Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Category: Book Quote Commentary Page 1 of 37

Storytelling in the Form of Movies

I’m 100% in love with Disneyanity by Douglas Brode, but I do have a few complaints. First of all, he uses the title or a character’s full name once and then abbreviates it for the rest of the essay and that drives me crazy. I’m constantly trying to remember who or what it stands for. It uses up brain energy, people. You’re typing, not writing it out by hand, please.

Second, I think he’s wrong in a lot of places. I know. Crazy. I could be wrong too, but I doubt it. (Read that in “sarcasm font.”) Honestly, though, I think he’s definitely reading into a lot, but it’s still fascinating to read. We all interpret movies and books from our own world view, seeing what we want to see, connecting the dots to create the picture we really want. We’re not scientists or historians! We’re artists and lovers of craft!

And what’s better than pulling apart and peering into the inner workings of a great story?!

“And yet numerous critics, professional as well as (in the age of the Internet and IMDB) amateur, complain that “Disney get the story all wrong.” Which is a naïve approach to the continuing art of storytelling. In fact, there is no original version of the Persephone tale in existence. During the Greek Golden Age, poets drew on oral versions of fables dating back to Mycenean and other early agricultural societies, existing long before anyone set down narratives in writing. What Disney achieved is what those storytellers earlier did; take a tale with ongoing/universal appeal for humanity itself and relate this so as to ring true for the citizenry of the artist’s own time.”

disneyanity by douglas brode

I’ve heard that complaint from people when new Disney movies came out and agreed with it. If you’re going to present movies about historical figures, shouldn’t they be as true to life as possible? Pocahontas was the first movie I heard people losing their minds about.

I guess it depends on why you’re making the movie, why you’re telling the story.

I mean, history books and biographies have already been written, probably a documentary has already been made. So why create another?

In the past I might have said because it hasn’t been told by you, in your words. But why are your words and images so important?

Disney isn’t teaching history. He’s creating mythology. He’s taking characters from our past and telling their story (and his own) in the context of our time. Not himself these days, since he died in 1966 (or did he), but his company of storytellers.

That’s what all movie makers are. Storytellers.

When we watch something, anything really, we need to remember who is telling the story and why, not simply digest everything we see on a screen as the gospel truth.

Instead of screaming to yourself, and the online community at large, “This is false! That’s not what that person did!” Try asking yourself, “What did the presenter of this try to tell me?” We can spend some time reading more about the real-life character or situation if we like, or we can take the entire thing as mythology, a story that attempts to convey a message about humanity and the world around us using names and places we already know.

As a sidenote, the Disney company should pay the author of this book for all the new subscriptions to Disney+ it is probably generating. Reading about each tv show and movie, I want to go back and watch some of them to see if I see what Douglas Brode is talking about. I can’t be the only one. Besides, there are so many new Disney movies that I haven’t seen.

Over the weekend, I watched Encanto while my husband was working on our bathroom remodel. He came in several times to find me cross-legged on the couch, bouncing along to the music like a child. Once, toward the end, when I heard him walk into the room, I shouted, “I’m not crying!”

That movie…oh, wow. Absolutely gorgeous and completely unexpected. I found myself talking back to the tv more than once, which isn’t unheard of around here. I tend to get a little excited about what I’m watching. One of the world’s most beautiful inventions? The pause button!

The Arts of Communication

Well…shit…

That was my final thought as I closed this book. I’m too tired and depressed now to even comment, so I leave you with this.

Where men lack the arts of communication, intelligent discussion must languish. Where there is no mastery of the medium for exchanging ideas, ideas cease to play a part in human life. When that happens, men are little better than the brutes they dominate by force or cunning, and they will soon try to dominate each other in the same way.

The loss of freedom follows. When men cannot live together as friends, when a whole society is not built on a real community of understanding, freedom cannot flourish. We can live freely only with our friends. With all others, we are constantly oppressed by every sort of dread, and checked in every movement by suspicion.”

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

Any ideas how we can fix this? I used to think homeschooling was the answer. Back then I was a part of a small group that read and discussed books with people of all ages. A small little spark still believes I could lead a discussion like this again, but it’s dying out fast.

How to Read a Book #1

Ok, I’ve decided something. I’ve been posting quotes from the books I’m reading to social media, Instagram mostly, and I just can’t do it anymore. Long story. Still working on how to explain my issue there. I’m going to try something else for a while.

For the rest of the month of May, each time I sit down with the book I’m reading, I’m going to pull something out from those pages and write about it here. No pretty graphics, no trying to get a good keyword, no SEO stuff, just me thinking back on what I just read. I may post more than once a day this way, and some days I won’t post at all.

I’m almost to the end of How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler, so I’ll be jumping to the end pretty quickly. Going back to the beginning of the book and summarizing just isn’t my style. I may do some of that for my last post about each book I read, but for right now I’m jumping in right where I am.

“…’purism.’ This is the error of supposing that a given book can be read in only one way. It is an error because books are not pure in character, and that in turn is due to the fact that the human mind, which writes and reads them, is rooted in the senses and imagination and moves or is moved by emotions and sentiment.”

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

Every book we read has so much inside it and so much we bring to it, that every reading is different. It’s like a friendship. You meet in elementary school, and then again in high school or college. Years later, you happen to run into each other at the airport or the grocery store. You are years older, so much has happened, that you feel like strangers. Maybe you meet again at your high school or university’s 40th Reunion and it’s all different again.

There is no one way we meet an author through their work.

Is a Healthy Family a Career?

I told you why I put From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks on my list in the first place in my previous post about the book, so I won’t rehash that. It took me longer to read because I did something crazy and DIDN’T read while I was on my three-day-weekend getaway with my mom. I’ll be honest and say it wasn’t on purpose. I just didn’t have time. I slept a lot more than usual and we had plans to start exploring the area early each morning we were there.

healthy family

This book was depressing at first. It not only made me feel old and therefore useless, it made me feel like my lack of any real success drive even when I was younger signified a wasted life. What have I accomplished in my life so far? What goals achieved? What have I created? Where have I left my mark in the world? What will I be remembered for?

I started to think this book was not written for the likes of me. I was right. It was written for those high achievers out there, the people that are driven to produce and excel and succeed in business. I am not one of those people. My drive has always been relational. I’ve always been more interested in relating to people better than achieving fame or accumulating wealth. Not because I’m better than them, but because it just doesn’t interest me.

I considered not reading the rest of the book, but I’m glad I did because of two lines.

“…a career reset does not have to result in a midlife crisis.”

And,

“I’m crazy if I think it’s too late to reset.”

As I read through the book, I started to realize something, I have had a career and I have been driven to make a success of it, to create something that extends into the future, and to be remembered by people for what I did.

That career has been my children and my family and now I’m entering retirement, but that doesn’t mean I’m useless. I’m only at the beginning of an elder phase, that time of life where I clean up my nest, build more knowledge, start connecting and repurposing those things I’ve learned over the last twenty-five years.

This book has shown me that and some ways to do it more gracefully. I’m happy I finished it.

Early Saturday Morning Post

It’s very early on Saturday morning, and I’m so tired. It hasn’t been an extraordinarily busy week, but my body and mind seem to think so. Why am I here, writing to you THIS early? Why don’t I sleep in? Because I’m heading out for a mini-vacation today and I don’t want to break my daily writing streak!

saturday morning

Like said in an earlier post, I finished reading The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight and I left it every bit as in love as when I started it. So much was beautiful there, I wanted to jump into it and disappear. So many gorgeous characters, so many books written and read.

It inspired me to go looking for a book club again and this time I found one AND it’s local. They meet next month; I’ve bought the book and you know I’ll read it. But will I bring myself to attend? I want to, but I can’t say for sure. I need an emotional support human, but I think I’ll be facing this scary thing alone…maybe I could bring one of my personalities!

I was going to go back and quote this book a few more times, but the first one I saw this morning when I flipped through the book was perfect, so I’m leaving you with it.

“I stopped writing, so much more on my mind, and yet so little to say.” Yeah…I’ve felt that way all week and I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I need more quiet space to think.

Beautifully Relatable Characters

The Mayfair Bookstore by Eliza Knight has stolen my heart and I don’t want it back. Both main characters are so beautifully relatable.

Nancy, as a writer…

“If I married him, I could go about town in the latest fashions, ride in fancy cars and dine nightly at the Ritz, but I’d much rather have my mind tingle in delight of someone with a modicum of intelligence than a bursting purse.”

…sigh…yes, me too. I still long for more (of them, not more intelligent) intelligent people to talk with. I’m always searching for new acquaintances. It’s a big part of why I blog about books. It’s a cry in the dark for conversation.

“So often in our family I felt like the odd woman out. A voice of reason? I’m not so certain, but at the least, a varying voice on absolutes.”

I’ve always felt like an outsider. I suppose everyone does.

“So often I felt like an imposter in my own skin, and here was a reminder that I was not simply a woman playing at being a writer, I was a writer. A published author. Warmth bloomed in my chest, a sense of belonging, of hope.”

How wonderful would that be to be published? When someone reads my work, likes or comments, I feel so much of that belonging, that hope. My words in a bottle have reached another human!

And then Lucy, as bibliophile…

“It was a dream come true every day to help shape the home libraries of private collectors, picking out amazing books that some clients would appreciate, covet even, while visitors to their homes might only gaze admiringly at the spines and wonder what they cost. Rare books to a curator or collector were a gem, but to an outsider, they were a status symbol of the elite.”

This one has me stumped. Why would you have someone else collect books for you? My collection is not of prized or rare editions, it’s all books I’ve read and annotated myself over the years. If someone’s eyes glance over my shelves, I’m thrilled. Will they find something they have read? Will they want to talk about it? Did they see something that interests them? They are welcome to borrow it! What do my shelves say about me?

“Rich history hung like magic in the London air and whispered to her like faint conversations from the past, redolent of chic perfume and pipe smoke.”

I just loved the sound of this sentence in my head. I’ve always been too timid for travel overseas. Planes are just not my thing. But maybe someday.

“…Lucy admitted a deep attachment to both Frankenstein and Pride and Prejudice. Oliver remarked, with a raised eyebrow, how summarily different they were. But Lucy argued not at all, because both inflicted a deep emotional toll upon their readers.”

I’d agree with the deep emotional toll from reading Frankenstein. That poor, poor creature. Created and thrust into the world, his own creator horrified by his existence. That reminds me…I should read that again!

“I thought about being a writer, or maybe an editor at a publishing house. But in the end, I realized my passion is all about reading and enjoying books as opposed to writing or fixing them.”

My heart resonated with this. Sure, I dabble here and there. I’d love to write more articles, possibly even submit them for publication, but really, I’m a reader. I write only to pass on the information and joy I find in the books I read, to connect with another person over our common interests or discuss differences in opinion, hear other people’s points of view. If I could do this in person, over coffee (with a touch of whiskey in it), I’d be in heaven.

I’m not quite finished reading this delicious book, so you’ll hear more from me about it tomorrow!

Is It Time to End the Drug War?

Drug Use for Grown-Ups by Dr. Carl L. Hart has opened up a whole other world to me. It’s answered some questions, generated new ones, and instigated me to revisit how I how I look at drug use. Unlike the author, I’ve never personally used any illegal drug. Yes. I know. Crazy. I never even smoked any pot before it was legal in California. I have now, but not much. I just didn’t like it, and I’m not interested in spending the time to experiment with dosages and types.

My drug of choice is alcohol, specifically good whiskey and tequila. They lift my spirits and put me in a better mood to socialize. There are times when I’ve drank too much, and I’ve had to sleep it off. I am not an addict, even though I do want that high more often than I drink because I’m a reasonably responsible person.

Since my drug is legal and regulated, I’m not worried about the people or place I buy it being associated with other criminal activity. I also don’t worry that what I’m drinking may contain a poison that I’m not aware of or may be enhanced with something my body isn’t ready for. And I have recourse if something does go wrong from my imbibing. No one will arrest me when I go to the emergency room if I’m sick, and I could sue the company that made it if they did something to harm me.

Unlike other drugs.

The question I’ve always had has been, “Why would someone use heroin? What’s the practical use?” Dr. Carl L. Hart has answered that question; because it relieves pain, makes people feel better, it’s fun, it expands consciousness, etc. And that goes for all the other drugs we have banned.

Studies are showing that almost all the negatives of drug use are due to the fact that the substance is illegal. People are not educated as to the safe use of the drug, they can’t be sure of the purity or amount of what they are taking, and they aren’t aware of the effects that will occur when they stop taking the drug.

Everything we do to stop people from making, selling, and using the drugs only creates more problems.

After all we learned from the prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th century, why do we think banning certain drugs will stop people from taking them? And why do we think it’s any of our business what another person wants to do with their body?

If you think I’m one of those crazy people that advocates for the legalization of all drugs, you’re right. I have been on the track for many years, because government has no place in determining what is good and bad for you.

Like Dr. Hart says, “The point is that whether I use a drug or not is my decision; it is not the government’s decision. Further, my responsible drug use should not be subjected to punishment by authorities. These ideas are central to our notions of liberty and personal freedom. The current punitive approach to dealing with recreational drug users is wholly un-American.”

My issue has always been the negatives of drug use, the physical problems that can occur, safety, and the like. After reading this, I’m angry. The government and the media has lied to us (as they are want to do) and created a mountain out of a molehill, “for our safety” of course.

Please read this book, listen to some of Dr. Hart’s talks, or read his articles. The war on drugs has got to end. It’s claimed enough lives.

Steering Toward a Better View on Drug Use

Drug Use for Grown-Ups by Dr. Carl L. Hart is filled with details documenting why and how our public view on drug use has become so…wrong.

“Attention-grabbing headlines claiming that opioids (or any other drug) are killing people are wrong. Ignorance and poverty are killing people, just as they have for centuries.”

“It’s also important to know that it is difficult to disentangle politics from science when dealing with a federal organization such as NIDA.”

The studies he cites and the experience he’s had, along with his feelings about drug use and its effects lead me to believe, once again, that we’ve been led in the wrong direction by…politicians, “morality”, and sheer ignorance. The so-called “war on drugs” has been going on my whole life and every year it only gets worse, according to the news. What if we did something totally crazy and tried something different?

“It took me nearly twenty years and dozens of scientific publications in the area of neuropsychopharmacology to recognize my own biases against amphetamines. I can only hope that you don’t require as much time and scientific activity in order to understand why reasonable adults might use this class of drugs. And I hope this knowledge engenders less judgement against and greater empathy for people who use amphetamines.”

I’m not going to go through all the truth bombs that are dropped in this book. I’d just be rewriting it. But I highly recommend reading it yourself. His research and perspective may get our country closer to being a bit more reasonable and compassionate toward those that use drugs and maybe even other areas where we’ve decided to butt into other people’s choices.

“It also wasn’t lost on me that in medicine, methamphetamine is used to improve the lives of patients. Recreational users take it to feel good and increase energy. In short, amphetamines help make people feel better. How can we be against people pursuing happiness?”

“I don’t entirely know why this is the case, but my guess is that it has something to do with the misguided puritanical values that are so pervasive in our education and that disproportionately regulate our behaviors. I think H.L. Mencken put it best when he defined puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

And every time we make laws to “protect” people from themselves, we only create more problems that radiate out into the world to cause more and more suffering. At what point will we as a species learn to leave other people alone to live as they see fit?

“The totality of the evidence shows that on the overwhelming majority of measures, the cognitive performance of marijuana-exposed children does not differ from that of control subjects. Furthermore, even when there is an observed statistical difference, it is inappropriate to conclude that that difference equates a deficit, or that it has an impact on the daily functioning of an individual.”

This: Different does not mean deficient. Why is that so hard for everyone to understand? It brings me back to my experience with my children and public education. Because I learn differently does not mean there is anything wrong with me. Because I live, love, act, differently does not mean I need to be fixed. Why do feel this compulsion to fix everyone around us and make everyone exactly the same?

As you can see, this book is bringing up quite a bit of an emotional response in me. I’m not even touching the experience of racism that the author relates within these pages, not to mention police activity surrounding drug use and poverty here and in other countries.

I’ll probably be in this book for another day or two, so you’ll get at least one more post from me about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read this book, or plan to.

From Melting Pot to the Pluralist Vision

Part III of The Opening of the American Mind, starts with From Melting Pot to the Pluralist Vision, my version looks more like a tapestry.

Lawrence W. Levine starts with this:

“The United State themselves are essentially the greatest poem…Here is not merely a nation but a teeming of nations.” – Walt Whitman, Preface, Leaves of Grass 1855

When did we, the United States, become singular?

I think it was after the World Wars. We became a “super power” by the end of World War II, and ever since then I’ve read the “United States” as one nation, indivisible. But are we? Should we be?

“…by Alexis de Tocqueville in a letter to Ernest de Chabrol in the spring of 1831: ‘Imagine, my dear friend, if you can, a society formed of all the nations of the world…people having different languages, beliefs, opinions: in a word, a society without roots, without memories, without prejudices, without routines, without common ideas, without a national character, yet a hundred times happier than our own.’”

Gives me chills reading that. It sounds so amazing, like looking at a beautifully intricate tapestry. Each thread, warp and woof, laying next to each other, not blending, but standing independent of the other. And when you pull back you see the picture they create.

 “The melting pot” is another way of describing it. You’ve heard that before. There was a Schoolhouse Rock episode of it, all the people of the world coming together, melting into one, and creating something different, greater than the sum of its parts.

I’ve never been a fan of that visual. I like the idea of a heterogenous people verses a homogenous one. A mixture of races, cultures, ideas and visions, all moving toward a common goal: freedom, prosperity, and pursuit of happiness. But that’s an unruly bunch to control, isn’t it?

“If American schools produced, ‘one general, and uniform system of education,’ (Dr. Benjamin) Rush argued, it would ‘render the mass of people more homogenous, and thereby fit them more easily for uniform and peaceable government.’”

I’m starting to love the idea of “multiculturalism” more and more every day. That’s what this book is really about, that universities are moving toward teaching in our own time what is important to the people of our time, along with the past greatness in the context of our own time.

Since this book was written in 1996, much has changed, some of it not for the better, at least from my vantage point. It seems we are all at each other’s throats, threatening each other, cancelling each other. It does not feel like we’re moving toward anything better than what we’ve had, one side against another fighting for dominance instead of equality.

But the author has shed some much-needed light on what’s going on, all the way from thirty years ago. I feel better after reading this, not worse, which is much appreciated.

I’m going to leave this book with the following quote:

“Every previous generation of Americans has had is profound difficulties accepting ethnic and racial groups who did not seem to adhere to some earlier model; every previous generation of Americans has spied in the new immigration of its own time the seeds of dissolution and chaos; every previous generation of Americans – composed of the children of earlier immigrants – has seen itself as the native guardians of the Pure and Original America. And every previous generation of Americans has been incorrect in its fears and its certainties because every previous generation – and our won as well – has understood only very imperfectly the phenomena of immigration and assimilation.”

Today, we still have vicious arguments over immigration, but we’ve added so much more. Sexual identity, lifestyles, medical choices, the list goes on and on. It seems we don’t want a “melting pot” or a “tapestry.” We want everyone all over the nation to act just like us, whatever that is. There’s no sense of “live and let live.” We’ve become a tribal mess.

The idea of a heterogeneous society is what I think we need; like Tocqueville described, a large group of people, from different backgrounds, races, and cultures, all living along side each other in peace. Sounds fantastical, but I think we can do it. At university, college, and even simply in high school and reading on the internet, we can learn about each other, speak our languages, find our commonalities, and celebrate our differences.

Here’s a crazy idea. What if the internet and even social media can facilitate that? What if each time you post a piece of yourself for the world to see, you invite more people to know you and your ideas and your culture? And each time someone reads that positivity, they adopt some of it for themselves or leave it alone for someone else. And what if we simply did not react to the naysayers. Let them nay say.

Honestly, I thought that’s what the internet would bring us. What happened?

Learning And Legitimacy: Who Are We?

Are you excited? Today we’re going to go into Part II of The Opening of the American Mind, called Learning and Legitimacy. Don’t worry! I’m not going to go crazy and write two-thousand words here. I do highly recommend this book though. It was fascinating and not at all a complicated read that I had to slog through. I loved every page!

“Throughout the colonial period, American colleges were characterized by a homogeneous model; they were, as one student of education has called them, “copies of copies”: the American rendition of the English adaptation of the Renaissance revision of the medieval curriculum.”

Sounds…enlightening, doesn’t it? The curriculum “consisted of Latin, Greek, sometime Hebrew, mathematics, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and logic.” That’s it. No other languages, including English.

Ugg…I’m having a terrible time with this. I think I need to go back and learn how to study better and write an essay. My sons would be so ashamed of this. I’ll just summarize in my own words.

University before the early 20th century was based on this “Classical Education” model. Study the ancients and you’ll get the basis that modern progress is based on. Why study that which came after? I’m talking Shakespeare here, you guys. French, German, Spanish…useless. And they all fought about how crazy it was that people were trying to change that all through the 1800’s, just like they fought about the adding common people’s voices all through the 1900’s, and now we’re doing it again.

learning and legitimacy
@desertdreamer72

The author summed it up best this way:

“The debate over the canon is now, and has always been, a debate over the culture and over the course that culture should take.

…this debate (is not) an aberrant product of a debased society; it is the current chapter of a much older and continuing discussion about values, meanings, perspectives, and ways of comprehending ourselves and those around us.”

Once again, I learn that the sky is not falling, we are not in the end times, and life is actually just continuing on as it always has. Only now we have the glorious ability to see and hear each other all over the world, instantly and constantly.

And then there is this:

“The debate over the nature of the curriculum and the canon was paralleled by a debate that raged throughout the whole of American history over the nature of America itself and of American identity.”

Who are we? What makes us a nation? What is university for? Why do we send our “kids” there? And why is so hotly debated? Those answers are discussed in the third and final part of this book, The Search for American Identity. We’ll talk about that tomorrow!

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