September 19, 2012

It’s not just about baseball…

Posted in Between Us column, Movies, Relationships, Women at 11:32 pm by dinaheng

If there’s one kind of story most people will relate to, it’s a father-daughter tale. Every woman, after all, has a father, and while not all men are fathers, they know what it’s like to have one.

“Trouble with the Curve” is not only a terrific father-daughter story, it’s spun around the business of baseball in a way that everyone can relate to, whether you’re a fan of the sport or not. Because at its heart, this family drama is about dealing with change — changes in life’s stages and changes in the world as we know it.

Clint Eastwood stars as Gus Lobel, one of the best scouts in baseball, who is starting to deal with the physical affects of aging, and the technology that is changing the way players are rated and picked. His daughter Mickey, played by Amy Adams, is a high-powered lawyer who’s never been close to her dad, or any man.

Helping to bring the two together is rival scout Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), who’s grappling with his own career changes, as well.

“All our priorities change over time, so it’s a constant process of maintaining the right balance,” says director/producer Robert Lorenz, a prolific filmmaker who’s earned two Academy Award nominations as Eastwood’s producer for “Mystic River” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

“There’s an ongoing battle between the new way of doing things, and the old way of doing things. We have to learn to balance technology with wisdom and experience.”

In “Trouble with the Curve,” Gus tries to hide the changes in his health and prefers to scout potential players the old-fashioned way, paying no attention to what computerized stats indicate. When his boss and longtime friend Pete Klein (John Goodman) asks Mickey if her father’s okay, she decides to take some time off and join Gus on a scouting trip, putting her own career promotion in jeopardy.

“One aspect of their relationship that’s timely to what’s happening in society today is the role reversal,” says Lorenz, who’s making his feature-film directorial debut with this film. “Your parents have taken care of you, and the time will come when you’ll have to take care of them. This applies to both men and women. If you maintain an open line of communication, it’ll be an easier transition than if you haven’t addressed issues between you before.”

Throughout life, we struggle to balance health, career, and relationships. Throw in factors like changes in technology, world events, and politics, and the only status quo that exists is constant change.

“Life throws you a curve, and you’ve got to deal with it,” Lorenz says. “We’re constantly re-evaluating how we’re doing things. You find a comfortable place to be, then you have to change, which makes life challenging.”

The characters in “Trouble with the Curve” face their challenges in ways that just might give you some ideas on how to meet your own. Now wouldn’t that be a home run?

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September 12, 2012

‘Crown of Embers’ explores more than teen angst

Posted in Between Us column, Books, Spirituality, Women at 8:53 pm by dinaheng

When it comes to Young Adult novels, there’s a fine balance between the entertainment and education factor in an author’s writing. While many tales are engaging, not all are thought-provoking.

Rae Carson’s latest book, “The Crown of Embers” (Greenwillow Books, $17.99) is one that does both.

The first book in her fantasy trilogy, “The Girl of Fire and Thorns,” was a finalist for the Morris Award for YA Debut, introducing the story of a chubby 17-year-old princess who must become a fit and trim warrior in order to survive a desert kidnapping and save a kingdom. For Elisa to discover how smart and courageous she really is, she must battle palace intrigues and painful memories on the way to fulfilling her destiny as bearer of the Godstone.

This second book in the trilogy, “The Crown of Embers,” picks up a few months later, with Elisa now the queen of a kingdom where forces are jockeying for power, with enemies outside and within her court. With the Godstone embedded in her body, she struggles to learn how to use its power, and how to not let power get in the way of romance.

“Growing up, I was a big fan of fantasy fiction,” says Rae Carson, who lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two stepsons. “I started to see patterns and elements of the genre that came up over and over. There was The Chosen One, the Amulet of Power, the Hero’s journey, and the Princess in Distress. As I got older, I got bored with them.”

So when Carson sat down to write her own story, she decided to imagine “the most ridiculous Amulet of Power I could come up with, and decided to make it organic,” she says. “The inspiration for the Godstone came from getting my navel pierced.”

Instead of making Elisa, The Chosen One, aware of her special attributes, Carson chose to start by writing about a teenager who was powerless.

“I wanted to see her come into her own power, and take control of her destiny,” Carson says. “In 2006, I started getting serious about writing the first book, and was going through a religious conversion. I used to be a staunch evangelical Christian, and recognized that a lot of things I used to believe were not true for me anymore.

“I see so much hate toward women, people of color, and homosexuals in many evangelical Christians, and I can’t hold to that anymore. It’s natural for people to question their beliefs, and there should be no shame for young people to question theirs. Elisa never loses her faith in the book, and I wanted to explore faith from a real world perspective. I’m a spiritual person, always looking for the divine.”

Images of the desert, and the influence of Arabian and Spanish cultures, make for absorbing reading about a kingdom that Carson envisions as a place that might look like the northern tip of Africa in another time.

The exploration of faith in these books took courage to write, and is beautifully executed. The work is not just another teenage dystopian novel that revolves around darkness in the world. Carson’s series reads with a mixture of reality and fantasy that brings light to the darkness, and belief in the power of Love.

Pick up these books, and you won’t want to put them down until you’ve finished the last page. Thankfully, there’s still one more book in the trilogy to look forward to.