Two Inspiring Young Women

November 1, 2009

Just this week, I’ve heard two stories about two young women – both age 12 – who are truly inspiring.

The first is Dorothy Dark, who creates original headbands and sells them at a boutique in Nashville, Tenn. They’re going for $8-$12, folks. She’s 12. What a talent, and what an entrepreneur.

The second is a young woman who may be about 14 by now, but the story I learned about her concerns her life when she was 12 and 13. She was making a movie, and not just any move, but a feature-length film – about zombies. Emily Hagins’ story is told in the documentary Zombie Girl – and it follows her through two years of filmaking. She was 12 when she did this, folks. Twelve. As in – in middle school. And this is no ordinary feature-length pre-teen zombie movie. It’s the Real Deal. Makup. Slates (“action”), film-editing, sound boom. The works.  (With lots of help from Mom and Dad and her schoolmates. And the local IGA, until the zombies left a trail of blood behind after the filming – but we won’t talk about that.) What’s more, she won a $1000 Texas Filmmaker’s Production Grant that helped her family recoup some of the funds they had put into the film. It took her two years to create the film before Pathogen premiered to a sold-out crowd in her hometown of Austin, Tex.

I really loved the documentary about the making of her film, because it showed her passion for filmmaking, her professionalism at such a young age, and her desire to do good work, and see her project through to completion. I mean, really – how many 12 year olds can keep their enthusiasm and momentum going on one subject for more than a few weeks – let alone two entire years? It was impressive and inspiring.

It was neat to see, too, how she and her mother got along during the entire zombie-journey. It was amazing to see how supportive both of her parents were of her endeavor, but especially her mother who provided transportation, and served as caterer, sound crew, makeup artist, props department, and special effects technician. Sometimes Mom tried to have too much influence in production, which led to some artistic differences and tension between mother and daughter, but her story, too, as mother of a child-film-producer was also interesting to watch.

I’m interested to see where these young ladies are in another 2 to 10 years. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one is a major fashion designer and the other is getting her first Academy Award or Sundance Film Festival honor at age 18.

Young women like these inspire me. If we as adults, particularly us women, believed in our dreams and followed our passions with the heart and drive as these young girls – what might our world look like? Well, it might be full of zombies wearing hip, cool headbands – but I’d venture a guess that we’d all be happier, and those around us would be happier, too, because by following our passions, we would bring joy and laugher and pleasure to others. What’s more – we could inspire others – just like these young women are inspiring me – and I hope, you too!

 

© writingreading, 2009


Inspiration from Michelangelo

July 20, 2009

Last night I watched an old movie, The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michelangelo and the painting of the Sistine Chapel.  There were a lot of lines there that really resonated with me, especially as it relates to my current book project – which frequently makes me feel overwhelmed and at times, immobilized. Also a lot of great lines just about art and creating, in general. Even though it is an old movie, it was pretty good, and it was one of those grand ol’ Technicolor classics, so it was pretty to look at, too. Here’s a few of the parts that meant something to me.

Michelangelo sketches a man in a bar – then “makes him a saint” just by adding a halo.

Michelangelo repeatedly says he is not a painter, but a sculptor. Sometimes the fear of painting the work before him, paralyzes him. When he gets a burst of determination, he declares: “Painting is not my trade, but I will make it my trade.”

Pope: “When will you make it end?”
Michelangelo: “When I’m finished.”
(This becomes a running line, throughout the film.) – And this is exactly the dilemma I am feeling right now with my book. “When will it end?” “When I get all the information in there that I need to.”

Exhausted and sick, Michelangelo declares: “Even if I had the strength to go on, I don’t have the will.” That’s a crisis of faith, of sorts, and something I can totally relate to.  I’m beginning to wonder if I have the will to see my own project to completion.

“You’ll always be an artist. You have no choice.”

“Don’t you want to finish?” “More than my life.”

The Pope in the film turns out to be a man of little faith. He is surprised at Michelangelo’s portrait of God, that God is not angry or wrathful. Michelangelo explains -“Not yet. Not at Creation.” The Pope says only a man of faith could create such a work of art. It is through his art that Michelangelo expresses his faith, and makes it more solid.

Both the Pope and Michelangelo egg each other on – virtually tormenting each other. By badgering each other, they encourage each other to fulfill their life’s mission and work. At one point when Michelangelo is ill, the Pope observes: “An artist is destroyed when he is kept from his work.” The Pope understands the cure for Michelangelo’s illness is to return to his art.

Even after Michaelangelo has been working on the chapel, probably for years – he still says he is not a painter, but a sculptor. When the Pope asks him to do more work, in addition to the ceiling – Michaelangelo rebels (but does it anyway), still complaining that he is not a painter. It was really interesting to see how this weighed on Michaelangelo, and to see how despite his distress over having to paint – and to paint something on such a grand and magnificent scale – he still managed to excel at his work, despite its burden and his own nagging self-doubts.

© writingreading, 2009


We Can Make Beautiful Music Together!

December 5, 2008

Just saw an incredible video on PBS. It is about Mark Johnson, who has made a film called “Playing for Change.” He filmed musicians all over the world, playing the same song, then edited them all together so it is an ensemble performance.

It is moving, and amazing. Johnson’s premise is that music unites all of us, and even though we may be from different cultures, nations, races, religions, music can transcend all of the other things that may try to divide us.

It is a powerful concept, and a powerful video. Inspiring and moving.

Johnson’s even started music schools in places throughout the world to make his vision real, and to help people who live in desperate circumstances find solace and hope through music.

There’s really no need for me to say anything further – except to encourage you to check out the links above, and see and hear it for yourself!

I just found out that Johnson is also guest blogging at Bill Moyers’ Journal – so you can follow up on this story, there.

© writingreading, 2008


Small things make a big difference

July 13, 2008

It’s been a few months since I saw this film, but I find it to be “haunting” in the sense that it still occasionally pops up on my mental landscape. It is called Midnight Clear and stars one of the Baldwin brothers. It’s kind of one of those “sleeper” films, I think, not sure if it was ever released to theatres – maybe more kind of film festival fare.

It basically follows several characters through a short period of time – maybe even just one or two days, and is one of those kind of movies where through plot turns and twists, all of the characters end up becoming interrelated in some manner. What I found most meaningful, and yes, “haunting” about the film was its overall concept or philosophy of “sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference.” All of the things that take place in the plot seem quite believable, and even are properly confusing at times for the viewer – but make sense in the character’s world. The characters are pretty much ordinary everyday people, and all have their own flaws, weaknesses and hangups.

Definitely the thing that stuck with me most about this film, is the way small acts and decisions can have a large impact – and that sometimes we remain completely unaware of that impact, even as it happens, and even as time goes on. The kindness to help a stranger, answering a knock on the door, turning left instead of right, these are all the small things that can (in the movie, and I think sometimes in life) have big effects.

The film, especially on their website, may have Christian implications or undertones, but I did not find the film to be overtly evangelistic, preachy, or even to have much of an obnoxiously Christian message. I view the lack of all of these to be positives, and as a result, I was not put-off from either picking the film up in the first place, or losing interest or being offended during the viewing of it. About the only real “Christian” element is simply that the story takes place at Christmas time.

I really liked this film, because it is thoughtful, well-written, the characters are fully developed, they are “ordinary” people, and the plot, although twisty, makes sense in the end. I especially liked the “meaning” and philosophy of the film, that small things make a big difference. It is a film not just with a heart, but with a mind. I like that!

© writingreading 2008


Carol’s cooking sucks (& so does her life!) – OR – Housewives as Heroines

May 29, 2008

Well, so I’ve got it a little off. The precise term is “Stinks,” not “sucks” but the implication is the same. I’m referring to an otherwise unidentified woman, who herself made that statement about her own cooking, and wrote of her life in a similar manner. The story appears in a great book called: Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote by Janet Theophano.

Although there are many more positive women in Theophano’s book – which focuses not on the cooking and cuisine, but rather on the mostly-anonymous women behind cookbooks of all sorts, from about the 1700s through the 1900s.

Carol stood out to me because of her frustration, and her willingness to write about it – her cookbook doubling as a diary. Carol is a 50 year old woman, living, cooking, writing and “venting” sometime in the 1960s or 1970s. She appears to be desperately unhappy. Her husband does nothing. She works at a full time job, then comes home and works. Dinner is the biggest chore. Housework is a second job with very little compensation – and apparently very little appreciation. She uses the term “dingbat” – so I wonder if she wrote while watching All in the Family – that term used by Archie Bunker to berate his wife. Did Carol’s husband do the same?

Carol, through her cookbook/diary, reminds me of another woman of the same time period, who is the major character in the documentary film called 51 Birch Street who kept journals for decades through a mostly-unhappy marriage. Granted, there were parts of that woman’s story I didn’t want to know, but what emerged through that film was a woman who longed to break free from the roles society, her husband, and family, had placed upon her, as rigid as a prison. Carol seems to inhabit a similar prison. Both women were trapped by their times and paid a heavy price.

I believe that within the next, say, 10-20 years, a new vision of women in the 1950s and 1960s – after World War II and before the “women’s movement” – will emerge that shows the heroism of their everyday lives, their struggles for self-determination, the stubborn refusal of society and their husbands (and perhaps their kids) to grant them a mind, a heart, and indeed a space of their own – and the courage of these women to continue – to fulfill not only their responsibilities to others (it’s always about others) -but to finally grasp and proclaim their own dignity and worth, as individuals, irrespective of husbands, children, or others.

I never thought of housework or preparing dinner as courageous acts – but after reading Carol’s story – I see how preparing dinner every nite was such an act of conformity – which grieved her soul – and an act of courage – “doing what had to be done” despite a desperate desire to flee. In her cookbook, her unhappiness at her situation is clear. She talks of suicide and divorce, all because of the immense weight of the double burden of working outside of the home full time – and working inside of the home, almost equally as much – and her husband’s distance, emotionally as well as his lack of involvement in household tasks.

The more I learn about the *real* lives of housewives in the 1950s and 1960s, the more I am grateful to them for what they did, and the burden they carried as our mothers and grandmothers. We have this “blissful” “nostalgic” idea of the smiling mother, dad with his pipe and a sweater vest, and a boy and a girl cheerfully smiling at the dinner table, but what we don’t see is that Mother is clenching her teeth in a frozen spiteful grin – polite, as always – but seething inside that Dad has his houseslippers on and is relaxing reading the paper, while she has to cook for four in high heels and a silk dress after she has been on her feet all day. (oh, her aching feet!)

I’m not writing this as a rant, or even a diatribe against housewives then or now, or working women or moms, or even the “traditional family.” Not at all, and quite the contrary. What I am saying – and this through what Carol shares about her life, and others like her – is that all of these women deserve our respect and admiration. Housewife and mother are the most taken-for-granted roles and tasks there are. Those women need an award or medal – just like loyal employees who have a perfect attendance at the factory or an accident-free year on the assembly line. All those housewives of years ago – are heroines!!

P.S. I realize some of my readers may in fact be those very housewives – today or years back. Thank you for your courage and dignity in your everyday lives!!!

©2008 writingreading