Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mildred B. Soule, 1916-2010

   Last week was among the worst that I can remember for a number of reasons, and its opening salvo was the death of my grandmother. Before I get into this, I don't want to make this sound sad. It's not. She was 94 years old and, though sharper than most I know at a third of her age, she was ready for it. I am grateful that her family and friends were given the time they had with her, and I am happy that she may now rest. This isn't a dirge or anything, just a way to process what I'm thinking.

   My grandmother, to anyone that met her in the last 20 years, could easily consider her a prototype for Lucille Bluth; a stubborn, sharp-witted, heavy drinking, old-school socialite who was remarkably quick for her age. She would regularly wound family members with unintentional quips and could let fly with some frighteningly dated comments*. I don't say these things to denigrate her memory, but to define her better as a person. She was widowed relatively young in her life (and again much later) and long before I knew her, she was traveling the world. For most of my life, that's how I thought of her. She worked as a travel agent and lived by herself in an old lady house on Long Island and did old lady things. It was a beautiful house, and I remember being allowed to touch about 4 things in it.

   We would visit a few times a year, and I remember she had cable, which seemed so extravagant in 1982. I remember her calling all of my siblings insane because we would go there for a week and I was the only one who went outside. Everyone else watched copious amounts of MTV, the boys falling in love with Martha Quinn and the girls watching it because, well, it was MTV. If I wasn't so freaked out by the dwarves in the "Safety Dance" video, I probably would've been right there with them.It was in a nice suburb, and I remember loving the prospect of having new yards and parks to explore. Every time we visited it was like moving without the hassle of having to make new friends.I like to think I climbed new hills and let my imagination soar or whatever, but in reality I'm sure I just sat on a bench and read somewhere.

   It's funny, because I started writing this with something else completely in my mind, but, but this one memory just unpacked itself in my brain, and I'd be foolish not to document it now while it's here. This is from later, when my siblings were old enough to want to (or be able to) get out of these visits to New York, and so I would be the one kid left to go with my parents. In retrospect, I have no idea what the rest of the kids were doing, but they were old enough for it to be no good. But I digress.

   I read a lot as a kid. I'd pretty much read anything, from album liner notes to sporting goods catalogs to whatever I was allowed to check out of the library. This included pretty much anything, but specifically by just grabbing whatever was on the new shelves. It's not the best approach, but nobody was going to complain, because I was a kid reading on his own, right? As a result, I read a lot of standard kid books, including most of the Judy Blume catalog. Yes, you probably see where this is going. In the autumn of 1987, I brought a book called Just as Long as We're Together** with me to Manhasset on one of these visits. I'm not sure if I read the whole thing there or what, but I remember walking back to my grandmother's house from the park and asking her what a period was. My parents weren't there, off visiting some of my mom's high school friends or something, and my grandmother went white as a sheet. So yeah, my grandmother then was tasked with the chore of explaining menstruation to her 9 year-old grandson. I wish I remembered it more clearly, but it stands as a rambling mess of awkward followed by shoving my towards my mom when she got home. I can't say I blame her for that, it's probably what I would've done, too.

But what really has had me rethinking my grandmother's life as of late was finding out when I was in my early 20s that she was a lawyer. This was a complete shock to me, and something I had never even considered. She had been a part-time travel agent for all the time I'd known her, and it was pretty shocking to me. Even more shocking to me when put into the context of the time. For the sake of argument, let's consider the world of Mad Men. Normally, I'd try to avoid including a reference to a TV show while eulogizing my dead grandmother***, but this is apt. Watching that show, it's amazing to see what kind of shit women had to put up with in 1960 suburban New York. It's incredible when juxtaposed with the climate today. Then I remember that in 1960 my grandmother was in her mid 40s and had passed the bar in 1943 and my head reels at what she must have been put through. The amount of determination and sheer willpower that must have taken is more than I can imagine. I'd be impress if I inherited a sliver of that. She was an amazing lady.

In any case, I'm thinking of her now as I look at my cat sleeping on a rug that she made for me when I was a baby. It has a picture of a Peter Cottontail on it and it's one of the only things I still own from age 2. It's remained a valued possession for all this time, and even moreso now. In fact, I might have to yank that cat right off of it. I'll try to attach a picture of it to this site later.

My reasons for writing this dumb and unflattering attempt of a eulogy are twofold. For one thing, we aren't going to be having a memorial for her until late September, and I wanted to get some of my thoughts down now while they were fresh. Second, when I was looking around for an obituary online, it was disturbing to realize that aside from one written up by a local funeral home and a lovely tribute written up by one of my mother's neighbors, there wasn't one. I don't expect my 94-year old grandmother to have much of a web presence, but it's kind of sick when you think about the complete absence of one. If this is what's supposed to pass for posterity, if we're supposed to forgo written documents and burial plots in an effort to reduce our planetary footprints, shouldn't we at least make an effort to remember our loved ones? It pains me when my grandparents tell me about how all their friends are dead, but it's also a plain fact of life, I guess. What isn't fair is that they rarely have anywhere to talk about them, remember them. It would probably take like 1% of the internet to set up a database that could host every obituary that was ever written.

I'd like to see more than that, but at least it's a start.

footnotes after the jump

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pic Dump - July 19, 2010

Perplexingly written in the margin of the library's copy of the Good Will Hunting screenplay. There was no other notation found in this copy.

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth
it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners
the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water
I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days
-Frank O'Hara, 1950

before I forget...

my favorite excerpt from the Moyers book I was talking about 10 minutes ago, and the reason I checked it out of the library:
Benjamin Franklin made a grand entrance to the convention today. He arrived swaying in a sedan chair carried on poles by four husky convicts from the Walnut Street Jail. It's a dramatic vehicle, the first one ever seen in America, and Dr. Franklin uses it to cushion his body. It keeps the cobbled streets from stirring up his gout. But the shrewd old politician knows the value of commanding some public attention as well.
- Bill Moyers, Report From Philadelphia


I MUST verify that this is true. This is too good to be true, right? Is it possible that one of our founding fathers was hedonismbot?  I'm freaking out over this information.

My wikipedia history

As an apology for that last post, here's a worse one: My wikipedia history of the past 48 hours or so. I'd link them, but that'd take forever. But it's a nice little peep into how I spent my weekend:

Joshua Harto, The Dark Knight, Hello Mary Lou: Prim Night II, Psycho Cop, Friday the 13th (1980 film), Pumpkinhead (film), Basket Case (film), Mujeres Asesinas (Mexico), Mujeres Asesinas (Argentina), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Nubbins, Neurodegeneration, List of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Characters, Sombrero, Texas Ranger Division, L.M. Kit Carson, Powaqquatsi, Category: Golan-Globus films, Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, Paul Molitor, Silver Slugger Award, Category: Living People, Shimenawa, Moun Tsukuba, Emishi, Chi McBride, New Zealand National Rugby Team, Pushing Daisies, Shoe Tossing, Watcher in the Water, Dionte Christmas, Gregg Foreman, Tav Falco, Toni Basil, Rcky Ross (drug trafficker), Giant Hogweed, Hogweed, Noxious Weed, Stock Route, Sumac, Glechoma hederacea, St. John's Word, Weed, Gunga Din, Kenny (2006 film), Shrike (comics), Amygdala (comics)Wong Fei-Hung, Hei hu quan, Dragon Kung Fu, Five Animals, Leopard Blow, Lady Shiva,

Yeah, so there's actually a pretty good account of what I've been reading about, not counting the books I have out of the library at the moment (3 photography books about war journalists, modern Russian, Edwardian England, a book about Cold War politics, and a Bill Moyers book about the signing of the Constitution that I can't even find a review for).

I assume you're reading this because you're bored at work. And now the internet has managed to bore you as well. I apologize. Maybe one of those topics might interest you. If so, go check it out! I read some interesting wikis. Or, go look at some awesome MRI's of food. In fact, go for the latter.

This blog is like the mental equivalent of ipecac for me. What comes up might be interesting, but more than likely it's a jumbled, disgusting mess of what I've eaten over the past few days. 

I'll be back in a few days with some good stuff, I promise.

The Saw is Family. Horrible, disgusting family.

 At the moment, I'm watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. I have no good reason why, other than when Dennis Hopper died, I put it in my Netflix instant queue, and it's been sitting there ever since. Of course, nobody in their right mind wants to watch this movie with me. Hell, I don't want to watch it. But right now Carrie is in the throes of thesis hell in the other room and Jose is holed up in his room, so I can take this chance to watch a movie that nobody wants to watch.

Which leads to me sitting here, agog at the sheer insanity of this movie. As many of you know, I enjoy a horror movie. I don't go to conventions, and I haven't seen almost any of the remakes, but I do consistently own fake blood and probably would include 4 zombie movies in my top 20 of all time if you asked me right now*. But when I was a kid, I was terrified of horror movies. I remember my brothers making me watch Nightmare on Elm Street 2 when I was a kid and being aghast for WEEKS. My brothers, of course, thought it was hilarious, but the joke was on them when I began waking them up every night at 3 AM asking what they'd to if a murderer broke in the house**. I remember crying during the opening library scene of Ghostbusters when I saw it in the theater***. But every week my family would go and rent a movie from the Rite Aid down the street from my house**** and I would just sit in the horror section staring at the display boxes. It was the same unsettling curiosity I held for KISS posters, a band that my aforementioned brothers convinced me was comprised of serial killers. In retrospect, I was kind of a stupid kid if I thought a serial killer would dress up as a kitty cat.

Update: There have been 2(!) chainsaws to the groin in this movie, which is not over yet, despite my lengthy ramblings.

So yeah, by age 8 I was intimately familiar with the covers and stills of some of the worst horror movies ever made. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to conquer my fears. Maybe it was the seeds of a dumb interest that would manifest around 7th grade. I wish I could say I preferred the more high-brow movies, but it was the slasher flicks that delivered the most satisfying images on the box. Plus, there's something to be said for a good slasher movie poster*****

Which brings me to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The poster was one of those that I constantly looked at. For one thing, it was a mirror of The Breakast Club poster. Also, it's like a family who are 80% walking corpses. and Leatherface is wearing a suit! People freak out about how smooth Patrick Bateman was in American Psycho, but look at how damned cool Leatherface looks with a tie and carnation in his lapel!

But this movie... holy shit. It's not so much as bad, but a disgusting exercise in splatter humor. In Roger Ebert's review of the original, he said something to the effect of "this is a well-made and effective movie, but I can't imagine for the life of me why anyone would ever want to make it". I can, because it's one of the scariest movies ever made. Special effects or jerky camera cuts in the world have yet to create a scarier movie in my eyes.

But this sequel... holy shit. It's actually grueling. Remember how that first Matrix movie was interesting, like scratching an itch you didn't know you had? Then you saw the second one, and it was like someone taken a belt sander to that itch and even the remnants of those nerve endings were long gone? The TMC sequel was like that, but with gasoline and fire ants. There are funny parts, sure, though most of the attempts at humor are more unsettling than anything. And the "scary" parts are more disgusting than scary. But I think the most disturbing part about this movie is that it wasn't hijacked by the studio or whatever, this is the same director of the first one. How the fuck does that happen? Also, how does Tobe Hooper go from Poltergeist to this mess in 3 years? Yikes.

So now the movie is over, and I'm thinking about watching Carnival of Souls just to purge what I just saw from my mind. Also, that I basically wrote for over an hour about horror movies when I sat down with a much different topic in mind. Chalk it up to my short attention span, or that I wrote this while watching a movie featuring at least ten chainsaws throughout, and once again, I've subjected you to to rambling nonsense, which I apologize for. The fact is I sat to write about something very serious and a little personal, but felt so sick over thinking about it that I started watching this shit to take my mind off things and it snowballed from there. I'll write the real update in a day or two. and hey, look at it this way. I might have just wasted a couple of minutes of your time. Okay, I definitely did. But there's good odds that I just saved you a good 90 additional minutes wasted on that movie. Or not. A few minutes ago, Carrie asked me what sort of person does this movie appeal to, and my response was "the kind of person who was an alcoholic Cannibal Corpse fan in high school". and I stick by that.

*Predictably, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and Shaun of the Dead, in no particular order.

**My brother Rob's response one night: "Well, then I guess we're all gonna die in our sleep. Go back to bed". I do not like to dwell on the psychological ramifications this statement might have had on my impressionable young mind.

***Again, I don't like to consider how this might have affected recent educational and occupational decisions of mine.

****I swear this was a thing, a Rite Aid renting videos, but my adult brain cannot comprehend the concept of someone renting The Exterminator from the same place they buy makeup, even if Target does that now.

*****I still think the original Friday the 13th poster is one of the best ever, and Prom Night 2 is no slouch. These asterisks are getting tired, no? Google needs to get with the damned superscript already. Or I should move this thing like I vowed to do like a year ago.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

After submitting 7 samples, it turns out I write like:
Dan Brown, Margeret Atwood, Stephen King, David Foster Wallace, William Gibson, William Gibson, and Raymond Chandler.

(Yes, I got William Gibson twice. I've only read one of his books, which bored me to sleep).

Of course, this was just using the posts from this site that I came up with in the past year or so and none of the fiction I almost never write anymore (new updates there, though!)

Still, I have no idea what this says about me, other than I probably shouldn't trust a web site to analyze my writing.