Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for December 2021

Sunday Thoughts: Creativity and the New Matrix Movie, Resurrections

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I found no way to write this without spoilers. If you have not seen Matrix Resurrections yet, proceed at your own risk.

As a writer, I am often inspired by unusual things.

I take note of all sorts of things, you see. I observe them. I think about them, sometimes only subconsciously, but I ponder them. And I wonder, often, what would have happened if I’d have chosen a much smaller life.

(I do not think that would’ve been a good idea, mind you. But let’s stay with the concept.)

This all matters to me, as a person, especially due to the fact that I’ve been creative my entire life. And as I’ve grown into midlife, there are so many different messages that have been thrown at me. “Grow up,” says one. “Stop fantasizing that your career will ever matter,” says another. “What you do as a writer…what’s the point of it? No one reads what you say, so who cares?”

And then, there are the bills. The obligations. The chores. The never-ending minutiae of life.

All of this can weigh me down. Add in health problems, as anyone who’s read this blog for a while has to have figured out, and the weight of sorrow as my life-partner has been dead now for over seventeen years, and it sometimes seems overwhelming.

“But Barb,” you say. “What about the new Matrix movie, Resurrections? You put that into your title, right? You are going to talk about it, aren’t you?”

Yes, I am. Because I think much of the commentary regarding Matrix Resurrections is flat-out wrong. They are missing the point, which is this: Just because you’re older, your love shouldn’t be trivialized. And fighting for love matters more than anything in this world.

Anything.

Very few of the critics have even touched on this, and that annoys me. Even those critics who’ve enjoyed the movie have discussed more obvious themes and have pointed out that Resurrections builds heavily on what has gone before in the previous Matrix trilogy. (How it was supposed to do anything else is beyond me. But let’s not go there.)

Mind you, some of the commentary is quite interesting, as it discusses trans rights and “deadnames” — that is, the name you were given at birth is not the name you go by (such as the fate of the late Leelah Alcorn) — and some of it quite rightly points out the romance between Trinity and Neo carries the film.

But they still are missing a huge point, and I can’t help but point out the elephant in the room.

Look. It’s easy, when you get into midlife, to let those messages I delineated above overwhelm you. It’s really easy to let the weight of words, and life itself, stop you from being who you truly are.

Neo, in Matrix Resurrections, is again going by his original name, Thomas Anderson. Trinity is now a character, only, in a game Thomas supposedly created. (That the Matrix was diabolical enough to do this is another problem entirely, mind you, but often when we get to midlife, people completely misunderstand what the Hell we’re doing as creative sorts. I tend to take that as allegory, personally.) The person who’s alive and should be Trinity is now named Tiffany (going by Tiff), and she has children and a husband. And only Neo knows that “Tiffany” is really Trinity.

But how can he convince anyone of that, when he can’t convince anyone that he’s Neo, not simply Thomas Anderson? Especially when other people only see an older and broken man, someone who’s survived a suicide attempt, and who lives alone and mostly unnoticed.

Hell, he doesn’t even have a pet to take care of. He’s that isolated.

Those around him completely misunderstand what he’s about, and he’s been led to believe that the one person he’s ever loved was someone he made up himself.

I understand all of this very well.

For Neo to reclaim himself, to reclaim his life, and to free Trinity so the two of them could go on and live the lives they were born to lead is the most important part of this film. (How they get there is not relevant to this discussion, but I will say that as an editor of SF&F, it worked well for me.) That they have a true partnership, a true meeting of the minds, and a truly good relationship where both are more together than they are separately (even though they’re both interesting, separately) is extremely important, to me as a widow.

(Yes, I like vicarious wish-fulfillment, sometimes. Sue me.)

At any rate, I was deeply moved by Matrix Resurrections. I loved the new characters (Bugs in particular, a blue-haired and fierce female warrior/captain), I enjoyed the main plot, but the subtext and the emotion was what got to me.

I believe in love. I believe it matters more than anything in this world. And I believe in soul bonds that endure between one creative soul and another, that call to us despite all the noise this ultra-connected world throws at us.

I also believe that memories matter. And that no one can frame your memories except yourself.

So I urge you to check your assumptions at the door before you see Matrix Resurrections. But do see it, and then if you are in midlife — as I am — ask yourself these questions:

Does what I do matter? (Hell, yes.)

Even if no one ever reads what I write, should I continue? (Absolutely.)

Can you reclaim your life against nearly impossible odds? (I would like to think so!)

What do you think of this blog? Have you seen Matrix Resurrections, or are you going to see it? Tell me about it in the comments!

Time to Heal…

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Folks, I’m glad to finally be able to tell you that I think I’m on the mend.

Note that I said “I think,” because I’ve had health reversals before. Still, I am hopeful that I’m not speaking too soon, as I now have antibiotics and steroids and feel much clearer of mind. (Thus, the hope is that I’ll be sounder of body soon as well.)

How did this happen? Well, yesterday I marched into urgent care, and told ’em that I felt like I was getting weaker and weaker, and sicker and sicker. I also had a temperature, which is very rare for me; it was 99.8 F when I went in there and it was 99.4 on the way out. As my normal temp is lower than most people’s, this was almost shocking. (To them as well, as they’ve seen me a lot in the last two years.)

I have another sinus infection.

It’s frustrating that this one got so bad, especially since I’ve been trying to take care of my health. I did call my doctors, but every single one said I needed someone else to make the call. Only the ENT doctor was willing to try to get me an appointment, and he didn’t have one until after the first of the year. (I took it.)

That said, I now have medication that has helped — after only one day — to clear my mind significantly, as I said before.

The other problem I had yesterday was that my phone’s battery was low even though I’d charged it before leaving the house. I was supposed to take my mother to a dental appointment. She needed this. Unfortunately, I had zero bars, and the phone was just barely working. Text takes less energy than a phone call, so I sent her several texts.

And, of course, she did not get them in a timely manner.

I feel very bad about this. But I don’t think I could have done anything else.

She did call me, but I was waiting for medication at that time and the phone was still low battery anyway. I didn’t see that she’d actually called until I got back home and was charging the phone. At that point I called and left her a voicemail.

That I was not able to help my mother saddens me greatly. That I couldn’t reach her due to technical problems to do with my very old phone (at least eight years old, and a flip-phone; the cellular carrier has said it must be upgraded next year) is extremely frustrating.

I don’t blame her for being furious.

Anyway, that is all I know. (Time to heal, I guess.)

Have you ever been failed by technology? Or had to work through months of illness? Tell me about it in the comments! (I hope you’re reading out there…)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 16, 2021 at 11:50 am

Struggling, but Alive

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Folks, I am dealing with some health issues that aren’t getting much better (despite all my trying, and despite the intervention of the most thorough allergy doctor I’ve ever known). This is the main reason I haven’t blogged much in the past week. (Hell, make it more like the last year, and you’d probably be closer to right.)

I get to trot off to the urgent care clinic in the morning, again, in the hopes they can do something — anything — to help me.

Note that I called my own doctor’s office three times in the past week, and tried to talk with a nurse about two things: this lingering illness, and whether or not I can get a Covid booster shot while I’m ill. (Most people say no. Now I’m going to have to ask them in urgent care about that, too.)

Urgent care clinics have been overwhelmed since the pandemic, because of doctors elsewhere being asked to do too much (so the urgent care clinics also get to do way too much, as crap runs downhill), and also because no one seems to know much about what policies any given clinic should have. (Some doctors are flexible. Some aren’t. My own primary care doc seems to be on the less flexible side, but it may be that people are out due to the pandemic and again are being asked to do way too much.)

I feel sorry for the urgent care folks. Truly, I do. I agree with them that they should not be having to see me so often, and that someone, anyone else should’ve responded this past week (so maybe I’d have had antibiotics earlier this week; this has to be bacterial in origin as it’s gone on for much of the past year, and it does respond to antibiotics, as viruses do not).

But as they’re the only game in town on the weekend, and as I continue to be so ill that I can barely hold my head up, I’m going to have to force myself out there in the morning.

Wish me luck with this nonsense, will you?

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 5, 2021 at 1:45 am

Posted in Informational Stuff

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The Waukesha Parade Tragedy, Ten Days Later

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Folks, on November 21, 2021, a man who I shall not name drove his SUV into a parade route and injured over sixty people, killing six. The youngest of the six was eight; the oldest of the six was eighty-one.

There are any number of GoFundMes set up for various people who got hurt during the Waukesha Parade, but the best place to go to see a good number of them is here. I do urge you to donate, if you can.

Anyway, I’ve found the Waukesha Parade tragedy an extremely difficult thing to talk about, because some of those hit by the driver (I’ve called him a lunatic/maniac/criminal on Facebook, and that does seem to fit) were musicians who played in the Waukesha South Marching Band.

I can easily picture myself doing what those young musicians were — just playing their music, minding their own business, trying to make people happy during the holidays — and get so upset, so frustrated, and so deeply angry that anyone would want to interfere with those kids just playing their horns that it’s been all I can do not to break into tears at odd moments.

My best friend played in the Lighthouse Brigade Band (in Racine). So did my sister. So did quite a few of my high school bandmates. (I didn’t, because my first instrument was the oboe. There is no such thing as a marching oboist. I didn’t take up the sax until fifteen, and the clarinet until seventeen.) So I can easily put the people I know into that context, and think, “There but for the grace of God…”

Yet, why should we have to think this, when all we want to do is spread a little holiday cheer?

There’s another reason this all hit home, too. That’s in the nature of what happened with the Dancing Grannies, a beloved Milwaukee-area institution. You have to be a grandmother to dance with the Dancing Grannies. And one member, just fifty-two, was performing for the very first (and last) time. While another member, seventy-nine, filled in at the last minute by holding the banner (as someone had to do it).

Four people affiliated with the Dancing Grannies died. (One was one of the Dancing Grannies’ husbands.)

I know how it feels to go from wife to widow in the blink of an eye. (At least, it feels like it, at the time.) And I also know how awful it is to have to go see your spouse, in the hospital, hooked up to multitudinous machines, just praying to God/dess that you will somehow, some way, be able to hug your husband again. Hear his voice again. Hell, even hear him complain again about something…just so long as he’s there to do it, you see.

Too many people lost their spouses, suddenly, for no damned good reason.

And too many kids, just playing in the band and doing their best to uplift people’s spirits, were injured as well.

The child who died was only eight, and he played baseball. His twelve-year-old brother was apparently thrown out of the way (best I could tell from grainy video evidence), as he had road rash (which he’d most likely not have had if he’d been hit) and much lesser injuries than his younger brother.

So, I keep thinking of the last acts of the Dancing Grannies. Some of them were trying to get others out of the way, knowing full well they were going to be hurt, or killed. But doing what they could in a time of crisis to save lives was an admirable act of selflessness that I wish was being celebrated in the news.

I have a category here on my blog called “Truly Horrible Behavior.” The actions of that SUV driver qualify.

I truly wish that SUV driver had never gone onto the Waukesha parade route at all, much less hit all those people. But as my wishes don’t count for much after the fact — and before the fact, who could’ve possibly thought of something so vile? — I don’t know what to say other than this:

Keep the spirit of the holidays in your heart, despite it all.

Care for others, even if it doesn’t seem worth it.

Let those you love know it, even if it sounds silly or contrived. (The action of saying it isn’t, no matter how it sounds.)

Find a cause you care about, and donate time, or money, or whatever else you can think of to it, because life is short, and meaningful acts sometimes seem shorter still.

Remember those who lost their lives.

Remember those who were injured.

And, finally, do what you can to drive back the darkness. It’s tough. I know that. (I am fighting as hard as I can, myself.) But we must live through all this, as witnesses, and do what we can to shape a better world, one act of grace at a time.