Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Friends Say The Darndest Things

I'm still wrapping my head around a conversation I had earlier today after overhearing a long-time friend of mine explain to her children that 'yes, the Jews are the people who killed Jesus'. She's the same friend who insists the U.S. never landed on the moon and that President Obama is a secret muslim... or something... it keeps shifting.
I've had a lot of crazy friends, stupid friends... friends who were just plain fucked up. Somehow I'm generally tolerant of it all... I know I'm no peach either.
These comments about the Jews don't even really rank of the general scale of crazy stuff I've heard come out of people's mouths and STILL I wanted to hang out with them.
I guess I'm just wondering how I keep ending up befriending people who I so thoroughly disagree with on such fundamental things.
I'm not inclined to put on some melodramatic display of outrage... everyone knows that there are plenty of fundamentalist Christians who feel that way about the Jewish people... that they're a means to an end (getting them to rebuild Israel so Jesus will come back and end the planet). I argued with her a bit... we didn't get too shouty about it... we know we don't agree on a whole lotta stuff and it's OK.
Is it OK? Am I doing some harm by not pitching a bigger fit over her nonsense?
Everyone has delusions and superstitions and dumb thinking.
Maybe it bugged me most because she was telling her kids that crap.

I'm not really sure what I'm trying to figure out here...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Somali Pirates Of The Caribbean

I was visiting a friend tonight and made a blunder that got me a mild chastising... which then led to my usual pondering about people and culture and whatnot.
So, my friend's teenage daughter had a friend over and we were discussing Trivial Pursuit. She mentioned she was 'bad at trivia' so I recounted a segment I'd heard on the Howard Stern Show years ago where he had demonstrated that a lot of knowledge is contextual... he'd asked a bunch of standard/easy questions of some women guests and they hadn't been able to answer any of them... stuff like 'who was the father of our country' and 'where was the declaration of independence signed'. After the other guys in the studio had mocked them for their lack of knowledge the women were then asked a series of questions dealing with high end cars, shoes, liquors and whatnot... and they got them all correct (and the mocking guys could answer none). The women knew what was important for their lifestyle... their culture.
That was the point... common knowledge usually isn't as common as we'd like to think.

Now... my blunder was that in recounting this story I described the women as, "Super-models or maybe porn stars." My friend was mildly horrified that I'd used the words 'porn star' in front of her teenage daughter and her friend. (she is something of a fundamentalist Christian and I'm... not... not that that really makes any difference).

It wasn't a big scene... her house, her rules... I'm fine. I told her I was sorry.
I do think it's a bit silly to pretend like I'd exposed the teenagers to some dark secret they knew nothing about... and I certainly wasn't engaging in a discussion of porn with them.
That's not what I'm on about here though...

It's interesting to me that these same folks would think nothing of taking their kids, younger kids even, to a movie like 'Pirates Of The Caribbean'. But they'd probably balk at their kids playing with toy figures of Somali pirates... or acting out the sorts of things actual, historical, pirates got up to.

Similar to people who would NEVER take their kids to see 'Battle Royale'... but think nothing of trotting them along to see 'The Hunger Games'.

I'm not suggesting that I should be able to say whatever I like to whoever I want to say it to. Or that I wasn't wrong for saying what I said in my friend's house... to her kids.

What I'm saying is that how people pick and choose what they expose their kids to makes no real sense to me... that it's arbitrary... that it's a mine-field for someone like myself who doesn't have kids, doesn't want kids... and isn't constantly fretting over what might corrupt their little minds.
People seem so much more frightened nowadays... despite the world being safer... despite information about everything being a whole lot easier to get a hold of.

My father took my much younger self to violent Charles Bronson movies and wild scifi/horror films. I'd seen a lot of death on screen by the time I hit puberty... but not a single porn film. Not even a fake sex scene.
Would it have been better or worse for my psyche if it had been the other way around... I don't know. I don't think my parents spent very much time worrying about that sort of thing... my father was just taking me along to the movies that he wanted to see.

Maybe I don't really have a point here... just the same old blather about how U.S. culture fears sex and glorifies violence... at least violence of a certain sort. The same old blather about how parents are afraid and pass their fear on to their children.
As always I'm reminded that while I don't really know much about what's going on... no one else seems to either. We all just react, regurgitate and repeat.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Apocalypse NOW!!! Please!!!

Urgh! I'm just having one of those misanthropic days where it's a really good thing I haven't had the time to invent a death-ray and mount it on the roof of my house. NO ONE would be spared!
It's one of those days where if seems as if everything everyone else likes is inane and everything I like is despised. It's a day where I've fallen out of groupthink... out of love with the rest of the world. I just want it to burn.
It's even more frustrating that I realize how unreasonable I'm being, I don't even have the blind loyalty to my own convictions.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm so damn shallow...

When I ran off to art school I'm not sure what I was expecting (I seem to remember some fantasy of a strong girl with long hair dancing around a beach bonfire with a can of Fosters in hand)... mostly I wanted to get a grasp on the 'mysterious' bits of the animation industry... I wanted to find a place for myself.
Oh well, I learned a lot even if I didn't come away with a sense of ownership on the situation.
By far the best class was the Aesthetics class I took with the lovely Becky Wible... one of my all-time favorite professors.
That class taught me to look at the things I liked and ask myself why I liked them, to dig away at my own taste sensations and get to the root of them.
Just about always they end up leading me to some moment in my childhood, some place/person/thing that I boxed up and stored away deep in my psyche... or some common element that's less than intriguing.
... and this continues to disappoint me.
Fer instance... I was thinking about music I like, what the common features exist in a lot of my favorite songs. The common element turns out to be reverb... put an echo on just about anything and I'll get all dreamy about it and think it's enigmatic... full of hidden secrets.
But really, I think I like reverb because the bathroom I had as a kid was all tile and porcelain and during long baths I'd talk to myself and it would sound all portentious and important... because of the echoes.

I've noticed the same thing with various paintings and photographs and illustrations and movies. In thinking about them I've realized I'm a sucker for anything with a pitch black sky for a background.
For a while I thought this was because of the inherent mystery of that darkness, the potential for adventure or danger or romance inherent in the absence of... anything else. I could fill that black void with whatever weirdness I liked.
Really though, I think it's just because I grew up in Vegas... where you never see the stars. Where every night's vista is twinkling jewels on black velvet... and out there beyond, nothing but hundreds of miles of empty desert.

My tastes in food, clothes, women... all go back to the first ten or so years of my life. Just not all that interesting, really.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Show me the swank!

I was out walking today and wandered into a local antique store.
The 'antiques' racket always seemed like a bit of a scam to me... maybe because I knew a family of dealers when I was a kid and they were one marked card away from being full blown grifters. Like carny folks stuck in one location, hawking useless junk by attaching an air of mystery and history to it... a pack of ghouls who regularly scoured the obituary pages in hopes of locating a cheap source of new old junk they could pawn off on the rubes.

Still, antique stores can be fun as museums... in the manner of the original museums that were less educational display and more like one person's collection of strange and random mementos.

So anyway... this place I visited today was the usual assortment of hoopla and nonsense... mostly knick knacks and gew gaws priced to seem 'valuable'... and as usual when I'm in such a place my eye was drawn to the piles of costume jewelry.
I've got no love of gold or diamonds but I'm fascinated by glitz and swank and ... stuff ordinary people do to look opulent and debonair.
Having lived in Vegas all my life I remember the tail end of the era where Vegas was for adults and people dressed up to go out.
Nowadays they're all dressed like Wal Mart shoppers... shorts, t-shirts and fanny packs are the uniform of the day.
So it's not unexpected that I've got a certain nostalgia those days of... I'm not sure what to call it. 'Glamour' seems too exalted... I'm thinking of my parents putting on their best clothes, making an effort, my mother's collection of cheap shiny baubles, my father's cologne... dragging my mind back to when I was a kid and daydreaming about what 'adults' got up to after we kids were put to bed.
My head was full of strange rituals and nudity and excursions into the wilderness of SEX (I wasn't sure what it was, but the mystery of it was delicious). If I'd known what a Satanic orgy looked like back then that would have fit right in with my fantasies.

Similarly, I've been helping a friend of mine clean out her parents' house lately, they've both got Alzheimers and have moved into a care facility. This involved lugging around decades of these peoples lives... stacking old photos and sorting old clothes. Suits and dresses that would have been reserved for the best occasions... that hadn't been worn since the '70s. Lots and lots of reminders of the 'good old days'... pictures of the happy young couple all done up, out for a night on the town.
It's a melancholy project to be sure.
Again and again I get glimpses of what these people must have been like in the Wayback... the kinds of things they did for fun. It fascinates me to think of them in their best cocktail clothes, sipping drinks from gold-rimmed glasses, laughing at jokes that would soon become 'insensitive', listening to music that would never be hip again.
A total fantasy to be sure... what do you call a Utopia that exists only in rose-colored glasses looking into the past? It's not 'nostalgia' if you were never part of it to begin with.
Still, I want to get dressed up an go out with that crowd, just for a few hours... to wherever their hot night-spots were, bathe in the smokey air and smell of ancient perfume, listen to the unashamed telling of racist/sexist jokes and lewd comments about the waitresses, watch well-dressed clean-cut folks get soused and drive off in pre-MADD chariots of death, soak up all the low-budget fashion of their cheap suits and costume jewelry.
Most of all I want to see if they really sneak off to occult gatherings and wicked affairs that I pictured in my youth. Were they really hedonistic witches, dancing naked and bloody with imps and succubi... or just the same sad people as us, trying to be happy for a couple hours and pretend everything is fine?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Soft focus on the zombie apocalypse

I just got done watching the final episode of the first season of 'The Walking Dead'.
Overall I'm feeling kind of, "Meh" about the series and I'm not entirely sure why.

Maybe it's just a general overdose of zombies over the past few years.
As a little kid I stayed up late and watched 'Night of the Living Dead' and became an instant (though sleepless) zombie fan. I then had to wait years until another zombie film came on my radar (I was still underage when my friend and I tricked my mom into taking us to see 'Dawn of the Dead'). After that we knew there would be more... but we still had to wait years before seeing the various Italian ripoffs. 'Day of the Dead' was only a vague rumor.
Nowadays you can't swing a cricket bat without hitting a new zombie movie... they've even crossed over into comedy (always the sign of excess). Add in all the not-zombie stuff like 'Rec', '28 Days Later', 'The Crazies'... and we are in an age of total zombie movie infestation.
Yet I still love them!
So... why don't I love 'The Walking Dead'?
Maybe it's because of the format? Maybe zombies are best when they hit and run... as opposed to sticking around for multiple episodes.
I mean, once the zombie apocalypse hits... either everyone gets eaten or... hmmm... I'm trying to remember a zombie film that ended with anything more than a dying pen-light's ray of hope ('Shaun of the Dead' doesn't count). At worst you're only going to have to suffer through one, maybe two, heartfelt conversations while the characters discuss those they've left behind. 'The Walking Dead' has those tender moments every week.

But really, I think it's the characters on 'The Walking Dead' that are helping me to suspend my lack of enthusiasm.
I'm fine with the sheriff... he's not a purely goody-goody, you can see it in his eyes. Sooner or later he's gonna go dark. He's got a bit of complexity going on.
The Asian kid and the redneck? I like them too... stereotypes, yeah, but they're fun and don't whine a lot. They don't stink of 'thespian'.
The rest of them though? Let the zombies eat 'em. The sheriff's wife is annoying she's got all of 2 different facial expressions... worry/concern and shocked indignation. The little kids are barely there except for reaction shots and (I assume) to be placed in danger later on. The 'wise old man' is chock full of corn. The blond woman belongs on a soap opera. I'm not sure what the skinny/scared looking woman is going to be up to now that her husband isn't around to beat on her... mostly she is just for reaction shots too.
Oh, and the deputy guy... I disliked him from his first scene, mostly because that actor's pretending-to-eat mannerisms during food breakfast/lunch/dinner scenes, along with his bogus accent, makes me want to scream... but also because he's such a glaring non-entity except for his position as 'impending storm'... and I much prefer the 'Merle' character in that role, despite him only appearing in one episode so far.

Maybe it didn't matter that most of the un-undead folks in previous zombie movies weren't all that fleshed out... but they only had to last for about 90 minutes. We've had six 45-minute episodes of these people and I'm NOT getting any fonder of them. They're the same two-dimensional twinks they were at the start.

It's not that I want more action, more flesh-eating, more gore... all that stuff is great so far. The problem is that when that stuff isn't happening the show becomes very ordinary... and dull. The show needs to be about something more than just running away from the monsters.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Human Centipede

I'd been pretty much in the dark about this movie up until I watched it with my horror pal last Saturday.
I'd seen the comments around the tubes, "Did you see that preview for 'The Human Centipede'?!!! It looks REALLY crazy!!!"
Somehow that wasn't the right flavor of bait to get me clicking on the links to YouTube.
Dinner With Max Jenke put up a blog about it that suggested it might be a bit wilder than the standard 'mad scientist meets monster' romantic comedy I was assuming it was... but even that didn't move me to look into it.

My friend and I just ended up watching it on a lark... and I'm kind of surprised to say I liked it... or at least I didn't have the reaction that a lot of folks seem to be expecting to have once they get around to seeing it.
For one thing, it's not gory... there's very little blood and no guts. The disgusting aspects of the 'centipede' (more of a dodecapede...) are pretty much left out of the visuals. There is no scatophagia in site. It's mentioned, and (sort of) acted out... but... well I've got a VERY weak gag reflex when it comes to poo-eating and I got through those scenes just fine.
I'm not usually a gorehound... I'm fine with extreme gore if there is some reason beyond mere gross-out chuckles, but a lot of times it's just boringly excessive and doesn't add anything to the story/mood. If anything extreme gore serves as a release from any tension/suspense that might have been building... not a good thing. That said I could have done with a bit more gore in 'The Human Centipede'... I would have liked a bit more visual clues as to the mad doctor's surgery skills and the intracacies of the operation... I'd have been interested in seeing any failed precursors he might have around the lab... like his lamented (but unseen) 'Three Dog'.

I've read a few reviews of 'Centipede' now and they're a mixed lot. Some folks seem to be hired boosters while others see an easy target for their snarky jabs. People going on about how 'bad' it is are just being pretentious. It's a technically well made movie, it looks good. The script is no more ridiculous than most mainstream Hollywood fare and the actors do what they were hired to. The guy playing the doctor is the only character that's even close to fleshed-out and even he remains pretty much a complete cypher at the end of the movie... but that's not at all unusual in horror films.
Actually, this movie is fairly slow-paced. Not a whole lot happens. People are caught and operated on, the doctor prattles on in joy, the police show up, the 'creature' tries to escape... there's a bit of violence... THE END. Not complex or twisty at all. If it wasn't for how totally batshit crazy the doctor character was it would almost drift into the dreaded territory of 'boring'.
Disgusting as the concept is the doctor's vaguely suggested motivation, and that actor's ability to keep him from being a total cartoon, are what sold me on the movie... and made it actually creepy. Creepy enough that it stayed in my head for a while after watching it.
See, usually in these sorts of things the mad scientist has some sort of semi-laudable/sympathetic motivation for the nasty stuff he's perpetrating on his victims... he trying to cure a disease, find immortality, restore his wife/daughter's life/face, end world hunger, transmit matter or bring about world peace... or something would probably condone if it didn't require blood/skin/souls/spleens/brains/etc. from unwilling teenagers.
The crazy doctor in 'The Human Centipede' has no such altruistic goals... in fact he early on declares that he hates human beings. In the past he had been an expert on separating conjoined twins, but he's retired now and his surgical arts & crafts projects are strictly recreational. His ONLY reason for building the 'centipede' is his desire to debase/torture other humans in the worst way imagineable. He's a just a very angry man with surgery room in his basement (despite one character's accusations there's, thankfully, no hint that he's some sort of ex-Nazi... he's obviously a lone gunman in his mania).
I'm certainly not saying this is a great movie... but with so many horror movies (or movies of any type) doing little but copying whatever the last 'hit' was... anything that's even a bit out of synch is worth a look. 'The Human Centipede' earns that look by giving a purely nasty villain with authentically horrifying plans. It stands in contrast to something like 'Hostel' which marketed itself as transgressive and failed miserably to deliver. If 'Centipede's' villain had visited the killing rooms of that other film it might have been a bit less of a bait & switch.