The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker

Posted on October 20, 2011. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Every once in a while I find myself in a non-fiction kick. During those times I tend to go a bit overboard on biographies, memoirs and inspirational/self-help titles. An advice columnist that I really enjoy following, Carolyn Hax, recommends this book to many people for a variety of reasons. After hearing it time and time again I finally trekked to the library and put in the request to borrow it, and I am so glad that I did. I have recommended this to quite a few people since reading it, the impression it left on me is definitely a lasting one.

I personally feel that every young woman, going to college, in college, living on her own, moving to a new city or living in the same city she has lived in her entire life should read this book. This book teaches life lessons and life skills that many of us girls are lacking. This is not about self-defense and not meant to scare women about the dangers of the world but it is educational and excellent. There is no substitute for learning the information provided in this book – I wish I had read it years earlier.

Gavin De Becker is a pioneering advisor on navigating dangerous and risky situations involving assignation, stalking and basic survival fear. De Becker owns an agency that protects public figures including politicians and celebrities. Through reading his book you can tell that he is the leader in this type of knowledge. He is smart, he is confident and it shows throughout the book. Additionally, De Becker is confident that with this knowledge we can also be safer, which makes your confidence rise as well.

De Becker gives us some of his back-story on how he ended up in this field and goes through some difficult stories about his childhood. Hearing about his childhood helps us really understand how he was able to hone in and fully develop the heightened awareness he has for survival skills. We also get an excellent glimpse into the mind of someone whose sole profession is protecting others. Getting in on that thought-process is enlightening and helps us better understand how we can start to think that way and protect ourselves better.

The main topics in this book are female safety focused. While De Becker doesn’t want to stereotype, it is fact that many of the situations he describes in the book are female based problems. While men can be victims in the same scenarios, the truth is that women find themselves as the victims more often, focusing on what really is occurring is helpful to us to better prepare ourselves. Topics explored are stalking, trusting our instincts and learning to how to listen to the guidance our instincts are providing, public figure attacks, intimate violence, occupational violence, threats, and violence from children. There are many situations described in the book that we may never ever encounter, but having the knowledge in us ready in case we are in that situation is invaluable. We will never regret teaching ourselves what to do in the rare case we find ourselves there.

The best take-home message for me was learning how to trust our instincts. This book is not meant to make us more afraid or allow fear to take over our lives, it is rather about learning how not to be fearful because we have the ability and knowledge (after reading this) to safely navigate dangers that are presented to us. De Becker really focuses on what biology has given us and how we are ignoring it. Part of us ignoring these survival signals are culture – we are being taught to act in ways that go against this biology and are putting ourselves at risk. De Becker is helping women to break through that culture to put our personal safety first.

As I said before I think this is a book that every young woman should read, most likely more than once. It helped give me courage and strength and after reflecting on what I had read it also did make me feel less freightened and more in charge. I wouldn’t put myself in danger on purpose just to prove that I am in touch with my intuition but I did learn how to trust my intuition more and have thought of some ‘plans’ that I would carry out in a variety of situations, mentally preparing myself ahead of time should I find myself there. I also reflected back on previous encounters where I put many of these biological tools aside in an effort to just ‘be nice’ and I can recognize how I purposefully ignore bells and whistles and warnings and I’m ready to make different choices in those some situations in the future. Excellent read – don’t be scared, fear truly is a gift!

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Move Debriefing: 500 Days of Summer

Posted on August 3, 2009. Filed under: Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I am, in general, a fan of Independent films. I like that genre as a whole because it offers something different than the big Hollywood cookie-cutter plots. The wardrobes are more fun, the sets are more fun and the plot is usually outside of the traditional film lines which makes for a pleasing experience in many cases. 500 Days of Summer has all the wonderful aspects of independent films coupled with great acting and truly great cinematography. This movie was wonderful for a variety of reasons, and like the movie I’ll start from the beginning.

Narration in films can either be masterful or terrible, in 500 Days it was great! The narrator hit the nail on the head and quickly caught us up in this story that was not a love story, but in the end I still think it was a love story. As the narrator puts it, “This is a story of boy meets girl”… There is no denying that, though boy falling head over heels for girl may be more like it. Summer has an infections personality and is like-able for all types of people, especially men. The story follows Tom through the ups and downs of being in a relationship with fickle Summer. Like Tom this movie makes us feel hot and cold about Summer with every memory but it’s impossible to shake her off. She’s fun, she’s happy usually and when she’s sad we want to know why.

500 Days of Summer doesn’t follow their relationship from point A to B, and it doesn’t go from B to A either. There is a slight logical but rather illogical way that the memories and the stories of their relationship are told to the audience, but it’s a fun sequence and keeps the movie light. The basic jist of the plot is that Summer ( Zooey Deschanel) doesn’t believe in love. If love finds her that’s ok, and if she finds a relationship that’s ok as well but she’s not out to find love. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a greeting card writer who knows that love is out there for him, he believes in true love and shows his emotions through his cards. Clearly this is going to be a troubled relationship. They definitely have bright moments but as we know from the get-go this relationship is doomed.  It’s clear what stage in the relationship we are viewing based on the day, in total there are 500 days. We also get an idea of what type of memory we will be witness to based on the sky, cloudy days are sad, or miserable memories where as sunny days bring on happy memories.

 From a dance sequence to shopping in Ikea 500 Days of Summer is a hit! The cast is fun with a wide range of characters from co-workers and crazy friends to siblings with golden advice the cast is diverse and works really well together. For a lighter movie with a lot of heart, and in the end truly shows what love is all about I’d recommend 500 Days of Summer.

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Movie Debriefing – 007 Quantum of Solace

Posted on November 24, 2008. Filed under: Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , |

In general I’m not the biggest fan of action movies, but the 007 series seems to always draw me in. I checked out Quantum of Solace this past weekend and was really pleased with the movie as a whole. Before going into the movie I had read reviews that the plot was very thin and overall lacking in originality but I didn’t find the plot to be trouble. 

The main plot of the story is that Dominic Greene(Mathieu Almalric) is buying up remote pieces of land in deserts and other far off locations. It is presumed that Greene is looking for oil, but alas it is water that he is after. Additionally, Greene is out to corrupt government, gain control over countries and blackmail the government if necessary to gain power and wealth. This really has very little to do with the story as a whole. It is the main underlying theme to the movie but if they told us nothing more than the fact that Greene and his friends were bad guys but never told us why the movie would still feel the same and not knowing that information wouldn’t create problems overall. The main theme of the movie is revenge. Both Bond & the Bond girl are in search of personal revenge.

Throughout the entire movie Bond doesn’t really follow many orders from M, in fact he mostly does the opposite of her wishes, which creates plenty of problems for her. Bond’s ultimate motive is to track down those responsible for ‘killing’ Vesper, and getting revenge. Coincidentally, Bond finds a girl, Camille (Olga Kurylenko),  who is also on a personal revenge mission, so they make a good team. Camille is a former secret agent so their skills are well matched, and together they are able to take down Greene and dig further to fulfill their revenge missions.

Bond is not only more reckless in this movie, but he is also more fierce. Instead of torture or following M’s commands to get information, Bond finds death for all who cross his path much more suitable. He is clearly troubled by Vesper’s death and seemingly can not escape it or find solace until the closing scenes of the film. Daniel Craig gives James Bond a serious tone and overall very serious demeanor which also radiate a chilling cold from his blue eyes. It is clear that this Bond means business. The chase scenes in this film are crisp and clear and give the audience a sense of confusion just when they should. Bond is a great fighter through this films and uses weapons, physical fighting and force to get his point across.

The film is shot in a variety of locations, from the desert to an Opera hall the scenes are dramatic, but reasonable. At no point would you question Bond’s motives, involvement or reasoning for being where he is. The opera scene is a personal favorite for me, and even offered some of Bond’s quick witted humor as he was given an entrance into a very serious conversation not meant for prying ears.

Bond leaves M with no reason not to trust him, and of course in the end helps M solve all of their missions. Craig gives Bond the power to use both brute force and to have a heart. He understands people’s emotions and shows a somewhat sensitive side in Quantum of Solace This is one of the first more modern Bond films where Bond’s emotions drive the action and the plot. Similarly, this is also one of the first modern Bond films where the Bond Girl did not fall under the covers with Bond, though he did have an intimate meeting with a girl, the ‘Bond Girl’ (Camille) was not a lover, but there is of course possibility for her to become more in the next film…

If you are a Bond fan – it is worth seeing. Quite possibly one of my more favored Bond films. The action is clear, precise and stunning. The film overall is shot with a vision that never falters and leaves the audience aching for more Bond, James Bond that is.

Photo Courtesy of Foodvu.Com

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Debriefing: The Secret Life of the American Teenager

Posted on September 16, 2008. Filed under: Personal Reviews, TV Shows | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Spoiler Alert! Be aware that this is a recap of Season 1 – I will go over characters as well as plot outlines and main events, if you haven’t seen the show and plan on it – be warned that this post will uncover some of the drama that went on in the show….

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 This is clearly a show geared towards families, and teenagers struggling with Puberty and all of life’s wonderful ups and downs, also airing on ABC Family it is clear the audience that they are reaching for.  Even still I found the show to be enjoyable and even compelling at points. This show is about a pregnant teenager – it is not quite as graceful as Juno’s pregnancy,  but it is refreshing to see that Juno has opened the door to similar experiences. This is ‘true’ life; pregnancies happen, to a lot of different people, and in a lot of different situations, even children of VP candidates are not immune to this. It may be chalked up to ‘kids’ feeling untouchable and immune, as well as their overall inexperience, and it may due to the education (or lack of) that they are receiving about sex. This is in no way an epidemic, but it is a topic that needs a dialogue to be opened up about it- this is not something that is going to disappear, and people need to understand and accept that, and make it known to their children that this a very real possibility and consequence.

As progressive as this show may seem, it needs to be understood that the show is very Christian focused. It is positive that the show is not abstinence only, she is pregnant so clearly that line of thinking is mostly out, but don’t think that the abstinence undertones aren’t present. As the season progressed, the very Christian messages became increasingly more subtle, but in the beginning many of the characters would flat out reference God and their beliefs. As surprising as this was to me, I understood the Christian values the show presented (this was a Brenda Hampton show, the same creator as 7th Heaven), but was surprised at the flat out presentation of these values. Many teenagers are not as spiritual or religious in school, or during social settings and this show was so bold in the beginning that I expected many teenagers to find it cheesy. Surprisingly, as the show progressed the Christian dialogue smartened up and became more subtle and more ingrained in the individual characters.

The basic characters were a very diverse group of students. All of them also had very conflicting morals but were seemingly intertwined within each other in this small(or maybe large, it’s unclear about how big the school and town are, though it seems to not be more than 1square mile with tons of picket fences) town. Amy, pregnant, met Ricky, the father, at band camp and thus the child was conceived (goes to prove that American Pie’s good ‘ole band camp really is all its cracked up to be!). Amy’s two best friends give her conflicting advice on talking with her parents, and telling people at school. Lauren, one of the friends, is no longer allowed to socialize with Amy outside of school but encourages Amy that abortion or adoption may both be acceptable options given her situation but that ultimately the decision should be made between Amy and her parents.  Madison, Amy’s other best friend is a devout Catholic who thinks abortion is a sin and that Amy should not even consider those words, or say them because, the baby can hear that after all. Even with the pregnancy, Amy’s new boyfriend Ben is deeply devoted to her and has posed marriage as a solution to the pregnancy. It was made clear by Amy’s parents that marrying Ben at the age of 15 was not the answer (which was a very good take-home message for young girls).

Christian good-girl Grace spends her time either pining over the preacher’s son Jack, or convincing him that waiting until they are married will make sex the best for their relationship. She dons a purity ring, and encourages Jack, and everyone she encounters and discusses the subject with, that sex can wait.  Adrian is a spitfire Spanish girl, with dangerous curves and an absent Mom. She is desperate for attention, and even though she has top-notch grades she craves sexual attention and finds love through meaningless hook-ups.  She wants Ricky’s attention and feels that Amy’s pregnancy is in the way and interferes with her own agenda and relationship with Ricky. Grace is sweet as pie to everyone and doesn’t think Amy should get an abortion and is very much in support of her dealing with the pregnancy and becoming a parent, she doesn’t want Amy to be shunned within the school and goes out of her way to voice her opinions on the matter.

The first few episodes focus on what Amy will do about her predicament – should she tell her parents? Should she keep the baby? Should she tell Ricky that he’s the father and that she’s pregnant? It’s a very big up and down emotional roller coaster for Amy and the emotional walls she has built start to slowly crumble as she tells her sister her secret. From there it is clear that entire school is talking about her, and of course her boyfriend and Ricky the father – such a love triangle for 15 year olds! This is a scary situation for teenagers and it seems that her life slowly gets a little better as she lets her parents know what is happening and really goes through the motions of exploring her options. Of course then the issues of ’shipping’ her to her Grandmother’s or a boarding school for pregnant teenagers enters the conversation of what to do next, as well as adoption conversations. The parents are very supporting and struggle within their own relationship on how to handle this obstacle. As Amy deals with her pregnancy, the ultimate consequence of sex, other characters are left to deal with their own sexual and teenage issues, problems and dilemmas.

Adrian’s reputation catches up with her biological father and mother and they make it clear that it is not becoming for her and start to really reign in on this teenage sex kitten who has had limited parenting and rules until now. Ricky determines that Grace will be his next sexual conquest and does not see the harm in mindlessly using girls for his own pleasure, and does not have the conscious to prevent himself from emotionally tricking Grace into trusting and believing in him. Grace struggled through her relationship with Jack and often found herself defending her right to wait and her respect for God and her parents that was made within her decision to wait for marriage but has trustingly started to fall for Ricky. Ben’s best friend Henry takes the plunge with his girlfriend and decides that sex is the next step in their relationship and the show highlights how this decision did not leave either of them feeling any better or more adult in their relationship. This was the show’s way of ending the entire season with a message of; sex can wait – it’ not the next step, but in a subtle way of course.

Each episode throughout the season ended with Amy’s character letting teens & parents know of the amount of teenagers who have become pregnant. Her take-home message and advice is to talk with your parents and children about this, and be sure that everyone is open and discussing. It is a hard topic to broach, and having a main character encourage this dialogue may be the best way of getting the message out there. It encourages parents to share their morals, values and opinions on teenage sex and pregnancy with their children and ensures that teens also share this with their parents. While the show focused on abstinence, the show also made a point of showing the guidance counselor giving out free condoms, which did encourage sexually active teenagers to use protection – such a big message there! If you are going to have sex, which many teenagers do – be smart and safe about it!

That should have been the tag line of the show! Honestly, we know that abstinence is good in principal, I mean there truly is no better way to prevent pregnancy then not doing it, but when teenagers are having sex, then abstinence education is not helping them and teenagers then need to be educated on safety and prevention.

It is a show worth watching for middle to older aged teenagers, I feel that it was a little brass for the younger crowd unless you’re ready for that very open exposure. While it is geared to be a family show, I could not imagine watching it alongside my parents between the ages of 13 and 17, just a pinch embarrassing to think that your teenage world is exposed, even though most parents have done the same, if not worse things themselves at that age. The show was definitely worth catching during the sleepier summer TV schedule. I don’t know if it is a show that is worth having a second season for, but it was popular among teenagers and even won a Teen Choice Award, so there is a following.

As part of the non-traditional viewing crowd for the show, it definitely had drama and entertainment value. If I were in the teenage age group I could see how this would easily be one of my favorite shows, and while I wouldn’t want my parents to watch alongside me, it would a show worth discussing with them, it would have made the ‘growing up’ talks a bit more comfortable in the end, if its even humanly possible for those talks to be comfortable. 

Rating: ***/5 – Worth Watching 

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Debriefing: Climbing High by Lene Gammelgaard

Posted on September 9, 2008. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Last year I picked up a memoir/non-fiction recap of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air). As I began to read the very technical climbing memoir I was struck with the Everest Fever; I wanted to climb. Since reading that book I closely follow all Mt.Everest happenings, including Sir Edmund Hillary’s death last summer and have recently begun to take the plunge and read more about that fateful, disastrous climb of 1996. I just finished up a quite interesting spin on the disaster by the first Danish woman to climb Mt.Everest, Lene Gammelgaard.

The first Danish woman to ascent Everest – that is quite a challenge and in itself a great accomplishment. Not only did Gammelgaard make it to the top, and photograph multiple banners for her financial backers, but she also survived the descent.  A little known fact is that most fatalities atop Mt.Everest actually occur during the descent. This leaves climbers in quite a predicament; the joy of reaching the top only heightens climbers’ awareness that the hardest part of their journey is yet to be faced. 

In 1996 two teams, among many others, set out to conquer Mt.Everest for the first time during the 1996 season. The teams were lead by Scott Fischer and Rob Hall. Gamelgaard was on Scott Fischer’s expedition, and was a close friend of Fischer’s prior to the expedition. Fischer’s expedition, appropriately named Mountain Madness, was comprised a handful of eager climbers ready to set personal records and triumphs on their way to the top of Everest. This book focused mostly on Gammelgaard’s personal achievements and difficulties in climbing Everest.

I may be overly critical, but I anticipated more of a documentary, and an overall recollection of the expedition to the top of Everest. This book focused merely on Gammelgaard’s achievement of climbing and her personal struggle during the storm that claimed so many lives atop of Mt.Everest. She is the first Danish woman to climb Mt.Everest, which is a great accomplishment, but I felt the book focused on her feelings and read like a diary of how she was feeling and how she was conquering her fears and how she was succeeding slowly up the mountain. She became friendly with some of the other members of the expedition and did touch on their highs and lows throughout the journey, but again the focus remained on her. This diary-style of writing was not bad in any way, it was just different. The ‘diary’ didn’t have the same pull and didn’t offer as much insight into Everest or the climb that they were encountering.

Finishing up the book is almost like a dream; you wake up and realize that its over, and wonder how long that actually took? The book is quick, non-technical and a light-read on a difficult subject. It is interesting to see the types of people she bonds with, being that she is a European trying to make this accomplishment. In the end though, I felt like something was missing. The drama and the details that Everest demands to have written about it simply were not evident in this memoir. You are left with a sense of pride for Lene Gammelgaard, that she accomplished what no other woman from her country had previously done, and she broke gender barriers.  It is a great accomplishment for Gammelgaard, and she should have the utmost pride for not only reaching the top but suriving the storm both on the mountain and when she returned to live through her personal losses.

If you are looking for a mountain climbing adventure and a story as epic as Everest itself, then this may be an appetizer but not the main course. Hearing the story and the events as told by a member of another expedition from a European nationality is a different spin, but it doesn’t fulfill the appetite as a more technical, in-depth memoir or documentary would. If you are interested in the 1996 Everest climbing disaster this will surely wet your appetite, but don’t expect this to cure your Everest fever.                                                                                                Grade: B-
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Please don’t take my negativity toward this book as a reason not to read it, if you are an avid pursuer of Everest it is an interesting side of a story, but I felt that there was much more that Gammelgaard could have contributed within her story, it was a selfish recap of the accident in which she lost many loved colleagues, but only brief mention of other expeditions was ever made and even more brief and vague mentions of other fatalities during that climb were made as well, I did not feel she truly respected everyone who had lost their lives during that climb or gave accolades and praise for those around her that also survived.
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