated by the idea of applying his principles of efficiency to every day life. I wanted to be an efficiency expert when I grew up.

Officially, I’m a high school graduate with some community college credits, but no degree. I could never be hired as an efficiency expert. But, the desire to conduct both my personal and business life with the greatest efficiency has never left me. And I think, in my amateurish way, I’ve done all right. Almost every supervisor I’ve ever worked with has complimented my efficiency. I get things done in half the time with 98% accuracy.

Of course, there are downsides to this need for predictable routine and efficiency. For one thing, I don’t have a spontaneous bone in my body, which often drives my husband nuts. He’s the opposite, you see. It takes a week of thoughtful planning before I pack my suitcase. He packs 5 minutes before we leave. He loves last minute invitations to a party, or other event. I need at least a week to decide if the event while fit into my schedule. Okay, I can do it in a day, but I prefer more time.

It also means that in writing and reading and everyday communications I get annoyed with extraneous verbiage. Why say in 20 words what can easily be said in 10? If I ask you what time it is, please don’t tell me how to build a clock.

I also don’t like books that are heavy on description. It’s not efficient. Not for me as a reader or as a writer. I know what a tapestry rug looks like. Please don’t describe it’s weft and warp. Do you really need to describe every stick of furniture in the room the protagonist just entered? For the third time? I ran across this once. The author insisted on describing an antique stuffed room, in detail, every time someone walked into it. After reading about the cherry wood Chippendale desk for the third time, I tossed the book across the room. And I’ve never picked up another of that author’s books since.

Description is necessary. Our characters can’t be floating around in empty space. But, know when to stop. And know what readers prefer in the genre you are writing in. If you write commercial mainstream fiction with stories based in the modern world then minimal to medium amounts of description are all that’s needed. If you write fantasy or science fiction then you need more description. But, that’s not a license to go crazy. Even in these genres you will most likely include settings and items that are familiar to us all. You may have trees with pink leaves and green flowers, but they are still leaves and flowers. Describe in depth only those things that can’t be easily visualized by your readers.

On the other hand, there are people out there who love description. Lots and lots of description. And that’s okay because there are writers who love filling their books with loads of it. To each his own.

For me, a person who loves efficiency, less is more.

 

More Storms

And not just weather related ones. There’s a political storm underway in this country right now. Smarter people than me can comment of the nuances of the political world. I want to talk about neighbors.

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. —Robert A. Heinlein

Right now, in my neck of the woods, nature is doing the controlling. Another week of rainy weather brought down a few tons of earth, rocks and a few trees.

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Photo courtesy of Jessi & Bryce, Next Door Lompico.

The county works department has been scratching their collectives heads over this one for a couple of days now. As of this morning they estimate it will take them until Friday (4 days away) to clear one lane.

This is the main road we use to get to town. What this means for me is that I’ll be housebound until it’s open again. There’s a detour, but it’s a one lane road that isn’t in very good shape because of the increased traffic and damage from all the storms. This road also runs through a number of privately owned properties making the extra traffic difficult for those who live there. Which is why I’m staying put. Out of respect for my neighbors.

Neighbors are important in this small mountain community. My husband and I moved here because we don’t want to live in “the city.” We both grew up in heavily populated urban areas and we both grew to hate that way of life. So, as soon as we had the chance, we high tailed it out of there and we’ve enjoyed the freedom living in small rural areas has given us. And I’ve learned the benefit’s of loving my neighbors even when they irritate me.

Granted, we’ve had to deal with the effects of nature’s rage in ways “city folks” don’t and it has been challenging, but if you’re paying attention, there’s a lot to learn from this way of life. One big lesson is that if we don’t work together, look out for each other, we’re going to spend a lot of time sitting alone in the dark.

I’ve lived in cities for a big portion of my life and spent most of that time living in apartments. If we ever had a problem with our neighbors we called the landlord or the police, as the case may be. At school I was taught that if I had a problem with a fellow student, go to the teacher. At work, if I had a problem with a co-worker the rule was to either talk to my boss or HR. I can’t remember ever being told to talk to the person and work things out between us. This is the type of distrust and xenophobia that urban areas instill in its citizens.

It’s a whole different mindset here in Lompico. In this area where we are often isolated from the world, we can’t depend on government agencies or bosses or landlords. Solving problems is up to us.

In the summer our neighbors like to party and play loud music. I’m not the partying type. I’m an introvert who likes quiet and being left alone to do my thing. So, in situations like these I have choice. I can get angry, make a big fuss and demand that they stop making such a racket, or I can close my windows on that side of the house. I choose to close my windows.

Why? Because we’ve taken the time to get to know our neighbors and we’ve become friends despite our differences. Turns out, they’re wonderful, kind people who, if I asked them, would shut the music down in a heartbeat. And when the lights go out they let us hook into their generator so that we can be comfortable until the power is restored.

There is also a group of residents who started a private email forum called Next Door Lompico. During this last series of storms every member posted notices about power failures, downed trees, garbage collection, the landslide, and anything else helpful you can think of. I’ve never met these people, but I will never forget their kindness.

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

I’ve heard it said that it comes down to people who live in large cities where, out of necessity, everything and everyone is controlled by laws and ordinances vs. people who live in small towns and rural areas where freedom and independence are more highly valued. Based on the red and blue map from this last election, I think they may have a point.

Having lived in both worlds, I think the real problem with our country right now is that we’ve lost the ability to work together as a community. At one time we knew how to do that, but over the years, as the country has grown, that way of life lost favor. I’m not even going to speculate on the why’s, but I do think that until we get that back, until we learn how to talk and listen and work together we’re going to remain trapped under this landslide of division and hatred that has overtaken the country.

 

 

Storm Warnings

We live in a little cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains. As I sit here typing a gust of wind has rushed through the trees that surround our house. Normally, watching the tree tops dance and sway would be nothing more than an interesting diversion. A sensory image to file away for later use. But, this is day 6 of a storm that has added inches of rain to soil still saturated by two storms that passed through just a week earlier. Gusty winds mean more fallen trees and a good chance of more power failures.

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But, we’ve been lucky. In other parts of California flooding has forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Mudslides and downed trees have closed many roads and a few highways. Yosemite closed due to flooding. And a beloved landmark was destroyed.

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California’s Tunnel Tree, before and after

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So, while we’ve had to “rough it” a bit through an extended power outage and heavy rain and road closures trapped us in our home for three days, we’ve done all right. We’ve kept warm and dry in our little cabin. I stocked up on food and water before the worst of it hit and we were able to cook and boil water thanks to our gas stove. We also have wonderful neighbors who let us hook up to their generator. This gave us enough power to keep the refrigerator, cable, phone and internet on. Without that we would have had no idea what was going on in the outside world. Internet access was limited by the fact that there was no power to my desktop computer, but that’s okay. My trusty old Kindle Fire did just fine. Even if it wouldn’t let me check my email.

My husband did have one bad morning when the power was out. He’s one of those people who needs his caffeine fix in the morning and he couldn’t use the coffee maker. As you would expect, he was a bit grumpy when I got up and hour or so after he did. Fortunately, I found some instant coffee stashed in the back of a cupboard and all was right with the world once again.

And cooking dinner by candlelight? Not as easy as you would think. You can’t tell if something’s burning until you smell the smoke. That or you stir and flip with one hand while the other holds a flashlight.

Then there was the day we were so bored we binge watched West Wing. I loved that series when it aired so my family bought me five seasons worth of DVD sets.

But, the story’s not over yet. According to the weather reports and my window, we still have a bunch of rain and wind to deal with today and some light rain tomorrow and the next before we’re done.

Stay safe and dry out there.