I've completed the final pass through my novel, I just have some more description and other touch-ups to add, and then I hope to get it published by Friday, though that partially depends on whether the artist I hired comes through with the cover in time. If he doesn't, I'll be kind of pissed, but it won't be the end of the world. Anyway, I'm very sleep-deprived even by my standards. A couple of nights ago I had multiple nightmares, and I don't even know why. First, I either woke up and had sleep paralysis or dreamed I had sleep paralysis and then woke up. I imagined a shapeless white ghost thing coming through my window, and then a vague black demon thing standing over me while I couldn't move. I've read about sleep paralysis, and I don't believe in demons in large part because everything that people used to blame on them has been explained by natural phenomena like sleep paralysis, and it only lasted a few seconds, but it was still terrifying. Then I dreamed that lightning struck hundreds of times simultaneously, all over the sky, and I thought about how much it would hurt to get hit by lightning, and I wondered how anyone could survive that, and I remembered that I was more likely to get hit by lightning twice than attacked by a shark, and I decided that if I was going to get hit by lightning twice, I didn't want to live. It's weird how sometimes my thoughts in dreams are entirely coherent like that. It makes me think my brain is still working too hard.
So anyway, this post is basically filler to keep up my goal of writing one every week, and I will continue by mentioning some other things from my Spotify Wrapped that I would have mentioned last week if I hadn't been in a hurry. Spotify said that I'm a "Shapeshifter," and described my listening habits as "eclectic." That's exactly the word I would use to describe it. I also used to use that word for my political philosophy, but then I realized that one side of the spectrum is a much, much, much, much, much bigger problem than the other one. (Hint: it's the one dedicated to fighting against social equality and education.) These were my top five songs, none of which are by my top five artists, because I'm a Shapeshifter.
Cerrone - Supernature
A fun Halloween disco track that clocks in at almost ten minutes but is worth it for the way it starts small and layers instruments on each other to gradually build up to the good part. I like it when songs do that. And that's the closest I'll ever get to sounding like a legitimate music critic. Completely out of nowhere, Duran Duran covered it on a Halloween album just a couple of months ago.
Omega - Gyöngyhajú lány (The girl with pearly hair)
A hauntingly beautiful fantasy song from the sixties that sounds like it must have always sounded old. An English version was released a few years later, but the lyrics are so hard for me to make out that I find it barely more comprehensible than the original Hungarian.
Vogon Poetry - Atomic Skies
A fun song about the Fallout games. If you, like me, have never played the Fallout games, then it still works as a fun song about living in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. We'd better practice having a positive attitude about that sort of thing.
Yarmak - Ragnarok
I encountered this banger as the backing track for a compilation posted in r/ukraine of the Ukrainian military prepping to kick Russia's ass. According to Google Translate, this is what the artist said about the song on YouTube: "These lines were written just a few days before going to war. It contains my entire inner state, and I want to convey this state to every brother. A great battle is ahead, after which not only our country will change, but the whole world as well. This is a real war between the warriors of light and the forces of evil, the battle of angels against demons, people against the dead. Each of us must accept and walk this path. Today, the future of the planet is being created in Ukraine, and we must do everything in our power to defeat the horde of darkness. Perhaps this will give someone motivation, know that I will not only be by your side in song, but also physically at the front with my unit. It's time to return yours! This is not a track, not a composition, not a song - this is a spell of immortality!"
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - If We Were Vampires
According to this song, maybe love is more precious because it can't last forever because we're all going to die someday. It was always beautiful to me, but it became more poignant after I lost my faith and had to take it more seriously. I still think it's possible that human identities and relationships will persist after death, but I'm no longer confident of that, and I am confident that whatever the afterlife may look like, Joseph Smith's eternal sex fantasy is not it. I heard this song a lot because I have three versions of it on five playlists - my 2010s playlist, my Halloween playlist, my fall vibe playlist, my nostalgia playlist, and my death playlist. It works on many levels. I just realized that I should also add it to my twue wuv pwaywist.
My post about Dilbert punchlines I didn't understand as a kid is about ready to go, but Halloween is almost upon us and it comes but once a year, so I'm going to acknowledge that first. And I don't have much to say about it except that I recently watched Nosferatu (1922) and the first couple episodes of Wednesday (2022) and I went to a little party last night. So I'm just going to share another cartoon. I discovered it on a cheap DVD of black-and-white cartoons that my mom probably picked up at a grocery store. It's very weird and doesn't have much of a plot. The best part is that it introduced me to the songs "The Cop on the Beat, the Man in the Moon, and Me" (sung here by the most openly gay cops that anyone in 1933 had ever seen) and "Sing (It's Good for You)" (sung here by Margie Hines, who preceded Mae Questel as the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl). Also, though the protagonists are never identified, their names are Tom and Jerry and they starred in twenty-six cartoons before their franchise was canceled, they were forgotten by most of the world, and their names were usurped by a much funnier duo - that is, if you find animal abuse funny.
Last week I went to a haunted house attraction for the first time. I went in with a larger than average group and they warned us that it would be better with smaller groups, but none of us wanted to split up. So maybe that's why I didn't find it very scary, but I don't think the concept itself is scary anyway. When you go to a place like this, your whole intention is for people in costumes to jump out at you in the dark and yell. You know they're going to do it, you know they're not even allowed to touch you, and you know the chainsaw isn't real because that would be a million dollar lawsuit waiting to happen. (The sawdust smell was a nice touch, though.) Some mystery remains as to the precise moments when the people in costumes will jump out at you in the dark and yell, and I did get startled a couple of times, but most of the element of surprise is gone. So I don't know why people find it scary enough to yell back. It's like in the remake of "When a Stranger Calls" (I haven't seen the original) when the protagonist finds the maid's body in the fish pond and you're supposed to be shocked even though you guessed it forty-five minutes ago.
Mind you, that's just my thought on the concept and not a criticism of this particular establishment, which had fascinating costumes and decor and atmosphere and was fun regardless. But then I'm not sure why humans go to a place to get scared for fun either. I'm not sure why activating the primal instinct that tells us we're going to die if we don't get the hell out of here is a source of pleasure. I've heard that it's cathartic to exercise this primal instinct in a controlled environment where we know we're not in real danger, and I guess that tracks. But I can imagine every other species on the planet, all the generations of our pre-industrial ancestors, and otherwise objective alien xenopologists looking at this behavior, throwing up their hands and tentacles and other appendages in consternation, and yelling at us in their various languages, "What the ----ing ---- is wrong with you?" And then when the alien xenopologists learned that a lot of humans also find pain sexually arousing, they'd blow up the Earth to save the rest of the universe.
I was in a group with five people I knew from the local YSA LDS ward - I still attend their weekday activities because I like most of them - but then somehow some girl I've never seen before ended up in our group, and she was real nice and I would have thought she was flirting if I hadn't learned from harsh experience that apparent flirting is nothing of the sort and true flirting is only discernible with years of hindsight. While we were still in line - so before the scary part, although some people found the clowns walking around with obviously fake tasers scary - she touched me on the arm. I thought about the sexual misconduct prevention trainings I had to take as both a student and a faculty member at Utah State University. As I recall, they straight-up said not to touch people at all without permission, and I rolled my eyes because we all know that isn't how neurotypical people live their lives. They don't touch me nearly as often as I'd like given that touch is one of my love languages (I have a three-way tie, which makes me thrice as needy as a normal person), but when they do, they just do it. And I never touch them in return because I don't know when it's okay, and even if I did, the action would be scripted and awkward and not a spontaneous show of platonic affection like theirs are.
Some time after I had taken those trainings, no less a figure than university president Noelle Cockett touched me without permission. It was at an event where people were supposed to eat bagels and talk to her, and I think some aide signed her up for it and forgot to tell her, because she showed up late and confused. I was the first person in line who actually had to talk to her before getting bagels. So with an awkward look on her face she asked about my major and stuff, and she touched me on the arm while she talked, and that's setting a really bad example for the student body, don't you think? (Note: I'm not serious. Please don't anybody complain about her.) I don't remember where I was going with this. Happy Halloween. Anyone interested is invited to check out this post from a couple years ago on "Some of My Favorite Halloween Carols," which is hard to top, but also here's an underrated eighties song that really has nothing to do with Halloween but has zombies in the title and has been in my head lately.
In the last couple weeks I've watched three Halloween movies with my neighbors. The first was that old standard, Hocus Pocus. Neighbor Mikki hadn't seen it for a while and kept asking questions that would have been answered if she just kept watching. As I've said before, I can suspend my disbelief for all its absurdities except for the straight teenage boy running away from Sarah Jessica Parker. Someone asked how old the movie was, and I said "Thirty years, almost," and then I remembered that I was born the same year it came out and I got kind of depressed. We also went to the North Logan Pumpkin Walk that night or the following night; I've already forgotten.
Later, at my insistence, we watched Little Shop of Horrors. I only watched it once when I was fourteen but I've listened to both the film and Broadway cast recording soundtracks many, many times. My parents had the former on a cassette tape and I can even remember what it sounded like when I sped it up to make the voices funny. Alas, at my current age I've acquired a neurotic level of empathy for fictional characters and an unshakable insecurity about all the suffering and cruelty and injustice in the world, and I don't find Steve Martin's sadistic dentist as funny as I used to. The scene with Bill Murray as his masochistic patient is still golden though. Neighbor Sadie walked in on that scene and asked what the heck we were watching and I explained that it was a musical about a talking plant that eats people and not, as it appeared at the moment, a weird dental porno.
Also at my insistence, we watched Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost, a blast from the past. Since my neighbors talked nonstop through the first twenty minutes, they didn't anticipate the plot twist that anyone over the age of eight should be able to anticipate, so that was cool. When the Hex Girls showed up, Mikki said "That's Chris's kind of woman" and it was so random because I don't know how she correctly guessed that they turned me on as a kid.
When Emron and I sang along to their signature hit, Mikki decided that we should dress up as them, and Max, who'd never seen Scooby-Doo until now, should too because obviously we'd need a third one. That would have been really cool and made for some great pictures to share here, but I wasn't about to shell out for a costume.
My neighbors played cards after the movie, but I ran off to the institute dance, correctly anticipating that it would have candy and a movie playing. So I ate candy and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I'd never seen before, and it was cool and visually interesting but I don't really think it's worth watching more than once so I'm not sure why it's such a classic. It wasn't very humorous and most of the songs weren't very memorable. Some girl sat by me and talked to me a little bit and it was weird but I missed her when she left. She thought the movie was creepy so it's just as well she didn't stick around for the climax.
Last night I went to ex-neighbor Hailey's Dia de los Muertos party (because she has to be pretentious and do things in Spanish to show off that she knows Spanish) and ducked out early to go to graduate instructor colleague Kylie's smaller party because I've got to be loyal to my graduate instructor colleagues. We played Quiplash, which had nothing to do with Halloween, and I didn't dominate like usual because I had worthy opponents. Then we played three variations on Mafia/Werewolf - first with BYU students getting killed off by DezNats, then with villagers getting killed off by werewolves, then with colonists en route to Alpha Centauri getting killed off by native Alpha Centaurians trying to protect their race from being overrun and slaughtered. On that last occasion, the colonists scored a swift victory with only one fatality, so that was bittersweet for those socially conscious graduate students.
I don't anticipate doing any more Halloween stuff today, on Halloween, since I just want to relax and do the homework that I should have done in the last few days but didn't because I'm bad at structuring time on my own.
Before the, ah, falling out with my ex-neighbor Talease, I hung out with her one evening and she loaned me Wizard's First Rule and we watched Legion because she found horror movies relaxing. Shortly thereafter the book inspired me to create a fantasy-themed Spotify playlist and her fondness for horror movies inspired me to create a horror-themed Spotify playlist as a gift for her, and of course I still have them both even though I've long since burned the book and never developed much of a predilection for horror movies.
The horror playlist is titled "Boo" and recently I added a skull emoji as I was adding emojis to most of my playlist titles. The other day it picked up a follower for the first time, so that was cool. I hope this follower has the right expectations. The playlist has children's songs, but it is not intended or appropriate for children. It has some more intense stuff too. But not too intense because, like Halloween itself, it is meant to be in fun and not just dark and unpleasant. I have an angst-themed playlist for being dark and unpleasant. So for example, I've reluctantly excluded Rammstein's song based on a true story of erotic cannibalism (if you haven't heard of Armin Meiwes, don't Google him), but the tamer one about normal cannibalism is fine.
Like most playlists, after its initial creation and spurt of adding songs for a few days, I settled in and just added another song periodically when I stumbled upon one that would fit. Then last month a new neighbor moved into the apartment where Talease used to live, and wasted little time in putting up Halloween decorations. She put up a plastic sheet with skeletons on it over the front door, and for a while I saw them out of the corner of my eye and thought they were people, and it triggered me into actively seeking out music to increase the length of this playlist. And I asked my returning neighbor Mikki to ask her for music recommendations, and then I waited a bit, and then Mikki added her to our little neighbor group chat, and what happened next is the entire reason for this post that I've been building up to, even though I'm just now realizing it's not nearly as funny if you weren't there.
Now you may be thinking, "That is kind of sassy, but it's not that sassy, just a little sassy." That was my thought, but it turned out to be one too many pieces of sass.
Within like ten seconds, before Levi had even responded, I heard yelling through the kitchen wall. I couldn't tell what she was saying but I could tell it was directed at me. Then with impossible speed, I heard banging all over my front door like a rapid-fire battering ram. This was kind of hypocritical on Mikki's part. She and ex-neighbor Hailey made fun of me once for knocking too timidly, so after that I always made sure to knock vigorously and then they complained that I sounded "like a serial killer" because of course serial killers always knock first, unless they have a no-knock warrant. Yet here she was just pounding away.
I opened the door just a crack and she said, "Say that to my face."
I pretended not to know what she was talking about. I pretended I didn't remember what I had just said thirty seconds ago because I text a lot of people. They weren't lies because there was no risk of her believing them.
I came outside, where she threatened to beat me up. Sadie stood a few feet back with a grin and her phone out to apparently record it. A neighbor from upstairs came down to see what the commotion was about, and my roommate who usually stays cooped up in his room came to the door as well. Mikki held a hand above her head and said she'd had it up to there with me, and then, before I could make a sassy comment, explained, "That's five foot three." She said something about a camel with straw stacked on its back. And maybe, despite her size, she actually could beat me up. Her dad's a cop and may have trained her in unarmed combat. I also know she used to carry around a screwdriver for self-defense. She said she knows how to break into my apartment and she knows where I sleep. Aren't double standards interesting?
She didn't beat me up because she actually loves the rush of anger she gets when I sass her. My roommate went back to bed and the rest of us talked for at least half an hour even though I should have been doing homework. Sadie gave me an unexpected number of song suggestions because it turned out that she loved music in general, but she wouldn't like my Halloween playlist because metal is the one genre she doesn't listen to.
That story was funnier in my head. Sorry.
This weekend, some of us are ticked off because two apartments are flooding because when the roofers illegally woke us all up at 6:30 to fix the roof the week before school started, they failed to actually fix the roof. So that's nice.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.