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It’s About Love, Actually

The internet recently exploded in debate over the film Love Actually….again. Since it is one of my favorite films of all time and since I watch it every year as a holiday tradition, I know the film quite well. I have watched it at least once a year (with one exception) since I walked out of the cinema floating on a cloud of joy in 2003.

Although there several articles about Love Actually have been published in the past few years, and regurgitated every Christmas, I’ll mostly be responding to Orr’s  “Love Actually Is the Least Romantic Film of All Time.” Others have responded to Orr’s piece, like Ben Dreyfuss’s “Why ‘Love Actually’ Matters” in Mother Jones and Orr’s Atlantic colleague Emma Green’s intelligent response that explores C. S. Lewis’s four types of love in “I Will Not Be Ashamed of Loving Love Actually.

First, let’s briefly define the word “romance” and “romantic.” Although not an appropriate resource for academic or serious work of any kind, I like Wikipedia‘s definition:

Romance or romantic usually refers to Romance (love), love emphasizing emotion over libido.

It goes on to define Romantic Film as “love stories…that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters.” Dictionary.com defines “romance” and “romantic” in many ways, some referring back to the other, but here are a few:

a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention
fanciful; impractical; unrealistic:
imbued with or dominated by idealism, a desire for adventure, chivalry, etc.
characterized by a preoccupation with love or by the idealizing of love or one’s beloved
displaying or expressing love or strong affection.
ardent; passionate; fervent.

Depending on the definition he’s using, perhaps Orr is correct, in the title of his piece at least. Perhaps Love Actually isn’t “romantic,” but that isn’t really the bulk of his premise. If this were merely arguing over semantics and Orr’s failure to define his terms clearly, I wouldn’t have felt the need to respond. Although one might not categorize it as “romantic,” it is absolutely not “anti-romantic,” as he asserts in the following:

So take the film on its own titular terms. What does Love Actually tell us about love, actually? Well, I think it tells us a number of things, most of them wrong and a few of them appalling…Love Actually is exceptional in that it is not merely, like so many other entries in the genre, unromantic. Rather, it is emphatically, almost shockingly, anti-romantic…

the bulk of the film—I think it offers up at least three disturbing lessons about love. First, that love is overwhelmingly a product of physical attraction and requires virtually no verbal communication or intellectual/emotional affinity of any kind. Second, that the principal barrier to consummating a relationship is mustering the nerve to say “I love you”—preferably with some grand gesture—and that once you manage that, you’re basically on the fast track to nuptial bliss. And third, that any actual obstacle to romantic fulfillment, however surmountable, is not worth the effort it would require to overcome.

This assertion tells me that author (to quote the poignant Joni Mitchell song prominent in the film) “really don’t know love at all.” The fact Orr sees the film this way saddens my heart, and I pity him for it. Appalling and wrong? Far from it. In fact, I think the film captures the very essence of many different forms of love, human relationships, and the human condition.

After the pity, bewilderment sets in. The three lessons on love Orr sees is so far removed from what the film actually shows that I find it difficult to know where to begin. Basically, Orr says the Love Actually teaches its viewers that (1) love is based mostly in physical attraction without the need for intellectual or emotional communication or connection,  (2) the way to get laid is to work up the courage to say “I love you,” and (3) love isn’t worth the work to overcome even the most “surmountable” obstacles.

Balderdash.

Only one subplot is focused on the search for love based mostly on physical attraction, and I’ll get to that near the end. Not a single person consummates their relationship because they worked up the nerve to say “I love you” in some grand gesture. The grandest gesture and iconic scene between Andrew Lincoln and Keira Knightley, shown left, doesn’t end in consummation. In fact, there was never a pursuit for love between them before that scene and certainly not after. And with all the emphasis I can possibly muster, if anything, Love Actually shows that love is most certainly worth it.

This film is about hope. It’s about loss and pain and sacrifice. It’s about fear and desperation. It’s about complications. It’s about making horrible mistakes and difficult decisions out of care and selflessness and courage. It’s about surviving.

Which means, actually, it’s about love. Romantic love, sure, but also all forms of love. Here is a summary of the stories as I see them:

A man betrayed by his brother, who goes to another country just to pick up the pieces of his broken heart and shattered life, falls in love with the woman out of mutual care and respect, of being comfortable together. Two people who think the same, who understand each other, even though they don’t understand the other’s language.

A woman so dedicated to her brother she sacrifices her own life to care for him, giving up a chance to be with the man she’s been infatuated with for years. Although he understands that “Life is full of interruptions and complications,” she knows she can’t truly invest in a romantic relationship and be there for her schizophrenic brother at the same time.

A man surviving his wife’s death by helping his stepson navigate a budding love life, urging him to take a chance and live in the moment to minimize regrets. Perhaps he’s projecting his own regrets of his lost love and all the time he’ll never have with his late wife, determined his stepson will live fully, all while deepening their relationship and healing their grief.

An old, has-been rock star who has pissed his life away and finds the only real, lasting relationship he has ever had is with his manager. He realizes this at the end and leaves a party with Elton John to be a “rock ‘n roll loser” to get “drunk with his fat manager,” turning his back on the shallow, meaningless connections based on his fleeting success and embracing the most invested, loyal, and constant relationship of his life.

A man so desperately in love with his best friend’s wife, that he does everything he can to deny his feelings and stay out of their way, even if it means being cold to her for “self preservation.” When she discovers his true feelings, he fights within himself before deciding to express himself completely to her and then let it go, sacrificing his heart for her happiness and his friendship.

A woman who thinks so little of herself that she feels her only worth is between her legs, she must seduce a married man in order to feel worthwhile. That married man stereotypically, in his midlife crisis, succumbs to her, even if just by a gesture. His wife, so busy taking care of everyone else that she no longer takes care of herself, and neither does anyone else.

A couple who meet in the most awkward of situations, as stand-ins for a sex scene, really fall in love through their conversation and getting to know one another, not (ironically) through sexual attraction. Then find it even more awkward when it comes to their first real kiss.

A powerful man, used to yes-men and appropriate, proper, professional behavior by everyone around him, becomes intrigued by the aide with a potty mouth, and later is inspired to stand up to the most powerful man (bully) in the world because he insulted her honor by objectifying and propositioning her. Although so many comment on her thighs and weight and ass, even her parents, he sees her as a person, not a collection of parts, and loves her for who she is, not how she looks.

In fact, the only person in the entire film who’s search for love is based on physical appearance is Colin, the bloke with “the big knob,” looking for any willing warm body with which to have sex. He, and the American President with his inappropriate behavior and comment about Natalie’s “pipes,” are the only two characters focused mostly on physical attraction at all. Colin is the only one “looking for love,” and is used as a comic relief in the film. Both of these characters embody a social critique of the American culture and government. It’s the Americans who are portrayed as incredibly shallow, much as we portray ourselves in RomComs, SitComs, and in all popular culture, actually. It’s the Americans who are basing their search for love on trivial matters such as a foreign accent or appearance.

So, no. It’s not a romantic film. It’s not about some narcissistic fantasy of perfect love, which apparently is how Orr views love. It’s not some fairy tale RomCom with a get-lose-get girl plot ending happily ever after, or for happily for now.

It’s about human beings fumbling and hurting and hoping and losing. It’s about sacrifice and pain and regret. It’s about fear and rejection and vulnerabilities and longing. It’s about real relationships with all their complications and doubt and confusion.

It’s about Love, Actually.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2015 in OpEd, Personal

 

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On Cosby, Rape Culture, and Accountability: Change Is My Responsibility

christinerose:

Excellent article. Please read in full. It tackles the problem of being immersed so deeply in rape culture, one doesn’t realize one is perpetuating it at first.

Originally posted on Change From Within:

anacronAnacron is a singer, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist with two decades professional experience in the recording industry. When he’s not performing on tour or delivering University-level music business lectures, he’s an experiential educator in his hometown of Los Angeles, specializing in facilitating progressions for team building and leadership programming. http://anacron.LA

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TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL VIOLENCE

A few days ago, several of my closest homies and I were conversing and clowning as we typically do, delving through discussion of recent news and happenings as it relates to and affects us; a group of almost-young, artistic, educated, cultured, and employed Black-American men.

After an in-depth and deeply involved interaction on the unsurprising indictment dismissals for police that murder men like us, we then tap-danced hurriedly through a brief discussion around the other “hot button” issue concerning and creating an uninvited and often counter-productive buzz around people of Color in the media right now.

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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Personal

 

OMG! New Reviews!

Although O. M. Grey left this plane of reality on August 1st of this year and became The Grey Ghost, her work lives on. Go on over to Bitten By Books to read the full reviews, but I’ve posted little teaser excerpts below:

The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel

NickieCVR4WebBook Summary: The Zombies of Mesmer is a Gothic YA paranormal romance novel set in Victorian London. Follow Nicole Knickerbocker Hawthorn (Nickie Nick) as she discovers her destiny as The Protector, a powerful vampire hunter. Ashe, a dark and mysterious stranger, helps Nickie and her friends solve the mystery behind several bizarre disappearances. With Steampunk gadgets, mad scientists, bloodthirsty vampires, and mesmerized zombies, this paranormal adventure is sure to appeal to fans of Boneshaker, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Vampire Diaries.

Appropriate for Teens and Adults.

BBB 4-Star Review Excerpt: The Zombies of Mesmer is an interesting take on a teen being a vampire hunter. I love that it takes place in Victorian London and O.M. Grey has used some great imagination coming up with cool gadgets thru-out her story. Nickie has to do some maturing pretty quickly, and it’s nice to see that she doesn’t ignore her friends just because she is changing.

Read the entire review here.

The Zombies of Mesmer is the first book in the Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Series. It is available on Amazon in paperback and in eBook format.

The Ghosts of Southwark: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel

GoS_WebBook Summary: Nickie Nick’s broken heart keeps her from her sacred duty until a tragic event pulls her out of her lament and propels her into action. The Clan of Ashen, a deadly vampire cult, and a group of lost souls lead her to discover the deranged actions of a sinister priest. A handsome, masked stranger captures her attention and her heart while they work to stop the priest and free the trapped ghosts. This paranormal adventure is sure to appeal to fans of Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries.

The Ghosts of Southwark follows the continuing adventures of Nickie Nick, Vampire Hunter, and is set in Victorian Steampunk London.

BBB 3.5 Star Review Excerpt: O. M. Grey has given us another good Nickie Nick story with The Ghosts of Southwark. She lets us feel the pain that Nickie is going through, and then gives us the anger to make it another day. The mystery left me guessing what would happen and I felt invested in the characters. I wanted Nickie to finally be happy. The only thing I could not relate to very well was all the angst Nickie feels. It has been a long time since I was a teenager, but sometimes I wanted to reach into the book and shake her a little bit.

Read the entire review here.

The Ghosts of Southwark is the second book in the Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter series. It is available via Amazon in both paperback and eBook versions.

Avalon Revamped

Book Summary: Arthur Tudor, a vampire for nearly four-hundred years, finds himself bored with life and love, yet again. His tolerance for his newly-turned girlfriend Avalon wanes, and he’s on the prowl for fresh blood to drink and succulent flesh to pierce. While investigating a series of mysterious disappearances, the couple comes face to face with Constance, a succubus committed to exacting justice for violated women. The supernatural trio joins forces to stop a serial rapist and murderer. Set in Victorian London, this Steampunk horror novel is about justice, retribution, and redemption.

Let true justice prevail…

BBB 4-Star Review Excerpt: O. M. Grey really slapped me in the face with the horrible treatment of women in this one. I know women are abused today, and it was much worse in Victorian days. The story was a good one and kept me guessing on how it would end.

Read the entire review here.

Avalon Revamped is the sequel (of sorts) to O. M. Grey’s Amazon Gothic Romance Bestselling Novel Avalon Revisited. They are both available via Amazon in paperback and eBook formats. Avalon Revisited is also available in Audiobook format.

Check out all of O. M. Grey’s titles, novels and great short stories (priced less than a cup of coffee for a lunchtime read).

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in Books & Reviews, Emerging Authors

 

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The Power Of Speaking Out Is Cumulative

Originally posted on :

To quote Brandeis, sunlight is the best of disinfectants.  Rape happens in the dark and serial rapists depend on dark corners, both metaphorical and literal, to do that they do and get away with it.  The obvious answer is to throw a lot of light.  But many people are uncomfortable with how that actually works.

Here’s what really happens:  first, there’s a rumor that Jian Ghomeshi is some kind of bad guy or predator or can’t be trusted.   The general public didn’t know or suspect because his public persona was so lovable, and what people said in private about him seemed so wildly inconsistent with how the public saw him as to be implausible. He was a “missing stair” — the issue is at some level widely shared within informal social groups, but not openly acknowledged where outsiders can hear, and certainly not reported.  Then someone pushes…

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Posted by on November 19, 2014 in Personal

 

NYC BD #45!

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This has been a great trip so far! I’m in between being in the crowd outside The Today Show (my mother’s favorite) and going out to see the Statue of Liberty.

It’s been great fun so far. Yesterday we saw The Rockettes, and today we’re seeing a Tom Stoppard play, with Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhall, and the Tony Award Winning Musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”

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I had my birthday mocha and peppermint cake pop.

Life is good today.

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Me on TV, courtesy of a Rowan of the Wood fan Amy! My mother made that sign for me. I should have one that says Read Rowan of the Wood!

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Personal

 

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Ghomeshi: The Developing Story, And Predator Theory Observations

Originally posted on :

Folks who have Canadians in their social circle are likely awash in it, and folks for whom Canadian media is not on the radar screen may have mostly or entirely missed it:  CBC fired one of its biggest radio personalities, musician and interviewer Jian Ghomeshi.  Ghomeshi ran to Facebook to put out an account where he was fired for his consensual kinks; the Toronto Star put out there account, which was quite different — their four informants collectively allege nonconsensual beating and workplace sexual harassment.  Ghomeshi filed a lawsuit which, according to some experts, is a stone-cold loser, but a clever way for him to smear the accusers while shielding himself from defamation liability, since what he says in his pleadings is exempt from defamation laws.

First Things First: The Presumption of Innocence and its Limits

It states the obvious to say that we don’t “know all the facts.”  Actually…

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Posted by on November 5, 2014 in Current Events

 

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Winter Squash & Fresh Sage Biscuits

IMG_0253This recipe is so very delicious. I’ve made it 4 times in the past three weeks, each time with a different squash. Although my biscuits aren’t nearly as attractive as the creator’s biscuits, they are scrumptious. Like most of my recipes, I alter them from another recipe. This one was altered from Kitchen Vignette’s Delicata Squash & Sage Biscuits.

Although I really love to bake, I’ve had continuous problems getting things to rise properly or baking with yeast. So many problems, I rarely try to bake anything with yeast anymore. These are yeast-free and mine aren’t as thick and fluffy as those on Kitchen Vignette’s blog, but they do puff up some and absolutely melt in your mouth (especially hot out of the oven with a smidgeon of organic butter).

IMG_0252At least part of the reason mine aren’t as fluffy is that I roll my dough out much thinner. The original recipe calls to roll the dough out to 3/4″, but I roll mine more like 1/4″-1/3″. Maybe next time I’ll try to make them thicker. My way yields thinner biscuits, so I get from 15-17 instead of 10. They’re barely over 100 calories each, which is great if you’re watching your calorie intake, too.

The squash makes these biscuits so deliciously moist!

Here is my altered recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c mashed winter squash (delicata, butternut, or pumpkin)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. raw sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, coconut oil, margarine, or vegetable shortening
  • 1 small bunch of fresh sage
    (1 1/2 tsp. chopped and 10 whole leaves for garnish)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

For the egg wash:

  • 1 small egg
  • 1 Tbsp. almond milk

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Directions

  1. Slice the squash in half. Remove all the seeds and stringy pulp around the seeds. Place the squash halves cut-side facing down in a deep baking sheet with about 1″ water at the bottom. Roast in a 400F oven for about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool. Scoop out the roasted flesh and compost the skins. Mash by hand with a potato masher or fork. Chill in fridge until ready to use. (Use any leftover puree in a yummy autumn smoothie! Blend 1/4c with a frozen banana, some pumpkin pie spice, and almond milk…Mmmmmm!)
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda on medium speed. Drop the fat in (I usually use a mixture of the above choices) 1T at a time, and mixed until it looks like breadcrumbs. Set aside. I’ve never put this mixture in the freezer while I prepared the wet ingredients, but it might help it to be more manageable (about 5 to 10 minutes).
  3. In another bowl, mix the chilled almond milk, squash purée, and finely chopped sage. Whisk together until smooth. In another smaller bowl, make the egg wash by beating the egg and 1 Tbsp. of almond milk together.
  4. Remove the dry ingredients from the freezer. Gently add the squash and cream mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring just until the dough starts to come together. I also do this in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Although you might have better results if you do it with your hands, lightly knead the dough in the bowl, until uniform, but avoiding overhandling it.
  5. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and either roll or simply press the dough out to 3/4 inch thickness. I place mine between two sheets of wax paper and dust the dough with enough flour to be workable. Using a 2 1/2 inch round or square cookie cutter, or just the top of a wine glass as I do, cut out the biscuits. Brush the tops with egg wash and gently press a whole sage leaf on top of each biscuit.
  6. Place on a lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in a 400F oven, until golden on top. Transfer the biscuits to a cooling rack and serve warm.

Yield: 10-12 biscuits

Mmmmmmm.

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Posted by on November 1, 2014 in Healthy Living

 

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