Archive for July, 2010

Toy Story 3: A tribute to friendship

Even though I have four kids, I’ve never watched the first two Toy Story movies.

My kids have watched the movies multiple times and I saw snatches of the movies, I suppose, but I guess I was content letting Toy Story babysit amuse them while I did other things.

Anyway, last week I watched Toy Story 3 with my youngest two daughters.

Most stories about friendship are children’s stories (I’m not sure why kids get all the good friendship stories  – I guess we adults are more interested in romance). Toy Story 3 is another excellent children’s story about friendship.

Toy Story 3 opens with the same song the other Toy Story movies open with: You’ve Got A Friend in Me.

It closes with the song We Belong Together. An adult reading the lyrics without knowing the context would automatically think the song is about romance but it’s actually a song about friendship:

Don’t you turn your back on me,
Don’t you walk away.
Don’t you tell me that I don’t care,
Cause’ I do.

Don’t you tell me, I’m not the one,
Don’t you tell me, I ain’t no fun,
Just tell me you love me, like I love you.
You know you do.

When we’re together,
Clear skies are clear, oh.
And I’ll share them, till where I’m less depressed.
And it’s sincerely, from the bottom of my heart,
I just can’t take it when we’re apart.

We belong together,
We belong together.
Yes, we do,
You’ll be mine, forever.

We belong together,
We belong together.
Oh, it’s true,
It’s gonna stay this way, forever,
Me and you.

If I could really talk to you,
If I could find a way.
I’m not shy,
There’s a whole lot I wanna say,
Oh of course there is!

Talk about friendship, and loyal things.
Talk about how much you mean to me.
And I’ll promise, to always be by your side,
Whenever you need me.

The day I met you,
Was the luckiest day of my life.
And I bet you feel the same.
At least I hope you do.
So don’t forget,
If the future should take you away,
That you’ll aways be part of me.

We belong together,
We belong together.
Wait and see.
Gonna be this way, forever.

We belong together,
We belong together.
Honestly,
We’ll go on this way, forever,
Me and you.
You and me..

The movie has a lot of adventure but at the root of it is their love for each other.

In fact, when I re-read my list of 6 characteristics of BFFs, the toys in Toy Story 3 exhibit most of them: creativity, fruitfulness, archetypes, similarities, distance, secrecy.

Maybe that’s just my way of trying to justify why the movie made me misty-eyed at times even though the characters are just toys.

I did enjoy the mere edge of romance in the movie. There’s a new toy character – a Ken doll (Michael Keaton). He lives in the Dream House and has closets full of fabulous clothes. He hits it off with Barbie and one is left wondering for a while whether or not one can trust a man in an ascot. That character is worthy of an entire post.

So go see the movie. Bring a child. Bring a friend.

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“Greed Is Glorious”

I heard a man say that a couple of years ago and of course it made me gag.

He works in the financial industry and went on about the wonders of greed and how his 5000 square foot house was not large enough for his wife and small child, how he loved buying his wife diamonds, blah, blah, blah.

Colleagues of mine who also knew him found this appalling and we threw plenty of rocks at him behind his back. It’s always nice when people provide such nice targets for one’s rock-throwing.

Blatant greed just isn’t attractive.

But subtler forms of greed?

Well…

On Monday and Tuesday, even though I was up to my eyeballs in writing projects, I found myself snatching time to whip through the novel Dear Money by Martha McPhee, which is about a female novelist and English professor named India Palmer who chucks it all for money.

She takes up a dare offered by a bond trader she meets, who says he can turn her into a full-fledged trader within 18 months.

She’s married to a sculptor and has two daughters. They live in NYC so they barely make it financially, month after month.

The financial gymnastics she has to perform each month in order to slide by is all too familiar to me, so I found myself riveted by the story and by her desire to want to leave financial problems behind once and for all.

She takes him up on his offer and proves to him and all the other men on the floor that a total novice – a female, even – can learn bond training in a short period of time.

I also found myself fascinated with the behind-the-scenes glimpse of the mortgage situation that existed prior to 2008, which made it possible for almost 70% of the country to be homeowners, and which obviously became unsustainable. The book ends in the fall of 2007, before it all crashed.

I also wondered throughout if I would be tempted to do the same thing in her position and take a $300K per year job. I found it hard to judge her like the way I judged the Greed Is Glorious guy.

Once India is established as a trader she says:

Yes, I was happy. I was exhilarated. I was cool. I was smart. I had brains, fast brains. It’s a lie that money is more interesting for those who don’t have it than for those who do. It’s too fun to spend.

She goes on about the things she can now afford, such as groceries, parking tickets, a cleaning woman four times per week, etc. And then says:

Having lived the other life, I knew the difference, knew that I now preferred to worry about my trades, other people’s money rather than my own, rather than all I had struggled to afford.

She recalls how she once promised herself she’d be generous if she ever became rich and then notes the various causes she can finally contribute to. I’ve made similar promises to myself a time or two (cough, cough).

The author Martha McPhee explains why she, too, doesn’t judge India:

But I would also like to add that I do not judge India. I think we have gotten to this place in society, in our world as a collective whole.

We are cogs in a system and many of us to some degree play a part. India as a writer contributes her part alongside the banker.

This is not to say that you can’t lay blame at the feet of bankers, brokers. I just think that is a little too easy and I enjoy complexity. I appreciate the bigger picture and we’ve all bought into it – or most of us – in one way and another.

We’ve all bought into it? Not just Mr. Greed Is Glorious? Oops.

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One day last week while walking my daughter home from swimming lessons at the pool, a 5 or 6-year-old girl biked past us on the sidewalk, politely saying “Excuse me” as she confidently whizzed on by.

She was wearing a swimsuit and shorts and had clearly just come from the pool too.

I noticed that no other kids were with her and there wasn’t even a parent in sight!

My mind immediately flashed back to the early and mid-1970s, when I and the other kids in the neighborhood routinely rode our banana seat bikes all around the neighborhood…and beyond.

Ahhhh, banana seats. Remember those? My bike was early-1970s shades of green and yellow with a floral banana seat, white basket and streamers coming out of the handlebars.

Eventually I ditched the basket and streamers and swapped out the floral seat for an edgier black one, so I could fit in better with all the boys in my neighborhood.

Of course I coveted my cousin’s green Schwinn banana seat bike because it had five speeds and one of those cool stick shift things, like this:

I also liked those seats with the high chopper style bars in the back:

Anyway, back in my day, a young child riding a mile home on a bike from the pool would’ve been completely routine.

Now it’s not normal at all.

So I silently cheered this little girl. Kids from the Millenial generation are the most over-parented kids ever so I thought that maybe there’s hope after all. There’s at least one girl out there who gets to taste the same independence we middle aged folks (and older) did at that age.

She continued to bike down the street and, eventually, I noticed a car slowly pull up and drive alongside her.

The girl reached the intersection, turned right, and the car kept slowly following her.

Oh oh.

Was she being followed?

As it turns out she was… a parent eventually got out of the car. Alas.

Kudos to the parent for at least letting the child experience that much independence (I haven’t done that much). And, like any parent, I, too, haven’t ever let my kids bike alone at that age. Sigh.

The book Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) talks about this phenomenon.

The author let her nine-year-old son take the subway home alone in 2008 (something that was routine in the 1970s and 60s) and caught so much flack about it she ended up on national TV shows defending herself.

She gives all kinds of statistics that show how crime rates are lower now than they were in the 1960s and 70s yet parents today marinate in anxiety.

She even shows how if you actually wanted your kid to be abducted and put him in your front yard in the hopes that someone would snatch him, it would be more than 700,000 years years before someone would come along and take him.

Here’s a map that shows how much kids’ freedom to roam has been reduced over the generations.  An eight year old boy in 1919 often walked alone to his favorite fishing spot six miles away. Fast forward to 2007 and his eight year old great grandson is only allowed to walk 300 yards away from home alone:

There are all sorts of things to blame for our anxiety – things that didn’t exist a generation ago: 24 hour cable news shows, the stories that circulate on the internet making us more aware of every crime out there, true crime shows and shows like Law & Order, etc.

Last week I spotted a banana seat bike in an antique store that was in terrific shape. I’m tempted to buy it for my six-year-old. If we can’t bring back free range kids, maybe we can at least bring back the banana seat?

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My “Muse” of the Week

I discovered the band Muse earlier this week and since then their song Exogenesis Symphony: Part 1 has been the song I listen to on repeat as I write… and do most anything else. I’m surprised my family hasn’t done an intervention yet (although maybe they like the song too. I can always hope).

It’s a beautiful symphony and almost makes me want to take out my violin and play it. Which is saying a lot because the only other thing that would make me pick up a violin again is playing Cavatina with my brother.

The song sounds so much like a soundtrack. No wonder listening to it makes it so much easier to write. Or do dishes. If our lives need great scenes and inciting incidents, they also need soundtracks, right?

The singer Matthew Bellamy composed and arranged this symphony. Pretty impressive.

He’s also a highly regarded guitar player and pianist. He plays the piano part on part two of this symphony. You can get a glimpse of that here. But first listen to this:

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Fun Friday: The Vicki the Biker Approach to Conflict

Vicki the Biker’s approach to conflict resolution and creating inciting incidents works for me. ;)

Rose Is Rose

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If marriage is a grand madness, as discussed in part 1 of this series, then how does one endure it?

Bono has said several times that the reason he has been able to remain faithfully married to his wife Ali for almost 30 years is because he still doesn’t really know her and there’s a creative distance between them that she manages:

Ali is the most extraordinary woman. I still can’t figure her out. I still feel I don’t know her. She’s a very mysterious woman and she’s very independent!

The U2 song A Man And A Woman is about this mysterious distance.

“It’s a song for adults, for people who have been together for a long time and who are still together,” he says.

I could never take a chance
Of losing love to find romance
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

And you’re the one, there’s no-one else
who makes me want to lose myself
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

Then there’s the song Mysterious Ways, which celebrates the mystery of woman. Like many of U2’s love songs, it can also be seen as a song to God.

U2 once wrote a song called She’s A Mystery To Me for Roy Orbison. Here’s a video with Bono singing the song. “And if my love is blind/Then I don’t want to see/She’s a mystery to me.

In the book  Achtung Baby, Stephen Catanzarite writes about how if we do not accept that mystery is at the heart of the differing natures of man and woman, then we lose the ability to appreciate the value of those differences. We’re only left with the differences.

He quotes from Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity:

Mystery is not…to be thought of as a high wall that we can neither see over nor get around. It is to be thought of rather as a gallery into which we can progress deeper and deeper, though we never reach the end – yet every step of our progress is immeasurably satisfying.

A Mystery, in short, is an invitation to the mind. For it means that there is an inexhaustible well of Truth from which the mind may drink and drink again in the certainty that the well will never run dry, that there will always be water for the mind’s thirst.

Of course not everyone thinks mystery is compatible with intimacy and inevitable conflicts occur (“our heaven turns to hell”). This will be the topic of part 3. Stay tuned.

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