Tag: the help

Random Thoughts Feb 2012

Wrote this last night-

So I’ve been posting a lot lately for 2 reasons- I’ve had a lot of pain lately and a lot of insomnia.  Here I am with both of those conditions. Here’s some random thoughts

Pain-

Quick note- I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the fibromyalgia facebook wall but those in the blogosphere do you normally have localized pain or is it all over?  I actually don’t have pain all over.  It is specific unless I’ve particularly exercised another part that day.  I ALWAYS have pain in my ribcage- all over the ribcage, sternum, side.  It is tender to the touch.  Hurts to wear a bra or any clothing. Swimming is oddly fine but it is sore no matter what I do.  I live with a minimal level of pain but some days like today it was so sore and when I touched it the muscle feels puffy and swollen…I’m going to the doctor Monday but I’m just curious if anyone has heard of anything like this? The odd thing is my doctor gave me muscle relaxants to take in an emergency and they seem to do nothing.  Its like the bones hurt.

Friends-

However, I pushed forward and had a good day anyway.  My friends have kept me really busy lately which has been a HUGE blessing in so many levels.  I will never be a girl who complains about not having enough friends- at least I shouldn’t.  I have my swim friends, my church friends, my long-time friends, my friends who live away from me who I chat with via facebook, my siblings and family.  My cousins are my friends. Even my Grandma is one of my best friends. I just think of all the sad people I used to meet on my mission who would let us in just so that I spoke to someone during the day and I remember how lucky I am. I work really hard at my friendships but still I am very blessed.

Food-

Ok.  Lately I have been struggling with food.  All food looks gross to me. I have no energy to cook and especially clean. I love having people over for the company but also because it forces me to cook! I’ve had mixed luck with the crockpot of late. I think it works great for roasts and bbq pork but other dishes have been mixed at best.  I usually end up eating out or at Harmons. Sometimes I wonder if this saves me money.  I was thinking about that yesterday when I got a salad at Harmons and for me to buy portabello mushrooms, chicken, mixed greens, bell pepper etc would have been a lot more than the $7  I spent on my salad.  Plus, I would have had ingredients left over I wouldn’t use and it would take me forever to cook, chop up all those ingredients.  Thoughts?

Oscars-

So the Oscars are tomorrow and I could really care less about Hollywood and its awards (Is there a more self-congratulatory group in the world than Hollywood?  There is an awards show every day).  I do like the fashion.  This year is fun because I have actually seen 5 of the 9 movies nominated for best picture- Tree of Life, The Artist, The Help, Hugo and Midnight in Paris. If it was just me picking I would give the prize to The Help and I would have nominated Harry Potter for best picture, but I loved The Artist and Midnight in Paris also.

Also, if Tree of Life doesn’t win for best cinematography than the category has no meaning.  I wish that the documentaries would come to the theaters.  They sound pretty interesting.

I think The Artist and The Help will win most everything and they are great movies and deserve it.

(Also, I think Jean Dujardin should win for best actor and tired of everyone comparing him to Roberto Begnini.  What you can only give an Oscar to a foreigner every 20 years? Plus, their movies are totally different).

Television-

So today on lifetime (I was resting before my busy day) they had 4 movies in a row (no I did not watch them) about abducted children.  There’s a laugh riot for your Saturday morning…

Fun times-

So today was really fun. My friend Tennille asked me if I wanted to go to the show at Hale Theater West Valley-  Zorro: The Musical.  It was the US Premiere!  I love Hale Theater and jumped at the chance to go.  Before the show we went to my favorite sushi place- Nagoya Sushi in Midvale (this random little place in a strip mall but it is so good. We had 2 kinds of sushi, tempura vegetables and gyoza for $26. There’s no way I could have made all that for $26.).

Anyway, the show was great!  So fun to see a show in development.  I am sure by the time it makes it to broadway they will work out some of the kinks.  The performances were all very good, as is almost always the case with Hale (the last one I saw was a rare miss so nice to see them back on track).  It was fun to see a show that I didn’t know the music for, made it a surprise.

Here’s an article on it from Deseret News-  Broadway-bound ‘Zorro’ a sizzling sensation at Hale West Valley’

Writing and Stories

Ok.  We are taking a break from my interviews for one second.  This is a topic I have wanted to address for some time.  I love writing and have always enjoyed creating stories (not as much as my sister but I still like it).   Growing up the advice to writers was always ‘tell what you know’ (think Jo March, Anne Shirley etc).  However, if this was the standard we would never have fantasy, magic or imagination (unless there is a mystical world out there I am unaware of).

Lately, I have heard a different vein of this old school writing advice.  Not only should you write what you know but that is the only thing you have a ‘right’ to write. If you venture away from your world than you are accused of stealing the voice of others.

For example, many have criticized Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, for telling a tale about black household workers in the 60s.  She even admits to being ‘nervous’ about it in an interview:

Q.  Were you nervous that some people might take affront that you, a white woman in 2008–and a Southern white woman at that–were writing in the voice of two African-American maids?

A.At first, I wasn’t nervous writing in the voice of Aibileen and Minny because I didn’t think anybody would ever read the story except me. I wrote it because I wanted to go back to that place with Demetrie. I wanted to hear her voice again.

But when other people started reading it, I was very worried about what I’d written and the line I’d crossed. And the truth is, I’m still nervous. I’ll never know what it really felt like to be in the shoes of those black women who worked in the white homes of the South during the 1960s and I hope that no one thinks I presume to know that. But I had to try. I wanted the story to be told. I hope I got some of it right.

I have also heard the same criticism of Sue Monk Kidd’s writing in The Secret Life of Bee’s.  In Utah some are mad at Stephanie Meyer for writing characters that do not uphold her Mormon faith.

I take issue with all of these arguments.  Are we really saying that Stockett can only write about Southern white women, that Stephanie Meyer can only write about Mormons, that Sue Monk Kidd can only tell stories of girls from small towns in Georgia?  (I don’t even like Meyer’s writing but I will defend it on this level).

Nobody enjoys a good memoir more than I do but I also love creativity and vision.  Who cares if a character may not be perfectly historically accurate?  If it works within the world of the story that’s all I care about.

These types of exclusions and criticisms are another example of how we preach diversity while becoming more isolating every moment.  We are no longer a melting pot of ideas and cultures but a scattering or clustering of those ideas.  Any break from cultural autonomy is seen as bigoted or an affront.   It makes it easier for most of us to stay in homogenous groups such as exemplified by Utah (where I live) or Portland (great book on this topic is The Big Sort by Bill Bishop).

Getting back to writing,  if a book is well written I shouldn’t even be thinking about the author and his or her story.  After all, when I’m reading Jane Eyre I’m not wondering how a clergyman’s daughter who didn’t marry until she was 30 could write such sexy, romantic prose? No, I’m enthralled with the story and then only after do I ask those questions.

To me it is sad that we are making authors ‘nervous’.  That we are forcing them to ask those questions and perhaps abandon a powerful story.   I like how Sue Monk Kidd describes her writing process:

“It took me a little over three years to complete the novel. The process of writing it was a constant balancing act between what writing teacher Leon Surmelian referred to as “measure and madness.” He suggested that writing fiction should be a blend of these two things. That struck me as exactly true. On one hand, I relied on some very meticulous “measures,” such as character studies, scene diagrams, layouts of the pink house and the honey house. I had a big notebook where I worked out the underlying structure of the book. I relied more heavily, however, on trying to conjure “madness,” which I think of as an inexplicable and infectious magic that somehow flows into the work.”

How can such madness and vision be tempered by thoughts of what is appropriate for them to write?  How about we just let them write and enjoy the results?  Maybe we would get better books if we encouraged true creative freedom.  That’s one thing I appreciated about The Book Thief is it has an unabashedly unique voice and perspective.   Nobody said, “Markus Zusak you are Australian, you can’t tell a story about WWII Germany” and thank goodness for that.  It is a perfect example of an author embracing the ‘madness’ and it working so thoroughly.

So, yes as Professor Bhaer says in Little Women “You must write from life, from the depths of your soul! “, or…maybe not?  Write whatever your soul tells you to write and even if it is a fairy story or about pygmies in Africa, it will become your story because you wrote it.  Look at Alexander McCall Smith.  He wrote about a spunky female detective in Botswana and he’s a stodgy old man from Scotland but it works.  There are so many examples.

All I’m asking is that we give people a little more room to breath outside of their life experience.  This doesn’t weaken any culture but adds a new voice and how can that be bad?

The Help


I don’t normally put out two posts in one day but I just had to give a quick shout-out to the movie I saw last night- The Help.  It is without a doubt the best movie I have seen this year (I know that isn’t saying much because this has been a bad year for movies).

Naturally I have read the bestselling book by Kathryn Stockett.  In fact, I have read it three times including once for book club.  I enjoyed the book and loved the voices Stockett creates.  She is a great writer.  However, (and this may shock its die-hard fans) in some ways I actually thought the movie was better.  That almost never happens, but I really think it did in this case.  Let me explain

In the book there are 3 different narrators, white returning-college student Skeeter, near-retirement maid Aibileen, and a spunky maid named Minnie.  Each chapter is told by one of the three narrators and while all are engaging, I found myself itching for the Aibileen sections. I loved her character and found her rich and textured in a way nobody else is in the book is.

This is where the movie gets it right- it does not follow the 1/3rd formula of the book and focuses much more on Minnie and Aibileen than Skeeter.  It also helps that all of the performers (even the small parts such as Alison Janney as Skeeter’s mom) are terrific.   My favorite was the woman who played Aibileen- Viola Davis.  I had never seen her in a movie before and thought she was wonderful.

There are so many other good things about The Help.  The sets are meticulous, the story is touching and hilarious at points and the tone is appropriate.  Some of have criticized it as a soft treatment of civil rights.  My argument to that is Why does everything have to he tough and gritty? What’s wrong with learning a lesson in a nice way?  I would have a problem if no gritty films existed but they do in abundance.  I think their is room for both types of teaching.  In some ways I learn more when I’m not bowled over with horrific images that are almost too hard to absorb and take-in.  A softer feel can give me room to analyze and wonder what I might have done in such a time as the Civil Rights Era.

Another very strong part of the movie (and my other favorite character in the book) is the scenes with Celia Foote. She is played by Jessica Chastain (another actress I had never seen before but who did a great job).  Celia is a woman that is discriminated by both the blacks and whites because she is seen as promiscuous and back-woodsy. Unlike Aibileen and the other maids, Celia has no congregation to go to for acceptance, no group of similarly minded women to gab with.  This makes her a very interesting character that the audience feels for and it made me wonder who I am excluding from my life because they are “too….fill in the blank”?

The main plot of The Help revolves around Skeeter convincing the maids to write a book about their perspectives raising white babies.  Writing the book is illegal and dangerous but the construct of the book in both the novel and movie is just a vehicle for us to get to know the characters and to understand how prejudice and a lack of options in life has affected them.

Naturally there has to be a villain for this type of story to move along- Miss Hilly Holbrook- but she is the weakest part of the story.  I wish Stockett had dared to create a white racist that was less cartoonish.  This would challenge the reader/viewer even more.  If Hilly had layers then we may respond to one of those layers and then process that response for our own character enhancement.  At its current state Hilly can be discarded as a caricature unlike anyone we know. Still, somehow the character of Hilly bothered me less in the movie than in the novel.  Not sure why but there you go!

I also felt in the book and movie that the side plot and subsequent big reveal involving Skeeter’s maid Constantine is underwhelming.  However, it is laid out differently in the movie and the acting by Janney as the mother in these scenes is great.  It brings a level of emotion not felt in the book. (Although in the book Constantine’s daughter is white which is the main part of the scandal.  Not sure why they changed that?)

Those are small flaws (Did I also mention the wandering Southern accents the characters ALL have!).  On a whole the movie is immensely entertaining.  It is touching, funny and inspiring.   The acting is superb all around and the entire feel of the film is perfect.

There is a little language- mostly involving a pie made with nefarious ingredients!

Aside from the pie, it is a clean  film appropriate for most teens and young adults  (there is also a scene involving a miscarriage which is appropriately graphic).

I highly recommend seeing The Help.  It is a great movie and one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen. Let me know what you think!