Let The Auctioning of America Begin

The Senate is expected to sign the debt ceiling increase into effect today. Thanks to the TEA bagger representatives in the House, the agreement is more budget cuts, no tax increases. Thank goodness that someone was looking out for rich people and corporations (and jaded assholes like me think that no one cares about minorities in this country!).

Part of the deal is more than a trillion more in cuts by the end of the year. If Congress can’t come up with enough social welfare programs to decimate by then, they’ll start focusing on Medicare and defense spending. Yeah, right. Republicans are going to cut defense spending. This pretty much means that the Pentagon won’t be able to keep buying that fancy extra soft Charmin, while Aunt Gertie will have to go back to working that stripper pole to earn enough money for her scrips.

And, really, no one wins in this scenario. No one.

What’s done is done, I suppose. So rather than crying over the massive unemployment rates that are looming ever closer or rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking U.S. economy (but we don’t need no stinking government intervention!), why not come up with a solution?

So I did.

We all know there are several within the entertainment industry who love a good “cause.” Well, it’s your lucky day, Celebrity Samaritans! Your back yard is now teeming with causes! Come on, Brangelina! Wouldn’t you like to pony up some money to put back into place some of these “useless” social welfare programs that the TEA baggers targeted for termination? I and several thousand others would be most appreciative. So appreciative, in fact, that I’m sure we could work out a term agreement in which all projects undertaken by any funding you’ve provided must include “Brangelina” in the name. Brangelina Day Care. Brangelina Community Center. Brangelina Housing Rehabilitation. Brangelina Boulevard. Your portmanteau could become synonymous with community improvement and advancement programs from Maine to California!

Or what about NASA? How about it, Trek actors? Each of you chip in a million or two and the space race will once more be on like Donkey Kong! Thinkaboutit…Bill. Wouldn’tyoulike…a starshipnamed…Shatner? Doesn’t the ISS Sirtis have a sibilant sauciness to it?

[Okay, maybe not so much on that one. Troi did crash the Enterprise. Twice. Maybe we’ll name a rover after her…]

Madonna! Madge! Lady Ciccone. I know, you like to pretend that you’re English now. Truth is, though, you’re a Michigan girl. Home of Detroit, the Motor City. Wouldn’t you like to pitch in some dough to help the American automobile industry get back on its feet? Invest enough and you could even make an impact on all these ongoing debates about fuel economy. You could demand that the automakers move away from these lumbering gas guzzlers to more sensible, efficient designs. You could pave the way for the industry to start seriously embracing alternative fuel research. Think about it, Madge: You could get workers back into the factories AND get America on a more responsible energy diet, thus reducing our detrimental impact on the environment and freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil. The car companies would be so grateful, they’d name a whole fleet of cars after you. Then everyone would get the chance to ride inside…um. Never mind.

And Hilary! You’re a double Oscar winner! And you played Amelia Earhart! Wouldn’t you like to help out the FAA? Maybe throw in a buck or two to help the airline industry in general? We coach jockeys would appreciate a little alleviation on ticket prices…and the best part? Part of your deal with the airline industry could be that they can only play your movies on flights! A whole nation of flyers, all tuning in to Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don’t Cry, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, P.S. I Love You, The Core, The Reaping

Ooh, maybe we should rethink this one…

Hey, Leo! You played Howard Hughes! Wanna invest in airplanes? (Sorry, Hilary…)

Twelve Acres

There’s a short story, written by Leo Tolstoy, that poses the question, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” It’s a wonderful bit of writing, and one that I reference often in response to the troubling cupidity of the human race.

I must say that visiting Alcatraz during my trip to San Francisco last year caused me to re-examine my feelings toward this question. How much land does a man need? I suppose 12 acres is satisfactory in certain contexts. When it’s all you’re allowed while society revels in an unbounded existence right before your eyes, but so frustratingly out of reach? Twelve acres might as well be 12 inches.

This fact hit me the moment I stepped onto “The Rock” and turned to watch the boat that had brought us begin to pull away from the dock. For the duration of my visit, there was no way off this island beyond the one that was slowly moving back across the mile-and-a-half chasm of frigid water that separates Alcatraz from the main land. True, the boat returned on a regular schedule and, unlike the former “residents” of the island, I was free to leave during any passenger transfer I wished.

Still, while you’re there, you can’t help but feel the claustrophobic whisper of captivity taunting you. You feel its oppressive presence all throughout the decay and atrophy that time is inflicting upon the remaining prison structures. And when you stand atop the highest spot on the island and look across at the City by the Bay, its precipitously sloping streets teeming with the bustle of a life denied you? I am about as anti-social as is acceptable to “normal” society, but even I would be driven to the brink of sanity by such isolation.

Maximum security. Minimum privilege.

These thoughts do not mean that I have in any way forgotten that the the men who walked The Rock found their way there through felonious deeds. And, really, the only thing that differentiates Alcatraz from federal penitentiaries in operation today is that it was located on an isolated island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. I daresay, though, that if you found yourself stranded on this island for an extended length of time, watching life move on without you, feeling the damp chill of that capricious Frisco fog rolling into every corner, between every bone…I kind of think that “cruel and unusual” would take on a whole new meaning in a very short stretch of time.

Alcatraz "Library"
Loba reflects on life in a cell...
Last Meal: The final breakfast served before Alcatraz closed its doors

This final photo, of the Alcatraz lighthouse, is one of my favorites because it invokes this image in my mind:

This is the logo currently in use by the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy for Alcatraz materials and merchandise. It’s a beautiful, striking bit of illustration by Michael Schwab, who has done quite a few other, equally gorgeous illustrations for other California landmarks. You can see more of his works at the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy online store.

Harmonic Mnemonics

There’s something so mnemonic about the sounds of a summer evening. Walk outside and the air is filled with the thrum and buzz of summer cicadas and suddenly you’re a kid again, running through the sprinkler that your dad usually set up to water the tomato plants (but not on this evening), or grabbing your bike and pedaling up the road as fast as you can after the ice cream truck because the day can’t end without brain freeze from a rocket pop or a tooth-cracking attempt to bite off Buffalo Bill’s icy bubble gum nose.

For me, the sound immediately triggers memories of our annual family trips south to visit my grandparents. Even when I was too young to understand things like the soon-to-be transience of “summer vacation,” I understood that when I heard those big, loud buzzing bugs, we’d be leaving soon. My mom would spend the night before packing all our suitcases while my dad finished his work week on the evening shift. I remember the flurry of activity as she would finish the laundry and sort all our clothes and toiletries for the 2 weeks we would be gone. She’d pack snacks for the 8-hour drive that awaited us the next morning and pile the luggage and the cooler next to the door so that my dad could easily carry everything outside to pack the car.

It’s so strange that I remember all this so well…then again, it was rote for so many years. Life was never simple, but it was less complicated then, at least through the filter of my child’s eyes. There were certain things upon which I could always depend. The fact that my mom would remember to pack my favorite Mickey Mouse shirt and remind me to bring my Snoopy and my pillow for the long drive. That, no matter how much she packed, my dad would always find space for it and us in the Chevette. That, even if I fell asleep, my parents would make sure I was awake to smell the tobacco-tinged air and see the giant cigarette that stood outside the Phillip Morris plant in the heart of Richmond—markers that helped me identify how far into our drive we’d gotten and how much further we had to go.

My parents always tried to arrange our vacations so that we were at my grandparents’ house for 4th of July celebrations. Fireworks might not have been legal in their Carolina, but they were only 20 minutes away from the Carolina where fireworks were sold everywhere, be it from the roadside stand on the way to Myrtle Beach or the back of Roscoe’s truck (surely, there were many Roscoes along the way back then, right?). And back then, leniency was simply a way of life for the folks of that neck of the woods.

We’d slip over the border and load up on sparklers, bottle rockets, firecrackers (Black Cats, right, Janet?), Roman candles, ground spinners, color wheels, jumping jacks, crazy little novelty fireworks in the shape of tanks or cars—I remember one year, we found this strange little novelty with the cardboard shape of a hen on a nest sitting atop a fuse. Of course, we had to buy it, just to see what it did. That night, we went out to the dark and dusty dirt road that led to my grandparents’ house, plopped the little cardboard hen down and struck a match to her fuse. The spark and sizzle slipped quickly upward, igniting whatever was inside and suddenly the hen was shooting little balls of colored fire out of her backside!

It’s like second nature for me to fall into memories like these the minute I hear that ubiquitous cicada song every summer. I can’t help it. I’m suddenly that shy little freckle-faced kid again, watching one of my flip-flops float away on the tide after a particularly high wave swept it off my foot as my parents and I sat on my grandparents’ dock…desperately trying to eat all my Mickey Mouse ice cream before it dribbled down my forearms…taking rides in my grandfather’s motor boat all through the winding tributaries and waterways…going to the nearby zoo to see the animals, only to have the elephant sneeze all over me and my uncle’s wife…all of it floods over me in this bittersweet mélange that fills me with longing for what is no more yet joy for all that once was, and that lives on in me.

When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.

I hope you are enjoying every second of this summer, my beautiful denizens. Make memories and hold on tightly. Oh, and don’t forget the brain freeze…

Too High a Price

Look at this, denizens:

I hadn’t even had these sunglasses for two weeks before they broke. What irritates me even more than the fact that they broke is the fact that these were replacement glasses for a pair of similar ones that broke in nearly the same place after I’d only had them for about the same stretch of time.

Before you ask, the two sets of glasses in question were from different stores and were produced by different companies. Both were deceptively solid feeling, especially when considering how inexpensive each pair was. If I were to average their prices together, they could come out to about a tenner each.

I know what you’re thinking right now: “So what’s the big deal, Loba? You throw more than that away on books and DVDs all the time! Just buy a new pair of glasses and move on!”

I would. But I can’t. See, this happens with too much frequency for me to simply let it go and move on. And, no, I’m not talking about just sunglasses. I know I have a large head, but it’s not big enough that it snaps sunglasses on a bi-weekly basis.

I’m talking about product quality in general. When I was a wee pup, money was…well, we were okay, but we weren’t the Rockefellers. Because of this, my parents taught me the importance of taking care of what I had, because there wasn’t a guarantee that there would be money enough to replace whatever it was that was broken. They taught me well and to this day I’m quite possibly one of the most anal-retentive people you will ever know in regard to the care and maintenance of my belongings. I take pride in the fact that I can make things last until they unravel or disintegrate from excess use. If it rips, I can sew it. If it breaks, 8 times out of 10, I can fix it.

The thing is, I’m finding myself fixing more and more, or getting stuck with crap like these glasses that aren’t even worth the effort to fix them (especially since, on closer inspection of both pairs of glasses, I found other fissures preparing to snap just like the first fissure to go). And I know it’s not because of my misuse. I know how to take care of things, to make them last. So what is it, then?

Greed.

This isn’t a new gripe here at the lair but it’s obviously something that’s not going to go away. And the “it” is greedy corporations trying to maximize profit from minimum…everything. Minimum amounts of materials of the lowest cost (and subsequently lowest quality) being put together by the lowest-costing workers who would think that “minimum wage” was a promotion in comparison to what some of them are facing where they’re indentured. But what do you get when you work the “minimum” across the board with what you produce? Maximum profits lining your pockets.

Greed, Mr. Gekko, can bite me.

I’m so sick and tired of shoddy merchandise. I want…no, I expect a higher standard of quality from the things I purchase. Is that so effing wrong?

And So It Goes…

I had to eject the lair’s computer core two weekends ago. Things had been getting a little tetchy with the system for a while…little glitches and garbles here and there that were only mildly irritating at times, but seemingly not signs of imminent system-wide failure. Then, one day, it just started to shut itself down during boot-up. Did it once, then followed through with full system boot. Next day, shut itself down five times in a row before finally booting fully. Next day? Next day was almost enough to inspire the unleashing of that fabled “red-headed temper” that I constantly struggle to contain (if I were a mutant, that would be my secret super power). However, I was able to trick it into getting past the glitch moment that heralded the impending mystery shutdown. I’m not fully versed in the intricacies of hardware manipulation, but I know enough to get by in instances like this.

I ran a backup of all files to my external hard drive, removed programs that I would want to switch to a new system, hopped on over to Tiger Direct and began sorting through their custom builts (all the while, contending with the fact that the old system was now starting to shut itself down randomly while running). The system I ended up picking out is a nice, solid little gaming system with a quad-core AMD Athlon II processor, a sweet ATI Radeon 1GB graphics card, 4GB DDR3 SDRAM, DVD-RW, and a 500GB hard drive. Plus, with two red-trimmed fans and blue, yellow, and green interior LEDs, it looks like a mini-rave when the room lights are off. Check it:

Could I have taken my old system to someone and had them check it out? Definitely. Could it have been an easy fix? Possibly. However, my former system was an amalgamation of parts, some only 2 years old but some more than 6 years old. It was the amalgamation of the two systems during an upgrade that I think might have caused some of the glitches. However, I held onto the old system because…well, it was the last system that my uncle built for me.

I’ve talked about my anthropomorphic ways before in regard to my old computer. Did it upset me that the last computer he built me began to fail? Absolutely. But then I started to think about it from his perspective. My uncle loved building computers. He loved keeping up with the rapid pace of technology’s evolution. What would he have said if he’d known I was still holding onto a system that was rapidly being outpaced by what was available now? He would have laughed and told me to keep up. Time to move on…there’s bigger and better to be found out there.

So I found it. No, it’s not the fanciest or the fastest system I could have gotten. However, my computing needs aren’t quite what they used to be, especially since most of my gaming now takes place on my XBox and PS2 systems. But this new machine is solid, swift and sleek, and I can’t help but think that even my uncle would call it a great little machine. And, in a way, he still had something to do with setting me up with it. Amongst all the other things he taught me about computers, he showed me Tiger Direct, which has been my computer go-to spot for a while now.

So there it is. The lair is now outfitted with a new computer core. I spent time this weekend getting it set up with peripherals and software. All systems are go. Next? Time to give Sims 3 another try…

Dipthong

I don’t know why, but I’ve had the word “dipthong” stuck in my head for about a week. This post really won’t have anything at all to do with the word…although perhaps it does. This will be a bit of a dual-toned entry—equal parts whimsical and serious. That pretty much sums up my current state of mind. I’m sure I won’t need to tell you that by the time you’re finished here. If you finish, that is. This one’s a rambler, denizens.

So I’ve been cheating on you all. With other blogs. Yes, that’s right, I said blogs. With an “s.” I’m not telling you anything else. I don’t want these other blogs to feel your wrath over my infidelity. They’re good blogs and they know nothing of the lair. Well, one of them does. But that’s a long story. Oh, and to make matters worse? I get paid to do one of them. That’s right…I take money for blogging. Do you feel dirty now? You should. You mingy little monkeys. You like it when I talk to you like that though, don’t you? Don’t you?!

Oh dear.

I don’t really know what the hell is going on with me right now. Things have been random parts chaotic and stressful in my life for so long that I think it’s starting to wear me down. Things are finally starting to level off…but the damage is done. And, yes, denizens, there is damage. I simply can’t tell you about it. Professional lines of scrimmage and all that, you know.

You gotta keep on spinnin’ around—
Never let your worlds collide
‘Cause if we all start talkin’ there might
Be nowhere for you to hide

Ain’t that the truth.

Two evenings ago, we were on a walk around the neighborhood and this beautiful black dog came bounding down the street toward us. I swear to you on my life, had she had a white stripe on her chest and one blue eye, she could have passed as my Jodie Girl. Everything else about her was perfectly, precisely Jodie: her size, her head shape and her floppy ears, her multicolored fur with the black overcoat and brown/gray undercoat, the way her tail curled back toward her body in a fluffy “O”…but more than this, the mannerisms were spot-on. The way she ran like a bullet, barely able to come to a stop before jumping up at me with fluffy soft paws. The sound she made as she ran: this steady chuffing that made her sound like a furry little engine-that-could. The way she pranced and turned when her owner tried to grab her collar to put her back on her leash. Jodie was always a clown, my little “bo-bo dog,” and she thought everything was a game and everyone wanted to play with her. This dog seemed to think the same thing.

I really don’t think I’m giving this the proper weight it holds in my heart, but everything about this dog was Jodie. Things that I don’t even know how to capture in words…some ephemeral essence that maybe only I could sense. But it was her, denizens. It was her.

I know that more than likely Jodie would have been gone from my life by this point in time anyway, had she not been taken from me by cancer. After all, 14 is pretty old for a dog her size. But seeing this dog just brought all the…missing right back to the forefront. As if I need to be reminded that there are multiple pieces of my life puzzle that I can’t seem to stop missing.

Even my subconscious mind seems hell-bent on reminding me. This morning my alarm cut into a dream-in-progress in which I’d witnessed someone fire-bombing my parents’ house in the middle of the night (although, honestly, it looked more like the house from A Christmas Story, only it had a window in the shape of the Star Trek delta shield at the very top; seriously, this is what my dream world conjures for me). Suddenly, it’s daylight and I’m standing outside a black Denali…talking with Catherine Willows. I’ve just told her that my dad had to carry my mom out of the house while the firebombing took place, but he wasn’t able to walk to the hospital fast enough and the doctors didn’t think she’d survive. Willows’ response was something along the lines of “Her body couldn’t have survived much longer in its condition anyway; perhaps this is for the best.”

That’s the point where I woke up.

There was always a part of me that wondered if perhaps my previous CSI-related dream had something to do with my mom as well. Some sort of strange parable, an attempt by Sara Sidle to give me a message that I was too stubborn and too late to hear. CSI Willows’ message was a little less cryptic and a lot more upsetting.

Now I’ve associated both of my favorite CSIs with something sad. That’s not cool. Here’s a happy photo. Erase, erase, erase:

It’ll be a year this Sunday. For some reason I’ve fixated on the thought that after this Sunday comes the beginning of the time in which I can no longer think to myself, “She was alive at this point a year ago today.” Strangely, I could find some sliver of solace in such thinking. Soon, that sliver will be gone.

I miss my mom.

So do I, Admiral. So do I.

See? I told you: dipthong. Two tones. One high and one low. Always sounding in my head anymore.

Did I ever tell you that when I was in San Francisco last year, I made a special walk from our hotel just to take this photo:

It’s probably the touristiest thing I have ever done in my entire life. I got looks. It’s admittedly not the first time I’ve gotten “looks.” But still, it made me laugh.

Well, then. That’s quite an eyeful I’ve just dumped on you. And now I’m leaving you. “Lunch time” is over and I have professional obligations to which I must attend. I’ll be back. I have a book review. And I know that tomorrow is Flashback Friday. I’ve written myself a reminder. Honestly and seriously.

Now I just need to figure out what kind of Flashback to have…

Scream 4 Me

I always had a thing for ya, Sid!

WARNING: Original trilogy spoilers ahead. No Scream 4 spoilers though.

Do you know the last time I went to the theater to see a movie, denizens? No? Let me give you a hint.

Yep. Haven’t been to see a movie since that stupid blue alien movie. I get the sneaking suspicion, at least based on the movies that I have rented from Netflix in between then and now, that I really haven’t missed anything. I’ve pretty much given up on renting movies, actually. Right now? I’m learning what I missed at Cook County Hospital and those wacky doctors in the ER. By the time I’m finished, I think I just might be able to fake my way as a doctor.

(Yeah, and a few more episodes of EastEnders and someone might actually mistake me for a Brit…pbbt.)

So what could possibly have lured me back to the theater? Only the opportunity to recapture an essence of my adolescence that I hold so very dear. See, if memory serves me correctly, there’s only one movie that I have seen more than twice in a theater. And, again by my admittedly wonky memory count, I do believe that I may have actually seen this four times in the theater (although I think it might have only been three…I’ll have to ask Captain Morgan the next time we get together, since he seems to hold most of my brain cells at this point in the game). It’s the horror movie that I have seen more than almost any other. In fact, I believe The Silence of the Lambs is the only movie that I have seen more…although A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween are pretty far up there, too (original versions only, of course).

The movie in question would be Scream. I love this movie so very much. I still think it’s one of the most innovative takes on the horror genre to come out of Hollywood. I love the fact that it was written by someone who obviously possessed a serious passion for horror. Kevin Williamson did something brilliant with that original screenplay…something that the horror movie industry desperately needed. He brought fresh meat to the horror altar and, in doing so, altered the genre in both wonderful and terrible ways. The slew of copycat flicks that followed (some even flowing from Williamson’s own fingers) was intriguing at first but inevitably frustrating when I realized that we were in for the long haul with Scream knockoffs. Then came the torture porn era and all bets were off as far as I was concerned. Blood and guts don’t bother me, but I cannot abide watching someone be tortured. I know. Weird, right?

I also love the characters, especially Sidney Prescott. I once wrote in a book review that very rarely did I wish a book character was real. Same bodes true for movie characters. However, I wish that Sidney was real. Minus being a lightning rod for psychos and the messy truth that if Sidney considers you a friend, you’re more than likely not going to make it to the end credits, I think she would be quite the awesome person to know. Plus, what can I say? I have a soft spot for the broken ones.

As for the original two sequels? I remember actually finding the opening of Scream 2 repulsive. What seemed so innovative and provocative an opening in the original movie (seriously, was anyone not set off-kilter by Drew freakin’ Barrymore dying before the title card?) was uncomfortable and even mildly offensive in the second. First, it had already been done (to extraordinary effect), so doing it again felt cheap; and second, placing it in such a public place felt so exploitative and…vulgar. Again, this is another of my strange proclivities. Scream 3 felt weightier and more promising to me than 2…but the ending was so anti-climactic and disappointing. I think it was because I was expecting it to go a completely different way…those damned red herring doppelgangers! However, the presence of Parker Posey was definitely a bonus, and there were a couple of genuinely chilling moments that made it worth the effort.

Of course, I own the special trilogy box set on DVD. I even owned three different copies of the original movie on VHS, including a weird double set that contained both the movie and a second copy with a director/writer commentary. I think it was some kind of failed attempt to make VHS competitive with DVDs. It was clunky and a bit redundant but it was also my first experience with a commentary track and I admittedly was hooked in by the newness of the idea.

So was it any wonder that I would make my way back to the theater to see the return of this franchise that so overwhelmingly won my heart so many years ago? True, I was irritated beyond belief when I first heard about the fourth movie. It was supposed to be a trilogy, dammit! Plus, I was incredibly surprised when I heard that Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette all signed on for the fourth movie. Hadn’t Sidney, Gale, and Dewey been through enough?

When Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson were also confirmed, I admit that hope sparked within me. It had been more than a decade since we’d paid a trip to that world. Perhaps in that time, they’d found new inspiration? A way to breathe freshness into a franchise that, the last time we saw it, limped over the finish line, beaten, bludgeoned, bloodied, but still standing?

Um. Yeah.

As a self-referential parody of the original franchise, Scream 4 is brilliant. In fact, I found myself laughing out loud several times. Honest, hearty, uncontrollable laughing. Probably not what Craven and Co. were going for though, you know, considering the fact that this was not marketed as a parody at all. And that’s a shame. Because as a straight-forward horror movie, it definitely did not cross the finish line this time. There’s no way it could, really, when it was dragged down every step by the inexorable weight of the original franchise resting completely on its shoulders.

What started out as a franchise designed to be reverent of the horror genre as a whole has now apparently been rebooted to pay obeisance mostly to its predecessors. Whether it was scenes played out in ways almost identical to those earlier movies or characters designed to fit the mold of the “Randy” or the “Tatum” or even the “Sidney” from that original film, Scream 4 spent more time evoking memories of the trilogy than it did in actually telling a new story. Sadly, however, there wasn’t really much of a “new” story to tell. And what story there was was wholly ridiculous and made me keep asking the same question: Why the fuck would any of the original characters ever go back to Woodsboro?! Go ahead, watch Scream 4 and see if you’re not asking this over and over as you watch it…I dare you. I double dog dare you!

Also by evoking memories of the original, and undeniably superior, films, all Scream 4 made me feel was a burning desire to re-watch the originals rather than continue watching this new offering. Add to this the heavily predictable nature of the story (there is no new thing under the sun or the Ghost Face mask) and…well. It was just disappointing. I will say this: There was a twist at the end that I didn’t anticipate completely and that I think had the potential to make this an amazing reintroduction to this franchise. To pull this off, however, something would have had to have happened that I honestly anticipated happening…but that didn’t.

Okay, I lied. I said I wasn’t going to include spoilers for the new Scream movie. I am. Right now. So cover your eyes for a few minutes. Or I’ll just mark the text in white so you can’t see it unless you highlight it.

So Emma Roberts, who plays Sidney’s cousin Jill , is the killer. Right here was the twist that I wasn’t completely anticipating…and I’m admittedly irritated by this. I let myself be lulled into complacency by the fact that this was Nancy Drew…and Julia Roberts’ niece. And Julia Roberts is always the good guy, right? [Insert character description here] with the heart of gold, right? So wouldn’t her goody-two-shoes, Nancy Drew niece be the same? Good job on deceptive casting here, that’s all I’m saying.

But why is Jill the killer? Because she spent her childhood listening to nonstop talk about her unlucky but also famous cousin and now she wants her 15 minutes of fame…and she’s willing to kill to get it. Willing to kill her mother (played by Laura Roslin Mary McDonnell, still suffering from a horrendously noticeable mouth droop since her BSG-era face lift). Even willing to kill her cousin. Yeah, she stabs Sidney. In places that regular people wouldn’t have survived. I have to admit, when she stabbed Sidney, I had a horrible “Oh god no” moment…same moment I felt when Sidney’s brother shot her point-blank at the end of Scream 3. Yet again I thought, “Wow, they’re really going to kill Sidney.”

Sidney Prescott, however, is a fucking cat. And she’s now down 4 of her 9 lives. Not to mention that now she’s had to kill her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s best friend, her boyfriend’s mother, her brother, and her cousin. That’s enough negative karma to haunt her through her next 30 reincarnations. Also, apparently it’s a very bad thing to have any kind of relationship with this woman. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

I never thought I would say this, but I think letting Sidney live was a mistake. She should have died in this movie. Even better? Her cousin should have gotten away with her plan. See, Jill had her two best friends killed, possibly stabbed her mom (I’d have to see the movie again to be certain on this part), stabbed her accomplice, shot her boyfriend, stabbed her cousin, then convincingly set the scene so that it looked like she’d been attacked, stabbed, and nearly slaughtered as well by the “real” killers. There’s even a wonderful Heathers-like moment involving a glass table. It was great. And ended with Jill purposely mirroring in a very unsettling and morbid way how Sidney had fallen after she was stabbed. Dewey and his deputies arrive, clear the scene, find the bodies, and then we see Jill being wheeled out on a gurney while a gaggle of reporters chase after her, asking her questions about what it feels like to be a hero, blah blah blah.

That is where the movie should have ended…with Sidney dead at the hands of a villain who is being heralded as a hero. Think about where that could have taken the franchise! Our beloved Sidney gone? And her killer now the “star” of the Woodsboro drama? Sick, twisted, and totally unexpected…everything the original movie was, only better. Just like one of the characters states at one point: The whole point of a reboot is to be better than the original.

In the end, though, Williamson wimped out. Not only did Sidney survive, all three of the original players made it through…even though Gale did get a nasty shoulder stab and Dewey was nearly bludgeoned to death by a teen wielding a bedpan. Yeah, oh that I was making that one up.

Okay, spoilers over. Disappointment, however, remains.

Truth be told, though, I’m glad I went to see this one. I have missed Sidney Prescott very much. I’m just sorry we only get together under these horrible circumstances. Seriously, how much trauma can one person go through in one lifetime? Plus, any chance to see Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox together again? Bonus times bonus to infinity. Although, Courteney Cox doesn’t look at all like herself anymore. Too much tweakage has occurred in the 11 years since the last movie and she’s now starting to look like a caricature of herself…and this absolutely breaks my heart. But it is what it is and soon every woman in Hollywood will look just like Madame.

I can’t wait. o_O

Do I think this movie should have been made? No. Do I think it’s gotten the franchise off to a promising reboot? No. Do I think they should do two more? Please, no. Had things turned out differently with Scream 4, I’d probably feel differently. As things stand, however, I don’t really see much point in continuing. This wasn’t a reinventing or reinvigorating of the franchise. It was instead an exercise in reminding its audience of how amazing the original movie was…and how each subsequent iteration fails that much more to even come close to that original greatness. I think perhaps the best bit of advice might have also been one of the better lines from what was, in the end, a rather disappointing script. It came from Sidney herself (but do forgive me, I must paraphrase): “One thing to remember when doing a reboot: Don’t fuck with the original.”

Even better? Don’t constantly bring up the original. You’re just going to remind people how unlike the original your latest sequel really is.

I will say this, however: I did enjoy the poster art. Clever, concise, and simple…even if I do find the use of the “4” as the “A” to be a little too cutesy and l33t for its own good.

Flashback Friday: April 15, 1973

Thirty-eight years ago today, my mother married my father. He wore sideburns and polyester. She wore her long auburn hair piled high on her head and her bouquet was highlighted with yellow. Her favorite color.

So much changed through the years, but her smile stayed the same. Sometimes it’s her smile I miss the most.

Randomocity

I was actually going to name this post “Random Task” and include a photo of said character from the first Austin Powers movie. Then I read this article and…well, yeah.

Pardon my French for a moment, but what the fuck is wrong with people? And this article is more than 2 years old, which makes me even angrier that I have quoted his character during that time, while completely oblivious to the fact that he was part of such a heinous crime.

Can’t blame the character or the movie…but still.

I’m rambling now. I feel rambly and random (thus why I thought invoking Random Task would be funny). Last week was a blur of travel and work that has left me feeling quite off-kilter and extremely tired. It didn’t help much that we lost an hour of sleep this weekend, thanks to Daylight Savings Time. The good thing? Evening walks are now coming back into play. I’ve missed walking. I’ve missed the rhythmic movement, the welcome ache, the inevitable numbness.

I miss a lot of things. I miss being able to come here on a regular basis. Work has been a hot mess lately, though…not in a bad way. Just in a busy way. Busy is good. But I miss the lair.

I miss being able to come up with poignant posts. I feel as though I’ve lost something, some intrinsic ability to write more than surface-level mediocrity. I don’t feel invested enough in anything to reach a more meaningful depth of analysis or intricacy.

Okay, that’s not completely true. I did write this a while ago, about the young man arrested for shooting Gabrielle Giffords:

Alleged Tucson gunman Jared Loughner has mental problems.

Problem.

He was a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation. He was an intricate, unsettled question. He apparently required a solution.

The only problem I see is with the use of a poorly chosen, and consequently damaging, turn of phrase.

See, contrary to the belief of some who have spoken about the recent tragic events in Tucson, I believe very strongly in the power of words. After all, if we don’t invest in the strength and meaning of words, how else do we communicate our beliefs, desires, needs, aspirations? What happens when words lose all meaning?

Words have unlimited power. The power to heal. The power to wound. The power to label erroneously. Jared Loughner did not have mental problems. Jared Loughner was fracturing right before the eyes of friends and family from the unrelenting pressure of mental illness.

Illness. An unhealthy condition of body or mind. Synonyms include disorder, disease, malady, sickness. Trouble.

Jared Loughner was falling deeper into trouble of a plainly identifiable kind. If only more people were paying attention. If only those who were paying attention had done more to help him.

But his was a problem instead of an illness. He required a solution rather than treatment. The solution was to ignore him. Ostracize him to the fantasy world that was spiraling out before him in a discordant diaspora of disconnectedness, isolation, and obsession.

It’s so much easier when the signs of illness are physical, tangible, visible. High fever. Flushed skin. The diabetic sweetness of breath or the sickly stench of gangrenous flesh. Milky opaqueness of cataracts, paralysis. These things we believe because our senses never lie.

There is no tangible evidence of actual mental illness, nothing we can hold up to the light and nod in confirmation and say decisively, “Yes, look right here, his mind is broken. We’ve found the problem.”

The brain is a complexity that we will never understand. Whether you believe it is a gift from a higher power or an evolutionary marvel, there is no denying that we are not our hair or eyes or mouths or limbs. We are our brains. We reside in the tangle of synapses that fire away, generating our opinions, our personalities, our beliefs, our fears.

Damage all else, but I am still me. Damage my brain and who was I? And who will I become?

Something misfired in Loughner’s brain and he began to transform. Had his metamorphosis been more Kafka-esque, more might have been done to help him.

This is not the first time a mental illness has been allowed to spiral into a tragic and irreversible melee. And, sadly, I do not believe it will be the last. Why? Because we shun what we do not understand. And we do not like to take on problems that we cannot solve.

Instead, we vilify. We emblazon Loughner’s disturbing mug shot across front pages and television screens and comment about how “Hannibal Lecter takes a better mugshot.” We ascribe hatred and vitriol to our opinions of him.

And in our responses, we fail him. We fail those he killed. We fail those he injured.

We fail.

In his speech at yesterday’s memorial gathering, President Obama said that these shootings had opened up a national conversation on “everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.”

Has it really? Perhaps. Or is it instead a conversation that flares and fades in the spark of a gunshot, swallowed by the ephemera once the eulogies for the latest round of victims have ended and the judgments have been cast?

Six people died and 13 people were injured. A congresswoman continues to struggle to come back from the precipice of a bullet through her brain. We cannot let this be yet another incident in a long trail of violence attributed to minds allowed to shatter without intercession.

We must do better for those who are mentally ill. Not problems. Ill. Jared Loughner gave all the indications that those around him needed, to know that something was going horribly wrong within his mind. Instead of trying to reach out to him, people instead withdrew from him. Feared him.

Playwright David Henry Hwang wrote in M. Butterfly, “Now I see — we are always most revolted by the things hidden within us.” We look into the eyes of madness and we see what could happen to us…and we loathe it. We loathe that our brains, these magnificent, complex machines, could betray us so easily, so inexplicably…so unstoppably. We cannot explain it. We cannot stop it. We cannot reverse it.

These are things we don’t wish to see. And so we look away. We ignore the obvious…and then we find ourselves right back where we have stood far too many times before.

I really hope that President Obama was serious about restarting the national conversation about mental health issues in this country. I hope that this is the lesson that will finally penetrate through the layers of hatred and divisiveness that have permeated American politics in recent years. That this will be the moment of clarity that we need to finally move forward in reaching out to each other with open hands rather than with fists clenched around pistols.

Why didn’t I post this when I wrote it? I’m not even sure anymore. Maybe because it felt too raw, too personal. Too empty. Too much. Too little. Never enough.

I’m not making much sense now, though. But I do miss coming here. I do have things to write, things to post. Not a lot of depth probably…but that’s okay, right? At least for right now.

I”ll be back like Arnie. I promise…

Dis-Honor(s)

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the news pertaining to Captain Owen Honors and his special “morale-boosting” videos that he made for his crew back in 2006-07. The videos are quick little vignettes designed for maximum puerility and, I guess, maximum laughs. Scattered throughout are epithets, sexual overkill, profanity, and general lewd behavior.

I get that the military is not where you go if you have the delicate sensibilities of a nun or a monk. There’s a reason why we have sayings like “She curses like a drunken sailor.” Hell, I curse like a drunken sailor sometimes. I am the granddaughter of two Navy veterans after all. And I am immensely proud of this fact.

Would I be as proud if there was video of my grandfather eating something supposedly pulled from a toilet and fashioned to look like a piece of shit? Or if my grandmother was in a segment called “Chicks in Showers”? I’m going to have to say no, not so much. Of course, my grandparents served this country during World War II, which was long before the YouTube Generation took control. It was also long before it was acceptable to behave in the ways that Captain Honors and his crew behaved in these videos. I suspect there would have been little tolerance for this kind of behavior from soldiers back then.

I also know that crews need to blow off steam, especially in times of war. This is a reality of war. You cannot ask people to be under that kind of immense stress and fear and not expect them to need some sort of irreverent release. And, for the most part, that’s what is in these videos: a ridiculously puerile level of humor designed to cull the basest of laughter.

What, then, is the problem? I don’t know, fag SWO boy, what do you think?

See, that’s the problem. Owen Honors, who was the XO of the U.S.S. Enterprise at the time these videos were made, was the second highest ranking officer on board. As such, it was his duty to set standards and tone for the 6,000 crew on board the Enterprise. And the tone he set was one of anal probes, “chicks in showers,” men lathering each other up, and unrepentant use of epithets like “fag.”

True, lack of good taste (or, for that matter, higher brain function) is not a punishable offense. At the time these videos were made, being gay in the military was. I can’t help but question what Captain Honors’ actions would have been had he found any of his crew actually in any of the “humorous” sexual situations that he posed in his videos. If he’d walked in on two men or two women sharing a shower or a bunk, would he have walked away? Turned a blind eye? Maybe gone and “saluted his little XO” as he so humorously did in the videos? Or would he have brought them before a committee, had them discharged under the order of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”? I’d love it if Captain Honors would answer that question.

More importantly, were there any homosexuals serving among that crew of 6,000? What must have gone through their minds at watching those videos, performed by their commanding officer? Hearing him sling about the epithets he used, watching him make a mockery of what they were desperately guarding, for fear that its revelation could ruin their military careers? Did any of them wish to take issue with what Honors was doing, but perhaps feared that, in doing so, the questions would have been turned back onto them? Silence does not equal consent. Subsequently, being told to “hug yourself for 20 minutes” is also not a suitable response to complaints that may have actually been levied against Honors and his performances.

The bottom line is that this was not the type of tone that a commanding officer should have been setting aboard a military vessel. Yes, letting off steam is a reasonable “unspoken law” for these men and women. Levying crude and hurtful humor at a minority you know can’t speak up? That’s just cowardly. And not funny at all.