Friday, November 30, 2012

Writing Meeting: 11/29/2012

Yesterday, our club of two met again. This time our attention was primarily focused on my short story. The final pages received editing. We weeded through the pages I brought, making revisions, cutting unnecessary and superfluous lines of writing or adverbs. There was much less need for punctuation correction, thank goodness.

He liked how the story ended. Thought the characters developed well. Overall, he thought the story was a good one. I’m rather happy with it, myself. It’s a nice feeling, having something finished is. I’m one of those people who is an absolutely splendid ‘starter’ but a rather awful ‘finisher’. I make the best plans, but they never pan out, or I just never get around to completing those projects I start. I have six stories started, and a couple other ideas roughed out in outlines, but only one completed story. And only quite recently completed at that.

I’ll need to remedy that. For now – I’m just glad this writing meeting is motivating me to plug on. I think it’s been revolutionary for the sake of forcing me to sit down and write at least something for us to edit. Now I have no excuses. It’s quite fulfilling, actually.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Daft Scotsman Goes to the Movies...

A Film Review of Red Dawn

I don’t post a whole lot about movies on this blog. I really don’t know why, though. I mean, I definitely watch enough films to legitimately write about them. I love movies, really, especially in the theaters. I think whatever movie you go to see, it’s always better in the theaters.

Back when I got my wisdom teeth yanked, and I had to lie low for a couple days, my dad introduced me to a 1980’s film called Red Dawn. It’s a movie that involves America being invaded by Russian and Cuban military forces. The film follows a group of teenaged kids as they attempt to survive the harrowing experience by, at first, striking out into the wilderness with whatever supplies they can gather, and then striking at the opposing military forces with guerilla tactics. The film, while bloody and brutal, tells the audience that heroism starts with the unlikely. And that fighting for a cause that you believe in can make all the difference, even if you’re just a bunch of teenagers. I really liked it when I saw it. I liked its messages, I liked the casting. I thought the acting was decent and I liked the score. I thought it was a pretty good film. And then, somewhat recently, I heard that someone was doing a 2012 remake.

I’m a bit tentative with remakes. I’ve seen enough of them to know how awful they can be. And besides that, they’re lack unoriginality. Still – I’d wanted to see this one. Odd, I know, but I’m funny that way. I didn’t even know it was hitting theaters this Thanksgiving, though, until I saw an ad in the newspaper. So I suggested to Dad and Matty that we make it a man-date and go to our nearest cinema to see it. Dad and I each had a four day holiday weekend, and thus we had time to go and do something fun like this. Both thought it was an excellent idea. We went yesterday, to a late afternoon matinee showing. It was fun just being with Dad and Matty. With Dad and I both working, we don’t see a whole lot of each other anymore. The experience was great, made even better by the fact that the movie was actually surprisingly decent. If you ask me, it was pretty-darn good. I hope I’m not being biased because I love Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, both of which starred, but I don’t think I am.

The story doesn’t differ a whole lot from that of the older ’84 film, but certain plot-points do. For instance: in this version it’s North Koreans, not Russians and Cubans, who are assaulting America. Story-wise, I thought the film held together really well. The actors all gave great performances, causing plenty of tear-jerker moments throughout the film. The score, composed by Ramin Djawadi, was incredibly moving as well. Red Dawn is an incredibly fast-paced film. It’s just about non-stop action from the start of the film, to the moment the credits begin to roll. And all the while, somehow, magically, there’s room for character-development and unexpected plot-twists. Sure, this is a remake, but the creators put just enough new material into it to make it surprising. Perhaps best of all, was the fact that the original Red Dawn’s primary messages were definitely the same in this 2012 remake. Fighting for something you believe in is worth the grit and grime. It’s worth the blood you bleed. Even when the odds are stacked against you, standing up against evil is worth the fight. Just because you’re not a hero in your own eyes, doesn’t mean your actions can’t make a difference. And really – should you stand firm, swaying not from what you believe is right, you will make a difference. These are the things the heroes of Red Dawn show us through their responses to the traumatic circumstances they experience. This 2012 Red Dawn remake tells the story that needs to be told today. The indifference of good people is a greater evil than depravity.

I enjoyed the film immensely. But it is only fair that I warn prospective viewers that Red Dawn has a good deal of foul language. And the violence, while fairly bloodless, is still realistic and gritty. Nonetheless, I thought the messages were very applicable and found the film surprisingly thought provoking.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Life of Thanks...

Thanksgiving. A time of thanks. A day of thanks. But why? Why must we restrict our outward display of thankfulness to one day? Are we so unthankful, that we need set aside a day to behave contrarily? I propose radical alteration of this behavior! Thankfulness is not something to fear. It’s something to embrace. Something to use to lift our spirits. Our God has blessed us with life, so that we can praise and thank him. Will we fulfill our purpose?

I know I shouldn’t be the one to say these things. I work a job that wears me to the bone. I hate it and I complain about it every day to my family. I’m one of the significant population of this beautiful, backwards planet that complains as if it were my passion. The Israelites of the Old Testament had nothin’ on me, dawg! And while I’m throwing my stupendous pity party for myself – a dart of realization pierces my soul. Idiot. Fool. Selfish worm. Have you nothing better to do than wallow in your own poor outlook? Seriously, dude! Wake up! I reach in. I rise up. What am I doing? What a fool I’ve been. Feeling sorry for myself, whining like a spoiled child. My God, my savior has been so good to me. And yet I can only see the bad. Am I so blind? Are my eyes so focused to see the blatant in front of me, that I’m oblivious to the greater beyond? I really do have so much to be thankful for. And yet, after thanking the Lord today, will I not complain to him tomorrow? Will next week be chock-full of my whining and whimpering about how bad I have it? Tell yourself no, now. And if – when – you do complain… Bite your tongue and praise the Lord instead. Wake up to the blessings that surround you. Stop wallowing in pity for yourself, and look the bigger picture in the eyes.

So I write a short list of what I’m thankful of, because it’s a clichĂ© way of proclaiming my thankfulness to others.

Salvation. Father God, I praise Thee for sending Thy Son. I am not worthy of preservation, nonetheless you lift me from the waves and set me on dry ground. Praise be to almighty God, halleluiah!

Friends. The many faces that come to mind. The many hearts that have broken mine. I love you all. Each of you. For you often give me the encouragement I need. The love I don’t deserve.

My job. I’m employed. And that’s a blessing in and of itself. Sure, it’s not my favorite thing to do. And driving in to work at two in the morning is a hell of sorts. But I can be thankful that the bills are being paid and I’m being taught good character. (And my coworkers are great at teaching me what bad character looks like. Thanks so much, guys!)

This lovely, beautiful, four-day holiday weekend. I’m sure some folk don’t get that and I’m thankful for it, because it’s just what I needed.

Words. Because writing would be impossible without them. And I love them so much.

Music. Be it praises to be sung to our God on High, or the Dubstep mixes I’m listening to right now, I am thankful for the beats and chords of music. It is a wonderful, beautiful gift.

Time. Time to think. Time to live. Time that ticks so constantly away from us. It cannot be grasped by the hand, it cannot be caught up. So often we chase after it. But we waste it in doing so. I live in time, thankful for what I have and what I have experienced.

That hurricanes don’t attack me and my family. My heart has often been burdened by the victims on the east coast. You guys are in my prayers. You’ve lived through things I couldn’t imagine. Keep up courage.

So much more could I write. And if I sit here and allow myself, I could go on and on. Instead, I need to get up and apply this thankfulness. I need to praise my God for what He has done in my life, the truths he is so constantly showing me. Because that is what matters. What makes this day special. Not talking about thankfulness – but being thankful in the truest form.

At the beginning of this post I asked why Thanksgiving is our only day of thanks. Why we live ungrateful lives all of the year, to talk about being thankful on this one day. Perhaps it is not a day to be thankful – but a reminder to be thankful all year ‘round. To remind us of our purpose, so that we can better fulfill it. I like that idea. I really do. I’ll do my best to live a life of praise – for my God is worthy of all praise and worship. Thank you, my Lord.

Oh – and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Writing Meeting: 11/15/2012

                We met again for our writing meeting. This time a friend joined us to comb through manuscripts. The structure of the meeting differed from our last; as we looked over material from each of us, instead of focusing entirely on one person’s manuscript. (Mine less so, though, because time didn’t allow us to get very far on my manuscript before it was time to leave.) It was an invigorating time of encouragement and insight. The coffee was great, and we edited a lot of stuff before it was time to conclude. I know it was an inspirational time for me, and I hope the same was felt by the others. It’s official though. We need to invest in a set of red-inked pens. It’s much more official in red ink, easier to spot the edits too.

                One particular thing I noticed was the humbleness and willingness to listen that my companions displayed during the meeting. Both of them were more than willing to receive criticism and really seemed appreciative of any thoughts or opinions that were mentioned. Open mindedness was very much a part of the meeting, and I’m glad it was so. It was a wonderful time for like-minds to be encouraged in their literary endeavors. I find myself looking forward to future meetings with even more vigor. Until the next meeting – I’ll be writing as much as I can.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Writing Meeting: 11/01/2012

                Well, I feel our writing club is in full swing now. Last Thursday, we edited a chunk of one of my short stories (By chunk, I mean more than half of what I have written thus far…) and I felt very encouraged. Mostly because this story is one I hadn’t worked on in a while, and it seems I’ve improved since last I wrote much of it. I’m excited to swing back into the saddle and really get writing again. During our meetings, I feel that I learn something new about the writer whose work is getting edited. And since my work was edited this last meeting, I found some things out about myself. I think I don’t mind starting sentences off with “and”. I like short sentences that flow together, one after the other. And I am deciding my older writing habits of writing long sentences that go on and on is clunky and hard to follow and I don’t like it anymore.

                I think my style will see grand alteration. A new feel; more natural, more personal.

 I’m really quite pleased with our meeting place of choice. It feels part cafĂ©, part coffee shop and I like that. Mostly, the people who frequent it are friends, meeting to catch up on each other. It’s a nice atmosphere. And they serve good coffee.

Of course, getting your work picked apart is a humbling experience, too. As I realized quite quickly, you have to be teachable. Thus far our meetings have gone smoothly and without mishap. And since we know how far to go, and how to be humble with our work, I don’t foresee there being an issue here. Still – it was a good reminder to me. When criticizing someone’s work, I do need to be understanding and as gentle as can be allowed.