Tuesday, May 22, 2001
It says something about Americans that falls are no longer the most common cause of accidents in the home; no, the most common household accident now results from... slicing bagels. Seriously. I'm not sure WHAT it says about Americans, though; I'm a two-bit philosopher, not a sociologist. Anyway.
I'm rather embarrassed to admit that tonight, I joined the ranks of people damaged in vicious bread-slicing incidents. It wasn't a bagel, though. It was a kaiser roll for my sandwich. Stopping paying attention for two seconds and dragged the bread knife across my left thumb and forefinger. Bread knives are serrated, and that hurts like a BITCH.
So I'm sitting in front of my computer, typing a little awkwardly, because I have bloody band-aids strapped to my thumb and forefinger. But at the same time, I'm proud of my little contribution to statistics.

We're not going to let those silly household falls beat OUR record!

Saturday, May 19, 2001
Geez, my third blog in two days. I must be insane.

Anyway, I just wanted to shamelessly plug a new BBS that I contribute to (and may eventually help moderate if the owner will let me, crazy cow that I am).

That BBS is Flammable, and it's devoted to calm and intelligent debate and discussion on pretty much any topic. The point being that neither badly mispelled drivel nor flaming is acceptable, and the moderators will be draconian on this point. Perhaps we ought to call it 'The Last Refuge Of The Web-Intelligent'.

I tend to write blog-like rants there and get disagreed with. Works for me!

Friday, May 18, 2001
Does everyone remember a few weeks ago, when I first documented the mental disorder known as 'Munchausen's Syndrome by Internet'? I find that I have recently disagnosed a second, related disorder, and I hereby document it here.
'Munchausen's Syndrome by Internet Proxy'.
While people who suffer from Munchausen's Syndrome by Internet often firmly believe in their own suffering/depression, those who suffer from Proxy are coldly, calmly deceiving the world to garner attention and, possibly, material gain. MSbI sufferers need never invent anything. MSbIP sufferers must invent everything.

People who suffer from MSbIP create and 'roleplay' a second, imaginary internet personality, which then suffers horribly to garner sympathy from deceived 'friends'. The proxy suffers from drug abuse, depression, crippling/life-threatening illness, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, abusive parents, abusive boyfriends, or just plain angst. Duped 'friends' then shower the proxy with advice and sympathy, fulfilling the actor's need for attention without the pesky need to do the actual suffering. Sometimes the imaginary proxy dies or kills itself to fulfill the creator's needs.
Some sufferers are content to create a proxy that is completely divorced from themselves, but certain sufferers have more powerful needs, and create a proxy that is friends with their 'real' Internet personality, or even related to them. Said sufferers thereby garner some Internet sympathy for themselves.
The 'best' thing from the point of view of the sufferer is: once too many people begin to catch on or the novelty has worn off, the proxy can just kill itself or be killed, and then the MSbIP sufferer can create a NEW proxy to suffer in new and exciting ways while their own, 'real' personality shoulders on quietly.

What's sad about this, of course, is that when a real person with Internet presence dies, people who might otherwise be sympathetic find themselves suspicious instead. MSbIP sufferers (and, by extension, MSbI sufferers), by playing on the sympathies of the unwary, are creating MORE pain for people who genuinely need sympathy and attention by denying them a large amount of that sympathy.
There are millions of genuinely sick/abused children out there, and many of them probably DO have websites. And simply because of these mental patients, we now find ourselves having to question EVERYTHING we are told on the Internet.
Except Mooncalf, of course. Mooncalf is always being straight with you! She swears on her grandmother's grave!
Oh, you didn't know my grandmother was dead? Well, it was very recent blah blah blah blah whine pity proxy...

These range from 'everybody's heard of this' to 'what the hell?'. These are all animations (or contain animated segments) that I, personally, really really like. I can't say that they're all important, or even terribly GOOD, but they make for one heck of a strange filmography...

Very VERY disturbing. Not for kids. Just see if you don't have nightmares about the hammers. Of course, if you don't like Pink Floyd's music, you'll hate this movie, that's a given; but that wasn't a problem for me.
But the animated sequences are amazing. Just amazing. And... uh... symbolic as hell.
Definitely geared towards teenagers, with a rock soundtrack and occasional foul language. I wouldn't call it a GREAT movie, but it's highly cool, the soundtrack is great, and the prehistoric computer animation segments are good for a laugh.
You'll have to be able to stand the 'Disneyrific formula' to watch this movie. Yes, it's an animated musical. But the group of lead characters are not charismatic teenagers, and there's not a smidgen of romantic love in the movie. The songs are downright COOL.
Aiiiie. Cooler animated movies than this do NOT exist. No, seriously. This is a brilliant movie. It's kind of dark and bloody, but I watched it when I was five, and I haven't killed anyone yet. Any anime 'otaku' who insist that Americans/Canadians/English-speakers can't produce decent voice actors MUST be forced to watch this movie.
(Yes, I know they made an even darker and bloodier movie out of The Plague Dogs. I haven't seen it and I ITCH to, even though I couldn't stand the book.)
Okay, so everyone's seen it. But it's GOOD, dammit. Any movie that includes a Weird Al song on the soundtrack is worth seeing. Even Pokemon 2000.
I also liked the GI Joe movie, although I can barely remember it any more.
Despite the common assumption, NOT the first animated cartoon ever made, although it was a very early attempt, and the first cartoon ever to depict realistic movement of a 'living being' (as opposed to chalk-talks or animated squiggles and lines). It still holds up beautifully.
In the late seventies, Ralph Bakshi was being touted as animation's last great hope. I really don't know about that, but he did turn out a number of really memorable animated films.
Having said that, I must admit that Ralph Bakshi's work is an acquired taste. The pacing is VERY staggered and the animation is sometimes hard to watch. Stuff like Hey Good Lookin' and Heavy Traffic is not for everyone, although I, personally, enjoy it. Equally, he did a very strange version of Mighty Mouse in the 80s that attracted some really negative attention, that strange movie Cool World, and a really lousy version of Lord of the Rings.
Anyway. When you combine Ralph Bakshi's animation with Robert Crumb's sense of character and storytelling, the result is BRILLIANT. Not for kids, though. I believe the original version was actually X-rated, and it deserved that rating.
There's a sequel to Fritz the Cat, called 'The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat'. It's not worth seeing unless you're terribly bored or completely blown away by the first one. Needless to say, animation freako that I am, I OWN a copy.
Ah, Rankin-Bass. I love Rankin-Bass. While I can't say that any of their projects were GOOD, they were all mediocre-to-good in very, very memorable ways. Almost everyone my age has seen these two made-for-TV specials, and they're both... well, they're very very good in the worst possible sense. Everybody sing along! "Where there's a whip, there's a way!...'
Speaking of Rankin-Bass! This is probably the best thing they ever did. It's got a mildly annoying folk-song soundtrack, but the movie itself is well done... it's openly melodramatic, but the sentiment is genuinely moving in spots. Plus it's got the coolest damn unicorn design.
ANY of the Beany & Cecil episodes. Talk about wacked-out stuff... incredibly weird limited animation by Robert Clampett, one of Warner Brothers' insane geniuses. They've just released these on DVD, and you can see them very occasionally on Cartoon Network...
I'm not talking about one or two cartoons. I'm talking about that eight-cassette box set that I own and love. Sitting down to eight hours or so of prime Betty Boop cartoons is just about the most surreal thing imaginable. It takes about three cartoons to get into the rhythm of Betty's world, and then it's like a roller coaster ride on LSD all the way to the bottom. I don't know what crazy-ass world she lives in, but I want to live there...
I'm talking about the original 1920s Otto Messmer cartoons here, not the Van Buren remakes. A lot of the original Felix cartoons are pretty bad, I'm sorry to say. But that powerful surreality that pervades most really old cartoons is here, and when it works, it REALLY works.
This is about as obscure as this list is going to get. In general, I really really dislike books/movies/whatever with an obvious moral or message to be imparted, but I liked this one anyway. Grim as hell, though; it looks at nuclear war as it affects the lives of a middle-aged rural couple. It's by Raymond Briggs, who also did The Snowman (which I have not seen, woe woe).
If you liked Grave of the Fireflies despite being plunged into an abyss of despair by it, then try and find When The Wind Blows.

Wednesday, May 16, 2001
I went to see The Mummy Returns a couple of days ago. While the movie itself was a perfectly enjoyable waste of two hours, it was the stupid little slide show that got me thinking. They mentioned, in passing, the movie Thirteen Days, about the Cuban Missile Crisis, a period in time that I'm quite glad I didn't have to live through. Anyway. What it reminded me of was a story of my mother's.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, my parents lived in Washington DC. And, as the crisis heated up, one night at about 2am my parents got this urge to get into the car and drive into town. At the White House, they encountered what is apparently a fairly common sight during times of national crisis: there was a ring of cars, driving ceaselessly and silently around and around the White House in the darkness, trying to let the President know that the people were with him. And my parents merged into the ring and drove around for half an hour or so, following the taillights in front of them; then went home and slept soundly for the first time in days.

Can you see people doing this for President George W. Bush, though? Neither can I. If they did circle the White House now, it would be less of a silent gesture of support and more of a pack of vultures circling a dying animal...

Friday, May 11, 2001

You know, I think it's highly ironic, really. I had the laser eye surgery done to eliminate my dependence on glasses. And now I find that I am dependent on TWO pairs of glasses instead of just one: I have to wear reading glasses for upclose work, AND sunglasses, because the laser eye surgery rendered me sensitive to bright light.
So instead of carrying one pair of glasses perched on my face out of the way, I carry two pairs of glasses that need to be stored in pocket or purse half the time. Great decision. Just great!
Don't get me wrong, I AM happy that I don't have to wear glasses constantly any more. Just... almost constantly.

The other thing is much, much stranger. It used to be that, whenever I wanted to tune out the world (when I was reading, eating, drawing, sleeping), I would just take off my glasses. Then, isolated from the world by a gentle fuzzing of details, I could concentrate on the matter at hand without much distraction. My close vision was excellent without my glasses, and the rest of the world could just... fade away.
But, you know, I can't do that any more, because I have good distance vision as well. And so I'm forced to live in the world of other people, 24 hours a day.
I am so much crankier than I used to be. For some reason.
I find myself snapping at people on IRC when I used to cheerfully and obliviously ignore them before. Lamers drive me to foaming snarling fits. My writing got less funny and more pointed. Look at all those long ranty 'Mooncalf explains it all to you' posts below.
Offline I'm also cranky, but there just tends to be less to get cranky AT. What is it about the Internet that brings out the worst in people? Including me?

Tuesday, May 08, 2001
I never could use the stairs in the normal manner when I was a kid. When I had to go downstairs, I'd sit on the top step and slide bumpily down to the bottom. Usually yelling loudly all the way down so that I could hear my voice bounce whenever my butt hit another step. My mother probably got really, really tired of hearing this four-year-old's voice going 'WUH! WUH! WUH! WUH!' all the time.
When I had to go UPstairs, by contrast, I always did it on all fours. It's actually a lot easier to go upstairs like that, although it's pretty hard to maintain any dignity while doing so. You just lean forward and put your hands two or three steps up, and race up the stairs like a dog. Faster AND easier.

Of course, you only do this on your own private home stairs. There's always really scary stuff smeared all over public stairs, plus there's a good chance that someone might see you going upstairs on all fours, with your butt waving in the air. Remember what I said about 'dignity' earlier?

But, you know. Right now I'm living in a three-story townhouse (finished basement), so there are two sets of stairs living with me... and I still go up the stairs on all fours, at least when I'm not carrying anything. Forget bouncing downstairs on my butt, though. After about age fifteen, that hurts your back like hell.

Tuesday, May 01, 2001
I love Stephen King. Unrequitedly, of course. It's a one-sided love affair, and he hasn't the faintest idea it exists, unless he reads my blog. Which I doubt. But if he does, hi Steve, I'm terribly flattered, mind if I gaze at you slack-jawed for a few hours?

Ahem. Anyway.

No, he's not the most talented writer on the face of the planet. Who is? But he does have immense talent (particularly for characterization), and an even larger grasp of craft. His works are eminently readable, enjoyable, genuinely creepy in many cases, and more or less deserving of the fame they've won. Which brings me, eventually, to my point.

I've never understood why people love to denigrate Stephen King's work so much. Well, actually, I do understand. He's so popular, so well-known, so widely read, so profilic, and so well-compensated for his work that a lot of people reject him just for his trendiness. You know, the same kind of people who automatically reject bands that have 'sold out' (signed an actual record deal) or stand around loudly complaining about how their particular fashion statement has 'just become trendy' and now all the 'brainless fashion slaves' are wearing it. I've noticed that a lot of the people who like to run down his stuff are failed or amateur writers, desperately trying to appear avant-garde by rejecting the mainstream. Hooray for them.
It's gotten to the point where anyone who complains about Stephen King's 'lack of artistic merit' in my presence is automatically marked down as a jealous poseur. If the 'sheeplike masses' like Stephen King, then he must suck, right?

Listen carefully, boys and girls. I'll only say this once, and then I'll viciously deny I ever said it.


Actually, two caveats. Both are major.
First. People ARE stupid, in GROUPS. Mobs of people do terrible, stupid things every day. But if you separate a single person from the mob of people who influence his actions, get him ALONE, a lot of the assholishness will fall away. Granted, some people are just genuinely NOT intelligent, but then:
Second. People WHO READ BOOKS are -especially- not stupid. You've got to have some certain innate intelligence to learn to read, especially to learn to read well enough to do it for fun. If they chose to read a book rather than watch TV (watch a movie, play a game, talk on the phone), hey, how dumb can they be?
(Well, okay, that doesn't explain romance novels. But romance novels aren't books, they're porn for women. Small but important difference.)

I had a point somewhere.

Oh yeah.

Shut up about the reading public. We're a lot less sheeplike than obsessive TV viewers. (Wow, there's MY intellectual bias right there.) If a lot of readers like an author, well, it's partially because the publishing company put a lot of effort into getting them interested. That might work once, twice, a handful of times. But with Stephen King: if so many people go back for more so many times, there's something there that speaks to them. Maybe it's not 'art', that incredibly selective hussy who cultivates her mysterious demeanor and reveals her hidden meanings to only a select intellectual few. But it's good writing. In some cases (Wizard and Glass), it's great writing.
Writing shouldn't be about winning the respect of intellectuals. Writing should be about engaging the minds and hearts of people willing to listen. Consciously or subconsciously, Stephen King knows this. And does it. Time and again.

While I'm not going to stand on my soapbox and proclaim that every single work he's ever sneezed near is godly, I WILL say that most of them are impressively readable, many of them are very well-written, and a few of them are brilliant. So they're not immortal works of literature destined to echo through the halls of human consciousness until the end of time. Or are they?

After all, what is immortality other than having people remember your works after you're dead? Have you seen his sales figures? Can you imagine how many people have read his books? Eat your hearts out, intellectuals.

Because that sounds pretty fucking immortal to ME.