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Jumpy

Eastern grey kangaroo mother carrying a joey in her pouch

Mum kangaroo loved her baby. Why wouldn’t she? Her world had changed after she saw her baby. HER baby. It gave her a sense of pride, a sense of happiness. It was a joy just to see the baby, turn into a bigger baby. She always kept the baby close to her heart. Never letting the baby go out of her sight.

Time went by and the baby grew up. Much to the Mum’s surprise, the baby was now old enough to make Mum a grandmum! But that was for the world. For Mum, baby always remained a baby. One day, baby told her Mum that she was curious. Baby wanted to see the world. Mum said, “I’ll come with you.” But baby, wanted to be alone. “ABSURD. RIDICULOUS.” Mum said. This changed behaviour of baby shocked Mum. She never thought baby could ever want to go away from her.

Mum kangaroo had a friend. That friend stayed on a tree and laid eggs in a nest. So everyone called her Birdie. Every once in a while, the eggs would turn into little birdies. Then Mum birdie would save food to feed them, and work double shift to cope up with the pressure.

One day Mum kangaroo saw something strange. Mum birdie was pushing her little birdies off the high branch. Mum kangaroo yelled, shrieked. Called Mum birdie names for pushing her little ones away and letting them go. But Mum birdie motivated her little ones to jump. They looked at their Mum and took a leap of faith. They fell and they fell! Mum kangaroo closed her eyes and opened only when she heard the sky full of exuberant chirps. Little ones were soaring high!

Then Mum birdie came down, near Mum kangaroo. Kangaroo asked her, “Now your children know how to fly on their own. Would they come back to your nest?” Mum birdie just smiled and said, “Maybe they will. Maybe they wont. But watching them soar is worth the risk. I didn’t want my worry stop my little ones from doing something so wonderful. Sometimes, you just have to let go and believe in what you have taught your children. Things turn out fine.”

Mum kangaroo didn’t sleep that night.

A year had passed since then. Aftrer that night, Mum kangaroo withdrew the boundaries and let baby go. Baby never came back… Instead there was a kangaroo, fully grown. She looked so pretty even Mum couldn’t recognize HER baby. She only recognized her when out of her pocket came a little one, new baby! Mum kangaroo jumped and landed on the ground as a grandmum. That leap was worth it. She quickly held new baby to which her baby said, “Careful!” Grandmum just smiled with a sense of pride, with a sense of happiness and said, “I know…”

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The Reader by Stephen Daldry

“The notion of secrecy is central to western literature. You may say, the whole idea of character is defined by people holding specific information which for various reasons, sometimes perverse, sometimes noble, they are determined not to disclose.”

The film covers snippets from the life of Michael Berg from 1958 to 1995. The film lets the viewers travel in the memories of Michael, revealing his relationship with Hanna. The film takes place in Germany.

*Spoilers*

It starts off with an unexpected and passionate affair between Hanna (Kate Winslet) and Michael (David Kross). Hanna, one day rescues Michael who falls ill on his way back from school. Michael is 15 and Hanna is twice his age.  And this relationship, is no where near the concept of love, as we know it. Michael is with Hanna because he is discovering his own sexuality. On the other hand, for Hanna, Michael is a way of “reading” books. After some time, their relationship becomes “Reading first, sex later.” Both of them indulge into each other for fulfilling their own tiny desires. And although the society would not understand nor accept such relationship, it happens. After a few weeks, Hanna disappears, leaving no message for Michael and thus ends their romantic encounter. A few years pass and Michael who turns into a young law student finds Hanna again at a trial for a hideous crime during the second world war.

Societies think they operate by something called morality, but they don’t.

Hanna, along with a few of her colleagues is accused of letting 300 Jewish women die in a burning church when they were SS guards on the death march following the 1944 evacuation of a concentration camp near Krakow. Hanna refuses to defend herself and believes that she was doing what was right at that time. On the contrary, her colleagues try to pass the blame entirely on Hanna, making her the leader and as a result, the murderer of those 300 women. Hanna denies writing a report on the church fire but then admits it rather than providing a handwriting sample. This is the secret that Hanna wishes to protect more than her life. That she cannot read or write.

Michael connects the dots and realises Hanna’s secret. He wishes to save Hanna by disclosing this information but struggles as it will result in revealing his own little secret affair with Hanna. Hanna receives a life sentence and so does Michael. Michael imprisons himself and deals with his life in the shackles of loneliness.

Michael never visits Hanna in prison, but he sends her recordings of the books he used to read to her. Using the tapes as a reference Hanna learns to read and write by learning one word at a time. Just when Hanna’s life sentence is about to get over, she commits suicide. She leaves a note behind for Michael and asks him to give a some money that she has left behind to Ilana (Lena Olin); the holocaust survivor whose testimony had been the key evidence in the trial. Ilana refuses to take the money but Michael and Ilana agree that the money should go to an organisation that combats adult illiteracy.

The film ends with Michael taking his daughter to Hanna’s grave and telling her his little secret affair.

Phew! I think I have almost described the entire movie over here. But I felt it was necessary to explain what I learnt from this film.

1. The structure:

The film flaunts multiple acts interwoven accurately with one another. There are three major segments in the film and each segment has a three act structure of its own. Segment one would be the affair. Segment two would be the trial. And segment three would be the imprisonment of our lead characters.

2. Non linear storytelling:

This is one of the best non linear stories I have watched recently. I am a person who prefers content over style. And most probably a non linear structure is a difficult for the audience to grasp and connect with. But the film connects similar incidences in the past and the present so well that the non linear structure helps the viewer. It also emphasizes the changes Germany has gone through over these years.

3. Symbolism and Metaphors:

Although the film is promoted as if there are some dark secrets in it, actually things were pretty clear after one point. Just the way the stuff happened in the Nazi era is clear to the world. The film, in my opinion is more about the guilt and the sins.

4. Confrontation:

The two lead characters confront their sins. They accept the mistakes they made whatever the magnitude may be. Hanna’s primary mistake or misfortune was that she was illiterate. And Michael’s mistake was that he was naive. Both of them take responsibility for what they did in the past and that releases them from their respective prisons. Just the way the Germans do not try to hide what happened in the concentration camps, they confront the facts; the characters make peace with their past.

Michael (Young): You will leave life even more beautiful than you entered it.

Michael (Old, asks Hanna): What have you learnt?

Hanna: I’ve learnt to read.

(Symbolism: War and Peace – Hanna stands on the novel before she hangs herself.)

5. Lapse of Time:

The movie should be known for its pace. It is simply astounding where the film takes you in mere 124 minutes. It starts off as a completely different film and it ends on a different note. Much like Life is Beautiful. Another take on a similar subject, from a very different point of view!

6. Perspective:

Who is the protagonist of the film? Who is the point of view character? I am confused about who the protagonist is. It is certain that Michael is the POV character. The film remains honest to his point of view. We are never burdened with what happens at the prison with Hanna.

7. The narrative:

As I said, the film has a very unique point of view. It is not a prison movie. We don’t see what happens to Hanna in the prison. We don’t know whether she gets used to her life over there or whether she goes through a lot of problems. The film majorly focuses on the reasons rather than the aftermath. I felt it is a very risky way of going about it, but it works over here!

Overall, I feel the movie extends beyond its characters and it speaks about the Human Nature. The movie is about how the rights and wrongs are defined by the system and with passing time, the system might change drastically.

Societies think they operate by something called morality, but they don’t. They operate by something called law. The question is never “Was it wrong”, but “Was it legal”. And not by our laws, no. By the laws at the time.

Q: Why Do We Call It Making Love?

Ans:
It’s because love is not just a feeling of affection
It’s just like a roller coaster ride
With all its twists and turns and ups and downs
And two people coming together have to cross the ocean of fire
Together… By holding their hands, all the time
And one should be aware that there would be some moments
When a thought will strike him as lightning
‘Why the hell am I with you? …
I should be just alone…’
But he should know that they are better together
Whenever one thinks of quitting
He must take a pause… And rewind a little… And ask…
Why did we come so far?
Aren’t those memories worth memorizing?
Then all these thoughts will start disappearing
Why do we call it making love?
Because love is not just a feeling of affection
It’s a task… Of making impossible, possible!
Holding hands in the worst times
And MAKING the best of it!

#1 Master of Mystery – Secret Window

Just as the titles start rolling, we enter the life of writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) quite secretly through a window in his secluded house across a lake. Going through a rough divorce after he caught his wife cheating on him, Rainey’s daily life is nothing but moments of ennui. Apart from the view of a lake and what used to be a nice garden, there is nothing more left in the rusty life of the bestselling author.

But of course, life becomes much more interesting when John Shooter (John Turturro) knocks on his door accusing Rainey of “stealing his story”. Rainey takes a firm stand on his story being his original work and was published two years before Shooter wrote the story. Shooter accepts the possibility and asks for a copy of the magazine. He even agrees never to bother Rainey again if this is ture. But if Rainey fails to present any such proof, he has to publish the story with a different end the Shooter suggests and give him his due credit for it.

Things look fair and square in the start. But they never are. There are perks in this deal and all of them are paid in blood. By the time Rainey learns the truth behind Shooter and his story, his life is flipped inside out. And also the lives of the ones who got involved.

Trailer here.


Spoilers Ahead

There are very few films adapted from the work of Stephen King that I am not fond of. You sink deeper and deeper in the mystery as the story unfolds and by the time you reach the end you are a character in the film. You are not a third person but you are in the film. The climax in particular of such films is of utmost important. As Rainey says correctly, “The only thing that matters, is the ending. The most important part of the story is the ending. And THIS one, is perfect.”

At times I thought some things were too obvious. The mystery behind the story of John Shooter has its hints everywhere in the film. Some prefer to uncover things as the movie proceeds. Some believe it is better if it strikes you right in the end and makes you wonder, where did it come from? I belong to the second category. In such cases I like to watch the movie again and find out the subtle hidden details that signaled that something weird is coming. In this one, I could unravel the mystery in the second scene with Shooter itself with the mention of Cigarettes. Which brings me to an interesting note on editing. Show something for too long and people know what you are aiming at, keep something too short and people forget that it ever happened. A way to get away with this one is to emphasize your important lines, some shots from some other perspective right in the end as your point of view character uncovers the truth.

There has to be a special mention to the DoP of the film, Fred Murphy. The film never goes into a low key look. Yet it manages to scare you shitless in broad daylight. There are simple shots which convey the depths of the story very eloquently visually.

Johnny Depp is so freakishly convincing that I was pretty much on his side from start to end. I think that is the absolute purpose of a movie of such gravity. Overall, the movie has not received a warm response from everyone. Knowing that it is a Stephen King novel based film, there is a big shadow of expectations that follows. I haven’t read the book. But the adaptation, as a separate entity has given me a lot to learn and a lot to enjoy.

#15 Write Ups: The Games We Play

Since past couple of weeks, I haven’t been doing anything productive. A result of a work heavy month which literally wore me out. I just sat in front of my gaming console and enjoyed butchering random characters, escorting them to their cyber graves. And I enjoyed it to be honest. I enjoyed the fact that I am the most powerful character in the game’s universe. I needn’t worry about dying as I can load the game again. And just like in any game, I am destined to win.

Maybe this is the reason why violent games are so in fashion. We, as gamers; don’t have to fear the consequences. There is always an easy way out. But the puzzle of our life is not a video game. Right?

Well, technically speaking modern open world games have created a real life experience for us. The expressions, the stories, the characters all look very believable as we play the game. The maps in the world of video games are huge. Yet, the way our console can present that level of detail is that it only renders the field of view. One perspective, one point of view at a time. A nerd named Ray Kurzweil has predicted that considering the accelerating progress in technologies, it will be possible to build a supercomputer more powerful than the human brain by 2045. So suppose we do build a supercomputer that can simulate the game of life for us, what else do we want? Isn’t life all about the experience of it?

Going even more crazy now, what if we have built a supercomputer so strong already? And we have decided to connect ourselves to that singularity in order to do as we please, without any consequence? Just to safeguard the integrity of the game we have erased that bit from our memory. Our mind is the console, rendering one point of view at a time.

If we are in the game, we are at the mercy of the supercomputer. We don’t have the controller in our hands. It is just the illusion of control. We are in the game, we are a character. Some character. We don’t even know if we are the good one, the bad one or the insignificant one. We don’t know if we will respawn once we are gone. We don’t know whether the game will restart. We don’t know the rules. That’s what makes it so confusing; matters beyond our control. Matters beyond our understanding.

This is the reason to fear. And ironically this is the reason not to fear. Whatever is the story of the game, it will take us forward. We will do things, as the story suggests us to. We will win sometimes, just to keep the game “lively”. And we will lose sometimes, just to keep the game “lively”. We just have to do our best in whatever the story unfolds.

If you ask a supercomputer, the proof of its consciousness it will give you one. But only if it is programmed to give you. The supercomputer will know for sure that the proof is obvious. But is it? Consciousness is such an unthinkable phenomenon, something so obvious that is why so dubious. We can sure give the proof of being self aware; being in control of ourselves. But we can never be sure if we are the ones pulling the strings.

Einstein was just as useless as I am. Maybe even more. He wrote this:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace the whole of nature in its beauty.
Note: In all this nonsense, my next level has loaded. Need to take some more characters closer to their destinies.

#2 Christopher Nolan – The Prestige

Obsession is the single most wasteful human activity, because with an obsession you keep coming back and back and back to the same question and never get an answer.

~ Norman Mailer
Although not the original poster, it captures the essence of the film perfectly.
The movie is ranked 52nd in the IMDb top 250 list.
This is how I was introduced to Christopher Nolan. The Dark Knight –> Inception –> Memento –> Batman Begins –> The Prestige –> Insomnia –> The Dark Knight Rises and I am yet to watch “Following”
The film is an adaptation of Christopher Priest‘s 1995 World Fantasy Award-winning novel of the same name. For a film based on two (?) young magicians, it accommodates more than enough mystery. Right from the cold start of the film there are attempts made to distract you, mislead you and eventually surprise you. Just like a magic trick.
In our worlds we had Tesla and Edison. (Read more about Tesla.) Both men in their own ways managed to “shock” the world. The rivalry of Robert Angier and Alfred Borden does not fail to make us think whether the characters are based on the lives of these two inventors. Of course the plot is completely different but the fight of ideologies is somewhat more than similar.
It is all about obsession. We are often taught that we need to devote our lives to a purpose. But sometimes, a purpose so strong can simply take over the soul of living. One must find the right balance. And here lies the dilemma. Give it too little and it slips away from you. Give it too much and it makes you its servant. There is nothing wrong in either of the ideologies actually. It is all a matter of perspective.
I have written about this earlier that how the bad guys of the film can make you hoot for them. All the characters in the film have something that one can hate them for. Honestly speaking when I started watching the movie I was on Robert Angier’s side. Maybe towards the middle I was forced to switch sides. That is the power of grey characters. The white knights are boring. Grey characters don’t have to be morally right every time. Because right and wrong is the matter of perspective.
The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything. Isn’t this the bottom line of every art form? Let’s talk of film making. We see the end result in theaters. No matter what, every film is at least a little different from what the makers thought it would be. There are so many factors involved in film making that even the flutter of a butterfly can cause a tornado. When we see a film we see the result of many decisions taken at the end moment. Many mistakes turned out as blessings on the edit table. And the secret behind it simply kills the magic. That’s why you don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.

#5 Robert Zemeckis – Cast Away

“I’m not sure this is a world I belong in anymore. I’m not sure that I want to wake up.”

~ Gayle Forman, If I Stay

 

I’ve always wanted to write about this one. A major reason being that I admire being alone on an island, literally and figuratively as well. I am the one who enjoys company of a few. I find it difficult to share my private space with others. To be very frank, just like the protagonist in the film, Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) I am a workaholic, self indulgent man of many follies. I confess. Rather than explaining more about the plot of the film, I would like to make this blog post about what I take back from the film. And of course some interesting trivia!

1. Life really finds a way of surprising you: We wish that we had known all the twists and turns life has to offer. But would it be as exciting as it is? We lose things we hold so close and sometimes we are receive the rewards we never asked for. Whatever it may be, life is the only thing we have.

2. If you truly want to know a man, push him to his limits and push him some more: We do not know our capabilities. It is wrong to presume our limits based on others experiences. All of us are unique and in that all of us are the same. Same goes with one’s personality. It is easy to be good when in abundance. It is simple to follow a moral code when one lies in the cocoon of law and order.

3. All of us are a little myopic: If some things are too nearby, if they are easily available; we hardly value their presence. The smallest of conveniences bring the greatest of joys. Now these things maybe anything, even a person.

4. There are no misfortunes; there are only opportunities: Every opportunity cloaks itself as a misfortune. She has to do that in order to preserve herself from the undeserving ones. Only the few willing to take a step towards uncovering what lies beneath may find the treasure.

5. Hope is a really good thing, maybe the best of the things. And no good thing ever dies: This one comes from The Shawshank Redemption.

6. A tinge of tragedy is the reality of living: No good thing ever comes out of a story without obstacles. They have a very important role to play.


 

Did you know?

For the character of Wilson (played by a volleyball) actual lines were written. Like any volleyball, Wilson did not utter them. They were simply for Tom Hank’s reference. We see wonderful performances on screen. The hardwork that it requires comes from a lot of sources that often go uncredited.

Several crew members were abandoned on the same island for some days. Later on they were questioned on what they did with their quality time. Some of the activities were: having trouble lighting a fire, opening a coconut, talking to a volleyball, collecting packages washed up on the beach, and catching fish. All of which are essential scenes in the film.

The name Chuck Noland is kind of a pun. If you write it this way C Noland it sounds like “see no land”

When the director of the film was asked about the mysterious package that Chuck finds on the island and refuses to open; he said that there was a waterproof, solar-powered satellite phone. I think this has to be a joke. But I’d love to think what if Chuck had decided to open it while on the island.

Apart from that, I just stumbled upon this wonderful article by Drake Bennett which uses some references from the film to explain a very interesting fact.

#3 Frank Darabont – The Mist

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” – H.P. Lovecraft

If you ask me, this the not the director’s well-known comfort zone. But boy I was hooked to my TV screen as I was experiencing this horror. I am a firm believer that one must only watch such films in theaters. So I am hoping that some or the other film festival comes to the town with this movie on the schedule. I wouldn’t dare to miss it.

So just like the director coming out of his niche, let me do the same. Let’s make this post completely out of trivia. Anyway I would not want to spoil the film for you. Just one spoiler – there are actually some disturbing creatures in the film.


1. In the film’s opening scene, the picture David is painting is of Roland the Gunslinger from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.

2. The books in the grocery store’s book rack are all Stephen King novels.

3. It was shot in mere 37 days

4. William Sadler played David Drayton in an audio version of the story.

5. Frank Darabont had originally been offered $30 million by a producer to make this film, but with one crippling caveat: Darabont would have to change his planned ending, a conclusion he’d personally envisioned and nursed for twenty years. In the end, he turned to producer Bob Weinstein and made the movie for half the amount, but only after forfeiting his directorial salary.

6. Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Melissa McBride went on to appear in the Frank Darabont The Walking Dead (2010), another post-apocalyptic survival adventure.

7. The first film Frank Darabont has made that is set in “the present,” barring the “framing story” in The Green Mile (1999).

8. Director Frank Darabont wanted to cast Stephen King in a supporting role, but King turned his offer down. The role eventually went to Brian Libby.

9. Darabont had been interested in adapting The Mist for the big screen since the 1980s.

10. Director Darabont chose to film The Mist after filming the “straighter dramas” The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile because he “wanted to make a very direct, muscular kind of film.”


After watching the film I cannot fail to admire the title of the film and also the byline – Fear changes everything.

#2 Frank Darabont – The Green Mile

We each owe a death – there are no exceptions – but, oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long. – Paul Edgecomb

The film is ranked 43rd in the IMDb top 250 list.

You can simply admire the similarities between The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption or you appreciate how contrasting the two films are. The choice is really yours. But these first two films sure did create a niche for writer-director Frank Darabont.

Just like The Shawshank Redemption, the film is an adaptation of a story by Stephen King. This time King was eager to work with Frank Darabont. So was Tom Hanks. Shawshank did open new possibilities for him. Yet again a prison based story with characters even more interesting than his previous film. Especially the sub plots. Every character, no matter how little screen time it has is exceptional. Frank gives full credit to the actors.

Speaking of performances, the film brought Michael Clarke Duncan in front of the world as a compelling actor. The journey for the big man wasn’t so easy. He worked as a bodyguard for celebrities like Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, and The Notorious B.I.G. Bruce Willis, after Armageddon suggested his name for the role. Michael had to train under acting coach Larry Moss. He was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.


 

In actuality, Michael Clarke Duncan is of a similar height as his co-star David Morse and is a couple of inches shorter than James Cromwell. Among other things, creative camera angles were used to create the illusion that Duncan as John Coffey towered over the prison staff, even Brutal Howell and Warden Moores.


 

The film explores all the subplots so well that even the three hour long film seems fast and interesting. There are limited characters but every character has an important role to play.

There is no clear antagonist in the film. Every character is peculiar. We don’t know what are the crimes committed by Eduard Delacroix or Arlen Bitterbuck. It is just that some of them are sorry for what they are.


Doug Hutchison (Percy) was given, according to the director, the squeakiest shoes he’d ever heard. He thought this was the greatest bit of fate, and a “perfectly wonderful, annoying character trait” that he kept it in the movie, and you can hear sometimes how loud his shoes are.


 

The execution of Eduard Delacroix in the film is described in a even more brutal way in the original work. I think it is the strongest scene in the film. The director describes it as ‘a necessary compromise to suit the audience’. If this was the compromise, the original work if I ever be brave enough to read it is going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

The film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and received none. The accolades were in a different league altogether.

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 and a half stars out of four, writing “The film is a shade over three hours long. I appreciated the extra time, which allows us to feel the passage of prison months and years.” Forbes commentator Dawn Mendez referred to the character of John Coffey as a “‘magic Negro‘ figure.” Stephen King considers the film as the most faithful adaptation of his work. The worth of these achievements is greener anything else.

 

#14 Pursuit of Happiness

I have been privileged enough to know a bunch of talented people. And I am jealous of them to the core. Even I want to be able to play the acoustic version of ‘Wonderful Tonight’ without any hassle in front of a live audience and bathe in the applause. I want to be the center of attraction at every party with my moves. And every once in a while (though bodybuilding is not a talent per se) I want to take off my shirt on the beach without hesitation.

As simple as it may sound, I want more from my life. Who doesn’t? Isn’t that the reason we do things? To get more?

In the summary of our school days, I wonder, we were under the constant judgement of our performance in the exams. And no matter how much we tried, there was someone or the other with whom they always compared us. ‘It is okay if you did not score well as long as you were one step ahead of your rival.’ Rivalry has seeped through our veins so deep that we don’t even find it wrong anymore.

And is it wrong? Maybe yes, maybe not. I think under the pressure of judgement I performed well. For someone else, the absurd expectations proved fatal. It is the outcome that measures the correctness of our actions. It is too simple to connect the dots backwards. It is easy to thank someone or blame someone as a post script.

Do you know the feeling when the coin is tossed in the air? Suspended mid-air with utmost uncertainty of the outcome. When you can do nothing but to believe in your luck? I dread those moments. The flutter of a butterfly may cause the winds to change their course, making the coin turn one more time and change my fate altogether. Suspended mid-air, far away from the concept of control

If you think about it closely our life is the sum of all such moments. No matter how good you are, life finds a way of surprising you. Like a gust of wind making a bird’s nest to fall off the tree. I wonder if that keeps the bird thinking what if it had lazed a little? Things would’ve been different.

Unburdened by such thoughts, everyone except humans must be happy. It’s just us who believe in the pursuit of happiness. We wait for the better tomorrow as we blindly forget that today is the tomorrow we always waited for. We keep running after we cross the finish line instead of celebrating. And maybe that’s where we lose.

So instead of envying others for what they have, I’ve decided to be proud of what I have. Maybe someone, somewhere will be jealous of me too. Because it is simple to see the light reflected off others. To see your own reflection, requires a talent.