The Dream Team is a Nightmare

The Dream Team .... So funny

In yesterday’s post (“Madness in Media”), I listed some books, movies, paintings, and songs, that had shaped my understanding and impacted my experience of Bipolar disorder.  One of the movies I listed was “The Dream Team”.  My brother-in-law owns a copy of this film on VHS, so last night after dinner we sat around with buttered popcorn and soda and settled into an evening of fun and laughter.

Or so I thought.

You see, I remember when I first saw “The Dream Team” (likely around 1990 – before my diagnosis), I laughed hysterically (hysterical being the operative word).  I’m not sure what drugs I was on then (probably none), but I could’ve used more.  Watching it now, with 5 hospitalizations under my belt, a steady regiment of psycho-tropics in my blood stream, and the stigma of a Bipolar on my back, well…  it leads me to conclude that the movie must have been written by someone woefully unfamiliar with mental illness who has the sense of humor of a very silly 7-year old.

I have 3 major problems with the film.

1)  The underlying message (if you want to call it that) is that if people with psychosis just stop taking their medication and face extremely stressful (Outward Bound-style) challenges, they come to their senses and are healed.  I realize in 1989, there were still a lot of psychiatric patients overprescribed massive amounts of Thorazine, but a new generation of psycho-tropics were emerging and, in many states, long-term institutional care was no longer an option.  The film takes place outside New York City and I’m pretty sure New York was either closing or had closed its state psychiatric hospitals by then.  The movie tries to be “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and fails miserably.

2)  The movie laughs at (rather than with) psychosis.  The characters are very one-dimensional and, apart from one family scene (with Christopher Lloyd’s character and his daughter) that is supposed to be touching (I couldn’t care less by then), it simply mocks characteristics of typical psychotics rather than reveals humorous foibles they find in life.

3)  It’s just not that funny.  The funny bits could easily fit in a trailer.  In fact, I can only remember one – when Peter Boyle’s character (who thinks he’s Jesus Christ) tells a man on a stretcher to “Rise and walk.”  The man tries, and falls.  Okay, now that I think of it, that isn’t even funny.

So, if you have a mental illness (or even if you don’t) and you are looking for a prescription for some laughs, do yourself a favor and don’t watch “The Dream Team”.

Thanks to all who sent in recommendations of books, paintings, music, and movies depicting mental illness.  I’m expanding the project and will be collecting suggestions through May 31, so if you think of more, let me know…

(image above “The Dream Team …. So funny” from  Kate Abate in MOVIES, SHOWS)

Madness in Media

I’m currently working on “The Study” chapter of my book Delight in Disorder: Meditations of a Bipolar Mind in which I will reflect on a few books that have had a significant impact on my understanding of my mental illness.  I also plan to include an “On the Shelves” section in which I list more resources (literature, visual art, movies, music) worth further exploration.

This is where I could use your help.  Below I’ve listed some of the resources I will either review or list.  I’d love to hear your experience with “media-depicted madness”.  Have any of these works touched you, or do you know of other works I might explore?

Books

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney

Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness  by Patty Duke

Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher

Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jamison

Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness by Kathryn Greene-McCreight

Movies

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Dream Team

Benny & Joon

Shine

A Beautiful Mind

The Soloist

Music

Vincent (Starry Starry Night) – Don McLean

Visual Arts

“Scream”  – Edward Munch

“Vase with Twelve Sunflowers” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Spirit of the Dead Watching” – Paul Gaugin

 

What would you recommend?

 

(image above “Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night” from Rae Leff in Art I love)

Completing “The Pursuit of Happiness”

elderly man

On January 9, 2013, responding to a writing prompt from Today’s Author, I composed a piece of microfiction about a modern-day Puritan, Steven Johnson,  who was not happy with his life, but who had settled with what God gave and took away.  His wife, Rachel, had grown tired of trying to make him happy and announced at the breakfast table that she was leaving him for lottery winner Saul Linford.  Steven responds by doing the dishes and playing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” at top volume as Rachel packs.

In the scenes that follow, we meet –

Monica: Stephen’s daughter who wants him to stay with her for awhile.  At first, he protests.

“I really don’t think that’s necessary.”

“Dad!  You’ve been together for over 40 years.  Do you even know where the can opener is?”

He thought about it for a moment.  “I imagine it’s in one of the drawers.  Isn’t it?”

We also meet –

Philip: Monica’s home schooled teenage son.  His Grandpa introduces him to classic country gospel music.  Philip introduces him to “Casting Crowns.”

Robert:  Monica’s positive-thinking husband who sincerely believes faith is a means to a greater end.

Together, the family attends the newly renamed church “Happiness Haven”, with a big statue of a smiling Jesus welcoming worshippers with open arms.

Steven gets hired as a Walmart greeter (or “Happiness Engineeer”) where he has a run-in with a runny-nosed 9-year old who demands a whole roll of stickers.

Steven’s estranged gay son (whom he hasn’t talked to in over 20 years) calls and invites him to come over for a visit.

Monica takes Steven and Philip to an art museum to research some religious works.  While browsing through the gallery, Steven is struck silent staring at a bronze statue of a cowering nude woman.  He collapses to the floor.

Steven wakes up in the hospital emergency room.  They run tests and find no medical reason for his black-out.  Most of his memory has returned, but he does not remember Rachel leaving him…

I’ll leave off the description there, saving a few plot twists and touching scenes for when the book, play and/or movie comes out.

Yes, this morning (January 26, 2013), I have a completed working draft I now plan market this as a short story, a stage script, and a screenplay.

Toward that end, I have made a few contacts –

I e-mailed my former theater professor – Doc Evans – who once told me to write him a play.  Doc is now retired and living in New York City, but he still has a lot of connections in the secular stage and screen world.

I sent a query to a local (Indianapolis) man working in the film industry.

I sent a query to the arts ministry of Redeemer Presbyterian (PCA) in New York City asking for their guidance.

I e-mailed the local chapter of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) to ask for recommended Christian publishers.

This may sound arrogant, but I fully believe God has given me a story that communicates the Good News in ways believers and non-believers would respond to.  I want to be the best steward of this story I can be.  I’m not looking to make a fortune, but I want to reach the most people I can.

If anyone reading this has helpful advice for the “next steps” I need to consider, please contact me in the comments of this post or by e-mail – johnprine1982@gmail.com

(image “Elderly Man” from xavi talleda, some rights reserved)

The Russians Are Spying On Me (And I’m Loving It)

My Dad is a Cold War veteran.  For part of his stint, he was stationed in Germany defending the Berlin Wall (or at least cooking for those not far from it).  He was taught (perhaps like Mitt Romney) that the Russians are our true enemies.  To this day, when Dad experiences static on his cell phone, trouble sending or receiving e-mails, or his cable TV goes on the blink, he declares –

It looks like the Russians are spying on us again.

Well, today I awoke and went to the computer to see my blog stats through the night.  There I discovered that, while I was sleeping, someone from Russia was spying on me.  Some “Russkie” as Slim Pickens from “Dr. Strangelove” would say, has viewed my blog and now there’s no telling what will happen.

I’m not going to panic.  I mean, I’ve been dangerously exposed before.

– Like when my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Underwood, caught me trading my baseball cards in class and took them away from me for a whole day. (I didn’t think I would ever get over that one.)

– Like when I wrote a pastoral e-mail reply to one person and clicked the “Reply All” button.

– Like last night, when I commented on a blog post that listed many ambitious worthwhile goals by writing, “You are a man on a mission.”  And the reply came back, “Actually, I am a woman on a mission.”

But now, the Russians!  That’s a different story.  What should I do?

– Should I practice hiding under my desk like in those “Duck and Cover” drills we used to do in grade school?

– Should I contact the FBI and inform them my blog is under surveillance (as if they don’t already know)?

– Should I delete the post I did on “The Death (and ultimate life) of Ivan Ilych” for fear that Tolstoy is an enemy of the state?

So much fear and trembling.  What to do?  Lord, help me.

[pause for a brief period of intensive prayer]

Okay, I know what I’ve got to do.

– I will strengthen my feeble knees and dose up on some Alexander Solzhenitsyn (one Russian author I’ve not read).

– I will reflect in blog posts on themes of faith in my favorite Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky.

– I will search out Russian bloggers who could be looking for “A Way With Words” without even knowing it.

If you are watching this, President Putin, beware!  You may be able to pass legislation restricting Americans from adopting Russian children, but you can’t stop this American from exercising his freedom to reach Russian children (of all ages) with words of encouragement and hope.

 

vladimir putin

(“Vladimir Putin is watching you!” from Limbic, some rights reserved)

 

Note to my Psychiatrist: 

Dear, Dr.W_____, I got your message.   No, I haven’t stopped taking my medicine.  It’s true I didn’t get much sleep last night.   But I promise you I haven’t been hearing any strange voices or seeing any unusual visions.  Trust me on this one. 

P.S.  Do you know if Communists have an equivalent of a “fatwa”?  Just wondering.

Give Your Life or Choose to Die: Eponine and Javier in Les Miserables

les miserables

I just got back from the movie Les Miserables – my first movie theater experience in about 20 years.  All I can say is – it was worth the wait.

But I will say more… probably several posts worth.  First, let me caution you that if you are planning to see the movie (and I recommend you do), see it before you read this review.  That said…

Today, I want to focus on the lives and deaths of two characters in the film – Eponine (the inn keeper’s daughter) and Javier (the policeman).

Eponine grows up in the household of unscrupulous parents who favor her over Colette (“I mean Cosette.” – as the inn keeper would say).  She sees their greed as they rob, cheat, and steal even a a randy Santa Claus from his goods (including his pants).  As they fall on harder times, as does most of France, they are still only looking out for themselves.  To the end of the movie, they sing out their selfish creed as they are carried away from crashing a wedding.

Yet, in spite of her skewed upbringing, Eponine manages to develop strong values.  Though she falls in love the handsome and brave Marius, she consents to show him the way to Cosette when she sees this is his heart’s desire.  Though she could have become embittered at only seeing love from a distance, she channels her rage to fight for the freedom of her people.  In the end, she gives Marius Cosette’s love note, making their union possible.  As her reward, she is able to die in his arms, as he declares love for her as well.

Eponine lives a virtuous, self-less life.   She gives her life for her love, and for people.

Javier, on the other hand, lives for vengeance.  We first see him overseeing prisoners as they are treated like slaves.  Though he hands Jean Valjean his parole papers, he tells Valjean that he will  never pay for his crime (of stealing bread to feed his sister’s son).  Javier represents the dark side of merciless law that favors the punishment of death-in-life rather than make room for forgiveness and grace.

Fast forward to the revolution.  Javier is a prisoner of the revolutionaries, being caught as a spy.  Jean Valjean is given the opportunity to kill him for his crime.  Instead, he cuts Javier loose and grants his pardon.  This confuses Javier.  In fact, it causes him to question his existence.  Not long later, when the tables are turned and Javier lets Jean Valjean escape, Javier can’t bear to live with his identity confusion.  The world can not contain both Valjean and Javier (mercy and vengeance), he sings.  He chooses to kill himself rather than to live by grace.

Death is something none of us can escape.  But we do have a choice.  We can live by grace, and do what is good and right and loving, as Eponine does.  Or we can die clinging to a perverted sense of human injustice that can never measure up, as Javier does.

Give your life or choose to die.  Which will you do?

(image “At the Movies – Les Miserables” from erjkprunczýk, some rights reserved)

Anything Can Happen

Tony - Work

As we approach the new year, it is tempting to set far-reaching goals to change our habits, adapt our lifestyle, transform our character.  It is important, though, to pay attention to the details, to follow the process step by step and let the outcome take care of itself.  It is better to focus on doing what is good and right rather than pursuing greatness.

There’s a great scene in the movie “Dad” in which Jack Lemmon, as an aging father in his hospital bed, shares with his son, played by Ted Danson, some of the wisdom he’s gained through years of living.  His mind wanders to a World Series baseball game in which a second-string left fielder – Al Gionfriddo –  finally given the opportunity to play after years of waiting on the bench, saves the game by catching a near-home run ball hit off the bat of Joe DiMaggio.

 “You know what that story means?”  asks the father.

“What, Dad?” asks his son.

The father’s face breaks into a smile as he looks into his son’s eyes.

“Anything can happen if you show up for work every day.”

Since I’m on disability, I don’t have a conventional job to show up for every day.  But I do have daily work with which I’m going to occupy myself.

1) Pray every day.  In addition to meditation, I’m going to renew the practice of keeping a prayer journal to be more mindful of including praise (Wow, God!) and thanksgiving (Thank you, Lord.) as well as confession (Forgive me.), intercession (Please help others.), and petition (Grant me, Lord…)

2) Read every day.  This includes a reflective reading of a passage of Scripture (a chapter or so) as well as readings of classics – right now it’s The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (on audio books), contemporary fiction (downloading e-books) and blog posts.

3) Write every day.  This month, my focus has been on developing this blog.  I plan to continue regular posting, but I have other projects as well.  I have a completed draft of a devotional book I wrote a couple years back that I want to revise and prepare for publication.  I’m meeting with some business owners and a community group about doing some blogging for them to enhance the traffic on their websites.  I expect to do a good bit of writing in my Internship which I hope will begin soon.  I really want to be more faithful writing letters to my two oldest daughters.

So those are my goals for 2013.

Pray.  Read. Write.

Every day.  And if I do, anything can happen.

How about you?  What is the work you are going to show up for every day?

(image “dictionary definition: work” from Jaboney, some rights reserved)

Five Favorite Movies for the Christmas Season

watching movie

First, a disclaimer…

The last time I went to a movie theater was to see “The Lion King” in its first run.  Not only do I not have movie channels, I haven’t owned a TV in over 20 years.  When I recently moved out on my own, I got a trial subscription to “Amazon Prime.”   But, instead of watching movies, I watched the first 3 seasons of “My Name is Earl”.

Still, I say even a widowed octogenarian can write a review of great sex (even if it’s been years).  It doesn’t have to be the latest to be the greatest.

Another thing, I decided to include both movies that are about Christmas or have Christmas scenes in them as well as movies that convey Christ-like themes and have an overall inspirational component to them.

One the nice things about this list is you won’t find anything new.  You won’t have to bundle up and shell out $10 at a theater (minus the popcorn).  You won’t find any new releases you have to wait for (and pay more for) at the video store.  If Netflix and Amazon can learn to work together, you can get a free trial subscription to either of them and stream these for free.

So, here goes, in no particular order…

A Christmas Story – The endearing tale of Ralphie and his longing for a treasured “Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action BB Gun”.  It’s a fun-filled timeless treasure for imperfect families (like yours) to watch together.

Simon Birch (loosely based on John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany).  The story of one special boy and how he persistently and methodically discovers and carries out God’s purpose for his life.  Simon is no saint, however.  His hormones get the better of him in the hilarious Christmas pageant scene that literally brings the house down.

Tender Mercies – As the movie opens we see Mac Sledge (played by Robert Duvall) hit rock bottom.  We then follow his path toward redemption, one step at a time.  Nothing preachy, here, just the good news in real life.

The Mission – Robert Deniro and Jeremy Irons play a mercenary and a missionary (respectively) who, after a dramatic conversion encounter, wind up working together for the good of a remote South American Indian tribe.  Ultimately, however, they must decide how to battle forces beyond their control.

I Confess – In this lesser-known Hitchcock film, Montgomery Cliff plays a young priest who chooses to face trial for murder rather than break the sanctity of the confessional.

How about you? What are some of your favorites I might check out this holiday season?  I still have a little time on my free trial!

(photo “Watching Movie” pinpricksome rights reserved)

*****

– Introduction to “The 12 Posts of  Christmas

– In the first post of Christmas, I truly gave to you…. “God is With Us (a Christmas Story based on Matthew 1.18-2.12)

– In the second post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Assaulting a Felon with a Fruitcake.”

– In the third post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Some of the Best Christmas Blog Posts for 2012

– In the fourth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “I Wonder as I Wander

– In the fifth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

– In the seventh post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “From India to Indiana: My New E-Pal

– In the eighth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “What Sam Found in His Backpack After Break (A Prompted Poem)

– In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “The Precise Dilemma: A Book Review

– In the tenth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Potentially Praiseworthy Poems Posted on WordPress

Assaulting a Felon with a Fruitcake

In the second post of Christmas, I truly give to you….

 fruitcake hat

Next to the story of Christ’s birth in the Bible and the story of Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story, my third favorite Christmas story is one my cousin Tim told at our Christmas gathering this year.  In order to do it justice, I’m going to write up the dialogue that transpired as he tried to tell what happened.

Grandma (to Tim): You feeling okay?

Tim: I’m feeling fine.  Why do you ask?

Grandma: I thought you went to the hospital.

Tim: I didn’t go to the hospital.  Who told you that?

Grandma: I heard they called an ambulance to your house.

Tim:  That was for the burglar.  They took him to the hospital.

Me:  You were burglarized?

Tim:  Yeah, some guy broke in and took off with my watch, my billfold, my cell phone, my truck keys and some other stuff.

Aunt Sue:  Well, actually, he didn’t break in.  The door was open.

Tim:  Yeah, the door was open.

Me:  The door was open?  That’s not burglary.  That’s Christmas hospitality.

Tim:  Well, he did take my stuff.

Me:  Okay, that’s burglary, I guess.  Did he get away?

Tim:  No, I came running out of the house just as he was about to get in the truck.  He was out there talking to one of my neighbors.  I said, “Is this the ‘gentleman’ who just robbed me?”  Only I didn’t say “gentleman”.

{I can’t quite remember the flow of the story at this point.  I do know that the burglar, who was wearing Tim’s coat and shoes threw them on the ground, along with his wallet, keys and cell phone.  Rather than appeasing him, it only seemed to make Tim angrier.  I guess he did it in a threatening way.  Anyway, they are standing by the truck and Tim notices something on the hood.  He thinks it’s a billy-club.  Rather than waiting to see if the burglar reaches for it, he grabs it and squeezes it tightly.  It crumbles.}

Tim: ” What is this?”

Burglar: “Fruitcake.”

Tim:  “Fruitcake?  You stole somebody’s fruitcake.”  (continuing his story)  So anyway, I’m standing there and we’re squared off and I’m thinking.  “This guy’s got an athletic build.”

Molly (Tim’s daughter):  So let me get this right.  You were checking out his body?

Tim: You got to understand. Before you can fight somebody, you’ve got to size them up.  I’m thinking the guy’s got some strength.

{Ultimately, the guy takes off running.  Tim tells his neighbors to call the cops.  Then, he chases him down.  This wasn’t difficult to do because the burglar had taken Tim’s shoes off by then and Tim had put them on.  Tim caught the shoe-less bandit by a dumpster and proceeded to pound him into the pavement until the police arrived.

My uncle Geoff then read the brief blurb about the incident  from the newspaper where it said the guy  was being held on 4 charges and a $13,000 bond.  Tim was surprised it was set so low.  I think they took pity on the guy.

So here’s my take on this story.  I truly hope the guy is okay. I have to believe he is. He clearly is not a seasoned criminal or I think he would have made some better criminal-like decisions.

What I like about  the story (as a story) is how it serves as a complete antethesis to the classic novel (and now popular movie) Les Miserables.  When ex-convict Jean Valjean steals Bishop Myriel’s silverware and is caught, Valjean lies and says it was given to him.  When called upon to press charges, Bishop confirms the lie and offers him even more – costly candlesticks.   It’s an illustration of God’s abundant grace.  This grace inspires Valjean later to receive redemption.

Clearly, my cousin Tim is no Bishop Myriel.  And maybe I shouldn’t celebrate his sense of vigilante justice.  It’s just strike a human chord in me (and reminds of just how far the distance is between us and God).  As Lyle Lovett puts it in the song “God Will” –

Who keeps on trusting you
When you’ve been cheating
And spending your nights on the town
And who keeps on saying that he still wants you
When you’re through running around
And who keeps on loving you
When you’ve been lying
Saying things ain’t what they seem
God does
But I don’t
God will
But I won’t
And that’s the difference
Between God and me

So who says he’ll forgive you
And says that he’ll miss you
And dream of your sweet memory
God does
But I don’t
God will
But I won’t
And that’s the difference
Between God and me

(lyrics found at Cowboy Lyrics)

(image “Fruitcake hat” from Rochelle, just rochellesome rights reserved)

*****

– Introduction to – “The 12 Posts of Christmas

– In the first post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “God is With Us (a Christmas Story based on Matthew 1.18-2.12)

– In the third post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Some of the Best Christmas Blogs for 2012

– In the fourth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “I Wonder as I Wander

– In the fifth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

– In the sixth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Five Favorite Movies for the Christmas Season

– In the seventh post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “From India to Indiana: My New E-Pal

– In the eighth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “What Sam Found in His Backpack After Break (A Prompted Poem)

– In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “The Precise Dilemma: A Book Review

– In the tenth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Potentially Praiseworthy Poems Posted on WordPress