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Split: A hit

Ever since M. Night Shyamalan’s surprise success with The Sixth Sense and the twist ending that no one saw coming, his movies have been both highly anticipated and also scorned. For an artist, success on a first project is both a blessing and curse. The blessings are obvious, future projects will be funded and you already have an audience waiting for them. The curse is that whatever you create in the future won’t be same as that initial project, and future projects are more likely to be seen as worse, not better. It’s basically the “one-hit wonder curse,” and many bands, especially, have found it’s probably better to be moderately successful at the start and grow from there.

Much of the hype around Shyamalan has disappeared over the years, which is only good for him, I think. Twist endings work one time, and then the next time everyone’s expecting it and trying to outthink the writer or director, and if they correctly guess the ending, they somehow think they “beat” the artist and sometimes even declare the work as no good, simply because they were able to guess the ending. We’ve all probably been guilty of this mentality at least once in our lives, and it really makes no sense, as the audience isn’t supposed to be competing with the artist. At least most of the time.

That all being said, Shyamalan still loves his twist or surprise endings, but it has definitely garnered mixed reviews, sadly, much of them negative. I thoroughly enjoyed Signs, The Village, Devil, and Unbreakable, but thought The Last Airbender was one of the worst movies I’d ever seen. Other films like The Lady in the Water and The Happening, seemed as if they were meant to be clever, but didn’t deliver on that promised cleverness. Even though there’s been many of his films I don’t enjoy, I do try to give him a chance when I can.

(Spoilers ahead) The other day I borrowed Split from the library. Not only is it a Shyamalan film, it also stars James McAvoy who is a master of the acting craft. I’d previously seen trailers for the movie and knew it involved someone with a split personality, but not much else. It also looked scary, so I wasn’t sure if I was in for a ghost story like The 6th Sense or if it would be more of a general thriller.

Split is about a person with multiple personalities, all stemmed from child abuse, as is often the case. It’s a psychological disorder that some think is really demon possession or hallucinations, and some think just isn’t real. Real or not, this disorder has been used time again onscreen often to great effect, like in Identity starring John Cusack. Knowing Shyamalan’s love of twist endings, I wondering if the movie would end along similar lines.

The story starts right away, with little introduction to the characters. Three teenaged girls are being given a ride home by one of their dads, but someone comes up and knocks him out and gets into the driver’s seat. It is “Barry,” James McAvoy’s character, or as we come to find out his true name: Kevin. The man abducts the girls and locks them up in a basement somewhere. The plot follows a basic thriller of this type, with the girls making plans to escape and Barry threatening to assault them. A twist comes pretty quickly when the girls realize this man appears to have multiple personalities, one of them a woman, one of them a nine-year-old boy. Casey, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, immediately starts trying to outthink their abductor. She seems to know that ordinary ways of escaping aren’t going to work here. It’s mentioned that Casey’s a bit of a loner and through out the movie we see flashbacks of her life, memories with her dad and uncle that slowly bring us to the understanding that she was abused when she was younger.

Kevin’s personalities are at war with each other. One of them repeatedly sends pleas for help over email to his current psychologist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley). She is a woman who firmly believes that multiple personality or dissociative identity disorder does exist, and most of her patients seem to share this affliction.

While watching, I noticed a lot of unusually angled shots and close shots that seemed vaguely familiar. It also seemed as if Casey had a slightly doe-like appearance, which was interesting considering all of her flashbacks on her abuse were about going hunting. Near the end, her hunting skills come in handy as the story takes a more supernatural turn: Kevin has a 24th personality: An indestructible animal-like person. It turns a bit slasher film once this “animal” show up. Casey is the only one to survive and it’s because the animal sees the marks of abuse on her body. Because of this, he considers her pure, like him, and even under her own trauma-induced supernatural transformation.

With all the animal talk, I did start to think that the girls were being held at a zoo, so was pleasantly surprised to have guessed that correctly. I didn’t guess the twist at the end, though, but found it awesome. We’re shown an average diner with a TV playing the news and talking about how this man killed people, and because of his disorder has been nicknamed The Horde. As a couple people are talking about it, they say it sounds a lot like Mr. Glass, a bad man from a few years ago and also the villain in Unbreakable. And there he is, Bruce Willis’s hero from Unbreakable sitting next to them.

Unbreakable is my favorite Shyamalan movie, though many find it slow. The ending of that film reveals it to be a comic book origin story. I’m not a huge fan of comic books and rarely read them, but I love movies based on the superheros from them, and it was great to see how such a story could play out in a not so cartoony world. Something about Bruce Willis’s quiet strength in the movie is thrilling. Split is now part of this same world and I understood why some of the shots and angles in the film seemed familiar–they were to look like comic book panels.

For me, Split was definitely a hit and I hope that Shyamalan continues to make more films of this nature. James McAvoy did a superb job playing Kevin, and much of the time I forgot it was him, so engrossed in his character was he. Like Mr. Glass, since Kevin believes he has super abilities, he therefore does. Thankfully, this isn’t how the real world operates, but it’s interesting that these two characters who have had such a hard life use that to justify their villainy. Now that does happen often in the real world. I’ve noticed in Korean dramas that there is also this tendency to portray characters who undergo trauma as developing special abilities. It works well for stories, but the message it’s sending is dubious, perhaps glorifying trauma and abuse to a status it doesn’t deserve. Victimhood isn’t something to crow about, it’s something to heal and recover from, a view which I think Shyamalan shares, as so far the victims of circumstance have chosen to become villains rather than heal.

Looking forward to eventually watching Glass, another of Shyamalan’s films in this comic book world. Sadly, looks like it’s promos call it the final chapter in this series.

Country Driving: Book Review

It’s an uncanny experience reading a Peter Hessler book about China, at least of you are a reader who also lived in China during the same period, 1999 to 2009 or so. For myself, I taught English there from 2004-2007 and miss both the country and the people often. There’s something about reading his books that speaks to that time period being a genuine collectively shared experience for whoever was in China then, both the Chinese and the foreigners living there. We were all a small part of the rapid economic and cultural changes that were happening.

For Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip, Hessler begins his trip by renting a car in Beijing and planning to drive the entire length of the Great Wall. He gives a lot of good history of the wall and the towns and villages he crosses along the way, but the best parts of that section are definitely his interactions with the car rental manager and his recounting of Chinese driving school. My experiences on the road in China were mostly in buses and often in taxis, sometimes even motorcycle taxis, but I would never try to get a license and try driving myself there. It’s a strange dance to be either a pedestrian or a bicycle rider in China. You make yourself go with the flow–he who hesitates is lost–and somehow manage not to get hit. I did get hit once, choosing to cross a street at the wrong time on my bicycle. A moped hit me and I got a nice concussion out of the incident and didn’t feel so confident on my bicycle after that. I was more successful navigating the crazy traffic and finding my groove there on foot.

Hessler’s tales about the Great Wall are part sadness, so many villages and towns are dying as the younger people move to the big cities, part reflection, the local governments are both corrupt and trying to help the people and the land, and part thrilling, women dressed to the nines appear out of nowhere wanting a ride, and in some areas the police will ask a foreigner to leave. Hessler’s keen insight to everything going on has to do with his great powers of observation as a writer, but even more essential is his fluency in Mandarin. He talks to people along the way and gets to know their stories, and he’s able to translate the messages strewn on walls or buildings in the middle of nowhere, giving helpful cultural context to his experiences.

Part two wasn’t so much a road trip as Hessler detailing his experience renting a house near a part of the Great Wall and a village that at first seems totally forgotten. Again, Hessler’s grasp of the language is key as he forges relationships with the villagers even to the extent that he becomes very involved in saving a child’s life. He describes what it’s like for a couple of people–a child and a mentally challenged adult–to leave the village for the first time, and how they adjust to their changing circumstances in heart-aching ways. Progress comes to the village, an there is more money to be made, but it’s as if the villagers are on constantly shifting sands, from on and off relations with neighbors and politicians, to rapid land deals, and to life changes of either having too little, or too much money. I can relate a little to that last part. In China I didn’t have to pay rent and even had a school cafeteria card, so had lots of extra spending money as we made a lot more than the regular Chinese teachers, yet in American dollars it was only about $500 a month, a sum that would be difficult to make it on in America. Often I spent both too much and too little, finding it strange to at once have so much money in one country, yet little in another. It was heartwarming to see how close Hessler became to his neighbors in the village, even though he often must have felt like the outsider he really was. He was really in a special time and place when he lived there.

The last part is set in Zhejiang province, a little south of where I lived. Hessler follows some men who are starting up a factory that make parts for bras. I wear bras all the time, but often forget that some man invented them, presumably for the comfort of women, though that aspect often seems an elusive one. This factory makes bra underwires and also little multicolored rings for bra straps. The venture seems a bit haphazard and slapdash, with little planning and a rented building, but as they hire workers and get going, it seems like the bra ring factory will succeed. Both the owners and workers in the factories all are characters, most of whom grew up as farmer peasants and now are trying to make their fortunes through capitalism, but capitalism is often a seesaw. One day the factory is doing well, the next it seems it will fold under, and then they get a big client. Hessler describes these workers as taking everything in stride, and with things constantly changing, what else can people do? Giving up isn’t an option.

I highly enjoyed the details of guanxi, the system of doing deals and business in China. This often involves bribes and elaborate dinners with amazing food. As a foreign English teacher there, I was clueless to this system, but soon learned that if a friend of a friend wanted to take me to a nice dinner it was because they wanted private English lessons, which I only would find out at the very end of the meal. We were often “invited” to company parties to introduce a new cell phone, or to visit an up-and-coming school so they could use our faces for advertising at the event. Sometimes people would give us money in red envelopes. These were not gifts, but bribes, hoping we’d leave our schools where we taught to come over to theirs. Our own schools often took us out to fancy dinners, sometimes as school events, sometimes to introduce us to more Chinese food, and sometimes to show us off around town. Guanxi or not, I found the Chinese people to be overwhelmingly welcoming and friendly towards us. It was humbling how much they gave of themselves to help us feel welcome there, and I will always be grateful for their efforts and still miss them all so very much to this day.

For me, Hessler’s books are now a walk down memory lane. I read his River Town while in China and found it an engrossing rendition of an experience so similar to my own. Having been away from China for over ten years, I’m not sure what it’s like now and how different it is. I hope the constant economic change has mellowed, and although I’m glad America is not losing so much money to China anymore, I do hope the average Chinese person isn’t hurting too much due to the tariff battles between China and the US. I hope and pray that both countries can thrive, whether they are competitors or collaborators. I look forward to someday reading Hessler’s other book on China, Oracle Bones.

Reading This Week

What am I reading this week? Q and Neon Revolt. Flynn, Planned Parenthood, Epstein: It’s all going down as Q says we are now moving things at 10x speed as the Mueller report is out of the way. Interestingly enough, Mueller will testify before the House on the seventeenth. 17=Q. Coincidence? Maybe.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I highly, highly encourage you to read up on Q aka Qanon. The mainstream media dismisses it as a “conspiracy theory.” Oh, those scary words meant to shame anyone looking for the actual truth. Truth is, there are conspiracies, many bad, some good, and it’s better to know about them than not. Q has a lot of followers, many called “anons,” and Neon Revolt is one of those. He’s got a great introduction to Q on his website neonrevolt.com as well as a number of articles detailing the research that comes from what the Q team shares. Q is ultimately about research, the research the MSM will never do as they have given up on anything resembling journalism.

So, why am I reading a lot of Q and Neon this week? Well, Q is back to posting regularly, which is exciting, and the fact that Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested again brings the hope that Q’s vow to bring bad actors to justice might actually become reality. Epstein is the lynchpin, and Neon’s recent article explains why: As if being a pedophile with a creepy island sporting a weird temple isn’t enough, Epstein is likely a spy for a government agency acting in very bad faith. His job is to capture people of power, especially government power, in compromising circumstances, saving video documentation of their bad deeds so these people can be blackmailed, forcing them to act against the best interests of the countries in which they are elected or in which they have power. What government, what country would do this? How exactly did Epstein get all that money? I leave that for you to speculate on. Or you can just read Neon’s article.

If this all does go down and Epstein is looking at actual punishment for his crimes, he will likely sing like bird and start naming names, perhaps all of the names, including the names of his handlers and the country they work for. As for the Planned Parenthood stuff, it’s only a matter of time before they lose their government funding and are raked across the coals. The pendulum of public sentiment is swinging back to children and family being positive states, not burdens, and such a public display of baby killing and selling off their body parts to the highest bidder may soon no longer be tolerated. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest aspects of Trump’s Presidency has been the take down of human and child traffickers all around the world including his executive order allowing the assets of anyone connected with trafficking to be seized. That’s big right there, because trafficking is where the big money comes from, money stolen from tax payers through fraud and lies. Taking down the shady characters who hurt children will be Trump’s legacy. As for General Flynn, many think he’s in on the Q team and was involved or is still involved in a gamble of a sting operation. It’s possible, just like it’s possible that when Q+ posts it’s actually 4, 10, 20, or Donald J. Trump.

Q is fun and interesting, more interesting than most of the other news out there. It seems that by now (Q has been posting since fall of 2017) that if Q was not somehow connected to the White House, that Trump would have said so. For some reason the journalists who are so against him haven’t asked him about it. Are they scared it’s real? Well, the information the anons or researchers have found is certainly real, and that’s the part that really matters, that actual real news and truth be out there for people to find. For once, in for what’s been a very long time, the hold of power that certain groups have on our world is beginning to falter. Many can feel it, and many around the world are starting to question many of the big lies they’ve been fed. As the bad actors lose their power, they will try and force the world into a one world government, globalism instead of nationalism, and like the people who built the Tower of Babel before them, they are doomed to fail. There is only one God, and He made the nations with all of their lovely and strange varieties. It’s interesting isn’t it, that for all the calls for “diversity” today what the powers that be really want is for everyone to be the same, to believe the same things, to think the same things, and to do the same things. These bad actors really think that the differences in the nations run only skin deep. As Q says: These people are stupid.

You can find Q posts at qmap.pub and other sites.

The Young Clementina/Emma – book reviews

Emma

This book was such a joy to read again. It’s been several years since I’ve read it and I understand why some call it Jane Austen’s “masterpiece.” It’s a bit longer than her other works, and is more about growing up than romance. It also has some great lines, like, “men of sense don’t want silly wives.”

Emma Woodhouse is about 21 and lives with her father. They are a family of means and live a life of leisure. Emma has never known hardship and her father has been permanently scarred by it, afraid of anything and everything that might cause harm to a loved one or himself. Emma’s main job is caring for her father, though she doesn’t find it a burden. She also helps the poor and is generally charming. She’s isn’t as likable as some of Austen’s other heroines, however, as she’s very spoiled and meddles where she shouldn’t.

Thinking herself a great matchmaker, as she correctly saw that her sister and the younger Mr. Knightley were falling in love, much of the book’s comedy rests on her various schemes and assumptions about other people. It is only her lifelong friend, the older Mr. Knightley, who checks her behavior. I’m not sure I find Mr. Knightley particularly swoonworthy–he often seems like a school lecturer and is at least as opinionated as Emma, but has sense and logic on his side. Their banter is pretty fun, and it’s easy to forget about the 16 year age gap. By the end of the book, it is clear he is the only one who could marry Emma, having both completely understood her and loved her, and also having understood Emma’s father and her family’s somewhat eccentric ways.

The most hard-hitting scene, most people will recognize, that in which Emma on her worst behavior teases and insults a spinster names Miss Bates. Miss Bates talks too much, and this irritates Emma immensely, and she makes a joke at the older woman’s expense. Mr. Knightley tells her this was, “badly done,” which Emma knows, but still needs to be told, because her redemption in the final chapters of the book only comes with her feelings of remorse and repentance. She realizes what an awful thing it is to meddle with peoples lives–especially not knowing all of the facts–and that although old friends may sometimes be ridiculous, we should still treat them with gentleness and respect. Even being in the right, Mr. Knightley doesn’t think himself immune to criticism as well, even saying of Emma that she’s borne his corrections as no other women would.

Mr. Knightley is just as quick with his praise as his chastisement of her. He tells Emma that she chose better for the vicar Mr. Elton than he ended up choosing for himself. Mr. Knightley learned that although Emma was fanciful, her dreams, too, were based on some truth. And he himself is also susceptible to matchmaking, which I found amusing. Isn’t it true that if we’re not involved in our own love stories, we’re often imagining them for those around us, both the men and the women? This kind of drama in some sense appeals to both sexes, because everyone likes to be in the know and likes to think they are smart enough to observe a love story unfolding in front of them even if the two supposed lovers don’t even know it yet.

I like Emma and Knightley a bit more than I do Elizabeth and especially Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Despite being rich, they seem to be more in tune with real people, and although they still do judge prematurely, it is more on the positive side of doing it, than the negative. Emma often talks about not being able to associate with people of lower class, but it’s clear from her behavior that it’s not really that big of a deal to her–she’d rather be at the party with her friends than home alone. It’s much hinted in the book that this is a time in England when class distinctions are starting to become hazy around the edges. Mr. Knightley reinforces this attitude, by paying special attentions to Jane Fairfax, who is a poor orphan, sticking up for Miss Bates, who despite her faults is a kind lady and someone who as she ages will sink ever lower into poverty as well, and by taking the time to get to know Harriett Smith, also an orphan and lower in class. Knightley is also a champion for Robert Martin, a farmer who works for him, as being a great match for Harriet to Emma’s higher class minister, Mr. Elton. By the end of the story, we see that Emma and Mr. Knightley are very well matched as they can easily speak plainly to each other and also have the ability to anticipate and care for the needs of their friends and family.

How important a quality is this? Well, many relationships fail because of communication, so I’d say it’s a true blessing to have that in common. They also both generally have sunny outlooks, perhaps due to being wealthy, but also due to a lifelong friendship in which this has constantly been enforced between them. As for their caring natures, they aren’t going to give away their money willy nilly, but generally they pay respect to those around them and care deeply for those in their direct spheres. In marriage, and working together as a team, the good they could do would be doubled, making their marriage a blessing beyond themselves.

It’s funny to me that even though Mr. Knightley knows Emma so well and doesn’t lean as much towards imaginations not based in reality, he’s still not sure of himself in winning her. She, too, is certain he must love someone else, not her. Austen often shows us that both people who have everything to lose and nothing to lose still struggle when it comes to declaring their love and being certain of it being accepted. We, no matter our station, find ourselves unworthy of love to some degree, always “half agony, half hope,” as she says in, I think, Persuasion.

I highly recommend again the Masterpiece Theatre miniseries of Emma starring Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller. It is a faithful adaptation of the book and both leads capture their characters perfectly and have genuine chemistry of deep friendship about them. They seem so much already in a relationship that the romantic declarations at the end are rather meh compared to Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam in the Emma movie, but it works well as, like I said, I find the story to be more about growing up than falling in love.

The Young Clementina

This is another novel by D.E. Stevenson of the very funny Miss Buncle’s Book. The Young Clementina is about surviving difficult circumstances, but there are comedic moments within it. It’s perhaps comical just how much liars lie, how they upset everything, throwing it into turmoil just because they can. It’s both sad and funny how much people fall for lies. One would presume any observant, common sense person, can see the truth, but that’s often not the case. We often give liars too much benefit of the doubt, while scorning others in the process. Humans are prone, too prone, to getting things wrong.

I’m not quite finished with the book yet, but it’s a story about a woman whose sister turns her life upside down, how she recovers from that, and how she helps her niece recover from it as well. I think it will have a happy ending, but not an ecstatic one. Compared to Miss Buncle, it’s fairly low-key. I have to admit I struggle with the title name, thinking of it as Clementine in my head, having never heard of the name Clementina before. Also, it took awhile for me to see where the story is going, but now I have an inkling that more lies are to be revealed.

Kdramas

Haven’t finished any new Kdramas as I’m taking a detour and rewatching Goblin or The Guardian starring Gong Yoo (Train to Busan) again. It’s one of the best dramas out there, though at times I’m not sure the fantasy plot makes sense. Goblin is a perfect combination of great acting, direction, soundtrack, and story, and one I will probably rewatch periodically as now that it’s available on viki.com!

A Drop of Night: Book Review

I have a new favorite writer. Ok, ok, disclosure: I am a bit biased as I know relatives of his, but I really love the way that Stefan Bachmann writes. His writing is so alive, and he sucks you right in.

The first book I read of his was The Peculiar, and at first I wasn’t sure I was going to like, though I enjoyed his style. I am a little tired of the standard fairy lore, especially having read much of it in Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. Somehow, though Bachmann managed to make fairies seem fresh. Maybe it was the added benefit of being set in a Victorian steampunk era. At any rate, before long, he had me hooked and I’m excited to read the sequel.

A Drop of Night is for slightly older readers–I say teens and up–for it has some gore and a lot of scary situations. This one is written in the first person and despite Anouk’s narration almost almost being purple, I l.o.v.e.d. it. Her way of describing people and situations is firecracker fresh, and one finds her immediately both likable and annoying. Bachmann balances her account with that of a French girl living at the time of the Revolution, and if there are slight similarities in their turn of phrase, by the end of the story, there’s a reason for it.

(Spoilers). Although I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of the story, A Drop of Night reminded me greatly of the movie The Cube that came out a few years ago. Both stories involve a group of people trying to figure a way out of a human-made prison involving series of connected rooms, booby traps, and constantly changing circumstances. If Hollywood is looking for an idea for a teen horror flick, this would be it, but they would probably ruin it.

By the end of the book, I, too, felt trapped in 18th Century France, and smothered by the smells, the flowers, and the neverending silks and fabrics on everything! I half-expected the clockwork puppets and dolls from Doctor Who‘s “The Girl in the Fireplace” to show up along with the multiple villains and traps. It also made me want to read Daphne Du Maurier’s sumptuous Frenchman’s Creek again. The location and environment ended up being the overpowering main character, and even after finishing the story, I still can’t shake off the oppressive nature of the place. I can imagine if any of the teenagers survived (and I’m not telling that) that they would be haunted for years to come.

Action aside, A Drop of Night is really that. We are shown a brief time in these teenagers’ lives and learn some heartbreaking things that they have to deal with. Drops of darkness in otherwise pleasant looking lives. For the villains, we can see that one drop of darkness became two, and so on and so forth, until there wasn’t anything but darkness for them. Bachmann’s writes gripping, fantastical tales that also have a heart and soul. Alive is his writing voice. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. He’s definitely a writer to watch.

Understanding Women: Audiobook Review

A few months ago, from a comment on a message board, I discovered Alison Armstrong and her study of relationships, but especially of men. Since reading her book Keys to the Kingdom, I have been reading or listening to everything she has published out there, as the information is fascinating and helpful. The most helpful part about what she does is explaining to men and women that we really do not understand the opposite sex and how different we actually are. Our society today, and even men themselves, often think men are simple and maybe even shallow. Armstrong herself used to think this until she starting actually researching and asking men about themselves. What she found surprised both herself and them: Men are complicated and very deep creatures, with a staggering amount of thoughtfulness put into everything they do.

In learning more about men and why they act the way they do, Armstrong has also unearthed a lot of information about women as well. I decided to give her Understanding Women workshop a listen, especially because her In Sync with the Opposite Sex workshop was hilarious. The first thing I have to say about the workshop audiobook is please, please don’t make this your first listen or read of her stuff. Armstrong’s information about women is difficult for both men and women to hear, and I realized immediately that it would have been worse if I didn’t already know some of it from her other works. I say this, because although Understanding Women is about women, it’s actually about Armstrong’s continuing studies on men. Men are often reacting to women in ways that both sexes scarcely comprehend. Much of the time, the workshop does not put women in a flattering light, and Armstrong’s goal, which she states at the end, is to get women to realize they have a responsibility to check themselves. The information is a far cry from the feminism and women power of today, while at the same time being empowering in its own right. The good thing is, Armstrong offers solutions and explains just how beneficial men are for women. Men, you can actually help save us from ourselves, which is a pretty awesome feat if what all she says is true!

As I had so many thoughts about the workshop, this article will be pretty long. I will give each topic a heading to make things easier.

Criticism

Women and men handle criticism differently. Men may not know this, but women actually deal with constant criticism, sometimes coming from others, but mostly coming from themselves. Armstrong calls this criticizer the “Perfect or Ideal Woman.” This Perfect Woman is one of the main problems between men and women, because women not only feel they have to be this Perfect Woman, but feel and think men should be this Perfect Woman also. The Perfect Woman has little to do with realistic expectations and can be a complex that keeps women in constant guilt that they are never good enough. Well, who is good enough, anyway? Only Jesus Christ, that I know of. Men have told Armstrong one of the most attractive qualities in a woman is self-confidence. She can only have this by overcoming the Perfect Woman in her head and telling her to shut up. This is much easier if the woman is secure, safe, and loved, and men are rather good at doing those three things for women.

Criticism is not often handled well by women. I know for myself, being one. Even a comment that is not actually a criticism is easily taken as one. We will never wear that skirt or those shoes again. We change or adapt to actual or perceived criticism. According to Armstrong, men take criticism as a suggestion or interesting thing to note. It doesn’t affect their whole sense of self as if often does with women. They will consider it more if it comes from someone they respect, but their behavior doesn’t necessarily change because of it.

I think this is why it can be very easy to take all of this workshop as criticism of women, especially by women. The information is really much the same as her information on men: Many of these behaviors are hard for both sexes to control unless we know they are happening, why, and how to curtail them. Some can’t be controlled, and most aren’t “wrong,” just ways in which the sexes differ. Armstrong shares how women react to criticism to men because she says, “You may not have meant to change her by what you said, but you did.” Sounds like a heavy burden to shoulder.

Focus

The most well known difference between men and women is that men are single focused and that women multitask. Armstrong takes this a step further, saying that women actually don’t focus at all! We can, but it takes a lot of energy for us to do so. This is because women have what she calls “diffuse awareness.” Women are aware of everything in their surroundings, often paying attention to a plethora of things at once all needing to be fixed or beautified in some way. It’s the reason why women often wander from one task to the next, often working on a number of projects at one time. Too ignore a messy environment screaming at her to clean it, a women has to zone out, often by getting involved in a story or something like that. That, I can relate to. I often hole up with a book or K-drama when my house is a mess and I’m too tired to do anything about it.

Is it true that women don’t focus? For myself, yes, it is often difficult and truly focusing on a project or task tires me out quickly. Focusing at work all day is super draining and many jobs are geared towards single focus. Armstrong describes diffuse awareness as women going to the meadow to gather different things for their family/tribe. It’s sort of like shopping. We go out to look and see all the possibilities out there and bring back what’s best. I imagine a job involving diffuse awareness would be something creative–decorating or party planning, etc. Secretary or personal assistant jobs can require a similar kind of creativeness and also multitasking. Women do multitask, but often we are not focused on one single goal at a time, so a lot gets done, but it can appear chaotic to men. Armstrong says this ability in women is what makes it possible for them to have all the dishes ready for dinner on time, plus have the house picked up, all while keeping an eye on the kids and making lunch for the next day. She also says that some men and women are the reverse. Often creative men will have more diffuse awareness and career women often have single focus. Their partners, then will usually have the opposite trait.

The times I am most aware of having diffuse awareness is when I’m at an event or gathering with a lot of people, especially people that I know. Somehow I monitor everything around me, how I think others might be feeling, even. Is that a spill on the floor? Do we need more coffee? Why does Betty look so distraught? Why’s Luke standing in the corner? Why is no one taking that child off the table? It’s super hard to focus on whatever conversation I’m in. Armstrong says men are often hurt by our not focusing on them while they are talking to us. It can come across as not caring about what they are saying. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that the environment around us is screaming for our attention. This is similar to how men in their single focus mode can often seem uncaring, too. He hears us say to take out the garbage, but he doesn’t HEAR it. Just like women have to choose when we make requests of men–not while they’re in the middle of something–so men have a way of getting women to focus. Actually, to me it sounds like a super power.

Touch

Armstrong says that for most women, touch is a big deal. It brings us back into our bodies. She explains it like that because women so easily lose our sense of self, while men have strong sense of self and physicality. It’s that awareness of everything going on around us and our monitoring feelings, etc. that does it. Armstrong says if a man wants his woman to focus on him (as much as she can) he has to be the “loudest” thing in the room. In touching her hand or arm, etc, he will immediately become the loudest thing in the room and her focus will be on him.

I can imagine this works, but I don’t know for sure, and will have to note if and when it happens. But it makes sense to me in a way, because the way women reassure and comfort other women is with hugs or a touch on the arm, etc. We are a rather touch averse society these days, so I definitely notice more if someone does touch me, but it will take some time to determine if that affects how I focus. Always ready to get the laugh, Armstrong instructs men that even while love making, “don’t let go of her.” Men anchor us with their touch, and much of that may have to do with them often being bigger, stronger, and the provider.

Safety

This one was easy. I know it’s true without having to watch and see. Women are constantly monitoring their own physical safety. Although we may lose our physicality in some ways, when it comes to danger to our person, we are acutely aware all of the time. Most men, Armstrong says, don’t have a continual fear of their physical safety. They just don’t. Being smaller and weaker than men, women do. The workshop offers a lot on this topic, and much of it is hard to hear. Logically women often know we are safe, but the “cavewoman” as Armstrong calls her, takes over. We cannot think straight around an angry man, for example, even if he’s not angry at us. At that moment he is the tiger in the room that might eat us. Even a man excited about something can seem threatening–all that testosterone has to be neutralized. Fear and concern over safety is one of the main reasons women emasculate men. Sadly, this is all too often because women’s threat radar is, as Armstrong says, “set way too high.” It’s not fair to men, but it is the reality. Again, touch can help. It can say “you are safe, you are loved, etc.” It’s why, bizarrely, a women might ask a man if he’s mad at her, when clearly he isn’t. She needs the reassurance because she’s worried if he’s mad at her he might not protect her when the real tiger comes around.

Honor

This is where things start to get really dicey. Armstrong says that the reason women fear an angry man, thinking that if he’s mad at her he won’t save her when the tiger or danger comes, is because a woman would be angry and let the tiger eat that person. She wouldn’t save that person. She says that women have no honor. She says this because honor is about doing the right thing even if you don’t feel like it and that women don’t act against their feelings.

I can say that when I usually think of honor it’s in regard to soldiers or battle, usually involving men. I don’t personally think much of honor connected to women, but I’m not sure we have zero of it. Armstrong states that if a women is angry at another women she’d let the tiger have her. Never could I imagine the women I know doing such a thing, but I’ve never really contemplated honor, so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m mixing it up with integrity and courage, traits that Armstrong says women have a lot of. She says that things like honor, loyalty, team spirit, etc. all belong to the province of men, that they are essentially manly things and qualities and why it’s so important for male children to have dads or male figures around to teach them these things, because women can’t.

Do women have no honor? I have seen many women leave their men for the next best thing, but men leave their women for that, too. I have seen cruelty come from women that is not at all honorable and very different from a man’s cruelty. It can be true, as Armstrong says, that women at work can be even more vicious than men. They take on single focus and other male traits without being tempered by honor, loyalty, etc. I can say that this is sometimes true, that women are this way, but am reluctant to say that’s built into our sex. Armstrong doesn’t mean it as a criticism so much as to explain to men why we are compelled to please them. We must make sure they always are please with us so they protect us from the tiger. We are compelled. We need men’s protection and providing for us even if we have a gun and a million dollar job. Armstrong says in our modern life, a woman “needs to have a man to prove she doesn’t need a man.” It doesn’t make sense, but yet it makes perfect sense in our upside down world where both sexes are told they must act like the opposite sex much of the time.

Feelings

The honor thing, however, was not the most shocking thing said at the workshop. One of the last things Armstrong goes through is how much women are controlled and compelled by feelings. She compares our feelings to a chakra thing different from our emotions, and I kind of understood what she was saying, but it sounded rather hokey. I don’t think of “women’s intuition” as we often call it, as a direct connecting line to God and universe. Maybe it is, but I’ve never thought of it that way.

Because women so often misinterpret what men are doing, really putting the worst construction on a given situation, women often get their feelings hurt for no reason. For more on how this works, I suggest reading Keys to the Kingdom and The Queen’s Code because those books are written in story format and illustrate the concepts very well and show how relationships can be so much better without the misinterpretation. Getting our feelings hurt is a big deal for women, or so Armstrong says. She then goes on to describe something she calls the “rage monster.”

I know I’ve been there, so angry and hurt that every bad thought you’ve had about someone rises to the surface and you just want to spit it all out in an argument, but know you would instantly regret it. I never considered it a uniquely female thing, though. Armstrong says that when our feelings get hurt it is devastating to a woman. She describes what it’s like and, well, the portrayal of it is rather repulsive. She makes it sound like in that moment women are worse off than children in a meltdown. The solution to this, the only solution, she says, that works, is for the man to say, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” This is also a time when touch is not wanted. The woman is hurt, needs the “I’m sorry,” and the time to recover, and then you can wrap your arms around her and dry her tears.

Maybe the rage monster is something that’s more unique to a romantic partnership or relationship. I’ve been in arguments, I’ve been angry, but not to the degree that she’s describing; or at least, it’s something I may have experienced a very long time ago, so long ago as to have forgotten it entirely. Never do I recall having to hear a man or anyone say, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,” and then things being all better. The worst part is, that in the situation she’s describing, the woman’s feelings are hurt not because the man actually did anything wrong, but because she is interpreting his actions and behavior wrongly. Yet the only thing that works to snap the woman out of this “rage monster” is him saying, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

The men in the workshop were not having this. They struggled with the instruction to say they are sorry for something they didn’t do. Feelings were hurt, but it wasn’t their fault. They objected also to treating their women like children. I objected also and have trouble believing that this is the only thing that works. It also creates a situation in which some women will then use that as a way to treat the men as if they did do something wrong. Armstrong warns women not to do this, but it seems to me that if we indeed have no honor, the temptation here is just too strong. In the situation she describes, the man didn’t hurt the women’s feelings, the woman hurt her own feelings. If, as she says, a woman’s feelings are so, so hurt that she covers it up with rage all the while desperately wanting her man to save her from herself, and touch won’t work in this instance, wow. I mean the “sorry for the feelings” thing must make it stop, at least for some women, but there’s gotta to be a better way to resolve that. Certainly women being aware of when this is happening may help, but it sounds like a state of being so totally out of control that only God can lift you up. I guess it’s a warning to women to really watch how we interpret things.

In Sync

All in all, I always find Armstrong’s research and information really fascinating and helpful, however, one has to remember that her focus is understanding men, and because that’s her focus, I think her works on men are far more positive and life affirming than this particular audiobook, workshop. Understanding Women many times makes women seem really crazy. The information was alarming at times, and more disturbing than any of her stuff on men. However, I like her goal, which is to get women to pay attention to what they are doing, how and why they are reacting, and so on. If as a women you can’t stop talking, consider, “what am I afraid of right now?” If you are with a women who can’t stop talking, touch her arm or hand. Anchor her. Focus her. Let her know she’s safe even though there’s no reason to fear. It doesn’t make sense, but as a woman, I can say that we often don’t make sense. What I mean is, perhaps understanding men is all about making sense–they have a good reason for everything they do–and understanding women is about connecting them to reality instead of whatever thing they may be imagining in their heads. From what Armstrong says, that’s the real dragon to slay. Throughout the workshop, she affirms again and again that women need saving from themselves, and that men are the best equipped to do just that.

It’s all about men and women being in sync with each other. We have certain needs that can only be met or best met by the opposite sex. Fortunately, the desire to meet those needs is built right into us. Men naturally want to protect and provide for women and women naturally want to please men and give them attention. The biggest problem, Armstrong often says, is that in our modern society we simply do not know this about each other. And that is why her work is so revolutionary, especially for women, who every day are taught by society that men are hairy misbehaving women instead of the honorable, loyal men they actually are, and are even more bizarrely, taught to be like those misbehaving men rather than their own feminine selves. Upside down world does not even begin to describe it.