in other news…

…reading cancer help forums is upsetting:

“I question if I am doing the right thing. Maybe I should bring him to another doctor to see if they can do anything. This is sad. He can’t walk hardly talks, and can’t eat. Today I tried everything, eggs, creme of wheat chicken, mash pototoes nothing, but a cup of tea. He just about can get all the medicine down and by the time he swallows the water or tea he is full. I guess this is just the disease. If he was boucing back which he always did then I guess he would be able to try another treatment. Then I say how can he try something else when he lost so much weight, how could he body stand any more. To me it is so hard to see him like this, he was a man who had a great appetiate, always clowning around and full of life. Its said when they have tried so hard to compat this disease and wind up like this. Didn’t they suffer enough.”

Topper

I am wracking my brains, trying to determine whether this is an archetype with a name. TCM is playing Topper, with Cary Grant and Constance Benett, which I correctly guessed by her dress was a late-Depression flick designed—well, whether to give the people visions of debauchery they wish they had or debauched bankers getting their dues, remains to be seen. But it was a 1937 film, so I got that much right at least.

What I’m trying to name, though, is the archetype of the dangerously perfect couple—playful and enticing more as a pair than as lone souls, who draw people in by the perceived carefree nature of their relationship and end up showing the usually lone and main character observer the darker side of the perceived perfect exterior. There must be a term for this. How often do you see it? Oftentimes it is this couple that draws the main character into situations or social locales he would never otherwise have the constitution to frequent. Usually it is the woman, to whom the main male character is attracted in a way he knows better than to indulge too much, who starts to show the darker parts, perhaps through bruises obtained from her perfect mate, or scars from some kind of drug use. Then in a moment of male bonding with the male half of the couple the MC comes to hear whatever dark things the woman visits upon the relationship: bills or a string of disappointed lovers or daily late-night binge drinking.

Examples: John and Elizabeth Stone in Stone’s Fall. The twins in The Secret History. Almost Famous. A pair in Drop City, I think. Anna Karenina, kind of, though the MC observes things get darker from a much greater distance than usual. The doctors in Children of God. Those two in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which apparently I read at some point in the last five years but I haven’t the faintest idea when, which is very odd. 

So is there a name for these people? They almost come wreathed in their own predictable rings of text, they are so common. “So and so and so and so were like a living vortex. They sucked you in and…” “You knew you wanted to leave and kept heading for the door but before you knew it Dick was on one side and Jane on the other and you had another drink in your hand and a flower in your hair…” Etc. etc. It happens ALL THE TIME. But I don’t know of a name for the phenomenon.

So, thoughts? I have a twitter account, you know. You can respond to me there. I don’t know, though, that this extends so easily to realms outside of fiction. I don’t know that I’ve met many people who fall into this category—though I’ve watched people in bitter circumstances begin to worship a couple they envy to the point where it begins to look like one of these novice-enthralled-with-the-power-couple situations. 

Nor do I think, in what I’ve observed during the time it has taken me to write this, that Topper is going to go this route. At most it will turn into a mock-stern admonition to live like upstanding churchgoing citizens, versus boozing fur-clad debutants in fast cars. A scolding message, certainly, but hardly a dire one. I suppose people in 1937 had had enough of things being dire.

you need to read this

“Born in 1977, at the tail end of Generation X, I came of age in the 1990s, a decade that, bracketed neatly by two architectural crumblings — of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Twin Towers in 2001 — now seems relatively irony-free. The grunge movement was serious in its aesthetics and its attitude, with a combative stance against authority, which the punk movement had also embraced. In my perhaps over-nostalgic memory, feminism reached an unprecedented peak, environmentalist concerns gained widespread attention, questions of race were more openly addressed: all of these stirrings contained within them the same electricity and euphoria touching generations that witness a centennial or millennial changeover.”

“But Y2K came and went without disaster. We were hopeful throughout the ’90s, but hope is such a vulnerable emotion; we needed a self-defense mechanism, for every generation has one. For Gen Xers, it was a kind of diligent apathy. We actively did not care. Our archetype was the slacker who slouched through life in plaid flannel, alone in his room, misunderstood. And when we were bored with not caring, we were vaguely angry and melancholic, eating anti-depressants like they were candy.”

you need to read this

Clouded-Over Atlas

It was one of those lion witch and the wardrobe dreams, except this time with a karma aspect that I assume I can attribute to Cloud Atlas. I would have preferred if it leapfrogged further into the future than it initially did; I dislike seeing children I’m given memories of loving while small then cease talking to me as adults (no doubt I would be an easy mother to hold a grudge against, but still it stings). And then to see their own children’s desperate bid for survival in a post-apocalyptic future become an arcade game in the future after that…not to mention my dogs growing ancient and limping around my parents’ dusty house, to which the two of us retreated when our particular word was collapsing.

It’s exhausting and sad. Particularly when your sub-conscious is so adroit at doing biting critique, painting your son as blindly adoring of you but (in order for this to be possible) a little dense, much like a golden retriever, while your daughter is as sharp and acerbic as you are, and thus amply equipped with the instruments to judge you and thereby find you lacking.

I hate dreams like that.

At one point—the details are foggy now—watching that video game be played in the future, it was made clear that the reason my son kept dying in the face of these sword-wielding reptilian creatures was that I had, by and large, been a bitch pretty much my whole life. I made holes for a couple of people and causes in my heart but everything else, the dream dictated I thought, could pretty much go to hell.

Which of course it proceeded to do.

Because of some baking I had to do for work, I had my alarm set to 4AM. I was grateful. If I’m dreaming of HB’s or my parents’ or my dogs’ actual demise, I can cry myself awake. But eons of evolution insisting that I stand there and watch the millennia prove that I and mine had it coming to us, doesn’t result in the dream-crying that makes you wake up choking, saved from whatever you were just experiencing. You just kind of stand there and take it.

It’s unpleasant.

spies like us

I love spy movies. 

Serious spy movies. Not the bumbling or sleazy ones. I hate sleazy Bond. I know it’s how he started, and it’s what he’ll return to eventually, but sleazy spies need to sort out their priorities. Burn Notice over Homeland? No. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond over Jason Bourne? I don’t think so. Your sex life is not more important than a whole lot of people dying. You should be aware of this, or I’m not going to care if some Balkan mobster blows you up.

****SPOILERS  SPOILERS SPOILERS****

So I loved Skyfall. I’ve been looking forward to it since the trailers. Spies should be dark. The world of espionage, like the world of national security, should be somewhat dark. Sure, you’ve got some titties tossed in there because you’ve got a demographic to satisfy, but yes, you should be damn broody about what you do. Thus, I am a huge fan of dark!Bond. In the quieter moments, or those devoted just to looking pretty awesome (see: floating lanterns and paper dragon heads!), I very narcissistically tried to puzzle out why this was. And I decided that at one time I was smart enough and callous enough to have done very well in that particular line of work, even if just as an office decision-maker versus someone haring around Europe bristling with microchips and silencers. But that time is past. I care about too many people now. And I don’t suppose I make many people proud with what I do now, enjoy it though I do.

It is easy to feel this vicariously “deeper” connection to worldly affairs when you grew up where I did and then decamped to the blissfully ignorant Midwest. Every time someone looks at their phone, or a TV or computer screen I can’t see, and says “Oh, god,” in that distinctive, non-flamboyant, non-I-can’t-believe-she’s-wearing-that voice that means someone somewhere is probably experiencing something awful, my default assumption is always (always!) that yet another posse of fundamentalist dickheads have decided to blow up a large swathe of inhabited territory, probably in a building or on a train line near people I love. Nobody out here thinks that way. They just want their heroes with ripped abs. They tut tut at the idea of crowding around the White House fence and cheering. 

(Speaking of crowds outside fences: in Argo, when they finally break through the fence and several women in burkas overtake the camera in their stampede to the embassy, I was terribly unjust. “Enjoy the fuckedness of your country for the next three decades, ladies. Enjoy what you’ve wrought here today.” Hardly charitable of me, I know. And believe me, I don’t regard growing up near a locus of international power—versus, for example, near the biggest pork plant or blueberry farm or furniture factory in the tri-state area—is an excuse for blind patriotism or callousness. But I recognize that background as having imbued me with a certain commitment to retribution that I realize now I will never be in a position to enact. I have never felt that before—knowing something is actually out of reach, and not just available with the appropriate amount of time or practice or study or networking. I’m just never going to grapple terrorists to the floor of moving trains and demand they put down their weapons or I’ll turn their penises into Jackson Pollacks. So spy movies it is.)

Frobisher is there. Jarringly so. I actually whispered to HB, “Dude, it’s Frobisher!” That man needs a sandwich. Or five. But they did doll him up to stand very much for the youth of this moment. The dangerously skinny hipster male in tight pants, grandpa sweater and thick glasses, with piano hands and a haircut more carefully sculpted than my cairn terrier. I thought that in the [trippier than usual, which itself is pretty trippy] intro, when the kaleidoscope of deer heads came up: “What is this, hipster Bond?” They may have a reason for those deer heads later but so far, nothing says the twenty teens (2010s? what are we calling this? the ought-teens?) like deer head silhouettes. It seemed timely, endearingly so.  

I had more to say but the holiday variety packs of local breweries have started coming out, and their siren song is calling. So let me say that a part in the middle, cutting between three different scenes and set, beautifully, to this Tennyson poem, was my favorite:

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

That’s right. No goddamn yielding.

on writing by hand

It is going much better this year, by hand. I have no great relationship with my own handwriting but I bought a big old wide-ruled composition book, so the pages add up more quickly and make me feel more impressive faster. I calculated an average word count per page and update the count on the site accordingly but it’s not just the pages that accrue, I think—it’s the extra effort that would be required to sift back through them, “just to check something” and then fill with critique as I search. I used Ommwriter last year and that was just unwise. Tiny font, easily scrollable back to failures, a gorgeous app that can yet seem pretentious with its options for tinkly windchimes (for what? inspiration? relaxation? if I wanted to sleep I’d sleep; the point is to write here), and—perhaps most important—the necessity of both my hands being on the keyboard.

That’s never a good idea for long. My right hand can tolerate a lot more than my left, and has born calluses I acquired writing I was 8 that never went away. (Try explaining that to a clot of inquisitive girls and not coming off as a prat.) My left hand: crap. The heat of a keyboard; the weight of the top of the wrist pressing down on the bottom, despite ergonomic perfection as arranged according to numerous handouts acquired from work: no good. 

So nanowrimoing by hand is working better. Right hand can duke it out while left sits on the bench and sulks. I am trying—with moderate success—not to gouge the paper like I’m carving a tombstone. This is what I always do, and though a ninth grade teacher alerted me to the fact that no, one’s hand should not ache after writing a simple essay, it’s not an easy habit to break. I bought pens that are supposed to be extra generous with the ink, to try and force myself to ease up. Less pressure means less control which means an unpleasant downturn in the quality of the handwriting. Luckily with these wide-ruled pages I am whisked away from particularly ugly sections fast enough for it not to bother me. Much.

I know this seems self-indulgent, going on at length about the physicality of writing by hand, but it’s only November 4—there is a whole month to go yet and finishing does matter to me, even if I’ve never managed to finish the other six years I’ve done it. I’m going historical this year and there’s little need to outline—not that I ever enjoyed that anyway—when history’s already written for you. And I picked someone obscure enough (I checked, mailing multiple specialists in the field and coming up basically with shrugs for answers) that there are enough gaps to fill in to entertain me. 

Also, I like how physical notebooks get heavier the more you write in them. Hefting a pen, you’d think all the weight comes from the metal casing and springs and plastic finger grips and whatever else is in there, but clearly the ink must count for something, given the weight the notebooks take on. Or perhaps that’s just a misconception. If so, it’s not one I’ll be seeking to dispel.