My husband and I enjoyed watching the movie BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.  However, we didn’t think it was great.  The film was sanitized for our tastes, skimming over Parsi-descended, British master singer and performer Freddie Mercury’s gay sex life during the wild 1970s and 1980s. To be clear, we weren’t expecting or wishing for soft porn. However, we found the avoidance of any nudity whatsoever and only strong suggestions of sex occurring to be stilted and prudish.  Sadly, Mercury was not portrayed in a well-rounded way, but only semi-sincerely.  As if allowing two brief, fully-clothed kissing scenes between he and another man should somehow be enough for us in the audience who are not heterosexual or who are and are open-minded, open-hearted, and sex-positive about life.  It seemed that Mercury’s sexuality was ultimately pathologized, made more the means towards a morality play about how he cut his life short from contracting AIDS, even though he and so many didn’t come to know about this epidemic until it was too late.  Such moralizing is old and tiresome and misses some of the beauty of how Freddie chose to celebrate his existence, as dark as some of the choices he made were.

Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek deserves high praise for his portrayal of the band Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury. He clearly studied that brilliant performer’s movements and mannerisms assiduously, playing the role with flamboyant gusto. He was a joy to watch, making the best of the material given to him to work with. It also helped that he looked the part so compellingly. The supporting cast was stellar, many if not most of them British, or very believably so.

The 1970s and ’80s rocker hair and clothing were fun to see and, of course, the music and songs from Queen’s recordings were all fabulous.

The script was formulaic in places, which went along with the sanitized prudery already mentioned, rendering this screenplay mediocre instead of terrific.

While watching the movie, a few straight men sitting to my right did not seem to have any clue about what they had come to see. They groaned and huffed during the kissing scenes, which was annoying but did not take away from the movie for us. I did want to turn to them and say something like, “Really, dudes?? Can you get over your homophobia now or at least better research the subject matter of a movie first before seeing it?” This was a reminder to me of the evolution remaining for many to yet accomplish towards  the philosophy of live and let live and celebrating life in all its many colors.  Freddie Mercury sure did.

Rant: California and Its Wildfires Vs. Trump

As a California native who still loves that state very much, I’d like Governor Brown and Governor-elect Newsom, as well as Senators Feinstein and Harris, to take Trump on with his outrageous statements about cutting federal support to CA with managing its wildfires. For every $1.00 CA contributes into the federal Treasury, it gets 0.80 in federal funding for services, etc. In other words, CA gives more than it gets back. Well, CA is in justifiable, clear need right now.

Sen. Feinstein likely wouldn’t participate in this call-out of Trump, or very briefly so if she did at all. She’s too much of a moderate sell-out. Still, between Brown, Newsom, Harris, and some of CA’s congresspeople speaking up, the discourse would be eye-opening. Perhaps a good share of Dems in the newly-flipped House would get behind this fight Trump has called. That would be great if legislation and executive action could be created around curtailing CA’s funds into the U.S. Treasury and re-directing said funds into that state’s own fire management. That’d wake Trump and others right up.

Trump’s statements are both clearly wrong and unfair. He is scape-goating CA because he knows a huge hold-out of folks, including elected officials, can’t stand him there, yet CA is an enormous economy for the Union as well as in the world.  CA is far more important and ever-lasting than Trump.

Guidance in My Craft

I now see two clinical supervisors once a month each, one for IFS (Internal Family Systems) and one for EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), the latter methodology in which I am working towards certification. Having two terrific seasoned supervisors to help support and guide me along in this calling feels so invaluable and fulfilling. It is both sad and, dare I say, somewhat impressive how when I worked for an agency a while back, I went for years at a time with little to no direct clinical supervision, an exception being the occasional crisis. Back then, clients got decent care from me, but, now, they definitely get much better. I experience what I do for a living as both a craft and an art, whereby I am always apprenticing whilst healing others and myself.

Trust the Sense of Fit or Lack Thereof

While in graduate school and then at an agency for many years after that, I don’t recall hearing the clear message: “You don’t have to work with a client if you don’t want to.” There was no consistent conveyance of trust and acceptance that we grad. students, and then new mental health professionals, already were open to working with most clients that came our way.

No matter the mental health professional, there will always be a few certain clients that simply are not a good fit. And this is not a reflection of some concerning shortcoming of who one is as a professional. Period. That should be understood and clearly affirmed by professors and supervisors alike.

Brief Thoughts on Narcissism

Narcissism messes with my head and drains me of energy more than any other presentation of perspective and sets of behaviors. It’s like I can smell it a mile off and feel the urge to run the other way. Being around this phenomenon emitted by an occasional few promptly irritates me, almost like an allergy.

I find it challenging to lead with compassion for those suffering from this problem, and narcissism truly is a problem. It continues to be one of those unpleasant life teachers for me now and again, though the current U.S. “president” forces me to endure more frequent exposures to these unsavory teachings or lessons.

One clear lesson I’m still grappling with is, when directly faced with narcissism, first reminding myself that I am a vessel of compassion and curiosity. For, too easily, in moments of fluster and irritation with the narcissist, I often forget.

Victimhood No Longer

A primary aspect of healing is when one comes to the understanding that, no, you weren’t somehow crazy or wrong, but, just the opposite. Your perceptions and feelings actually made deep sense in the face of painful, even confusing, happenings, including invalidation of one’s own senses and subsequent conclusions.  A large part of leaving a sense of victimhood is finally trusting and believing the accuracy and validity of what one heard, saw, smelt, felt, sensed in one’s body, and thought, regardless of who says otherwise.

Movie Review (VENOM)

The Marvel Comics ‘Verse movie VENOM is about dancing in and with one’s darkness, all while learning to have it support the light.

Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a ruggedly handsome, sympathetic journalist based in San Francisco.  His heart is in the right place as he goes about bravely interviewing and exposing corrupt public figures, including a somewhat Elon Musk-inspired Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed of 2016’s ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY).  Drake is a wealthy big pharma. industrialist and researcher who focuses his resources on exploiting the capabilities of dangerous alien creatures labeled “symbiotes,” slimy life forms he has captured via a manned probe sent far out into space before returning to crash-land in the Malaysian countryside.  This is where the movie begins.  These symbiotes must live inside another body or “host” in order to survive.  If the body tolerates the symbiote well without getting drained and eventually killed by the foreign organism, which usually happens, then the match is perfect and a powerful symbiotic relationship of two sentient beings occurs.

While all other characters exist in the film to react to the protagonist and villain, most of them are not particularly multidimensional or interesting, except for Venom as he develops inside of Brock, and, to a lesser extent, Riot, the more power-hungry symbiote who enters Drake later in the movie.  The one exception of a notable, off-beat supporting character is an older Asian female who owns a convenience store that Eddie frequents.  Often largely dead-pan and clearly enduring her lonely existence like a sentinel, she is a caring bystander and brief foil for Eddie as he grapples with loneliness and an encroaching cynicism.

Predictably, our hero ends up becoming a host while he is snooping around Drake’s high tech. facility.  Venom finds Brock’s body a suitable match.  From there, Brock must soon contend with more than his own grief-filled, depressing thoughts.  Eddie’s fiancee had recently left him on the same day he’d been fired from his job for, you might have already guessed it, being too probing of the deeply corrupt Drake while interviewing him for an online news outlet.  Now, Eddie wonders if he is going insane as he hears an internal voice shouting commands at him, such as to eat living flesh.  In a particularly hyperactive scene inside a high-end restaurant, he obliges Venom by jumping into a tank of fresh lobsters and eating one with gusto.  I couldn’t help but wonder how much fun Tom Hardy had doing that and other scenes in this often gritty yet refreshingly campy movie.

Much of the film had me laughing now and again as Drake and Venom get to know each other and negotiate how to function together inside a shared body.  The action scenes, including a prolonged multi-car chase of Eddie/Venom on a motorcycle, are often routine but fun nonetheless.  Venom is basically invincible, except from flames and certain high frequencies of sound.  All this power for down-on-his-luck Eddie eventually, and understandably, becomes appealing to him.  One-liners, such as when Venom mentally calls Brock a “Pussy!” in his deep, mechanically enhanced voice are quick little surprises of patter along with the intense action.  This makes for a clever mix of adrenaline and laughter-induced endorphins for the viewer, a real rush of a film.

It becomes clear that, while Venom has somewhat of a core personality, it gets further developed and tweaked by Brock’s own.  The reverse is the case as well.  Venom’s plasticity of body and, hence, Eddie’s too, make for great CGI.  All black, multi-fanged, possessing huge white eyes like a bug’s or snake’s, and able to grow far larger then a tall human, Venom at first scares Eddie as he looks at his/their reflection.  Getting to know one’s shadow parts is like that at first.

I am satisfied with how Eddie and Venom believably decide to work together to defeat the villain Riot, who intends to return (via his host Drake’s manufactured rocket ship) to his place of origin in outer space and retrieve millions of more symbiotes.  Why does he do this?  Well, to bring back and take over earth completely with his own kind, of course– a cliche of a plot if ever there was one.  Frankly, I didn’t care.  The main characters and creative visuals are all that really matter here.

There is some racism in the film, most unfortunately.  The protagonist and his girlfriend are white, while the villain (Drake) is portrayed by a dark-skinned, albeit beautiful, man of Pakistani descent (Ahmed).  A thuggish store robber is played by a Latino man, very much a stereotype.  When there is more interchangeability of roles in movies, such as where superheroes and their leading love interests are portrayed by people of color and said people of color aren’t relegated yet again to so often playing unseemly stereotypes, the movie industry will have made further progress towards representing real people in the real world more.   This was no ground breaker film by any means like, say, BLACK PANTHER was.  We still have quite a ways to go.

The universal, existential struggle of wrestling with one’s own inner darkness and, if one so chooses, getting to know and work with it for the good is both an ageless myth and reality.  I very much enjoyed this latest telling of it in the dark hero movie VENOM, even though the script is often predictable and unoriginal and racism reared its too familiar, ugly head in places, far uglier than VENOM.  Tom Hardy, who is particularly adept at playing mentally disturbed leading men, successfully carried the film and its deeply relatable premise.