Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

Unexpected Hero August 2, 2009

Filed under: Anecdotal,writing — Addicted to Yarn @ 9:02 pm
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VinDiesel00

What makes someone a hero? Is it a person risking her life for someone else? Is it a person putting the greater good ahead of his own good? Is it helping others? There are as many definitions of hero as there are people on the earth. While there may be many definitions of “hero,” one definition stands out to me.

My definition of a hero is someone who inspires me to better myself. There are not many people who do that but are a few. The one I’m writing about here is not considered by many to be very talented. I have heard people say he is, at best, a mediocre actor and, at worst, a terrible one but I have cried as he acted the part of broken hearted husband. I have read interviews in which directors he chose not to work with have accused him of being egotistical and his response was, “If my ego is healthy enough to say, ‘I’m not going to do a . . . rehash of the same film just because you want me to do it quickly,’ that’s my ego! My ego is that big!” and I applaud him for remaining true to his principles. I have heard his co-workers tear him down spitefully and I have seen him time and time again, turn the praise to others; the directors, his mentors, his co-actors, or the audience. I have read posts by people accusing him of being nothing but a meathead, his success running on nothing but his biceps. The truth is, he has worked very hard and sacrificed a lot for the success he has had. More than all this, he has inspired me; inspired me to better myself, to make my own dreams come true, through his journey to do the same. Who is this man?

This man is Vin Diesel.

Many only know Diesel as an action movie star and, for many years, that was the only way I thought of him. This began to change during a season of boredom. I wanted to find some new movies to watch and, having just seen Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick for the second time, I began to look for other movies he had appeared in. What I found was a career history I knew nothing about. There were the movies I expected, The Fast and the Furious, xXx, and The Pacifier, in which Diesel plays “tough guys.” What I didn’t expect was Multi-Facial, Strays, and Find Me Guilty, in which Diesel plays serious and deep roles. I didn’t expect to find that he had written screenplays and directed and produced films. I didn’t expect to find a fellow Dungeons and Dragons fan. I didn’t expect to find a man willing to turn down millions because “the script just wasn’t right.” I didn’t expect to have a life altering experience by him encouraging me to invest in making my dreams become a reality.

Vin Diesel knows a little something about investing into one’s dreams to make them become a reality. He started acting when he was seven years old in the New York theater scene. In his early twenties, he arrived in Los Angeles, expecting to become a star. After a year of auditions and rejections, he returned to New York, as he has said, with his tail between his legs. He had not secured so much as an agent. Unwilling to let his dreams die, realizing he could no longer rely on others to dictate where his future was going to go, he started writing a short film. Two weeks later, he was shooting and, as he said to Charlie Rose, “That’s where it all started.”

There had been no scripts for Vin Diesel so Vin Diesel had decided to make his own. He saved $3000 and instead of spending it on a flat screen T.V., he took the money and invested it into his career. He wrote, directed, produced, and starred in his short film titled Multi-Facial. The film is about an actor who can’t get hired because he’s too multi-cultural. He’s not “black” enough or “white” enough or “hispanic” enough, just like Vin. Vin and the friends who helped him produce it took it to Cannes Film Festival but were unable to procure buyers for it.

Disappointed but not defeated by this set back, Vin returned to Los Angeles and, again, began saving money. He and a friend worked as telemarketers, selling tools and light bulbs. In the course of a year they saved $47,000. Like before, instead of buying something to “look” cool, like a new car, Vin invested into his career, returned to New York and wrote Strays. Again, he produced, directed and starred in his film. This feature length film was accepted into Sundance Film Festival and, like Mulit-Facial, received rave reviews but no buyers.

Luckily, Diesel’s investment into his career was not without gain. Steven Spielberg saw Multi-Facial, wrote a part for Vin into Saving Private Ryan and introduced him to the Hollywood movie scene. Following Saving Private Ryan, Diesel starred in a low budget but well crafted science fiction film, Pitch Black. The year after that he starred beside Paul Walker in The Fast and the Furious. The next year he starred in xXx. And with those two, Vin Diesel reached the stardom he had aspired to.

It is not this stardom, however, that made Diesel a hero of mine. No, simple stardom is not enough. Many people are movie stars. Many people work hard to achieve their dream of being a famous actor or actress. What caused Vin Diesel to stick out to me is his commitment to the art; the art of story telling, the art of character development, the art of cinematography; a commitment which I share deeply.

Vin is, at heart, an artist. Vin Diesel chooses parts that present a challenge to him as an actor, preferring multidimensional characters and anti heroes to picture perfect heroes who are hard for people to identify with. Regarding his character Xander Cage in xXx, he said, “where as the predecessors [James Bond and the like] represented a country, I think xXx represents the world. He’s kind of this proletarian hero, this rebel hero that’s recruited…Xander…doesn’t want to be a secret agent but he is a guy that’s called to duty and he rises to the occasion.” Vin chooses scripts that tell original but relevant tales. During an interview with Shawn Adler he talked about The Chronicles of Riddick, which he helped develop. Regarding pressure he was feeling to make the film successful, he said, “The second I was able [to make] this epic that didn’t spawn from a book that was in existence for 50 years, that didn’t come from a comic book character, that was completely an original project, I felt like I was satisfied.” He loves the craft so much that he turned down over 25 million dollars when he chose to forgo starring in the sequel to The Fast and the Furious. He turned it down simply because the script was shallow and did not advance the characters or the story line.

Diesel attributes his commitment to the story and his love of the role, largely to his love of Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy role playing game. He will freely admit to a long history of playing, calling it the training ground for imagination and credits it for much of of his love of story. His ability to create and imagine stories comes largely from his experiences playing this game. Not only does he freely talk about his experiences developing characters or acting as Game Master, he also wrote the introduction for “Thirty Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons.” In it he says, “[W]hat kept us hooked [on the game] was the search for the character that represented our higher self. Playing D&D was…an opportunity to explore our own identities.”

It is this, this love of imagination, this love of storytelling, this love of developing real and relevant characters that made Vin Diesel a hero. He said to Charlie Rose, “There was a point in my life when I realized I could no long rely on everyone else…I could no longer empower the negatives or empower others to dictate where my future was going to be.” To Jay Leno he said:

If there’s any message that I could tell people about making their dreams become a reality, it would be to invest everything you have in it and instead of going off and buying things that you think may raise your profile amongst your peers, go off and spend that money on something that’s going to help you realize your dreams.

When he said that, my heart responded with a cheer. My heart also broke with the knowledge that I had not been taking the responsibility for making my dreams become a reality. I was not reclaiming the control over the direction of my life. I was sitting by, relying on others to make my dreams come true.

A month later, after many talks with my husband and many thoughtful days spent pondering what my dreams really were, I enrolled in college. I was 28 years old and I was no longer going to rely on others to make my dreams come true. I was going to take what I had and invest it all into my dreams. I was not going to sit by and let others dictate where my life was going to go.

Vin Diesel is a man worthy of respect. First and foremost he is a man of integrity, remaining true not only to his art but also to himself. Secondly, he is a hero because he encourages others to look within themselves to see how they could better themselves by taking control of their lives and their dreams. These two things are what caused me to see Vin Diesel through different eyes; to see him as an inspiration to us all and especially to me.

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Goddess of Horses July 16, 2009

Filed under: Anecdotal,educational,writing — Addicted to Yarn @ 8:11 am
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She stood up and putting her hands in the small of her back, stretched, arching her back and letting her dark hair cascade down her back. She straightened and pushing damp curls away from her face, smiled at me. My brown eyes locked on her hazel ones as she extended a calloused and dirty hand to me. I took her hand in mine, marveling at the strength in it. I saw her beautiful, full lips moving and knew she was asking me a question but my ears heard nothing. I knew I was staring and also knew I would stare at her forever if she’d let me. As I felt her begin to pull her hand out of mine, I snapped back to myself and my brain registered what she was saying. As she asked again, what she could do for me, her voice was strong but gentle at the same time. Exactly the type of voice you would expect a goddess of horses to have. As I stumbled over myself, trying to explain about volunteering at the riding school for disadvantaged kids next door and asking if she was looking for any extra help, anything at all, I felt my hands begin to sweat and my face begin to flush. As I inhaled, trying to still my racing heart, she smiled, brightening the dark stall. “I’m always looking for good help. Let’s go into the office and see what you are interested in.” As she walked past me, I caught the scent of soap, both body and saddle and it made my stomach do flip-flops. When I walked out of the office twenty minutes later, a copy of my work schedule in my hand and love deep in my heart, I knew without a shadow of a doubt this was going to be the best summer of my life.

I wrote this for my writing class. Israel asked if I was writing about a lesbian love story. The answer is, “What do you think?”

 

A little beginning with no planning whatsoever… March 17, 2008

Filed under: writing — Addicted to Yarn @ 9:07 pm
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I just started writing with no thought as to plot or characters or anything. I wrote the first line and then I wrote the second and so on and so forth. This is the little 600 words that happened…

I closed my eyes and wished I were in another place, another time, another body. Anything to escape this, to remove my friends from this. I heard the snapping of far off shots and held my breath, wondering if they would remain afar or if they would head our direction. Peter shifted and I felt his breath against my cheek. His arms around me were strong but I knew he must be tired. He was still weak from his own bought of illness and my weight, though less than before I got sick, would be wearing on him.

“I think they’re readying the next search. Are you ready to go again?” His voice was low, reaching only the ears of those huddled around him. Eric, a young farm boy from the next town over, watched Peter with eyes wide open. In the fading light of twilight, his eyes were the most prominent feature of his dark face. Fran, an orphan who, like me had gotten the sickness six weeks ago, lifted her face to look at Peter with dead eyes before lowering her head back onto her bony knees. She wrapped her lank arms, clad thinly in her hospital gown, around her legs, drawing them closer to her chest, squeezing into the smallest space possible. I knew she would not make it to the next stopping point without help, if at all. Gary, nodded solemnly from his position across from Peter. Gary was the only one of our group who had not been sick and I hoped he would be spared…at least until we were in a safe location. We would not be able to save him if his temperature sky rocketed in the first stage of the sickness.

I had heard talk of a few who were immune to the sickness and I hoped Gary was one of the lucky few. When I’d asked the nurse about it, her hands paused for just a moment from their massaging of my legs before she answered gruffly, “What you talking about, child? You running some more fever? You start talking craziness again, the doc, he’s gonna put you back on the drip.”

I had closed my lips tightly least I might say something which would result in being returned to the nightmare like landscape of the “drip” induced coma, or Dripma as it had been dubbed. I shuddered slightly in Peter’s arms, remembering the cold of the Dripma world. They said I was under for three weeks, longer than any other survivor, but I had years of memories from that place. Peter looked down at me, concern on his face.

“Do you need to rest longer, Janee?” His question was quieter than his last. I knew he worried about me more than the others but I, being carried, would not be the one to slow them down with requests to rest. I shook my head.

And that’s all, folks. This has been a free writing experience with Becky Walker. See you next time on, “No Planning Whatsoever.” Now, a word from our sponsor…

 

Character Flaws and What to Do About Them March 4, 2008

Filed under: Anecdotal,parenting,Weight — Addicted to Yarn @ 12:49 pm
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I would like to write but I’m having a hard time nailing down a certain thing to write about. I’ve been researching home birth and have stumbled across a nest of rabid anti-homebirthers. You think homebirthers are crazy? Check out the opposition. They are crazy, too. I mean, they’re really out to get DEM (Direct Entry Midwives). Calling names, slandering, bickering, skewing of statistics, commenting on every article regarding homebirth on a blogsite. Yeah, they’re nuts, too. That’d make a fun blog but it would take a lot of researching and I just don’t have the time.

I talked on the phone with a friend for about an hour about discipline and spanking and general parenting. I would like to write about theory of parenting; each family must find the methods that work for them; consistency is always good; spanking vs. not spanking; how much do you let the expectations of others affect your parenting style, etc. But I only know what’s worked for us and I don’t really feel ready to back up anything. All I can do is spout about what I think. I don’t really know anything.

I’m also reading this interesting book called “Odd Girl Out.” It explores the bullying and cruelty of girls. It’s horrible scary. I’m realizing, first of all, that I really didn’t have, and still don’t have, any idea what’s going on in other females’ heads. It’s made some things I’ve gone through make more sense and has made the way I parent a little different. But I’ve not finished it and so don’t feel like blogging about it yet.

I’d like to write fiction again but I don’t have any stories fighting to get out. I’d kind of like to explore Mystique‘s mind again and maybe even continue the story I started with her. I think, if I do, I’m going to have to do Chapter 2 over again. I don’t like where I was taking the story and I don’t think it really worked.

Oh, I thought of something I might blog about. Israel helped me come to a revelation about myself. I want the end result, right now, and am unwilling to do the work to get to the result. Example: I started studying German and thought, seriously, that I would master it within about nine months. Certainly by the time we got onto a transAtlantic flight. So, when I hit a spot where learning German was no longer easy, I quit. I wasn’t going to be a German linguist in less than a year and so I gave up. That’s not cool.

Another example: I want to write. I want to be a good writer. I bought a book and started working through it. I never said this but in my heart, I thought that by the time I worked through the book, I would have a completed novel ready for publication. Naturally, that wasn’t going to happen. But I didn’t understand that so when I got to a chapter that was hard for me, I shut the book and haven’t opened it or my writing notebook since. Again, that’s not cool.

There have been a few things that I did master quickly. And grew bored with them just as quickly. Embroidery was easy. I made a beautiful Christmas quilt. I embroidered nine different Christmas pictures onto remnants from my wedding dress (Windsor satin) and then framed them with some Christmas material and sewed them into a quilt. I did it in about two months. The last three or so pictures I did were done so well and the stitches so small and perfect that it did not look as though it had been done by hand, by someone who had only learned the skill two months previously. And after I finished the quilt, I’ve never picked up an embroidery hoop since. I have no interest what so ever. I’ve mastered it and so I’m bored.

I can’t think of a single thing that I’ve really strived for that I’ve not given up on because I wasn’t an expert immediately. I wanted to train horses and when I got bucked off, I quit. I wanted to crochet and when I couldn’t make a mitten, I quit. I wanted to be a photographer and when I didn’t blow my teacher away with my innate talent, I never took another class.

So, what do I do? How do I change a character flaw that has plagued me for as long as I can remember?

I think the first thing for me to do, is to admit that I am not a prodigy. I must decide that something is worth the work of working. I need to put my nose to the grindstone and tough it out instead of taking the easy way out and quitting.

I’ve made a plan with weight loss. I’ve set a series of goals for myself. I’ve got about eighty pounds to lose. I’ve made a chart with fifteen pound increments marked and at each goal, I am rewarded with the noted reward. The first goal is 230 and I’ve only another five pounds to go before I meet it. When I meet it, I am going to get my lip pierced. When I hit 215, my eyebrow; 200, hair cut; 185, tattoo; 170, two piece swimsuit; 160, belly button piercing. I know that losing about a pound a week is the ideal amount for long term results so that’ where I’m aiming. This means I’ve a little over a month to save up for the first piercing and another fifteen before the next. Then I’ve got over six months before the tattoo, which will be expensive. So, by setting these goals, not only have I spelled it out for myself that I’m not going to be wearing a size 6 at Christmas, I’ve also set up goals that encourage me to keep working even when the going gets tough.

Unfortunately, learning German is not so quantifiable as weight loss. It’s not like I can say, “When I’ve learned 10% of the German language, I get a day at a spa. When I’ve learned 20% of German I will get a manicure. It just doesn’t work. It’s not measurable.

My quest right now is to figure out how to stay on task even when it’s not fun in order to have the fun of mastering a hard thing. I believe it is very important to enjoy life and live life to it’s fullest. I don’t believe it’s good to do thing you don’t want to do. It’s important that you reap happiness or joy from the things you spend time on. Time is one of those things you can never get back and it’s paramount that you love as much of your time on earth as possible. That said, it’s also important, at least for me, that I have more to show for my life than a bunch of immediate and temporary pleasures. I will really enjoy knowing another language. I will reap many, many rewards and benefits and warm fuzzies from being being able to converse with German’s in their native tongue. I will gain much pleasure from reading Wolfgang Simson’s Houses that Change the World in the original German. I think I will enjoy knowing German more than I would enjoy goofing off for four years but when I am presented with the choice of playing or studying, playing seems so much more valuable.

I don’t think I’m going to come to any conclusions today about all this. As Israel likes to say, “There’s nothing to do but to do it,” and I think he’s right. I must remind myself of the ultimate goal and acknowledge that it will be a process to get there and not an instantaneous transformation.