The Crash and Burn Syndrome


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I’m a weirdo, I admit it. I go along almost as happy as you please and then I let things build up internally. I take an insult here and a jibe there from a coworker. I become miffed at a misspoken word or I get irritated about something. These little things add up day after day and sometimes week after week and BLAMMO!! I explode and go on a tearing bender of a fit and lay waste with my scathing wit or anger everyone who just happens to get in my way! Well, ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but it feels like it sometimes. Then, I am fine for awhile until the cycle starts up all over again.  Anyone else do that?

So what’s the answer? Religion used to soothe me. Reading still distracts me but sometimes I can’t concentrate enough to read. I’ll watch a good movie, but they only last two hours at the most.  So I’ll take a whole weekend and just become a hermit. Except I can’t do that much anymore now that I live with my daughter. But I can sure try!  Yesterday I watched the Tim Burton movie Alice in Wonderland. The movie was visually appealing and a definite work of art, but the story wasn’t so great. No, it didn’t follow the original much. Same characters, different plot. I did become very sidetracked by the glorious score by Danny Elfman:

I could listen to it all day. It soothes me.

Then I read my book for awhile:  The Gate House by Nelson DeMille. I had to put Greg Iles away (The Devil’s Punchbowl) without finishing it. It bordered on torture porn and don’t we have enough of that with all the television shows that feature the female victim of the week. I mean really! How many times do we have to see rapes and murders of young women? Aren’t there enough of those in the news. We are a world full of voyeurs.  But in any case, I don’t need that to calm my nerves now do I? My counselor once asked me why I didn’t just pray to God and, granted she was a Christian counselor, I told her that God and I didn’t communicate much anymore. She said that that didn’t matter, the very act of praying would help. So I did and right before gnawing my paws off while trying to go to sleep on the worst of the nights, I asked God to help me out here a little. Anything would do, a little peace of mind or some new insight or hey, how about some nice calming peaceful feelings? I then went to sleep and woke up feeling much better.

Now I don’t know if God did anything or not, but it doesn’t hurt to think so. It also didn’t hurt to ask. And I didn’t even have to straighten up and fly right first! Some parents could use that lesson.. ahem.. In the coming weeks when one of the most important days of my life comes to pass (my wedding), I need to remember why my fiancée and I are doing this, how little time we have on this earth to love each other, and frankly how tiny some of those seeming insurmountable problems appear from an eternal viewpoint. Whether eternity turns out to be nothing at all or some celestial kingdom, it can’t hurt to imagine one’s life in such a time frame. People get so overwrought about things that are meaningless, me especially. My philosophy should always be,  “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” Sometimes there’s some great shit in the bible! 😀


Paranormal Activity

Why do people go to haunted houses that others create for Halloween? Because they know it’s fake but they want to be scared witless anyway. It’s called the suspension of disbelief to get the payoff in the end. Scaring ourselves and feeling safe at the same time is a human past time. And ghosts and demons and things that go bump in the night are just the ticket to help us get the adrenaline going. That’s what the new movie Paranormal Activity is all about. I know it’s fake, I love that it was made for $11,000, the couple who star in it are likable, and it delivers exactly what you think it will; a great scare after a suspenseful buildup. Don’t we all want to know what goes on in our houses while we sleep? What’s scarier than contemplating that? As for the movie, I haven’t heard audience reaction like that since I saw Carrie at the movie theater. Or even Jaws. Good stuff. I highly recommend it this Halloween.

District 9

District600Over the weekend, I went to see the new movie District 9 with my daughter. We were probably two of five women in the whole place, but we are scifi geeks like that. I was going to write a detailed review of the movie, but so many others have done the same that I asked myself, “why?” Go to Rotten Tomatoes for oodles of reviews if you want details. All I can add is that it is the most intelligent scifi movie I’ve seen in a while and while the camera action is hand-held jerky, it didn’t bother me as much as watching [REC], the Spanish original version of Quarantine. I definitely would not take my children under 17 to see District 9, if I had any under 17 that is. It’s sprinkled liberally with bad language, gross human and alien body explosions, and really tough scenes about moral choices that only older viewers should wrestle with. I can’t wait for Peter Jackson to produce a sequel. Yes, unanswered questions abound. But maybe they’re best left unanswered. Highly recommended!

Torchwood: Children of Earth

torchwoodOk, so being an X-Files fan, I had to watch Torchwood, a BBC program that aired over here in the U.S.  on BBC America. I watched seasons 1 and 2 and  have now seen season 3,  Torchwood: Children of Earth, which was a five-part mini-series that aired last week and over the weekend.  This was the second movie (and really the mini-series felt like a long movie) I’ve watched recently that dealt with the theme of aliens and children and the end of the world as we know it. The first was a movie starring Nicholas Cage called Knowing (link is to a review with spoilers) which featured an end of the world plot with alien “intervention” but-not-in-a-good-way kind of theme.

I’m always fascinated by literary tropes that I see running through novels, movies, and television shows and lately the theme has been the destruction of our planet and the consequences for us and our children, as well as possible rescuing scenarios. Well this isn’t a surprise given the global warming hysteria in the scientific community, but really, do the science/entertainment channels like Discovery, National Geographic, and TLC have to inundate us with shows that imagine the earth without humans because of this or that natural disaster: giant tsunamis, tornadoes, catastrophic earthquakes, sun spots exploding, etc. They present it with such glee that I am always left with the feeling that they wish it would happen to make their point, whatever that point is. All I am left feeling is, “Well, the world’s going to end. So what? There’s not a whole lot I can do to stave off a giant tsunami.” But I digress.

Back to Torchwood. For background, Torchwood is a secret Cardiff based  British government agency set up during Queen Victoria’s reign to investigate alien activity on the planet and to gather any alien weapons or other objects said aliens may leave behind. The alien activity is usually detected by the odd behavior of citizens which cannot be explained by other than supernatural or supra-natural means. There were originally five Torchwood members but the series began with the recruitment of another member, Gwen Cooper (played by Eve Myles), who as a police woman ran across Torchwood mid-investigation and became more curious than the average citizen should be.  Capt. Jack Harkness (played by the irrepressible and perfectly dental John Barrowman) is the real star of the show, however.  He leads his group into dangerous situations quite recklessly sometimes, but it’s understandable as he is indestructible. (The reasons for this stem from his stint on the Dr. Who series where he originally debuted).

The show is quite entertaining, but it’s possible to learn much from British culture by watching it. First, you can say far more racy words on British TV than you can American TV. Second, you can show far more skin. Third, the actors and actresses look more like real people than the fake ones we see on television and in the movies. Finally, I learned what CCTV is; the cameras that record all the goings-on of normal citizens’ activities during the day all over London. Torchwood uses this almost exclusively to track people and events they are curious about. However, what set this last mini-series apart was how Russell T. Davies and James Moran (co-writers) dealt with the plot of Children of Earth. The plot consisted of the head, not so reasonable, alien called 456 who has contacted the British government before in 1965. At that time they requested 12 children in exchange for an anti-virus that would help quell an epidemic of flu.  Capt. Jack was in charge of that operation, but unfortunately, one of the children got away and is now non compos mentis at an institution. He too freezes at the same time as the children, implying the necessity of his being “chosen” perhaps? He is targeted for elimination, as is Capt. Jack, for knowing too much about the aliens.

Cut to present day, where all the earth’s children stop at various times of day and at the same time to relay one unifying message that the aliens are returning. The alien does  return to Thames House where the Prime Minister has set up a holding tank for it’s arrival. It arrives and demands more children, 10% of the earth’s children to be exact. From there we are treated to, in my opinion, the best part of the whole series; a convoluted and oh so believable discussion among the governments about which children will be selected, from where, and by whom and how they all got into this mess in the first place. Capt. Jack is the only one who thinks of refusing the alien’s demands, but it’s not as simple as that and the resulting scenes are vivid and thought provoking. I must say that I was very impressed with the dialogue and the issues that it brought up. The acting was exceptional, as it usually is in even the cheesiest of British television shows, and it was time well spent watching it.

I get so much more out of intelligent fiction, whether in television, film, novels, or radio, than I do out of straight political, mostly vociferous discussion found in the news or those venues designed to “give us information.” Perhaps it’s because good fiction, done artfully, without obvious bias, and with attention to detail is far more intelligent and persuasive than main stream media and it’s air of condescension toward the very people it claims to want to “inform.” Art simply does it and lets you decide about its quality or judge its merits. it has no vested interest and if it does and it is evident, then it’s not good art. I greatly admire that in a program and hope to point that out whenever I can.  Kudos to Davies and Moran for trodding that fine line quite nicely and with great skill.

What I want to know however, is why this common theme of the deus ex machina? Why must aliens rescue the planet and why must the plot be intertwined with children? Remember when movies were are about children and Satan? Are we reflecting the cultural fears of adults? Is it because we are fast approaching an age in which God is no longer seen as in control of the world? Is it because children are seen as our best hope for the future but it must be elsewhere than earth? The common mentality that humans have fucked up the planet to such a degree that it should be wiped out and we should start over, is so common that one wonders how this much touted scenario affects our younger generation? Could this be why they have such an attitude as they do? Live now for tomorrow we die? Just some thoughts.

Blessings as ever.

“Perfume, The Story of a Murderer”

I haven’t done a movie review in quite some time. Perhaps it’s because most movies out there are merely exercises in didactic over exertion and those don’t hold any fascination for me. The best films are those that don’t hit you over the head with any message at all, but respects the audience enough to make it subtle AND, (and here’s the key word here) entertaining. Those who make films (and I would include all artists such as novelists, song writers, etc.) seem to fall into two camps; those who make it for the sheer artistry and storytelling and those who make them to teach us all a lesson. I much prefer the former category.

Last night I received Perfume, The Story of a Murderer in the mail from Netflix. I had never heard of this movie, based on the 1986 German novel Das Parfum and never saw it advertised and it’s been out since 2006. I am always fascinated about why movies do not make a larger dent in the public consciousness when they come out but just because I didn’t notice it doesn’t mean it wasn’t released widely. I am always annoyed with the movie industry and around Oscar time I am particularly peeved by the blatant politicization of movies every year. The movies released in November and December are always nominated for Oscars and all the movies that come previous to that are always overlooked. It’s a perfect setup that never varies. This is why I never watch nor do I have much respect for the Academy Awards any longer. Members of the Academy ceased to be relevant a long time ago, except perhaps as a mirror held up to their own faces. But I digress.

perfumeFirst, the movie is narrated wonderfully by actor John Hurt and this sets the tone for the entire film. It reminded me of the frame in Big Fish or the television show Pushing Daisies yet far darker and much less witty in intent. The main character of this movie is Jean Baptiste Grenouille who begins life as a poor abandoned infant in the dirtiest, most despicable part of France and whose remarkable sense of smell defines his entire life. The problem? He has no scent of his own. His main desire in life is to collect the essences of all odors, including the impossible essences of glass and copper, and apprentices himself to a perfumer  (a most brilliant Dustin Hoffman) who knows the logistics of distilling and mixing scents but has no talent for creating perfumes that sell. He makes the mistake of telling Grenouille an Egyptian tale of the 13 essences which make up the greatest perfume in the world. Now Grenouille is bent on finding this secret formula. To say Grenouille is an aberrant personality is slightly an understatement but you do have some sympathy for the boy. He’s had the hardest of lives imaginable. And something, somewhere went even more horribly wrong in the formation of his conscience. His descent into murderous ways is almost innocent. He wants others to love him as he sees people do with each other every day.  He has no sense of boundaries. He has no concept that what he is doing may be wrong. All he wants is to distill the odors of young women because he finds it the most irresistible and life-giving smell in his world. And, above all, he wants love. He just chooses the most anti-social way of finding the “essence” of love that he can; murder. He literally harvests the scents of women. In his quest he comes across the one girl that will complete his collection of essences and he is bent on getting her, despite the efforts of her father (Alan Rickman)  to hide her.

Ben Whishaw is perfect as the  tortured soul yet seemingly serene soul, Grenouille. The film is compelling in its portrayal of Grenouille’s existential despair in the face of being overlooked simply for being born and being scentless. Catholics will be offended by the portrayal of the French bishop’s caricaturish belief in the superstitions of the day and the movie’s semi-penultimate scene in which the town amasses to execute Grenouille but descends into a pheromone induced orgy instead is sure to insult many. But I am never prude enough to overlook the beauty and skill of the intent of the movie because of the content of some scenes. Do they serve a purpose? Yes, they do. It is enough.  This movie reminds me of Chocolat a tad bit although much harsher in tone and content. But the trope is the common one of someone coming to town and altering the perception of it’s residents and the town religionists forever. This film is more about religion in the face of a presence that cannot be precisely described as evil because it’s motives are the purest. Grenouille is completely unaware of his action’s wrongness. Wrapping your mind around that one and the implications of it should keep you busy after viewing. The movie is dark and gritty in parts but exquisitely filmed and beautifully rendered. We are plunged from darkness to light in equal measures not only in landscape but in Grenouille’s life. It is sad and beautiful all at once in Grenouille’s quest to be noticed, loved, and desired. And the final scene is a moment of magical realism that will leave you pondering for quite some time.

I would recommend it but don’t watch it if you dislike the dark and the gritty mixed with blood or if you dislike mocking of religion. I just happen to like all of the above especially if a thoughtful message is cleverly disguised in an artful piece of work.

Around the Blogosphere and In My Head

You don’t want to be in my head, really, you just don’t. I’ve been feeling rather odd lately. I can’t sleep or eat and feel all jittery. Maybe it’s too much coffee, but I can’t seem to focus on anything. Pre-menopause perhaps? SOMETHING has clouded my brain and it’s pretty persistent. So much so that I cannot even concentrate while reading FICTION, so in the meantime, and before I get my brain going again, here’s what I’ve been reading out there in Blog-o-land. Oh and in case you were wondering what the God-o-meter has been registering…. Well exactly where it’s pointing in the picture below. Zippity do da! Nada. Nowhere to be found. Just when I was supposed to contribute to our new blog too. (I’ll post Kay, I swear!) 🙂

In the meantime here are some good reads and some good listens:

I don’t get enough literature in my life since getting out of university. Here’s a good site to keep track of poetry and what’s out there. Poetry every day, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Today is the day that I officially come out as a fat person, which is defined as anybody over 120 pounds in this day and age. Hence, why I have many of the Fatosphere’s links on my blogroll and in RSS. Here is the premier site to get started researching those who are the last bastion against the onslaught of the health police, the obesity myth crowd, plain bad information, stereotyping and all manner of hatred against those of us larger than what’s considered “normal.” “As God is my witness, I will never go hungry again.”

And shouldn’t this be a tired, old story by now? This is soooooooo yesterday’s news. I’m really, really getting sick to death of hearing how the churches have all been “feminized” and men can’t be men in some of today’s churches. I’ve said before that if that’s their problem, then men should have their own church and women should have their’s. That solves the problem nicely. That way men can teach themselves and we can do the same. Problem solved.

I’ve been obsessing about this YouTube song by Beverley Knight:

Last but not least, here is a little tidbit on Feminist Philosophers blog on Aging and Sexiness. There’s a lot to be said for older women, don’t you think?


Sunday Morning, “Death Proof,” and Making My Own Space

I swear to Goddess I’m two people. One week I wake up desiring church, ritual, and the whole patriarchal nine yards. Another morning, today, I wake up and the thought of church makes me slightly bilious. I find that I’ve successfully bifurcated myself into one half that respects societal norms and another half that follows passion and my true self at any cost. I realize this dissociative nature stems from my childhood where there were always the “secret” and the “public” spaces in which I moved. No one was supposed to find out about the “secret” outside of the extremely carnival horror household I grew up in. The public self was an extension of that self that acted without any holds barred, one freed from the “birdcage” so to speak. More often than not this led me into more dangerous situations as I grew older, but they were situations of my own choosing and I was, fortunately, enterprising enough, or god damn lucky enough to extricate myself from them before I got hurt.

Today, I woke up resenting religion’s tight reign on society with its frozen death grip of rules and regulations. Existentialist philosophers have always written that human beings must learn to live authentically; that we should re-center our lives around our most authentic selves and not to be afraid of it. Education, they say, empowers us to look back on our lives and see the courses we’ve taken and the paths we’ve probably not chosen with full knowledge. They advise living “in the moment” not looking to much into the past and not expecting too much of the future. I recall living that way as a teenager. The future was not to be looked at and the past was an impetus for current action. Now, that I’m grown, I see that we can make wiser choices living in the moment. No matter what brought us here, we can always choose right?

On another subject, or maybe not completely another subject, I have a predilection for horror films. I also like a lot of action films and while romantic comedies will always suck me in, films that are traditionally “guy” flicks always get my blood going. I loved Fight Club when every other woman I knew hated it (except for my wonderfully mind-linked uber-friend, Alyce) I loved Sin City and horror films do not make me flinch too awfully much. You see, I find the precarious situations in these films far less horrifying than real life has been. I’d say that having a face-off with one’s 220 pound, 6 foot tall step-father with a ripped in half cupboard door in one hand and a murderous gleam in his eye will do far more to make one nervous than any mere celluloid situation. Lately, Quentin Tarantino has become my new directorial hero. Since I saw Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill I and II, I wait for what he will make next with much expectation. While some see exploitation (or sexploitaton), I see exploitation turned on its sexist head, and a keen insight into the female and male minds. Last week my hubby and I watched Tarantino’s Grindhouse movie, Death Proof, (click the link for Erich Kuersten’s transgressive review) starring Kurt Russell and a whole host of other famous/obscure actors. We had just watched Tarantino’s Grindhouse zombie flick Planet Terror with our 21 year old daughter and we wanted her to see the second one, which was much better. So she came over and we watched it again. Watching a movie multiple times is always a fruitful thing to do. It made so much more sense to me the second time. Besides, watching Kurt Russell in his creepiest, slimiest, love him/hate him role ever didn’t hurt either.

The movie focuses on two sets of girlfriends. Each group has a familial tightness about them that makes one envious. Guys will watch the film for the wonderful lap dance Vanessa Ferlito gives Russell,

but it’s the women that make the movie here. It’s all about female friendships and the way they look out for each other, that is, those who are within their circle of friends and who “get” the girl culture. This movie isn’t for the squeamish as there is a horrific and graphic car crash that bifurcates (no pun intended) the first half of the movie from the second half. Tarantino is brilliant in that he portrays the 70s in a dazzling anachronistic way so that we are always left a little unsettled about the line between past and present. He is making clear the comparisons between the sets of girlfriends and the messages they convey to each other and to us; the audience. The ending was one of the best in film history, in my humble opinion. Go Rosario Dawson! The message I got is that we women have come a LONG LONG way and learned much since the 70s. There is never a sense that these women need rescued by anyone even though Tarantino suggests that the audience will think this and then some. These women’s strength is in their awareness and in their personal friendships. Sure, bad things happen to all of us, but it doesn’t always have to. The second half of the movie shows us that tables can turn and we don’t always have to accept our roles society places on us. We make good choices and we make bad choices. But overall, we have the CHOICE. We don’t “allow” men to give it to us. We take and make the choices ourselves. For good or for ill, it still remains our choice.

Godde, movies are great, aren’t they?

Sundays are becoming very fruitful when I remember that I can have faith and still refuse to enable the male institutions that have traditionally oppressed me. Taking a stand against being lured into an all-male ritual space again and again is the choice I have to make over and over in order to further the strength I’ve earned in the past. No one “rescued me” either when I was 15 years old. I rescued myself. There’s always the point where we have to say “enough is enough.” Unfortunately, I don’t seem to learn my lessons as well as I get older. Existentialism is great for now, but eventually looking back helps us to quit making the same mistakes, but nostalgia blurs the sharpness of that time. I find that I’m constantly looking back; always making sure I don’t fall for the same lures and tricks that I always fell for before. Keeping balance in an increasingly unbalanced, male-privileged world is the lot of women. Fortunately, the teeter is beginning to totter our way and will continue to do so whenever we refuse to participate in those “ties that bind.” I’d rather live with my hands unbound, thank you very much.