Sick Boy: A Long Weekend

When I get sick, it is always on the weekend.

As I get older, my healing factor has a lot more to deal with. I’m a bit front heavy and I utterly ignore my Core exercises (not even sure what those are: where I steal copies of a shitty Aaron Eckhart/Hillary Swank movie and throw it vast distances?), my diet probably isn’t as healthy as it should be, and I work outdoors- interacting with a daily rotating roster of delivery drivers: serious illness vectors.

Still, I don’t get sick too often, I’m still hardy. Not as hardy as when I was a kid or a young man, I healed and recovered at speeds that were remarkable to my friends and family alike.

But when I do succumb to a bug or a sniffle, it is always the weekend. Annika thinks it is because I have this fucked up work ethic where I pretty much ignore any illness or discomfort while I’m trying to get something done, and then when I finally relax my body goes: “Aw shit, we’re not doing so good!” and collapses.

I was feeling mildly out of sorts Tues/Weds of last week but brushed it off as allergies or just poor dietary choices, and even though I was feeling pretty exhausted by the time Thursday finished off (a solo night at home juggling Sam’s dinner and bedtime as well a lot of laundry) that isn’t too irregular.

Friday morning started slow- and got slower. By mid-day Friday every extremity ached and I was shivering, despite it being in the mid-70s. “I am not good,” I told Annika. “I don’t want to drive the scooter home like this.”

So she and the kids picked me up. Yay!

“Oh honey, you look terrible she tells me. Boo!

Home, sleep. Fever broke in the night- I know this, because at first I thought Gracie had a leaky diaper, but then I realized she was still out in the living room with her mom, brother and aunt and I was laying in a giant pool of sweat.

Saturday: sleep all day. Woke up, showered, decided that I was on the mend after having been fighting this bug for at least half the week (and thusly wouldn’t be contagious no mo) and went to my Wife’s birthday party.

Yay party!

Even though I barely got to see anyone for more than a few moments, it was awesome (though chasing after Sam whilst all wrung out from the fever kind of sucked). I am constantly reminded that my wife (and I, by default, because this is California so they are HALF MINE!) has some really awesome friends.

Laurie Ann deserves special mention, because she loaned me her (hardback, yo!) copies of a CERTAIN SERIES OF QUESTIONABLE QUALITY that I am reading as part of a SECRET PROJECT to put my motherfuckin’ money where my motherfuckin’ mouth is. (on my motherfuckin’ plane, sans motherfuckin’ snakes, obviously)

The special mention is mostly because Laurie Ann made covers for the books, presumably to hide my shameful reading material, and the covers say: “THE BIG BOOK OF VERY MANLY THINGS” (Vol 1 etc.). AWESOME.

In retrospect too- though Sam was kind of a pain in the ass for the last hour and a half at Ernie’s (the Mexican joint we celebrated at) he was fine for over an hour. And really, I can’t expect a 4 year old to be content to sit still (or at least only play around in the back room where we were) for more than an hour, so he exceeded expectations (it was just exhausting and frustrating at the time).

By the time we had hit TJs for a few things and gotten home past the Hollywood Bowl (on a Saturday night- ouch), Sam was out COLD. Barely woke up when I transferred him to bed.

Aw, and I did get to see my buddy Perfect Tommy for a bit. I don’t get to see Tommy often enough and that was super awesome.

Sunday we all just kind of chilled. Sam and I watched some episodes of the cheesy/kind of fun “Magnificent Seven” series from the mid-90s. Michael Biehn really only works in ensembles- at least for me- because he just isn’t strong enough to be a lead without other performers to outshine him or support him. Ron Perleman has THE SCARIEST TEETH EVER. I think he is just great.
Dale Midkiff and Ron usually took the writing and elevated it a bit, and Anthony Starke had a lot of fun with the flashier role of the cardsharp.

Oh, and Annika and I took Sam to the Farmer’s Market which was great, and I had Fatburger. The Last Great American Burger Stand was appropriate for the 4th. We watched the fireworks from the roof, Sam loved it. Gracie loved it too, but she’d love about half of the many Chinese Hells if her brother was there to enjoy them with her.

Monday was awesome, because we could just kind of collapse until the evening, when it was time for Deadlands.

Deadlands is, in brief, a table-top role-playing game. An RPG. A geek’s passtime. I’ve been playing that game for well over a decade- it is probably my favorite game setting (flawed though it is). I’ve been running a regular game for over a year now, with a mostly stock set of players that just added two- in the same session that two regular players introduced new characters. This was a potentially tricky night- balancing the introduction of FOUR new characters in the middle of an established story arc- especially since the two oldest surviving PCs were both out.

Well the game went pretty well, I think. I always find myself second-guessing the decisions I make, spur-of-the-moment, after the fact. Playing out the game (or telling the story, really, and I probably have a huge post inside me on how I view gaming, at least a game I run, as storytelling) is like a rough-rough draft, so afterwards I am kicking myself saying: “Man, I really should have exploited the secret of that Croatian immigrant girl more,” or “Geez, I could have really played the way they found Smiling’ Jack buried under corpses in the basement for more of a horror/suspense beat”.

Also, we had Golden Bird fried chicken before we played, and Annika picked up one of those mini-kegs of Newcastle. I LOVE THOSE SO MUCH.

Then came Tuesday- which was a very special day, since it was Annika’s birthday! Starting with my 35th birthday back in January, and continuing with Sam’s in May and now Annika’s- we have a pretty set-in-stone birthday tradition, which is great.

After breakfast we go to the Glendale Mall (basically, we go to the mall as many times a year as we have birthdays) to visit the Lego Store. Sure, Annika went to Macy’s too, but Sam and I mostly went to the Lego Store to browse. He also discovered the Disney Store (lets be honest: The Pixar Store) and he stood, transfixed, in front of all the Toy Story displays. He didn’t want me to press any buttons or look too closely at any of the boxes- I think he wanted it to be his discovery, his exploration. When we left to find the girls, he was very quiet for a few moments, almost awed- like he’d been in church. I guess, in his own way, he kind of had been.

After the Mall (and were we all glad to leave, oh boy, we HATE malls) we had lunch at The Golden Spur and went home to COLLAPSE. And play Lego: Harry Potter, the game. I have enjoyed all of the Lego games, this one has strong potential to be my favorite, being the most diverse. The Star Wars games are fantastic, but Jesus Christ we’ve played the ever-living shit out of them. I enjoy the Indiana Jones game, but the constant stream of enemies (like in the Batman game) gets annoying when I just want to explore/build/collect monies. The HP game seems to recognize this and lets you do a lot of non-combat exploration.

I made a Jamaican rub for tofu and pork for dinner, a jerk rub. It was delish. And now, sadly, tragically, I am back at work. But I had 4 days off, with my family (and my friends) and that was pretty much perfect- even with my weather being a bit under.

Total Eclipse of the Heart- The Perfect Storm

What is it about Wales that makes it such good fodder for horror? Is it the mountains, the cheese, the Welsh language? Bonnie Tyler, who performed A Total Eclipse of The Heart, is Welsh. Does that make her a degenerate offshoot of the Whateley family, capable of cursing small children in her native tongue?

I seem to recall reading an interview with JK Rowling- or it was possible just one of her fans- back when The Prisoner of Azkaban (book) came out, where it was suggested that the Dementors were not dissimilar to JRR Tolkien’s Ringwraiths, and the defense was that Rowling hadn’t read the Tolkien.

My wife and I began a house joke (like house rules, but funny, to us) that JK Rowling hasn’t read anything, or seen anything, and lived in a pop-less bubble. So if you can think of something in the Harry Potter books that reminds you of something earlier, just chime in with: “But JK Rowling had never seen Star Wars/Read or heard of Hamlet/The Bible”. Hours of chuckles guaranteed!

A caveat: we don’t actually believe that JK Rowling is unaware of classic literature (or pop-culture). We also don’t think the Welsh are a degenerate cult of demon-worshipers in thrall to some ancient eldritch creature. Except for Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Stephenie Meyer is actually functionally illiterate when it comes to classic literature. So she is unaware of any previous rules for Vampire or Werewolf mythology because she isn’t interested in those sorts of stories.

OK, says I, so she makes something her own- no harm in that, it is what writers SHOULD do. Sometimes releasing a well-known creature of myth or fantasy from it’s usual trappings is a very positive, free-thinking thing to do. Set it in a new world, play with it: make it your own.

But in order to DO this, you have to be AWARE of what came before. You can’t subvert without knowing what the expectation is.

You can, apparently, catch lightning in a bottle just by waving it around.

I don’t remember when the Twilight storm clouds first appeared. I wrote an article that was inspired by it’s fans, the so-called Twi-Hards (cute!) in October of ’08, (you can read it Here– but it isn’t a condemnation of Twilight, or its fans. It was my heartfelt confession that I just don’t get it. I don’t get taking “scary” and trying to make it sexy- I miss having monsters do what they are supposed to do: scare us.

At the time, all I was aware of about the Twilight series was the ways in which Meyers cast off the traditional aspects of Vampire and Werewolf lore and made it her own. While I don’t particularly like the whole “X-Men” aspect of the series (each vampire has a unique super power? Uh, ok) and find the “sparkles in sunlight” thing to be particularly risible (I briefly through Meyers was the female version of that Eragon kid, some 16 year old who wrote a novel and somehow got it published- and doesn’t sparkly vampires seem like something from the back of a Trapper-Keeper?)- but really, to each his or her own.

Since October 08, I have become more aware of the series, both the films and the novels. I have read excerpts from the novels, I have watched sequences from the first two movies. I have read essays both condemning and praising the series- and I find it fascinating that a lot of people who read and even like the books don’t have a lot of good things to say about them other than “I wanted to see how it ends” or “I couldn’t stop reading it”.

I’m reminded of Stellan Skarsgaard explaining that he read one of the Dan Brown novels in an airport and hated it, but couldn’t stop reading it. “It’s like having peanuts in the bar next to my beer while I’m waiting for a plane,” he said. “I keep eating the fucking peanuts, but I don’t want peanuts! I don’t even like peanuts! I’ll say this, that Dan Brown can make you turn the page even when you don’t want to.”

HOW is this possible? How are there writers who have this awesome power?

Regardless, I am no longer bemused and accepting (if personally disinterested) of Meyers’ Twilight series. I am now flabbergasted and horrified by it’s fans.

If you read my blog, you probably don’t move your lips while you read. At least much. So you are more than aware of the countless websites that offer page-by-page analytical breakdowns of Meyers’ books as scary misogyny, weird Mormon propaganda, and just plain bad.

The just plain bad thing is a moot point- quality has never meant anything for box office or sales. Four words: Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

The weird potentially cultish religious thing- how Jacob imprinting his love on Bella & Edwards baby girl is some sort of explanation/romanticizing of the whole “offshoot Polygamist Mormons marrying children”- I don’t have an opinion on. That the imprinting thing is fucked up- we either agree or you need to fuck off- I have no doubt, but I don’t know enough about weird fringe compound dwellers in Utah and Idaho to comment.

But the unpleasant male/female dichotomy crap, as half of a mostly healthy romantic relationship, that I HAVE a strong fucking opinion on.

Edward as Stalker is well documented: this is the guy who watches her sleep. Ok, for some adolescent girls (and women who haven’t psychologically aged since adolescence) this apparently constitutes romantic. I guess so does Edward’s idea of “what is best” as well: “I love you because I want to kill you”, literally. And let’s not forget: “You are in danger because of me and my vegetarian vampire family, so we’ll all leave, ignoring the fact that some angry free-range people-killing vampires are only not murdering you because we live here”. Well ok, that last is just really crappy plotting, but whatever. How about “you cut yourself and my brotherpire goes all blood lust so to save you I THROW YOU ACROSS THE ROOM INTO A WALL WHERE YOU GET EVEN MORE CUT UP”?

Or when Bella goes off with the wolf-boy to meet the other wolf-boys (who have inducted Jacob into their shirtless Brociety in a sequence that, in the movie at least, plays like the aftermath of an all male gang-rape, down to Jacob’s shame and rage) and is introduced to their Alpha Male’s girlfriend- her face is all scarred up. Why? Because she “made him mad,” and the wolf came out. OK, THAT IS SO FUCKING ROMANTIC- HE BEATS ME BECAUSE HE LOVES ME!

Thanks Stephenie Meyers- as the father of a daughter whose reading choices I will not be censoring (though I hope I will be vetting in order to discuss with her)- you’ve made it likely that I will get to discuss mental and physical abuse (“I love you so much I want to kill myself”) in tween fiction that is disguised as romance.

On an interesting side note- if the purpose of the books were to show Bella that Jacob and his brain-washing werebros were EVIL and WRONG in allowing their bestial side to control them- then this would not only be a clever use of the traditional werewolf (uncontrollable bestial killing instincts translated, ala Angela Carter, to spousal abuse) and- quite properly- condemning them. Instead Meyers doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with this.

What brings this all on? Last night my sister-in-law and I were discussing my Perfect Storm Theory- that some icons of pop culture come out of nowhere, through an unpredictable and (most importantly) unrepeatable series of events- they are the only one like it there will ever be.

There will never be another Elvis.

There will never be another James Dean or Marilyn Monroe.

There is only one Jenna Jameson.

Harry Potter was a one-time thing.

So was Liszt.

And The Beatles.

I don’t think Twilight is one of those Perfect Storms- I hope not. While Marilyn Monroe was a moderately talented actress and a number of Elvis’ songs are outright dull (and personally, I never got the Jenna Jameson thing), there is no denying star power. Elvis, Harry Potter and James Dean are all going to long outlive their expected shelf-lives- Dean already has, so has Elvis. Harry Potter will probably still be a huge zeitgeist after Rowling is dead and gone. Hopefully her daughter won’t collaborate with Kevin Anderson’s kid to put out “expanded universe” books.

I hope that Meyers books- a strange look into a permanently adolescent mindset, an unrealistic and dangerously uninformed view of “romance”- will be relegated to a footnote in history. I’ll probably be disappointed.

And therein is the real scary part- not that teenaged and pre-teen girls are enjoying these books- kids read crap (so do adults), they also- hopefully- outgrow it. It is the Twihards well into their 30s and 40s (and presumably beyond) who defend the books as “romantic” that terrify me. Is there some army of romantically frustrated Midwestern housewives who truly love these stories and embrace them for the distorted and unhealthy view of what “true love” should be?

Devin Faraci’s review of the most recent installment, over at Chud is pretty good. Actually, it isn’t good, it is scathing. What it is, is a well-written review. Sometimes Devin gets a little overly contemptuous, but that is how he writes.

I will close this entry with the defense that a commenter who goes by Helen Gynell posts there:

“The sad fact that you are “baffled” and feel that the romantic themes are “centuries outdated” is exactly why the books are popular. While old fashioned romance might baffle today’s guy and feel dead, for girls and women it’s very much alive and SO wanted and missing that this fantasy has been embraced by females of all ages. Too bad it takes a mating age werewolf and a scent-crazed vampire to make the female lead feel special, but throw in the fact that they’re incredibly good looking, totally hang on her every word, and both so madly in love they are ready to fight over her and who cares they’re not ‘normal’. Obviously normal guys just don’t understand women Crave Romance. The popularity of the books and films is undeniable proof that guys are woefully lacking in that department. I’m thinking that girls want to be loved for who they are-Bella’s not the cheerleader, not the most popular girl in school, but she’s got both of the two hottest guys in town literally at each others’ throats. Just be being herself. She didn’t have to turn herself into a male-fantasy-jiggling-video vixen to find love! As far as the films go, guys just don’t want to see that Lautner and Pattinson are THAT appealing to women-Think of it like young Elvis and James Dean together!”

Apparently, my astonishment at the romance shows how out of touch I am- and I am not refuting that this is possible. How did Stephenie Meyers catch lightning in the bottle? She wrote a central female character who, apparently, is a true “everywoman” in that she is a blank slate (literally a blank page in book 2, several times) that readers can imprint themselves upon.

My question is whether fans of the Twilight series are also fans of the hoary old bodice-ripping Westerns where virginal prairie girls are raped by tender Indians and come to love their captors? Is this the same sort of “take me away and make me special” need that some women never have grown out of, the need to be an Indian Princess, or in the middle of a love triangle between an emotionally distant Vampire who refuses to sexually satisfy her, and a testosterone addled Werewolf who actually says things like: “You’d better run, I’m getting angry!”?

Is what Stephenie Meyers writes all that horrible though, or is it just a really late (like many decades late) mirror to the Ian Fleming (and, yes, Robert E. Howard) books of escapist male fantasy where the Virile and Potent Man was often rough with the woman who grew to love him (and the implied kinky sex)? And if so, how terrifying is it that Meyers is essentially writing the exact same “subservient woman” stories, but from the girl’s point of view? Gynell posits that Bella doesn’t have to turn herself into a male-fantasy jiggling vixen to find love- no, but she does have to get thrown around, threatened, abandoned, and nearly killed- not just be enemies of her love interests, but by the love interests themselves.

If that is romance, I’m glad I’m unromantic. I feel like my feminist studies teacher in college might actually, finally, be proud of something I’ve said. Man, that crazy bitch hated me. She was probably Welsh.

God’s Gonna Cut You Down

Last night I dreamed I was riding in the backseat of a car. My wife was there, and her sister, and we were listening to a Jesse Dayton song (one that I dreamed up, apparently) that was about a guy who kept getting locked up in prison, and then breaking out to go see his girl, and the funny ways he kept getting caught.

“that could be a great movie,” I said. “Or at least a cute one.”

“Yes yes,” my father, who was driving, assured me. “What we need to do is get you a motel room out by an old abandoned prison or something, that way you and your wife can write that pitch!”

We drove past an eerie church, all black rock and covered with dying ivy. It had a sign that said something like “Evil Church” and I thought: “Huh, that is an eerie, evil looking church.”

Then I was at this old abandoned prison, outside of Pittsburgh. I saw it once from a boat, where my wife and I were having dinner with my parents for my mother’s birthday. I remember the food was mediocre at best, but the music was good and it was neat seeing Pittsburgh from the water. The prison was in a rural area, mostly surrounded by barren trees.

In my dream, I found the prison shortly after the Zombiepocalypse kicked into overdrive- some survivalist guy had fully stocked it with canned and frozen foods, rolled in a couple huge industrial generators and a fuel truck, set up a radio transmitter and antenna and filled the armory with weaponry- then he got bitten by a zombie when he opened up the back door to let the cat out or something.

So I have this fully stocked massive place to live, to wait out the zombies, but I’m lonely, so I started broadcasting radio transmissions like: “Hey, I’ve got beer and a really kicking sound system hooked up. Any ladies out there, bite free?”

At one point, I had to open up the big front doors (they had a huge crossbar, strangely enough) to let in some survivors- an old couple in tourist clothes with handguns, an Asian woman about my age who spoke little English and probably was hiding a bite (I wasn’t gonna let her seduce me, I decided, in case she turned while we were making out) and more…

I was carrying a World War 1 era pump shotgun, with a bayonet on it, and when a zombie lurched out of the underbrush I stuck the blade into the soft rotting flesh of its cheek to hold it steady while I shot it in the brain.

I remember climbing into the bulldozer with the enclosed and reinforced Cab and driving into town to loot the liquor store. I didn’t like having tourists in my prison.

A college-aged girl kept arguing with me about wearing a pancake holster inside of the belt, it was just more comfortable than wearing a tactical leg-drop holster I said, she said I was basically carryong concealed and what was the point?

Everytime I drove the bulldozer past the old motel in the middle of the woods, I wondered what the hell I was doing back in Pittsburgh, and where my wife and kids were. Sure, the college girl was nice, and it turned out the Asian woman hadn’t been bitten- she just was afraid of me at first- but I sure did miss my family.

Eventually, I’m pretty sure one of the tourists had been bitten, because the other kept making excuses for why the other wasn’t coming to meals.

College Girl thought we should play more upbeat music on the radio show, that all the Cash, Cave, Waits and Glasseye I was spinning was a bit “grim”.

“It’s the zombie apocalypse.” I told her.

“You could at least play some Horrorpops,” she said. So I played Walk Like a Zombie, but really wanted to play Hitchcock Starlet, but I didn’t have it and the internet wasn’t up, so I couldn’t get it out of my email.

The problem with dreams is the waking up part, because then you aren’t sure if the weird slobbering sucking sounds you heard was Zombies chewing the flesh off the people in the prison, or the baby nursing.