Saturday, August 11, 2007

But there are only 19 nervous breakdowns

The other day we had two movies come in the mail, both in that genre of "what the heck, they're on Netflix, we won't really lose anything": Club Dread, and The Number 23. The former was way better than Scary Movie as a horror comedy, although I don't mean to damn with faint, etc . Bill Paxton is a hoot as Coconut Pete, the washed-up, burnt-out rock star bitter at Jimmy Buffett for stealing his schtick. (We checked out the soundtrack on Amazon, and everyone who's ever even looked it up seems angry that it contains none of Coconut Pete's ridiculous ditties).

The premise is that he now owns a tropical resort based on his own songs, where a mad killer is picking off the various attractive and/or eccentric employees. The murders seem to be based, Ten Little Indians style, on an old song Coconut Pete doesn't even remember, a nonsensical "Octopus's Garden" kind of tune, off a 70s album called Sea Shanties and Wet Panties. "Our lives depend on interpreting the stupidest fucking song I've ever heard!" the most sensible babe complains.

I immediately started contemplating a movie based on that classic piece of acid-related whimsy, "A Giant Crab Comes Forth." I've got the LP handy. And I've seen way more implausible set-ups for horror movies that were supposed to be taken completely straight.

So yesterday, just for the heck of it, I went to see how many people are out on MySpace claiming to be Coconut Pete. The number? 23. Spooooky. Although we still haven't watched the movie yet, so I don't know what it's going to end up signifying, other than sound and fury.

Fortunately my life doesn't actually depend on any of my interpretations. It's all still subjective. Whew! But if someday I sound a little tense, well, it could happen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dubious Kitten Face

Somebody in my house kept me up all night, pouncing on my feet for no good reason. It's not as if I have strange new feet that she has never seen before. They didn't just materialize under the covers like some form of unusual cat toy.

Then that same someone would rush up to about chest-level and heap herself in one giant flop into my chin, purring like a maniac. Like nothing in the world could be more fun than chasing stationary feet. Then she rolled around a little to maximize the skritching I felt compelled to provide about her head and chin. And then just stopped, looked up, and stared at me with this expression of complete skepticism, like she'd just decided I was the most unfathomable thing I've ever seen.

I know I'm an incredible anthropomorphizer, but that's a look of judgment if I've ever seen one. I could almost see the wheels of thought whirring behind her half-closed eyes. Absolute dubiosity, and then, what the heck, pet me!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

"They don’t even like the idea of Albuquerque"

Best line I've overheard in awhile!

And then there was the great review on Amazon.com, saying a book wasn't believable because "What high school kid would use the word askance?"

Uh, oops.

"Askance" would've been the least of my vocabulary worries. No wonder people looked at me...askance.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Red Eye Twerp

My sister and I visited the historical society in our old hometown yesterday, and of course I picked up a few books. One was an enormous "the old days" book from the town where we lived when I was a preschooler, the kind half-filled with family histories and what all the granchildren are up to, but still interesting, since I remember a lot of the names and even some of the people.
Flipping through it, they kept referring to "Red Eye Twp," which I know is short for "Township," but my red eye insisted on seeing it as "Twerp." I guess that's what I was when I used to live there.

Of course, this type of book leaves out a lot of information. For example, there's a family history section on one of my dad's old coworkers, whose kids I played with a lot when I was little. It blah-blahs about his work, his church activities, and so on, never once mentioning his single most identifying feature, which is that he's the guy who was missing an arm. A supposedly historical record that doesn't mention that he lost his arm in an accident (much less how) seems somewhat...insufficient. And since he went on to lead a successful life, it's not like it's anything to be ashamed of.

Once, I was at their house, playing with the kids, and he was in the driveway working on the car. He walked around from the car and Yowza! I suddenly noticed that his arm was gone. Of course it had been gone for years, so he didn't appear troubled in any way. I think it's because, well, I was little and not too aware of things, and also it was summer, so he was probably wearing a short-sleeved shirt. Anyway, I thought his arm had just fallen off right then, but it wasn't bothering him, so I couldn't say anything. (Thank goodness for that: it would have been a new low in the annals in tact). After he went in the house, I kept circling around the car, thinking, did he misplace it back here?

I don't think I even knew a person could lose body parts before that. Kinda funny, considering the movies in my collection. Fortunately, I never did find any stray limbs lying around.

Hey, this could be my contribution to Memories of the Good Old Days!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

There are plenty of human curiosities outside of the tent.

Today's headline: "Drivers' blind trust in bridges is gone." Ya think? I don't know how exactly most people are going to be able to avoid them. Maybe someone should have listened to my Crazy Ralph naysaying years ago. (Crazy Ralph being, of course, the prophet of doom in the early Friday the 13th movies. "It's got a death curse!")

Anyway, I'm supposed to be leaving on a short excursion today. Barely a trip, but somewhere I'm planning to be outdoors and take pictures. So of course I've woken up to gloom and damp. It's true, I have some skill at drawing the precipitation, although it hasn't been tested scientifically, so I can't really hire myself out. But I swear, the minutes I'm going somewhere, the rain is going to fall, a blizzard is going to come out of nowhere. When I went to the Atlantic Ocean, water-going activities were limited because there'd just been an enormous, unseasonal storm, and the waves were still dangerous.

Now that I think about it, there were two years when the town I lived in had terrible droughts. At the same time, I was at my brokest, and wasn't attempting to travel. I was just stuck in town, sweltering. If only I'd taken donations for a couple of bus tickets, there'd at least have been rain the days I left and the days I came back, which would have been good for the farmers...

Come to think of it, my anecdotal evidence is at least as sound as that in, say, the Mothman Prophecies book. I could totally write up an account and print business cards advertising myself as a human curiosity. But I'd need to either have no shame, or believe my own bullshit. Neither of those options are really possible. So I guess I'll just keep amusing myself. And try to remember my umbrella.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Jane Austen is laughing at you from the afterworld

You know, I've been irritated by the "USA Today-ification" of America since at least, let's see...1985. That's the earliest rant on the subject that I actually committed to paper. This morning I strayed onto the MSN homepage, and it's obviously still going strong. Probably I've learned to block it out, because a person gets older, and just can't be completely full of venom all the time. Believe me, I've tried!

This is the headline that set me off: "Why are we so obsessed with Jane Austen's love life?" My immediate response was: "I'm not." But I decided to click on it and see where they were going with this. First line of article: "Why does Jane Austen's spinsterhood bug us so much?" Response: "It doesn't." And it concludes, "we have to imagine Austen as Elizabeth Bennet and grant her a Darcy of her own—even if in the end we take him away again. We can't bear to think that her wisdom was not based on experience."

(http://www.slate.com/id/2171615/pagenum/2/)

Speak for yourself. Learn from Jane's example how to use an objective third person narrator: which is why her tone is so often cool and ironic, entertaining but not revealing too much about herself. Maybe that's why she's apparently so mysterious to some modern folks, because she wasn't sticking herself in where she doesn't belong. Of course, I'm wildly guilty of that myself, also being a pushy modern American, but at least I try to be aware of it and not pass off the personal as the general. It's fair to jump in and talk about how Pride and Prejudice means so much to you. Saying that P&P is "everybody's favorite Jane Austen novel" (a sentiment I know I've heard many times) is quite another.

Okay, it's not quite the besetting sin of the 80s USA Today, which still lives on in headlines polls and studies: America is doing this! America is doing that! Like America is this one single hive-mind, and if you have a difference of opinion, then you're not really an American. To bad: we're here, we're weird, get used to it.

For the record, my favorites are Persuasion and, duh, Northanger Abbey. And my theory about Jane is that she was too aware of the risks and problems of marriage as it existed in her day. Taking into account the dangers of childbirth, the iffy legal status of women and their economic dependency, etc. If a single woman, through luck, had any kind of income as a single woman, then marriage would take control of it out of her hands, and she'd be again at the mercy of luck and whim. And Jane seemes to see the situation with a clear eye throughout her work. It's almost as if her heroines and their heroes are representing what it ought to be like, while surrounded by a whole cast of the people having more miserable, realistic lives.

Or maybe she just never met a guy worth upheaving her whole life for. It's a fluke that I did, so I can see how it could work out that way.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Never Tell Me the Odds

Once again, the reality of life is interfering with my urge to face all situations with maximum flippancy.

(http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070802/ts_nm/bridge_collapse_dc)

My first year of college, I had moved from a Minnesota town that didn't even have a grain elevator, where everything was small and close to the ground. I lived in Mpls at the end of the Washington Ave. bridge (or the Berryman bridge, as I've always called it). I'd go up at night to the balcony of the dorm's top-floor study room, just looking at the bridge and the tall buildings behind it. I couldn't believe I actually lived there, and it was really exciting. On the other hand, it all seemed really unstable to me, like the whole world was held together by faith.

One night some girls and I took a walk after dark, and we ended up underneath the Washington Ave bridge, where there was a big swathe of dirt slanting toward the high Mississippi river bank. It smelled both green and musty, almost rusty. I walked over toward the edge and looked down at the river, feeling totally secure with my feet on the ground. The girls from the dorm got nervous about it, and were like, "Don't heights bother you?" And I told them not at all.

What made me nervous was the bridge over us. We could hear the cars going across it, disembodied sounds, and I was too aware of the big heavy structure, enormous, just over our heads. They thought that was funny,as if it was obvious that falling was something that could happen, but it's not like the bridge was going to collapse. That was a ridiculous idea.

But to me it was the exact opposite. I had some control over whether I fell, but if the bridge collapsed, we'd be helpless. And of course, there are earthquakes, and the ground can just open up in front of you...but the manmade falls apart a lot more often. In a way, I'm always expecting everything to fall apart, and I'm surprised when it doesn't. Just brazening through life, disregarding the risks.

Anyway, the latest news report has lowered the death toll, which would be good news, except for the families and friends of the people who are still dead. This is exactly why every day is Hug Your Kitty Close Day at my house...