Monthly Archives: April 2012

A thousand pardons, for I’ve been a lousy blogger.

I hope to adjust that in the coming weeks. Graduation is May 12. After that everything will change.

More to come on that later. But first,

So, the other night I’m at this party in Boulder for a friend of mine’s twenty-third birthday. Inside, he’s playing the drums behind his band in his basement and there is standing room only, backing up into the stairs. It’s the first time I’ve seen his band play and they’re into their second set now. Upstairs are college kids playing beer pong and digging at the ice in the sink for cans of PBR, and out back kids are smoking pot and talking about 420 from the day before and I wonder about the truth of stereotypes.

I don’t know anyone at this party aside from my friend, now wiping sweat from his brow, backlit by blacklights, before starting the next song. Another friend of mine texts me to see if I am still in town, of which I say yes and he says good, because he has something for me and can I text him the address.

I finish my beer (a can of Fat Tire, a beer that’s generally nice, but from a can tastes like, well, a beer from a can, and I take the last few swallows quickly because I’m tired of it already). I set the can on the porch and walk to my car, where I pull out a jacket and lean on the hood and wait for my friend to show up.

Outside it’s nearing eleven (inside, it could be any time. inside, time is not marked by clocks and phones but by tiredness and sensitivity to noise and level of drunkenness and for them it’s still early, for me it’s been creeping into the early morning hours for the last few years now).

Outside, there is a cat under a car across the street and I psst at it and am surprised when the cat trots toward me before hesitating after a few feet. I am not an animal person nor a cat person and I make no effort to sit and stroke the animal, but we watch each other for some time and I enjoy our connection, we two strangers in the night, and then the cat hustles off down the sidewalk before returning and doing the same on the other side, ignoring me but keeping me near.

I’d speak but don’t know what I’d say.

I think of David McKean’s book, Cages, which I’d started to read one quiet morning at my friend’s house after working on a film project the night before. The book was checked out from the library by his roommate and plays a subtle but moving role in the background of a number of shots, should anyone care to look. The book begins with a series of creationist stories and a connection between cats and gods and then, in the first chapter, we follow a cat as he visits lonely strangers in an apartment complex, first a man playing a pipe. With the cat follows the suggestion of godlike knowledge or visitation and I remember this as I watch the cat sit down on the sidewalk and disappear into shadow.

My friend drives past, finds a place to park, then jogs to the door of the house where inside the party burbles and I shout his name twice before he wanders toward me.

What are you doing out here? He asks and I tell him I’m waiting for him and he says, Oh.

Then he hands me Cages and thanks me for my help on a project he’s been working tirelessly upon

and I say, for me? You didn’t need to do this man, flipping the book back and forth in my hands first, trying to understand that this isn’t the same library copy that he’s taken it upon himself to loan me.

Sure I did. Thank you for you help, he says.

And I study the cover and flip through the first pages and see the black and blue sketches of the black cat and beside me the cat runs under the car and I say thanks.

Little Things

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The Cabin in the Woods Review

So. After realizing that my buddy did not want me to meet him at A cabin in THE woods at midnight, but did in fact want me to join him for a movie, I found myself in my seat at the theater and having one of the best cinema experiences I’ve had at a theater since I made out with a girl in the back row when I was in middle school. (You didn’t have a girlfriend in middle school, Karl. Shut it, haters, just go with it.)

One early review over at the Paranormal Pop Culture Blog by Aaron Sagers recommended that the less you know going into this movie, the better. For the most part I agree, so I’ll be brief.

All you need is your horror movie expertise. Then just settle in.

I laughed through the first ten minutes and then kept going. I’ve never laughed so much through a movie and been so engaged at the same time. This one challenges everything you’ve ever known about the horror genre, flips it on its head, then keeps flipping. Think Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil on crack (and without the trailer giving away the best laughs), which is saying something, because Tucker and Dale was, in its own right, doing the exact same thing. The meta turns from commentary to story, the thrills to laughs and back again, but doesn’t stop there.

It feels wrong to say it’s a comedy, even a black comedy, even a movie that you should laugh more than twice in. The trailer certainly doesn’t give away more than one laugh (IF YOU HAVEN’T YET, TAKE NOTE COMEDY TRAILER EDITOR TYPES) (though it does give away a bit or two away that it probably shouldn’t have mentioned, so, view at your own risk). But to get back on point, the comedic nature is pitch perfect. Camp is that genre that shows the strings, playing with the elements of meta-awareness, and often it’s funny as a necessity, and Cabin in the Woods is aware of this from the get-go. That’s real comedy. To blend the horrific and make it funny. To make a commentary. To show the strings and then cut them all to bits.

I can’t say much more without spoiling anything, which isn’t to say that this was a movie that hinged around spoilers (Any careful few minutes’ consideration of the trailer gets you well-prepped, and there are no gimmicky twists, just the ride as it unfolds–or better: unravels). But the charm that the movie brings (yes, it’s charm. Not romcom charm or drama charm, but horror movie brilliance charm, that glee in pointing at the screen to some clever allusion otherwise missed), it’s something I’d hate to ruin.

The subtlety and surprise are best left at that.

Four stars. A horror masterpiece. A breath of fresh air. Hope that a fresh story can be told, and that wonderful writing still exists in the cinema. Go see it right now.

A Warning

Scientism is this belief that any and all information, facts, and phenomena are ultimately reducible and can be expressed in the form of science. And, closely related, anything which is not reducible to physics, chemistry, or biological investigation, is not a legitimate area of pursuit. Science does not equal scientism. 

The field of the paranormal, at least as far as ghosts are concerned, inherently deals with this realm we call the spiritual, in which spirits exist, sometimes detected but often undetected by human beings.

The question is then whether this spiritual realm can be documented by science, or whether it follows the path of mysticism and exists by definition beyond the realms of physical experience. The question is whether what we experience as paranormal phenomena (moving objects, voices, apparitions) are themselves spirits appearing, or are manifesting from a spiritual realm into this physical realm.

If the latter is the case, then our science can only go so far, can only measure the manifestation, and never reach the source itself.

But if indeed we, as human beings, carry some kind of soul or connection to the spiritual, then it’s through spiritual pursuit that will get us closer to the source, these entities that we pursue.

Which isn’t then to say we should stop pursuing science. Science will lead us to new discoveries, we’ll push at that edge of the veil, we’ll be able to find proof of the manifestation.

But we should stop the scientism.

We should stop condemning people for going on investigations for personal enjoyment, for trying devices that have no real “scientific” value (or even sense), for not using a row of technical devices connected to computers. Stop all the bickering and stay open minded. And smart.

Across the street from the west side of the Colorado State campus is a Planned Parenthood center, tucked behind a Qdoba and a travel agency. Outside it, on the street, when the temperature is over 45 degrees, moralists stand with signs condemning abortion.

I don’t play politics. I think politics is a hateful and toxic realm. I like constructive discussions, but even then they have to be approached casually, open-minded, and usually with some degree of meta-awareness to help keep folks from getting too heated. Most of the time I avoid opinions because 1) I usually don’t know enough about the matter or 2) because whoever I’m discussing the issue with will likely not want to change their mind, and frankly, I probably won’t want to either.

One of these moralists was standing lonely by the brick wall today with a sign reading “Be thankful that your mother chose life.”

And from this I was struck, not in a political sense, but in a cosmic one, where the grandness of the universe dwarfed both moral debates, or late-night heart-pounding decisions, (or next-morning heart-pounding decisions, or next-month heart-pounding decisions).

My mother indeed chose life. As did yours. Whether it was an accident, a plan, a pleasant surprise, or a stressful decision.

But she was one of a series of decisions. Stray bullets missed, ill-timed illness dodged, a “holy shit!” moment and that kind of awkward laughter when you ran a red light and narrowly missed collision, when your horse threw your greatest grandfather and he lay, broken, wondering if he’d be found in time, a long walk on a cold night.

Further still, atoms colliding, hydrogen and helium in supernova spectacle, manifest oxygen, carbon, bubble forth this life, your parents, their parents before them, gasses of space, light years and that perfect distance from a star.

How many hundreds of trillions of voices of those who could-be and could-have-been cry out,

thousands lost in a stray bullet, the silence in the space after shrieking metal where the laugh should have been, the chill wind across cooling skin, a baby’s cries each time the deed is done or a box of contraception purchased.

I don’t know when contraception turns to abortion, where prevention becomes killing,

where

that death so empty,

the part that draws tears, for me, at funerals,

of what could have been,

rings in silence the same way as any other death, but more universal, more pressing,

and so surrounding, emphasizes both the

vastness, our own insignificance,

does it matter anyway, so long as we are alive, were alive, will be alive?

Because equally, from this vastness we came

by design or guide or happenstance or

from gasses we emerged, and somehow beat the odds, and someday too will be

what could have been.

Be grateful your mother chose life,

be grateful the universe so aligned, that from one ripple you rose,

you. only you.

and wonder if it would be a different you had they waited, killed, miscarried, later conceived,

and then wonder at the others until you join them anyway.

But if it makes you feel better, wonder of the ripple, study your hand or your skin or your lungs or just the fact that

you’re here at all.

What Could Have Been