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…

Super Weekend

Hey there, denizens! Miss me? Or did you even notice that the White Wolf had wandered away? It’s okay either way. Loba comes and goes so quickly here anymore that it’s not your fault if you didn’t notice my absence.

For those who did notice that the lair was a tad bit emptier than normal, the reason is because I ventured forth into the sunshine for a mini beach vacation. Of course, such a vacation is deemed successful for me not if I come back with a tan, but rather if I come back un-burned.

This was a successful trip. True, I’m slightly pinker than I was before and, yes, there are more freckles. However, no lobster coloring to match my red hair. I have learned well the lessons of Burn-Fu. I am the Pale Ninja.

Yeah.

Otherwise, we spent lots of time wandering the boardwalk in search of tasty junk foods and kitschy trinkets and lots more time chillaxing under an umbrella on the beach, listening to the waves and dozing in between book chapters (okay, maybe that was just me). All said, it was a wonderful albeit brief vacation.

Now I’m back at my work desk, Googling desperately for my motivation. Haven’t found it yet, but I know it’s out there. In the mean time, I’m totally digging eating my morning oatmeal out of the mug that I bought myself during one of our kitsch-seeking excursions:

Yeah, her shoulder looks a tad bit odd…and she looks a little bit like Liv Tyler in this drawing…but really? Could I pass up a Wonder Woman mug? I think not. Especially since it was the last one in stock. I took it as a positive sign that there was only one Wonder Woman left while there were several Superman and Batman mugs left on the same shelf. We all know Diana’s way cooler than Clark and Bruce.

And, just because I feel like it and kinda liked this pose, here’s another pic from my “Bat(woman) in the Hat” photo session. Only thing I did to this one is crop it down from full size. Enjoy!

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?

Bad Reputation

So some of you may have heard that DC Comics is wiping the slate for all their stories. Going back to #1. Rebooting. Rejuvenating. Shaking the Etch-A-Sketch. Erasing all messages and starting fresh.

Whatever. I’m surprisingly “meh” about this announcement. I’m even more surprisingly “meh” about the image associated with the article to which I linked. The reboot looks for the superheroes depicted all kinda stink. Superman has a popped collar and blue skivvies now. Wonder Woman looks like a cross between punk-era Storm and a stripper. Aquaman…okay, I just can’t be bothered to care about Aquaman. Why? Let me let Robot Chicken explain it for me:

http://i.adultswim.com/adultswim/video2/tools/swf/viralplayer.swf

Yeah. Aquaman. Pfft. Still, why does he have to look like a Swiss model? And, really, they all look a bit young. And…is that a machine gun protruding from the Green Lantern’s crotch? And why is the Flash built like a brick shit house now? How can he be fast when he’s so cumbersome looking?

Hmm. Guess I care more than I thought. Or I’m just a whiny hater.

The good thing is that I did find out that Batwoman will continue to be a player in the DC Comics universe. Not too surprising, considering how amazing her first graphic novel was. And the even better news is that her story will be tended to in part by J.H. Williams, III. This makes the White Wolf somewhat happy.

Happier, at least, than I am over the first look at Cliff Chiang’s cover art for the Wonder Woman reboot. Waitforit…

MEH.

It’s just not…at all enticing.

This, however? This is made of pure awesome:

OMGWTFBBQ!! Wonder Woman as Joan Jett backed up by Zatanna, Black Canary, and Batgirl? This is inspired artwork of the most rockin’ variety.

Seriously, if Cliff Chiang printed this on a T-shirt, I would so buy it.

Someone make this happen. Now.

My Colors Are Blush and Bashful!

Okay, I could say that I was sorry for quoting from probably the girliest movie I will ever willingly admit to liking. But I’m not going to. Besides, I know at least one person is laughing at the title of this blog entry, and that’s enough for me.

So I’ve been working on this template for a while. I confess, I didn’t build it from scratch. I don’t have that much free time. However, I was so pleased by the basic concept of the original theme that I knew I wanted to take it and make it my own.

I’m pretty pleased overall. There are a few things that I think I’m going to change, but they’ll more than likely be minor. I just really dig the clean, crisp nature of this new layout. I do a lot of design work that, while being lovely in its own bold and brash way, is far from the rather minimalist design concepts that I’ve taken to preferring lately.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new look of the lair. And, yes, in case you were wondering, I did “borrow” the color scheme from the image in my last entry. I’d been toying around with different color schemes for an embarrassingly long time. When I saw the color elements of this particular design, I knew I’d finally found the right colors. Plus, the primary color is teal. And we all know who wore teal, right?

Yep. The look might be new, but the geekery is par for the course. Geek on, denizens.

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…

Alo-ha-oy!

So a little while ago, I hinted around about unexpected travel that took me to the land of plentiful leis. It’s true, denizens. It’s so very true. Starting the second week in March, I’ve been in and out of the lair almost every other week. It’s not typically the nature of my particular job (contrary to those unexpected “spy” rumors that have sprung up recently…that’s not Loba, denizens…that’s that other Internet PersonalityTM), but I do jump in when I am needed. Especially if being needed means getting to travel to places like Miami or Honolulu.

I ended up in both places in March, one by plan and one because of a very last minute call in which I needed to take over for someone on staff who had a family emergency. I found this out on a Friday morning; Sunday morning I was on a plane to Chicago to connect for a 9 1/2-hour flight to Hawaii. Longest flight I’ve been on thus far…long enough to read two books, develop a lasting hatred for my sprawling seat mate, and lose all feeling in my butt. Bonus!

I wish I had photos of Miami. I also wish I had more photos of Honolulu. However, the one thing that most people don’t realize when they hear that I’m jet-setting off to these places is that it’s not for fun. Even though the settings are gorgeous, that’s simply a secondary bonus. My sole focus while there is work, and that can often mean that I spend the bulk of my time sequestered in windowless sections of a hotel for the majority of my stay.

Poor, poor, pitiful me, right?

I did get the opportunity to go out and about in both places (I also got the same chance when I found myself sequestered at a hotel in downtown D.C. for a week as well…but I live here so that’s not too terribly exotic). I’ve been to Miami a few times before, so that was a nice revisit to some favorite local haunts. However, I was able to see enough of Honolulu to figure out that I definitely want to go back as soon as I can. I also know that I want to see other parts of Hawaii.

Honolulu is a very commercial area and a bit too touristy for my tastes. But it is beautiful. Plus every store you go into sells Kona coffee, which I confess I stocked up on while I was there. Okay, truth is I bought so much Kona coffee while I was there that my suitcase still smells like Starbuck’s underoos. And, yes, I know that was a vivid image…

Anyway, I promised you photos…and I always try to deliver on my promises. Here, then, are the few pictures that I was able to snap while in Honolulu. A couple are pulled from work shots that I took (“staff photographer” is one of many hats I get to wear when I’m onsite for conference detail). Most of them are of sunsets, since that was usually when my duties were over for the day.

This was the view from my balcony. Not a bad sight to wake up to every morning, eh?

And this little guy was one of the visitors who came to see me the evening I had a little time to eat dinner on the balcony. Anyone know what kind of bird this is?

Part of the Hawaii “experience” is a luau, which almost always includes a whole roasted pig. Snout, ears, and all…

(And if you must know, someone ate his ears and his snout before the evening was finished…)

What better way to wash down pig than beer? The cans are three brews from the Maui Brewing Company and the two bottles are brews from Kona Brewing Company. I’ve had experience with the latter brewery; their Longboard Lager and Pipeline Porter are two of my favorite recent discoveries. I hadn’t had their ale and the KoKo Brown brew was something I’ve never seen here on the “mainland” so I had to give both a go.

I’d also never heard of Maui before this trip, though, so when I found a six-pack sampler of three of their most popular brews (Bikini Blonde Lager, Big Swell IPA, and CoCoNut PorTer), I jumped at the chance to buy it. I’ll say simply that IPAs are not really my thing. Neither was the lager. Or the Kona ale. However, hands-down, the KoKo Brown and CoCoNut PorTer beers were simply amazing. Who knew that coconut beer could taste so great? Hawaiians, apparently…

As an FYI for those of you considering a trip to Hawaii, do yourself a favor and become very familiar with the chain over there called ABC Stores. They’re about as ubiquitous in Honolulu as 7-Elevens are here on the East Coast, and they sell practically everything you could possibly need. Case in point: I found all these beers as well as a bottle opener, bottled water, orange juice, cereal, yogurt, sliced fruit, a razor, and more things made with macadamia nuts than I ever knew existed. These stores are amazing.

And finally…the sunsets. I am sorry that I don’t have more photos to share with you…but I hope you enjoy the ones that I do 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.

Going To Come Back In Style…

And so a new year has begun. Better yet, a new decade has begun. I must admit, denizens, I’m at a bit of a loss as to where the “Noughties” went. Y2K still seems like it was “just last year”…although perhaps I’ve been circling about in that causality loop a lot longer than I thought. If only Dr. Crusher had spent less time drinking hot toddies with the Captain and more time paying attention to all those clues around her, maybe I wouldn’t have lost an entire decade…

(Seriously, did you think that I could start the new year without some kind of geek reference?)

Things have been noticeably quiet here at the lair as of late. I’m sure those who are regular visitors can guess as to why. But I’m not in a guessing mood, so let’s just name this black-cloaked elephant that has parked its ginormous tuchus in the middle of my lair and my life for far too long. The past year decade has been a bit of a rough one. Starting in 2001, Death decided that he wanted to hang out and be best buds with my family for a while. We lost 9 members of my family from 2001-2010…actually, 11 if you count my dog Jodie and my cat Data, which I do. They were as much a part of my heart as any human could be…and if I’m completely honest right now, they were closer to me than I allow most humans to ever become.

This was an equal opportunity culling, with Death sampling from both sides of my family. It was such a frequent sampling that I feel as though I’ve earned my very own Ph.D. in the subject. In some ways, I feel as though all of this loss somehow defines me now, which is silly considering the fact that most people don’t even know about all this. I keep so much inside that I’m willing to bet most of the people reading this right now had no idea about the extent of my familial losses.

Of course, keeping so much inside has its side effects. Since May of last year, I’ve gone through a bit of major shrinkage. Back then, I was at the outer reaches of a size 12. My jeans are now crazy 8s. It’s not as if I’m skipping meals or purging or anything morbid like that. I still eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I still drink (although prophets help me if I try to drink as much as I used to; apparently my fat was my “girdle of strength” in regard to my superhero-sized tolerance). I just…lost interest in food after my mom died.

Instead, I found myself wanting needing to constantly be on the move. I needed to walk. Walk after dinner. Walk on the weekends. Walk at the park. Walk in the neighborhood. Walk until my eyes burned from the sweat and my legs ached and I couldn’t concentrate on anything beyond these physical discomforts. Because then? Then, I couldn’t think. Then I could only collapse on the couch and let my brain lapse into the silence of exhaustion.

People who don’t know about my mother keep asking me what I’ve been doing and telling me that I look great. Truth be told, physically I feel great. I have never been this in-shape in my entire adult life, and I confess that I like it (yes, Mr. Pacino, vanity is apparently my favorite sin as well). I just wish I had been more aware that it was happening. I completely tuned myself out for a while, though. Next thing I know, I’m standing up from my desk chair at work, stepping on the hem of a pant leg, and defrocking myself in my office. Thank the prophets my office mate wasn’t there that day. And don’t worry, denizens…I’ve made sure to replace those pants with ones that aren’t so easy to lose. There will be no unintended moonings here at the lair. I can’t make any promises about intentional ones, however.

As for how I feel in other ways? There is a rawness inside me that I still cannot fathom facing. I just don’t know how. “Unfinished business” of the permanent variety is a horrible sensation, and I feel as if it’s the label of shame I now carry in regard to my relationship with my mom. My very own scarlet “A”…for what? Absent? Annoyed? Arrogant? Asinine? These are all self-imposed labels and feelings, I suppose. Then again, she’s not here anymore to tell me that I shouldn’t feel this way. And that’s what I’m having the most trouble handling. She’s gone and I feel as though I played every hand wrong while she was here.

So, for now, I keep walking. If I can’t exorcise my demons, I’ll at least exercise the hell out of them. Sooner or later I’m bound to stop, right? Besides, I can’t imagine I can shrink much more before someone straps me down and starts force-feeding me candy corn and Cheetos.

Mmm.

But was this past decade a complete bust? No. Through all of the losses that my family has endured, I’ve learned that resilience is an amazing parlor trick of the heart and those who love you never completely leave you. I’ve learned that people really do live on through our memories and even the ugliest of souls have lessons to teach.

I’ve learned that what’s meant to be cannot be stopped, only sidetracked temporarily. But it will find its way eventually.

I’ve learned that, if I wasn’t so daft at math, I think that being a Crime Scene Investigator would have been a perfect fit for my anal-retentive, puzzle-solving, obsessive-compulsive, über-organizational personality. Either that or I really need to stop watching so much CSI.

I’ve learned that, even without being a CSI, I can love what I do for a living and have fun doing it.

I’ve learned that my geekery cannot be tamed, but when channeled properly, it can be a force used for good. Or at least for good entertainment.

I’ve learned that I love being a Synner.

I’ve learned that being very vague is very fun.

I’ve also learned that I’ve got a helluva lot left to learn. And a helluva lot left to blather on about here at the lair. More books to read, more DVDs to review, more geekery to spread like a sweaty, smelly virus that’s bound to drive Agent Smith back to standing in a frock on a rock with General Zod and Alexander Hartdegen, which would be such a drag. And, dear denizens, if any of you followed this last sentence from start to finish and got what I was talking about, my heart is most assuredly yours.

So there you have it: That’s me, wrapping up my state of mind from this past year/decade in thick plastic sheeting and dumping it for Pete Martell to find when he heads out for his morning fishing sabbatical. Don’t let Andy see. His tears will muck things up for Agent Cooper. And bring me some more of that damn fine coffee, Norma. I’m having another outbreak of Lynchian insanity. Backwards. With little people.

The owls really are never what they seem. And neither is the lair. But face it, denizens…this is why you keep coming back. At least I hope so. Just remember: The rest is yet to come…