7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 148)
Halloween is just around the corner! The girls are going to be princesses (again), our son is going to be a ghost (again), my husband will be a giant banana (again)…but what should I be? The past few Halloweens I’ve been too exhausted to deal with dressing up, so I usually just throw on some sloppy clothes, tell everyone I’m dressed up as a blogger, and call it a day. This year I’m ready to actually make some effort, so I’m trying to think of an outfit that’s creative but doesn’t require spending $100 at the costume store. Any suggestions?
I’ve wrestled with whether or not we should celebrate Halloween. I agree with those who point out that there’s a big problem with the way modern culture celebrates it (sexy zombie costumes, anyone?)…yet I had a gut feeling that it wasn’t all bad, that this holiday has redeeming qualities, even from a Christian perspective. Then, last year, I saw an article by Dan Lord called The Fun of Fear, which is probably the best article on Halloween I’ve ever read. In it he makes the case that the haunted houses and ghouls and goblins of this holiday offer us a stage for working out our deepest fears. He writes:
I believe Halloween is good — not the way some people celebrate it today, as a borderline satanic ritual or a dive bomb into the depths of depravity, but in the way it has traditionally been celebrated in this country: a game designed to give the players a shiver (with a few sweets thrown into the bargain).
Because all of us — and especially little children — carry around so many fears, large and small, about everything from death to how the rent will be paid this month to (in the case of my oldest daughter) a sudden crack in the earth opening and swallowing us up, Halloween gives us a raucous stage for the free expression of our anxieties.
You can read the whole thing here. I think this is a great point, and it’s ultimately why we’ve kept the holiday on our family calendar.
You know how forewords to Catholic books often end by noting the feast day on which they were written? Under the foreword author’s name it will say something like, “Feast of the Annunciation, 2009″ or “Feast of St. John the Baptist, 2010.” I wrote a foreword the other day and I was going to note the feast day to add a touch of class to the thing, but it was the feast of Blessed Contardo Ferrini. No offense to Bl. Contardo, but it didn’t have quite the same panache as one of the major feast days. (If I were smart I would have pushed back the deadline until tomorrow, so that I could have ended with “Feast of Bl. John Paul II, 2011″ thus showing everyone that I’m cool enough to write on the first ever feast day celebration for Pope John Paul!) Anyway, all that is a rambling way of asking: Do you still note the feast day, even if it’s for someone you’ve never heard of?
An old friend recently reminded me that I used to be good at this Jedi mind trick thing where I could convince people to do crazy things simply by having a commanding tone of voice. She recalled, with a look on her face indicating that she still can’t figure out how this happened, an incident that occurred one time when we were traveling.
We’d been on the way to New York City for a girl’s weekend out, and our plane got stranded overnight in Kansas City. Needless to say, it was kind of a nightmare: The discount airline made no effort to find us a place to stay, and the line to claim bags and get booked on another flight seemed to wrap through half the airport. In a commanding tone of voice, as if a great solution had just come to me, I announced, “Okay, if you can go grab the bags, I’ll go right over here and network with some locals to find the best hotel. We’ll have this worked out in no time. Go!” A few minutes later, as she found herself in an endless line full of angry airline customers, she realized that the “right over here” place I’d motioned to was a bar, and that I’d basically just said that she would stand in line for an hour while I had a glass of wine.
I need to try this with my husband. Maybe tonight, I’ll say in a decisive voice:
Okay, if you can handle bath and bedtime stuff, I think I can take web surfing. You can do brushing teeth, washing hair, jammies and diapers, and I’ll tackle New Advent, Twitter and Google Reader. Sound good? Let’s go!
I recently read one of those amazing books that changes the way I see the world. It’s called Story Engineering, written by Larry Brooks. Brooks makes the case that story is an objective concept; all great stories have the same elements in common. He offers the analogy of a face: If you’re going to draw a face, there are certain elements it must include: two eyes, one nose, one mouth, etc. Within that framework are infinite possibilities, but in order to be a “face,” there are a few basic things that must be there. And so it goes with the story. He then proceeds to detail what elements almost all powerful stories have in common. To give just one example, he talks about the Midpoint, a point about half way through the story when the protagonist receives some information that allows him to switch from being reactive to being proactive.
Anyway, it’s been fascinating to see these elements at play in the stories I love. In both reading books and watching movies, over and over again I see all of these points that Brooks talks about. Interestingly, I find it to be especially helpful when it comes to writing memoir. At first I thought that these principles wouldn’t apply to true stories, since you can’t mold the events the way you would in fiction. What I’ve found, though, is that knowing these principles helps you choose the best real-life story to write about. You scan through your life for events that have the elements that Brooks describes. And when you find that, you know that that’s the story you should tell. A must-read book for anyone who writes stories.
A few months ago I wrote a post over at the Register listing the best rap songs for Catholics. Awesomely, I am now tapped into all sorts of rap-related email networks (I recently got a PR email from Snoop Dogg’s people asking if I would plug his new video). In particular, people have been coming out of the woodwork to tell me about the latest and greatest from the Catholic rap world. There is a Catholic rap world? you say? That was my reaction too. Anyway, I’ve discovered some surprisingly good stuff. Here’s a new favorite from Fr. Pontifex:
The song is from his new album, Ordained. You can buy it or hear more samples on Amazon here. I have to say, I’m quite impressed.
I’m having a photographer friend (who is as talented as she is generous) do new headshots for me this weekend, since I could use updated pictures for some writing/speaking stuff that’s coming down the pike. Anyone have any thoughts on what makes a good portrait photo? Outdoor or studio background? Smiling or natural expression? Casual or formal dress? I don’t know what to shoot for, so I’d love to hear any thoughts.
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