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Archive for October, 2013

chained-elephant

I’m not making this up. And in an effort to be as transparent as possible the analogy I’m about to use is not original. But, it serves as a starting point for a blog about chains (not of the S and  M variety I hasten to point out.)

The story of fact goes that one way an elephant is trained is that at a very young age, say when the elephant is perhaps five or six months old, the little pachyderm, is chained or tied with a rope of some sort to a stake that has been pounded deep into the earth. Naturally the baby elephant tries to tug and tug on the rope in the hope of pulling the stake out of the ground. It is obvious to everybody but the baby elephant that there is no way on earth that this poor creature is going to be able to accomplish the task at hand.

After a number of days and perhaps weeks, the baby elephant gives up. Something amazingly sad happens here. Not only does the elephant give up, he has now been “re-wired” to believe that he will never be able to pull the stake out of the ground despite the fact that when the elephant is two, three or more years old he could easily ripper the stake from the ground

Only thing is, he has stopped believing in his ability to alter the course of his destiny. In fact, it has been illustrated that just by putting an ankle brace on the elephant with the rope hanging free, the elephant will stay put.

I doubt any of my three followers wonder where I am going with this. It’s obvious, isn’t it?  But connect the little elephant story to an old proverb: there are none so blind as those that will not see,” and the elephant analogy takes on a new dimension.

If we fail to recognize that most of us were chained to something in childhood…usually in school…we will always be blind, just like the people of Oz were blinded by all the green in the Emerald City. The people of Oz had given up their power to a humbug.

My God. How many of us do that when we go into the polling place and blindly pull on the lever of a particular party because we have been chained into believing, without giving it any real thought, that this is the party of right.

And worse, how many of us find ourselves in a workplace where the people actually believe all the crap that they’ve piled up despite the fact that it’s all a lie?

We are a schizophrenic nation. On the one hand we encourage young people to think without a willingness to believe that thinking demands questioning and questioning begets challenging old ways of thinking. That’s like shackling an elephant to a stake.

We want young people to become thinkers, but then we go ahead and hammer in a stake that’s rooted in approved thinking. We give them books to read but really don’t want them to learn the truth behind the words unless the truths are approved truths.

Growing up I learned early on what my trainers had in mind…and once I learned this, I stopped pulling on the chain. I let them think I was “trained,” but little did they know I was onto them and that’s why I took Robert Frost’s road less traveled.

It doesn’t make life any easier, but better to be free and be a questioner than to wrap your trunk around another elephant’s tail and march in an endless circle.

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book tree

For the few people who “follow” my blog it should come as no surprise that “The Wizard of Oz” is my favorite book for more reasons than I can fit into a readable blog. What few people might know is that while it might not be my favorite movie, it is my favorite movie every time I see it. And this evening I saw it again. (I’ve seen it so many times since it was released in 2000 that I’ve lost track.) The movie is the classic “Finding Forrester.” And because it combines my deepest love of writing and my equally deep love of following the yellow brick road, I find myself over the rainbow each and every time I get lost in “Finding Forrester.”  (It doesn’t hurt that the J.D. Salingerness of the movie makes it all the more heartfelt.)

I lose myself in the movie because it is a fantasy I wish I could own. It’s a movie about a number of different things, but most of all it’s about the struggle to dig down deep into your soul to find the words buried in your imagination. The fact that in the movie young Jamal is dismissed by people who don’t believe him or in him is a story I can relate to.

But there’s much more to the movie than that. There’s the tangential relationship between Jamal and William Forrester that grows into a deep friendship where the wall between what’s given and what’s taken comes crumbling down.

In the end, though, it’s still about the writing and the power of story and how mere words can fill the heart with hope and wonder. In the end, though, “Finding Forrester” is the story I wish was my story.

Everybody has a yellow brick road to follow. My road just happens to be paved with words. And while nothing I’ve ever written has been critically or even uncritically acclaimed, in the end it really doesn’t matter. Because in the end a writer can’t take his words with him, no more than a millionaire can take his money with him, a rock star can take his platinum records, or a super athlete can take his home runs.

We all only have a very limited time to live full lives. The yellow brick road is not only the one we  follow, it’s the one we build. As said, my road is paved with words. What’s your paved with?

Take a moment to listen to the music that defines Forrester. Best to close your eyes while you do.

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oz the great

Months after the opening of the successful and critically acclaimed “Oz the Great and Powerful,” I finally saw it on the screen…my flat screen and now I want to chime in on a movie most people suspected I would have seen the day it was released. I didn’t and it had nothing to do with not wanting to see it or because my book “Dorothy: This Side of The Rainbow” was overlooked by critics and “others”.

I had seen the clips and the commercials. And to be perfectly frank, it didn’t draw me in for the same reason the best-selling “Wicked” didn’t. There was something too New Age about them…and I am not a fan of New Age “stuff.”

After watching “Oz the Great and Powerful,” I only wish I had seen it in 3-D because I am sure it was a feast for the eyes. But…I think all the tricks and special effects took away from what is really a simple story of good versus evil.

There was much that was good about the movie…and some of it great…as an “independent” movie, not an extension of the book. There were also some very inventive cross-overs that reminded me of the “Highlights for Juniors” magazine’s “can you find these objects” puzzle. (I do not think it was necessary, though, to have named James Franco’s character Oz. I think that was stretching it a bit.) see note at the end of blog.

I was even willing to grant certain liberties since this movie was paying homage to the MGM classic and not the book. This movie opens in 1903 while the other Oz movie was released in 1939…hence the timeline with the Wizard’s arrival some 36 years before Judy Garland’s Dorothy was to crash-land.

Personally I didn’t like Franco’s Wizard portrayal. Even in the book the Wizard was a humbug, not a sleazy carnie man. But that’s being picky.

I did have a problem with the witches. Again it was three witches…not the four that Baum detailed in his book. And what’s with the Good Witch having a father who was a king?

I digress. What about the Wizard?  Well, for starters, Baum’s Good Witch had never, ever, ever seen the Wizard.  She had no idea who he was or what he was.

Here’s the truth about the Wizard…from Baum’s book:

“Really,” said the Scarecrow, “you ought to be ashamed of yourself for being such a humbug.”

“I am–I certainly am,” answered the little man sorrowfully; “but it was the only thing I could do. Sit down, please, there are plenty of chairs; and I will tell you my story.”

So they sat down and listened while he told the following tale.

“I was born in Omaha–”

“Why, that isn’t very far from Kansas!” cried Dorothy.

“No, but it’s farther from here,” he said, shaking his head at her sadly. “When I grew up I became a ventriloquist, and at that I was very well-trained by a great master. I can imitate any kind of bird or beast.” Here he mewed so like a kitten that Toto pricked up his ears and looked everywhere to see where she was. “After a time,” continued Oz, “I tired of that, and became a balloonist.”

“What is that?” asked Dorothy.

“A man who goes up in a balloon on circus day, so as to draw a crowd of people together and get them to pay to see the circus,” he explained.

“Oh,” she said, “I know.”

“Well, one day I went up in a balloon and the ropes got twisted, so that I couldn’t come down again. It went way up above the clouds, so far that a current of air struck it and carried it many, many miles away. For a day and a night I traveled through the air, and on the morning of the second day I awoke and found the balloon floating over a strange and beautiful country.

“It came down gradually, and I was not hurt a bit. But I found myself in the midst of a strange people, who, seeing me come from the clouds, thought I was a great Wizard. Of course I let them think so, because they were afraid of me, and promised to do anything I wished them to.

“Just to amuse myself, and keep the good people busy, I ordered them to build this City, and my Palace; and they did it all willingly and well. Then I thought, as the country was so green and beautiful, I would call it the Emerald City; and to make the name fit better I put green spectacles on all the people, so that everything they saw was green.”

“But isn’t everything here green?” asked Dorothy.

“No more than in any other city,” replied Oz; “but when you wear green spectacles, why of course everything you see looks green to you. The Emerald City was built a great many years ago, for I was a young man when the balloon brought me here, and I am a very old man now. But my people have worn green glasses on their eyes so long that most of them think it really is an Emerald City, and it certainly is a beautiful place, abounding in jewels and precious metals, and every good thing that is needed to make one happy. I have been good to the people, and they like me; but ever since this Palace was built, I have shut myself up and would not see any of them.

“One of my greatest fears was the Witches, for while I had no magical powers at all I soon found out that the Witches were really able to do wonderful things. There were four of them in this country, and they ruled the people who live in the North and South and East and West. Fortunately, the Witches of the North and South were good, and I knew they would do me no harm; but the Witches of the East and West were terribly wicked, and had they not thought I was more powerful than they themselves, they would surely have destroyed me. As it was, I lived in deadly fear of them for many years; so you can imagine how pleased I was when I heard your house had fallen on the Wicked Witch of the East. When you came to me, I was willing to promise anything if you would only do away with the other Witch; but, now that you have melted her, I am ashamed to say that I cannot keep my promises.”

“I think you are a very bad man,” said Dorothy.

“Oh, no, my dear; I’m really a very good man, but I’m a very bad Wizard, I must admit.”

To sum it up, I think the makers of “Oz the Great and Powerful” took far too many liberties, but in the end, who cares what I think,

Note: Oz expert Micahel Poteet pointed out an error in my blog. While the Wizard was never named in neither the original book nor the classic movie, I assumed giving him a name in “Oz the Great and Powerful” was a modern invention. Michael told me In “Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, it is revealed that the Wizard’s name is, just as Franco said, “Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs.” So Disney didn’t go any farther than Baum himself did, in this case!”

grapes

(These grapes are NOT sour)

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leaves2013 copy

Other than a freak snow storm in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz there was no mention of weather let alone seasons. I count myself lucky because I live in an area in the United State where the four seasons are distinct and unique.

When the leaves begin to change colors and the nights become cooler I like fall best. But then again, when the temperature drops and it begins to snow, winter is my favorite season. I could continue, but I believe you get my point.

There are some who believe that our personalities are affected by the seasonal changes. I don’t know enough about this to say “yea” or “nay.”  Suffice it to say that I see seasons in a broader sense. I believe there are seasons in our lives. And while I wasn’t seasoned enough to appreciate the 1979 publication of Daniel Levinson’s The Season of a Man’s Life when I first read it, I’ve life enough seasons since then to have a better appreciation of the season’s in our lives.

However, I don’t see the seasons as merely a  steady chronological progression…even though I do agree that as we age we age like a good wine; we are seasoned. I believe that our seasoning depends upon a number of factors…some of them in our control and some outside out. With every step we take we enter a new season. With every event in our lives we also enter another season.

Dorothy’s time in Oz actually covered a number of different season. Every step she took along the yellow brick road changed her, made her wiser, helped enrich her life…all that despite the fact that some fo the seasons were dark and stormy.

I look at seasons, not as something that is passing, but something new about to happen.  And with every change of season, I take the opportunity to reflect…to look back, but more importantly, to look ahead.

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