29 August, 2010

The Last Exorcism

I went to see The Last Exorcism today, and as much as I hate to speed up the end of the summer, it was a good jump start to the horror season (fall/halloween/shocktober). I first heard about the movie from my brother, and then again from my friend, both in passing, and my reaction was, "huh, another exorcism movie?" That's not to say that there's anything wrong with exorcism movies - The Exorcist holds a special place in my heart, and the theme touches on demonology which is a topic I have always been fascinated by. But, when it comes to picking out movies to go see in the theater, I have to be selective. I would love to go out and see every horror movie that comes out - and I even tried that once, for a very brief period of time - but considering my finances, and the ease of viewing films in the comfort of my home, I tend only to go out for the ones that really catch my interest.

And there are films like Paranormal Activity - though rare, and hard to anticipate before seeing - that are good enough that getting to see them in the theater is a treat. So it's worth taking the risk every now and again. I had heard that this new exorcist movie was really scary, and I read that it took a documentary approach, and the opportunity came up, so I decided to see it. I'm glad I didn't go into the movie with a lot of knowledge, or supposed knowledge about it - I don't even think I remember the trailer, though I probably saw it once or twice - because it's good to go into a movie fresh (rather than risk being disappointed that the supposed army of Predators turns out to be a single Predator, with just two and a half more throughout the movie).

Anyhow, the plot of the movie revolves around a preacher who doesn't really believe, but is nevertheless a good performer at his church (the "praise Jesus!" kind). He's done lots of exorcisms throughout his career, and thus, as an insider, knows how fake they are. But because there are potential dangers involved with these exorcisms (accidental deaths and the like), he wants to reveal the hoax for what it is. So his plan is to film one such exorcism, while revealing all his tricks, so the public can know once and for all what a sham it all is. Of course, it's not spoiling much if I tell you things don't go quite as smoothly as planned.

Actually, the movie does a good job of keeping you guessing at what's really going on, even through (and beyond) the end of the movie. Is she really possessed or not? Is it a demon or a psychological disturbance? What are each character's motives? And the ending, for me, was really exciting.

SPOILERS (Stop reading if you haven't seen the film and don't want it to be spoiled)

At the end, the movie veers left into Rosemary's Baby territory, with a bonfire and a satanic ritual and everything. The only thing missing is the demon himself. Of course, seeing it would erase any questions, but for once, I would love a documentary-style cinéma vérité film to actually have the balls to completely throw out realism, and conjure up some really wicked looking monsters a la the fx in John Carpenter's The Thing. (Cloverfield was entertaining, but J.J. Abrams' CG Colossus wasn't horror enough). It wouldn't be "realistic", but damn would it be scary. Like a nightmare playing out on the silver screen.

I really like how, as the plot twists and turns, you get all these different possible explanations behind the possession/exorcism, and possessions/exorcisms in general. Like, there's the question of whether it's real or a hoax, and if it's real, if it's actually the devil, or is it merely a psychological condition. I love how, at one point, the reverend determines that the girl is suffering not from possession but from shame - from her severely conservative upbringing. She's so ashamed of having gone off and gotten herself pregnant that she's killing livestock in cold blood, and lashing out at her brother, and she's convinced that she's been possessed by Satan. Ha. Too bad the explanation then veers away from even that. Though the territory it occupies instead is even cooler.

A couple things bothered me about the film. They go on about how this is a "young girl" being possessed, when the character is all of 16, and the actress is probably around 24. The girl in The Exorcist (the unforgettable Linda Blair) was 14, playing a convincing 12. Now in backwoods Louisiana, I could see an overzealous, overprotective father treating his 16-year-old daughter like an infant, pure and innocent (aside from the demonic possession), but even the somewhat more worldly reverend repeatedly mentions how he doesn't like getting involved with "kids".

Now if ever there was an advantage to casting a 24-year-old in this role, it would be to milk the scene where she takes off her clothes, wanders outside with the camera in hand, to the shed in the back yard at night. But the most you get to see is a bare shoulder. In fact, you can see more (which still isn't a lot) in a different scene, when she's wrapped in a towel presumably after bathing. The aforementioned scene is a perfect opportunity for some good old-fashioned nudity, and they completely waste it. She proceeds to bash a cat to bloody bits in that shed, and though the camera is jerky, you at least get flashes of the carnage, but you don't get to see any bare skin at all. Sigh. It speaks for itself.


So maybe it's not perfect, but I enjoyed it, and I thought it was very good. I always feel the inclination to visit the IMDb forum for a film after I watch it, to catch the buzz, and hear what people are talking about. But unfortunately, the average poster on IMDb is a moron, and there's a lot of threads complaining about the ending, which I thought was awesome. Whatever. Regarding the film, I liked it, and if it's within your scope of interest, I recommend it.

24 August, 2010

ZML^2 - The Teenage Years

This theme came to me all of a sudden, while I was sitting in bed listening to Stevie Nicks sing Edge of Seventeen on my radio. The idea sparked my inspiration, and I spent a whole day looking up songs to represent the various years of being a teenager. I ended up expanding my usual musical horizons in order to find songs that fit the theme, so you might find something a little bit different on this list than you might expect. Still, I tried to keep it firmly rooted in my blues and rock experience. But it's nice to branch out every once in awhile. It's interesting to learn that certain teenage years appear to be more popular as a song topic than others. We'll start the fun with an amusing track I stumbled upon, which isn't part of the official lineup, but perfectly sets the stage for our journey through the teenage years - it's a chorus song called Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love, from the TV show Glee, and the subject of the song is the onset of puberty!

Big Star - Thirteen [#1 Record, 1972]
Comments: I read that this song was written by band member Alex Chilton when he actually was thirteen. I hadn't known of the band Big Star before discovering this song, for this theme, but can you believe - they're an authentic band from the seventies! In fact, the album that features this song also includes a track called In The Street, which was used (famously covered by Cheap Trick) as the theme song to the hit television series That 70's Show! It turns out the song Thirteen has been covered quite a lot through the years - I'm fond of Garbage's version, myself. Having a female vocalist brings new meaning to the line, "come inside now, it's okay." :-o

The Vandals - Fourteen [Look What I Almost Stepped In..., 2000]
Comments: Can you believe this was the only song I could find with "fourteen" in the title (referring to the age)? Apparently The Vandals are something of a tongue-in-cheek music act. Which may make you feel more comfortable (or at least less outraged) when you realize this song is about a man lamenting the fact that he can't make love to his girlfriend because she's only fourteen. Regardless of the controversial subject matter, if you take the humorous lyrics at face value, they're actually quite sensible. -_^

Taylor Swift - Fifteen [Fearless, 2008]
Comments: Being that she's a country pop artist, Taylor Swift is not really the kind of music I listen to. But the fact is, she's so gorgeous, that I don't mind using one of her songs in this theme. You might notice that I linked to the video rather than just the song - this is entirely intentional. Anyway, the song fits the theme perfectly. I was originally going to use The Who's 5:15 which, despite the title not referring to an age, has the line "girls of fifteen, sexually knowing", and anyway, comes from the album Quadrophenia which is a rock opera about the "teenage wasteland". But I thought of a different theme to use that song for, so instead of rock n roll, you get a pretty girl. I think that's an acceptable trade-off. :-3

Iggy Pop - Sixteen [Lust For Life, 1977]
Comments: Sixteen is, not surprisingly, one of those ages that is really popular as a topic for songs. Whatever it is, "sweet" sixteen is an age that gets a lot of attention. There was no shortage of songs to choose from, but I forsook both B.B. King and Chuck Berry, and went instead for something a little different. Hence, Iggy Pop's not-so-sweet Sixteen. Listening to the album Lust For Life, I sense that it has a similar aesthetic to Iggy's earlier albums with The Stooges, but it's lacking that raw power that made those albums so damn good. :-/

Jethro Tull - 17 [Stand Up, 1969 (Bonus Track)]
Comments: What, you thought I was gonna pick Stevie Nicks' Edge of Seventeen? Sure, that's a great song, but you've heard it a billion times already, haven't you? So here's an ultra obscure track by Jethro Tull instead. I actually considered - believe it or not - Janis Ian's At Seventeen, only because I knew the unorthodox nature of some of the songs in this theme would let me get away with it. In fact, that song probably fits the theme better, but my reputation is safer with the Jethro Tull track. :-p

Alice Cooper - I'm Eighteen [Love It To Death, 1971]
Comments: This is the one track I had the least trouble deciding on, as it's not only a great song that I've known for a long time, but it fits the theme of adolescent uncertainty (despite the fact that 18 is the age of majority) to a T. Although, that having been said, I have to admit that I thought about a different song I've been hearing on the radio a lot lately - that is, Skid Row's 18 And Life. Though I think that might refer to a prison sentence rather than an age. I don't know, it could be a double entendre. o.O

Steely Dan - Hey Nineteen [Gaucho, 1980]
Comments: Nineteen is one of those ages that is apparently not very popular. There was one other good choice, but I already used it for the Young Lust theme. I guess, once you hit nineteen, you're practically in your twenties, you're an adult, and all the fun is behind you. Though, ironically, this song seems to emphasize the generation gap between the band member(s), and a girl (or girls) of "just" nineteen. Granted, the generation gap is real, but I think it's frequently over-exaggerated. We all - regardless of age - suffer from the human condition. And though those of wiser years have much to impart to the inexperienced, it is also true that the child is father to the man. :-D

21 August, 2010

Evaluating the Seasons

I know I've done this before, but it's fun. I overheard some girls talking today about how they love the fall because they can put on longer clothes and get cozy in them. My heart sank. I love the summer because girls can get away with wearing skimpy clothes that show everything off! It seems that so very few people, like me, love the heat. I'll go out on a bright sunny day, with temps in the upper 80s, and it'll be beautiful to me. Other people will complain that "it's so hot." Then, a couple days later, it'll be milder, in the mid 70s, and everyone else will be like, "it's gorgeous out!" I'll step outside and feel like, "I dunno, it's kinda cool."

It just reinforces how out of the ordinary I am.

Anyway, I think all seasons have distinct advantages, but some of them have more disadvantages than others. Winter, for example, has snow and quiet, which I think is just beautiful. But the harsh cold hardly makes it even worth it. Spring and Fall both have great atmospheres - I can appreciate the moods of both the coming creation and impending destruction. I'm tempted to say that, between the two, fall wins out for its own merits, but where fall suffers from the anticipation of winter, spring excels thanks to the anticipation of summer.

Ah, summer. Does summer even have any disadvantages? A lot of people complain about the heat, but as you know, I love it. Summer is the vacation season. Although people have different schedules, and it's less prominent after you get out of school, summer still has a relaxed, casual attitude, that I love.

I wish summer could be a little longer, at the expense of winter. It's good to have winter every year, but I hardly think it needs to be as long as it is. December is fine - as long as it snows throughout the month (since if it's gonna be that cold, it might as well be snowing) - but January, February, and March are worthless months. The winter just drags on, and everybody is miserable. We should make those months spring, and then extend the beginning of summer back to April. Then we could have five months of summer before September, when the fall begins to settle in.

And speaking of fall, as much as the "back to school" and "end of summer" spirit taints the season, I have to say it has a lot of charm. After all, it features my favorite holiday of the year - Halloween. I don't like to think of myself as a "creepy" person, but there's just something about horror that is exciting, and fascinating, and really holds my interest. Maybe because I can relate to the pessimistic "life sucks", "nothing works out", "the whole world is against you", kind of attitude. Anyway, it's infinitely more enjoyable than brainless comedy. Yes, that includes zomcoms.

Also, the panic/devastation/emergency/apocalypse kind of situation interests me, because I feel that living under those conditions would be so much more exciting than normal day-to-day life. I know, it's horribly morbid, but I sometimes wonder how much more interesting life would be if something completely devastating were to happen. I'd feel like, with the stakes that high, the little things I constantly worry about wouldn't matter so much anymore. Honestly, I was kind of disappointed when 9/11 didn't lead to World War III and Armageddon...

18 August, 2010

Good vs. Bad Endings

You may be vaguely familiar with my story titled Jabberwocky. The reason I haven't written [much of] it is because the story is alive. It is the story of my life. And I do not yet know how it ends. But I was just thinking about it, having advanced beyond a previous stage in my life/the story. Previously, the ending appeared to me to be a "bad end" type ending, with the hero wandering aimlessly through the jungle, after losing his sense of purpose thanks to a faerie enchantment, and ultimately being destroyed by the demon that haunts him - the Jabberwock. Now, the way my life is going, I feel more inclined to write in a more positive ending, where the hero eventually (though not yet) conquers the demon and wins the day. Now I ask myself, which ending is a better ending to the story? Ultimately I'll choose whichever ending is the true ending regardless, but it's interesting to think about.

Most people would say that the triumphant ending would be better, but I've always gone against that trend. Considering the way my life tends to go, I can relate more to the tragic endings. They move me, more profoundly than a happy ending usually does. But looking at it right now, I can see the merit of a "good end". You want to see the hero overcome the obstacles and achieve victory. Maybe not because that's how life always goes, but because it gives you hope in life - it gives you a model to follow, something to keep you positive, with your head held high, advancing towards the castle in the sky (oh god, I love the irony of using that image here).

So anyway, I can see the merits of both endings. In fact, I might be able to get away with using both of them. It's like Final Fantasy VI. SPOILER! When the last person alive on the planet - after it has been utterly destroyed by a madman in a clown costume - driven to depression after the death of her foster grandfather (the second-to-last person alive on the planet), leaps to her certain death from atop a mountain peak, with the scorched sky in the background, and a beautifully morbid melody playing all the while...when she leaps to her death, I say, it is the perfect tragic ending. It is like the demise of Romeo & Juliet, but on a worldwide scale.

And yet...and yet, she survives, and the game continues, and she discovers that she is not the last person alive - in fact all (or most) of her friends are alive, and they have a chance yet to take the madman down, to foil his plans to build a monument to nonexistence, that love and companionship prevails in the end, and it is a beautiful ending. I think, perhaps, it is better to have had both endings (though the previous one is not truly an ending - but merely an interlude). END SPOILER. And perhaps I shall take my cue from that model.

04 August, 2010

A Confession

that I am free!

I glanced out the window at around 12:30 and noticed a fog in the distant glow of a streetlight. The mood struck me and I decided it would be a great opportunity to take a video of me walking nude in the fog, under a streetlight. I knew exactly which streetlight to use - one close by, with a relative amount of privacy as it is situated on a hill, between properties that are facing away from it.

The question was, what to wear. The video would be nude, but should I go nude all the way? I decided against that surprisingly quickly, considering that my usual instinct would be to go for it. I don't know what it was, but I felt like for this objective it would be best to wear something I could slip in and out of very quickly, so as to protect me during the time I wasn't shooting the video, in case I were to stumble upon somebody in the night.

I thought about using my sarong, which would cover me just as much as I needed, and be easy to slip out of (and relatively easy to slip back on), but I had just tossed it in the wash (which, on second thought, it didn't really need). So I had to choose something else. It had to be one piece, it had to cover my genitals, and it had to be easy to get off and put back on - that last condition eliminated most of the dresses I have. I thought about wearing the pink tiered skirt, which was, practically speaking, the perfect thing, but I figured if I was seen wearing that, I'd have just as much to explain as if I was nude.

Discretion was the key here, so I just slipped on my shorts, which turned out to be the perfect thing - easy to get in and out of, covered just what needed to be covered, and normal enough that nobody would get suspicious. And as a bonus - it had pockets! I slipped my video recorder into one of them and went out.

The temperature was comfortable, the air was very humid, accentuated by the fog. The ground was slightly damp from earlier rains (more so in the grass, which I didn't do much walking in). I thought I heard a noise before I left the property, but I shrugged it off. It was dark, and it seemed as though noone was about - perfect. Cresting the hill, I lamented that one or two of the houses had their house lights on even at this hour (I left at around 1:30). But I remembered back to an earlier night and reassured myself that lights on doesn't necessarily mean anyone's paying attention.

Coming down the other side of the hill, close to the lit yards, I noticed a growing light behind me - clearly a car creeping up the opposite side of the hill, coming towards me (I have a suspicion that it was waiting with its lights off for me to come out for a walk, but hopefully that's just my paranoia talking). The only thing I did then was switch the video recorder from a back pocket to a front one, because the mini tripod it was attached to was sticking out the top, and I didn't want anything about me to look suspicious. So I kept walking and when the car passed me, I saw that it was a cop car. Eep. But it kept going. Until it got to the intersection ahead of me (very close to the streetlight I was headed for), where it turned around and came back up the street towards me. As it was making the U-turn, I quickly and surreptitiously unscrewed the mini tripod that was now sticking out of my front pocket and pushed it further in, so it couldn't be seen.

The car (it was actually one of those SUVs) stopped shortly ahead of me. I kept walking, into its headlights. The cop got out as I approached and asked me how I was doing. I stopped, and in a cheerful voice I said, "fine". He told me the reason he stopped me was because, in addition to walking the streets at a quarter to two in the morning (not illegal!), he saw that I had no shoes on (I wonder what the chances are that he really thought I was a topless woman, seeing me from behind). I looked down at my feet and said with a grin, "I like going barefoot." [Which is an acceptable argument and yet is only a step away from "I like going nude"]. He asked me where I lived and I told him just down the street. He confirmed the name of the street we were on, but didn't pry further. To show my appreciation for the atmosphere of the night (or, in other words, to give myself a harmless motive), I mentioned how cool the mist looked. He said, "yeah, it's like that every night." As if I don't live just down the street and know what it's like each night. Besides, it's clearly not this misty every night, because the mistiness in particular, brought me out of the house... But hey, he's apparently on the night patrol, he must know better than I do. [The only reason I'm bitter about this is because I feel like I am compelled to agree with the cop - in order to stay on his good side - even if I disagree. That's not to say that we couldn't possibly have a friendly argument, but why take my chances, you know?]

Anywho, as it seemed that there was nothing untoward going on, the cop let me know, casually, that I was free to go about my business. In order to keep up the friendly atmosphere, I said "groovy" before walking away, just as casually as before. Of course, he probably thinks I'm a stoner since I said "groovy". No matter, he drove on, and I was alone again. I got to the intersection, went down the hill, waited to see the cop come around the lower parallel street and go on his way, then proceeded to take my shorts off and record the video under the streetlight that I had come out to record. I got it, I put my shorts back on, and then I walked back home without further incident.

Now, some questions come up about this whole scenario. I had heard from my brother, who takes a lot of night walks on his days off, that he'd been stopped by cops a number of times recently. On the one hand, this allays my paranoia that maybe some neighbors are getting smart to my naked walks, and are in collusion with the local cops to catch me in the act (thank god I wore shorts tonight) and/or scare me straight (you can't scare me with this gestapo crap). On the other hand, I don't like the idea that cops think their job is to "investigate suspicious activity". If I want to walk down the street in a pair of shorts, barefoot, in the middle of the night, I can do it, and I shouldn't expect to be hassled by cops. I should be able to do it nude, too, but let's stick to current laws, as idiotic as they may be. You might not get served at some establishments if you're barefoot (not to mention shirtless), but lucky for me, "exposing one's feet in public" - even where "public" includes no other person but the police officer - is not (yet) illegal.

I understand how easy it is to think that this is a natural extension of the desire to "keep the peace", but what it really is, is "keeping the conformity". If somebody behaves in an unusual way, they are necessarily suspicious. This should not be enough reason for cops to hassle a person, but it often is. I don't think police officers should be allowed independent action, personally. That is, they shouldn't be allowed to investigate anything unless a non-PO citizen has reported a concern (unless a crime is unambiguously in progress, I suppose). And even then, common sense should prevail (which would prevent unscrupulous citizens from unfairly harrassing people they don't like, especially for reasons of nonconformity). The PO has an equal responsibility to protect my freedom to act suspiciously (e.g., not conform) as he has to alleviate complaints by citizens who are offended by another person's nonconformity.

Ultimately, the cop was very friendly and let me do my thing, and I'm grateful for that, but I still feel that this terror-mongering technique - in essence, a constant patrol going around just to let you know that "we're watching you" - is not acceptable in a free society. I don't feel like, even with my rights, that I'm on an equal level with the cops. I feel like they are above me, wield power over me, and take advantage of that intimidation factor. Maybe this is partly self-inflicted, considering that I have so many non-standard interests, some of which skirt the lines of the law - but this is only because the current state of our society has inherited a moral backbone that outlaws certain activities that are not harmful to anyone, but merely "offensive", even when it is not intended to be so.

As a final note, when I started writing this, I felt like I couldn't possibly post it, because it would be an admission of my true motives, and posting it would be public, and what if the PO happened upon it (as rare as that would be, it'd be irresponsible of me not to accept that possibility)? But at this point, I'm thinking: I'm not harming anyone. I have no intention of harming anyone. If you want to know my true motives - good. Legal or not, "decent" or not, at least it's clear that I am not a menace to anyone (society doesn't count as a person). If walking the street at night naked, even when making reasonable precautions to avoid being seen, and thus offending others, is unambiguously illegal and cannot be tolerated, say it to my face. Whoever's got a problem with it, I'd like to hear it from you personally. If there are neighbors who are bothered by my nonconformity (this is my paranoia coming back into play), try talking with me about it, instead of telling the cops to intervene for you. I'm not gonna hurt you or anyone else. You're just afraid that I may have a point. That I do have freedom - just as much as you. You want to take advantage of scare tactics to get me to stop doing things that may not be illegal or harmful, but offend you and your sensitive conservative values.

Let me say this: America is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. I was walking down the street the other day (a completely unrelated walk), thinking about how brave some of the things I do are. And I consider myself to be an anxiety-ridden coward. But I will stand up for the things I truly believe in, and I'll march straight into the gates of hell if I have to, just to preserve my values. I am brave, and I won't back down, no matter how much terrorism you subject me to. And if someday you manage to find a dishonest way to strip away my freedom, I will still remain free. In my heart, in my mind, and in my spirit. You cannot defeat my strength of will. And if torturing me satisfies your twisted ego, then I feel sorry for you. I really do. Because it doesn't have to be that way. You can be free, too. And I'm willing to show you the way. My goal is not harm or offense of any kind but eternal, unbounded love for all.

02 August, 2010

Better Done Than Argued

The Yardbirds have some really good lyrics. They're good 60s anti-Establishment lyrics that I can really relate to. For example, the entirety of Mr. You're A Better Man Than I is brilliant social commentary. Even as the type of music listener who usually tunes the lyrics out, there are examples like this that I've noticed. But surely more that I've skipped over.

Like, I was just listening to Think About It - a song I love from the Jimmy Page era with a guitar solo that was recycled when Page recorded Dazed and Confused for Led Zeppelin's debut album - and I noticed the line "when will the good people have their say?" Now, I could see some people writing off lines like this as being a sort of cliche appeal to the corruption of the Establishment and an idealistic jab at how things could be better - but those are the same people who would write off John Lennon's Imagine; which, as a song, is kind of bland, but its lyrics deserve the repeated mention they frequently get.

I may be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world can live as one

Anyway, I was listening to Over Under Sideways Down, and, after noting the line in Think About It, I was paying more attention to the lyrics than I usually do. And I realized that, as simplistic and poppy as the song is (though it has a great riff), the lyrics really are pretty interesting. And I've come to understand why my brother has said in the past that he relates to this song. It's not just about "cars and girls are easy to come by in this day and age", it's about "when I was young people spoke of immorality; all the things they said were wrong are what I've come to be". And it's not just about "I find comments about my looks irrelativity", but "when will it end, when will it end?" Funny how I'll pick out some lines in a song, but not really notice others. Not that I didn't know those lines were in the song - I probably could have sung them from memory - but that I never really thought about what they mean before.

Well, the one line that got to me was, "I'm not searching for a reason to enjoy myself, seems it's much better done than argued with somebody else." Now that's something I can relate to, and not strictly in the context of doing things to enjoy myself. Often I'll decide something I'll want to do, but then I'll pretend to be undecided and surreptitiously seek the encouragement of others in the guise of asking them what they think about it, whether it seems like a good idea. And inevitably, in the cases where they disagree, which is bound to happen now and again, my plan backfires and instead of getting encouragement I get discouragement! And yet, in some cases (where it isn't clear that my idea was really a bad one to begin with), I'll go ahead and do what I wanted to do anyway. I didn't really need other people to sign off on my plans - at the end of the day what matters most is what I want to do and not how others feel about it - yet I still felt like I needed that extra encouragement to work up the courage to go through with my plans.

But what this line in the song articulates for me is that it really is much better for me to just do whatever it is I want to do, without seeking the approval of others - which can so easily turn into an argument where I'm trying to support my plan (if just in my own mind) against a less sympathetic world view, which doesn't take into account my initial drive to do it (which is purely subjective) that is the most important factor in the first place.