Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday, my time to reflect on an important piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for something that may seem a little odd to be thankful for, that being the long-running television show named Supernatural.

When Supernatural began in September of 2005, I was seriously grieving the loss of my mother, who had just passed away earlier that year in a very tragic way. At that point in my life, I felt the world was filled with nothing but darkness and wished somehow, I could eliminate all of it. Enter Sam and Dean Winchester (played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) in a brand-new series on the former WB network (now the CW), two brothers raised in a family to fight off all of the evil in the world on a daily basis. Created by Eric Kripke, the show has lasted currently for 14 seasons and was just announced will officially end next year with its 15th season.

After catching wind that this show was finally coming to an end, I found myself feeling quite sad, which is something to be said, given it is a television show after all. While I’ve seen countless series on television come and go over the years and experienced frustration anytime good ones came to an abrupt halt or a formative conclusion, my reaction towards the news that Supernatural was ending was far different.

This show not only comforted me somehow when I was moving through the grieving process of my mother’s death, it also helped to positively distract me through the break-up of my last long-term relationship, the loss of the bed and breakfast I once owned, the financial failure I faced after that, then the decline of my health, and even my move to a brand new city in another part of the country where I felt more alone than not.

Sitting with Sam and Dean on whatever night the show aired over the past fourteen years is probably the only thing that I can say consistently brought a smile to my face, many laughs, comfort, and even tears. The chemistry between Jared and Jensen could easily be felt every time an episode came on. When the show finally introduced angels (like Castiel played by Misha Collins) and God (played by Rob Benedict) as well, my heart moved on many an episode and even, if you can believe it, led me to tear-soaked prayers at times, especially when I felt the presence of my own Higher Power pouring through.

I know that may seem quite ridiculous to some, that a television show could do that, but as I’ve always been a proponent of, I think God can manifest in many ways, even through something like Supernatural. And trust me when I say that I went through long periods in the past 14 years where I could hardly cry, let alone feel my heart on any level, yet Supernatural proved often to be the very cure for that.

While many might say the show jumped the shark long ago and should have ended many seasons back, I’m absolutely thankful it didn’t, because Supernatural has been a friend for many years. One that never left my side. One that connected to my soul more than not. And one that I could rely on improving my mood anytime it ever came on.

Was that because of the chemistry of all the actors and actresses? Was it because of the writing? Or was it because of the good versus evil storyline that played over the years? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Supernatural was a trusted uplifter in my life through many-a-dark times, from great losses to heavy addictions, and is most definitely a show I’ll miss and always be grateful for…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Do You Think Netflix Is Damaging The Traditional Theatrical Experience?

Do you think watching films released on Internet streaming sites like Netflix is damaging the traditional theatrical experience? I don’t, but famous film director Steven Spielberg does and wishes to prevent future films like recent Oscar darling Roma from being considered during the awards season, unless they have an exclusive theatrical window first.

I’m sure many haven’t even heard of the movie Roma, given it’s such an artsy type of film, and subtitled at that. But if you are an avid moviegoer like me, then you probably know it was produced by Netflix, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and garnered ten 2018 Oscar nominations, even though it was only released for three weeks in theaters at the same time it began streaming.

I did not watch Roma in its limited three-week theatrical release and instead opted to stream it. In all honesty, I’m glad I did because I simply couldn’t relate to the material, even though most critics and other artsy moviegoers raved about it. With prices of movies these days continuing to rise higher and higher each year, it’s movies like Roma that I’d rather save money on and watch it from the comfort of my own home.

Add in the fact that each of our local Toledo cinemas have seats that are relatively uncomfortable for me (i.e. no plushy recliners), seats aren’t reserved either, concessions are exorbitant, sound quality is often at a lower decibel then I prefer (even though my hearing is just fine), picture quality is often slightly blurry as well (even though my vision is just fine too), people constantly are on their phones, and many continue to talk during the movie, I find streaming to be a much better alternative for many smaller known movies.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the theatrical experience and usually see plenty of films throughout the year, but what Spielberg doesn’t understand is the average moviegoer would rather save money these days and be in the comfort of their own home and furniture, where they can pause a film at any point if they need to (like to go to the bathroom), where they have total control over the sound and picture quality, where they have access to much wider varieties of foods and beverages for far cheaper, and where the only talking or phone use is when they do it themselves.

That’s precisely why I thought watching Roma at home on Netflix was great, as I got to crank the volume during it because I like to do that for all the movies I watch. I also colored in my coloring book at certain points while watching it, paused it a few times for bathroom breaks, and was able to enjoy my $1 bottle of water rather than one for $4.50 and eat far healthier snacks than anything the local theaters offer. And I saved $12+ doing it!

Sadly, I think Spielberg is having trouble accepting the fact that the moviegoer world is shifting. More and more people are growing weary of the theatrical experience and are choosing to stay in the comfort of their own home because that experience is far better overall for many. Of course, people are still going to go see the huge Christmas and summer tentpole releases at theaters, like those Marvel movies and such. But for smaller films like Roma, it’s just not worth it for a growing number of people these days, especially those who are trying to be more and more cautious of how they spend their time and money.

The bottom line for me is that I disagree with Spielberg and don’t believe Netflix is ruining the theatrical experience for the average moviegoer at all, nor do I believe that Netflix should be forced to have a theatrical release for awards consideration either. Netflix is simply making it far easier for those who are time-pressed or economical to see films they probably would never make it to in a theater.

Personally, it’s my hope that one day all films will be released simultaneously to streaming and theaters, where the choice is left in the viewers hands on the format they wish to watch it in. Maybe in doing so, Spielberg and the rest of Hollywood may actually see more of their films, especially the lesser known ones, getting watched…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Lifeboat”, A Heart-Wrenching Documentary About Refugees That Provided Me A Harsh Reminder In Life…

Sometimes I really forget about how bountiful my life has been and still is, that is until someone or something comes along and provides me a harsh reminder of that, which is precisely what happened while watching a 2018 Oscar nominated documentary short titled “Lifeboat”.

In this 34-minute documentary, volunteers from a German non-profit regularly risk the perils at sea to save refugees fleeing from North Africa, hoping for a better life when they reach the other side of the Mediterranean.

While I’m not one to normally watch a documentary, mostly due to my interest level, I was solemnly captivated by this one. Hearing the stories of some of these people who have fled their homeland with nothing but the clothes on their backs, literally being crammed at sea with almost no room to breathe on mostly small lifeboats was heart wrenching.

Hundreds die each year on this dangerous journey due to heat exhaustion, thirst, and notably drowning, as many of them don’t even know how to swim. For those who do make it across the sea, they not only must endure the overcrowded conditions, but also will lack any type of facilities or necessities for survival, other than a lifejacket. Sitting in urine and feces is quite common on their sea bound escape from their formerly tortured lives that were filled with wrongful imprisonment, physical abuse, slavery, prostitution, and worse.

It was a glaring wake-up call for me watching this documentary given how I live in the suburbs in a cozy small home with running water, heat, AC, and a well-stocked fridge. It’s so easy to forget about that, especially on those days when I’m really struggling with physical pain. But as I watched this film, I thought about all those refugees who have been through conditions in life far worse than I ever will, who simply jump into a lifeboat and pray they’ll survive with nothing in hand, wherever they land.

Wow! That’s all I could really think of after the credits began to roll for “Lifeboat”. Far too many of us get so overly caught up in ourselves that we continually fail to remember the countless people around the world, just like these North African refugees, who’s only thoughts are that of survival, as they bound themselves to a captain-less boat ride across the Mediterranean, hoping for the best, all while fearing the worst.

Most of us probably won’t ever experience anything quite like this during any period of our lives. Instead, we’ll continue to go through our daily routines, worrying about things like paying bills, dealing with frustrating jobs, not having some ideal relationship, or even enduring health conditions that are most likely a walk in the park to the lives these refugees have lived and the lives they are attempting to create on their quest for freedom across the sea.

I hope I will remember this documentary extremely vividly the next time I find myself complaining that my Starbucks latte isn’t hot enough, or the service isn’t fast enough at some restaurant I’m dining at, or my cell phone isn’t working good enough, or even when my pain levels are high, because ultimately, each of these things are excessively miniscule compared to the level of horrors plenty continue to face on a daily basis in the rest of the world…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson