Archive for November, 2007

My Real Father

Let’s put the speculation and rumors to rest right now: I love my father. He is a kind and gentle man, and has raised me for many years (some would say my whole life). I continue to learn from him to this day.

That being said, I have a daydream. Unlike Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., my dream is about my real father. He is from the future. He leads the rebellion in the Robot Wars and came back in time to protect my mother from a super-advanced cyborg known only as The Erasamotron. They fled from this cyborg, but in the meantime, fell in love. Unfortunately The Erasamotron killed my biological father by pulling his spine from his body and strangling him with it. My mother went on to meet the kind, gentle man who has done an exemplary job of raising both me and my half-brother.

Other things about my biological father, according to my daydream:
He is a superb middle-distance runner. He ran in the 2248 Summer Olympics and got silver in the 800 meters.
He has a futuristic hair style which would look silly today but is the height of fashion in the 23rd Century.
He is part alien. His human mother’s family disowned his mother (my grandmother) after she ran off with a Wixputlibotbxy.
His favorite meal is genetically modified tuna sandwiches.
There are no vowels in my father’s name.
He has a birthmark that looks like a thousand monks chanting on a mountaintop.
He keeps Kosher.
He is slow to anger. He would never throw the first punch, unless he is fighting a robot.
He is an artist, a poet, a singer-songwriter, an actor-director, a gourmet chef, and he knows how to make a quilt.
He has dark, brooding eyes.
Like all tragic heroes, he has a fatal flaw.

Between my biological father and my general day-to-day father, there are exceedingly high expectations of me. I hope to one day live up to those expectations, one blog entry at a time.

Don’t Forget to Vote/Old Movies That Rock

The Poll Poll is only open for another week, so keep those votes coming in. Currently there is a tie between Imaginary Numbers and Candy. I don’t want to exercise my tie-breaking vote, but I will if I have to. Also, if there is a tie I might just make a poll about Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter or the Mars rovers.

In the spirit of Halloween, I watched Halloween last week. It falls into the category of Old Movies that Rock (old movies, by my definition, are movies that have been around long enough to inspire 8 or 9 sequels and a remake). Here’s my mini-review of Halloween, a movie that each of you, either separately or together, should watch before you die.
Wes Craven is a pretty awesome storyteller. He has done thrillers (Red Eye), psychological horror (Last House on the Left), monster movies (Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing), satire (Scream), and slasher movies (this one). He makes movies that become bigger than just a film to see on a Friday night. They become part of the culture.

Part of the reason I want to see these movies is because I know the cultural reference but not the place where it originated. Is this what The Simpsons has done to us? We know so much about culture from the jokes made about it, but not from experiencing it firsthand. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing necessarily, it’s just a thing.

A masked guy kills babysitters on Halloween night. There’s the story for you in one sentence. It’s the details that make this movie, though. The scene in which you see the escaped lunatics milling around in the rain at night, lit only by a car’s headlights? Terrifying. The fact that Michael Myers seems to be somehow superhuman? That bit could have been overdone by other directors, or simply seen as careless filmmaking. Here, however, it serves to enhance the killer’s reputation. Halloween is told like a campfire story, exaggerations and all.

I can see why the studio wanted to continue the story, but I’m not interested in seeing the sequels. I love the insulated feeling of this movie; sequels generally broaden the canvas. It would dull the horror. I also like the ambiguity of the ending. I like the intentionally unexplained details, pieces left for the audience to work out long after the movie is over. It implies a bigger story without boring us with it.

One piece of advice a writing professor gave me was that the author of a work must meet the audience halfway. The author doesn’t force-feed the audience, but wants to give enough to sustain. I picture a mother bird feeding her babies. The image makes me laugh, because, according to the analogy, the story is regurgitated food that the audience devours. I’m digressing.
I was pleasantly surprised by Halloween (picture me sipping tea and exclaiming to my bridge partners “How lovely! He hacks up the first babysitter, then strangles the second!”). Seriously, though, I thought it was well-made. Hurray for scary movies.

A Papercut-less World

It began to happen around this time of the year. I was working at a bookstore in Colorado – had been since the summer. Up till this point in the fall, there had been little incident. As the climate went from “very dry” to “cold and exceedingly dry”, I became one of the many unfortunate victims of this terrible scourge.

Sometimes I would require multiple band-aids on my hands at once. Handling all those books, each one filled with paper, it would happen at least twice a week. Paper-cuts were a common complaint among my co-workers, and there was little we could do. It was far too warm inside to wear gloves, and besides, it would have been much more difficult to shelve the books.

I am constantly amazed at how much a small paper-cut bleeds. It will hurt for a split second, then stop. I’ll look down at my hand and watch the blood slowly rise. If I don’t wash the cut (with cold water, making my hands even drier), it will continue to bleed all over the brand-new books. Of course the corporate bookstore in which we worked did not see fit to supply its employees with bandages, so I’d have to make do with paper towels until I could get a band-aid at home. It looked silly, me holding a paper towel over my hand as though it had been ripped off in a farm machine accident, when in fact I was suffering the lowliest cut of all.

My best response was prevention. I bought a big container of hand lotion and kept my hands as moisturized as I could. That, along with the near-constant hand washing I did (surprise! I’m a hypochondriac), kept me going through the dry Colorado winter.

Much as I love to read real physical books, and find it so much easier than turning on a computer, I will embrace the device that allows us to read without paper. For, only until we can remove all the extraneous paper from our lives, we will never be rid of that horrible curse known as the paper-cut.

I Hate Camp

I really do. Camp ruins a perfectly nice day outdoors. Camp was not for me probably because I’m a cantankerous introvert who hates fun. No, seriously, I like fun just like any American. But I don’t understand the mass appeal of camp. People who liked camp, really liked camp. They talk about it for the rest of their lives. The songs they know by heart, they learned at camp. The games they play, they learned at camp. Their life is defined by this apparently transcendent experience they had in the summer months.

It was not always this way with me and camp. I don’t recall whose idea it was for me to attend, but I was happy to try it. Before I had my weeks of misery, I actually looked forward to attending. Shopping for supplies was fun. My mom and I (mostly my mom) had to stitch or glue or marker my name on every single item of clothing I owned, which was kind of fun. (I imagine it would have been embarrassing for me if, after returning from camp, my girlfriend had discovered my name on my underwear. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about a girlfriend for many many years.) I remember looking forward to writing letters to all my friends and family, and to getting letters (and maybe cookies!) in return.

You know, they call them POW Camps and Internment Camps for a reason.

Every hour of every day is brutally programmed. We even had scheduled “free time”, which was oxymoronic enough for nobody to notice. Was this school? No, it was worse. At least you get to leave school at 3. Camp is forever. They were always planning activities that would ostensibly bring us closer together, so that by the time the session concluded, we’d all be telepathically linked for the rest of our natural lives. This psychic bond never really happened for me. Was I resisting? Probably. You have to understand, when someone gives me a boundary, I look for ways to get around it. I hate being told what to do.

There is also something a little sinister about enforced fun. You can always see the ragged edges, the wires behind the curtains, which signify a sham. We went horseback riding. I somehow got stuck with the biggest, slowest, most indifferent horse. Keep in mind that I was a skinny little kid. The horse had no idea I was even there. When I kicked to try and catch up with the group, the horse would not respond. I could hear the counselors way ahead of me, shouting helpful bits of advice. “Kick his sides!” “Kick harder!” Eventually their voices became indistinct as they grew further away from me.

I should consider myself lucky. One kid got the easily-spooked horse. We all watched in horror as he was carried into the woods, helpless. They retrieved him eventually, but I’m sure the boy was never the same afterwards. Horses do that to you.

My experience at camp was shortened by my getting a disease. I spent a good lot of time at the camp infirmary, throwing up and watching all the Rocky films in order. They at first assumed I was just a little homesick, but a real doctor back home had a different diagnosis: acute strep. I thank my weak immune system for saving me from even more camp fun.

Even though camp was a trying time best used remembered for its humorous anecdotes (and I’ve got more!), I am glad I at least tried it. It’s one of those rites of passage for so many of us, I’d feel like an atheist at Christmas Mass if I’d never even been. I was at camp long enough to discover how wrong it was for me.
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