Monthly Archives: January 2017

Don’t Discount History’s Part in Our Future

There’s no question we live in an amazing time.  Technology is exploding around us; we have experiences and opportunities that our ancestors cannot begin to imagine.  As we enter a new year we can witness the birth of Virtual Reality and expect a manned mission to Mars in our lifetimes, but we should realize that none of these things came out of thin air.  The amazing accomplishments we benefit from today were built on a foundation of successes in the past, things that in their own time were just as amazing.

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/i/isaac_newton.html

It would be too easy to assume in our pride and arrogance that we are better, smarter,  than those who came before us, but what we have to remember is that our successes would not be possible without those which came before us.  Each generation makes their own advances, successes and failures; and history has proven that no step forward is gained without a price.

I remember walking with my father and listening as he told amazing tales of his past.  Oh, there were no computers or any other technical advancement in his tales, but that did not make them any less remarkable.  He lived in a time where such things either did not exist or were far simpler, but he had incredible experiences without the burden of such hardware.

My father travelled from Tennessee to Washington D.C. to work on the construction of the Watergate Apartment complex.  He raised free-range turkeys on a plot of land that had been in the family for generations.  He sold his farm to move to the city so he could make a better living to support his family.

I cannot totally comprehend the times he lived in; just as I am sure he probably wouldn’t understand many aspects of the life I live now.  That does not mean we could not appreciate each other, or that we had nothing in common.  We could relate to each other on the most basic human levels, and those have never changed.

While times and technology may change, people remain the same.  They live, they love, and they face challenges and solve problems.  People continue to be human, no matter how advanced they become, and what the future holds.  And while we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished in the here and now, there will always be a successive generation to think we are old-fashioned, boring, and out of touch.

Be kind to your elders, and your kids.  You have been and one day will be walking in their shoes.

Amy

 

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Book Review: Housekeeping

Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson,
a GoodReads review by Amy Caudill
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
This beautiful story contains something for most any reader-from angst and tragedy, to sweeping descriptions of nature, to encounters with the spiritual world, to triumph over adversity. Ruth Stone, the main character in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, has hardly had an easy childhood. Ruth and her sister have been raised by a single mother who abandoned them to a previously unknown grandmother before committing suicide. They are then witnesses to the grandmother’s death, and forced to struggle with incompetent guardians. Bereft of parents and companionship save for her sister and her absent-minded aunt, Ruth looks to nature for solace as she mourns, especially the lake surrounding her small community. Ruth’s childhood is torn apart by death, and with this loss of innocence Ruth becomes a new person; one who is very aware of death. Robinson uses the change of the seasons and the states of the lake as a metaphor for Ruth’s personal, and for more universal, visions of death and rebirth.
This often heart-breaking story is told from Ruth’s point of view as she attempts to make sense of the world around her, and find her place in it. How she eventually comes to terms with her unhappy childhood and finds a new destiny away from everything she has previously known is a story of triumph, and sorrow, hope and inevitability. Ruth comes to acknowledge the cycle of life and death, as illustrated by the ever-present lake surrounding her home, and emerges from the tragedy as a new person, replete in knowledge, and ready to begin a new life.

The Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2017 & More

There’s nothing like the anticipation of a good action film to lift spirits when the bleak wet and cold of January keeps us indoors. This year’s crop of new movies and sequels certainly looks promising!

Starloggers

Star Lord blazing guns

justicv-league

By looking at the 2017 films coming out, it’s clear that we fans are in a golden age of genre films. There are many sci-fi, superhero, fantasy, animated and horror films coming out this year that are quite tantalizing. These are the most promising looking of the bunch. However, it’s a guarantee that some of the films on this list will be colossal disappointments while there will be films that weren’t even mentioned that will defy low expectations. With that said, let’s look at the coming 2017 films; remember the release dates are still subject to change.

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7): Marvel Comics’ flagship superhero has his first solo film in the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  Fingers crossed that this Spider-Man reboot will resonate.

spidey-at-washington-mon

9. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets(July 21): Director Luc Besson’s adaptation of the French space opera comic book looks…

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Who Dun It?

Do you ever play the guessing game when watching your favorite TV show?  Do you try to predict who the killer is or who is having an affair before the stars come back from the next commercial break?  While a good show will keep its viewers guessing right up to the very end, there are actually a finite number of variables the writers have to work with.  While there are a very large number of possible outcomes to any scenario, there are only so many choices to be made without becoming predictable, or being compared to a show on another channel.

Everything old becomes new again.

After all, who wants to be accused of copying someone else’s ideas?  It’s said that there are no original story ideas left, and that every plot, every story, is a repetition of something that’s been done before, many times.  It’s true there are trends in media and in literature; there are certain subjects that enjoy such popularity that they are omnipresent, if only for a short while.

Zombies...

Photo credit: Kat Northern Lights Man via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

For example, Zombies are really popular right now.  You can watch them on multiple TV channels and at the box office.  You can read about them in all types of books or shoot them in a number of video games.  You can even buy tee-shirts depicting the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse (my son has one).  Zombies are not really a new idea.  The “undead hordes” have been popular for multiple generations, and are close cousins with the old-fashioned victims of voodoo curses of past plotlines.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The fact is, certain story ideas are timeless, and I don’t just mean those that involve time travel, another popular trend that sees a resurgence every few years.   From Orson Wells’ machine to alien time lords, we have long been enamored by the concept of changing the past or previewing the future early.  Whether an adventurer faces prehistoric monsters or futuristic mutants, or simply has the opportunity to right a terrible wrong, we will tune in each week or turn the pages to see history as it is remade to a writer’s whim.

There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.

 Sherlock Holmes quotes 

The Detective

Photo credit: paurian via Foter.com / CC BY

Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic character Sherlock Holmes, written in the late 19th century, features a famous detective and his veteran-doctor companion.  Almost every school child is familiar with Doyle’s works, and not just because it’s required reading in literature.  Sherlock is still as vital today as he was in 1890, thanks to imitation ranging from a Disney mouse detective to a plethora of movie adaptations.  (Of course, in my opinion the best of these is from the BBC/Masterpiece show titled simply “Sherlock” which is finally back for its fourth season, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.)

An idea may not be completely original, but that doesn’t always mean it’s familiar to us.  An enterprising writer can take an old idea and reshape it in such a way that its feels brand new.   In the end, what matters most to us regarding our TV/movie/literature characters and plots is that we are entertained.

So the next time you indulge in watching or reading, consider-does the plot seem familiar?  Does the writer keep you guessing, or are there enough clues provided that you can determine the ending?  Does your enjoyment come from suspense, or the familiarity of a favorite theme?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

I leave you with one more of mine-even if an idea is not original, each new generation can provide an audience to hear and see it for the first time, and an interpreter to retell a story in an entirely new manner.

Thanks for reading,

Amy

 

Moving Forward: A Science Fiction House

When we can order supplies from an Internet supplier with a verbal command, pre-program washing machines and dishwashers to start cycles at a certain time, and have small robots clean floors for us, today’s houses are starting to sound like a science fiction story.

This past Christmas my husband gifted me with an Alexa Dot, a device that, with a verbal command, will give the speaker updates on weather or notes on personal calendars, play music from an Amazon account or other Wi-Fi sources, connect to blue tooth devices, and a whole list of functions that can be downloaded.

This little gadget is only one more example of the amazing inventions that have come to pass, and the level of technology that is now commonplace at home.  We now have programmable thermostats and security systems that can be controlled from a smartphone.  We are being spoilt by devices that can record our favorite TV shows, pay for our gas with a wave of a piece of plastic the size of a thumb, and give us satellite data about current traffic conditions.

Ray Bradbury’s prophetic short story, “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains,” published originally in 1950, tells of a house that was so automated that it continued performing duties for a family no longer around to appreciate it.  Today, we are very close to achieving the level of automation in our homes that Bradbury envisioned, though hopefully our future will not be as bleak as in the story!

“In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o’clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o’clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty.”

A house that could potentially run itself is probably not that far off in the future, certainly something I could see in our lifetimes.  The question is, how will we manage?  What will we do to fill our spare time when we no longer have “housework” to do, because the house takes care of it for us?

Will we become so reliant on our technology that we can no longer function without it, or will we use our free time to become more productive, more creative, and more capable in other endeavors?

I welcome your thoughts on this subject; it is hard to dispute though that we are living in interesting times.

Happy 2017!

Amy

p.s. there is a YouTube video of Leonard Nimoy reading this classic story, just follow the link here: https://youtu.be/LzhlU8rXgHc