What’s Your Version?

The older I get, the more I can’t help but think of that saying, “Life sucks and then you die.” I’m not being depressing, truly. It’s just that life is full of hardness and heartbreak, and I look around and don’t know how people survive.

I’m really not certain why I’m coming to this conclusion now, because I’m loving my life more than I ever have.

My life in my thirties? So. Awesome.

So I really don’t know why I keep looking around now and thinking, “Life sucks and then you die.” Watching people lose loved ones, or love people who don’t love them back, or struggle through illness… it just all seems so hard and sad. (Even though we’ve all done those things and survived just fine.)

On the flip side, life seems sweeter. When two people manage to fall in love and have a loving marriage—wow, what a miracle. Or when a child is born—my heart breaks in a happy way just thinking about it. Or, you know, sometimes just a lizard running across your patio. :-)

A friend was bored, so she wanted to go to the theater. We saw “Barney’s Version,” and it’ll make you laugh, cry, and think. Best-written movie I’ve seen in a long time. Apparently it’s based on a novel, which I MUST read.

Here’s the trailer, which doesn’t really do it justice:

In a way, it was a happy ending, depending on how you interpret it. I think the point was that, as “Barney’s Version,” it was a happy ending. The way we see our histories is as interesting as what they actually were.

It’s funny, I’ve been really looking forward to summer, because I love the lizards and I had so much fun discovering the summer desert. I was telling someone how much I loved summer here last year, but then I realized: my old camper was really hot, it leaked during the monsoons, I had asthma attacks that made me unable to work for 3-5 days a week, and I was miserable.

And yet all I remember is the lizards and the walks and the desert and all that made me happy, and I can’t wait for summer again. Truly, though, my new camper won’t have any of those problems, and I have asthma meds and two jobs I love. So the summer is going to be awesome.

Do you tend to see your history through rose-colored glasses and gloss over the bad stuff? Or do you remember the bad stuff as much as the good stuff? The bad stuff more than the good? Or do you remember it exactly as it was?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:

Change, Choice, and Serendipity

Lately, I’m drowning in choices, so it was perfect timing that I saw The Adjustment Bureau yesterday. Totally rocked. It’s loosely inspired by Philip K. Dick’s short story, “Adjustment Team.”

The movie explores the conflict between a person’s free will to choose and the “Chairman’s” (or God’s, or the Universe’s) plan. The Adjustment Bureau’s agents run around and cause tiny little changes—small moments of serendipity (or bad luck) that create a life-altering change in a person’s life. Here’s the trailer, if you haven’t seen it:

While I’ve been swimming through a sea of choices in my life, I realized that I have great faith in serendipity, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Worse, I have little faith in planning—

God likes to laugh.

The biggest choices in my life weren’t choices. I planned on being a vocal accompanist, but I got sick for ten years. I decided I was grateful, because I ended up teaching, and I truly believe I was meant to do that, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world. I loved every minute of it, minus a few parents.

While I was happily teaching, writing started taking over my life. It was never a decision—more like the universe eventually persuaded me to focus on writing.

The whole ebook formatting career was another happy accident. (One I’m grateful for every day. It sorta feels like all of you led me there, by asking me to do this little techie thing or another. Thanks!)

imageSo you can see why I distrust plans. And choices? After the universe made me sick for ten years, I have this fear that if I make the wrong choice, the universe will rain down hell to get me back on the path it prefers. Or I fear wasting a bunch of time planning, only to have God laugh and send me off in a totally different direction.

Life is unpredictable.

On the other hand, I made a plan to move into a camper. I spent years de-cluttering, planning, and whittling down possessions. I researched for years, and then I made it happen. No serendipity there, and God (knock on wood) didn’t laugh. (Phew!)

As I was walking and and looking at the moon and stars tonight, I realized that I was a bit afraid of making plans, given my life’s history. But there are things I want, and I want to make them happen, too.

It comes down to free will, choice, and planning versus serendipity, chance, and God’s/the Universe’s/the Whatever’s plan.

Being a Libra, I generally come down smack in the middle, but I think for the next year, I’m going with free will, choice, and planning.

What about you? How have your big plans worked out in life? Has the Universe ever altered those plans in a big way? And what about serendipity? Or bad luck? Do you ever just want to throw up your hands and stop planning, because the Universe seems to have its own plan for you? Or do your plans mostly work out?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags: , ,

Reflective of Our Times?

I watched the first three Twilight movies in the theater last night. Totally awesome! What I found most interesting about the experience was how different the audience’s reaction to the first two movies was last night, in comparison to their reaction when those movies first came out.

They laughed at the first two movies in a few places, even while breaking into applause for some of their favorite moments.

image Edward watching Bella sleep in Twilight was met with snorts. When Twilight first came out, sure, there were plenty who were weirded out by that, but especially in the theater, this was accepted with solemn intensity instead of laughter.

Twilight was first published in 2005, thus written and read when Bush was in his big-brother mode. In fact, the end of 2005 was when we first started discussing his phone-tapping policy. In 2005, the United States was still willing to trade freedom for protection. Even in 2008, when the movie Twilight was released, there was no laughter in the audience for this plot point.

I took the laughter as hope that this terrifying trend is coming to a close.

image Then there’s the sex thing. The movie Eclipse was self-aware of how archaic Edward’s feelings on sex, virginity and marriage. It gave the audience several moments to laugh at this situation. The first two movies regarded the sex thing with solemnity, although the audience did snort or laugh at these moments last night.

In the past few years, there has been a sweeping, judgmental, and intolerant movement when it comes to sex. The audience’s reaction to the sex thing was heartening. I’m taking both the self-awareness of the movie and the audience’s laughter as hope that this judgmental and intolerant trend is phasing out.

image And finally, in the first three books, Bella is courageous and she wants desperately to fight for herself, but she is human and not a match for vampires. (Though she does fight, in her own way, but I don’t want to go into that debate.) For the most part, Edward and Jacob protect her.

When the Twilight trilogy was written, we were still reeling from 9/11. Even when it was first published, the average U.S. citizen was passively living their lives while others protected them from terrorism, which they were powerless to actively fight. While this is still going on today, I see less fear. The 2004 election was mostly won because Bush promised to protect us and played on our fear of terrorism. I don’t see that same tactic working as well today. Eclipse does a great job of making Bella more proactive and showing how she does fight, even when she doesn’t.

I enjoyed the trilogy immensely, and still love the storylines. As I sat there, though, I wondered if Twilight would have had the same popular resonance it did if the first book had been released in 2010 instead of 2005.

Although sitting in a packed movie theater isn’t my favorite way to watch a movie, it was fascinating to observe the audience. Eclipse did a great job of spanning both times and cultures, and the audience always laughed with the movie and never at the movie. The first two movies showed signs of… aging.

What do you think? Have you watched the first two lately? Are you going to the third? Do you think that if Twilight were released today, that it would have the same resonance it did in 2005?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Movies | Tags: , , ,

The Joys of Realism

image I’m not a big fan of stories that put me in a bad mood. Call me a genre snob or a happy-ending snob, if you like, but seriously: real life offers me plenty of realism and unhappy endings. Does fiction think it’s going to teach me anything new in this department?

Okay, it’s true. There have been a few unhappy endings that I liked. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Loved it. And Swoon, by Nina Mulkin.

But let’s talk best-picture-hopeful Crazy Heart.

It’s true that the setup was less realism and more fiction: a beautiful young lady wanted to be kissed by a drunken, slobbering, greasy old man covered in sweat, with traces of vomit still on his shirt.

Ewww. It was just gross to watch. I wanted to shove him in a shower, and I wasn’t even convinced that would help. (The picture below makes him look a lot cleaner than he did in the film. Trust me. He was repulsive. I kept hoping he’d wash his hair at some point in the film.)

But she instantly falls in love with him. After that, the movie is predictable. He gets drunker. And drunker. And then drunker.

For two freakin’ hours he gets drunker.

Then, as we all knew he would, he loses her kid. Finally! She dumps him. He goes to rehab. He gets better. She doesn’t want him back. He rides off into the sunset alone.


Oh, yeah. He gets a good check for one of his songs. He graduates from a dilapidated old truck. Are we supposed to think money is a happy ending? Um, no. Not when you’re all alone and no one loves you in the whole world.

There was one bit of realism I liked: his adult son, who Bad didn’t talk to after he was four years old, is not interested in getting to know his father.

That is realistic and refreshing, since I’ve never seen that in fiction without the obligatory make-up and happy-ever-after in the father-son relationship. Um, no.

Yeah, great acting.

Joy, joy, joy.

I give it two thumbs down. I was in a perfectly happy mood going in, and by the one hour point I was looking at my watch every two minutes. By the time we left, I actually cried because it was such a depressing movie. And not a good sort of Greek-tragedy-cathartic cry, but an I’m-depressed-and-I-want-to-talk-to-my-best-friend cry.

So what movies have you seen lately? How’d you like them? And how do you feel about realism? And unhappy endings?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Movies | Tags: ,

Desert Fun + New Story

It’s been a busy week. And I have a new flash story up at A Million Monkeys: Lost and Found. Monday I hiked the desert, picked up some trash under a bush, and crumbs from the bush slipped down my pants. I’m still itching on my lower back.

image Tuesday, the day disappeared. How does that happen? I think I was gone all morning, but I can’t remember where. Then I taught water aerobics, went to a meeting, and saw The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I really wanted to love it. It had the whimsy, the great acting, but… well, in the end, it didn’t make sense. There was no point to me. Or if there was, I didn’t get it, which was equally annoying. I was very disappointed.

And Wednesday I went to the coolest museum ever: The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Totally awesome. It’s an outdoor museum, mostly, that’s more zoo than museum. I kept thinking that I can’t wait until my niece can see it, maybe when she’s a year or two older. She loves nature, and I wonder how she’d react to a completely different environment.

image The best museum I’ve ever been to, for sure. I even got a behind-the-scenes tour, and I TOUCHED A SNAKE! I did! I really did! A very pretty one, too. :-) And heard a rattlesnake’s rattle for the first time. We went into a room where they keep all the snakes they’re breeding and stuff, and a couple started rattling like crazy. Way cool.

I’m totally in love with where I’m living now. I’ve never been in love with a place, like a place to live. Could live here forever, not a single drop of restlessness. Which was not the point of me leaving. At the very least, I think this will be my home for at least six months of the year.

How’s your week been?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures | Tags: , ,

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