Latest entries

Third ‘Atlas Shrugged’ film horrid, but message inspires me anyway

by David McElroy

Atlas Shrugged 3-still

I finally got around to watching the third film in the “Atlas Shrugged” trilogy. It’s awful.

I can’t think of anything good to say about this movie, just as I haven’t had anything good to say about its two predecessors. (Here are my thoughts about Part 1 and Part 2.) There’s a reason it lost lots of money and there’s a reason that reviewers trashed it. As a film, everything about it is bad.

As with the first two films, the core problem is that the producer was intent on translating Ayn Rand’s book to the screen faithfully, without having any real understanding of the differences between books and films as art. He also doesn’t seem to have any understanding of the book’s weaknesses.

The result is a film that manages to misunderstand the medium of film — by giving awkward speeches that work acceptably in print but are laughable in a film — yet retains all the dramatic weaknesses of a book in which no character ever undergoes real change. Good people are always good and heroic. Bad people are always bad and despicable. Nobody has a real character arc in which he learns and grows and changes.

Since the script essentially transfers as much of the book as possible to a screenplay — and does it in a way that violates film’s “show, don’t tell” ethos — I assume better directors weren’t willing to touch these three films. The result of the awkward production and slavish faithfulness to the book is a result that feels as though there was no director. It’s as though actors were given scripts and a cinematographer simply shot them saying their lines — with no film professional bringing cohesion to the whole.

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Feral cats and hurting people both require trust, patience, time to heal

by David McElroy

Bessie1

Although Bessie has lived inside with me for more than seven years, she’s still a wild, untamed and terrified little cat — just as she was when I brought her in from the cold on a freezing December night years ago.

Bessie and her sister, Molly, had lived on the streets around my house with their mother. They were a few months old when their mother suddenly disappeared. I took them in with the assumption that I could teach them to trust humans if they were loved and cared for. After all, I had done that repeatedly with other cats who had turned into loving companions.

But Bessie and Molly never learned to trust. They enjoy food and a safe place to sleep and live, but they have never accepted that it’s safe for me to touch them. Something in their feral genes or their early life on the street has taught them that humans aren’t to be trusted. So I just accepted long ago that I could give them a safe place to live but that they would never want human love.

In the last month, I’ve had reason to think I might have been mistaken. Maybe with even more time and work and love, Bessie might change.

Nearly a month ago, I had to catch Bessie to shave some mats out of her fur. She had gotten something into the fur of her back and she hadn’t been able to clean it out, so it had matted. She has only three legs, so it’s harder for her to clean some parts of herself than it is for other cats.

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Accepting happiness tomorrow does no good if tomorrow never comes

by David McElroy

Waiting

When I was a child, the days, weeks and months took forever to pass.

A day seemed to drag on. A week or a month seemed forever. The time from one Christmas to the next might as well have been a lifetime.

And then I got old enough to start thinking about my future self — the adult self who would conquer the world, make a fortune and be loved. I longingly looked forward to that day. I made childish plans. I had fantasy stories in which I was the beloved hero.

When I grew up, I would do all the things I yearned to do — and I would be happy in that distant tomorrow. The picture was crystal clear in my young mind.

Decades later, tomorrow has never come.

I’ve known people who live in the past, but I’ve known others who live in a perfect future that never comes. They think if some particular thing can happen, it will allow something else good to happen — and then they’ll be happy. Until then, everything is on hold.

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I choose love over hate, because the Author of the story isn’t finished

by David McElroy

Heart graphic

We all have a natural inclination to hate those we see as our enemies. We hate those who hate us. We hate those who hurt us. We hate those who threaten us.

The righteous indignation of anger leads to burning hate — and it feels so justified. We’re the ones who are right. Everyone else is wrong. It seems so simple.

Hate is easy. Love is staggeringly difficult.

Hate is the default reaction for all of us, me included. It feels so good and so right to burn with rage at certain people, even if we claim principles that teach love.

Love isn’t a default reaction. Instead, it’s a difficult choice, especially at first. But as you continue to make that choice, you change. Your heart softens and gets bigger. Eventually, love seems like the only viable choice — even though you know it will remain difficult as your choice is tested again and again.

If you read or watch news — something I strongly advise you to avoid — you’ll soon be filled with reasons to hate people, both individuals and groups. Everybody has a good justification for their hate.

“They hated us first.”

“Those people have been killing us for generations.”

“My group has always been oppressed and hated.”

All of the justifications will be true on some level. History is full of groups hating each other. Humans have murdered and stolen from each other, almost always blaming the victims or — even worse — saying, “God told us to do that.”

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Earning the affection and respect of a child changes his world — and yours

by David McElroy

Derrick with Bella

I had just gotten out of my car at home Tuesday afternoon. I was in a hurry, but I heard a child’s singsong voice before I could make it into the house.

“Where are you going?”

It was my 5-year-old neighbor, Derrick. He likes to come visit my dog, Lucy, when I have her out. He also likes to come sit on my porch and talk with me. It doesn’t matter much to him what we talk about. He also loves other neighborhood animals, including a calico cat named Bella, whose family moved away a couple of weeks ago. (As you can see in the picture, Bella tolerated him. Just barely.)

“I have some work I have to get done,” I told him. “I have to go inside.”

“Oh,” he said with quiet disappointment.

I looked down at him and he was staring at the ground. He had pushed his bike over to my house and he just stood there next to me for a moment before he suddenly spoke.

“Can you fix my bike?”

I’m not a very mechanical person, so I knew it was very unlikely that I could help. But he seemed to need something. Honestly, it didn’t really seem as though it was about the bike as much as it was about my attention.

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Thank you for being among my first million readers over last five years

by David McElroy

One million visitors

By the standards of a major website, this isn’t a big deal, but it’s a very big deal to me that this site has now had more than a million visitors since it started five years and one week ago.

I wasn’t sure what I intended this to be when I launched and it has definitely evolved through several stages. I’ve published 1,418 articles — not all of which I still agree with, because my own thoughts about what’s important have changed over the years. I’ve elected to leave everything from the past, even the things I wish I hadn’t written, because they show a lot about my own evolution. I haven’t been writing as much for the last six months to a year, but I have a feeling I’ll return to writing more eventually.

According to Google Analytics, I’ve had visitors from 224 countries in five years. When I used to write more about U.S. politics, my readership was about 75 percent American, but slightly more than half of my current traffic comes from outside the United States. Having readers from all over the world makes me happy.

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We’re happier if we learn to ‘sell’ ourselves to people who want us

by David McElroy

Mismatched

I have a bad habit of begging someone to accept me.

I don’t mean that literally. I don’t fall on my knees and beg. But on those rare times when I want something very badly — love, approval, attention, acceptance — I’m very likely to continue to knock on a closed door. I am so terrified of rejection that I’m unconsciously determined not to be rejected at any cost. So I’m willing to destroy myself in order for someone to choose me.

Although this can apply to a number of situations, I’m going to use romantic interest as the example.

Let’s say I fall for a woman. That doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, I fall hard. Some people believe there are many fish in the sea, but my own experience is that a woman who matches me is more like a mermaid or unicorn — and just as difficult to find.

If I spot one of these unicorns and express interest in her, she’s either interested in choosing me or she’s not. And if she isn’t interested in choosing me, that makes me want her more. I end up with a terrible need to win her — probably to prove to myself that I’m worth choosing, that I’m not someone who is going to be abandoned.

A rational and reasonable person would say, “Well, she isn’t going to choose me. Who’s next?”

Instead, something in me says, “I just need to show her how much I love her and how much I can offer to her. Then she’ll want me. Then she’ll choose me.”

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Serious medical issue will limit
my writing here for six months

by David McElroy

My hospital room

Eight days ago, I went to an emergency room because I was having trouble breathing. Tests determined I have bilateral pulmonary emboli, which is just a fancy way of saying I have multiple blood clots in both lungs. I’ve been told that such clots kill 30 percent of those who have them before they’re even diagnosed.

I was very lucky.

I haven’t posted any new articles here in almost three months. I’ve known something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. I’ve had extreme fatigue, lack of energy and a general feeling of full-time exhaustion. I woke up exhausted each morning. Just walking my dog a quarter of a mile would drain me. I’ve been doing the minimum I had to do to survive — and then simply collapsing at home.

I knew I’d gained weight lately from stress-eating, so I attributed the physical symptoms to weight gain and the mental lethargy to depression. But I now know that another problem was building, although it’s impossible to say when it started.

Blood clots in the lungs make it difficult for the body to absorb oxygen from the air we breath. The blood vessels in our lungs normally take oxygen from the lungs and move it to the rest of the body. Since the blood vessels of my lungs were becoming more and more blocked, my body was having trouble extracting the oxygen from the air I was breathing and sending it to my brain and muscles and other organs. This accounted for the fatigue, both mental and physical.

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My new photography portfolio website is live in a beta version

by David McElroy

David McElroy Photography

The site isn’t finished, but the first version of my new photography portfolio is now online at DavidMcElroyPhotography.com. The sections for homes and people are in pretty decent shape, but the variety is sparse in the animals and nature sections. So the samples on the site will evolve, but it’s a start.

The site will work on mobile devices, but it will look best on larger screens.

I’m available for freelance photography assignments, primarily of the editorial style for publications such as magazines and newspapers.

Mundane expressions of love matter more than the Hollywood versions

by David McElroy

Father and daughter

A family almost made me cry tonight — not because they did anything wrong or bad — but because of the love I saw they had for each other.

Most families tend to depress me when I observe them. The dynamics I see — between husband and wife, between parents and children — frequently range from shocking meanness to simple indifference. (I’m never sure which is worse.) Sometimes the man is a sullen bully. Sometimes the woman is a bitter complainer who’s eager to criticize everyone.

There are dozens of variations. The worst are the ones in which you can see confusion and fear in the faces of the younger children — and cynical copies of their parents in the older children.

I see so many families which are some version of this, where the ugly realities of choices they’ve made have left them resentful and hollow at best. They’re people who seem defeated by life — and who are determined to take out their frustrations on the people they live with. Because I see this so often, it makes me happy to see something which appears emotionally healthy and positive.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I don’t always have the time to respond. Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”
I’m currently taking a break from Facebook, but I periodically use Twitter, although I have very little to say that takes 140 characters of fewer.
On Twitter, it's @David_McElroy.
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