Monday, August 31, 2009

Aw, he thinks he's people

My son - for this post, let's call him, oh, Skelter - is on the very cusp of his first birthday, which is a strange intersection between still being a baby and growing into a toddler, or possibly a two-foot tall crazy old man. I try not obsess over things, neither the new things he does (early for his age?) nor the things he doesn't do (is he hitting milestones on schedule?) because I don't want to be one of those parents, but in the past twenty-four hours he had a couple of moments which I have to share.

Last night my wife Galatea and I treated ourselves to take-out, so dinner was Afghan food and Mexican beer. That in and of itself tends to make for a pretty good night. Our local kabob place is really great - I'm pretty much always in the mood for their food, but sometimes I think we order from them just so we can check in, make sure they're still in business by giving them a little more of ours. And Mexican beer is always welcome in our house (yet it never stays for long, hmmm).

Stay thirsty, my friends.
At any rate, Skelter was having cheese for dinner, along with a few pieces of naan bread we had shredded for him. He was iffy on the naan at first but he warmed up to it. And eventually I got tired of tearing off bites for him so I just held out a large piece of bread and let him take his own bites. He has seven tiny teeth and they weren't quite enough to cut through the chewy crust, so mostly he was just sucking on the naan, but it was still great.

Ever since he came home from the hospital I've been looking forward to the casual sharing of food. I love food and I never mind sharing, and the better the food is the more likely I am to want someone else to try and enjoy it as well. Especially if the someone else has never had the food in question before. Many was the time that I was holding Skelter in one arm while balancing a plate on the opposite knee (he didn't really like being put down, nor did Galatea and I like putting him down, so one of us was holding him pretty much round the clock, and who started it is one of those chicken/egg things I guess) and I had to stop myself from offering my two-month-old son a forkful of whatever I was eating. In the last month or so he's moved off baby food and on to real food, but there's still very little spontaneous sharing, because anything he eats has to be baby-bland, and cut up into very small pieces, and cooled down to room temperature. Luckily the naan was already bland and heat-neutral, and circumventing the cutting step by just letting him chomp on a corner of the same piece I was eating was another step in the right direction. What can I say, it's the little things in the big picture.

But as I said leading off, in many ways he's still a baby. When he wakes up first thing in the morning, he's pretty cranky until my wife nurses him. This morning she reclined on the couch for the nursing and I sat at her feet drinking my coffee. Skelter finished feeding and, as usual, at that point he was all sweetness and light, sitting up and looking around with a big goofy grin. He held up one of his hands, which is usually just a random gesture, but Galatea very gamely asked him "High five?" and held up her hand.

It is important to note at this point that we have been trying to teach Skelter to high five since forever, and he doesn't get it. Except today, apparently, he did. He smacked mommy's hand, she laughed, he laughed, and then he turned toward me. So I said "High five!" and held my hand up, and he smacked it. More laughing ensued all around and he turned back to his mom. He must have gone back and forth ten times giving us alternating high fives. Again, it's the little things. I don't think there's the slightest remarkable element to this story, but it was a first and it got my Monday off to a pretty good start, and that's something I don't get to say very often.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Disturbing imagery is kinda cool (apparently the conditioning began rather early)

The other day something I ate did not agree with me and the stomach pain got pretty intense. So of course I started thinking about the Flash Gordon movie from 1980. Specifically, I thought that it felt like the creature in the stump (from the manhood test on Arboria) was burrowing around in my lower intestines. What with the bloated air-sac and pointy claws and so forth. And then I realized I wasn’t thinking of the creature in the stump, really; I was thinking of the thing in the swamp that Flash accidentally lands on top of and almost gets smothered/eaten/killed by. Or to be more accurate (even though my mind wasn’t working with a high degree of accuracy at the time because, you know, stabbing stomach pains) I was thinking of some weird conflation of the two beasties, something small enough to fit in my belly, like the stump creature, but with the gross inflatable body and articulated claws of the swamp monster.

I believe that if I were to say “Flash Gordon movie” to any of my guy/geek friends, that they would know automatically I meant the 1980 version, the Flash of our collective childhoods. I further believe that if I were to ask them to name the first five things that came to mind when they thought of the movie (and putting spontaneous mental challenges like that to my friends is, honestly, something I do all the time) that the lists would vary somewhat but most of them would hit on the following broad points:

Brian Blessed as Vultan (the role he was born to play). “FIRST WAVE – DIVE!!!”

Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless (in super-heavy eyeliner). “Klytus, I’m BORED.”

Some kind of Dale Arden vs. Princess Aura hotness debate. (For the record? Aura.)

“Tell me more about this man Houdini.”

and of course Music by QUEEN

And that list is in no particular order and obviously someone/everyone would start singing “Flash! Ahh-ahhhhh!” right off the bat but my point is that I think generally we all tend to remember the movie as kind of cheesy campy action-adventure fun, ha ha, ho ho, and it is that, but it is also full of some exceedingly disturbing imagery. Which is where my mind went when I was thinking about the movie and trying to ignore, or at least work with, the sensations of hostile monstrosities in my stomach.

So there’s the whole manhood test which has a creepy beastie but also has an aspirant fail the test, whereupon he gets run through by Barin. And there’s the swamp slug-crab. There’s also the scene where Aura’s being tortured and her back has been lashed bloody and she’s being held to a table by disembodied hands. I was never quite sure if Klytus threatened her with “bore worms” or “boar worms” but either way, a disturbing thought and one I can only assume we didn’t get to see on-screen due to budget constraints. Speaking of Klytus, he dies due to multiple impalings and his eyes and tongue kind of bulge out through his golden mask like Peeps in microwave. And let us also not forget Ming himself being impaled by the prow of War Rocket Ajax and then sliding off, leaving a trail of greenish blood on the needle.

(I confess that I’ve been Wikipedia’ing while composing this post to get things like correct name spellings and whatnot. The Wikipedia article/sub-articles about the movie are relentless in their conviction that Flash Gordon was deliberately campy “in the style of the 1960’s Adam West Batman show.” Funny, I don’t remember seeing any episodes of Batman where Louie the Lilac gets eviscerated or Chandell’s liquefied flesh melts through a grate in the floor. I wonder if this Wikipedia contributer considers Eraserhead “kitschy”.)

Don't empty my mind! I've spent my whole life filling it!!
To me, though, one of the most disturbing images of all was during the scene in which Professor Zarkov has his memories drained. I liked that the monitor screen showed his memories as a sped-up movie in reverse … until it actually reached the day of his birth and then kept going until the screen was just this pinkish field of fluids and blood vessels and HOLY CRAP WOMB MEMORIES GAAAHHH. I distinctly remember that sequence being just viscerally horrifying the first time (first few times?) I saw it. Partly because of the whole metaphysical nightmare of losing your identity as every single moment of your life drained away, but definitely capped off by that inside-the-amniotic-sac vista. In a movie full of some serious in-your-face grossness, in fact an astonishing amount for a goofball classic, that there is the pinnacle moment. It’s like the filmmakers decided that everything Alex Raymond did on the comics page would need to be really muddied-and-bloodied up to survive the transition to the screen. Crazy.

I actually haven’t seen Flash Gordon in I-don’t-know-how-many years. But I remember it vividly for a few reasons. It really is a stunning spectacle, for one. And I saw it multiple times on HBO in a short span of time. But maybe more importantly, it made a huge impression on me because I was so impressionable at the time. I was seven. Maybe almost eight. Seven years old! I love my parents very much, and I don’t want to sit here nearly thirty years after the fact and judge them too harshly for their supervision (or lack thereof) of my cable-TV viewing habits. In 1981 or 1982 or whatever, cable was practically brand new. My parents certainly hadn’t grown up with it. It just didn’t occur to them that, when I was staying out of trouble and out of their hair quietly watching TV on a Saturday afternoon, that I might be watching a movie with multiple impalings and freaky aliens (not to mention aliens gettin’ freaky, or strong implications thereof) and a suggestion that maybe we all have deep recollections of our existence pre-birth (HOLY CRAP WOMB MEMORIES). Because, if it had occurred to them that that was exactly what I was watching, repeatedly, at age seven … they would have put a stop to that, right? So I’m not harshing out on my parents, I’m just saying – it’s kind of amazing to me sometimes that I’ve turned out as well adjusted (read: non-psycho) as I have.

So I’m not really sure if my main point here is that my mind goes to some bizarre places when I’m not feeling well, or that there’s way more weirdness to the Flash Gordon movie between the Flash-palace-guards-football-fight and the Flash-Hawkmen-rocket-ion-cloud-fight than its reputation allows for, or that my generation probably saw a lot of borderline traumatizing age-inappropriate stuff on cable TV back in the early 80’s, or what. Fortunately, I never promised these posts would have points.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blogging about Blogging

So I managed to wait until the *second* post to launch into a whole visionary Statement of Purpose thing. Truly, I am growing up.

Well, then. What will be this blog’s focus, and what are the ground rules? The answer to the first part is going to be deliberately vague and the second is going to be defined by negative space (come to think of it so will the first one) but I hope that a little clarity will emerge nonetheless.

Mostly I just want a place to capture my notoriously eclectic thoughts, so the only unifying theme here is going to be … me, I guess. But considering that I am a pop culture junkie and it’s sometimes hard to identify exactly where the movie quotes stop and I begin, it’s a fair bet that books and movies and TV and video games and music will come up again and again. (Actually, that bet’s better than even money. At this point I’d say any future post will have 3-to-1 odds for being about some form of modern entertainment or another.)

But there are things that actually happen to me or involve my active participation, not just passive consumption, and I’ll no doubt talk about those too. I have a job, and a really long commute on what I believe to be one of the country’s worst mass transit systems. I have a wife and a one-year-old son. I have an extensive, blended, extended family and I’m currently speaking to all of them, and I have friends I try (not as successfully as I’d like) to stay in touch with. I have a good life I’m thankful for and sometimes I just want to write it all down in tiny daily pieces.

I read a lot of other blogs and some of them are very specific in their focus. And I did consider taking that approach myself, blogging about comic books (though I don’t think I could ever rival the detailed analysis of bloggers who work at comic book stores) or about raising a kid (I’m a dad with a weakness for mommy-blogs – don’t judge me) or about how much the Metro system sucks (two mentions already in this post alone!) but I just don’t think I could stay that zeroed-in. And because I’m posting this, not writing it in a paper journal that sleeps in a drawer, there’s some kind of implicit belief in an audience for it. The thought of posting a story about something hilarious that my kid does and then getting comments from readers along the lines of “nobody cares about your stupid baby get back to making fun of celebreality on VH1” is … troubling. If I label this a niche blog then any straying outside of that niche would be a betrayal. So let me say at the outset there is no niche. One day you might get my thoughts on the new fall primetime schedule, another day you might get my reaction to a movie that came out 11 years ago but I finally got around to seeing that week, and another day you might get an unironic account of a lovely day my wife and child and I spent at the dog park. (Because we have a dog. We’re not those weird people who go to dog parks to admire other people’s dogs.)

Of course, you never know how life is going to go. I may get bored with this in six months or less, or I may keep it going for years. And in a few years, my life could be radically different. I plan to write about whatever’s on my mind, and right now most of the time my mind is full of lots of idle, airy thoughts and diversions. Maybe my wife and I will decide to adopt a baby (HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE) down the road, though, and I understand that is a fairly intense process so it may end up being all I think about all the time, and the blog could shift radically from 70% Netflix-and-iTunes/30% funny-thing-happened-in-the-food-court-today to 90% tuberculosis-screenings-for-visas/10% hey-I-hear-Joss-Whedon-has-a-new-show. You never know.

Before I started this blog I had a discussion with my wife about privacy concerns, and we came up with the agreed-upon ground rules: no real names, and no photos. I have to imagine that if you’re reading this you’re actually a friend or relative of ours and therefore we’re not really fooling you, as it’s really not that hard to map “the husband” and “the wife” and “the baby”. And if you came here via a link in a forum, or were pointed to it by a friend of a friend of a friend, I'm sure you're a perfectly nice internet denizen and I'm not really afraid you're going to stalk me or steal my identity. So it’s really more Google-proofing, an ounce of prevention against people whom we wouldn’t point towards the blog accidentally stumbling upon it somehow. (Like current or potential employers. Or former acquaintances who are former for very good reasons. Or cyber-bullying future classmates of the baby’s, because Everything Lives Forever on the Internet.) We also agreed that I would not use the blog to say my wife is a giant jerkface in any way shape or form, which was an easy agreement to reach because she’s no size of jerkface at all, but the anonymity was the big point. I humbly ask that you respect that rule as well. If I leave a person, place or institution unnamed, don’t show off how smart you are by naming it in the comments. Cool? Cool.

The upside is that when I tell long and elaborate stories (which is 90% of the time) and multiple he/she coyness will be too confusing to follow, I get to come up with placeholder names. And while I am a big fan of nice, normal, easy-to-spell-and-pronounce names in RealLife, I anticipate deriving endless amusement from telling stories about my wife JalapeƱa Nina and my son Shiva the Destroyer.

So there you have it. A wide array of trivial topics and an equally wide array of ridiculous pseudonyms. That’s what you can reasonably expect.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Starting at the Beginning

Lately my GoodReads reviews have been getting longer and longer, but still mostly focused on actual books, which means all the other things which entertain me and make me think don't get an outlet.

Recently someone asked me if I had a blog they could visit to keep tabs on what's up with me.

I've had the recurring thought "This would make a good blog post" so many times I've lost count.

Clearly, it is time to start a blog. I avoided it for as long as I could, but it's time. Rather than overthink how to kick things off with a grand Statement of Purpose post or anything like that, I'll just leave it at this.

My blog starts here. If you're diving into the archives looking for the beginning, this is it. If you've been working your way backwards, you've reached the end. Either way - more later.