The last couple weeks have brought a few phenomenally crappy days that I would have liked to sleep through. Thanks go out to Tyler, Jen, Eliana, and Lorelei for their support, to Tori for the pizza and brownies, and to the guys from church for a blessing. They're relatively new to the ward and I've been here for over five years so by all rights I should be the one taking them under my wing and showing them around and stuff, but I guess that's not my thing. And then they asked "Is there anything else we can do for you?" and I never know how to answer such an open-ended question. How much money can I ask for without being rude? I was told there's a spot reserved for me in the Celestial Kingdom. I assume that's metaphorical. What's a "spot" in the Celestial Kingdom? "Here's where you'll be sitting for eternity. It's very comfortable." This is a thought I had while half-awake and delirious. Sometimes I think that should be my excuse for my entire blog.
The other day while Audrey was working at her computer I snuck up on her and put my face really close to hers and waited for her to notice. When she did, she jumped and moaned with fright. I thought that was a rather rude and uncalled for reaction to my new look.
Audrey: That was not nice!
Me: Then why are you smiling?
Audrey: Because it was good.
Me: You should be flattered that I tried to look like you.
Then she left and came back and I pointed out that there was something on her water bottle. She looked at it and then just rolled her eyes at me, which I felt was unfair because I saw someone else scare her with a considerably smaller spider. But apparently I'm a "bad actor" or something.
But a few minutes later, I started to get jealous of the attention she was giving her computer instead of me, so I snarled and made the spider jump on her hand. And somehow that scared her. As you can surmise, it was a very good day.
Reader discretion is advised for this section due to disturbing content.
Even at my ripe old age I still periodically become aware of disgusting or disturbing things that make me wish I didn't live on this planet. And then I often feel compelled to keep looking at them or researching them until I get all the facts and/or become desensitized. For example, I once learned in a roundabout way that a 1995 computer game called "Harvester" has a scene of children eating their mother. I felt compelled to actually look up the scene on YouTube, and I was glad I did because it was far less disturbing than in my imagination. I had imagined the children sitting around a dinner table with their mother's corpse sprawled across it. In the actual scene, however, the mother is very much alive and too tired to pay attention to the children taking bites out of her limbs. She matter-of-factly explains to the player that this is a metaphor for parenthood. So I could rest easy with that.
"Look, tell you what, we'll eat her, if you feel a bit guilty about it afterwards, we can dig a grave and you can throw up in it." (Name that reference)
"Harvester" is still gratuitously disturbing, but another game released that same year makes it look like a church picnic. "Phantasmagoria" was very controversial upon its release and is extremely violent even by today's standards. The backstory is essentially this: a magician messes around with dark arts and gets possessed by a demon that makes him murder a succession of five wives in various horrific ways that I don't feel like describing. Local people just assume these deaths are all bizarre accidents, which is pretty stupid of them. I mean, I'm sure with all the billions of people who have ever lived that some guy has indeed been unlucky enough to have five wives die in bizarre accidents, but his neighbors should have been veeery suspicious. Certainly the fifth wife in this story would seem to have been a few fries short of a Happy Meal - perhaps she fell prey to the gambler's fallacy and wrongly assumed that because four wives had already died in bizarre accidents, it was less likely that she would - but to her credit she figures out what's going on and her lover manages to mortally wound the magician before he kills both of them.
A century or so later, a young couple moves into his mansion. Original, right? The woman goes exploring and accidentally unleashes the demon which, unknown to her, possesses her husband. Over the course of a week she learns the backstory and witnesses all the murders in magic flashbacks. Meanwhile, her husband is becoming more and more of a jerk. In the most controversial scene of the game, which the writer argued was necessary for some reason, he rapes her. And later on he chases her and tries to kill her. Oh, and also there's an old woman and her mentally handicapped son who get killed somewhere along the way. There are several gory death scenes for the protagonist throughout the game if the player fails, most famously getting her head ripped in half. But if the player succeeds, she kills him instead and then dispels the demon. And then she wanders away from the mansion in a daze. The end. I mean, I'm sure there were also years of therapy afterward but those aren't shown.
I haven't played the game or watched a walkthrough of the game and I'm never going to do either of those things, so my knowledge is incomplete, but I think that's about it. Oh, and all the characters are portrayed by live actors. Delightful.
I sort of get why this sort of thing is appealing. It's not meant to be pleasant. You're not supposed to "enjoy" the gore and the pain and the terror, per se. But it is cathartic somehow to experience fear and disgust in controlled environment at times. I think it's similar to the appeal of sad movies and songs. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for "Walking on Sunshine", you know? Which is a great song, don't get me wrong. But sometimes a guy singing about how he wants to die is more helpful because it's like someone is commiserating with you instead of invalidating your problems and telling you to just get over it. And I think this is similar. While most of us try to ignore the ugliness in the world most of the time for our happiness and sanity, there can be something refreshing in a sick kind of way about embracing it now and again. I don't know, maybe this is all crazy talk. But I think I get why people liked this game. It was Sierra's first title to sell over a million units and made their stock value skyrocket.
Myself, like I said, I have no desire to get any more into it than my web research already did. I did recently watch a legit horror movie for the first time (horror comedy musicals don't count and I found "Poltergeist" to be far more weird than scary) and while I don't intend to make a habit of that, I did appreciate the experience. Even though Christopher Lee's and Christopher Walken's acting talents were grossly underused and I'm not just saying that for the obvious reason. But at least the people in "Sleepy Hollow" died quickly. Swish, plop, dead. That reminds me, I wrote a comic script related to that topic.
Horseman: Oogedy boogedy! It is I, the headless man, the spookiest spook that ever spooked!
Tyler: Where's your horse?
Horseman: Oh, I'm not a horseman anymore. Feeding and cleaning up after him was such a hassle.
Tyler: Well, he was part of your trademark. You just aren't distinctive or spooky without him.
Horseman: So... this isn't cutting it?
Tyler: Use the horse, spook.
If it had been more like "Phantasmagoria", way over the top for my tastes, I would have been too squeamish and walked out. That's definitely not my speed. And the reason this sort of thing really bothers me is that while games and movies are fictional, pain is not. And they remind me of that and I hate it. Every type of suffering portrayed in "Phantasmagoria", and worse, has been experienced by someone somewhere. I hate to think about that. Physical pain is the worst in my book. I feel very blessed to just have this emotional crap. Give me depression over a hangnail any day of the week. Oh, and also I was forced to ponder the question of how, demon or no demon, you can be sure that your spouse will never murder you. And the answer is, you can't. Yay. Getting married is an enormous leap of faith. Of course, if their previous four spouses are dead, there's a very slight chance that just might be a teensy little red flag.
Phantasmagoria - Take a Stand
I love listening to music, of course, but on top of that I have a literal addiction to collecting it without regard to whether I actually like it. I've downloaded thousands and thousands of songs from the internet without listening to them first, often just because they were (legally) free. And that includes hundreds of soundtracks from games that I've never played. Now Phantasmagoria is on that list. The music, fortunately, gives no indication of the disturbing stuff. Unfortunately the quality is crap because of how it was compressed. The opening theme, "Consumite Furore" ("Consume With Your Rage"), used a choir of 150 people, but with how the quality was reduced it sounds more like a third that many. Anyway, this cheesy closing song stands out in stark contrast to the overall tone of the game, and redeems it a bit in my eyes. It's a testament to the indomitable human spirit, to having hope in the face of ungodly nightmares that no one should ever have to live through. And it's catchy.
"Do you want to talk about it?" she asks.
Yes, I think, but I can't. It would make you feel bad and besides, I promised myself that I would never use you as a crutch.
"Come on, let's talk about it. What are you thinking?"
I can't tell you. I have to suppress this. I don't want you to feel my pain too.
She draws some of it out of me anyway. Now she's repeating my words back to me like a therapist. "Your dreams have been shattered... You've hit a wall and can go no further."
"Is there anything I can do for you?"
Can you make this just be a nightmare, and wake me up from it? No? Crud. Well, the next best thing would be to get me something hot and yummy to eat, but I can't ask you to do that.
"I don't want you to lose sleep over this or anything."
Heh. I know I will, but honestly, after the usual routine of losing sleep for no discernible reason it's almost refreshing to know why for a change.
I did lose some sleep, incidentally, but it wasn't too awful. I corralled my emotions into a cage of logic and evidence and told them to pipe down. They just yipped and whined at me for a while and then gave up. Alas, as I was sleeping they evidently found a weak spot in the cage, because I woke up in the middle of the night with emotions bursting out of my chest like the xenomorph in the "Alien" films. That was literally the analogy that came to my sleep-addled mind while it was happening, even though I made up the cage bit just now.
In times of distress I usually draw inward into a self-destructive cycle instead of turning outward to God. God seldom assuages my pain as I would like, and I guess that makes sense. Would you be a loving parent if you went along with your child begging you not to vaccinate him because the needles hurt? But this time, for whatever reason, I just cried out in my mind, God, remove this cup from me. It is more than I can bear. I don't remember whether I said please or not. I remember that I thought of the Savior, whose words I had just paraphrased, and that He had concluded saying "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done", and that I really ought to be humble and do the same. But I didn't want to. I am not the Savior; I am just a weak, frail mortal fool and I couldn't stand it for a moment longer.
Of course, whether I said "thy will be done" or not was ultimately irrelevant because God does His will with or without my permission. He's got some nerve, hasn't He? But this time, to my immense relief, He did as I asked. The storm was calmed. I relaxed and went back to sleep.
Our second discussion brings us to the same place. "What do you want me to do?" she asks. "What do you want me to do?"
Is this a serious question? Should I answer honestly? I want you to kiss me.
The worst part about watching some of my current aspirations implode in a manner of seconds is not being able to take a break from life and recuperate for a while. I still have to study and do homework and go to work and lie to everyone who says "How are you." Why can't I just have a universal remote that lets me pause things for a while? Is that too much to ask for? Well, actually, I would also use that remote to rewind and fix all my mistakes (I'd need several spare batteries for that), fast-forward through all the bad parts (I'd need several spare batteries for that), and mute all the annoying people and sounds (let's just assume that since this is a magical remote anyway it also has an unlimited power supply).
Speaking of remotes, let's talk about movies, just because.
I grew up believing, as many Latter-day Saints did, that the Church of Jesus Christ has an official prohibition against watching R-rated movies. In actuality, there isn't really. That would be kind of silly since the vast majority of the world doesn't use that rating system, and it would also convince the faithful that every PG-13 movie must be just fine and dandy to watch. So I could in theory find an R-rated movie that I felt was worth watching, and watch it, but I never have and likely never will since I'm used to avoiding them and don't even watch movies all that often anyway. But a few months ago, right before school started, I watched one without even realizing it, until I looked it up on imdb afterward and had a bit of a surprise. I watched the movie on somebody's laptop on the bus ride from the airport after my trip home, and it ended just as we got to the transit center, so that was convenient.
The movie was called "Lucy". I'm still not even sure why it was rated R, but whatever. Maybe because the violence was too realistic. When Lucy the innocent bystander who just happened to get involved with a sleazeball gets captured by a drug lord and watches him kill people, she doesn't take it in stride and make wisecracks like protagonists are supposed to do. She cries and hyperventilates and throws up. Which I think is actually a good thing because it's closer to how a real person would react, and therefore less desensitizing for the audience, though it's probably too late for that. The movie itself was okay, not great, and probably not worth watching more than once, largely because my suspension of disbelief was ruined by the plot literally revolving around the stupid "You only use 10% of your brain" myth. Because we all know that after most head injuries the doctor says, "Good news! You only damaged part of the 90% of your brain that you don't use!"
In my World Sacred Literature class, the teacher had to leave for surgery for a couple days, so we watched this movie about the Trojan War. The Greeks want to go chase after Helen of Troy, but they can't because there's no wind to blow their ships. The oracle tells King Agamemnon that the only way to get wind is to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. And from there, a half hour plot stretches over two hours as he makes his decision and then vacillates back and forth about it and gets into arguments with his wife and brother. The movie was entirely in Greek, which was a nice touch, except that the white subtitles were poorly animated and often difficult to read against the white robes or white boulders.
The girl next to me, who responded curtly and then ignored me when I tried to talk to her at the beginning of the semester, was suddenly talking to me and laughing at things I said that weren't even funny. At one point the camera panned rapidly across the masts of several Greek ships and I remarked, "I think they're just showing the same ships over and over." She laughed. Why is that funny? I wondered. If she had telepathic powers, she might have responded, It isn't really, but this movie is so dull that I've drastically lowered my entertainment standards as a survival mechanism.
Shortly before Halloween I attended a 25 or Better activity, as I often do despite not being 25 or better. Maybe it's just me, but I always get the vibe that most people there are just waiting to die. Among other things the film "Hocus Pocus" was being shown, and I watched it for the second time (the first time being Halloween of last year). The guy next to me kept giggling like an insane cartoon character at every other line, regardless of whether it was funny or not. I wanted to kick him in the head. I also couldn't shake the thought that if I were Max, I wouldn't at all mind being captured by Sarah Jessica Parker. I'm sorry.
Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost
I hadn't seen this in about fifteen years, since it was new, so I was happy to be able to watch it while doing laundry at a friend's house. Some of it was vaguely familiar; much of it hardly remembered at all. I didn't notice when I was a kid that much of the animation seems inspired by/ripped off of anime, perhaps attempting to piggyback on the then-current Pokémon craze. The main thing that had stayed vividly in my mind were my crushes, the Hex Girls, but since I had looked them up on YouTube in the intervening time I already knew that their music was just as awesome now as when I was little.
The Hex Girls - I'm a Hex Girl / Earth, Wind, Fire and Air
Some friends/neighbors decided to watch one Star Wars movie per week until the new one is released, and invited me to join. We've watched the first two so far. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, before George Lucas sold his franchise to Disney and abandoned his plans to re-release them all in 3D, I took a friend that I was kind of in love with to see "The Phantom Menace" and it was the closest thing to a date I'd ever been on, marred only by the fact that I already knew she was a lesbian. I thought back to that as I watched it again with these people. I was feeling stressed, and that reminded me that I'd been feeling stressed back then too, and I had decided to just shut off everything else in my brain except Star Wars and pretend I didn't have any problems for two hours. I don't even remember what I was stressed about, but considering that the next two months were hell, it was validated in one way or another.
I still remember when "The Phantom Menace" came out because I first heard about Star Wars through the Lego sets that were being released at the time, and I thought at first that Star Wars was a Lego movie. There was this Lego minifig named Chewbacca and I thought "Hey, he has the same name as Emily's [my cousin's] cat!" My parents went to go watch it in the theater and I wanted to go with them but they wouldn't let me because they thought it would be too scary. They were probably right. When I did see it on VHS (!) a year or so later, they tried to explain how the movies were made out of order, but I didn't understand and I thought this was a remake of the first episode. I thought that Jar Jar Binks was a comic genius, and for that reason I still don't hate him. And now that I know he's basically the main villain of the entire saga, "The Phantom Menace" has become a much darker film. In any case, I enjoyed it. I can't deny that the prequel films are more flawed than the originals, but they have their own magic and their special moments too, and I grew up with them and I just like to be able to relax and enjoy them without regard for the haters.
What every church dance needs to spice it up a little...
Auralnauts - Dance of the Fates
"Attack of the Clones" is more of a mixed bag. A couple of the so-called romance scenes are so painful to watch that I skip them. Still, the action sequences are phenomenal. This time around the girls who had come for the first movie also brought their roommate, who happened to be my ex-crush, and we shared a couch and a blanket and I wished that she was still my crush because then it would have been so exciting. They also brought brownies. She said that she had made them, but then one of the others claimed to have made them. I mentioned this to my ex-crush. She was like, "Well, it was my mix." I was like, "Ah, so she baked it but you bought the mix." She was like, "Well, I took it from my mom's house when she wasn't looking." Maybe it's good that she's not my crush anymore. I don't need that kind of bad influence in my life.
Someone wanted to know who provided the voice of Dexter Jettster, Obi-Wan's four-armed friend. Thinking back to an article I read in "Star Wars Adventures" eleven or twelve years ago, I guessed that it was Rob Coleman. My ex-crush said, "If you're right, I'll be so impressed." I wanted to be right. But then someone looked it up and the correct answer was Ron Falk. Too late, I remembered the article more clearly, and remembered that Ron Falk was the other guy in it and that Rob Coleman was the animation director. Opportunity = lost. I wanted to skip the painful scenes, but I wasn't in charge of the remote, so I just joined with everyone else in mocking them. I normally don't talk during movies but since I had seen it a hundred times it was fair game.
Afterward, I was too restless to go straight to bed, so I took a brief walk of just a couple blocks, during which yet another imbecilic Utah driver managed to nearly kill me, this time by speeding around a corner with zero regard to the stop sign posted there. Then, to my astonishment, she pulled into the driveway just a short way ahead. I couldn't believe it; here, finally, was an opportunity to yell at one of these idiots in person. God must be so proud that I didn't even swear or insult her when I did so. I was just like, "Hey, thanks for almost running me over! There's a stop sign there, you know!" She just kind of mumbled "Sorry" as she hurried to her front door, apparently afraid. Oops. I didn't want to make her afraid. I only wanted to get the point across loudly so that she wouldn't go out and kill some other poor soul whose guardian angel is less competent than mine. I found that my anger was directed toward the vehicle itself, and that I was tempted to come back and take a baseball bat to it or something. In the end I opted not to because I didn't want to get arrested. And, um, because I'm such a good Christian, of course.
In my World Sacred Literature class this past week, we watched a film that was only tangentially related to the course material but much better than "Iphigenia". It's called "The Mission" and stars both Robert de Niro and the guy who provides the voice for Simba's uncle Scar, in a true story about a 1750 South American border dispute between Spain and Portugal that jeopardizes whether the natives in the area can be legally enslaved or not. The local Jesuit priests want to persuade the Catholic Church's mediating representative to let them keep protecting the natives under the asylum of their mission. Or something like that. I didn't understand it a hundred percent but I thought it was good anyway.
On Thursday when we watched the second half of the movie, I wasn't in a great mood and didn't really enjoy it, but that was just as well because it was supposed to be tragic. There was a battle, and when the first guy got shot a few seconds into it I thought about how much it must suck to be the first guy who gets shot. Maybe you're thinking, All right, let's do this! We're gonna fight this battle and I'm gonna be brave and strong and support the cause and one for all and all for one! Then a few seconds into it, before you've had a chance to do anything, you're dead and you can't do anything and that's all there is to it. Perhaps your last thought is something along the lines of Hey, wait! I wasn't ready! Let me do that over! I'll do better this time! A good metaphor for life itself in that regard.
And how did [SPOILER ALERT] the protagonists feel right before they died, when they realized they had lost? When Robert de Niro's character realized that his clever plan to blow up the bridge had been foiled, a moment before he was filled with lead, what went through his mind? Maybe something like Wait, it isn't supposed to be like this! This isn't supposed to happen. We're the good guys. Again, a good metaphor for life. I was shocked and devastated too, but sometimes that's the awkward thing about true stories.
Last night I went to an institute dance where they were showing "Inside Out". I poked my head in for a moment and was riveted almost immediately. I missed the first twenty minutes, so when they started it over I stayed to watch those, and then stayed to watch the rest of the movie again. Then the dance was over. I have no regrets. I've felt like Pixar jumped the shark a while ago, but this was a phenomenal movie, hilarious and exciting and ingenious and with such a rare yet deep and true and bittersweet message. I wonder if perhaps, when I'm famous, someone will make a film about the inside of my head. All the characters would be running around in confusion and horror screaming things like "Who designed this thing, a rhesus monkey on acid?"
"Evita" is a stellar musical and I love every single song in it. This one seems particularly poignant sometimes, for although the suitcase and picture aspects of the chorus have never applied to me, most of the lyrics are spot on, especially in verses one, two, and three, aka all of them. I think all of us are a little bit like an early twentieth century Argentinian dictator's wife sometimes.
Madonna - Another Suitcase in Another Hall
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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.