Friday, December 19, 2008
Tropical Christmas, take two
Tomorrow I depart for Costa Rica for eight days. This will be the second tropical Christmas/hunt for dad's new retirement community I will have endured. He assures me this year won't be like last year's "journey into the heart of Dominica's darkness" (as I refer to it).
Dominica, for those not familiar, is one of the most rural of the Caribbean islands. The rain forests comprise more land mass per acre than any of the other islands, and it is the only island with a Caribe indian reservation. In my father's words, it is "not safe for whitey," i.e., there are no major hotel resorts and it is not a popular stop for cruise ships. From a distance this seemed like the idyllic retreat for him. But what we discovered, upon arrival, was a very rugged terrain and a lot of discomfort. Every beach took at least 45 minutes to hike to, and the roads were so narrow, the cliffs so very treacherous, that we constantly struggled just to get around.
After a few days, the daily dose of mortal fear was getting me down. One time, while in the car, my father remarked while speeding through a hairpin turn and nearly colliding with an oncoming van whose windows were brimming with villagers: "Wow honey, with all them hail mary's, I'd think you were turning Catholic on me!" I'll never forget how he laughed as I contemplated the cliffs and ravines to my right, whose only barrier was a bamboo fence and bright yellow caution tape.
The following is a list of random notes from our trip. The only notes I took:
- driving down Dominican roads is as thrilling as a jungle safari; instead of the threat of wild animals, you have the fear of head-on collisions and driving into ditches or off of cliffs.
- I think I heard a woman assaulted and/or killed last night. The Belgiums denied hearing anything the next morning, but I could tell they were lying.
- the buzzing and chirping of insects, the rooster calls, and the mangy dog barks drown out the human presence. But when a man yells he can be heard a mile away.
- the fan makes a galluping sound. Where is it leading me?
- passionfruit is much more passionate here.
- the villagers are like helpful zombies that don't want to eat at you, all they want to do is stare.
- i was serenaded by the "town fool" (local boozer) tonight, that is, until I backed away from the balcony and he started yelling out "bitch" to me.
- "travel" comes from the word "travail."
- the percussion of soft rain is overwhelming yet of some comfort.
- parrots show yourselves!
- I will find a good man one day.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Further evidence that Walmart is evil and/or doesn't mind supporting neo-Nazis
Via The Guardian:
Also, let's not forget the suggestive children's underwear line they had to remove (thanks to Feministing) this time last year, or about the inhumane way they treated former employee Deborah Shank last March.
A three-year-old boy called Adolf Hitler Campbell has been refused a birthday cake with his name on it by a New Jersey supermarket.
Heath Campbell, 35, and his wife, Deborah, 25, say they are upset at the decision made by their local ShopRite not to write "Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler" across the cake, and that people needed to move forward.
Campbell said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because "no one else in the world would have that name".
"They need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what [Hitler] did," he said.
Not to be defeated, the family ended up getting their cake decorated at a Walmart in Pennsylvania.
The problem is likely to be one they face again – their younger children are JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, who is nearly two, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, named after the SS head Heinrich Himmler. Honszlynn turns one in April.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Gather 'round, chilin. With all this "recession this" and "recession that," it's fun to hear stories about what it was like to be a kid during the Great Depression, as told by papa Bukowski (from Ham on Rye):
Mrs. Fretag was our English teacher. The first day in class she asked us each our names.
"I want to get to know all of you," she said. She smiled.
"Now, each of you has a father, I'm sure. I think it would be interesting if we found out what each of your fathers does for a living.
We'll start with seat number one and we will go around the class. Now, Marie, what does your father do for a living?"
"He's a gardener."
"Ah, that's nice! Seat number two . . . Andrew, what does your father
It was terrible. All the fathers in my immediate neighborhood had lost their jobs. My father had lost his job. Gene's father sat on his front porch all day. All the fathers were without jobs except Chuck's who worked in a meat plant. He drove a red car with the meat company's name on the side.
"My father is a fireman," said seat number two.
"Ah, that's interesting," said Mrs. Fretag. "Seat number three."
"My father is a lawyer."
"Seat number four."
"My father is a . . . policeman . . ."
What was I going to say? Maybe only the fathers in my neighborhood were without jobs. I'd heard of the stock market crash. It meant something bad. Maybe the stock market had only crashed in our neighborhood.
"Seat number eighteen."
"My father is a movie actor . . ."
"My father is a concert violinist . . ."
"Twenty . . ."
"My father works in the circus . . ."
"My father is a bus driver . . ."
"My father sings in the opera . . ."
Twenty-three. That was me.
"My father is a dentist," I said.
Mrs. Fretag went right on through the class until she reached number
"My father doesn't have a job," said number thirty-three.
Shit, I thought, I wish I had thought of that.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Ever since seeing Milk, I am rediscovering the brilliance of Gus Van Sant. In his new film, I definitely picked up on some echoes of My Own Private Idaho and Elephant through the intimate, experimental camera shots and scenes where the silence in a room takes on a character in and of itself.
This Van Sant short film is not only really funny, but perfectly minimal. Enjoy:
Monday, December 01, 2008
Vampires are so hot right now
Me and the gentleman friend have been obsessed with vampires lately, having watched all the episodes of HBO's "True Blood;" now going through withdraws since the first series ended. I am so into vampires right now that I even forced him to see "Twilight," a teensploitation flick starring some hot young actor from the Harry Potter series as a modern-day vampire that made all the girls in the theater yell and freak out.
Although, I'd say vampires have always been hot, what with all the vampire films produced since the beginning of the invention of the "movie." But it's interesting to see how this myth has been given the modern treatment lately. Instead of rehashing Victorian-era tales from Bram Stoker, or relying on historical fiction from Anne Rice, today we've got stories of this folkloric undead population trying to incorporate itself into a modern era where civil rights and traditional values aren't always so cut and dry.
Perhaps filmmakers and television producers are taking their cues from Bram Stoker himself. Stoker re-tooled the folklore masterfully, using it to express the sexual repression of the Victorian Era with such ferocity that the love story of Vlad and Mina still resonates with audiences. Perhaps that's why Mormon Stephanie Meyer, whose books provided the basis for "Twilight," was so effective in utilizing vampire tales--she projected the sexual frustration and oppressive abstinence practices associated with the Mormon community into the seductive stories of the undead.
Whatever it is, it's an amazing concept to take an old myth and re-appropriate it's symbology in order to expose the societal fears of the modern world. It seems obvious in the case of "True Blood" whose opening montage includes a church sign that reads "God Hates Fangs," and features characters saying such phrases as "coming out of the coffin," that vampires embody minority groups and the disenfranchised. Although very subtle, hints at what creator Alan Ball (American Beauty, "Six Feet Under") means to do with this series are incredibly refreshing and exciting to watch. Ball's fictitious, alternate world of vampires has not lost its presence on the internet, either. The blog BloodCopy is a hilarious resource of video "reportage" featuring characters from the show. Below is a "commercial" for TruBlood--the fictitious beverage of synthetic blood for vampires:
But what's brilliant about the vampire myth is that it can be interpreted as an expression of many things in our current political climate. The other day, I came across this column on the Huffington Post:
"...what is with the vampire craze right now? The vogue for them has ebbed and flowed over the last century, but at the moment the ventricles seem all the way open. A friend of mine suggested that this fad may represent our culture's unconscious efforts to depict in metaphorical terms the financial greed that has sucked blood money from the body politic--especially the subprime mortgage fiasco that started it. 'Mortgage' is derived from the Latin word for 'death,' after all."
I'd like to think the "vampire craze" is currently being utilized to expose the base bigotry and oppressive "morals" of the Religious Right. The vampire (or gay, or black, or sexually promiscuous) can be seen as a fun, campy way to address an American culture still struggling to see beyond traditional "family values" that espouse hate and bigotry.