Thank you

Thank you everyone who left me such lovely comments about the Kreativ Blogger award.  Sorry for the delay in replying, but, as usual I’ve been crazy busy. 

At this moment, I am typing on a computer in the Olds College Library.  It’s a beautiful spot.  Both the library and Olds.

I am here on a CUPE Weeklong School retreat.  Taking New Officer’s training.  As I’m now 3 years into my term as President of our Local I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘new’ officer, but I figured the training might have some relevant stuff. 

Turns out the first two days are all about public speaking.  Now, I can speak, some times endlessly.  I’m also fairly confident getting up in front of a crowd and saying a few words on behalf of whatever.  But, when it comes to personal stuff — that’s a whole new ballgame.

We started out having to give a short, 2-minute, blurb about ourselves.  I wrote it out no problem, but when I had to get up and read in front of everyone.  Well.  I was nervous.  My voice shook.  My hands shook.  I couldn’t look at anyone.  Of course, everyone was kind and told me I did fine, but I felt ridiculous as I walked away from the podium.

Today, I have to make a 5-minute speech.  We were told it can be about anything we like.  I chose New York.  Because, well, it’s the greatest city on earth (that I’ve been to) and I love it there.  Am planning my third trip. 

So, anyway I practiced my speech in front of my roommates last night.  Apparently I say um and and a lot.  Also I bob and weave.  Looks like I’m trying to dodge a fight.  The first time I did it, it took me 10 minutes.  Decided that I had to drop a lot of extra detail if I was going to make the 5-minute mark. 

Gave it another go.  Got it down to exactly 5 minutes, but still too many ums and ands.  Tried concentrating on standing still, but then I felt like a total knob.  Maybe I’ll just try swaying.  Oh, another thing I do, I wave my hands around.  But I think that could be a good thing.  Distract people from the panic-stricken look on my face.

On my walk this morning I gave myself a pep-talk.  This is not life and death.  This is just a short speech in front of people who will treat me kindly.  I’m third to go this morning, so I’ll be getting it over with quickly.  Once it’s done, it’s done.  I can move on and put it behind me.

I love to write.  I think I wrote a very good speech.  It’s the speaking part that terrifies me.  But, I can fake the confidence I need.  I know I can. 

And you know what else is really lovely about this place?  There are horses out behind the residences where I’m staying.  And they have foals.  New ones.  There are even a couple of sets of twins.  I watched them playing in their pens beside their dams this morning. 

God, they are the sweetest little things with long, gambly legs and their soft twitchy noses.  They were calling out to one another, but because they’re separated by fences the most they can do is bump noses before leaping away and kicking their little heels in the air. 

Meanwhile, moms are standing eyeing me like I’m some sort of predator.  With a soft nicker they’d summon their young back to their side.  They’d come, reluctantly, and mom would give them a reassuring touch, but the babies would toss their little heads in impatience and leap away. 

Hopefully, later, during a break I’ll be able to get back over to the pens when staff are present and get up close and personal with a couple of these little beauties.

It’s late on a Saturday night. . .

Just a quick post to review a book and a movie.

First, the book:  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

This was an okay book.  I was more than a little disappointed in it, because I had heard such great things from others who’d read it.

It should have been a wonderful story, but, for whatever reason it lacked real emotion.  The truest parts in the story take place in the nursing home where the elder Jacob recounts his tale of life in the early 1900’s working for a travelling circus.

The story has all the elements of a great story — love, betrayal, hardship, cruelty, mental illness, circus life, depression-era trials and tribulations, animals — it truly has it all.  None of it, though, ever connected with me.

And, I think, after having a couple of discussions with other people who’ve read the book, the reason is that it was written with a screen option in mind.  It doesn’t say that on the dust jacket, but while I was reading it I would come across a scene and immediately I’d think:  Well, won’t that play out well on the screen.

Call me jaded, cynical, harsh, whatever you want, but I find this to be true with a lot of the books being written today.  Anything popular, that is.  It’s like the authors are giving us the outline of a story, they’re providing a bunch of scenes that are loosely connected, but they lack any real art.

I find it very difficult these days to find books that really grab me.  Even The Hunger Games (which I recently reviewed), good as I thought they were, were obviously written with a movie in mind.

Gruen’s writing is solid, though I found it seemed to plod where it should have sung.  For some reason I can’t fathom she chose to throw in various sordid sex scenes — usually portraying grotesque or deviant behaviour.  These were rather jarring and other than acting as a contrast to the ‘pure’ love Jacob feels for Marlena, I couldn’t discern any reason for including them.

For me, this book, which should have been so full of life and emotion, fell flat.  It began with an anti-climactic whimper; and ended on an absolutely improbable and ridiculous notion; it was, when all is said and done, about as second-rate as the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth was.

I’d rate this book:  2.5 stars

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Now, for the movie:  War Horse by Stephen Spielberg.

This is a lovely movie.  I was afraid to see it because it deals with: war, and horses in war.

I did not want to see animals suffering; I just can’t stand that.  And, I can’t stand movies about war — I can’t stand thinking of humans suffering.

So, usually, I do my best to avoid both those themes in movies, but, I had heard how good this movie was and had been assured that it wasn’t very graphically violent.

It isn’t.  The worst part involves the Germans’ treatment of the horses, how they used them til they died in the hauling of heavy artillery.  But, thankfully, that is a very small part of the movie.  The British are shown as being far more compassionate towards the horses, but I think there just might be a little historical bias involved.

The hero of the story, a horse named Joey, is a ‘miraculous’ horse.  He was raised and trained by a young English lad who treated him with kindness, intelligence and love.  Those traits were imprinted on Joey and when he goes into service as a war-horse he continually demonstrates a depth of character that astounds all those (save the evil German in charge of getting the big guns up a steep hill so that he can shell the peaceful French community below) he comes in contact with.

While I was watching this movie I couldn’t help thinking of stories like The Black Stallion, My Friend FlickaBlack Beauty and Beautiful Joe.  All great stories about the plight of much-loved animals who because of unfortunate circumstances suffer mightily before they finally find peace and protection with people who love them. It took me back to the days when I was a girl and couldn’t get enough of the Famous Dog or Famous Horse Stories compilations.  (I used to make my mother crazy because I’d either be blubbering about the horrible treatment the animals I was reading about endured, or, I was wandering about enraged and fraught with righteous indignation because of it.)

I know this movie was a play before it was a movie, and you can easily see how it would play out on a stage.  Whether or not a make-believe horse would have the same emotional wallop as a real one though is something I’d have to debate.

It’s a beautiful, heart-felt story, something big and lovely and innocent.  It made me cry and it made me smile.  What more can you ask from a good story?

I’d rate this movie:  4 stars

The Horse Whisperer

I finished The Horse Whisperer.  I really enjoyed re-reading this story, but in the second reading I came away with a feeling that the whole story seemed to end before Tom and Annie consummate their love.  Once they’re together the whole thing is pretty anti-climactic.  The love-making is clichéd, and you can see the end coming from a Montana-mile away.  The most important character in the story, Grace, gets short shrift, and to kind of make up for it, I suppose, Evans turns her into a female version of Tom.  This is an amazing transformation for a fifteen-year old who has suffered unbelievable physical and emotional trauma.  Even Pilgrim, Graces’ badly maimed and brutalized horse, is miraculously cured and becomes himself again, although with a few scars that make him even more handsome than he was before. 

This is a book to read once, in my opinion.  A great summer or Christmas break read — you’ll cry, and then you’ll want to run out and fall in love with a cowboy and buy a horse.