A week or two ago, I found myself in a place I had nearly forgotten existed: The local library. It was, in a world gone digital, a trip down memory lane.
As a little girl, I used to love weekly trips to the library with my mother. The anticipation of gathering up last week’s books in order to return them, and setting off to the library. Diving into the miraculous, cool quiet of a world of books, eager to see which gem would be discovered that day.
Fast forward a few years (okay, decades) and the love of reading remains. But I have to wonder if we’ve lost some soul to digital books. Please, don’t misunderstand me – I love my Kindle. Surprisingly much, for someone who used to think of herself as somewhat of a purist when it came to books and reading and therefore never expected to like e-books at all.
But to walk through a library, or a bookstore for that matter, and run your fingers along the multicoloured spines reclining on the shelves. To inhale the unique scent of old books and listen to the faint rustling of pages as they are leisurely turned by fellow browsers. And then, the ultimate thrill – the flutter of excitement at recognising a title you love (or know that you possibly could, if only the two of you could spend some time getting to know each other.)
There is a sensuality and warmth to books and libraries that we need to revel in. We’ve seen the value of Slow Living – Slow Food and Slow Cities. Maybe it’s time we indulge in some Slow Reading, too.
With Autumn comes the changing of leaves, shifts in weather patterns, and a cold/flu that never fails to seep within my household. Between sniffles, hot soup, and naps, I came across these two very interesting, poignant Ted Talks, and would like to share. Bundle up (or take that much-needed break), and take a gander.
1. Candy Chang’s Before I die I want to ___
A powerful Ted Talk on the importance of community and public space, and their beneficial elements within the human experience. I won’t spoil too much for those of you who will be watching for the first time, but would like to highlight two of my favorite passages from this piece:
On creating the blackboards:”Neglected space became a constructed one. And people made me laugh out loud, tear up, and they consoled me during my own tough times. It’s about knowing you’re not alone, it’s about understanding our neighbors in new and enlightening ways. It’s about making space for reflection and contemplation, and remembering what really matters most to us as we grow and change.”
“Make better places…lead better lives…How powerful our public spaces can be if we’re given the opportunity to have a voice and share more with one another.”
What would your blackboard message say?
2. Sue Austin: Deep Sea Diving…in a Wheelchair
This poignant speech explores Austin’s journey of self discovery and transformation in the face of limiting preconceptions of her quality of life in a wheelchair. By choosing to create her own narrative in the face of stigmatization, she finds joy, among other fulfillment. A few highlights include:
“I was seeing myself not from my perspective, but vividly and continuously from the perspective of other people’s responses to me.”
-“By creating our own stories we learn to take the texts of our lives as seriously as we do ‘official’ narratives”.–Davis 2009
“I now call the underwater wheelchair a ‘portal’, because it has literally pushed me through into a new way of being, into new dimensions, into a new level of consciousness.”
John R Leonetti’s Annabelle , the expansion on the opening of the 2013 hit The Conjuring , has all the ingredients of a bad horror movie: Boring characters, acting as stiff as the titular doll, a few jump scares, and loud music. However, something clicks in the second half and the film’s faults are nearly trumped by quietly horrifying tension that rivals the best scenes of its predecessor. And then the tension breaks and you may find yourself cowering behind your own sweating palms.
In Santa Monica, CA in 1970, newlyweds Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John Gordon (Ward Horton) are expecting their first child. The white-teeth and porcelain-skin couple comes home after a morning at church and John presents his wife with a large, red-haired doll she’s been searching for forever. Even before anything paranormal occurs, one can’t help but fear the doll already. How could you not with its wide eyes and bizarre, red mouth? Meanwhile, the news of the Manson murders just broke and their neighbors’ daughter has been missing for two years, suspected of joining the hippie movement.
Later that night, in one of the film’s creepiest sequences, two crazed cult members murder the neighbors, seen through the Gordons’ window without a sound, and invade the expecting couple’s unlocked home. As John fights off one attacker, the other escapes to the room where the doll sits and the police later find the intruder with her own throat slit, holding the blood soaked doll. And so begins the barrage of moving doors, mysteriously functioning appliances, and extended close-ups of the doll’s unmoving face. Oh, and did I mention the suicidal cult member was also the neighbors’ daughter named Annabelle?
Despite Leonetti’s calculated and eerie shots (he served as the cinematographer for The Conjuring ), the problems with the film come down to its slow, inconsequential pace and the lead actor and actress’ performances, though both of these problems go hand in hand. Wallis and Horton don’t build on their fear despite having their baby’s life threatened a countless number of times. Sure, they show a barely adequate amount of fear in the moment, but it never carries over. Each haunting seems to surprise this couple that has as much personality as a failed 1950′s sitcom.
Wallis’ bumbling Mia has been physically assaulted, dragged by an invisible force, and she’s even experienced a mishap with a sewing machine, but one needs life to experience fear and there’s hardly any life to Mia. Each of her sentences ends with ellipses and her baby’s coos are louder than her own talking. Casual conversations feel like profound announcements without the profound announcement as she stumbles for words and talks like she’s holding a secret.
Sharper editing or acting-based direction on Leonetti’s part would have most likely fixed this problem. Even acting veteran Alfre Woodard, playing a tenant with a taste for the supernatural in the apartment building the Gordons relocate to, offers little more than the actual doll. Her consistently wide eyes show a little something, but she struggles to get her words out like Mia, giving scenes a similar feeling of trying to run underwater.
However, once the couple moves into this apartment complex, Annabelle really ratchets up the fear. Similar to The Conjuring’s director James Wan almost to a fault, Leonetti utilizes long shots and silence to bring the audience into the ambiguity of fearful moments. In perhaps the movie’s tensest sequence, Mia escapes to an elevator that won’t function after the film’s surprise villain confronts her. With one long shot, the scene goes on and on as she hopes the elevator will begin to rise while also knowing the malevolent force could attack at any moment. While James Wan presented his horrifying style with much more visual flair, Leonetti still uses these techniques successfully, most likely because they’re new to the modern horror scene and haven’t been over utilized. For now, they work enough to bring Annabelle significantly above most recent horror movies with the same weaknesses.
With a film like The Conjuring constantly hanging over its head, it’s hard to expect Annabelle to perform to its precursor’s standards and it certainly doesn’t. What made The Conjuring so effective was its tactful handling of cliché images, reminding us why creaking houses used to scare us. Annabelle attempts the same thing without as much success. However, its quiet tension, eternally creepy mascot, and the barely illuminated malevolent force (literally) behind said mascot provide enough terror to leave you wondering what happened to the girls from the beginning of The Conjuring.
Sunshine spilled in through the small spaces o f the blinds, finding its way over her body struggling to sleep. As her eyes twitch, fighting off the images beneath her lids, the sun’s invasions intensified whatever was happening in her subconscious mind. Instinctively, she lifted the knitted teal and orange throw above her head, in an attempt to shield away the torturous moment between her mind and mind’s eye. The vibrating sound of her cell phone alarms startled her, but only slightly as she pressed snoozed, eyes still closed. She wiped her eyes as to erase the dream’s journey. Finally, she forced open her eyes, perhaps too full to endure anymore. Routinely, she reached over to her handcrafted nightstand, which held her journal and favorite pen. She sat up, letting her wild locs fall freely, and did what she has been doing since the arrival of these images.
She wrote, tears forming, trapped in the corner of her eyes. She wiped them prematurely as she always did. Afraid the falling tears would bring the written words beneath them to life. She was oblivious, or perhaps in denial, to the fact that reality already occurred. That she has been a living result of a motherless child. Not that her mother was deceased or even absent, not physically at least.
She wrote away at this nagging dream, needing to put the pieces together, where she is running from danger into the arms of her mother. Towards her mother she runs. To safety she needed. To safety she thought.
To Be Continued….
I took a writing workshop class over the summer and while it was helpful hearing other people’s critique of and reading each others’ work, it was most difficult for me to write during the prompts. My mind would just shut down. Perhaps it was me thinking too much and/or comparing myself to the other writers in the workshop, all who are SOOOO brilliant. Any who, this was the first (and perhaps the only) piece that came freely to me during a writing prompt session. I said I’d come back to this and when I do, I will share its growth…