Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bad Parenting at the Multiplex

I didn't realize that someone was revisiting the world of John Carpenter's The Thing until I saw the preview a few weeks ago. That was a good thing because like all fanboys who have a handful of sacred favorites, I don't like seeing my babies messed with.

But, they had the music, they had the look, and they had Mary Elizabeth Winstead, probably one of the most drop-dead gorgeous actresses of the day. (To recycle the Moms Mabley classic: She's so pretty it hurts my feelings.) I have to admit they topped the first movie twice: the first reveal when it pops out of a human, and when it all goes very badly near the end when they're trying to figure out who's human and who's not. Verdict: I liked it a lot and will purchase it when it comes out.

A couple weeks ago, we sat down with our daughter and her best friend and watched the original Thing (John Carpenter's, not the 50s version where the sheriff from Gunsmoke channels Frankenstein in the form of a giant carrot). They sorta dug it, but it had the taint of being an old movie, and one with a sad ambiguous ending as well.

Like all good Americans, my wife and I are letting our 15-year-old see the occasional R-rated film only as long as the R is due to language and hyper-violence. If it's sex, no mas. Though we are raising our daughters in a more European way regarding sex (in that it's not inherently bad and in fact is wonderful in the right context, but is something that belongs in the adult world), we think sexual imagery is too charged for younger viewers. However, kids experience violence from the age they are able to walk or crawl over to another kid. Granted, it's not blood-spraying horror violence (usually), but they tend to have an emotional handle on it, and viewing fictional stuff appears not to cause harm. In addition, most of us in the Midwest are either hunters or raised around them, so we've seen an animal processed, which is the definition of gory.

So even though I hadn't previewed it first (a usual step for us regarding R-rated flicks), my wife and I thought it'd be OK to take our daughter, who also liked it a lot.

But that night when she went to bed, I found her with her covers pulled to her chin. (Darn.) We talked about how the monster in the movie couldn't exist in our world; that it defied the general laws of basic physics and known biology, which seemed to help. It gave her nightmares anyway. So, FAIL on the thinking it would be OK thing. Alas.

My wife went and said it even scared her. That's a sum total of maybe three movies that have ever given her the willies. My daughter went again (the damage was done) with her mom, her best friend, and BF's mom. I guess her friend sat through most of the movie with her ears covered and her jaw hanging from shock. Her mom exclaimed out loud a few times, too.

So, if you've seen the other one, it's a great companion movie, and if you haven't, it might be one of the better horror flicks you've seen in a while. You might want to mind the R-rating though.

We also watched the wonderful Kristen Wiig's triumph: Bridesmaids. At least this time we were warned about what to hide from our daughter (the first 5 minutes). My wife and elder daughter loved it. I laughed a few times. I was thrilled to see Melissa McCarthy, who I thought was awesome in The Nines and hoped she could find her way to a long career; this is a pretty good start. Bridesmaids is worth a few minutes of your time, provided you like crude humor.

I caught Martin Scorsese's George Harrison: Living in the Material World on cable, when my family was out of the room. One of the ironies of my life is that I thought I would avoid driving my family nuts via the TV because I don't care for sports so don't watch them, but none of them have a tolerance for music documentaries, so my favorite thing to watch is the bane of their existence anyway.

I thought it was very average for the genre, but did learn some stuff about the quiet Beatle that I didn't know, and am now more impressed with his legacy regarding guitar craft and riffage. For fans only, I'm afraid.

Finally, I happed across this deleted scene from Will Smith's Hancock. If you didn't see it, the story explores the concept of a superhero who's become cynical and alcoholic because he realizes he can never do enough to fix the world.

In the deleted scene, we are finally able to witness the dramatization of the famous quandary that would face Superman should he ever try to have sex with Lois, as described by Larry Niven in his infamous essay, "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" (some wiki goodness here). Ironically, the original script for Hancock was titled "Tonight, He Comes.", and dealt with his sexual frustration along with his cynicism. So, of course, the one scene that reflects the origin of the story was cut.

I had pretty significant asthma as a kid and have not suffered from it so much as an adult until recently. All the stuff the doctor threw at me has staved it off a bit, but I keep trying to find an off-the-shelf supplement to try to get complete relief because it's unpleasant and a bit scary to be on the edge of not being able to take a deep breath. Mucinex has proven to be a wonder drug for me, especially when I get some chest thing, and it has been a help now.

When I saw Bronkaid on the shelf, it seemed to promise exactly what I wanted: Mucinex plus a bronchial dilator.

There I was, the next sitting on the couch on a Saturday morning (after taking some), surfing the web until my family got up. I noticed that reading was a struggle, but when my wife sat down with her coffee and started shooting the breeze, I noticed I was really, well... fucked up.

I could barely track what she was saying, plus I kept getting distracted by the web page in front of me (which is rude when someone is talking directly to you, but kept finding myself attempting to read while my wife was in mid-sentence), and worst of all I seemed to be actively dreaming while sitting there which was inserting itself in the jumbled mix of my thoughts.

As we all know, dreams have their own logic that don't mesh well with actual reality, so being a bit confused as to what was occurring to me in the real world at the moment and what was seeping into my consciousness through a pin-prick between the wall of reality and dreams was outright alarming.

When I could sort out my thoughts enough to articulate a thought, I said to my wife, "I'm really messed up" (using polite language in deference to the kids in the room), and tried to explain what was going on. She responsibly asked if I needed to go to the emergency room, and I said probably not, but if I get out the body paints or start weeping at the mere sight of a rainbow, don't rule it out.

So for the next four hours as I waited for the stuff to wear off, I played mentally with the shiny ball of dream fragments floating through my active consciousness. It seemed the best way to manage the weirdness without freaking out.

As a young man, I took mushrooms once, smoked my share of doobage, and tried illegal speed once in my freshman year at college, which concluded with a woman flirting with me at a party while a tarantula undulated on her right breast. (I finally asked if there really was a tarantula where I was seeing one, and she said that it was the host's pet, thank God.)

My point is that I have at times experienced altered states of consciousness and none of them were as vivid and unpleasant as this experience was. As a rule, I don't like being altered - hence my one-time trial of a couple things and that's about it.

It has made me wonder about how and when our brains dream. Previously, I had assumed that what most scientists said was true: we dream when sleeping, probably to help the brain clear away and store the content of the previous day. My take-away from Saturday's trip was that we might be dreaming all the time, but don't have awareness of it unless we are in a different state, such as sleeping or whacked out on bronchial dilators.

I told you all that to tell you this, a couple nights later I had a really vivid dream about a baby that had a surreal birth defect in that it was born as only a head with mere nubbins of fingers under the sides of its chin. Such a sight would be horrific in real life, but in the land of dreams the baby was actually quite beautiful and it seemed as happy as most babies, and I loved it like parents love their babies, with a potency and yearning that often overwhelms. It was a sweet dream, actually.

Later that day at work, I stumble across this picture at work...

Holy cow on a sacred stick, I thought. That looks just like the baby in the dream, though of course the bundling wasn't there (or visible), but the proportion of the fingers that were showing was an exact match to the fingers of the dream baby.

So, I submit that I think I had a precognition of this picture prior to seeing it.

Does this imply an ability to see the future? Synchronicity? Something beyond the physical world (which constant readers will know I believe in)? That the military will run out and empty the shelves of Bronkaid? I leave it to you to decide.

As a footnote, or third level digression, I found this picture at the same time I found the dream baby pic, and thought to myself: who in the hell thinks a black and white picture of a rainbow is a good idea? It's kinda like asking a woman to pose nude for you then take a picture of just her big toe.
Wonder if there's a pot of silver at the end

(Apologies that I don't provide credit or references to the origin of the pictures. I checked the exif data, and haven't found clues. If these are your pictures, or if you know whose they are, please let me know in the comments.)

Alas, a student group in Ohio has launched a campaign that tries to make the argument that dressing up as a pimp/gangsta or terrorist or Mexican for Halloween is racist. Even anything that could possibly be construed as such, like this illegal alien costume, is suspect, they say.

Here's the CNN story that brought national attention to bear, the site itself, and the tumbler post of the president of the society on her reaction to the parodies that cropped up like mushrooms in a hot cowpie.

Y'know, if that kid dressed up as a pimp/gangsta (whichever it is) is in blackface, you could make an easy argument that it's racist to most reasonable people. (I can't tell from the small versions of the poster I've seen.) But if it is someone black all blinged out as a pimp or gansta, is it really racist? And why would a black college kid claim that was her "culture"? Wouldn't her academic aspirations automatically distance her from a dealer of drugs and whores? And does the Middle-Eastern kid really want to claim that terrorism is his culture? Really?

I wonder if they were aware of the similarly failed attempt by Wiccans to claim victimhood and unfair stereotypes of witches in the celebration of Halloween. Or of their failed attempt to claim that they originated the holiday, being pagan descendants of pagans and all that.

Anyway, if you can get past being offended (if it does offend you), the parodies are a hoot. Update: The Chive offers a bunch as well.

My favorite is this one:
Looks German to me...

I wonder if this means that laid-back, aged stoners with an affinity for bowling will come beating on my door, since I dressed as the Dude from The Big Lebowsky a couple years back.

FWIW, it was a tremendous failure because, of course, none of the kids had seen the movie and neither had most of their parents, so I just looked like some homeless guy shambling to the door to hand out candy. (I had a real beard and my own old bathrobe, not a fake ones like in this getup.) I got more looks of abject terror from that costume than any other I've donned.
The Latest Canary

So, among the top ten banned books this year is Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich, which reports the results of her experiments of trying to work for and live on minimum wage jobs. (Nother link.) Why would such a book be BANNED? (As pointed out elsewhere, the books aren't banned so much as someone challenged their appropriateness for a school bookshelf.)

Well, besides apparently containing some negative views on Christianity, it promotes '"economic fallacies" and "socialist ideas",' and a 'biased portrayal of capitalism.' Wade around in that for a while … banned because people don't like what it says about economic viewpoints and realities in America.

To me, this is the latest canary in a coal mine on how far out of whack our national "debate" about economic problems, "class warfare," and the right's propaganda about the poor are. (Note: no reason to qualify portions of the right as wingnuts and teabaggers, as it's the whole Republican base anymore, judging from the recent legislative sessions.)

To paint the basic facts and details about trying to live on minimum-wage as somehow controversial and political, something to be suppressed and hidden, is gobsmacking to me. It also strikes me as a rather dark if not evil purposeful ignorance. Disagreeing with what it might mean is another issue, but to try to suppress it?

Since I don't often subject myself to the Republican propaganda machine on purpose, if I'd heard the term "class warfare" before now, I really hadn't paid it much heed as the concept strikes me as eminently silly in America. But, it's getting such big play on the right that Jon Stewart dedicated a whole series of shows that hilariously subsumed the World of Warcraft logo: "World of Class Warfare." (If you follow only one link in this post, this is the one; the stuff you'll find is tres funny.)

The most absurd brainturd they tried to float was that if the poor have things like refrigerators and televisions, they're not poor! The blinkered depravity of someone who would have this viewpoint betrays such a vast lack of understanding of the larger world and humanity that it's nearly cartoonish in its banality. It's as if Thurston Howell from Gilligan's Island has become the primary pundit for these clowns.

As usual with the tighty righties, they employ the bullshit term "class warfare" to coin what they want to pretend is something they're victims of, but in fact is their effort to smear and marginalize those they disagree with (in the right's usual tactic of framing something as the opposite of what it is).

Their larger target is, of course, tearing down FDR's New Deal. FDR himself knew what bastards some of the people are: "Roosevelt again and again said the privileged classes are not your friends, they don't reflect your interests but we do." They're so rabid about the New Deal that they've produced their own cartoon version of history, where FDR didn't exist.

I've never understood this because the tangible results of the New Deal - a healthy middle class, a higher standing of living for everyone and the resultant general level of happiness and civility - appear so obviously valuable on their face that why would you want any else unless you were, well, fucking evil.

I've often wondered if the point to turn us into Mexico, because if it is, we're there!!!! (I've said for years, probably every party I've been to when I'm past 2 beers, that the real goal of the right was to turn us into Mexico in a cynical bid to halt illegal immigration from Mexico.)

Sometimes writing something out like this help me think it through, analogous to the weird effect when you articulate something out loud to someone else, it often crystallizes it for you. I now realize that what I've never heard from the right is their articulation of the world they DO want, other than lip service to freedom. So, I'm going to begin asking: "So, imagine we're living a world with no regulation on corporations and financial institutions, no labor unions, no minimum wage, no medicare, medicaid, no food stamps, no unemployment insurance, no government provided health care whatsoever, no food banks, no public safety net, nothing. What do you imagine that world would be like?"

While drafting this post, I ran some of these thoughts past my wife, and she pointed out the most obvious but wise thing I've heard: Congress doesn't eat its own dog food. It has no skin in the game. Every single person in the House or Senate is a millionaire, and they all have free healthcare and a pension they know will be there when they leave. Perhaps if they were in the same situation most Americans do, they'd listen.

Finally, I love this post by Lemony Snicket:
Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance

1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

2. “Fortune” is a word for having a lot of money and for having a lot of luck, but that does not mean the word has two definitions.

3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.

4. People who say money doesn’t matter are like people who say cake doesn’t matter—it’s probably because they’ve already had a few slices.

5. There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.

6. Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.

7. Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don’t tell them they aren’t. Sit with them and have a drink.

8. Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else—a stranger in the street, for example.

9. People gathering in the streets feeling wronged tend to be loud, as it is difficult to make oneself heard on the other side of an impressive edifice.

10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.

11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.*

12. If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.

13. 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance, easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely an arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.

*Btw, it has come out that those people inside the impressive buildings are sitting in observation bunkers (paid for by taxes) with the police, which answers the question I've read a few times in the news: How come they're tear-gassing and shooting the OWS movement when they left the Tea Baggers alone?

Here are some links on other elements of this general problem that I couldn't squeeze into this already lengthy screed:
- The Tea Party is really just the pissed-off white south rising again.
- Republicans actively work to destroy Democratic presidents, and even Obama says right out loud that their primary goal is to defeat him, the people be damned.
- Republicans even think they can threaten the Fed.
- A great tell-all from a Republican operative who has left the cult.
- How banks cause hunger.