People come into your life for a reason

A friend of mine posted the following incredible poem on Facebook today. It’s by an unknown author and I couldn’t find out much about it, except that it’s included in a short film on Youtube called “People come into your life for a reason” (included at the end of the post).

People come into your path for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you know which one it is, you will know what to do with that person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.

They have come to assist you through a dificulty…

To provide you with guidance and support…

To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually…

They may seem like they are a godsend, and they are.

They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die…

Sometimes they walk away…

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand….

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled…

Their work is done.

The prayer you sent up has now been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON.

Because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.

They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.

They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.

Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons.

Things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation.

Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.

Thank you for being a part of my life…

Whether you were a reason, a season or a lifetime

~ unknown author


Fantastic Conspiracy Theories

No doubt you knew that the moon landing was faked.

And that the Roswell alien landing was covered up.

And that the CIA killed JFK.

And that the lottery is rigged

But did you also know that a race of beings called “Agarthians” live deep below us in the centre of the Earth? Apparently, they were first discovered in 1947 after an expedition to the North Pole by Admiral Byrd. (Sounds like 1947 was a big year between this and Roswell!). Byrd was in the U.S. Navy when he made two flights into the hollow earth, which has only two openings – one at the North pole and one at the South pole. The U.S. Navy, of course, are keeping all this information Top Secret.

And you know what else? Shapeshifting reptilian aliens are really running the planet and controlling everything. – the government, the media you name it. David Icke should know – he used to be a reporter for the BBC! Okay, he was a sports reporter, but who cares…He knows the truth about the “Reptilians” (or “Reptoids”, or “Reptiloids” or “Draconians”…guess they’re still struggling the naming process), an alien race which colonised Earth long ago which includes everyone from George W. Bush to the British Royal family. (And you thought “V” was just a television series!)

“The scariest and most powerful thing about conspiracy theories is they can’t be disproven, because any evidence that contradicts a conspiracy theory can be immediately dismissed as a plant of the conspiracy itself, created and disseminated specifically to disprove it. That’s what’s so clever about Fantastic Fest selection “The Conspiracy“. writes Matt Singer of Criticwrire (in a piece called “Fantastic Fest Review” 26th September, 2012).

The Conspiracy is a faux documentary which uses found footage and was written and directed by Christopher MacBride.

The film follows two doc filmmakers who decide their subject will be a man who’s made a name for himself by yelling protests in the streets of Toronto. This man explains that we’re all sheep (think real life Matrix), and slaves to a government attempting to become one powerful entity. The tales that are spun come directly out of conspiracy forums and are essential in integrating a level of believability to this intriguing mockumentary. When the old man goes missing, the filmmakers piece together his office full of newspaper clippings – which leads them down the rabbit hole of “truth.”

… what makes The Conspiracy so compelling is that it’s based on real conspiracy theories. Everything that’s suggested in the film is something I’ve known or read about, which makes the mockumentary that much more believable and even more thrilling.
according to Mr Disgusting at the Bloody (“Chilling ‘The Conspiracy’ Brings Found Footage Thrills!” 23rd September, 2012)

Some people simply do not like the discomfort that a conspiracy theory creates. But for others, conspiracy theories are intriguing. They like to explore all of the possibilities that a conspiracy theory presents, in the same way that they like to explore puzzles or mystery novels. Sometimes a conspiracy theory is ridiculous and learning about it is a form of entertainment. Or you may find that the theory is credible and it makes you think. It’s interesting to consider the theory, weigh the evidence and come up with a conclusion“. Marshall Brain, “How Conspiracy Theories Work“. (How Stuff

Personally, I struggle to believe that the world is being run by shapeshifting reptiles… but maybe that’s because their minion helpers – the microscopic carnivorous slug aliens – have hijacked my brain and I can no longer even trust my very own thought processes! Because they control them…telling me what to write at this very moment!!

Whatever. They’ve managed to be a bit more productive at this whole blogging thing than I have recently. Maybe I should leave them to it.

Something to sing about

Song lyrics matter to me. I can really like a song purely for the way it sounds before I know what the lyrics are, but will be turned right off it upon discovery that its lyrics are “rubbish”.

My husband, who is far less “fussy” about a song’s lyrics, finds that a bit bizarre. He often seems to be far more hooked by the way the song sounds than what it has to say.

Music can sometimes elicit very powerful emotional responses from us.

Karen Schrock wrote in her article “Why Music Moves US” in Scientific American (July 15, 2009)

“Some scientists conclude that music’s influence over us may be a chance event, arising from its ability to hijack brain systems built for other purposes such as language, emotion and movement”.

So a song that has something to say can be a powerful tool of protest.

Because while a song – or a poem, or a book, or a film – can not change the world in and of itself, it can certainly help stir up strong feelings inside some of us. And help motivate us to put in some effort towards creating the changes we want to see. Or it can even become some kind of anthem to promote a bit of unity amongst the people who decide to dedicate themselves to such a task.

Here just a few iconic songs by artists who have helped to stir things up, and what motivated them to write them.

“Redemption Song” by Bob Marley (6/2/1945 – 11/5/1981)

“Redemption Song” is the final track on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ ninth album, “Uprising”. Some of the song’s key lyrics were derived from a speech given by the Pan-Africanist orator Marcus Garvey in 1937

“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind”

Bob Marley had been diagnosed with the cancer (in his toe) which later ended his life when he wrote the song in 1979. His widow Rita Marley has said “he was already secretly in a lot of pain and dealt with his own mortality, a feature that is clearly apparent in the album, particularly in this song”.

The song is considered one of Marley’s seminal works, with Rolling Stone having listed it as number 66 among The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and Bob Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, credited with helping to spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience.

“The Times They Are a-Changin'” by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan told Cameron Crowe in 1985 that he recalled writing “The Times They Are a-Changin'” as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change. “This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced of course by the Irish and Scottish ballads …’Come All Ye Bold Highway Men’, ‘Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens’. I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time”

Less than a month after Dylan recorded the song, President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. The following night, Dylan opened a concert with the song. He later told biographer Anthony Scaduto: “I thought, ‘Wow, how can I open with that song? I’ll get rocks thrown at me.’ But I had to sing it, my whole concert takes off from there. I know I had no understanding of anything. Something had just gone haywire in the country and they were applauding the song. And I couldn’t understand why they were clapping, or why I wrote the song. I couldn’t understand anything. For me, it was just insane.”

“Imagine” by John Lennon (9/10/ 1940 – 8/12/1980)

“Imagine” was a single released from John Lennon’s album of the same name in 1971.

He claimed that the song’s lyrics were inspired by “Cloud Piece”, a three-line instructional poem from Yoko Ono’s 1964 book Grapefruit.

Imagine the clouds dripping.
Dig a hole in your garden to
put them in.

1963 Spring

Lennon commented on the song’s message in an interview with David Sheff for Playboy magazine in the year he died, 1980

“It’s not a new message: “Give Peace a Chance” — we’re not being unreasonable. Just saying “give it a chance.” With “Imagine” we’re asking, “can you imagine a world without countries or religions?” It’s the same message over and over. And it’s positive.”

The song was ranked the 3rd greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone in its “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

“People Have the Power” by Patti Smith

“People Have the Power” is a rock song written by Patti Smith along with her husband Fred “Sonic” Smith, and released as a lead single from her 1988 album “Dream of Life”.

The song has been used in various political campaigns and rallies in the US and Patti Smith performed the song at several of Ralph Nader’s rallies and “Democracy Rising” events, as she is a supporter of the Green Party.

Patti Smith is a legendary musician who helped to carve out a place for female involvement in the US Punk Rock Movement. Her music is very much tied to her political activism, and she has been actively involved in both (music and political activism) throughout her four decade career.

“To the Teeth” by Ani DiFranco

“To the Teeth” was Ani DiFranco’s response to the Columbine High School massacre.

Kim Ruehl wrote for the Guide “Ani DiFranco has long been an advocate of gun control, and this is undeniably her finest song on the matter. Inspired by a rash of school violence and the questions it raised in the media about who’s at fault when children lash out, this title track to her album To the Teeth spares no explanation and pulls no punches. It’s one of the boldest topical songs of her entire career”.

“What Have They Done to the Rain” performed by Joan Baez

“What Have They Done to the Rain” was written by Malvina Reynolds in 1962 and was originally called”Rain Song”. It was written as part of a campaign to stop nuclear testing in the atmosphere, which was producing fall-out. It has been performed by many different artists, most notably by highly renowned American folk singer, songwriter and musician Joan Baez, who has also long been a prominent activist in the fields of human rights, peace, and environmental justice.

Why failure is inspiring

I didn’t really manage to write a blog this week. This one’s late and a tiny bit thrown together. I know the world won’t end over that, but it does feel like a little bit of a failure.

Sometimes I have a bit of baggage about failure. I suspect most of us do. Failure gets an awful lot of bad press.

Which is sad. Because failure is actually something we should be proud of and learn to embrace. You can’t try anything really daring or new without risking failure, perhaps epic failure and many times over.

An inspiring video about some very famous “failures” who went on to prove everyone wrong.

According to a Time Magazine article by Allie Townsend called “The Importance of Failure: Why We’re Wrong About Being Right” (13/10/2011)

Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer in the mid-1970s, a time when the cost of failure inside the freshman computing industry of Silicon Valley was next to nothing. “He wasn’t afraid to fail,” said Monumental Sports & Entertainment founder Ted Leonsis. “People forget the Lisa. It was his first attempt at a mobile device and it failed so badly they kicked him out of the company. His is the greatest comeback of all time.”

Malcolm McLaren had a similar lack of fear about failure

“I was taught that to create anything you had to believe in failure, simply because you had to be prepared to go through an idea without any fear. Failure, you learned, as I did in art school, to be a wonderful thing. It allowed you to get up in the morning and take the pillow off your head.”

And Bruce Lee was quoted in Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living as saying

“Don’t fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”

So while I’m not sure my own situation necessarily counts as a “glorious” failure, it seemed like a good excuse to mention a few. (And hopefully I will succeed in getting my blogs together on time next from now on. But if not, that’s okay, too.).

The Stuff of Nightmares

According to Douglas Winter, in his 1982 anthology Prime Evil “Horror is not a genre, like a mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion”.

Stephen King once said “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones”.

Perhaps fictional horror provides us with a relatively safe space to inhabit the fear (without the genuine threat) of real horror.

The horror genre essentially revolves around the questions of “What is human?” versus “What is inhuman?”

I heard screenwriting guru John Truby give a talk about genre a number of years ago in London. His view was that horror generally comes from something inhuman trying to act like a human being. The monster is the hero’s greatest fear made physical.

And the best horror stories often tend to involve a “flip” of what is human and what is inhuman, so that somewhere in the story the monster becomes the hero and the hero becomes the monster to fully mine the idea. (For example, Frankenstein).

Horror is also a very metaphorical form and horror archetypes stem from different fears.

Werewolves and vampires stem from the “fear of the animal” – the fear of animal passion and the loss of control. (This genre is all the more popular in a repressive world. Could that, perhaps, have some connection to that fact that a devout Mormon ended up writing a best selling vampire book series?).

A scene from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)

Zombies, on the other hand, represent a “fear of the machine” horror – a fear of the loss of identity and individuality.

A scene from the “Resident Evil” computer game

These archetypes never really seem to go away, but rather undergo periodic reinvention and surges in popularity according to the relevant societal context.

For me the best horror film ever made is “Jaws“, the story of a giant man-eating shark which terrorises a (fictional) summer resort town called Amity, in New England. I first watched it on video (back in the dark ages, obviously), as a twelve year old, one Saturday afternoon.

It scared the living crap out of me, but I still thought afterwards that it was probably the best film I had ever seen.

When Jaws came out in 1975 it scared the living crap out of a lot of other people as well, and was a massive hit. It also cemented the idea in public consciousness of sharks as monsters lurking in the ocean, waiting to devour us – an idea that is still taking much effort to change.

The film taps into a strong preexisting primal fear – the horrifying fear of a very real animal which has the power to shred a human body or swallow them whole. Even with the knowledge that shark attacks are incredibly rare, and much less commonly fatal, the nature of a shark attack can provoke a lot of fear in most of us.

One thing Jaws exploits very well is the fear of the unknown, or the unseen. Often what we imagine can be more terrifying than what we see and director Steven Spielberg tapped into this fear by denying his audience any clear visual of the shark – especially not in its entirety – until late in the film. The use of music (that iconic theme by John Williams whenever the shark is around) and objects being moved by the shark through the water (e.g barrels that Clint, Hooper and Brody attach to hunt/kill it in the second half of the film) are used instead to let the audience know that the shark is lurking and present.

In part, this could be an example of what Sidney Lumet meant when he said “For any director with a little lucidity, masterpieces are films that come to you by accident”.

A short film about the infamously problematic mechanical shark in Jaws, called “The Shark that Didn’t Work”.

A highly unreliable mechanical shark – which was often out of action, and already forcing the film well over budget – made it necessary to shoot in ways where the shark in the story was only hinted at.

Years later, Spielberg remarked, “The shark not working was a godsend. It made me become more like Alfred Hitchcock than like Ray Harryhausen“.

Another gift the mechanical shark’s perpetual failure gave to the film was time and focus invested into strong naturalistic performances. As Spielberg put it “The more fake the shark looked in the water, the more my anxiety told me to heighten the naturalism of the performances.”

Clint’s famous speech about the SS Indianapolis in a scene from Jaws.

Often in horror films the characters and relationships are highly reduced because the hero/es spend/s so much time running away from or fighting against the monster.

One of the things that truly sets Jaws apart from most other horror films is the naturalistic responses and moments of touching believable humanity in its characters.

Brody’s famous “You’re going to need a bigger boat” moment in a scene from Jaws.

In my opinion this is still a film, especially a horror film , that comes closer to answering the question of “What is human?” than many others.

As Peter Biskind wrote in ‘Between the Teeth’ in Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media No. 9 (1975) “Jaws flatters us by holding out the promise that such triumph over unspeakable terror is within the reach of us all”.

Sidney Lumet – “All great work requires self-revelation”.

“For any director with a little lucidity, masterpieces are films that come to you by accident”.

“All great work is preparing yourself for the accident to happen”

Sidney Lumet (25/6/1924 – 9/4/2011) was one of the greatest directors in cinema history and also my personal favourite.

As a child he acted in the Yiddish theatre (his parents were both distinguished actors in Yiddish theatre) and on Broadway. After serving in World War II, he directed plays and taught acting. He directed more than 200 television dramas (for CBS from 1951 – 1957) before making his debut as a movie director with the acclaimed Twelve Angry Men.

A scene from “Twelve Angry Men” (1957)

Robert Berkvist of the New York Times wrote of Sidney Lumet, saying

“Social issues set his own mental juices flowing, and his best films not only probed the consequences of prejudice, corruption and betrayal, but also celebrated individual acts of courage.”

His impressive body of work includes such films as

The Fugitive Kind (1960)
A Long Day’s Journey into Night (1962)
The Pawnbroker (1964)
Fail Safe (1964)
Serpico (1973)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Network (1976)
The Verdict (1982)
Night Falls on Manhattan (1997)
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007).

The movie trailer for “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975)

Though he certainly made more than his share of them, not every film he made was a masterpiece. And he was completely honest about that.

“I’ve done two movies because I needed the money. I’ve done three because I love to work and couldn’t wait anymore. Because I’m a professional, I worked as hard on those movies as on any I’ve done.”

Brian Baxter wrote in Lumet’s obituary for The Guardian newspaper

“It is arguable that, had he not been so prolific, Lumet’s critical reputation would have been greater. Certainly, for every worthwhile film there was a dud, and occasionally a disaster, to match it. But Lumet loved to direct and he was greatly esteemed by the many actors – notably Al Pacino and Sean Connery – with whom he established a lasting rapport”.

One of things I admire most about him is not just that fact that he made so many truly incredible films, but also his very approach to doing the work itself.

“I don’t know how to choose work that illuminates what my life is about. I don’t know what my life is about and don’t examine it. My life will define itself as I live it. The movies will define themselves as I make them. As long as the theme is something I care about at the moment, it’s enough for me to start work. Maybe work itself is what my life is about.”

“I’ve been accused of being all over the place, of lacking an overwhelming theme that applies to all my work. I don’t know if that’s true or not. The reason I don’t know is that when I open to the first page of a script, I’m a willing captive. I have no preconceived notion that I want the body of my work to be about one particular idea. No script has to fit into an overall theme of my life … Whatever I am, whatever the work will amount to, has to come out of my subconscious. I can’t approach it cerebrally. Obviously, this is right and correct for me. Each person must approach the problem in whatever way works best for him.”

All the quotes here from Sidney Lumet are taken from his excellent book “Making Movies” a professional memoir drawing on his 40 years of experience as a movie director.

An iconic scene from Sidney Lumet’s film “Network” (1976).