Shame, shame, eternal shame

Another mass shooting.  That makes 36 since Columbine (at least 36- I’m not sure I got them all).   Not to mention the literally hundreds of thousands of deaths – not of the mass variety – caused by guns in the same time frame.  If you use an average of 30K gun related deaths in the U.S. every year that is 480,000 since 1999. And that figure is conservative.

I have many members of my extended family who are card carrying NRA members, libertarians, gun enthusiasts – and I love them all.   But on this issue we will never agree.   I cannot accept their defense of their ‘right’ to carry a gun – any gun – when it feels to me like a dismissal of the deaths of so many people.

When the Bill of Rights was drafted, the right to bear arms was put in as an afterthought, and had a lot more to do with preventing a standing army than allowing Americans to carry an arsenal on their back.  (See Michael Waldman’s excellent book “The 2nd Amendment – a biography“)  Now we have a standing army, so the 2nd Amendment, if you are looking at it from the Founders point of view, failed.   But if you want to wrap yourself in the Bill of Rights, then how about this?  I agree to allow every man, woman and child in this country to carry a muzzle loader.  Sharpshooters during the Revolution were expected to get off 3 shots in a minute; the average person might manage 1 or 2.     If you shoot one person and it takes you a 30 seconds or more to reload, you likely aren’t going to get the chance to shoot anyone else.

Shame on us for using our Bill of Rights to defend violence and extrapolate that the Founders would support citizens carrying AK47s or semi-automatic pistols or whatever the deadliest thing is that can shoot hundreds of rounds a minute.   Shame, shame, eternal shame.

My kids and I have an ongoing discussion about the fact that our culture disparages displays of affection and love as inappropriate – a film that show sex in any way that might be depicted as graphic is getting an R rating for sure – but the Hunger Games movie, in which kids kill other kids in cold blood was rated PG13.

It should trouble all of us that the people who refuse to consider banning assault weapons are often the same people who oppose allowing two people who love each other to get married.    We as a nation value the ability to shoot many people at random over the ability to love the person of our choosing.

There is something very, very wrong about that.

People who oppose regulations say things like “guns don’t kill people, people do.”   To which I respond, “True, but a person with a gun will kill a lot more people than a person without a gun.”  Or they point out that there are already lots of state gun laws in place that just don’t get enforced, so we don’t need more.  I’ve thought a lot about that, and have decided that a state law that goes unenforced cannot be held up as a reason against implementing nationwide regulations for the types of guns that can be purchased and the procedure for purchasing them.    Another argument is that if it is harder to get guns legally, only criminals will have them.   If that were the case, then every country with strict gun control laws would still have gun deaths because we are not the only country with criminals.   Do some research on your own on gun related deaths in England and Australia, and then get back to me about the whole ‘gun control helps criminals’ slant.

Gun advocates believe that any kind of nationwide gun control will mean the government is taking away their freedom.  Ask the people of England or Germany or Australia or even Canada if they feel they are less free for not being allowed to carry assault weapons.   They will laugh in your face.   Would we be any less free if the only firearms allowed were shotguns?  And to get one you had to take a course, pass a test and wait several weeks for your license?   And then if you wanted a handgun, you’d have to go through more training, take another test and wait a few more weeks?    And concealed carry would be banned completely?  Can you sit quietly with yourself and honestly tell me that such a thing would be bad for our society in the long run?

If your response is “ok, but we are guaranteed the right to carry guns in our constitution” then see my third and fourth paragraphs above.  We cannot use the 2nd Amendment as an excuse to do nothing.    We simply cannot allow the NRA and those who profit from guns, ammunition and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens to continue to prevail on this issue.

Yesterday the President spoke about the Oregon shooting.  His frustration and anger were palpable, though he never raised his voice.  I implore everyone to watch this clip; if you are a Republican or Libertarian, please try to avoid dismissing what he says because he doesn’t belong to your party, or because you disagree with him on most issues.  I don’t agree with him on everything either, but this?  This should not even be a discussion.  We should value life above weapons.

And it is increasingly clear that we don’t.

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My real favorite

Every day for the last 15 months, I’ve posted a photo of the day on Facebook.   Usually the photo I post is actually my favorite of those I’ve taken on a given day, but every so often there is an exception.  Over a year of posting photos on Facebook has taught me how to play to that crowd.  It is strictly mass marketing – the close up of the flower, the cute kid, the funny pet.   Throw in a sunset or a pretty landscape now and then, or an interesting person with a nice story, a la Humans of New York.    These are the things that gain traction and lots of ‘likes’ in a Facebook newsfeed.

So when that exception comes along – that photo I love for reasons other than that it is well-composed or aesthetically pleasing, I hesitate to post it.

Last Saturday I took such a photo.   We were in Columbus Circle just after sundown with a group of Maya’s friends on the eve of her birthday, and I was taking all the expected shots – of the girls, of the fountains – when something unexpected happened.   A voice behind me said, “Where are you guys from?”    I turned to see a young man, maybe in his early 20′s, holding a skateboard.  He was one of a few die hard skateboarders who are always hanging out in the Circle, timing their runs to coincide with the gaps in the never-ending stream of people walking by.   I told him we live here and were just hanging out with some friends for my daughter’s birthday.  He was slightly embarrassed, I think, at mistaking me for an out-of-towner, but it happens all the time when I’m out with my camera.   We chatted a bit; turns out he is from Lansing, Michigan (he was actually wearing a t-shirt that said LANSING in huge letters across the front) and is in NY by way of Los Angeles.   I told him I’m originally from Indiana and that all the cool midwesterners wind up on the coast.  He laughed.   I asked him his name.  ”Tyler,” he said.  ”I’m Amy. Nice to meet you,” and I held out my hand.  ”Oh, my hand is dirty,” he said.  ”I don’t care,” I replied, and he looked surprised but shook my hand.   Then he was off on another run.

I hadn’t been paying any attention to the skateboarders before that.  Honestly I sometimes consider them a nuisance, but mostly they remain in the background; just another of the many kinds of white noise that make up the hum of the city.  Now, because of being mistaken for a tourist, they catapulted to the front of my consciousness.   And so I started watching them and taking photos.

The one below is my favorite.  I love it so much I want it blown up on a wall somewhere so I can stare at it for hours.   That’s another thing you can’t say on Facebook.  It’s kind of unseemly & insufferable to praise your own work – and I really try to avoid it.   But this is my blog, so what the hey.

I love the fact that Tyler – that’s him in the white t-shirt – is the only thing in focus.  The bent position of his torso exactly mirrors the slant of the fountain shooting up in the background, and his hat is the same color as the red in the food cart umbrella.   He is concentrating, but none of the other people in the photo are looking at him.   He’s probably just white noise to them, too.

This photo would not play well on Facebook.   I could tell the story of meeting him, which might help, but there is more; it’s kinetic and a perfect city moment; things are moving and blurred but one element stands out.

This is my real photo of the day.

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15 years later

15 years ago today I was 36 hours into what would turn out to be a 56 hour labor.

Good times.

My first born child, who everyone thought would be a boy (based on how I was carrying, how I felt, how the stars aligned, etc), was in no rush to enter the world.    Some time at about the 36 hour mark, all those years ago – my friend Tina, who had come halfway around the world to be with me for the birth and who is herself a doctor – announced that the baby was most assuredly a girl.  How did she know?  Because the baby’s heartbeat never increased or showed any signs of stress despite the long labor.   “Boys,” she said, “don’t handle long labor very well.   The heart rate would definitely have increased by now if the baby was a boy.   This is a girl.”

20 hours later, in the presence of two nurses and two midwives (because did I mention that this was a natural childbirth? ),  Tina was proven right.  Maya finally joined us, and immediately wanted food. No crying, no looking around in wonder, simply an open mouth directed at the food source.

I remember one of the nurses chuckling and saying “Well, she definitely knows what she wants!”

She had no idea.

Maya has always known exactly what she wanted, even if as a baby she was unable to communicate it to us in a way we somewhat dim-witted adults were able to understand.   Once we were both speaking the same language, it became a different kind of challenge.  Like visiting Tina in Germany and trying to explain to my then 3 year old who was demanding a bagel that there simply weren’t any to be had and it wasn’t that we were actively trying to keep them from her.

Yeah, right.

We tell these stories now amid laughter.  (Oh did I mention the Christmas where she really wanted a microscope and when all the presents at my parents house were opened and no microscope appeared she stood in the middle of the room and demanded “Where’s my microscope!?”)    Maya laughs along with us, shaking her head and blushing.

She still knows exactly what she wants – that part hasn’t changed – but she is slightly more astute and varied in her approach when it comes to getting it.   She’s independent, fierce and lovely.

Looking back over 15 years, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Tina with me and 2 day old Maya

15 years later

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Living meditation

Life gets overwhelming sometimes.

For me it is usually when my days get busy with a myriad of tasks, all unrelated and “chore-like” in nature.   Or a string of days where I’m compelled to be social in a situation not necessarily of my choosing.

Nothing life-threatening, nothing even very severe compared to what others go through.  Anne Lamott puts it brilliantly in the Prologue to her book Small Victories; Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace when she says:

“The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends.

First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports.  But no, they see themselves as fully alive.  They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.

They ruin your multi-tasking high,  the bath of agitation, rumination, and judgement you wallow in, without the decency to come out and just say anything.  They bust you by being grateful for the day, while you are obsessed with how thin your lashes have become and how wide your bottom.”

Thankfully I have no dying friends to remind me to savor life and not get overwhelmed and caught up in the minutiae of daily tasks, or to stop me feeling annoyed at hours spent in activities not of my choosing.

But everyone needs something to remind them to breathe, relax, and be grateful.   For me there are two things that do the trick.  One is long walks with my camera.   Even in the most crowded city subway or street, a walk where my focus is on seeing the world around me in photos calms me, quiets my mind and restores a sense of balance.    The other thing is much simpler, but (go figure) not the one I turn to most.  Call it a living meditation; which consists of simply doing basic things with purpose and intent.

Today, for instance, I not only took a long walk with my camera, but I straightened the living room and kitchen.  (It has been a hectic week – I needed all the calming activities I could get.)  Of course,  I straighten the living room and kitchen almost every day in one form or another, but often I do it ‘by the way’ and in something of a rush.   Today I slowed down, reminded myself to breathe and mindfully put everything in its place.   It’s amazing the difference it makes.   Does it sound silly?   Yes, I think it does too, kind of.   But it works.  At least for me.

The trick is to do this every day – to make every task a mindful one, so that the overwhelming-ness of many tasks all needing to be done goes away, and every chore becomes an opportunity for  living meditation.

Sounds good, right?  I’ll let you know when I master it – I have a long way to go.

Yesterday on the beach at Robert Moses State Park

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The lost art of conversation

When I started at Earlham College, all incoming Freshmen were required to take Humanities.   At Earlham, which then ran on a trimester schedule, Humanities meant you read 10 books in 10 weeks and wrote a 3-5 page paper each week.  Which was pretty tough, all things considered, but not as tough as what we learned during classroom discussions.

Most Earlham classes were not lecture but discussion based.  Small groups of 15-20 students who would sit in a circle and not at desks.   Humanities introduced us to this format and taught us all how to have a real discussion/conversation.  Rule number one was that you were not allowed to interrupt someone who was speaking.  Ever.  As you can imagine, during the first week or two of classes, the professor spent most of his or her time stopping those who would try to jump in or interrupt.   We all did it.  We all had to train ourselves to listen and wait, and then respond.   The other rule was that, as much as possible, you were to respond to what was being said, and not just spout your own thoughts on the subject without tying it to the conversation around you (and of course, the text being discussed).   This was even more difficult, as sometimes it meant giving up on THAT POINT YOU WERE SURE WAS OF ULTIMATE IMPORTANCE AND EVERYONE NEEDED TO HEAR!!   Sometimes by the time the conversation came around to you, your point had already been covered or was no longer relevant and you had to drop it.  Boy, was that tough!

After 10 weeks, however,  we were pros, and you could walk in to almost any class on campus and find actual conversation happening around a given topic, whether it was literature, language, science or math.  Sometimes conversations were heated and competition to be called on as the next speaker fierce, but interrupting?  Ignoring what someone had said?  That didn’t happen.

I know that, in the (many) years since leaving Earlham, I’ve been as guilty as anyone of backsliding, of interrupting and feeling like I can’t wait to make my two cents heard.  But I always try to be aware and listen to others before responding – sometimes even giving up my own point if it doesn’t seem to fit the flow of the conversation.

The other day I was in a situation where instead of conversation, there were “intersecting monologues” which author John O’Donohue rightly states in his book On Being, is “what passes for conversation a lot in this culture”.   At one point, it became so obvious that none of my fellow participants were listening to what I was saying that I stopped talking mid-sentence, wondering if anyone would notice.   No one did.

How do you remedy such a situation?  I can’t snap my fingers and have my Humanities professor appear to give us all a refresher in the ‘rules’ or art of conversation.   And saying “Hey, no one is listening to me!” comes off as slightly whiny and egocentric.    My complaint isn’t really that no one was listening to me – no one was listening to anyone. It wasn’t a conversation at all.  It was stressful and unsatisfying and reminded me why I generally don’t go in for group activities anymore.

This is a blog post without a clever ending.  How do you remind people – especially friends – that it’s not really a conversation if no one is listening to each other?  If everyone constantly interrupts in order to continue their own monologue?  How do you convey that without sounding self-important and pompous?

Anyone?

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Happy accident

Yesterday was Ben’s birthday, and as we’ve done for the past couple of years, we went bowling.  Maya and I were the cheerleaders, as we both have weird shoulder issues at the moment (long story, not worth the effort) and of course I used this as an excuse to take a lot of photos in the somewhat dimly lit space that is Bowl-Mor lanes.

This is one of the pics I took of Maya:

It’s a good photo, I think.  (Those eyes!)  I liked how the red of her hat was almost but not quite the same shade of red as the booth in which she sat.  But I wondered how this photo would read in black and white.  Normally all you have to do is completely de-saturate the photo in editing mode to make it monochromatic, but when I did that, this is what happened:

All the reds are gone, but everything else remained.

And I kind of love it.

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Almost one year

In just a few days, on March 1st to be exact, I will have been posting a “photo of the day” on Facebook every day for one year.

It started as a 30 day challenge between me and my friend Karen, who lives in England.  We’d done it once before a few years ago, before either or us were on Facebook, and we emailed the photos back and forth.  But it was 30 days and done back then.   This time we decided to keep going.

In 365 days I think I’ve missed only 2 or 3 days, and then made up for it with two photos the following day.   Only once did posting actually slip my mind.  The other lapses were due to travel and changes in time zones.

A lot has changed in one year.

What started as a lark has become an obsession.  My desire to improve my photos, maybe sell them and create a side income from this thing on which I will spend a minimum of one or two hours each day – often more – has grown with each passing month.    I’ve gone through two National Geographic photo course, done a NatGeo photo walk and will be attending another seminar of theirs in April.   Instead of eyeing clothes I might want, I now regularly hunt ebay and Craigslist, hoping to find a quality wide angle or telephoto lense at a price I can afford.  (No luck so far.  Which plays into the desire to sell some of my photos.)

I’ve gone through phases of loving my photo of the day results, and phases of being irritated and/or  frustrated with myself and my photographic limitations.

I am constantly reading about photographers and how they work or worked.  I’m astounded by the photos of Vivian Maier and my friend Ken Bower, among many others.

Other things have changed, too.

My friend Elsa Haas, who would never post a public comment but would often send me witty emails after reading a blog or seeing one of my photos on line, passed away from cancer just after Christmas.  I miss seeing her name in my inbox.

Other friends reconnected after years of losing touch, mostly by seeing my photos on Facebook, some of which I made public, and sending me friend requests.  (Nice to get friend requests from actual friends!)

And, you know, life happened in all its variations from wonderful to sad.  More wonderful than sad, for which I am always grateful.

I’m thinking that on March 1st I might post my 12 favorite photos from the past year.  Can I choose just twelve?

And of course there will be a new one as well.  Photo of the day isn’t done.

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Name calling in the name of science

Yesterday someone on Facebook accused me of murder.

Yes, you read that right.  Murder.  I am a murderer because I didn’t get a flu shot.

In refusing flu shots, I am killing someone with a compromised immune system by exposing them to my unvaccinated self.    A self which hasn’t had the flu in a long time (not since I got a flu shot that one time oh so many years ago, in fact) but which nevertheless is apparently killing people right and left because of my gross incompetency and lack of scientific understanding.

My kids, my husband, my parents – we’re a regular crime syndicate.   Not one of us has gotten a flu shot in years (my kids have never had them, actually.)

And my kids are not vaccinated at all.

Looney-tune.

Science denier.

Ignorant.

Entitled.

Criminal.

I suppose, as an unschooling family,  I should be used to the name-calling by now, especially on social media and in the press.  But what gets me about the anger and name-calling surrounding the vaccine issue is that everyone assumes that if I’m not vaccinating my kids I am doing NOTHING to protect them and the people around them from contagious disease.    Which is far from the truth, but nobody listens as soon as you say you haven’t gotten the shots.

And I’m not talking about eating organic kale and quinoa and “living a healthy lifestyle”.  I mean, I think we live a fairly healthy lifestyle, but unless you reside in – well, I don’t know where – you will be exposed to environmental toxins and substances that can, despite all your leafy green antioxidant efforts, compromise your immune system.

I’m talking about actual health care on an active and ongoing basis.  Health care that spots any illness and treats it, usually before there are symptoms or it can be contagious.

But I can’t talk about that with most people.  Especially those consumed by anger who throw around words like killer and criminal.

My health care provider can’t really talk about  it either – at least not in the media or on a large scale.  Not because it doesn’t work, but because if Big Pharma got wind of what could be done without their drugs and perceived it as a threat to their bottom line, they would use their considerable profits and powerful Washington lobby to crush anyone practicing such alternative care.

Effective alternatives to traditional vaccines are out there.  Just because you don’t vaccinate doesn’t mean you are negligent.

None of what I’m saying here will make an iota of difference, I’m sure.  If you agree with me, then you are probably one of the criminals, too.   And if you don’t?  Well, since actual conversation is never an option when it comes to vaccines, I suppose you can add your chosen epithet for my irresponsible behavior in the comments below.

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Why I’m opposed to vaccines for infants

As you have probably heard, there has been an outbreak of the measles at Disneyland in California.

Cue the anger of the vaccine proponents – everyone from Melinda Gates to Dan Diamond, a contributing writer at Forbes, who wants to sue parents of unvaccinated kids.

Of course there are also voices of reason, thankfully even from some MD’s, like Cardiologist Jack Wolfson.

But just in case you need (want?) another opinion on this matter – as if, right? – here is mine.   My kids are not vaccinated, but I will not go so far as to say that no one should ever vaccinate their kids.  Vaccines definitely have their time and place.   However, I am vehemently opposed to that time and/or place being 2-3 months after birth, when the CDC recommends giving newborns six different shots.  SIX!!   That’s a lot of shots, people.

Why is that bad, you ask?   Shouldn’t we protect our kids right off the bat?

The first reason it is bad is that a baby’s immune system, just like their vision, motor skills and many other things, is not fully developed at birth.   It does not even begin to develop until at least 2 months of age.  So we are injecting six different disease compounds into bodies that have, in effect, no immune system.

The second reason that vaccines for infants are unnecessary is that if a child is breastfed, that baby carries the immunity of the mother until such time as it is weaned.  Usually by that time, the immune system has had a chance to develop, if not fully, then at least substantially.

The third reason that no infant, in my opinion, should have these injections is the ingredients in each shot.   Forget the disease cells themselves, the danger is in the chemical compounds used to deliver those disease cells.   Have you ever looked them up, and then taken the time to see what each ingredient is and what it does?

I won’t go through all the vaccines, because that would take many hours and patience I don’t have, but if you feel like it, here is the link to the table provided by the CDC that lists the ingredients to each vaccine.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to use the DtaP vaccine, which prevents against diphtheria, tetanus & pertussis or whooping cough.   If you look on that chart I linked to above, you’ll see that the second listed ingredient is formaldehyde.  (Formaldehyde is used in a lot of vaccines, not just this one.)  If you went to public school, you probably know formaldehyde as that foul smelling liquid that preserved the baby pigs you dissected in your science lab.   The National Cancer Institute has a full page devoted to formaldehyde and its associated risks, but I’ll just quote the part about the effects of short term exposure:

“When formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure.”

So in the short term, airborne exposure to those with developed immune systems can cause some unpleasantness.  But babies with no immune systems are injected with it repeatedly.   I’d say their odds of an adverse reaction might be somewhat higher, wouldn’t you?

The third listed ingredient in the DtaP vaccine is glutaraldehyde, which I had never heard of before.   Turns out it is a lovely little compound, according to OSHA:

“Glutaraldehyde is a toxic chemical that is used as a cold sterilant to disinfect and clean heat-sensitive medical, surgical and dental equipment. It is found in products such as Cidex, Aldesen, Hospex, Sporicidin, Omnicide, Matricide, Wavicide and others. Glutaraldehyde is also used as a tissue fixative in histology and pathology labs and as a hardening agent in the development of x-rays.”

The site goes on to list the many possible side effects and how to protect hospital workers, among others, from exposure.

But hey, injecting it into the arm of your two month old baby with no immune system?  No problem.

One interesting note is that neither the OSHA site or the National Cancer Institute mentions the use of these substances in vaccines.   If one were to ask, I’m sure the response would be something along the lines that the amounts used in vaccines are so infinitesimal that the side effects are not worth mentioning.

Ok, so along that same line of reasoning – how many parents have stopped buying bottles made with BPA plastic because of the minute possibility that the plastic could leach harmful substances which their kids would then ingest?   Everyone that I know looks at all the plastic water bottles they buy to make sure they are BPA free.   The website Medical News Today says of BPA and children:

“Very young and unborn humans are more susceptible to BPA exposure and its effects than adults. This is probably because they cannot eliminate xenobiotics so well. A xenobiotic is a substance found in an organism which is not generally produced or expected to be present in it.”

Kids can’t eliminate xenobiotics as well as adults.  Guess what? Formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde and all the other chemical additives in vaccines are xenobiotics.

Don’t let your kid drink from a bottle containing BPA, but by all means, allow them at two months of age to have six injections containing all manner of toxic xenobiotics.

If you don’t want to give up the idea of vaccines completely, how about we simply moderate?   No vaccines at birth.  No vaccines at all until one year of age, when the immune system is at least somewhat developed.   And then, how about one at a time?  Why do we need all six at once and then so many boosters between 2 and 18 months it’s a wonder our babies don’t all have track marks in their arms?!

I’m not going to address the matter of why I chose not to vaccinate my kids, or how general hygiene and sanitary conditions are also at least partly responsible for the reduction in “child” disease related deaths in this country over the last 70 years.   I won’t talk about the friend of mine who got whooping cough (a doctor, ironically), although he’d had all his shots and boosters over the years, or the two vaccinated siblings at Maya’s theater group who came down with the measles and exposed all other 29 kids in the company. No one else, vaccinated or not, got it.

Nope, not going to talk about those things.   All I’m going to call for here is some perspective.  If you avoid BPA plastics, then maybe you should look into the ingredients in vaccines.   And if you decide to vaccinate, why not wait a year before you start?  Why not take it slow, do it one at a time over the course of several years?   Oh, and don’t let your kid play in open sewers or drink water from the Hudson.

Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

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Why I’m so glad “Boyhood” won the Golden Globe

HUGE upset at the Golden Globe Awards tonight, as the relatively small indie film “Boyhood”, written and directed by Richard Linklater and starring, among others, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, won Best Motion Picture.   It beat out “Selma” – the true story of the civil rights marches in Alabama led by Dr. King, “The Theory of Everything” – the true story of Stephen Hawking’s younger years, “The Imitation Game” – the true story of Alan Turing and his team who broke the Nazi Enigma code, and “Foxcatcher” – the true story of Dupont heir John DuPont and his relationship with Olympic wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz.

Except for “Foxcatcher” I enjoyed all the nominated films, but what a relief to have a  winning film NOT based on a true story!  Seriously, I was beginning to doubt the ability of any untrue story to win ever again.  (Ok, I’m exaggerating.  A look back over the winners of the past few years shows that about every 3rd year or so a film not based on a true story wins.  But still. This year “Boyhood” was the only nominated film whose screenplay sprung completely from the imagination of the writer.)

While I enjoy a good true story, and in some cases these films are great ways to learn a bit about history, most of them will never make my all time favorite theater experience list.  That list is dominated by films that take me to worlds that don’t exist, introduce me to people I wind up loving or hating but about whom I never have to think “was he/she really  like that?”

Films should be the ultimate expression of creativity; writing, photography, performance, art & design – all of it is necessary to make a film.  Films made about real people or true events are by their nature somewhat limited creatively.  The story is already set, the art & design must mimic the given reality as closely as possible and the performance is judged by comparison to the actual person.

The people in “Boyhood” might remind us of real people – maybe even ourselves – but that’s the other thing that a great fictional story can do; make us see ourselves in the people on the screen.    I am never going to see myself in Stephen Hawking or Alan Turing.  I admire both of those men and their achievements; I felt gutted when watching the scenes where Hawking received his ALS diagnosis and when Turing was arrested for being homosexual.   But it’s a different kind of emotion than in a well told fictional story where I’m gutted by a tragedy or lost love.

The third reason I’m thrilled about the “Boyhood” win is that this film in no way fits the Hollywood prescription for a successful film.  It was shot over a period of 12 years with the same cast.  So the boy who was seven when the film started was really 19 when it ended.  12 weeks over 12 years.   Ethan Hawke (who I happen to adore so this is no criticism of mine) was the biggest name in the film.  Ethan is known for doing small projects  that are somewhat offbeat and quirky and most studios wouldn’t consider him money in the bank.   Patricia Arquette (who wonderfully also won a Globe tonight!) comes from a family whose picture is probably next to the words “weird and unpredictable” in the Hollywood handbook.   The star of the film was Ellar Coltrane.    Never heard of him?  You are not alone.

Creativity that doesn’t follow a certain pattern can often be squashed before it ever has a chance to flourish.   Choruses of “that will never work” or “it just isn’t done” can become overpowering and deadly.   “Boyhood” is proof that it can work, and it is done.

It can even win Best Picture at the Golden Globes.

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