Jinns, dybbuks and ghosts…frightening new movies for this Halloween season (part 2 of 3)

At Narratio Vitae (“life story” in Latin), we constantly encounter the undying reflections of our clients’ pasts, and we revel in the thrill of a good ghost story.  This Halloween, three movies reign as genuinely creepy ghost stories.  We highlighted Demons last week, and here’s a second for your consideration…

Under the Shadow is the story of a girl and her mother haunted by a jinn – a supernatural creature of Arabian and Islamic mythology – in their apartment in war-torn 1980s Tehran.  Unlike many recent ghost stories that rely on cheap scare tactics, Under The Shadow slowly builds emotional tension as the story progresses, setting up for a fearful crescendo.  The LA Times calls it “a brilliantly conceived thriller, about a woman plagued by dark forces both inside and outside her home.”

Avin Manshadi plays Dorsa in Under the Shadow (Photo: Vertical Entertainment)

Another recommendation to come…

Jinns, dybbuks and ghosts… frightening new movies for this Halloween season (part 1 of 3)

At Narratio Vitae (“life story” in Latin), we constantly encounter the undying reflections of our clients’ pasts, and we revel in the thrill of a good ghost story.  This Halloween, three movies reign as genuinely creepy ghost stories.  Here’s the first…

Billed as “the story of a groom possessed on his wedding day,” the movie Demon follows Piotr (Itay Tiran) as he endures possession by a dybbuk – the angry spirit of a dead person, according to Jewish folklore.  It’s earning 4-star reviews as a visceral metaphor for post-war Europe, but the cast’s believable portrayal of a family brought down by demonic possession is really the thrill.

Itay Tiran plays a possessed groom in Demon. (Photo: The Orchard)

More recommendations to come…

25,000 ancestors and growing

The Wall Street Journal nailed it with their recent article on 18-year-old Jonathan Puckett, who has researched and documented over 25,000 of his ancestors.  Jonathan was trying to understand how he fits into his network of ancestors, and what traits they might have passed on to him.  There’s no better reason to dedicate years to genealogical research than to develop a meaningful family narrative.  Hats off from Narratio Vitae, Jonathan!

Read the WSJ article at http://www.wsj.com/articles/when-searching-your-ancestry-means-finding-a-sense-of-possibility-1474999867

We are more than our “permanent records” indicate

Thoughts In Passing” is a growing exhibition of people’s life lessons as they age.  The collection offers sublime views of human nature, and reminds us of the difficulty of characterizing our loved ones based only on the records they leave behind.  It’s a problem that Narratio Vitae continually works through as we develop family narratives, and we’re grateful to artist Claudia Bicen for her encouragement of a thoughtful storytelling technique.

Ora from Claudia Bicen on Vimeo.


Washington’s first biography… a lesson in character development

A recent republication of the first biography of George Washington reminds us that we should choose our words wisely.  The 1807 biography was the first to characterize Washington as “incorruptible,” and built the founding father’s gravitas for centuries of biographies to come.  The reverence that most Americans feel toward Washington can be attributed to his “pre-partisan” character, according to the Pittsburgh Gazette, but the frequent reminders – in the forms of biographies, eulogies and remembrance celebrations – are what solidified his mythos for all of us.  For Narratio Vitae, this is a reminder of the importance of well-considered narratives, since they have staying power well beyond our generation.

An excerpt from Washington’s 1807 biography appeared in the Pittsburgh Gazette and helped establish his popular character.

Life story work shown to help with dementia

According to researchers at the UK’s University of York, life story work – like the kind that Narratio Vitae does for its clients – has good potential to help those suffering from dementia.

The University of York scientists reported in early September that “Conducting a national survey of family carers and dementia service providers, along with an in-depth analysis of life story work in six care homes and four hospital wards, researchers tested the feasibility of doing a full scale evaluation of life story work in these settings.  The study concluded that life story work has the potential to help people with dementia, but a full scale evaluation is needed.”

Here’s hoping the full scale study confirms the initial findings.  At Narratio Vitae, we’re already certain that the act of digging through old pictures, reviving foggy memories, and piecing together partial genealogies can recharge long-dormant synapses.

Researchers have found that life story development can help reduce the effects of dementia.


The next level of storytelling

Ashley Taylor Anderson provided a glimpse of the future of storytelling in her recent B2C article.  “Immersive VR” – the ability of users to interact with the story in virtual reality – promises to be the big next step in storytelling, and of course marketing.  Soon we’ll see “gamification” of VR, the use of VR for documentaries (such as The Guardian’s exploration of solitary confinement, below), and the use of VR for animated films.

How should historians use VR?  At Narratio Vitae (“life story” in Latin), we develop family narratives for customers by deeply researching existing family stories and building out families’ lineages.  We’re always eager to integrate new technology into our work and we’d be interested in your thoughts.

Today’s digital deletion is yesterday’s library fire

The digitization of historical records came with the promise of durability and easy use, but there’s a glitch… as we come to depend on these digital records, we’re not preserving originals the way we used to, and most users are unaccustomed to using the originals.  Many historical digital archives are poorly funded, so if that funding dries up and the site goes dark, both the digitized version and the original version can be unusable.

Wisconsin’s e-archive recently suffered a loss.  Users would have to visit the real archives to scroll through microfiche. (Credit: Sharon Mohandoss, via slate.com)

A recent article in Slate about the loss of digitized Milwaukee newspaper records reminds us of the fragility of these records.  At Narratio Vitae, we’re dedicated to doing the research into these records to find your family history, and to developing that history into a lasting family narrative.  Get started on your family history before the memories are lost!

A great find…

One of the most gratifying moments of Narratio Vitae‘s family history research is that aha! moment of discovering – after hours or days of searching – a truly captivating image of a customer’s ancestor.  In the case of our current development of the Quinn family’s history in Boston, we discovered something just about perfect…

John S. Quinn, Boston Globe, 1897
Credit: The Boston Globe, 1897

The Quinns knew their great grandfather, John, was a track star, but they had never seen the coverage that he received during his stardom.  The image above is from an 1897 edition of the Boston Globe, featuring the young John Quinn’s victories on the track.  An image like this is gold… and will be a perfect addition to the Quinn family narrative.

Dealing with all that bad family history data

Credit: George Helon, The Chronicle

George Helon in his recent article has highlighted the limits and frustrations of all those free trials being offered by genealogy data providers.  And it’s true… while the big sites offer a ton of data, users should be careful that they don’t take other users’ statements at face value.  Too often, family histories on these sites are unsourced and poorly researched.

Narratio Vitae will work with you to collect your existing records, prove (or disprove!) your family’s legends, and develop those records and stories into a strong and lasting family narrative.  Let us deal with the data providers.