It’s All In The Movies

It’s that time of year again- that time of year where the crickets are chirping about the end-of-year-lists, scoops for next years best of lists, award ceremony predictions, predictions of award ceremonies based on last years end-of-year lists for the best little list in Texas…

And, of course, top ten lists.

As most of my friends are aware, I cannot take the Oscars or their ilk seriously. I’m a shitty guest at Oscar parties. Unless they are snarky parties. I know that winning a “Best Picture” aware cannot actually designate the year’s best movie. But this isn’t about my built in hatred for the glitz and glitter of the homecoming dance that is the Academy Awards.

This is about those lists- and since I don’t think I saw a single theatrically released film in 2009, it isn’t about an end-of-year list either.

What I am curious about is the “Best of All Time” lists. You’ve made them yourself- I know you have! When people ask you: “What is your favorite movie of all time” do you have a constant answer? I don’t, I can’t. Top 10 favorite movies of all time? Well, maybe I could pull that off, but it would shift.

What about your favorite (insert genre here) movies of all time? Now, some of my friends know me to be a bit of a horror fan. I’d rather they asked me what my favorite Spaghetti Western films were- because that narrows it down A LOT. Since the Spags were really only being made for a 12 year period that narrows it down- well we could be kind and stretch it out for closer to 20, but I’m talking about the rule-changing movies. Basically: A Fistful of Dollars to Keoma. 1964-1976.

Oh, but most people aren’t that specific. It’s just: “Top 10 movies. GO!” or “What do you think the ten best horror films are?”

Those are tough questions. For one thing, you tend to be comparing a lot of apples, oranges, bananas and kumquats to tomatoes. And none of these things are terribly similar beyond being “movies”.

Folks’ll do the same damn thing with books, which seems unfair too. My favorite five books of all time? Jesus, ask me which of my kids is my favorite why don’t you. Sometimes the bibliophiles will take pity: “Favorite books in X genre, or poetry, collections of short stories, classic literature, contemporary lit, beach reads, etc”.

Movie folk tend to be less kind. What the hell constitutes a “horror” movie anyway? With Spaghetti Westerns it is easy: Italian films, sometimes co-productions with Spanish companies, often shot in Almeria, often post-modern of heavily political in subtext. Lots of Ennio Morricone scores.

Horror isn’t that easy to classify: “Scary movie” for some people. For some people Silence Of The Lambs always shows up on their top ten horror films list- I think Silence is a terrific movie (haven’t seen it in over a decade, no idea if it has held up) but a horror movie? Eh. I call thriller. Is Army of Darkness a horror film, or a comedy? Likewise Shaun of the Dean- hey, if you ask me my top 10 horror-comedy films, I can do that easily- or can I? I assume we’d have to say that a horror-comedy is one in which the comedy is intentional, otherwise a number of 80s slasher films would end up on that list…

And what about slasher movies? Are they actually horror, or are they sleazier thrillers, hence “slasher movies”? And what about Alien? Is it horror? I think it definitely is (unlike the rest of the series), but who am I to say?

Indeed. What are some top-ten movies lists you think of, love to contemplate, or are curious about?

Murder Steer

I had a dream last night that I was whacked in the head with a tire-iron by some asshole in a parking garage. I went all Regarding Henry and lost a lot of memories and skills. So in my dream I spend most of the time sitting with Sam, who wants me to play video games with him, but he’ll put the controller in my hand and I won’t know what to do with it. So my son is patiently trying to show me how to play video-games while I just sort of stare. That dream sucked.

I’m still having some trouble getting my brain on track with, well, just about anything that isn’t Annika or the kids. That doesn’t help the writing. Plus, getting up early in the morning to write has been replaced with either getting up early with Grace (who likes to be held, making writing difficult) or trying to sleep in a little because Grace was up late- and likes to be held (and to watch Xena: Warrior Princess).

This just isn’t an easy creative time for me right now. I love the phrase “in a rut”, because it is so easy to get when I really think about it. A rear wheel stuck in mud or snow, and you keep accelerating but it won’t go- because the wheel has dug a rut in the substance you are hung up in. I’ve got some of that, creatively, right now.

I’ve got a friend’s manuscript to read- which I am excited as hell to do- and give notes on. I should read that. But I keep staring at my own manuscript. Which is fine and well but I really ought to be pushing the second round of queries.

Where thanks are Due-

The last almost four weeks have been a whirlwind of noise, love, weather changes and bodily fluids. I want to take a quick moment to say thank you to a few friends who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Shelby & Bri- who have always made our New Years Evenings a time for laughter and easy camaraderie. You guys not only rang in the New Year with us (and, once again, brought us food the first day we came home from the hospital with a baby in arms), but you brought us groceries. That was so goddamned nice it isn’t even funny. Plus, you make Sam laugh a lot. I don’t know what we would do without you guys.

Will & Nina- when a jittery father and a kid who really wanted to be pantsless came to your house, you sent them home with enough Italian food to feed a small army. Which we just happen to be. Our army salutes you! Plus, you gave me (and Sam, briefly, before he decided to leave) a warm and comfortable environment of good people and a great dog. I think Sam might prefer Daisy to Grace at this stage, and while I am prejudiced the other way, I see where he is coming from.

Cory & Jeffrey- between the two of you I realized that it was ok to be shaken to my core by some things. I also discovered that not only is Japanese curry really good, but that the Gaylord Hotel’s lobby bar (The HMS Bounty) is an excellent little hideaway. Thank you both, a lot.

Shout outs also go to Chris (who doesn’t read this) and Sara & also Erin (who probably don’t read this) and my mother (who almost definitely isn’t sure what a blog is) for food, good company, and baby holding. An extra-special thanks to our beloved Katherine. Next time, bring Tommy: he can hold the baby.

As you can see, food means a lot to me. That isn’t just my prodigious appetite talking, I am a firm believer in the old world belief that breaking bread with someone is an important social experience, and it is one of my favorite ways to spend time with folk of a like-minded persuasion. To The Good People and the well-wishers, I salute you.

The Midnight Alphabet – D

D is for Dragon, for Devil and Doom. D is for Dracula and Dungeon and Dagger. D is for Darkness, Dementia, and Death. D stands for Demise, Deranged and the remarkably ominous Delete. Despair, Djinn, Dagon, Damien, and Dreadful all begin with D.

D is for Duluth. Many travelers have been warned against stopping there. The Untold Delights of Duluth remain untold and unsung for a reason.

D is for Desolation. Desolation is the only known name of the Desert under which the fallen angels were bound in chains and buried. Under a Dozen people alive today know where it lies.

It is arguable whether the Dobharchu (also known as the Dorrahgow) belongs on this list, but for the death of a washer-woman at Glenade Lake in 1722. Anyway, giant Otters that can burrow through rocks and is longer than a man is tall is worthy of note even if they are rarely malicious to humans.

D is also for Darke. Of Mr. Darke, his associate, and their traveling carnival, much has been said.

The appearance of the Slavic Drekavac is contested, but the howling noises it makes are not.

Duchamp might begin with a D, but some experts say the name is spelled duChamp. Others argue that the real name owned by the man that calls himself Arnaud Duchamp cannot be pronounced by human tongues, and that the name is merely an approximation. What is behind his tinted eyeglasses has often been speculated upon.

Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground

And then we were four.

It is hard for me to put into words the raw emotion that accompanied the births of my children. Elation, shock & awe, disequilibrium? Maybe, I dunno, I was kind of emotional. Over emotional really, at least the second time around.

When Sam was born there were unexpected complications, and a close call. He was fine, but it was touch and go for a few minutes for Bettie. I guess I handled it pretty well at the time, I just held the baby and stayed out of the way with all the blood and the “GET ME SOMETHING-SOMETHING STAT!” I remember a lot of people moving quickly, and my wife turning very very pale.

Obviously she survived (or she is a very crafty undead of some type likely categorized in one of the later-edition D&D Monster Manuals), but for a while there in the hospital, I pondered a very different future than the one I expected. I always liked kids, kids have always liked me. But I don’t think I wanted, actively, to be a parent until I found the right person to parent with. The idea, being conveyed by the very very pale woman on the gurney and the scrambling medicos, that I would have to go it alone- without her- was terrifying. But also very calming.

See, she is my anchor and she keeps me centered and focused. So when I panic I turn to her to (figuratively, mostly) slap me in the face. When I thought she might not be around to do that, I became remarkably calm.

“It’s gonna be ok, little man,” I told the equally calm and relaxed infant in my arms. He was just sort of blinking at me, figuring things out. “I’ll take care of you.” I figured we would be Daigoro and Ogami Itto; we’d go nomad and I’d drive around on my Vespa with my baby strapped to my back, having adventures. Scooter Perambulator At The River Sanju. “Pick the sword,” I told my child. “Forget the ball. You don’t need a ball yet, you are still so tiny.” He hadn’t seen the movie yet, but I think he understood what I was saying on a purely mythical level. We had an unspoken agreement my son and I, and everything was going to be okay.

And much to my joy, it was. Bettie was okay, my grim fear of being a widower with an infant was put on hold. Life started up again, now with a son. We came to joke about the touch-and-go “almost fucking died” thing. Mainly, I think, because that is how we’ve always had to deal with tragedy and near-tragedy.

Let’s jump forward several years, and Grace is born. The birth itself went great. She was glorious, was my Bettie, my wife, Annika my partner. She was glorious and strong and she caught her own child as she tumbled free and we marveled at this tiny creature- this purple, furious, scrunch-faced and flailing little thing that wailed and hiccuped and scrambled at the breast.

Afterwards there was a need for medical intervention- no problem. This time we’re ready for it, this time we half-expected it (and it turned out to be a different complication, amusingly enough). So Annika goes to the hospital to get some medical attention, some blood, and baby-girl goes along for the ride. Good hospital, Good Samaritan, good staff.

I wait for a friend to come to keep an eye on sleeping Sam, and then head over to Good Sam to check in on my wife and daughter. When I get there, I get to hang out with my daughter for a few hours and give her a sponge-bath in the nursery. I check in with Annika- she is doing well, I’m sent home to get some sleep. I catch 2 hours before Sam wakes me up, wanting to play. I drop him off with the McQ family- basically Sam’s second family, he loves it there- and go back to the hospital to see my girls.

Our Goblin Princess’s ears looked like a miniature prize-fighters, her brow was somewhere between a Next Gen Klingon and a Whedonverse vampire, one big indentation from eye to eye across the nose. She was a little less purple, moe of a ruddy angry pinkish red. Her cheeks- my God her cheeks- like one of those skiff-guard aliens from Return of the Jedi, or just two giant apples overwhelming a tiny chin and cupid’s mouth.

They wanted to keep my wife under observation for one more night and day- which was to be expected. I went home and called Tim to get Sam back. “We can keep him tonight if you want, it’s no trouble and he’s having a great time.” No thanks. I wanted- no, I needed to have my son with me. I felt at loose ends, my emotions were all unchecked all broadcasting louder and more raw than I could understand. I sent off a barrage of emails and phone calls- trying to make each call as short as possible because I felt like I was choking.

Waiting for Sam to be dropped off was painful. Every sound in the hallway of the apartment building, every noise from the street, was making me jump out of my skin. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t thirsty, I showered but just sat in the water and let it run off me. Well, I’m pretty tired- I figured. The next day we brought the girls home, Sam was overjoyed. “Coming back?” he asked me that morning in the car. I fought back tears driving him to the McQs for a second day. He was happy- but I felt like I was abandoning him. So when we all went home, on New Years Eve, the world clicked back into place.

Except a part of me hasn’t clicked back yet. Sudden noises are still a bit too loud. I swing between sleeping like a log and springing out of bed at the slightest noise. I’ve vibrated with fight-or-flight impulses. My left eye was constantly vibrating in the socket- stress headaches were common. I burst into tears watching Bolt with Sam. It isn’t that good of a movie, believe me, but the scene where the girl is being wheeled to an ambulance- with the dog curled on her chest the way Gracie was on Annika’s- just about tore me open. All of those emotions came rushing back- I couldn’t understand it!

I kept telling myself, it wasn’t Grace’s birth- that went fine. Everything went as expected and planned for- so why am I more of a mess this time than I was when my wife almost died?

Well, I think I supressed it. I don’t think I ever really came to terms with almost losing Annika when we became three.

Maybe I can’t and won’t ever. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, the old saying goes, but I think that trauma counts too.

I am so very lucky, so incredibly lucky. I have my little man, my Sam, my Goblin Princess Grace- who keeps getting prettier every day- and my partner, my wife. But sometimes, it still shakes me.