Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sleeping Through Santa

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I have been DYING to see a moose ever since I moved to New England. I have moose on my pajamas, and a moose doorhanger, and I go to Vermont and Maine all the time, and no moose. I’ve even hung out next to weedy, mosquito infested ponds in the middle of nowhere in the evening waiting to see a moose. No moose.

Now I come home and my neighbor, the one who shares a wall with me, tells me “I hope that moose didn’t damage your car this morning.”

I said “What?” because I live smack in the middle of the urban district, we barely have lawns here, it’s not like we’re in the country, and I can’t possibly have heard her correctly. She’s Polish, so who knows.

She said “There was a moose next to your car this morning.”

I said “What?” Not a moose. Something else, maybe, but the car is parked 10 feet behind my back door. We get possums, and coons, and stray cats, and the occasional skunk or bunny, but we don’t even get the black bears that anyone with a real yard deals with.

She said “There. Was. A. Moose. In. The. Driveway. This. Morning. At. Six. O. Clock.”

I said “What?  I keep thinking you’re saying “moose” but that can’t be right.  I need to go to the doctor.”

“No,” she says. “A MOOSE.  There was a MOOSE in the DRIVEWAY next to your CAR this MORNING.”

I stared at her.  I’m pretty sure my eyes were making that whirring look you see in cartoons right after someone gets hit in the head with an anvil.

“A moose?” I said.  And I thought, holy cow, I’ve caught it from Roy.  I answer a statement with the same words only with a question mark attached.  It’s contagious.

“I have a picture.” she said, and started going for her phone.

“What?” I said again.

“Yes.” she said. “My son went out the back door to go down the driveway to catch the school bus, and he started yelling MOM! MOM! MOM! and when I said WHAT?!?!?!? he said LORI’S HORSE IS BACK HERE!!!  I said, don’t be silly, her horse doesn’t live in her townhouse, she’s not Pippi Longstocking, and he said COME SEE THIS!!!” and I went, and there it was.  A moose was right here, next to your car, eating my sunflowers.”

And then her phone was on, and sure enough, there was a picture of the  moose.  Not next to my car, sadly, but in the neighbor’s yard.

Holy shit.  There was a moose, in my driveway, eating our flowers, standing right next to my car, and I slept through it. I FREAKING SLEPT THROUGH IT. I slept through it.  I can’t believe it.  It’s like waking up on Christmas morning and finding reindeer tracks and skid marks on the roof, and realizing that Santa was REALLY HERE and you SLEPT through it.  I’m so depressed.

“He was HUGE” my neighbor said.  “And after a while, he sprang down the driveway, binga binga binga like Bullwkinkle, and nearly ran over a guy who was jogging.  I thought that guy was going to pass out.”

I’ll just bet.  You’re going out for a morning run in the city, you expect to maybe meet badly behaved dogs, be startled by rubbish removal crews, possibly encounter a vagrant or two, but to be nearly run over by a moose twinkling down the driveway of a row house, no.

At least he didn’t eat my tomatoes.

I Can’t See You From Where I’m Standing

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I encountered a person yesterday with whom I *should* have common ground, but realized pretty quickly that I don’t. He had a team of Belgians in harness. Horse workers, horse people, the common ground here ought to be the horses. I met them, admired them, and mentioned that I’d done some work for the local draft-horse rescue/sanctuary.

“Those are trash horses” he said, immediately.
My eyebrows shot up into my hairline.
“They should all be at the kill pen.” he added.
The rest of the conversation went along the lines of what a waste of time it was that they have these horses who can’t work any longer, and how they ought to just be sent out for slaughter.

I got out of this conversation as soon as I possibly could, and went off to Ponder and Cogitate.

On a personal level, I take people where I find them.  I don’t often Judge, because even if someone has what I regard as an untenable position, it’s usually pretty easy to see how they might have arrived at this position, and why it makes sense. People are who people are.  This one, though, it really stuck in my craw.

Possibly because The Wonder Horse was obtained at an auction, and the other bidder was someone presumably there to collect future horse meat.  If my trainer hadn’t been there, hadn’t been paying attention, hadn’t been willing to take a chance, I wouldn’t be having any Wonder Horse.  The Wonder Horse would have been sent off in a trailer full of terrified, sick, old, lame horses to be penned up in a terrifying manner, and would have been slaughtered, with terror pouring through his brave heart.

Fuck that shit.

The more I thought about this guy and his perspective, the more I thought, and the more strongly I thought, exactly that:  Fuck that shit.  Fuck that asshole, and everyone like him.

I can understand having a professional relationship with horses.  I can understand not being able to afford to keep horses around that can’t help earn their keep.  Horses are expensive.  The only thing that is in their same league, as far as Pure Expensiveness, is kids.  They cost a bundle, and for someone who needs to earn their livelihood through the work of horses, I can totally understand that you can’t keep them if they can’t help pay.

But to state that at the point when they can no longer pay, they should be sent off and slaughtered, in fear and terror?  Fuck that shit.

What I wish I had the moxie to say to this guy is this:  Those horses give you everything. they. have. you asshole.  How dare you treat another living creature as if it was some kind of THING to use up, and then throw away when you’re tired of it, or it can’t give you any more.  It’s another being, with thoughts, and feelings, and a soul, and energy of its own.  A creature. Not a thing.  And you take everything they have, and when they can’t give you any more, you cast them off into the pit of hell.  Fuck that shit.

You can’t support an animal who has given you everything it had?  You find another home for it, you jerk.  And if you can’t find another home for it, it’s too damaged from your taking what it had to offer, or it’s too old, or too sick, you fucking get your vet out, and you fucking pay to have that animal euthanized in the security of its own home.  You don’t send it off to be frightened, and terrorized, and abused.  And you SURE as hell don’t talk a bunch of smack about people who are cleaning up after the mess you made by irresponsible treatment of your animals. Fuck that shit.

I don’t often judge, but after I thought about this guy, I realized I was more than happy to judge him and his ilk all the way down into the hands of satan.  If there is a satan.  You just don’t go around treating other living beings like trash.  I don’t give a damn what species they are.  You treat them with kindness, and sensitivity, and you treat them humanely.  You don’t throw them away when you’re done using them.  You don’t subject them to agony when they can’t make you happy any more.

There are words for this kind of behavior where I come from.  “Asshole” is the first one on the list, and it just goes downhill from there.  I don’t know that I’d actually be able to find enough words to reflect the degree of contempt and scorn I have for a subhuman life-form who could take this position.

Fuck that shit.

Vun! Vun Old Movie! Mwahahahahaha

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It’s October, which means it’s time for Hollywood Monster Marathons.

I don’t like newfangled Monsters, which are really just psychotic serial killers wearing cheap, flimsy disguises (or none at all), and who may or may not have psychotherapists aiding them in their journey towards or away from Monsterhood.  I do like cartoon Monsters, Mike Wyzowski in particular.

But what I really like are the old-fashioned deep-down supernatural Monsters, especially the ones that come in black and white.  Wolfmen.  Mummies.  Vampires.  I prefer Monsters that stay safely up on the silver screen, not ones that take aim through a sniper rifle at pedestrians, or who cruise the schools looking for girls to kidnap and hold hostage for decades.

Which means I was thrilled when I discovered, last night, that I could request on-demand delivery of the 1931 “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi.  Everyone’s heard of this film, of course, but how many have actually seen it?  I hadn’t, and so I settled down on the sofa for some Cultural Education.  And Monsters.

A number of things struck me about this film, the first being the amazing resemblance between Count Dracula and John Travolta.

Dracula

John Travolta

 

And I will confess, the similarity occurred to me every time I watched Bela deliver his Brooding and Hypnotic Stare.

It’s also remarkable the way that this film and its imagery have percolated through the American cultural awareness.  Flash a big crucifix at another person, and they’re as likely to melodramatically recoil as they are to drop to their knees in prayer.  Everyone knows – Twilight notwithstanding – that the Proper Attire for a vampire is a tux.  Terry Pratchett thoroughly lampoons this image in his Discworld books…all the while hewing to it as something that is acknowledged as right and proper.  Then we get to this guy.

The Count

It turns out I knew Bela Lugosi and Dracula before I had ever heard the words.  Vun!  Vun bat in my belfry!  Two! Two bats in my belfry!  Thrrree!  Thrreee bats in my belfry!  Mwahahahahahahahaha!!!

What I never realized was how much John Travolta thus looks like Count von Count.  That’s one degree of separation, there.

Then I considered the subject of Special Effects.  People gripe about the crummy special effects on SyFy tv series, and in some of our newer movies, but less than a hundred years ago, what we had was this:

Special Effects, 1931 Style

That’s a big flapping rubber bat.  It’s presumably Dracula (see below).  I am pretty sure it has been attached to a piece of elastic and that this is what is delivering the rather bouncy flapping effect.  I know this because one time I pulled a big prank on my youngest brother with one of these rubber bats. I attached it to a piece of elastic string, and tacked it inside his doorframe where it would slap him in the face if he ran out of the room.  Then, because older sisters are basically Evil, I got the idea to coat the bat with vaseline to make it slimy and cause it to stick to him when it hit him in the face if he ran out of the room.  Then I waited until everything was dark, and caused him to run out of the room.  I still fall over laughing when I think about it.   Mwahahahahahahaha.  Anyway, I obtained a very similar Special Effect to the one I saw in this film last night, with that rubber bat.

But the one thing that emerged as the strongest response to this film is the Understanding of just how difficult it must be to create a complete narrative, using nothing but audio-video clips, in a very limited time frame.  I haven’t attempted to do this, having no pretensions to the stature of “auteur”.  But I also never really thought about it either.  You make a movie, you’re pretty much telling a story through short clips all strung together, and your writers are having to construct what is effectively an extended series of short-short-stories, strung together, and you’re hoping that the quality of the acting, and maybe some work on the camera operator’s part, is going to convert the whole mess into something that viewers perceive as a complete and uninterrupted narrative.

Upon reflection, I am thinking, this must be incredibly difficult.  And it must have taken a great deal of creative work on the part of the filmmakers to sort out how to approach it, and to provide a good toolkit for doing it. This line of thought also makes me wonder if the proliferation of multi-part films (LOTR, The Hobbit, etc.) and excessively long films (2.5 hours, more) isn’t a sign of degeneration.  All writers know it’s harder to write a short-story than it is to write a long novel.  It occurs to me it might be harder to make a film that persuasively conveys a complete narrative within 90 minutes than it is to do the same in 3 hours.

What drove this all home was how exceedingly bad the 1931 Dracula is at all of this.  It gives the impression of being a series of lightly animated tableaux, rather than a flowing narrative.  The editing is supremely choppy and ineffective.  The wealth of details to which I am accustomed were absent.  Who was this Renfield?  How did Dracula contact him?  Who were those three women in white gowns, and what did they want with Renfield, and what do they have to do with Dracular? Why is the castle all trashed, with massive spiderwebs, but one single clean room.  Did Dracula start that fire and provide the dinner himself?  Because I don’t see any sign of human servants. What did Dracula do to him to make Renfield insane?  Why did he do that, whatever it was?  Why does Dracula decide to kill all the sailors while they’re battling a storm?  Is he planning to sail the boat himself? What was his purpose in removing from Transylvania to England?  Why rent an Abbey?  Did he bring the women in white with him?  Why did that one woman turn into a vampire, if she did, and none of the sailors on the boat?  How does Renfield keep escaping from a barred room?  Why does he want to eat bugs instead of people?  Is that a mental hospital, or a country house? What’s up with the wolves howling?  Is that Dracula too?

and the questions go on and on and on.  The kind of questions I realize i don’t usually have when I finish watching a contemporary film.

None of this is a criticism of the 1931 Dracula.  It was – obviously – a brilliant film effort for its time, or it wouldn’t have affected the culture like that, and I wouldn’t be able to get it streaming in to my TV in 2013.  It’s more an awareness of just how far that particular art form has come in the last 80 years.  Brilliant.

 

Springing

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In the last week, while I’ve been glued to the TV and computer watching the horrible events unfolding for my neighbors down the road in Boston, spring arrived.  I’m not sure when, exactly, it happened.  But I am sure when, exactly, I noticed.

Roy’s been gone all week, which is the worst.  I left a voice mail for him last night telling him that in the future, he is NOT allowed to leave the country when terrorists are on the loose in Boston.  It’s going to be a relationship rule, right up there with “clean beard shavings from the sink” and “leave the seat down”.  He gets back later today, and I can hardly wait.  But in the meantime, I needed to decompress.  All horse people will know that the best possible thing to do when you need to decompress is to go to the Barn, and off I went.  I wanted to ride, but it was windy, which puts bugs in Huey’s brain and makes him think he’s a Wild Horse.  And the ring was soaking wet, and I just didn’t think the combination of uneven muddy footing and Wild Horse time was a desirable one, so I thought I’d bring him in, dust him off, and just bond a little bit inside the barn.

That’s when I noticed.

Everything was green.

We didn’t really have this in Texas.  First, in some parts of the state, nothing is ever green.  In others, everything is green, and it’s green all year round.

Here in New England, it’s different.  Summer is pretty green, then there are our legendary autumn colors.  And winter, with snow on everything, is gorgeous.  But New England has six seasons, not the usual four.  In addition to spring, summer, fall, and winter, we have Stick Season and Mud Season.  Stick Season happens after the last lovely orange leaf drifts from the trees, leaving…sticks.  Sticks everywhere.  You really don’t know how many sticks there are until you go through Stick Season.  It’s not in the least bit picturesque, and it goes on until it begins to snow.  Mud Season starts as soon as the snows begin to melt.  It’s…muddy. Very muddy.  Epic, sucking-the-shoes-right-off-your-feet muddy.  And it’s brown, the color of mud.  Brown brown brown brown brown.

Mud Season always seems to last forever.  The eye gets used to the brown and stops seeing things. You start to forget that the world has other colors in it, other than brown.  And it lasts right up until it’s gone.  I know that sounds goofy, but it’s how it happens.  One day everything is brown, brown, brown, brown, like it has been since the Dawn of Time.  The next day, the colors flood back into the world, just like when Dorothy’s house lands in Oz.  The colors don’t creep in.  They just…arrive, all at once.

Spring arrived on Friday, this year.  Suddenly, the ground was this brilliant emerald green.  Suddenly, scruffy thickets everywhere reveal that they are forsythias, by bursting out in brilliant yellow, like when the villain has his disguise torn off by Scooby Doo.  The sunny yellow bells of daffodils erupt everywhere, waving with the breeze.  And this all pretty much happened here yesterday.  It sure wasn’t like that on Thursday when I was out at the barn getting Huey reshod.

That’s when I developed my New, Improved Master Plan.

I was going to take Huey out, not to ride, but to eat grass.   It was perfect.  As we know, The Wonder Horse develops a laser-like focus when he believes there may be a treat around.  And for him, as much as he loves carrots and German Horse Muffins, everything absolutely pales in comparison to grass.  And he has given me to understand that there is no better grass than spring grass.  Those fine little tendrils of verdant herbage erupting from the recent mud flats.  Grass.

So I took him out on his lead, walked him ten feet away, and gave him the Sign:  Eat Now.  He was thrilled.  And, really, there’s nothing more relaxing than watching that laser-like focus directed at the ground, and listening to the tearing and chomping.  Twenty minutes of that undid two hours of yesterday.  I don’t need to take two aspirin and call in the morning, I just need to go out and meditate on Huey Eating Grass.

On the way back home, I noticed that the trees are seriously budding out.  In another week or so, this place is going to be a veritable fairyland of flowers.  Tulips.  Daffodils. Hyacinths.  And my favorite: tree flowers.  There’s a house down the street from me that isn’t anything special in itself, but has a pair of ancient and enormous flowering trees in the front.  A friend of mine told me once that she’d seriously considered buying that house, just for those trees.  I could believe it, too.  Those trees are exceptional, a vision worth writing home about.

It came home to me that it’s like this every year.  Every year, I completely forget about spring.  Every year, I am struck as for the first time by the sensational beauty of it all.  Every year, I am gifted with a bright shining exuberant spring, and every year, it comes as a total surprise.

Tulips

Retro Rewind

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It’s been a while because I’ve been up to my butt in storms, household preparation, and the academic administrative fallout therefrom, and the usual slew of stuff that hits any college professor at this time of the term.  So in lieu of an uninteresting gripe about the Vagaries of Fortune, I present this Classic Piece of Literature from the Vaults.

Dateline: January 22, 2010

Last night I woke up to the smell of overheated metal.

I poked The Spouse, since I consider it to be the Responsibility of the Man to investigate strange noises and odors in the middle of the night.  I don’t mind plumbing issues, home repairs, and contractors, but I draw the line at insects, vermin, and intruders.

Roy was minimally cooperative with this agenda.  He staggered out onto the landing (the third floor of four) and asserted “it [was] nothing”.  I had visions of some appliances shorting out, or the furnace blazing up, and let him know that he needed to actually canvass the whole house, not just blow smoke out his butt in the hopes that he could go back to bed.  He did a 3/4-assed job of it, barely enough to satisfy me that the house was NOT in immediate danger of going up in smoke, and came back to bed.

This evening at dinner I broached the issue.

“As the Official Woman in this house, I feel strongly that it is YOUR gender-based obligation, as the Official Man, to deal with Controlling Vermin and Investigating Strange Nocturnal Sounds and Odors.” I said. “You failed in that duty last night.  You had a poor attitude, and you did a minimally-acceptable job.  You need to step up to the plate in future.”

Therein followed a conversation which one-quarter of the way through led me to assert that gender-based stereotypes or no, *I* would be assuming the obligation of Investigating Strange Nocturnal Sounds (leaving him with Odors and Vermin Control).

I opened by mentioning my commitment to acquire a baseball bat to keep by the bed, in the execution of my Nocturnal Noise Investigator.

Roy countered with an increasingly absurd list of alternative ideas for Things To Subdue And/Or Deter Nocturnal Invaders.  I, myself, thought that the BEST option would be a shotgun, as I understand that the simple sound of a shotgun being cocked nearby can offer a powerful deterrent to the would-be thief.  Roy refuses to have guns in the house, so the baseball bat it will be.

His ideas?  He could sneak down and hit the intruder with a vase.  I regret to say that he pronounced that “vahz”.

He felt (sincerely) that this would be a “less violent” solution than the bat.

“Why do we need <shudder> a ‘vahz’?  I’ve got just the thing if you want to go that route – whacking huge jar candles from Yankee Candle.  Remember when you came home unexpectedly at 4am after the World Series?  I’ve already *done* this analysis.”

He felt that the ‘vahz’ would be “less violent” than the jar candle.

“I don ‘t understand what your problem is with violence,” I said. “We’re talking about how to deal with someone we catch committing a felony in our house in the middle of the night.”

I assured him that it would be quite difficult to cause life-threatening lacerations, or put some guy’s eye out, with a bat; whereas both of these could be easily done by breaking a big glass container over someone’s head.

Then he moved on to Genius Plan #2.  I regret to say that he was Most Sincere in this whole discussion.  Genius Plan #2 was to Cause Confusion by bombing the burglar with water balloons.

Maybe if they were filled with Drano, I said.  He neither appreciated the pragmatic issues involved in keeping a sufficiently large stash of water balloons primed and at hand on the  off-chance that someone should break into the house.  Nor, I suppose it is almost needless to say, did he appreciate that bombing someone with water balloons is unlikely to have the effect of immobilizing the perp until the cops show up.

At this point, he diverted the discussion into Why It Is Wrong To Wallop Burglars.  “Because they’re mentally ill or they might be poor” he said. Where does one even start with something like this?

“That’s exactly why I refuse to join the Democratic Party” I said.  “Because it’s full of people who think it’s actually *reasonable* to spout that kind of arrant nonsense.  For pete’s sake, stop making such a ridiculous spectacle out of yourself.”

Then he hit on the brilliant idea to stun the guy into submission by throwing eggs at them. “And then I’ll tackle him!” he said, proudly.

“You’ll have a hell of a time with that,” I said. “Since I’ll have rocketed downstairs with my bat to deal definitively with the situation, while you go find the eggs in the fridge, and then loft them at the writhing mass on the floor – hitting me too, I’m sure, for which I will NOT thank you – and then you, Princess, are going to try to take this guy down with a TACKLE?  On a floor covered with broken eggs?  Please.  If we’re going to have this discussion, I need for you to at least Dabble a Toe in the Pond of Pragmatic Reality.”

He protested that he “was just trying to brainstorm non-violent solutions”.

“Only if you’re in the Yiddish Theater,” I said. “Who the devil do you think you are, Harpo Marx?  Why not just oil the floors every night?  Or keep a stack of cream pies next to the stairs, just in case? Or – no, I’ve got it – you could get a fake flower for the buttonhole on your pajamas, and confront the burglar with a lecture, and squeeze a bulb so that the flower squirts him in the eye!”

“You don’t need to make fun of me for being peaceful,” he said.

“I’m not laughing.  I’m engaging in Derisive Mockery,” I said. “And it’s not because you’re ‘peaceful’, it’s because you’re being absurd.”

I think we settled on the solution that I will have a bat and go down to engage the intruder, while he calls the police.

In the meantime, he will still be in charge of investigating Strange Odors and Controlling Vermin (at least, the vermin that the cat doesn’t get to first.)