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Indie films offer originality and escapism

In Business, crafts, Entertainment, Media, Movies, Opinion, Uncategorized on March 25, 2017 at 8:08 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

“The Movies are great medicine. Thank you Thomas Edison, for giving us the best years of our lives.” – The Statler Brothers

In 2010, I wrote one edition of Deer In Headlines that discussed how a good movie can transport you to a colorful land somewhere over the rainbow, show you what it means to have true grit or take you into the final frontier of space. At the movies, you can travel through time in a DeLorean, see pirate ships battle on the high seas or even visit a galaxy far, far away. But in the short time since my first, brief exploration on the subject of film, a lot has changed.

The first known film production ever recorded was a British piece called Roundhay Garden Scene, filmed in 1888 by inventor Louis Le Prince. When first introduced, people hardly took notice of motion pictures as they were more a science experiment in optics than an entertainment medium.

Shot at only 12 frames per second, on highly flammable celluloid plastic, that first grainy movie lasted a mere two seconds but pioneered what would become one of the most lucrative industries of the 20th Century and beyond. From silent features starring Douglas Fairbanks, to the first talkies, movies have a special place in the history of American culture.

Many lines from feature films have worked their way into our cultural dialect. Who can forget Sean Connery’s first delivery of, “Bond, James Bond,” or Roy Scheider’s astonished look as he calmly noted, “I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.” What about Clark Gable’s straight-forward parting line to Scarlet O’Hara, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a,” well, you know the rest of it.

Today, however, while I believe movies still offer a level of escapism, I don’t believe they’re as well done or memorable as in the past. There was a time when, whatever your taste, someone out there was making a movie just for you. For all of us there is that one, special movie or that single line of dialogue that we carry with us our whole lives, but it just doesn’t seem like the most recent generation of films have the same staying power.

One of the reasons, at least in my opinion, is Hollywood’s complete and total disregard for originality. Everything seems to be a reboot, either of a previously successful film franchise or television program. The best movie I’ve seen in a while was the “Lego Batman” animated film. It was entertaining, full of nostalgia, and just a fun movie. Oddly original too, despite its familiar characters and settings.

If you want originality today, you have to get away from the mainstream box office and explore the countless number of independent films being produced around the country. Distributed on a much smaller scale, indie films can offer the same escapism as the summer blockbusters, but usually with original stories told in a much more creative way.

Created by small production companies, and lacking the mind-blowing budgets afforded to mainstream movies, an indie film must be more solid at the story level, unable to depend on “whiz bang” special effects to keep audiences engaged. And they’re not really geared toward moviegoers with short attention spans. These films tend to be rich in storytelling and move more slowly.

Independently produced films are tough to find at your local multiplex, so you’ll have to scan local newspapers and event websites for listings. And if you’re a streamer, Netflix and Amazon Prime both have a great selection of indies, from romantic comedies to more dark features. You’ll have to read some reviews and get some background before choosing one because the titles are not always as descriptive as they could be.

So my advice is that if you want to see high quality movies with great storytelling and an emotional hook that really makes you feel and think, you’ll have to look outside Hollywood. Great, new films are still, and I was skeptical too. But indie films offer a great alternative to the unoriginal, one-dimensional movies now flooding the cinema. See you at the movies.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More atdeerinheadlines.com

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Pursuing your passion

In Children and Family, Health, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on March 18, 2017 at 9:36 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

I once read that great things are unique and unconventional. I’m certain that’s true and in order to achieve great things we, ourselves, must be equally unique and unconventional. We have to step outside our comfort zones. Or, as is often the case with me, run screaming outside them and be willing to screw up big time and embarrass ourselves in the process. To do any less will mean perpetual mediocrity.

I used to believe that everyone searches for purpose in life. But, what I’ve learned in my nearly half-century on this earth, is that there are people who just don’t care. That’s not meant to sound harsh, I just mean that day-to-day living is, for all practical reasons, their “purpose.”

Still, some can find meaning in the most superficial of accomplishments however self-serving others might see them. Achieving great things means different things to different people, some more superficial than others. But it’s all in how you look at it.

In my experience, finding that sense of self-worth is incredibly difficult and a constant personal journey for me. I have no real answers to how to get there, but I have discovered that the path begins with three steps – locate your passion, apply your talent and help others. Let’s look at the details.

First, “locate your passion.” According to Dictionary.com, the most accurate definition of the word “passion” in this context is, “a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.” Such as, “he has a ‘passion’ for music.”

My friend Jim Karns, and the rest of “The Brothers & Co.” and I find some of our purpose in bringing laughter and music to others.

This is probably the most difficult part of the process because even the very concept is ambiguous. I know it’s always been hard for me to nail it down and then figure out how that fits with work, family responsibilities and goals.

Finding your passion requires a great deal of personal exploration, reflection, and trial and error. The journey to discovering your passion is the search for that one “thing” that makes you forget to eat or go to the bathroom.

Whenever I hear someone talk about “passion,” particularly related to an occupation or job, it usually comes from some crunchy granola-type artist or non-profit worker. I’m not sure I’ve ever found a single, motivating passion in my life. I have several, all of which have equal importance to who I am. I’m still working on it, and it’s very likely to be a continuing effort of weeks, months, or even years.

Second on my list is, “apply your talent.” Here the idea is to take whatever talents you have – natural or learned, yes there are both – and apply that skill and energy to your passion.

For example, let’s say your passion turns out to be writing. You’ll probably first want to decide what kind of writer you want to be. Do you pen Shakespearean drama, or do your talents flow more towards “Fifty Shades of Grey?” What makes you want to write? What kind of writing makes you want to sit down and just let the stories flow onto your computer screen, to the exclusion of everything else? That’s where applying your talent to your passion really comes into play.

Third, and possibly the most rewarding and important of your first steps, is helping others. As you achieve a certain level of awareness and success, it becomes more important for you to share your knowledge and understanding with those less accomplished.

This in no way implies that you have to be an expert or have every aspect of your life’s pursuit nailed down. It just means that you should try to help those who may not be as advanced in their search. Mentoring is one of the most rewarding of experiences to come out of this process.

Mentoring is not the only way to help people while continuing your personal growth. I’ve found that volunteering to work in an organization or for a cause that falls within your passion interest can also be incredibly valuable to both the beneficiaries of the effort and to yourself.

Giving your life more meaning by pursuing a personal passion is not easy and it’s certainly not right for everyone. We only get one life and one future so don’t waste it.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd.  More at gerydeer.com

 

What’s in a label?

In Education, Health, Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on March 18, 2017 at 9:22 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

One things that human beings have in common is an insatiable need to label each other, both individually and by groups. I’m no expert at human evolution or psychology, but I’d guess that categorizing our fellow man must have been a leftover from prehistoric times. Our instinctive ability to size up a potential adversary may have served us well as cave people, but today, those emotions can inadvertently damage our relationships in the civilized world.

For our discussion purposes, the term “label” generally implies a negatively-focused word that’s used to identify someone based on visible stereotypical characteristics, like behavior, clothing, language, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. It’s not a factual assessment but rather an assumption, and it’s nearly always wrong. I’ve never found labels particularly helpful and arrived at from a single action or characteristic.

It gets a little confusing when you think about how to accurately describe someone without bias or negativity. If I were a Muslim, for example, it would be OK to say, “He’s a Muslim,” if you are stating a fact. On the other hand, if it’s stated in a way that has a negative connotation behind it like, “He’s one of those Muslims,” that’s not a fact, it’s a label. It comes with images of terrorism or other undesirable stereotypes.

In fact, trying to find any unoffensive example of labeling was a challenge, but I figured if I use myself as the subject that would be OK, so here it goes. I was raised on a farm in a rural community. Some people have a predetermined “image” of what someone like me should look, act and sound like.

My corn-fed brethren might even be labeled with a term that I find incredibly offensive – redneck. Despite what some might think, it’s just as intolerant to pin a racial slur on a white person as anyone else. It does, indeed, go both ways.

People are people – not labels. (Infographic courtesy of TrustLifeToday.com)

The general assumption is that someone with my background is uneducated, ignorant, with a “hillbilly” accent, bad grammar, less than stellar dental hygiene and who prefers to date within his or her own family. Throw in some right-wing, gun-totin’, Bible-quotin’, racism and that’s pretty much the way the liberal left sees us too.

Absolutely none of this is accurate where I am concerned, nor is it for most people I know. I’m well educated, I have no discernible accent, I’m not racist and, while my grammar isn’t perfect all the time, I’d like to think I’m above average in that area. The point is that the “rural” label is usually so far off as to be laughable. In fact, when people meet me they generally have no clue as to my background. None of this implies anything positive.

All that said, a close friend reminded me recently that labels have a positive side as well. In some cases, when people are vastly different from ourselves, a label can sometimes give us a reference point to understanding.

If you’re like me, a rural-raised American, you may have never met someone from, say inland China. When that opportunity arises, a label might be helpful as a starting point. If I say, “she is Chinese,” you probably already have an idea of what that means in your mind and an image forms based on your past understanding.

This type of labeling can be helpful provided the assessment does not end there and you keep an open mind about the individual. We must be respectful of the fact that we are each far more than the sum of our parts. I’m a farm boy, but a quick Google of my name will tell you there’s nothing “typical” about me. And that’s true for most of the people I know who grew up like I did.

Remember that labels are generally bad, but could have a positive application if people are willing to look beyond the surface and learn about the individual. Categorizing anyone can be incredibly destructive and serve only to perpetuate nonconstructive stereotypes. Give people a chance and learn about them before you slap a tag on their forehead. Our diversity in the world really is our strength. Let’s start behaving that way.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. more at deerinheadlines.com