Infuckingvincible.

I run.

Gravel leaps beneath my feet as I rush for cover.  I am close enough now that I excuse the muted clatter of pebble against pebble.  The ground turns to hard rubber and my steps thud heavily as I abandon any pretense of stealth and sprint for the bridge, mere feet away.

It’s a pathetic bridge, only about four feet off the ground, bright red in color and dotted with holes, but it will do.  Even with the holes it offers more substantial cover than the small trees nearby.

Behind me, smiling at my chaotic retreat, is my pursuer.  His arms rise.  His eyes glint.

His confidence wins me the spare seconds I need.  With a thump, I dive safely behind the bridge’s red siding.  I hear a bang the moment I slide my back against the siding’s cool surface.  I almost flinch.

Cautiously, I peek through one of the coaster-sized holes in the plastic and see his head, looking down at his hands.  He knows he fired too late.  I cock my pistol, stand, reach over the rail and fire in one clean movement.

Point blank.  Those guileless blues eyes doubtlessly blasted into oblivion.

He is still standing.

He lifts his arms in victory and screams “I have a forcefield!” and shoots me in the arm, chest, face, hair, shoe.  He recklessly kills me over and over and over again.

“Your bullets are marshmallows.”  I grumble.

~*~*~*~

Children don’t die when they have gunfights anymore.  There are no losers when sticks are rifles and hands cradle invisible pistols.  Even when it’s a swordfight, when there is no longer the margin of error that surrounds imaginary bullets, no one falls in mock pain or switches their sword to the other hand because the other one got chopped off.

When I played this game with my peers if you shot somebody they died.  I mean, sure, sometimes your aim was off or they were really fricking far away, so when they kept running towards you, you reloaded and shot again, but eventually somebody fell.  I usually feigned an arm wound so I could pull myself up to my knees with a pained expression on my face and fire a last parting shot.

Playing guns is no fun anymore, because everyone is invincible.  The kids have force fields and absurdly sharp, impenetrable Captain America shields.  Or they are Superman and when you shoot kryptonite at them they say it doesn’t count.

Legit, what happened to the good old days when you shot someone with your finger and they crumpled to the ground with an overly theatrical scream?

I brought my kids (I nanny) to see Kung Fu Panda 2 the other day (it was awesome, despite every action scene clearly being a setup for videogame production) and I realized that one of the reasons why kids don’t die when they play guns now, is because no one dies in children’s action movies and Kung Fu Panda is the perfect example of that.

Po is an idiot, he’s uncoordinated, out of shape, and not particularly motivated, but he thrives as dragon warrior because he has some ineffable quality that keeps him alive and successful.  There was not one corpse in Kung Fu Panda 2.   If anything died it disappeared, and most of the time, despite huge explosions and epic kung fu battles, even the bad guys would just get up and dust themselves off a little bit.

In order to create emotional moments, of course, the hero’s parents or children are allowed to die (usually only one per movie) and create the hole in our hero’s heart that sustains the plot, but other than that unless it’s a fakeout (which happens all the fricking time), death is not acceptable.

I’m not saying that children should be pummeled with the reality death or anything like that because they are clearly just playing.  However, playing is how kids shape their worldview and from what I can tell from the games my kids and I play “Justice” or “Right” do not factor into their worldview yet.  It’s kill and survive through inherent superiority.   There is not even a glimmer of recognition that there might be something out there that could get them.

Confidence is great.  Overconfidence is deadly.

Seriously…shouldn’t kids at least kind of understand the underlying implications to what happens on the screen?  If we’re comfortable letting them watch (or play games that emulate) war and fighting, shouldn’t we do them the service of letting them also observe a cause and effect relationship in what they watch?

If nothing else it will make having faux gun battles with them a little more enjoyable.

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Echo

She is me.  Her tears are my tears and her prostrate form, spreadeagled across her bed as she succumbs to the sleep that slithers so stealthily after sobs, is mine also.  Her desires to be heard, to leave, to prove that there would be a hole if she was gone, to be held by someone who would just care the littlest bit…that was mine, too.  That clenched up feeling that is an explosion waiting to happen, soothed just enough by the dark and the quiet that it will crawl, ever so slowly, back into the nowhere deep within her until the next time the outside world so cruelly invites it out again.

It isn’t sadness.  It isn’t fear.  It isn’t even anger, although that might have been what I called mine when I was her.

It is helplessness, the worst of all hurts.

She is not me.  I am not her.  She is only a girl who grew up a decade behind me, whose life subtly echoed mine enough that every time she was hurt I felt a stab, too.  She grew up in chaos and emerged beautiful and strong and as a bit of a threat to those closest to her.

We arrived in sunshine and smiled at new superheroes and their antitheses sketched heroically in crayon.  The sunshine flickered ever so slightly and frustrated voices blasted down the hallway, unsuccessfully seeking  censorship.

An invisible hand drove into my chest and found something soft to squeeze.  Rewind six years and there I am…

I wrapped myself in the silent dark, that she, too, seeks, and inwardly screamed at the world for not coming to my aid when I needed it.  How could those who I loved, who supposedly loved me, not see that when my door slammed and I was lonely and invisible in the dark…it was then that I most wanted someone to wordlessly stroke my hair and tell me how beautiful, how kind, how good I truly was?

No apologies or explanations.  No promises.  No reason or logic.  Just heartful words of love and admiration.  Why didn’t you let me see the good in me when the shadows closed in?

Help her see the good in her when her world hardens into charcoal.

Meowmorphosuck

A couple days after I arrived back in the States I was wandering around downtown Chicago and, as I tend to do, I wandered myself right into a bookstore.  One of the first books I noticed was Meowmorphosis, which I immediately took a picture of, with the intention of tweeting it with a caption that ran along the lines of “futility at its finest:  absurdifying absurdist fiction.”

(The Meowmorphosis is put out by Quirk Classics as a parody, for lack of a better term, of Franz Kafka’s The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis is about a man named Gregor Samsa who works as a traveling salesman, which he hates, to support his father, mother and sister.  The story begins on the day he wakes up to find he has turned into a huge bug.)

I bought Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, instead.

Clearly, I kind of like classics turned into something almost new by adding vampires, zombies or sea monsters.  However, choosing a book that is already a little bit left of center and making it a different kind of crazy does not make very much sense.  Think of your own idea instead of piggybacking.

    

The reason this worked so well (conceptually, at least, as I have not read either of the above books) with Jane Austen is because her fiction, although satirical, is ordinary and straight-laced when compared to a story about a man who wakes up one morning as a gigantic insect.  The dissonance is what makes the rewrite work.

A few days ago I saw The Meowmorphosis at the library.  There are some books that are impossible to invest in when they require money, but when all that the tiny novel is asking is for a little bit of time…how could I say no?

Since I’ve started reading I have bounced wildly between disgust, boredom, frustration, kind of liking and completely enjoying the book.

The beginning was bad because Cook essentially copied Kafka word for word (which is what is done effectively in the Jane Austen books) to the point of inanity.

For example, when Samsa (insect edition) first tries out his new limbs, the struggle makes sense.  “He had…numerous little legs which never stopped waving in all directions and which he could not control in the least.  When he tried to bend one of them it was the first to stretch itself straight; and did he succeed at last in making it do what he wanted, all the other legs meanwhile waved the more wildly in a high degree of unpleasant agitation” (Kafka 5).

A supine bug waves its legs like mad.  A supine cat should not have that problem.  Unless it is in a Quirk Classic, that is.  The same passage, cat style, reads thusly “…If he wanted to bend one of them, then it was the first to straighten itself, and if he finally succeeded doing what he wanted with this limb, in the meantime all the others, as if left free, moved around in an excessively darling agitation”  (Cook 15).  I understand that adjusting from two legs and two arms to four legs might be a bit of a challenge, but somehow I doubt that it would be so similar to waking up as a bug.  Be a little creative, Cook.  Please.

Outside of that, Samsa’s family, who feared him outright as an insect, were torn between fear and a need to hold him and coo at his cuteness as a cat.  When Kitten Samsa first emerges from his room his manager “press[ed] his hand against his open mouth and mov[ed] slowly back” and then ran down the stairs without his belongings.  Alternately, Samsa’s mother (because women cannot avoid the inherent adorable nature of kittens) “collapsed right in the middle of her skirts, which were spread out all around her, her face sunk on her breast, peering at him with large and delighted eyes.  She held out her arms and Gregor leapt happily into them…”  (Cook 29).

I was also a wee bit frustrated with Cook’s indecision regarding the cat’s size.  Supersized or ordinary? Pick one and stick with it, dude.

Eventually the exorbitant use of the words “adorable” and “fluffy” and Samsa’s need to constantly knead carpets, curtains and bedspreads with his super-cute paws forced me to chill out a little and just read the book for the hell of it.  When I stopped taking the book the least bit seriously I really liked it.  I mean, it’s a children’s book for adults.  When is the last time you read a silly book about a kitten?

However, about 30 pages after I stopped taking the book seriously the book started to take itself seriously and turned, not only into a commentary on itself, but on its inspiration, existence, catdom, dreams, etc.

In Cook’s version people often turn into animals in their sleep and instead of doing the noble thing and dying in their bedrooms like Insect Gregor did, they jump out of windows and triple the story’s length by talking too much and licking their paws in superficially similar but intrinsically different ways.  It’s a cat thing.  We wouldn’t understand.

Worst of all, there is no room for interpretation in this text.  Coleridge invented characters that say what they mean so explicitly that it feels like reading Sparknotes, Director’s Cut, which is to say that there were tons of unnecessary details that took away from the streamlined nature of a good text, but it was condensed to only be the boring stuff.  Take this page and a half long speech that I have cut down for your reading “pleasure” as an example:

“There was much symbolism in my monologue if you cared to listen…in addition, the whole chapter was an allegory for the Bohemian anarchist movement and the essential unknowability of the world.  Didn’t you notice?” (Cook 97-98)

I have not finished yet.  Samsa’s current paralysis regarding whether he should allow the cats to continue prosecuting him or if he should just go home is mindnumbingly boring and redundant to boot.

I only have about 50 pages left.  Maybe it will improve.

Regardless, the middle of this book sucks.

What I read:

Cook, Colridge and Kafka, Franz. The Meowmorphosis.  Philadelphia:  Quirk Books, 2011.  Print.

Kafka, Franz. The Basic Kafka.  New York:  Washington Square Press, 1979.  Print.

Edit:

I have now finished The Meowmorphosis.  When Gregor returned home to where he should be, I again found the book rather manageable.  I still had my issues with kitty size and whatnot, but appreciated the tribute to the apple throwing and like the use of the too tight collar in lieu of the rotting apple to bring about the ending the book had to have.  It fit.

If you want to read this book read the beginning and the end.  As soon as the cat jumps out the window skip to the part where he comes back home and methinks you’ll enjoy it as a comedic reinvention of The Metamorphosis.  I would have, anyway.

The Sabbath Quandary

Yesterday I got an email from a friend of mine.  She asked if I could meet her for lunch on Sunday so we could talk about the film festival we worked at last fall.  She was one of the integral volunteers at the festival, not quite a director, but probably one of the five most important people involved (we will call them the ‘Fly Five’ here on out). The festival could not have functioned without this friend. Now she wants to get my opinion on how the festival ran last year and how I want to be involved this year.

I do not, for a few reasons.

1.  I did not feel particularly needed or appreciated last year.  I was somewhere in between a run of the mill volunteer/flunky and the Fly Five), which basically meant that I worked more than other volunteers for less perks.
2.  The work that I did was the work that the Fly Five did not want to do, which is fact, not speculation, because they told me as much.  I took a lot of time out of my schedule to make sure that everything I did for them was exceptional, regardless. On the second to last day of the festival they told me that my work was not very important.
3.  Men.

I will keep you posted on that half of the story as it updates (if it is entertaining), but there was something more interesting in that first paragraph:

She wanted to meet on Sunday.

Background:  Recently, I decided to start doing two things that I did not even do when I was a hardcore, obnoxious, in your face, move-out-the-way variety Christian.

I have started tithing.  When I was young I did this as a formality.  Whenever I got birthday money or cash from babysitting or I would take 10% and put it into an envelope labeled “Tithes”, which was then meant to go to church or a charity I thought God would like. Somehow the money never made it from the envelope in my sock drawer into the offering basket.

I have also decided to observe Sabbath, which I have never done for more than five hours at a time (which does not count.)  My current plan is to not do anything work related on Sundays or use any technology.  This definitely covers computer and cell phone and I am pretty sure that I will extend the ban to television (and therefore movie theaters) and music players as well.  Cameras, I think, do not count.  Sabbath is midnight to midnight.

Reaction:  When I was trying to figure out how to respond to my friend, I realized that this will probably be a rather common occurrence.  I will get invitations to gatherings and meetings and I will have to turn them down on religious grounds.  Will I be honest about why I cannot attend meetings, see movies or make a little extra cash on Sundays, or will I hide the truth?

There are both religious and secular reasons to hide the truth.  “Do not let your left hand see what your right hand is doing” would be the religious reason.  The secular reasons are too many to name, but can probably be summarized in a word and a short phrase:  “shame” and “fear of seeming pretentious.”  It seems stupid to lie, though.  If Sabbath is important enough for me to clear my Sundays, it only makes sense that I am honest about it if it comes up.

This dilemma is new territory for me.

Religiously (spiritually, if you prefer) I have no idea where I stand.  I enjoy praying, especially the long thankful prayer that has become my morning standard and covers everything from sunshine to family, a nice bed and friends who care about me.  I do not read my bible often, but I read the devotional, My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers), that Vicki gave to me.  My dedication to that is great enough that every day I read the assigned entry several times, with highlighter and pencil in hand.

I do not think I am a religious (spiritual) enough person to have this issue, but that is probably why it is one.  I have the desire to explore further and have realized that I can do that through the Sabbath, but due to my uncertainty, I do not yet have the confidence to own that desire.

Concisely, I believe in my gut, but not in my head.  Oswald Chambers says this is ok.  Oswald Chambers is not God, but maybe God agrees with him.

The hope is that, like my prayers of thanksgiving, Sabbath will give me an opportunity to get a little bit closer to this big, invisible something that the me of my childhood loved.  The hours devoid of technology, worldly problems and money will be filled instead with prayer, church, introspection, conversation, and the reading of all sorts of religious texts and commentaries.  I am not limiting my Sabbath to Christianity.  I am limiting it to the big Something.