April 18, 2015

The Copyediting Mind

Yes, it's a grandiose post title, but that's how I'm feeling after reading Mary Norris's glorious "Holy Writ: Learning to Love the House Style" in the New Yorker. Norris has been copyediting for the New Yorker for many years now (though she writes it "copy editing") and just put out a book about her life called Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.

I've been a copyeditor for roughly twenty-five years now. Like all jobs, editing requires a thought process that becomes virtually invisible after a while. And like all jobs, it constitutes a microculture of its own, with its own tools of the trade (back in the day, colored pencils that each meant something specific: red for printer's errors, blue for editorial changes), specialized vocabulary, and stereotypical experiences. Most microcultures these days at least enjoy dedicated online forums, but it's rare to see one's world put front and center like Norris's book does for editing. John Leguizamo has said that Hispanics are starving to see themselves represented in culture (specifically movies and TV), and it's easy to imagine the joy audiences must feel when they watch an Ugly Betty or Jane the Virgin. Reading Norris's article feels like that to me: I thrill at every recondite detail—the dithering over the comma in "the thin, burgundy dress"; the authors whose talent doesn't match their eccentricity; the satisfaction of work for which a liberal arts education is actually useful and allows you to improve the underlying structure of a sentence while knowing that "Mies" is not the first name of a guy named "van der Rohe."

It doesn't hurt that Norris is a fabulous writer. In the last paragraph of her article, she likens reading and writing to driving a car: You can glory in the details of the engine, or you can just turn the ignition and go. But she drops in the phrase "join the ink-stained wretches as we name the parts," which is a lovely reference to the famous poem "Naming of Parts," by Henry Reed. These kinds of pearls dot the whole article—language geek heaven.

April 17, 2015

It's the Little Things

It's long been my contention that Stephen Colbert would be 20% less funny if he didn't have his one elf ear:

I now contend that 5% of Sam Heughan's extraordinary acting talent derives from mastery of his hyperexpressive eyebrows:

April 12, 2015

Plot and the Problem of Consequence

Outlander spoilers ahead.

Outlander has picked up again, and the first episode of this second half of the first season (got that??) contained the most controversial scene of the series: the either terribly dreaded or gleefully anticipated spanking scene. It begins when Claire makes an escape attempt and, rather than reaching Craig Na Dun, ends up in the hands of the Redcoats. A brutal scene with Black Jack Randall follows, but Jamie and a handful of buddies rescue her. The clan members in the traveling group are now being pursued by the Redcoats, BJR knows that Jamie is back, and the clan is shunning Claire as a result.

Because severe corporal punishment was the way all justice was handled in 1743, Jamie is expected to punish Claire in private, which he does. It's too complicated a scene to analyze here, but in both the book and the show, the end result is clear: Claire learns that Jamie has insight into this world that she doesn't, and Jamie learns that he better never, ever beat his wife again. 

One week later (not just in the viewing world but the world of the show, more or less), Jamie is forced to travel and has only one request of Claire when he leaves: Stay away from Geillis, a mysterious villager suspected of killing her husband. Claire promises—and a day later goes to Geillis's house, where she is promptly arrested, along with Geillis, as a witch.

The fan pages are aflame with opinions about this: Some think Claire is being both stupid and ornery, and some think she's being independent and noble (for going to help a friend). There may be truth in both these opinions, but her disregard for Jamie's request is problematic for another reason: It nullifies all of the developments and action of the previous episode—which is regarded as one of the pivotal moments of the story. It's as if the entire sequence of her rescue from Black Jack Randall and the "reckoning" that followed, in which she slowly realizes the import of her actions, simply never happened. Claire does exactly what she would have done before the reckoning: ignore Jamie's warning and go see Geillis.

That plot points must have consequences seems like a no-brainer, but it's amazing how often this is abrogated. A favorite episode of The Big Bang Theory centers around the revelation that nothing Indiana Jones does in Raiders of the Lost Ark matters to the plot. I still remember my frustration at the second Die Hard movie when I realized that nothing that happens in the first four-fifths of the movie has any impact on the outcome, which is determined solely when the plane takes off very near the end.  This is bad for an action movie, where, you know, action should matter. But it's even worse for a character-driven narrative like Outlander, which makes strong claims regarding the development of its characters. If it is the story of two people who change over time yet continue to love each other and grow, what happens when the change and growth are nullified?

Inconsequence is more of a risk with long narratives. You have to keep coming up with problems and mistakes, but if you want your characters to grow, that means leaving behind certain kinds of mistakes. Outlander is a love story at heart, despite the history and action that accompany it. And love means getting to that point where you're on the precipice of an action and you're able to stop yourself because you're thinking of someone else now. Outlander is still the best show on TV, but it will need to tread carefully. Taken to an extreme, there's a term for a show where the characters never grow and the narrative is a never-ending  succession of crises as a result: soap opera.

April 1, 2015

Delicious Foods, by James Hannaham

I reviewed this novel for Booklist recently and am glad to see it finally published and available. This is the novel of the year for me.

March 31, 2015

I'll Have What She's Having: Scotch on the Rocks

The second half of season 1 of Outlander commences Saturday night, and the fandom is stoked. One thing I enjoy about them is that—probably because Outlander is good literature, not just a good story—the fans are rather sophisticated. While there are plenty of OH MY GOD HE'S SO HANDSOME!! posts—

—many posts are about subtle literary or cinematic effects. And these people know their theory, especially regarding fandom. If you take it upon yourself to criticize a bunch of women objectifying a good-looking man, they will literally (not literally) reach through the Internet and beat the living crap out of you.

Bonus Scot Humor:

March 30, 2015

Code Name Verity

There are novels that you love, even if they aren't great (for me, Twilight). There are novels that you think are great, even if you don't love them (say, Cosmopolis). Then there are those rare novels that you both love and think are great.

Code Name Verity is one of those for me. It's the story of two young women during World War II, one of whom is a pilot and the other a German-language interrogator. They are English, and best friends. Light spoilers: They end up stranded in France, one hiding with members of the French resistance and one in the hands of the Nazis.

The author, Elizabeth Wein, builds some impressive architecture here. There is enormous historical detail, but it never fights with the story. She's got two narrative voices—those of her two young friends—that are distinct and realistic. She finds a way to have each girl tell her story as it happens—not an easy task when one is living in a barn and the other in a cell. And she has a clever, oblique method for providing the big picture, little glimpses of what's going on in the next cell (which you'd really rather not know) or how the resistance is made up of both saints and jerks, often within the same individual.

Best of all, these characters do incredibly brave things while never for one minute being anything other than what they are: very talented but also very normal young women at the beginning of their lives, being scared, missing their families, trying to do the right thing but wanting desperately to live.

March 27, 2015

Look Who Turned Up on Midsomer Murders Last Night

Sophie Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch's new bride:

Watching this show is like playing Celebrity Roulette. Who will show up this round??

March 25, 2015

Midsomer Win

The last few Midsomer Murder eps I've watched have been a bit cheesy. For example, there seem to be a plethora of episodes in which hippie girls are prancing around in a vaguely cultish group led by an older man:

But "Sins of Commission" does cheese right. These three losers—

are trying to put the hurt on this lovely elderly lady:

 Barnaby's warning you: Don't mess with this one.

Each one tries to knock her off, one by attacking her in her home, another by pushing her off a roof, and another by pushing her off a pier. Little do they know she was trained by Soviet special ops back in the day, and she power-chops them all to their knees, leading with a backward elbow jab, spinning round to bang them on the head, ultimately killing each one. ELDER NINJA!!

March 24, 2015

Detectives Who Break the Mold

I'm rewatching Midsomer Murders this month and falling in love all over again with John Nettles. As the detective in a rural English county, he's so subtle in his acting: physically restrained but natural, not wooden or overly stoic. His character, Barnaby, is a contented soul. He represents a rare happy medium in the portrayal of detectives: He is neither an outsized personality like Poirot or Sherlock Holmes nor a grizzled cynic like . . . almost everyone else.

Too many TV detectives are almost expressionless in their attempt to convey toughness or even trauma. The most egregious example of this in recent years was Mireille Enos in The Killing. If this woman moved a facial muscle in an entire season of episodes, I didn't see it. That doesn't mean she's a bad actor; it probably means that that's what the producers wanted. In contrast, her co-star Joel Kinnaman was fantastic: natural, but with an actual, specific personality.

Midsomer Murders is firmly within the genre of the English cozy murder mystery, but that's not a bad thing when done well. One of my favorite books series is Martha Grimes' Richard Jury books, somewhat grittier but much in the same vein. The debonair, witty Richard Jury is one of my favorite detectives, whom I fantasy cast with Hugh Grant. He's about the right age, with the right looks, and can deliver a line of dry comedy like nobody's business.

March 18, 2015

Nano-Seminar on Film Composition

Baltimore filmmaker Jacob Swinney put together the first and last shots of a bunch of films, side by side for comparison. It's fun to see how the scenes are either similar or distinct in terms of color palette, content (nature vs. city, person vs. object, an individual vs. a pair or a group), and form (moving image vs. still image, close-up vs. panoramic or mid-range):

‘First and Final Frames’, The Opening and Closing Shots of Dozens of Films Played Out Side by Side

March 17, 2015

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

I'm in love. This is the second Argentinian movie of the last couple of years that has landed on my all-time-favorite list (the first being The Secret in Their Eyes). Wild Tales is an anthology film, made up of five stories held together by a common theme (but not storyline). In this case the theme is revenge, and writer and director Damián Szifrón makes it sing. The stories have it all: comedy, tragedy, farce, stupidity, pride, romance, privilege. There are grand stages and very intimate ones. There's no overlap here, but knowing that the stories all deal with revenge gives you a little zap of suspense; as each character is introduced, you can't help wondering, Is this going to be the victim? The avenger? Both?

There's something about Wild Tales that reminds me of The Grand Budapest Hotel. A freedom and occasional zaniness that don't erase deeper meanings. Seriousness and farce absolutely entwined. Crafted by a director with a perfect sense of timing and cinematic effect.

I'm especially appreciative of the first 5 or 10 minutes of the movie. It's like the prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring (telling the prehistory of Middle Earth and the ring) and the first scene of Casino Royale (which has James Bond chasing a free runner through industrial ruins): A knockout first scene that would alone justify the ticket price.

March 10, 2015

Testy Tuesday

If I am reviewing your poetry submission, here are things I don't want to read about. At all.

—Any wildlife in your backyard, no matter how closely observed

—Your elderly relative who you have wonderful memories of who is now old and whose physical depredations you will recount with an unflinching eye


—Any occurrence of the word "bird" "moon" or "luscious"

March 8, 2015

The Stars of Tomorrow—On Your TV Today

British mystery series are just efficient little incubators for talented actors. I've been rewatching the Poirot reboot of the 2000s and am amazed at who pops up, usually a year or two before they make it big:

Michael Fassbender:

Emily Blunt:

Benedict Cumberbatch:

Rupert Penry-Jones

Tom Mison (practically unrecognizable from his Sleepy Hollow character):

Jessica Chastain:

And don't forget Sam Heughan, though he was on Midsomer Murders:

The list could go on and on: Damian Lewis, Jamie Bamber, Christopher Eccleston, Kelly Reilly, Toby Stephens . . .  It's also fun to guess if guest stars are related to other actors: Lou Broadbent, Serena Scott Thomas, Julian Firth, Peter Penry-Jones. And to read through the credits at the end and chuckle at how little difference there is between the actors' names and character names. Bruce Montague, Oliver Beamish, and Amanda Abbington all sound like they could be Agatha Christie creations.

It was particularly gratifying to see Sam Heughan's turn on Midsomer Murders, since it ended up being one of my favorite episodes of that series, a clever replay of Hamlet.

March 5, 2015

There Will Never Be Any Work of Art Greater Than This

Walking in the deep snow today felt like walking through the greatest cathedral ever made.

March 4, 2015

Anne Elliot and the Paradox of Interiority

Persuasion's Anne Elliot is considered to be the most "interior" of all Jane Austen heroines. She does very, very little during the course of the novel. And she talks very, very little during the course of the novel, even with her love interest Captain Wentworth. Their reconciliation consists of a handful of exchanges, mostly brief and superficial. What we know about her thoughts and history comes mostly from her interior ruminations, not dialogue or action.

And yet: She is the one Austen heroine who completely busts out of, not just her unpleasant family or provincial town, but the entire society in which she has been raised. Wentworth is a naval officer. Like Mrs. Croft, Anne can expect to spend at least some of her years on ship with him. She's the polar opposite of Emma, who yakkity-yaks her head off but is very clear to Knightley that she doesn't want to leave her home, much less her village or country.

If Jane Austen had lived past 42 years, where would she have taken her later heroines?

March 3, 2015

Thompson, Branagh . . . I've Got Plans for You

Since Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility

is the best adaptation of that novel,

and Kenneth Branagh's Henry V—

and Hamlet—

are the best adaptations of those works,

I humbly request that Thompson and Branagh stop dicking around and devote the rest of their lives to filming the entire oeuvre of Austen and Shakespeare.

March 2, 2015

Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Virginia Woolf famously said that "of all the great writers [Jane Austen] is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness." What she meant is that Austen doesn't have stand-alone passages of great brilliance like Hamlet's soliloquy or long, beautiful, atmospheric descriptions like Dickens's famous passage on the London fog. Austen's greatness is so tightly woven into the entire fabric of her works that it's impossible to pull on one thread and observe it.

Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, a young woman who was persuaded by an older friend to break her engagement with the man she loved, Captain Wentworth, because of his lower social standing and lack of money. For eight years she has regretted the loss of that love and slowly withered, losing her "bloom" of youth and beauty. Now Wentworth is back in her social circle, but this time rich and well-regarded, and Anne is compelled to watch the young women around her swoon over him and be courted in return.

Persuasion was the last book that Austen wrote before she died at age 42. Many critics love it for its more melancholy, dark tone, but I've always found this view overstated. The 1995 film adaptation emphasizes Anne's homeliness and pathetic situation in life, but the novel itself makes Anne neither homely nor pathetic. Within the first quarter of the novel she has regained her "bloom" and she has friends who like and esteem her (though the members of her family are not among them). She's not someone in crisis; she's someone who has come to terms with her decisions and her losses. Unlike the heroines of Pride and Prejudice and Emma, she doesn't need to be transformed through the course of the novel; she's already been transformed—she just needs a second chance to show it.

Virginia Woolf makes the case that Persuasion is quite flawed but intriguing because it signals a transition to a new stage in her writing—a stage that we never got to see because she died shortly after Persuasion was published. Woolf's essay on Austen is here and is devastatingly poignant about what we lost because of Austen's early death.

What remains, though, is great. Jane Austen pulled the English novel back from the excesses of romantic and gothic melodrama and made it sharp and biting. Most important, according to scholars like John Mullan (a summary of whose excellent book on Austen can be found here), is her invention of an entirely new type of narration: indirect free speech.

Indirect free speech is the use of a normally omniscient, impartial third-person narration to convey the thoughts of a particular character. Here are examples to contrast:

3rd person narration:
"It was raining outside, so she decided not to go out because she didn't want to ruin her hair."

1st person narration:
"It's raining outside. I'd better stay inside; Mother would be so upset if I showed up with my hair in disarray."

Indirect free speech:
"It was raining outside, so she stayed inside. Obviously one cannot risk appearing in public with damp hair, especially if there is a rather eligible young man in attendance."

What's cool about indirect free speech is that it opens the way for irony. The narrator, supposedly omniscient and impartial, is relating the point of view of the character (a vain young woman) as if it were a universal truth while actually making obvious the narrator's distance from it and (usually) disapproval of it. 

This is the whole tenor of modern, informal communication, isn't it? Once at work I overheard a young guy talking to a young woman (one he obviously liked) about music, specifically some sub-sub-genre that he was into . . . "neo-soul bluegrass" or "Finnish pop electronica" or something.  As he's blathering on, she is saying "Sure, sure . . . " with the straightest face possible but unmistakable sarcasm for anyone watching from the outside. The subtext: I'm speaking as if your knowledge and enthusiasm about this subgenre are universal, like we all listen to it, but really I'm emphasizing your singularity and my distance from you."

Austen scholars assert that Austen was the first novelist to employ this technique. If so, this is rather huge. Did Jane Austen invent modern irony?

February 26, 2015

Oscars 2015

I enjoy the Oscars. It's a chance to revisit some good movies of the past year, see a few touching moments, and watch people have something very, very nice happen to them.

A lot of people hate the Oscars. I believe this is because they sit down with a pad of paper and keep score of how many minutes they are bored and how many they are entertained. Year after year, critics say the Oscars are "meh" and the host a disappointment. One headline read something like "If Neil Patrick Harris can't pull it off, who can??" What exactly are you expecting him to pull off?? IT'S NOT A BEYONCE CONCERT, PEOPLE!!

Get a crossword and make yourself a nice hot toddy. Sit back and enjoy. "Ooh, that dress is pretty." "Oh, I loved that scene." "What a nice moment when J. K. Simmons told us all to call our mothers." "NPH is on stage in his tighty-whities!" See? Fun.

January 16, 2015

The Fault in Our Starlets

As soon as I saw Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything, I knew she'd be nominated for an Oscar. Not because the role was particularly challenging but because the Academy loves a beautiful woman who serves as a luminous, compassionate companion to a tortured man. Felicity Jones plays the first wife of Stephen Hawking:

Just the kind of role that won Jennifer Connelly a much-undeserved Oscar for A Beautiful Mind:

I say undeserved not because Connelly (or Jones) isn't talented; both are. It's the type of role that bothers me. Both women play the long-suffering, ornamental support for the Great Man's Journey. Their beauty stands for a type of grace and wonder that the filmmakers desire to depict as part of even the most tortured male life. And which is celebrated as the most noble endeavor of a woman's life—and acting career.

Eddie Redmayne's role as Stephen Hawking was the greatest acting performance of the year. But just behind it was Shailene Woodley's as Hazel, the teenage protagonist of The Fault in Our Stars. Hazel has cancer and lugs around an oxygen tank most of the time. Woodley makes her one of the most believable characters in film this year, conveying both naturalistic, everyday gestures and moments of great emotion.

Most important, The Fault in Our Stars is Hazel's story. There are other nominations in the Best Actress category like that: Reese Witherspoon's nomination for Wild and Julianne Moore for Still Alice. But the persistence of the Felicity Jones type of nomination rankles. The incessant focus on the male journey in film awards—the honor paid to the Stephen Hawkings, the Alan Turings, the Chris Kyles, the Travis Bickles, even—is right there with the white focus. There's ageism at play as well: In our culture there's nothing quite so insignificant as a teenage girl's life. And "genreism": Chris Pine's turn as Captain Kirk was, to my mind, just as great an a achievement as Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing (different years, of course)—maybe even a greater achievement since he had to play a role established by another actor, evoking it clearly without slipping into mimicry or parody, in a performance that had to teeter on the edge of camp without ever falling into it. But the chance that the star of an action/adventure sci fi/comedy blockbuster would be nominated is next to nil.

So here's to you, Shailene Woodley. In the Platonic form of Oscar somewhere in the ether, you have my vote.

January 14, 2015

Prophet in a Perm

This may not look like a spiritual leader:

But Amy Grant has provided me with more spiritual wisdom and inspiration than any other artist. Here's a more recent picture, sans perm:

A line from her latest album is speaking to me this week about our hopes for life after life and seeing our loved ones again:

"Death's goodbye is love's hello."

January 4, 2015

"That's a Non-Starter, Murgatroyd."

The above quote is one of my all-time favorite TV lines from one of my all-time favorite TV characters: Miss Hinchcliffe, from "A Murder Is Announced." I have a weakness for all British mysteries, but I think Joan Hickson's Miss Marple is the greatest of all the British series, and "A Murder Is Announced" is the greatest of all episodes. This is my love note to "A Murder Is Announced."

First of all, do you really think you're going to get away with anything with this lady on your tail?

Joan Hickson is not very much like the Miss Marple of the books, but who cares. She is stunningly good, conveying moral rectitude and intelligence with just a touch of snoopiness. And those eyes are everything. Knocking around in her brown tweed suit and sensible shoes, she proves that star power has nothing to do with youth and beauty and everything to do with charisma.

Second, this cast nails the pitch perfect balance of filmic naturalism with stagey theatricality. The younger cast members are annoyingly smarmy, but the elders kill it. Like Ursula Howells, brittle and powerful at the same time with her constant pearls—

—which believe you me, do not go unclutched.

But my favorite, favorite, favorite are Miss Murgatroyd and Miss Hinchcliffe, the two middle-aged "companions" who share a cottage.

Miss Murgatroyd is scattered-brained and soft, Hinchcliffe tough and sharp. But when everyone else dismisses Murgatroyd, and she herself says she can't remember or figure something out, Hinchcliffe is the first to say, "Yes, you can." Together they try to figure out who the murderer is, and Hinchcliffe rejects an early theory with the above immortal line. Hinchcliffe is singular and passionate and I love her.

January 3, 2015


Outdoor adventure movies are the best. Touching the Void, Into the Wild, 127 Hours . . . these are some of my favorite films ever. But Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed's memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, may be the only one about a woman's journey. Not a woman in a group or a woman in distress, as part of a thriller or action story. But a woman finding herself in the time-honored tradition of hikers everywhere. At one point in her months-long hike, Reese Witherspoon as the protagonist comes upon another woman hiking the same trail, the first she's seen, and she can't help exclaiming, "You're a woman!" We know how she feels.

I read Strayed's memoir a year or two ago, and the movie is a wonderful adaptation. Strayed made the journey a few years after her mother died, an event that left her drowning in grief and barreling toward self-destruction. What I appreciated about the book was that Strayed didn't offer any particular lesson from being in the wild. Her conclusion was kind of an anti-conclusion. There's no lesson, no shortcut. Just putting one foot in front of the other will eventually get you where you want to be. Watching the movie it was also clear how she just removed herself from the world she was getting worse and worse at functioning in, and she replaced the painful experiences she was putting herself through with a different kind of painful experience—a healthier, more physical pain that actually took her somewhere.

There were two things I missed in the movie, though. One, strangely enough, is that in the book, Strayed mentions masturbation. I wouldn't really expect a mainstream movie to include this, but omitting it was a lost opportunity to be forthright about a kind of stupidly taboo subject.

The second is that the movie doesn't linger over the hiking. We see her hiking for maybe a minute at a time before something happens or she has a flashback. Again, I realize that for a mainstream release, no producer is going to trust the audience to endure more than 60 seconds of quiet. But as a result you never get the feel of what it was like to be on this hike, forging ahead in sometimes numbing boredom and discomfort. The WWII movie The Thin Red Line did a good job of conveying this kind of boredom in the context of war; anyone who saw the movie will remember vividly the endless shots of susurrating grasses waving in the wind as the soldiers wait for action:

And the backpacking movie The Loneliest Planet is almost excruciating in its patience in relaying the feel of a long trip:

Wild could have benefitted from some of this languor. But these are small complaints. The movie's great—well-crafted and moving. And there's something very, very cool about seeing this girl in her plain shorts and tee-shirt, trudging along, especially if you've hiked or backpacked yourself and relate to the constant fight with your feet and the tactics you use to get up with a heavy pack on your back. She's not a type or a decoration or a plot device or a historical fantasy or a comic performer. She's a normal American young woman being normal, and it's not till you see it that you realize how rare this is.

January 2, 2015


They get a bad rap, but voiceovers—where a character in a movie or show talks in a kind of disembodied voice—are handy. They convey information without that information having to be dramatized, which is what some dislike about them; but does every bit of information have to be dramatized or stuffed awkwardly into dialogue? Plus voiceovers are authentic: we think as we go about our day, inwardly commenting on the plot of our lives. And additionally voiceovers put us inside the consciousness of the main character. Any technique can be overused or handled clunkily, but this one doesn't deserve its lowly reputation.

January 1, 2015

Let's Start the Year with a Little Larceny

My favorite song of 2014 was the closing cut of U2’s new album Songs of Innocence. Though I generally avoid poaching content, I'll hedge my bets here because the song, “The Troubles,” is so powerful.

Lyrics are hard to just read without the music to inform them. Sometimes this is especially true of good lyrics, which are often oblique and, well, lyrical. The songs sounds unlike anything else U2 has done, and the lead vocals are flat-out brilliant and innovative—and supported beautifully by Lykke Li on the chorus.

Some notes on the lyrics follow, but first here they are:

“The Troubles”
(U2 feat. Lykke Li)

Somebody stepped inside your soul
Somebody stepped inside your soul
Little by little they robbed and stole
Till someone else was in control

You think it’s easier
To put your finger on the trouble
When the trouble is you
And you think it’s easier
To know your own tricks
Well, it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do

I have a will for survival
So you can hurt me and hurt me some more
I can live with denial
But you’re not my troubles anymore


You think it’s easier
To give up on the trouble
If the trouble is destroying you
You think it’s easier
But before you threw me a rope
It was the one thing I could hold on to

I have a will for survival
So you can hurt me then hurt me some more
I can live with denial
But you’re not my troubles anymore


God knows it’s not easy
Taking on the shape of someone else’s pain
God now you can see me
I’m naked and I’m not afraid
My body’s sacred and I’m not ashamed

We know the Troubles in Irish culture means the period of violence in Northern Ireland (and sometimes Ireland itself) in the 1970s and 1980s that left a legacy for years after. The lyrics here refer to a personal Troubles. Although they can speak to any traumatic event that leaves the victim struggling to break free, Bono’s liner notes hint at the inspiration of the song:

“Dreams are not always safe places,  neither are places deemed to be safe. Some can live with cruelty and abuse. Some have to . . .  when the children of any church aren’t served but instead enslaved by an abuse of power, extraordinary acts of atonement are required to put things back together . . . Honesty is just the starting point . . . secrets can make you sick.”
The sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests is about as tragic a story as can be imagined. This song takes place right in the heart of a survivor, now grown, struggling to reclaim everything. The song offers a vision of doing just that, reconnecting with our God-given dignity and sovereignty:

God knows it’s not easy
Taking on the shape of someone else’s pain
God now you can see me
I’m naked and I’m not afraid
My body’s sacred and I’m not ashamed


August 5, 2014

It's Here: Outlander

The first episode is available online from Starz and on demand, and it was everything a fan could hope for. Great production values and a fantastic Claire. This is a character with a personality, not just a generic pretty woman. And the actor playing Jamie looks pretty great as well.

Also, for those interested, here is a link to a great little article on why Outlander is so good, and so good for women:

“Outlander” Is The Feminist Answer To “Game Of Thrones” — And Men Should Be Watching It Too