Oh….kay. Am wishing on stars and selling my soul to the devil at the crossroads at midnight. Cause. Why not. It can’t hurt and it might help.
Got through the second round of [bleep] and am WAITING OH MY LORDY DO YOU IDIOTS THINK I AM PATIENT OR SOMETHING? Just tell me. Ugh!
Tom Petty, you were right. The waiting is the hardest part.
It’s my b-day tomorrow. I’m old. Considering getting myself some Midori and watching movies all day. I have a trip coming up so don’t need to chance the local wilderness on a Friday, with the crazed shithouse rats that live around here and near here all competing for a spot in their vans down by one of the rivers.
I did manage to write this week. Got Army of Flamingos polished up and sent forth into that weird novella territory. I didn’t number the pages but I don’t normally do that for a book-length anything. I hope in the NINE FREAKING MONTHS or that one eternity later, from Spongebob, that it doesn’t detract from the wonderment of my tale. It did say nine months to respond. But. There are a shit ton of submissions to read. I get it. I get it!
My garden has some splendid spots. My tomato plant is a BEAST. I love it! I don’t even like tomatoes. But. I can do things with fresh ones. And can freeze them handy enough. Punkins are percolating. Peppers are peppering along. Flowers are preparing to bloom. I’ve been drying my sage and oregano, need to tackle the cilantro. As in dry it or figure out how to preserve it.
So yes. I have books out. On Amazon and elsewhere. Aftermath: Boise, Idaho is a sentient zombies fun romp. The Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane is sort of Doomsday meets Mad Max meets a Judi Dench and her friends movie meets the Brothers Grimm. As in their uncensored tales, with cannibals and mothers beating on their dead children to make them behave and…uh huh. Make me a happy birthday person and pick one or the other or both up. Read them on your Kindle and leave me a review! Yay!
June! 2021 already feels eight miles long, if ya catch my driftwood. Geez. Alrighty.
I have been rewatching an HBO series from the early 2000’s called Carnivale, about a showdown between good and evil played by the chosen ones of God and the Devil. At least, that’s what I garnered from it the first time around and pretty much this time, too. It’s all set against the Great Depression, pre-WWII, post WWI, the ‘war to end all wars’. It ran two seasons. 24 episodes. Very well done, quality stuff here.
It featured Clancy Brown and Amy Madigan as a squirrelly brother and sister team, where he’s Brother Justin and she’s the alleged submissive elderly spinster takes care of the house and does a lot of church work drone. Of course, we get intimations early on that Brother Justin ain’t the godly sort, that he might be working for the Other Team. We also find out the sister ain’t so, uh, yeah. No spoilers if you haven’t found this odd little gem of a series yet.
Of course, the carnival itself. Colorful characters! Freaks but no geeks. That’s where a man or woman eats a living creature, usually a chicken, as an audience watches. It’s just as gross, heartless and terrible as it sounds and yes, actually took place. We have the family of whores and chooch dancers! Boy howdy, does mama Rita Sue, Cynthia Ettinger, have the goods. She’s actually fleshy, earthy and exudes real actual sexuality—a sort of Marilyn Monroe type twenty years before MM was a thing. Maybe she’s a Mae West-ian type? Okay! She’s also one of my faves from this show. Stumpy, her hubbie and father of their two dancing daughters, is also a fave. He’s walking a knife edge between wanting to keep on feeding himself and his family and walking away from what he clearly thinks is emasculating him in the eyes of everyone. And it’s fascinating to watch all the dynamics at play in this family, which faces a tragedy pretty early on.
There’s also the snake dancer, played by the fantastic Adrienne Barbeau. There’s a bearded lady, who’s in cahoots and in bed with the blind seer, Dr. Lodtz. Who’s a treacherous bastard in the manner of Littlefinger from Game of Bones, er, Thrones. But oddly, lacking the real charm that Littlefinger had and the subtleness that so underlined one of the archvillains of King’s Landing.
Suffice it to say, there’s a great cast here with some truly fun parts. And hoooo boy howdy, is a lot of that just enjoyable to watch. Carnival folk struggling to make ends meet during the Dust Bowl years. That would have been a great series. Just real people fighting and scrapping to fill the kitty each night they got the whole shebang set up in some field or outside a town.
Now, I am not against all the magic-mystical-religious overtones in Carnivale. Because they’re graphic, sexual, ghastly, bloody, beautiful, strange and at times head-scratching.
So now let me go over the lead character, Ben Hawkins as played by Nick Stahl and one of the featured females, Sophie, as played by Clea Duvall. As they seem to be one and the same character.
Thoroughly unlikable shits that get chance after chance after chance for some reason. I mean, after a while, shouldn’t people listen to Ben Hawkins telling them to leave him alone and, well, leave him alone? Or figure out that Sophie isn’t likely to feel anything for you, Jonesy but a contempt? Move on, Jones! Jesus Christ, move on. It’s also a creepy relationship, as Jonesy is a grown man in his thirties who played with Sophie when she was a kid yet…mmm. Now he’s hitting on her and wanting to get in her panties. She’s it for him, as he confessed to our resident lady with a lot of gentlemen callers. Why?? Sophie, as written, has no redeemable qualities and is pretty much a lesbian. She showed more want and desire for Libby, daughter of Mae West-ian earth mama, than she had ever displayed for lovesick Jones.
Now, Ben is allegedly the hero here. The reluctant savior type, as he’s called by Samson, the little person who’s second in command. Samson takes orders from Management, who seems invisible and might be God? Mm. Management tells Samson that Ben is important, they have to take him with them. This is after we see Ben not save his own mother with his magic healing powers. He’s a gruff, ungrateful, thoroughly repellent character as written and played. Is this deliberate? Are we supposed to warm up to ole Ben? Cause. Yikes. I had this same problem first time I watched this. I grew impatient and then numb to whatever Ben was going through or had to do or was forced to do or whatever. Fuck off, Ben. I kept wondering why these savvy carnie folk didn’t shuck him like a bad oyster already. So what if he’s the savior-chosen whatever. So? Apparently this same fight has been waged since ever. It’s not like it’s unique. Drop Ben like a bad habit, Carnivale denizens!
To me, if Ben and Sophie had been culled early, I’d not have missed them. I was far more interested in the life of a circus performer set against such a harsh backdrop. Sure, you can throw in some magic and whatever, but oh my God, make the main character a bit more rounded than LEAVE ME ALONE I’M SUFFERING HERE. Fuck me running. I started to root for Brother Justin, played almost note-perfect by Brown, to win at whatever game this was. Blow the whole world up, you crazy bastard! Totally Team Justin here. I also wanted Sophie to meet her end so Jonesy could move on, steal Rita Sue from Stumpy and…yeah.
All in all, it’s a pretty good watch if you’re up for it. You might like Sophie and Ben more than I do and hey, that’s fine. I just found them both so utterly repellent on every level. Be warned, it’s HBO so there’s nudity, cussing, rape, violence, drug use, a scene where rabbits are beat to death and some other assorted stuff and things that might not be your cup of dust. Get it? Dust Bowl? Cup of dust??
I took the three dogs and drove toward Owyhee State Park here in Eastern Oregon. It was a truly GORGEOUS day. And there were oodles of people. On a Thursday. Fuuuuuuuuudgepops!
The back way to the park also had road construction. With detours. Fine, whatever, I know the roads are laid out like a grid, can’t stop me, state of Oregon. Woot woot, gonna get where I wanna go, baby.
Yes, I collected some red lava rocks and didn’t find anything spectacular or shiny or magical. I let the three dogs romp in the river, I threw sticks for them, I let them sniff and hunt a bit, as dogs are wont to do. My favorite spots sported tents and sullen campers setting up camps. Fudgepops!!
I also saw some buffalo, as they raise them around here and a field full of sassy, darling goats.
On the way home, same detour…except I had to drive almost to Nyssa to get on Clark Boulevard to get back home. Ah yes, the same boulevard featured in my second novel– House on Clark Boulevard. I even think I saw the old house where I used to live so long ago and in a time of far away. It’s run down, looks deserted but a car was parked there. But that has to be the house. It’s on the correct side of the road, there’s the space where the pasture used to be, the house itself has the same shape I remember. But no chicken coop or other buildings left behind the house. The trees are gone or pulled down or have fallen. Is that the house? Is my memory right or very very wrong? Mm.
But anyway…had to take the very long and winding way back home with three wet dogs. What a lovely smell a wet dog has. But I also had some new rocks. Good day. What a good day that was.
Good morning. How ya doin’? It’s spring and the garden doth call. Doth it call for thee as well? Okay, before I descend into faux Shakespeare-King James Bible meanderings– I have a short story out in the Ghastling, number 13.
Jimmy’s Jar collection is a tale of two cousins in an Idaho graveyard trying to catch ghosts in canning jars.
Check it out! Also, go check out past issues of the Ghastling. If you like short stories that deal with the macabre and strange and spooky, or even if you don’t, you might find some writing you really enjoy. Cheers!
Last night the winds cracked their cheeks. Probably some dead branches cracked as well, but not enough to fall onto the roof. Yay! You really can find the good, even in a wind storm. No branches fell on the roof from the incredibly ancient, rotting even as you read this, cottonwood tree.
It’s the same tree that the local owls like to use to send their owl messages back and forth to owls perching in the locust tree along the lane. There’s just the one locust tree, which draws every insect within a thousand miles when it puts forth its honey-smelling blooms. Tractors have attempted to yank that thing out but the tree won. It was quite a goodly thrill to watch a tractor nearly do flips trying to kill that old tree. Ha ha ha, take that, evil farmers!
So, yes, I am writing. I have started a new novel with the title of Vampire Bride. Where a vampire marries a human after a wild tequila-fueled night in Vegas. Have I mentioned this in the few blog posts I’ve put out since January? Anyway! I’ve also been what I call junk writing. This is just writing I do for me. I will never ever ever show it to anyone. It’s indulgent, shallow crappy tripe. Most of it, anyway. I have millions of words invested in this.
Now, my actual question is—do other writers do this? Do they have a private stash of self-indulgent, just for them, creations?
Is there a split of the ‘good’ stuff and the everything else stuff they’d not show to others? Is there a secret stash of bodice ripper historical romances versus the ‘serious’ literature produced for awards and lit mags to fawn over?
Is there an Anne Rice in all writers? Her BDSM series, based on Sleeping Beauty being woken up by a very horny dom Prince…and her other works, which don’t feature actual whips, chains, human trafficking and passages involving orgies. And were published long before 50 Shades had grown from Edward Cullen fanfic. A.N. Roquelaure is the pen name used for the Beauty series. I just found out there’s a fourth book in this series, Beauty’s Kingdom, 2015. The others were out in the 80’s.
So, honestly, just wondering if other writers keep a secret stash of words meant only to be read by themselves. It’s probably a way of coping with life, rejection, life and the slow strangulation death of any and all dreams. Yep. Drowning yet again, I pen words meant to comfort and console my dying brain that there’s still some oxygen bubbles bursting nearby. That I am writing away, just not on anything I’d show to group of other writers. Private little romances that always end in happy times or adult-themed high to very lowbrow fantasy full of dragons, shapeshifting creatures and goblins living under magical castles full of ghosts, devils and sexy dark lords…hey, not admitting anything. Nope!
Or perhaps I am ashamed that I have a need to write the secret stuff at all. That it’s rather like that ‘comical’ moment in movies when the heroine’s vibrator is found or turned on by accident so that it rattles away as she stands there with a red face. Instead of just shrugging, grabbing it up, turning it off, and admitting, yes, she likes orgasms. You got a problem with that, she should demand instead of the embarrassed horror of people discovering she’s, well, masturbating on a regular basis.
Did I mention the owls have been very busy the last couple weeks? And that I am writing, not necessarily on anything I’d let you or anyone else read. Vampire Bride, sure. It’s meant for others. Goblin Ghosts Versus the Dragon Lord’s Prisoner, no. And no, I did not write anything like that. Or did I??? Bwhahahahahaha.
No, actually I didn’t.
I swear it. On a stack of Interview With the Vampire. Oh hey, anyone else go through an Anne Rice phase?
I have four books out now. I have a short story in the next Ghastling. Go check them out.
Breakfast was so gross. Rice, leftover gravy, eggs and insanely spicy hot dogs chunks. Oh gag me with a spoon already. So! Let’s purge that plate of Not Ever Gonna Eat That Yuck with a talk about a version of a Christmas Carol I happened to catch on FX.
It stars Aussie Guy Pierce in the role of the rich curmudgeon. And there’s this odd sexual smolder going on? Um? Have I wandered into some weird mashup of CC and Jane Eyre?
Maybe. Because this three hour plus offering also descends into actual horror movie territory, with the ghost of Jacob Marley thrusting his severed jaw back into his face, watching a child drown and the general overly dreary settings. Scrooge’s house is kept so dark and shadowy I kept waiting for Game of Thrones characters to wander through drinking mulled wine and speaking of their sexual conquests or why they deserve the Iron Throne.
Basically, it does follow Dickens’s storyline. We meet Scrooge, who’s a real awful craptoad, hellbent on making everyone around him suffer because money is king in his brain. Orphans and widows and beggars can all suck it, yeah, same ole shtick here that’s, um, oddly relevant right now, or always. Charity never seems to actually do anything at any time in history; okay, Dickens, yeah, we know this already.
Pierce can’t hide that he’s a sexy dude, even when frosted with age makeup a bit. I haven’t yet found a production or a movie where Scrooge is, um, sexually active or could be some sort of Victorian era stud. Kind of weird at first and then it descends into HE’S A RAPEY POS FUCK HIM kinda reaction. And we get the backstory about the school, and how his dad basically sold Ebbie into some sort of sexual slavery with the headmaster and…Not even kidding. I just…mm. This was to save money. See where Scrooge gets it, my lovelies???
Mary Cratchett goes to Scrooge for money to get the operation to save Tiny Tim. Now, was it just me or was Tiny Tim about the creepiest thing in this entire three hour plus retelling??? I…damn. He looked like one of those haunted dolls who goes about at night with your sharpest butcher knife clutched in his doll fist. His dialogue was also unnatural and stilted, compared to the actors around him. That might have been Dicken’s fault but still. Make him sound like a kid, not some killer doll who sucked helium from the balloon that will be used to strangle you as you bleed out from the butcher knife stabbings…
Where was I?? Oh yes. Mary, who usually doesn’t get much to do in this story besides bake a goose or shake her head over how mean Scrooge is…goes to the steely-eyed sexy master of Thornfield Hall for a loan. Sorry, no, that’s Jane Eyre! Anyway–
She posits this as a loan, where two shillings gets subtracted from her husband’s salary. Scrooge, cruelly good at math, calculates this all up, adding interest even, and figures, ha ha, it would take about six years for his employee to pay off a thirty pound loan, plus something like 4% interest. This is of course not a good scenario for smoldery slinky Mr. Scrooge! We then get subjugated to about the most gulp-inducing WTF, is this a Christmas movie?? scene where Scrooge offers Mary the money outright if she…lets him do whatever he wants to her. On Christmas Day, no less. She can earn the money on her back is the gist of that scene and she, being desperate and not wishing to watch her child die, agrees to this. As Scrooge taunts her, in that quiet slithery way Pierce can deliver so well, about what a good wife, mother and Christian she is. It’s…it’s unredeemable. There isn’t a coming back from this. I don’t care…it….fuck.
So here Mary returns, and Scrooge toys with her, then tells her he doesn’t want a thing to do with her. As she stands there nearly naked. He’s more interested in torturing people because he’s a scientist at heart or some such unjolly shit. She’s still violated and demeaned, she takes the money because it’s her kid and there’s no way she can get the money otherwise. She also curses Scrooge, telling him she’s a woman and she has the power to call spirits…ah. Ah! Interesting.
So the spirits.
The main spirit of Christmas is played by Andy Serkis, of Gollum fame. And yes, he knocks it out of the ballpark. We get to see a lot more of the spirits and Marley outside of their usual show up and spook Mr. Scrooge bits. There’s this giant, visually stunning, bonfire. The main spirit, who also seems to be all the other spirits as well, has strange pale eyes, a wild Santa Claus-like appearance and speaks about how this thing with Scrooge is more of a game than…any actual effort to save him. Ouch. That it’s the challenge presented by Scrooge’s stony unfeeling heart, not any actual need to save the man himself from a hellish fate, such as Marley earned. That the gods play with us rather that love us is very much the theme here with the ghost/s.
Now, this is a new one to me. Scrooge displays kindness only toward animals. He draws a blanket over two carriage horses, who are shivering in the snowy air. He remarks about the ponies used down in mines, rather than the children he watched cough and choke with utter indifference. And then there’s this pet mouse his sister gave him, with a little gilded bell about its wee neck. The ghost of this mouse shows up and we get to see Scrooge’s horrific father cut its head off. We see this framed as a shadow but still. Just a jarring, take me out of it, why are you including this, moment. In a Christmas movie.
I guess this slight care toward animals is supposed to make Scrooge a bit sympathetic and redeemable? That there is something still, um, good left in this sadistic snotwaffle?
So the three ghosts go to work on Scrooge and the way this is done is quite okay. The ghosts change and morph and dig into his memories like surgeons. The mine disaster was especially hard to watch. The young Scrooge being almost dragged to an older man’s bed was surreal and the sister arriving to save him…as Scrooge admitted in perhaps the most gutwrenchingly honest scenes about child sexual abuse, far too late. The ghost of Christmas Future, the one who decides if Scrooge is ‘saved’ or not, seemed a zombie or some sort of undead victim of the Inquisition. Blue skin, lips obviously sewn together at one point, silent.
Here we get to watch Tiny Tim drown. He speaks the entire film about wanting to go skating. So this death of his is framed over the head of Scrooge and the ghost, who watch from below. As if both stand beneath the pond, looking up. The ceiling of the room Scrooge stands in becomes that treacherous ice sheath. Tim breaks through, weighted down by the borrowed skates and his clothing. He’s too weak to pull himself out so we watch him stop struggling and just hang there until a hook yanks him out and up and up…Such a well done scene yet so horrible.
Of course we get to the ending where Scrooge goes manic. He steals the gravel of an old lady, who’s been graveling the icy walkways, to make it so no one can skate on that bit of pond or river, then runs over to Mary and Bob’s to terrorize them with his manic promises that he’s changed and…yeah. It’s such a joyless, grim, abrupt ending. We also don’t get any reconciliation with his nephew. And we’re made to understand that maybe Mary is working with the Christmas ghosts? Wha…?
That’s what is missing from this adaptation. Joy. That redemptive joy of someone who decides to change who they are for the better. We saw this in Scrooged, with Billy Murray’s version bringing us to tears with his speech at the end, because he meant it, he had experienced an actual revolution within himself. Here, in this Guy Pierce led shadow-filled morality play, we get a grim character with very little or no redeeming values sort of…not be so awful for a bit. Will it even last the day? I’m not sure it will. Someone peeing on your gravestone is not really a life-changer, not for someone like Scrooge who went to court to make sure the families of those who died in his mine never got a ha’penny for those deaths.
Dickens wrote about a man who got a wake up call, so to speak. Who learned and grew and changed, due to three spirits, his old business partner and his own sense of conscience, guilt, shame and remorse. And how it was the light in his heart that got kindled toward others that made him over into a better version of himself. That light lit by his own willingness to face his past, what he had done to others, what he had allowed himself to become.
We do not see that so much in this version of Scrooge. This is a horror story, not a Christmas tale. If the goal here by the main ghost was to destroy Scrooge’s sense of self, then leave him with nothing much after that, then…hey, well done?
It was a well done production. Acting was first rate. The ghosts and other supernatural elements didn’t seem jarring or out of place or not to fit this Victorian setting. Making Scrooge into a rapey creep…just took me out of this and I could not wander back in with any sort of ability to care about Scrooge in any way. Too many women face this sort of crap, yes, I get it. It gave Mary real motivation and explained, maybe, the ghosts. She was able to see Scrooge when he and the second ghost, his sister Lottie, visited the Cratchett house. Get out of my house! might be my new go-to anthem when things get terrible, dark and twisted in my head.
But I think this production also missed the joy, love and light that are so rewarding in more traditional retellings of this well-known Christmas staple. It’s famous for a reason. I don’t want a gritty reboot of this one. No thanks. I admit it. I want a silly, happy, joy-filled, bedizened ending that fills me with happiness after watching a somewhat horrible man, a stand in for most rich people, let’s be honest, ahem, learn that others suffer and can’t get the help they need so often. So he can help the man who works for him and reconcile with his nephew, cause family family Christmas, the end.
Sorry, this was long. But the movie was long. And I wanted to write this all up while it was still fresh in my head.
I happened across my cousin, Jimmy David Cubison, near the corner of the old graveyard that my grandmother’s house overlooks. Nobody gets buried there much anymore. It’s mostly pioneers and old babies. John Gabriel Smith, born 1878, died 1879 of fever. There’s so many of those little grave stones just like that. It’s not creepy, just kind of sad. Jimmy sat near a very old statue of an angel, with her face mostly worn away. The grave she guarded had a date closer to the Civil War than the one with the Nazis. Fredrick Gimmel, read the name in what had once been very grand letters. Now it looked like dogs had been chewing on the marble. I tried to recall if there were any Gimmels still here in Council. Maybe they had moved down the road to Weiser.
“Don’t bother me, Park,” Jimmy did not take his eyes from the grave or the shorn grass around it. He held a Mason jar in his right hand, with some gunk at the bottom. “I’m busy.” A lid he could grab if he had to. The air seemed full of snow. Some of that cottonwood fluff sparkled as if dipped in pale glitter.
“What are you trying to catch?” I scratched at my cheek, getting a sunburn. The sky remained clear, the big storm the lying weather rats promised never showing up. The cottonwood fluff floating by.
“A ghost,” he said, huddling his long body up into more of a ball, eyes flicking toward me a bit. “He shows up near every day, sits here, then disappears. As if he’s waiting for something.”
I admit, a sick little thrill went through me. This seemed more fun than trying to get someone to drive me up to Mann Creek to look for the Mann Creek Ape. It’s like a snipe hunt but fun, my Uncle Chris had said. I had forgotten to ask what a snipe was. “There’s no ghosts,” I ventured and Jimmy gave me a look. A look that said just try asking for a ride into the trees. “But you never know. Hey, what’s a snipe?”
“You don’t know,” he said, almost under his breath. “ It’s a bird. You’re so dumb. Look. Go away. I’m busy. Or help me out. Some ghost lure, a jar, maybe it doesn’t matter who holds it.”
I sat nearby, because I had heard the Council Cubisons were batshit crazy. My mother’s words. Crazy seemed more interesting than Grandma Barb’s speeches on how prices at the grocery store were due to globalists who all worked for the Clintons. Otherwise, she made almond roca for my visit and last night, made meatballs with pork sausage and Spam in them. Mom had been entirely right. You just ignore what you can and eat her food. “Sure. I can hold a jar. What’s ghost lure?”
Jimmy handed me his jar. I got a whiff of dill pickles, dirt, something like horses. “Don’t sniff it. It doesn’t work as well if you sniff it. I don’t know why.” With that in my ears and my nose now not sniffing whatever mixture that was at the bottom of the jar, he slouched off toward his bicycle. An actual bicycle, not one of the motorbikes they had around here or even the famous Gator, that looked like a big golf cart. Maybe it was. The mixture had an odd, oily sheen now and then. A thickness like spit or runny snot. I watched the grave of Fredrick Gimmel but I just saw sunshine and old leaves from the years before, the fluff from the cottonwoods that were all around. Seeds, I guess. Ghosts liked the smell? Jimmy slouched back, with a lidded Mason jar and a small covered container. His jeans barely clung to his hips, his t-shirt proclaimed him a fan of John Deere, his haircut had been done with a bowl and very dull scissors, but he also looked like a movie star. Which one I was not sure, maybe the ones from the black and white movies? My mother and Aunt Perri discussed the rest of the family in our north Boise apartment kitchen, when they were not planning on how to make it big. My mother would tell me to go along now, Park, if she caught me listening. He looks a bit like if Tyrell Powers had a baby with Ermine Flynn, I had overheard my mom say. At least I think those were the names.
It was why I was here with Grandma Barb for a bit. So mom and Aunt Perri could travel to cities to play their music. They were opening for a band that pretended it was some other band. Confusing to me, but they both seemed over the moon about their real shot to get a foot in the door.
The same smell when I took off the lid. Dill pickles and dirt gone bad. Jimmy sat again, after making me take the second jar. Why not just sit there with the jar he went to get but Jimmy seemed to be an expert in jars full of gunky smelly stuff. He set the container close to his hip, his black curly hair tangled and uneven about that face where his whiskers could now be seen if you looked real hard at his cheeks and upper lip. “Stop watching me. Watch the grave. He musta thought no one would care if he showed up to take a look around.”
“Sorry. You know they all say you look like a movie star? The baby of Tyrell Powers and something Flynn? I’m not sure of the names.”
“Jesus, that shit again?” He made a huffy sound, leaned forward. “He’s late today. Who says that? I do not look like Tyrone Powers. Do I look like freaking Robin Hood? Jesus!”
“No. You look like you.” I heard things, I passed them on. Mom knew this. It’s why she made sure I was elsewhere when she and her sister held one of their intense it’s gonna happen sessions. “What’s the smelly stuff?”
“Mostly dirt.” He tilted his head, turned it, as if listening. “Shh.”
“Sure,” I said, waving my jar a bit. I looked over my shoulder at the decaying lines of gravestones, statues and markers for the dead. A big field full of dead people, rimmed with pine, locust, and cottonwood trees. Little paths that led to the dirt road that gave way to pavement. Grandma Barb’s small house behind the big wall of locust trees. “There’s just nothing to do here. Grandma doesn’t have internet, says she doesn’t need it.”
“Read a book,” he actually said. “Don’t wave that about. Hold it steady. You can walk up the road there, there’s a creek. Don’t kids like creeks?”
I perked up at once. I actually did like creeks. “Is it far? Maybe we can go on the Gator. Look for that ape. Or was it Bigfoot?”
“Just walk there. You got feet. They’re pulling your leg, Park. Little kids are sure dumb.” The black of his eyes reminded me of wet poster paint. “Now be quiet. I gotta concentrate. Just hold the jar on the ground if your arm’s tired. It has to come to the jar and go in by itself. Then you slam the lid on.”
“I don’t have a lid. So it’s like a mousetrap? Except for ghosts? How many do you have?”
“Eighteen jars of em.” He then put a finger to his lips, and I swear on my mother’s old Casio keyboard, I saw, for just a second, the outline of a big fat man sitting on the rounded top of the Gimmel gravestone. Not the jiggly fat, but a solid fat man who could rip your arms off. Like a wrestler except fat. Then just air and birds fighting over something in the far corner of the place. Jimmy leaned close, his breath cinnamon farts. “He’s been here the whole time. Just be still. I’ll take you for a ride in the Gator. Just sit here, be quiet, be still.”
For just a long moment, it seemed long but it probably was not, I saw other outlines in that graveyard. Not very many, like ten or so. Ten was the number my brain insisted on. An old lady who put her finger to her lips. A little girl who turned into sparkling sunlight and back again. A tall man who lifted his hat at me very politely. A ghost in a hat. A ghost in a hat! My head hurt, my eyes closed, the smell of that ghost lure offensive. I was offended by that smell. It made me want to sniff flowers and candy bars just so I’d remember there were good smells left. The big fat man faded. What looked like the fluff that comes off the cottonwood trees floated toward me and Jimmy, who did not even blink. That fluff caught at the edge of Jimmy’s jar, then fell downward. Jimmy slammed the lid on and oh, then threw that jar as the other outlines drew near and nearer still. The jar seemed to ripple. The grass beneath the jar turned brown, as if the glass had gone very hot. “It’s never done that,” he clutched at my arm and I patted at him. Skinny. His shoulder had so many bones. “Go get it.”
“No,” I very sensibly said. The inside of that Mason jar had turned weird. Like it was stuffed full of a tutu. I had always wanted to dance about with one of those on but my mom said ballet was for rich people. Are we rich people? No, I had to admit. You can practice in your room, she had added. Trying to stand on my toes had hurt but I still wanted one of those tutu outfits. “You get it. It’s your jar.”
“Just go get it,” Jimmy shoved at me. I shoved back. He might be made of lots of bones but he was awful strong. Still, I was not about to put up with that from some no-account Council Cubinson, as my Aunt Perri had said once on her third glass of cheap box wine. Cheap box wine for cheap boxes, which had made my mom and aunt laugh. “You agreed to help me. So help me! Go get that damn jar.”
“Fine!” I slapped the top of his black head, he pinched me before I could get out of reach. Fair was fair. The jar moved and shifted without me touching it. The lid bulged a bit. That fluff glowed in there. I looked back at Jimmy, who gaped at the jar. “What the hell did you catch in there?” A sliver of a crack grew up the side of that jar. Jimmy stood by my side now, both of staring down at the possessed Mason jar full of Mr. Gimmel. I had chills and thrills. I heard breathing just over my shoulder. Maybe the other ghosts were curious as well. A hand crept into mine. The little girl or one of the dead babies that were buried here. A dead baby held my hand. But I could not let go of the cool hand fitted into mine. Jimmy jerked his head at me, then stepped back, stepped back and my feet stumbled backward as well, though my aching eyeballs stared at that jar, which now had a river of cracks, a delta of cracks. I had learned about deltas, the end of the rivers. That’s what that cracking of the glass looked like.
Jimmy gripped my arms, yanked me back just as the jar exploded.
It went like someone had chucked a big firework inside. Glass went everywhere. Glass pieces hit me even as Jimmy tossed us both to the mowed grass. Glass rained on my back. A smell of old flowerpot dirt, the mold I had once smelled on bread, something else that was just foul and rank. Jimmy shivering, his arm holding my head down. Then nothing.
Just the birds calling back and forth, the barking of the big dog that had to live chained up guarding a falling down trailer house. The burr of someone’s chainsaw. “You okay?” Jimmy sat up, glass bits falling from him, from me as well. What remained of the jar could have fit in a mouse’s ear. The ground where it had been thrown was burned brown-black, as if someone had tried to light a fire there. Jimmy’s bike now lay on the ground, his backpack torn to shreds. His finger traced along my cheek and came away dark with my blood. I felt the press of that little girl’s hand in mine, then just my hand and my blood on my cousin’s finger, his black eyes shocked and very wide. ‘I didn’t know it would do that. The others just sort of sat at the bottom.”
“You should probably let them all go,” someone whispered in my ear, a very low man’s voice, sounding like my Uncle Chris when he had a cold. He had a cold now. “You do as I tell you, girl”
“You should let them go, too,” I said, very obedient for once in my life. Jimmy stared over my shoulder and I just knew the man who had been sitting on the Gimmel gravestone stood right behind me.
“And if I don’t” Jimmy asked. My cheek stung now.
Nothing at all said back, just the wind now, that lonely sound of branches rubbing against each other. Jimmy stared at the ground, his sunburned face almost white it was so angry and scared. “Maybe they don’t like being caught.”
“I’ll have to try something else. Something stronger. Grandma’s gonna shit herself. Your face got cut up.”
“I’ll blame the Clintons,” I said very wisely and he laughed and laughed, then we picked up his bike, then had to leave it as it was twisted into a pretzel. His backpack was a total loss, his ghost lure dumped out and oozing into the ground.
“You can’t tell none of this, Park.”
What could I tell? Had I really seen a Mason jar explode like a bomb? I had the cut on my face, though. Had a little ghost held my hand as the big ghost went after my cousin for jailing them? My dad would be coming home soon from Los Angeles. He’d been hauling freight down that way. Otherwise, I’d still be in Boise, playing Pet Mountain and drinking from a juice box. Mango melon was my favorite. I had no wish to tell any of this to anyone just yet. “Sure,” I promised and almost meant it.
I really enjoyed myself. I was expecting campy badness to the nth degree. I got a big screen attempt at an overly musical musical that does not boast any sort of coherent or linear story. This film is based on theAndrew Lloyd Weber musical—which is people dressed up like cats writhing and singing for two hours. Sure, there’s something about picking a cat to go to the Heavyside Layer. Where that cat gets a new life—this reads strangely like death. It’s a weird two hour long cat sacrifice? How Egyptian.
Cats is based on the T.S. Eliot poem—Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
The current movie has been directed by Tobe Hooper. It features Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Francesca Hayward, Ray Winstone, Rebel Wilson, etc, etc. A big cast.
I had the theatre to myself. Score! They didn’t turn the overhead light off. Bummer. Did I bother to get up and go inform someone of this? No. I was also in the tiniest theatre. There’s ups, there’s downs, there’s can’t be bothered to get up once the magic starts.
So, our movie opens on a woman throwing away a cat in a bag. No kidding. The cat gets out of the bag. We’re in some litter-strewn dumping ground for unwanted felines. Oh dear, oh what the…!
These freaky human-cat experiments, escaped from the Island of Dr. Moreau, spy on this unseen as yet kitty.
Oh my! It’s the WIDE-EYED INGENUE, Victoria. She knows nothing of this new alley cat/feral cat colony she’s lucked into. And she’s a slinky little thing who can ballet her way around several giant set pieces.
Then I start to notice that the ears and tails are, um, moving. Moving. But the cats have human faces. With whiskers. And human eyes.
Nightmares to follow.
But after ten minutes…Nope! Never. I never got used to the cat characteristics mixing so badly with the human ones. That was. No. Nope. I’ve heard the team behind this movie sent in new, improved movie magic cuts to fix the CGI mistakes that made it into the theatrical release. Wish I’d seen that earlier version…yes, I do.
That horrific cockroach/mouse fiasco. I totally agree here. It was horrific to watch mice with children’s faces…ugh. To watch a human-cat hybrid popping dancing cockroaches into her strange whiskered mouth. Surely someone in editing went—what the actual fuck is this? Followed by– cutting room floor time, y’all!
Surely someone did that. A lot. Who thought this looked okay? Who??
But—the cast of this gave it their all. Nobody phoned it in that I could tell. When it got to someone presenting their particular cat, it was great fun. Some were more fun than others. I loved the train one. That kitty can dance!
I am a huge fan of tap. Love the sound, love the precision and mastery that goes into a great tap routine. Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, just bliss for me. No, they were not in this movie. If you don’t know either of those names, then hey, you have some great discoveries ahead of you. Oh yes. You do.
The thief cats, eh, it was all right. Judi Dench as [Mama Cat] Old Deuteronomy– loved her and her singing fit her character. Gus the Theatre Cat, played by Gandalf, was sad and dignified, with a weird fluffy tail but his cat grafting seemed to fit him better than others.
Now, I wanted to be charmed by the Memories cat, played by a truly awesome power singer who made Dreamgirls a must-see. Jennifer Hudson dressed as some sort of bag lady meets Nora Desmond—baggy overcoat over sparkly yet grimy duds. Um. Okay. Why does a cat need clothes…as some of the cats had clothes, some did not; it seemed the main characters had clothes, the ensemble did not.
Some sort of overall arc got attempted here with Grizabella/Jennifer Hudson. The wide-eyed ingénue cat, Victoria, grew to like her and drew her into the performance space inside an abandoned movie house. The other cats, who had to be Jellicle cats, had to audition. Audition to be chosen to die/get a new life/change/move on.
Jellicle cats never got explained and I didn’t really care what that was. It seemed a special club made up of cats hungering to find a new life off the streets. Almost a cult of cats that other cats would have to be asked to join. It seemed Judi Dench’s cat got to control all this.
Back to Memory. The song. Who has not sung this song for an audition or for a gigantic Chinese audience? Raise your hand! Yes, I sang this for a giant audience of mostly Chinese people at the school I worked at. Yes, I managed to hit that big note. I also got to sing this with a student who had a lovely voice. Who wanted us to dress like cats. I said no to that. Memories…!
Grizabella belts out the last few verses of the most famous and infamous song ever to burst from Broadway.
And oh yes, she hit that glory note. She hit it to make Betty Buckley and ever other diva who just stood there on a stage and sang that to the heavens proud as punch. Boom. But this moment seemed contrived and false.
As for every minute up until now, most of the other cats hate this cat with an unfathomable passion. Though we do get Victoria singing the Beautiful Ghosts song as Judi Dench’s Old Deuteronmy watches, Victoria singing it to the disgraced cat who lives by herself in the wastelands. That was rather heartbreaking and rang very true. The performer did not have the voice Hudson has, but she brought a tear to my eye.
Yes, I sat by myself in an empty movie house room, with tears on my cheeks. I have surely hit all the sad spinster bingo card squares by now and then some. Sigh.
What cat gets to go to the Heavyside Layer? That was the story. Victoria allows the other cats to explain everything and then burst into song, do high kicks and back arches. She’s a plot device far more than a character.
Ah, the villain of the piece–the very sexy cat-slinky and funky fake green eyed Idris Elba. No other cat had weird fake eyes. If they did, I did not notice. No weird unblinking neon eye lenses slapped in actors eyes that I noted except Elba.
Not even Taylor Swift, who I thought did a great job with her one big number. Well done, madam! Kind of a big band standards stripper music showstopper attempt where she shimmied and strutted in high heels cause…cats wear heels but no other cats had heels on so…yep.
This bad kitty, Macavity, magicked [?] the other contenders to leave only himself to be picked. So he slunk around, acting all slinky, basically and yes, it was sexy as hell. Then he took off that pimp-ish fur coat and it was…what…what is that? It would be like Darth Vader stripping down to his undies. You’d not be delightfully scared of a baddie standing there in tighty whities. You’d be noticing the train tracks when Darth Vader turned around. Or that hey, it’s just some guy. No big deal.
Macavity and that coat was his look. Stripping that coat off destroyed that aura of menace and charm.
He’s supposed to be a ginger cat, according to the song lyrics we just freaking heard and he’s…kinda dark brown with fixed green eyes. Change the lyrics, dears.
But the movie needs something to play against so we’re not just waiting for the Next Big Song and Dance medley. Otherwise, there’s no tension. None.
Elba as the bad kitty provides some sort of urgency and, um, tension. Though why he’d wish a new life when he seems to relish creeping around being all scary. And he has magic powers. But he has to wait to be picked…yeah, don’t think about the non-plot, do not think about how there’s no actual plot to this thing. Let that go, let that go!
The pacing seemed okay. The first bit of the movie seemed to drag but then it found some sort of strange forward momentum. That’s as close as I can get to…yeah.
Now, I’ve seen Cats on stage. I know there’s no real story there. It’s just a collection of songs, with great dance bits, then the big wallop songs of Act II that do not let up; it’s over. The movie pretty much followed that, sort of.
I’d have ended it with the rewarded cat sailing off to that reward instead of where it did.
I’d have not done that CGI cat-human hybrid shit. Jesus Christ! Help! It never got charming…or forgettable. That suspension of disbelief just refused to stretch that far. I found myself watching the swiveling CGI ears far more than whatever the actors were doing. Maybe Cats the musical is just not adaptable, at this moment, to film.
Did they not learn from the Halle Berry Catwoman mess? Which, yes, I liked. But I can well understand why it tanked. It was over the top absurd, sure, but Berry tried to morph into someone’s idea of a cat. Someone who’s never been around cats. A dog person’s idea of a cat. Okay!
Anyway, thanks for reading my few scattered impressions of a movie I have been dying to see cause it looked like something the SyFy channel put out as a dare. I had a good time, I had the theatre to myself. I could laugh and cry and fart to my heart’s content.
Happy New Year. Go see something silly and fun. Hug your cat. That’s all I got.
I know I said September was a promotion blitz for my everything…but hey, Halloween, baked goods, bad dad jokes. Come on!
Now, I am a FAN of baking contest shows. The Great British Bake Off [is that the actual name?] got me all hot and bothered to find more soothing hours of people BAKING STUFF FOR PRIZES. The Food Network [porn for foodies, if we’re all honest. Are we?] has a plethora of shows around people desperately trying to bake elaborate confections during timed heats. There’s a Christmas series. There’s one centered on spring. There’s a series where kids bake elaborate stuff. Dang. How did that ten year old learn to make such stellar macrons?? What is a macron again?
Today’s main challenge–Make a ten layer cake flavored with rose water while incorporating dried grasshoppers and garlic! There’s a surprise twist that includes a 3-D sculpture of one of the Seven Wonders of the World that must be made out of two kinds of bread!
Groans! I am hooked!
Yep, so the Halloween series is my fave. I admit it. Scary clown cakes. A monster formed out of cream puffs. A smoking cake based on common nightmares. [As in dry ice is used that makes it seem fog or mist oozes from the cake. Cool, amirite??] The judges dress up in costumes. What is the budget for this show, cause those costumes and makeup…are quite elaborate and no costume gets repeated. And then I shrug, go—eh—and carry on transfixed by the successes and oh, failures of the various bakers. Cause who has not watched their pretty cake fall like a mofo??! Or rushed to get something done, that didn’t taste great? Who has not tried out weird flavor combos? Certainly not moi.
I love Halloween. It’s my absolute fave holiday. Mostly because you don’t have to spend it with family trying not to come out of your damn skin as they discuss how global warming is a hoax and how the demonrats are trying to destroy ‘murica by bussing busloads of illegals from California to Texas to vote. Cause George Soros funds all that and he’s a Nazi Jew globalist trying to replace white people with brown people. All of this said while crazy uncle gives you the side-eye to see how upset and triggered you are! I feel a bout of leprosy coming on, sorry, can’t make the Thanksgiving massacre this year!
Yeah, that’s why I prefer a holiday that’s rooted in candy and alcoholic excess. And scary movies! Yes, I’ve been monstrously drunk, happily so, during Pumpkinfest. Some of the best times I ever had were around Halloween. I love costumes! I love pumpkins! Can ya blame me? So round and orange! Punkins!
I also love ghost stories and zombies and vampires and spooky stuff. There’s that, too.
Okay! So the baking element is what actually had me at hello. I am a strictly amateur baker. I just started making homemade bread a few years ago. I usually use a cake mix for cakes. My grandmother loved them. She always sighed happily and said what a great thing it was to just mix up a cake out of a box. My grandmother loved cooking and recipes and cooking shows. Like Julia Childs. Or the Frugal Gourmet. If you’ve never heard of either, well, that’s okay. I guess we can still be friends.
I’ve been bingeing on the Halloween Baking show, as it ramps up tonight with a new season. What will it be? A wicked witch episode? A show dedicated to ghosts and spirits?? A zombie and vampire wedding extravaganza? Cupcakes and tarts and mousse, oh my! The red food coloring alone…!
Now, the host guy annoys me. I admit it. Just…stop talking. Just announce the categories, and there are two—the first one that can be bake a dozen cookies with these ingredients and shaped like this. Followed by a harder challenge and if your creation doesn’t cut it, hey, you can be sent home. The American baking shows seem to have a two part format whereas the Great British one has three distinct challenges. Except Chopped has three parts. Yes, I’ve also discovered Chopped, which I watch mainly to see how the various chefs deal with BATSHIT INSANE ingredients hidden in a basket.
Halloween baking. That’s my focus here, not Chopped. Stay in your lane now.
I also enjoy the decorating element, as this makes me try and pretty up whatever baking I attempt. Uniformity and looks! My pies don’t look like a cow came along and sat on them, for instance, since I started caring a bit about their appearance. Instead of, hey, it’s edible and baked all the way! I watch people sculpt out of chocolate or fondant or rice cereal treats. I observe buckets of buttercream frosting being colored to slap on cakes shaped like skulls or pumpkins or haunted houses. The fillings conjured up, mostly raspberry puree or vanilla bean custard, that get squirted into still hot pastries as the clock ticks down.
Ah the judging. I do enjoy the three judges. Delicious to underbaked and limp or the flat-eyed glare sent to a trembling baker. I can’t find the rum in your ganache. The bitten lip of the baker! It’s in there, the baker claims and the judge curls her British upper lip in utter smoking contempt as the other two judges either agree or dissent. There’s two Americans and one not American. Names?
Now, I’ve seen horrible looking desserts saved by their taste. A hot mess that tasted fabulous. A Day of the Dead cake that looked like I’d decorated it but which tasted like a professional baker baked it. And the guy almost in tears over how his cake appeared.
But sometimes this won’t save a baker if they’ve already had a bad baking session earlier. The judging seems arbitrary. Which is fine. It also seems to be based on personalities a bit rather than actual baked goods produced…which is also fine. Whatever. It’s television.
Anyway! Before this approaches novella length. I like Halloween. I like baking shows. A Halloween baking contest show. I’m! So! There!
Waiting for the dems to do something is sorta like waiting for glaciers to move. So I’ll watch people try to make scary stuff out of flour, eggs and heavy cream. Woot woot!
Oh the dog took over my bed last night. She’s rather like having a space heater blowing directly on you. As she sighs and flops around and settles in as I try to find a comfy position. She’s not a small dog, in other words. But I feel rather honored she chose to stay instead of stomping out to snooze in the living room. So have been up since three thirty. Cause that’s when me and Miz Bridge had to powder our noses. And the owls were hooting away and the coyotes singing the songs of their people.