Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction : a review

The power of words is certainly underestimated by the childish ditty we were taught: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I've never broken a bone, or been struck by a stick or stone (that I can remember) but there are many words that resonate with at least a small amount of rancor, if not low-lying disappointment, inside my psyche.

Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson, already a strange pairing, exist in a fantasy/horror scenario where a writer's actual words narrate and eventually become real life. Ferrell 's IRS auditor character, Harold Crick, wakes up  in a verbal voodoo-like state created by the words of Thompson's somewhat unstable writer character Karen Eiffel.

As the story progresses, it seems inevitable that Crick will be killed off by Eiffel's story. After shrugging off his shrink's diagnosis of Schizophrenia, Harold turns to literary critic Jules Hilbert-heavy on cynicism, short on compassion-played by Dustin Hoffman, who concedes it inevitable and somehow fitting for the literary world that Harold should die, as he considers Eiffel's almost completed manuscript the masterpiece of the decade.

Were it not for the down to earth warmth of Queen Latifah's character as Eiffel's writer's assistent, and free-spirited bohemian baker Maggie Gyhyllenhall, Crick's love interest, the story would wither on the vine.  The detached manner in which Crick lives his life gives little room for sympathy, until he begins to take Hoffman's advice in light of his imminent death,  to "live the life you want to live".

That is perhaps the thesis of the movie, the takeaway phrase. 

What are we all waiting for anyway? Our death, while perhaps not imminent, is inevitable. Are we living the life we really want to live? When will we begin?

The truth of our lives is, after all, usually stranger and far more absorbing than fiction.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why We Love Christmas

There's something at work in the world that holds a  magnetic attraction for people everywhere. Children, teenagers and adults are not immune.

This 'something' leads us to create an ever increasing variety of recipes, adding, changing the ingredients to make something new. We aren't sure what it's going to taste like until it's completed. The same hunger keeps us reading a good book. We want to find out how it ends. The secretive nature of a good story, whether on the screen or told by the fireside, is irresistible.

Consider what a world it would be if each day we saw played for us the exact events of the following day. Few of us would choose this!

 A wedding between virgins promises a far more thrilling honeymoon than the other kind. Though though we have done much to make it so, the womb is not transparent.  We cannot see the child within until it is born.

The discovery of the unknown has fueled much of the amazing inventions of the past centuries, and continues to propel us into the future. Our great love affair with surprise has funded the lotteries, and boosted the economy every December.

The whole world loves surprises. Good ones, of course.  We are all like children when it comes to being surprised; it is intrinsic to our human experience.

Gifts are wonderful, but a gift, unwrapped,  is not nearly as exciting as the thrill of discovering what is under the wrapping. This is why we love Christmas. Not only are we amazed that God himself came to visit us as a baby, but our gratitude overflows in gifts, in surprises to each other.

 GK Chesterton said, "We can increase the good we do to others by adding the element of surprise."

Consider how you might insert the magic of surprise into your everyday personal and business relationships!