cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (misunderstood)
This isn't exactly a Friday Faves installment. I wanted to do something Halloweenie, but there's no way I can list my favorite horror movies, books, stories, or anything. I love too many things. I didn't want to randomly recommend "movies to watch on Halloween," either, since everyone's tastes are different and our moods affect what we want to watch when.

I can't remember the last time a horror movie actually scared me. Revolted, yes. Saddened, yes. Lately I've been thinking, Even if a movie were to scare me, it wouldn't be enough. I want art that makes me think. With that in mind, I've paired up horror movies into double features that excite my "compare 'n' contrast" tendencies. Maybe you'll find something in this list to satisfy your itch, whatever that may be.

1. Carnival of Souls (1962) and Donnie Darko (2001 but set in the '80s) -- Carnival of Souls is a black-and-white, low-budget, minimally-cast thriller starring the absolutely luminous Candace Hilligoss. Donnie Darko is a full-color, big (enough) budget spec film, with a star-studded ensemble cast and Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role. Both movies focus on a person out of synch with the rest of the world, but in Carnival the consequences are individual, insular; in Donnie Darko, everyone is affected. Both films are spookier than they are graphic, although there are some brief moments of gore in the R-rated Donnie.

2. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, set in 1900) and Here Comes the Devil (2013) -- In both of these films, children on a holiday outing explore a mountain and something goes wrong. The PG-rated Picnic is less forthcoming about what exactly happened, obscuring with ethereal atmospherics apropos for late-Victorian repression, whereas the unrated Here Comes the Devil graphically depicts sex and violence. And yet, neither really explains why the tragedy unfolds. Perhaps the characters offend the genius loci? Maybe some places are just bad? Either way, both films are unsettling in their ambiguity.

3. The Descent (2005) and The Babadook (2014) -- On the surface, these are very different movies. The Descent follows women on a spelunking adventure who get lost in an unexplored series of tunnels. The tunnels are inhabited by humanoid cryptids and as the women fight to get back to the surface, they die in various brutal, bloody ways. The Babadook is about a grieving woman trying to survive daily life with her acutely sensitive child, who finds a book about a bogeyman-type monster that he thereafter insists is threatening their tiny, broken family. The Descent is a hard-R, with monsters and gore, while The Babadook works up to its R rating with psychological, real-world horror. But both movies are woman-centered explorations of grief in a world where bad things happen to good people, and they keep on happening.

4. Somos Lo Que Hay (2010) and We Are What We Are (2013) -- The connection between these two flicks is clear: The latter is an American remake of the former, which is Mexican. And I'm going to have to spoil it for you, because I don't think it's fair to send you into a movie and not warn you that it depicts  cannibalism. What's interesting about this pair is how very different the movies are, despite the shared premise. Somos takes place in a city; We Are has a rural setting. The family is complicated in Somos; in We Are, it seems a pretty straight-forward, misogynist patriarchy. I think Somos is about a lot of things (economics, power dynamics, ritual and modernity, homosexuality, nature versus nurture, etc) but We Are opts for a narrower, easier to understand focus. For extra "food for thought," maybe watch Jug Face (2013), about a young woman who tries to escape her rural community when she falls afoul of its peculiar customs.

5. Pontypool (2008) and Berberian Sound Studio (2012) -- I love both these stories because they are obsessed with sound in a highly-visual medium. Former radio shock jock Grant Mazzy hates his new assignment in Pontypool, a small rural Canadian community. A mild-mannered sound engineer, Gilderoy hates his new job creating the sound effects for The Equestrian Vortex, which is not a movie about horses, as he imagined, but a gruesome giallo flick. In Pontypool, a bizarre virus infects the town and Mazzy and the other employees of the local radio station must piece together the truth from conflicting reports, incoherent witnesses, and mysterious military injunctions. In Berberian Sound Studio, Gilderoy is an innocent adrift, desperately trying to hold together his reality even as it merges with the grisly fantasy he's forced to help create. Both films interrogate the gaps between sounds and meaning, facsimiles and reality, consensus/objectivity and dissent/subjectivity.

So there you have it: some brain candy to accompany your Halloween candy. I wish you a pleasant mix of tricks and treats. Happy Halloween!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (silver teapots)
Friday Faves is late today but I didn't forget. I was just busy! I outlined my third story in three days, and then it was Movie Night at Tweetie's school. They were showing HOME, which I like very much, so I actually voluntarily attended a school function. Imagine that.

This week's faves are television shows. Since Hannibal ended (*ugly cries*), there hasn't been much must-see-tv for me. I watch stuff on Netflix or Hulu that's the entertainment equivalent of junk food. But sometimes junk food makes me happy, y'know? And this week, these were the highlights:

1. Sleepy Hollow -- It's back! I "missed" the first few minutes, but only in the scare-quote sense, since I saw promo tweets and then folks were live-tweeting. I was VERY happy to see our power trio--Abbie, Crane, and Jenny--were all integral to the plot and got some emotional development. That alone has me cautiously optimistic that this season will repudiate the huge mistakes of season 2, but the introduction of Betsy Ross worries me. Not that I expect colonial-era Crane to have "saved himself" for Abbie, but why do the writers keep force-'shipping Crane with (white) Women Who Are NOT Abbie? Why must they fight the obvious, ridiculously powerful chemistry of Crane and Abbie? Even if there's not a romantic relationship between the two, shouldn't their relationship--their partnership--be at the forefront of this show? (The answer is YES.)

2. Elementary -- I resisted this show for a long time, thinking I preferred the BBC Sherlock. I appreciate "sociopathic" characters like Moffat's Sherlock because they're basically me on a bad day, impatient with everyone else's bullshit, furious that they don't grok the social contract everyone else seems to intuitively operate by. But sociopath is different from asshole, and I'm really tired of assholes. JJ started watching Elementary, and I watched some with him, quickly warming up to Jonny Lee Miller's nuanced portrayal of Sherlock. This Sherlock is still socially inept, brusque, often insensitive, but his tenderness toward Joan Watson is touching. You can tell he really does value and admire her--and fuck, it's Lucy Liu so hell yeah, he'd better! But then I hit episode 16 of season 1, where he proposes in all earnestness that she become his apprentice, and it was so sweet I cried. I'll definitely be watching more.

3. American Horror Story, Coven -- Definitely the weakest of the first three seasons storywise, but more enjoyable for the simple reason that it's all about women. Women of different eras, ages, shapes, sizes, abilities, temperament, race...hmmm, I don't recall any queer characters but I can't say for sure. The women were the plot-movers, the men were peripheral. Every episode--almost every scene, in fact--passed the Bechdel-Wallace test. I was reluctant to watch this season because I didn't think the show would handle the race aspects well. I'm still not sure it did, I have many reservations, but setting those aside, the acerbic wit of these witches made for a diverting binge-watch.

I haven't been watching Empire, but I'll definitely catch up later in the season. I want to test drive Scream Queens also (though I'm not sure how much of Emma Roberts' bitch persona I can take; it looks like the American Horror Story folks just told her "hold that pose while we shift you to this comedy."). My dalliance with Revenge is pretty much over. Any recommendations for more tv to rot my brain?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
Just Finished: A Rope of Thorns by Gemma Files ([livejournal.com profile] handful_ofdust). As I said in a previous entry, reading this book was 'bout the only thing making me happy, so I stalled to avoid the ending. It turned out, I needn't have worried, because the ending of this, the second book in the Hexslinger trilogy, was pretty happy-making in itself. There's such a density of detail in these books, delivered at such breakneck speed, that one might imagine Gemma writing in a mad-dash to get it all down. But this isn't (only?) a helter-skelter stream-of-consciousness adventure. There's a magnificent level of craftsmanship at work. For example, I had no idea Chess's mother would assume so much importance when she was first introduced, and being surprised like that gives me goosebumps: what other pivot points have I missed? what revelations await in the final book?

Perhaps my favorite line of the book: "Gods sleep within us all, waiting to be prayed alive. And gods can kill other gods."

Currently Reading: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Tweetie and I are almost finished with this novel in verse about a young girl whose family immigrates from war-torn South Vietnam to America. The girl has a sweet neighbor who is a retired teacher, who agrees to tutor the girl and soon becomes her champion, helping her deal with bullies and her clueless teacher, who presents a very one-sided picture of Vietnam that further alienates the poor kid. Honestly, the neighbor reminds me of my own neighbors, both of whom are retired teachers and unfailingly kind.

For my nonfiction research, I'm still plugging away at The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working-Class Music by Manuel Peña. The author gives mini bios of some key artists in the conjunto tradition, and it's interesting to see my hometown region from their point of view. In the 1930s, there were Anglo and "Mexican" schools. Like my grandparents, the musicians who Peña profiles grew up with little formal education. He shares a quote from a (white) school superintendent back then:

"Most of our Mexicans are of the lower class. They transplant onions, harvest them, etc. The less they know about everything else, the better contented they are. You have doubtless heard that ignorance is bliss; it seems that it is so when one has to transplant onions...If a man has very much sense or education either, he is not going to stick to this kind of work. So you see, it is up to the white population to keep the Mexican on his knees in an onion patch...This does not mix well with education."

I think what bothers me--I mean, aside from the paterrnalism, racism, and hypocrisy (he starts by claiming ignorance is best for the "Mexicans", then admits it's really best for the white population to keep the Mexicans in servitude)--is that this attitude comes from someone who made it his life's work to foster education and enlightenment...but only for certain people, which seems anathema to the very notion of enlightenment.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)
Just finished: Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. Reading this book, I realized what I've loved so much about previous Sacks books I've read. I've never sensed any judgment or disgust from him regarding his patients' symptoms and behaviors, regardless of how bizarre they might have been. In this book, specifically the chapter "Altered States" but also sprinkled throughout the text, Sacks recounts the various hallucinations he himself has experienced, some of them intentionally conjured from experimentation with recreational drugs, others due to his habit of "self-prescribing" drugs as a young doctor, and still others resulting from the contingencies of life. Perhaps it's been first-hand experience that's kept Sacks humble and compassionate.

This is not my favorite of Sacks' books, but it was enlightening, especially his observations on the geometric auras associated with migraines, how they reflect the patterns built into the architecture of our brains' visual systems.

"Perhaps such experiences are at the root of our human obsession with pattern and the fact that geometrical patterns find their ways into our decorative arts....Migraine-like patterns...can be found in Islamic art, in classical and medieval motifs, in Zapotec architecture, in the bark paintings of Aboriginal arists in Australia...in virtually every culture, going back tens of thousands of years. There seems to have been, throughout human history, a need to externalize and make art from these internal experiences....There is an increasing feeliing among neuroscientists that self-organizing activity in vast populations of visual neurons is a prerequisite of visual perception....Spontaneous self-organization is not restricted to living systems; one may see it in the formation of snow crystals, in the roilings and eddies of turbulent water....[T]he geometrical hallucinations of migraine allow us to experience in ourselves not only a universal of neural functioning but a universal of nature itself."

Now reading: Border Boom Town: Ciudad Juárez since 1848 by Oscar J. Martínez. This book is a researcher's dream come true. Terms defined at the beginning of the book, photos, tables, detailed endnotes, extensive bibliography, critical analysis of sources in that bibliography, well-organized chapters, intros and conclusions. I want to make sweet, sweet love to this book. I know it will be useful for present novel and I will probably turn to it again for a future project. Big score!

Also reading: A Rope of Thorns, Book 2 of the Hexslinger series, by Gemma Files. I laughed at the book's dedication to Files' husband. I cooed over the epigraphs, and then I quick-slipped back into this 'verse I absolutely LOVE. In the wake of the Sacks book, I can't help but marvel over the hallucinogenically elaborate images spilling from the pages. So many awe-inspiring details. The gods and monsters will gobble you up while you stand in slack-jawed wonder at their terrible beauty.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (so tired)
Last week Tweetie had the school day off and I was not feeling well, hence, no Wednesday Reading report. Honestly? I haven't been reading much. I've been writing and revising. I feel as if I fell down a well and I've just dragged myself out. Still catching up on events in the "real world."

Tweetie and I finished The Fast and the Furriest and moved on to Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell. Tweetie gets really indignant at unfairness, in life and fiction, and this book has her outrage flexing at regular intervals. I confess, I find it amusing, because in most MG fic the unfairness is obviously a calculated move by the author to engender sympathy for the child protagonist. I don't know if Tweetie feels especially sympathetic for the protag, but she's definitely annoyed by the over-the-top injustice of the adult characters.

I've made absolutely no progress with On the Rim of Mexico. I haven't even seen the book in days. This may be a case of the right book at the wrong time for me.

When my overworked eyeballs permit, I have read more in A Book of Tongues. Gemma does interesting things with chronology here (everywhere?) and sly things with slash fiction tropes. I like the love story that powers the book, as well as the weird western and Aztec elements. (Actually, elements is the wrong word for the latter. Aztec...superstructure?) If I weren't running on empty, I'd been zooming through the book much faster.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (studying)
Not much reading for me this week. I'm pushing through another revision of my border blaster novel so I can send it to my agent (soon) for feedback.

I finished reading Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros, and I'm glad I did, because some of my favorite poems came at the end. I especially liked those in which the poet addressed her female friends, who sound every bit as wild as she is.

Still reading The Fast and the Furriest to Tweetie over breakfast every school day.

Unable to engage the right part of my brain to process On the Rim of Mexico, I turned to Gemma Files' A Book of Tongues, which was exactly the right thing to do. Like Patty Templeton's There Is No Lovely End, this is weird North American Civil-War era historical fantasy. I've long wanted to read A Book of Tongues, which is the first in Gemma's Hexslinger series, but there's a benefit to being so slow: I don't have to wait for the other books to be published! Knowing there's more, I sink into the pages like I sink into a hot bath, sighing with relief and pleasure.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
When I traveled to Texas for my sister's wedding, I took two small, easy to transport paperbacks to keep me from fretting overmuch in the airports. One was Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros, which I believe is her second collection of poetry. The poems are short, so I plowed through about half the book before my brain felt too full of thrilling turns of phrase and genius word choices. The themes are repetitive--a little too fiery for my tastes, especially since they tend toward self-immolatory passions. Which sounds weird coming from me, but... Maybe without grounding context, the passion is too easy to read as melodrama, or romancing martydom? In any case, I'd be happy to finish the book eventually.

The other book was Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber, which was recommended at one of the many "How to (not) Write the Other" panels I've attended, as an example of a white writer doing all right by his POC characters and subject matter. Whereas some folks want an easy breezy read on vacation, I was hooked by the main characters' attention to details. I read a lot of this crime novel (it's no mystery who the murderer is, ever) when I wasn't at the airport; in fact, whenever I needed a break from socializing I picked it up. I'd read it before settling to sleep, too, which gave me a deliciously uncanny experience: I was actually a little unnerved after I turned out the light! I am a huge horror fan, and I'm almost never creeped out by books anymore, so this was a welcome surprise. The creep-out factor doesn't come from the gore, although there's a good amount of that, but because Gruber does an excellent job of showing how an intelligent, highly educated American woman's stubborn rationalism cedes to belief in ritual magic. As I said in my Goodreads review, I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Upon returning home, I returned to There Is No Lovely End by Patty Templeton. This is the Gothic Americana historical fantasy I've been wanting to read for YEARS. Patty's refreshing take on Sarah Winchester moves beyond the long-prevailing "sorrowing hysteric" caricature of the Widow Winchester and her insane house. Equally enthralling are Patty's original characters: criminal brothers Hennet and Walleye; the awful but kinda awesome hellion Hester (she prays neither to God nor the Devil but to HERSELF) and her besotted stalker, a dandy journalist who hangs himself to get her attention, then follows her around in ghost form for years; Hester's ghost-beloved but beleagured son Nathan who's targeted for murder almost the whole book through; traveling medicine man Reverend Enton Blake...not to mention all the animals and houses, all with their own personalities, living or dead. And Patty ties all the story threads together into a deeply satisfying conclusion. It may not be a Lovely End, but I loved it anyway.

No progress on On the Rim of Mexico, but Tweetie and I are continuing with The Fast and the Furriest.

A couple of online story recommendations:
excerpt from "Furious Angels," from the collection We Will All Go Down Together by Gemma Files. I was actually a little mad when I got to the end and remembered "Shit, yeah, excerpt." I definitely need the book now.

"The Husband Stitch" by Carmen Machado. A little funny, a little spooky with its callbacks to urban legends aplenty, sometimes sexy, a lot heartbreaking. It's one of those stories that looks so easy and yet, no one does it like Machado.

"Silent Snow, Secret Snow" by Conrad Aiken. Given my age, my first thought was "Any relation to Joan Aiken?" And yup, her father. This is a perfect creepy story for when the wind turns cold and winter lurks around the corner.

What do you look for in a vacation read? Or, if that's too far-afield for you right now, what are your favorite Halloween-y stories?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hansel and gretel)
My read-aloud with Tweetie of The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry continues at a good clip. The characters are not as dastardly as the cover copy would have you think. The parents are comically terrible and die at a distance while the story focuses on the children, who are not so different from most kids, as is proven by their sweetly growing relationship with Nanny. I believe the book is styled after Lemony Snicket's "Unfortunate Events" series, which I've not read, but it reminds me of Roald Dahl. Next up is The Fast and The Furriest by Andy Behrens, which I bought for Tweetie a while back and which is now on the ballot for the Iowa Children's Choice Book Award.

On the adult nonfiction front, I've made only a smidge of progress with On the Rim of Mexico. The "Asymmetry" chapter is easier for me than the Peso one, but I've needed comfort reading this week.

Thus I began and finished Story of the Scene: The Inside Scoop on Famous Moments in Film by Roger Clarke. At only one page of text per scene (although Clarke felt Spartacus warranted 2 scenes), it was a fast read and informative. I'm a movie lover, if not a cinephile, and yet I was learning things throughout the book. I laughed, I "huh!"ed, I scowled. The entries are arranged alphabetically, which was unfortunate, for several reasons but most obviously because it means ending with a James Bond film, You Only Live Twice. There were a few scenes included more because they are iconic scenes than because Clarke provides any new or especially interesting background, but not too many.

Clarke chose a rather "macho" spread of movies, and it's telling which scenes involving women make the cut: Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet, Sissy Spacek in Carrie, Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby. Not Sally Field in Norma Rae or Meryl Streep in Silkwood, for example. Though two Marilyn Monroe movies make the list, Clarke writes with such disdain for Monroe that I was irked. ...I think I just talked myself down from the 4 stars I gave this book on Goodreads.

Fictionwise, I've been loving There Is No Lovely End by Patty Templeton. What I like best so far about its depiction of Civil War-era America is that everyone and everything we encounter has a story, a point of view, a personality and desire--even the dead, even the animals, even the houses. And yet the story never feels bogged down in those details. Patty, a wickedly wise puppetmaster, plays a light hand over the myriad strings.

Now I'm thinking that comfort reads must be as various as comfort foods. What are your comfort reads? What kind of books do you turn to when you're feeling sad or sick or overwhelmed?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
Tweetie and I finished our read-aloud of Rising Storm by Erin Hunter, and before she could throw another Warriors book on the pile, I quick-whoosh picked up The Willoughbys, written AND illustrated by Lois Lowry. To my chagrin, I have now realized that I mistook this book for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. WOE and ALAS! The Lowry book is not at all bad though, and Tweetie is not complaining or rolling her eyes. It's a slim book, too, so no harm no foul. Or, No farm no howl, as I first typed.

I zipped through Blood Waters by Chaz Brenchley, a collection of short stories that I liked an awful lot. A blurb on the back cover reads, "Like a diamond dropped in a pool of sump oil" and that is accurate. I feel as if I could pick Brenchley's work out of a line-up. He has that distinct a voice. Some storytellers sound good to the ear but don't work on the page. Brenchley has a firm grip on both sides of the craft.

These stories came from Brenchley's time as a crimewriter-in-residence for a public sculpture project. If I had any complaint, it'd be that the overall tone seemed one-note, a bit depressing even for someone like me. But just when I began to think there were no happy endings in Brenchley's world, I came to the concluding novella, "My Cousin's Gratitude." It feels like a creative "remix" of an earlier story, "Pawn Sacrifice", and it contains its share of ugliness--child porn, abuse, neglect, and drug use, for examples. But in "My Cousin's Gratitude," our antihero does an about-face, reclaims his humanity, and foils the really bad guy. If it's not a happy ending, per se, it's at least a triumphant one. It catapulted me out of the book in a good mood, so I look forward to reading more of Brenchley's work!

Online, spurred by a particularly bigoted review, I read "We Are the Cloud" by Sam J. Miller, which is a near-future science fiction story in which young men in the foster care system are used as human beacons to provide a city with wireless access. The main character experiences aphasia as a result of "clouddiving," of opening his mind to the data that's constantly routed through him. The story hit my soft spot for big guys who aren't too good with words, who are seen as threatening even when they are in fact the victims.

I liked that story so much, I clicked on to read Miller's Shirley Jackson award-winning story "57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides." That horror-fantasy was stylistically marvelous, but I confess, I didn't enjoy it as much because I didn't sympathize with the main character. Normally I don't see that as a requirement, but here the main character tested his power out on animals first, and though no harm comes to the animals and it's all described very circumspectly, I was too squicked out to really trust the character anymore. That combined with Miller's facility at conveying the character's guilt and self-hatred turned me off.

I've now started reading On the Rim of Mexico: Encounters of the Rich and Poor, a collection of nonfiction essays about the US-Mexico border, by Ramón Eduardo Ruiz. The first essay, about the devaluation of the peso and its effects, particularly in the 1980s and '90s, was a little hard for me to follow. It felt like, "you would think the result would be X, and it sort of was X, but it was also anti-X and some Y and Z, too." Economics: not my strong suit. But I've moved on to the next chapter, so we'll see.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (ivana baquero)
Tweetie and I are in the home stretch of Rising Storm by Erin Hunter. It's a much better written book than the last in the series, on a prose level, but I feel like a lot less happens also. Next up for read-aloud will be a book of my choice, The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry.

I finished reading Christopher Golden's short story collection, Tell My Sorrows to the Stones. I rather wish he'd stuck to the stones. My enjoyment of the book waned in the second half, once I realized Golden was relying on two story endings, either a sentimental "feel-good" ending or a revelation ending, where the story pretty much stopped at the most exciting part. One story actually stopped and started at the most exciting point, beginning with the end and telling the story in flashback. In another story (about a female sex vampire), the author combined the two endings to predictably awful effect: "Yes, I'm running for my life, but thank god my dead ex-wife (who I cheated on) is still looking out for me!"

The work-related themes disappeared over the course of Golden's book, which was disappointing. That was the facet I most enjoyed in the early stories. And, as I complained in my last reading post, the instant a woman becomes sexual in these stories, you know the hapless male protag is in mortal danger. Very juvenile and misogynistic trope.

After finishing Tell My Sorrows to the Stones, I started Blood Waters by Chaz Brenchley. It's a collection of short stories written when Brenchley was the crime-writer-in-residence on a public sculpture project. I've only read one story thus far, but it was sharp! I look forward to wading deeper into the bloody waters. ;)
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
How is it Wednesday again?! Life is like a toddler that keeps running away from me, and sometimes I'm just too weary to give chase.

With the exception of the continued read-aloud with Tweetie (Rising Storm by Erin Hunter), most of my reading this past week has been of short forms.

I finished reading Grace Notes, Rita Dove's fourth collection of poetry. I'd read single works of hers in American Poetry Review in the past, but this was my first time reading a collection. The book begins with memories of youth and concludes with insight into old age. Dove is a poet of surgical precision. Few of these pieces are more than a page long, and several are sonnets or sonnet-like.

The problem, for me, with the surgical approach is that it involves emotional distance. I sense the intensity behind these distillations, but couldn't always share that emotion. The sigils didn't mean the same to me as to Dove, perhaps. Sometimes I had no idea what the poem was even about, which was strange, to be surrounded by recognizable details yet not know where I was. (Maybe like walking into the "your" apartment in the wrong building of the complex.) Rarely was there lyrical lushness that allowed me to get lost in words and rhythms for their own sake. The poems that really sang to me, as [livejournal.com profile] snowy_owlet might say, were about childhood, parenting, or strong narratives about family. There, the sigils lined up.

Online, I read a marvelous translation: "Cefalea" (Headache) by Julio Cortázar, translated by Michael Cisco. I haven't read the original story, but the translation feels accurate. I loved the homeopathic neepery as the narrator attempts to maintain order in a disintegrating situation, and the cumulative effect is very satisfying. At first, you won't understand what the hell is going on, but stick with it. Highly recommended!

Now I am reading an ARC of Tell My Sorrows to the Stones, a short story collection by Christopher Golden. I bought the ARC at a fundraiser at WisCon. According to Goodreads, Golden has written approximately three zillion books, so it's no surprise that the prose is polished and the stories well-crafted. I really like when Golden writes about work. I'm about halfway through the book, and already I've "been" a miner, a clown, and a National Guardsman. And amazingly, the story with the Guardsman was about patrolling the US-Mexico border and did NOT piss me off.

(Though Golden describes the Sonoran Desert as land so ugly even the Texas Rangers never worried much about it, when I'm pretty sure the Rangers ignored it because it's nowhere near Texas. I'd hope an editor caught that before the final version, but since the story was a reprint, I kind of doubt it.)

My main complaint so far is that whenever a sexy lady shows up, you can bet things will go bloody. The conclusion of "The Art of the Deal" was so grossly, misogynistically unfair to the sole female character, I had to put the book down for a while. "Thin Walls" pissed me off, too. (Newsflash: Women can be sexy and enjoy sex without being evil!) Skip those stories if you can.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
It's been bumpy, shifting gears into fall, hence my late reading report. Tweetie and I are still reading aloud Rising Storm by Erin Hunter. I am still reading Grace Notes by Rita Dove on my own. It's a slim volume that in no way justifies how long it's taking me to finish it. It's good, I like it, but I've been wanting to "blank out" in the evenings. Much microaggression, many revision, wow.

I read some short fiction, though. On Twitter, I recommended "Herd Immunity" by Tananarive Due. (Honestly, I was hooked the second the narrator confessed that she felt an instinctive trust toward a man she saw from afar just because he had a guitar case on his back. ME TOO!) The story is set after most of the human population has been killed off by a virus. It's not going to give you a happy hard-on, and yet, there's a vibrancy to it that we don't often see in these post-disaster scenarios. The narrator populates her rundown world with such vivid, if fleeting, imaginations. I wondered if she had always thought this way, or if it was a survival mechanism, and if it was the latter, was that imaginative capacity a key aspect of her immunity? I also liked the idea of how dangerous hope can make us, and yet where are we without it?

I'd also recommend Claire Humphrey's "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye." I only thought it was okay when I finished reading it, but I've been thinking about it ever since. The story is set in a science fictionalized 1980s America, so it is both familiar and not. Uncanny. I recognized some aspects so instantly but others were skewed by the speculative element, problematizing the whole. It made me think about how we (mis)remember recent history, how we (especially women) are manipulated to focus on things that will never change the status quo, and how gaslighting perplexes our views. Very interesting, indeed. I'm starting to wish I'd written it!

FYI, I am on Goodreads, as an author and reader: Lisa M. Bradley. Feel free to friend me there to make reading recs even easier!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (thinking bros)
In the hopes of filling in some of Tweetie's pop culture gaps, we've been rewatching old movies.

One was Ghostbusters, which we'd tried to share with her when she was much too young. For some scenes, she was maybe still too young. I always forget the ghostly succubus going down on one of the ghostbusters! In my defense, I may forget because it's not of a piece with the rest of the film. (Kind of like that one scene in Evil Dead.) I think Tweetie liked the movie in general. There were spooky parts but she got through them by speculating with her papa about how the special effects people had made things happen. And she jeered at the quality of the CGI.

We also watched The Addams Family (1991), so Tweetie would understand papa's joke about Girl Scout cookies being made with real Girl Scouts. She liked this movie better, not least because of Wednesday, so we'll probably watch the sequel soon.

A movie J and I watched without Tweetie was World War Z. I'd read the book and couldn't imagine how it'd be translated from an epistolary story with multiple, international, POVs to a big budget CGI extravaganza. Basically, they didn't. They opted to focus on one continent-hopping ex-UN guy, which worked surprisingly well. Brad Pitt has a good "listening" face, no doubt related to his real-world activism. During one scene, when he listens to an Israeli official explain why Israel hadn't been overrun by zombies, I forgot for a split second that I wasn't watching a documentary.

Despite the theme, opening credits, and plenty of suspenseful moments, I didn't consider WWZ a horror movie. The thing I liked best about it was that our hero's "super powers" were his powers of observation, his ability to observe even under horrific circumstances. There were plenty of shots of Pitt looking, listening, reasoning. Frankly, it kind of reminded me of how the camera lingered over Steve McQueen's thoughtful face in Bullitt, another action-y movie you wouldn't expect to find respect for mental prowess. And rather than being punished for seeing too much or too deeply, as would happen in most horror movies, Pitt's character eventually triumphs. In that regard, it's more of a mystery thriller: will our hero put together enough clues quickly enough to save his family and the world?!

My reluctance to categorize WWZ as a horror movie forced me to reexamine my criteria. It wasn't just that I didn't find WWZ frightening. I expect horror movies to promote the idea of forbidden knowledge--that there are some things humans aren't meant to see or know or understand. You look too close, you die. You read the book, you die. You recite the words, and your soul can only be saved through the act of bodily dismemberment. (back to Evil Dead, again) To be fair, in WWZ, the hero never actually determines where the zombie "virus" originated, so that may count as forbidden knowledge. But the hero gets off pretty easy, considering horror movie traditions.

The only exception to this heretofore unexamined criteria of mine that I've been able to think of is Suspiria, which is quite definitely horror, but also has a mystery component to it. The heroine accidentally sees things that turn out to be clues, and as the movie progresses, she does some actual investigation that permits her to fight the evil. Perhaps what makes the difference in my mind is that the camera's gaze in WWZ is clinical, scientific, dispassionate, whereas Suspiria's is fetishistic, lurid, even gleeful. While WWZ is very invested in what happens inside human bodies, on a cellular level, Suspiria is more interested in what happens when the interior becomes exterior on a celluloid level.

I'm not done thinking about what makes a horror movie a horror movie, but if I waited to blog about it until I was done...well, I'd probably look like the Cryptkeeper or be blogging from the great beyond. :)

Your thoughts welcome in comments!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)

Originally published at Stone Telling blog. You can comment here or there.

Our interviewee today is Lisa M. Bradley, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “Teratoma Lullaby“. Lisa’s nonfiction essay “Listening to the Lost, Speaking for the Dead: Speculative Elements in the Poetry of Gabriela Mistral” has appeared in the very first issue of Stone Telling, followed by “Litanies in the Dark: The Poetry of Alfonsina Storni” in the second issue. Lisa also had two other pieces of poetry published by us, Embedded (issue 9) and another poem of epic length, “we come together we fall apart” (ST7: the Queer Issue), which was nominated for the Rhysling award and was reprinted in Here, We Cross.




Lisa M. Bradley


Lisa M. Bradley resides in Iowa with her spouse, child, and two cats. She has poetry forthcoming in Mythic Delirium, Strange Horizons, and In Other Words. The “someone bewitched…more bear than man” in “Teratoma Lullaby” is named Art. Art’s story, “The Pearl in the Oyster and The Oyster Under Glass,” can be found in the Fungi anthology from Innsmouth Free Press.

I knew someone bewitched
enchanted, shifted—
more bear than man.
When I told him about my twin
he stroked his paw down my back
so so gently
(lest his invisible claws rip my skin)
and asked if my twin might not be
a sister.

- from Teratoma Lullaby

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem? A friend of mine was participating in Haiku Mondays, and one week her prompt was “teratoma.” I’ve been fascinated with the phenomenon of teratomas since I read Stephen King’s The Dark Half, and the topic lent itself to some stylistic experiments I wanted to try, so I started writing  “Teratoma Lullaby.” I’ve felt at war with my body since childhood, and the invisible illnesses I’ve developed over time have amplified my frustrations. The poem began as an intellectual exercise but quickly morphed into a weird rebus for that sense of not cohering within my self, and the perhaps concomitant desire to excise certain memories and emotions.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time? I come to speculative poetry from a horror background, so yes. Horror is obsessed with the Body, which can be a battleground for competing forces (as in my poem “The Haunted Girl”) or a model of systemic failures (as in “In Defiance of Sleek-Armed Androids”), just to name two modes of body horror. In my work, the Body’s state reflects the Mind’s (“we come together we fall apart”). My characters often inventory the Body out of their desire to impose order (“The Skin-Walker’s Wife” and my Exile novels.)

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem? My grandmother sang the song in “Teratoma Lullaby” to my little sister, to the tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” The metaphasis “Buenos nachos” in place of “buenas noches” is a family joke, though I used it to different effect in the poem.

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about? I had an(other) epic poem appear in Strange Horizons recently: Una Canción de Keys. (I write short poems, too, I really do.) I am also writing a series of blog posts, “Writing Latin@ Characters Well,” that I hope to continue, time and RSI permitting.

ST: Thank you very much, Lisa!

________

If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (gun)
TW: discussion of film portrayal of real-life abuse, violence

Last week I tried to watch Snowtown (The Snowtown Murders), which is a movie based on the story of a real-life serial killer in Australia. Normally, I don't watch serial killer movies if they're based on real people. They strike me as cheap and sensational and celebrating that which they claim to deplore. But I am a horror movie fan, and I don't mind "dark" material, so even if it's not my bag, I hear and read about a lot of true-crime stuff. The lines get hazy. What tipped the scale for me with this particular movie was the suggestion that it examined how the killer got people to help him commit his heinous crimes.

I don't think I was even 15 minutes into the film when I had my first "crap, am I going to make it through?" moment. The mother leaves three of her sons (ages 7-14?) in a neighbor's care, and after the neighbor serves them dinner, he takes photos of the boys. We don't really see anything, but we know exactly what kind of photos he's taking and why. The look on the oldest boy's face is heartbreaking. So that was my first moment of dread.

The mother quickly realizes what's happened and attacks the neighbor, then reports him to the authorities, but justice is slow. The neighborhood vigilantes are faster, and soon drive the pedophile out of town. The leader of the vigilante group strikes up a romance with the boys' mother and soon they are one big happy family. Or not.

I watched until the first graphic torture scene, when it became clear the vigilantes were not acting out of a misplaced sense of justice but to get their jollies from destroying others. And by then, I had, in fact, understood how the main murderer got others to go along with his plots: he was a bully. He'd sense weakness and zero in on it. He manipulated, harangued, harassed, betrayed, blackmailed, and terrorized others. He didn't even seem all that smart (and props to the director for that).

Likewise, I realized that the violence would drag on and on until some trivial detail tripped the killers up. Just as there was no big revelation as to what triggered the people who cooperated, there wouldn't be a dramatic moment in which someone turned on the vigilantes and reported the murders.

If there's any mystery, it's why some violated people become violent themselves and others don't. And I suspect, as [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume suggests in a different context, every individual's tipping point is exactly that: individual. Unique. Case studies are only useful predictors to the extent they can replicate a phenomenon. Watching Snowtown, I decided I couldn't subject myself to any more of the reenactment, since it wasn't going to teach me anything I don't already know. People can be horrible. People can be irreparably broken. People can suffer and die for no good reason. That's reality, not my idea of entertainment, no matter how well crafted the movie might be.

Give me haunted houses or kaiju any day of the week.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hola)
Last night J and I watched John Dies at the End (courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] handful_ofdust). Originally, I'd planned to read the book, but then I got confused as to whether it was a book or movie, and I ended up with it in my movie queue. Given David's narration in the movie, I think it worked out for the best. I'm not sure I could've handled that voice in my head for long. (Although I was curious about whether the book made David's mother's mental status do more heavy lifting. Feel free to spoil me in the comments!)

That said, I'm unsure what I think of the movie itself. I'll have to watch it again. My first impression is that it wasn't as wacky as it made itself out to be. Also, I don't think it's just my degree in philosophy that made the film's questions about time and space feel sophomoric. David's philosophizing actually made Catholicism sound logical in comparison--which is not meant as a dig at Catholicism, because faith and religious paradoxes, etc. (The Catholic detective had the strongest characterization and some of the best lines in the movie.) As I watched, I kept thinking of Vonnegut and Lynch and Naked Lunch--all tough acts to follow. Or maybe I'm missing something, maybe I'm too old. The munitions factory sequence especially reminded me of Slaughterhouse-Five.

But Clancy Brown! I've loved him since Highlander.



#

Michael Northen reviewed WisCon Chronicles 7: Shattering Ableist Narratives for Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature. Northen pays special attention to essays by s.e. smith, Nisi Shawl ( [livejournal.com profile] nisi_la ), Kathryn Allan, and Andrea Hairston (who provides a seriously awesome analysis of the movie Source Code). Northen also mentions my essay, "Dead Man Not Walking: Bobby Singer's Paralysis and Repair on Supernatural." Here's my thesis:

One might expect a show revolving around combat to tell its story through a range of handicapped bodies and injured psyches. Instead, Bobby's paraplegia is the only physical disability of a main character on Supernatural. In fact, Bobby's reluctance to "emote" about his disability mirrors the show's reluctance to depict a physically disabled character. Its limited depiction reflects discomfort with highly visible assistive devices, value judgments regarding accommodation, and fears of uselessness and lost identity. Furthermore, the miracle cure Bobby receives at a plot-convenient moment suggests ease of storytelling trumps full participation of the disabled character.

This was a really important essay for me to write because I love Supernatural like whoa, but the whoa is sometimes because the show is deeply flawed in its treatments of race, gender, sexuality, and yes, disability. (In fact, I've outlined another essay about how Bobby's wheelchair storyline is used in the show.) I am deeply grateful to editor JoSelle Vanderhooft ( [livejournal.com profile] upstart_crow ) for choosing my work for WCC7 and to Michael Northen for the in-depth review.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (lightbulb)
I'm reading a conversation between several writers in the March/April issue of American Poetry Review, and Timothy Donnelly discusses the sublime:

  I remember when studying the sublime in college it was stated over and over again that the experience of the sublime depends upon the observer being in a position of relative stability/security. Then the powerful force that threatens or confounds or dizzies or otherwise overexcites the observer does so without posing actual harm. The difference is that between terror and horror. It's leaning over the railing at Niagara Falls versus actually falling in  .

And I am thinking about those of us who live in interstitial zones, which are inherently unstable, and what this philosophy means for us. Do we not experience the sublime? (Do we want to?) We are threatened, confounded, dizzied, and overstimulated by powerful forces that do in fact pose harm. The line between terror and horror may be as flimsy as the few seconds between contemplated harm and actualized harm. The line is less a railing than a fault line, still moving, still hungry.

Checking my external memory (aka Wikipedia), I see that the security of the observer is a facet of only some theories of the sublime--Edmund Burke's mostly: "The sublime may inspire horror, but one receives pleasure in knowing that the perception is a fiction." My own sense of the sublime is more in line with Schophenauer's: "The feeling of the sublime...is pleasure in seeing an overpowering or vast malignant object of great magnitude, one that could destroy the observer." Thus driving home the observer's nothingness and yet oneness with nature.

When I think of the sublime in art, I remember the scene in Cloverfield where, by proxy of a doomed character holding a video camera, we finally get to see the hitherto obscured monster full in the face. I think of the blue-skewed panoramic view of Hell and Leviathan in Hellraiser (which, not incidentally, is seen from atop the walls of an infinite labyrinth into which the characters may at any moment fall or be dragged). The only railing here is between art and audience.

Experiencing the sublime in real life is the domain of the privileged (or clueless), I think. The rest of us are just scared shitless--or experiencing "tragic consciousness," to use Max Dessoir's high-brow terminology. But the sublime in art gives us the illusion of being safe and secure while confirming our intuition that we are, at times, powerless. In this way, art is lies and truth in one.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
One of my new year's resolutions was to rewire my wetware to improve spatial awareness and reasoning. I decided that reading manga fit into my strategy, because it forces me to assess written material differently. I still have trouble understanding which cell to read first sometimes, or which dialog bubble comes first, but I've gotten better. As with so many things, the learning curve is steeper if you can find material you actually enjoy. I wouldn't still be reading manga if I had to read the YuGiOh series Tweetie adores, for example. :P

What I discovered at my local library was The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Apparently, "kurosagi" refers to the anti-stork, a bird harbinger of death. The series is about five people who help corpses find rest by taking them where they want to go or finding out who they are, how they died, etc. There's an itako, a psychic who lays hands on the dead and speaks for them; a dowser, who locates the dead bodies; an embalmer; a computer hacker; and a channeler with a hand puppet that speaks for an alien life form. (Yes, really.) Their clientele being what it is, the service doesn't make near-enough money for what they do, which is both a running joke and an excuse to put the characters in different scenarios where they can happen upon bodies--while selling newspaper subscriptions, bug hunting for collectors, or repairing museum pieces, to name a few.

Something I immediately liked about KCDS is that the books have "disjecta membra" at the end, and therein the editor explains cultural or historical elements, discrepancies between the original and translation, and even explains the sound effects. An oddity of the books is that they don't translate sound effects in the text. So the cells feature katakana, and you can (1) read it if you know katakana, (2) flip to the back and see what it means, or my favorite (3) blink at the page for a minute and wonder what the heck in the cell might elicit a sound effect. This too is good for my brainmeats.

Volume 1 was four chapters, with a different story per chapter, and it was kind of awkward, the way a pilot usually is until the story can really take off. Also, it had some squicky sexualized violence, with full-frontal female corpses on display, whereas the male corpses, not nearly so much. 

Volume 2 had one story that spanned four chapters, and it fleshed out the backstory of the computer hacker. I really disliked this volume because I don't like the way the character is presented. She wears revealing clothing, which is luridly emphasized, but she doesn't exhibit any sexuality per se. She has no sex, no emotional attachments, no apparent emotions. She's clinical and dead-eyed. The backstory could explain some of this, but not the slutty apparel and male gaze. Also, the length of the story meant it was much easier to catch all the gaping plot holes.

Volume 3 was really good, as if the series finally hit its stride. Four chapters, with one story spanning two chapters, and the other chaps being single stories. I liked the division. Story one involved black market organs and Iraq. Story two worked in a new kind of "hobo code." And story three was about a suicide-inducing song. I learned a lot, and laughed out loud, and even shuddered sometimes. (generally, static illustrations don't bother me)

Volume 4 is my favorite thus far. It's four stories and has aliens, plasticinated bodies, ghost moms and babies, and bugs. (Unfortunately, it also has an annoying American character who is probably as annoying as "Japanese" characters in American media are to actual people in Japan.)  The creepy parts were really creepy, and I felt actual suspense, so I must be invested in the characters now. Again, I learned a lot. And if [livejournal.com profile] silknoir isn't full up on government-sanctioned experimentation on humans, she might be interested in Unit 731...

I'll keep reading KCDS, but now I'm also reading Oldboy, which has a very different style and is thus forcing my brain to do new things.

~~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (thinking bros)
Thanks to the wonders of Netflix streaming, I got to try out several shows I'd heard about but never watched, since we have the most basic of cable packages. (Really basic, just enough to ensure the local stations come through the static.)

First off, Tweetie is wild about Phineas and Ferb, and weirdly enough, I like it, too. It rewards kids for re-viewing and remembering, and it genuinely amuses me without ever becoming too "adult" (or suggestive, I guess I should say).

The Walking Dead puzzles me. Despite plot holes big enough to drive our rental car through, I keep watching. Mostly, I think, to see how a TV series handles a story of that scope. I dislike a lot of the characters. Some I *want* to like but can't, because the writers use them as plot devices (Darryl, for example, who is only a hothead until the writers need the story to move along, at which point, he concedes to whatever the Sheriff's plan is). I have mixed feelings about the racial elements of the show, too. But I guess sometimes I just need to see people being attacked by zombies and shooting the hell out of those disgusting walking corpses.

Twin Peaks is a rewatch for me. I can't remember, as a 14 yr old, watching many episodes after finding out who killed Laura Palmer mid season 2. Most viewers' enthusiasm seems to have been similarly defused, but now, as a writer, I find it fascinating to study the show and try to understand why it failed so badly at the soap opera format. When it was all about the Palmer murder, it functioned rather like a mini-series. Once the opening mystery was resolved, viewers seemed not to care much about the rest of the town's more mundane problems. Even the serial killer stalking Agent Cooper isn't too compelling. Personally, I love Audrey Horne and still enjoy the show when it follows her development. I'll probably finish this re-watch over the winter break.

Sons of Anarchy. I loved season 1. I seriously wept with gratitude at the season finale, which pulled together story elements I'd forgotten from early episodes to create a damn satisfying conclusion. I have kind of stalled out for the time being, however, because the rape storyline in season 2 is so upsetting to me. But I suspect I'll get back on the horse soon enough. I need a Juice fix, after all.  ;)

Still in the queue is Terriers. Only so many hours in the day, you know?


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (bruised)

Twice in the past week I've watched movies I really wanted to like, movies that featured elements dear to my heart, but that, as wholes, left me unsatisfied.

The first one, the one I actually sat all the way through, was Bajo la Sal (Under the Salt, 2008), a Mexican serial-killer mystery. This one starts off really well. During salt harvest, workers uncover a woman's dead body. She turns out to be one of several young women who've gone missing from the small town over the last five years or so.

dvd cover of bajo la sal with woman's hand sticking out of salt flat

The bright, sprawling, bleached landscape of the salt flats contrasts powerfully with the shadow looming in the characters' minds: the memory of the mass femicides committed around the maquiladoras of Juarez, Mexico. The male workers gather at a respectful distance around the body, their heads bowed. They know they are at ground zero of a tragedy. Several times, men ask the detective from the capitol if these murders might not be like what happened in Juarez. They are and they aren't. I admire how the movie invokes the femicide epidemic without sensationalizing it or exploiting it. Rather, the Juarez murders are depicted as a blight in Mexican memory; a mental bruise that isn't healing—and it shouldn't.

I also like the young main character, Victor. The son of the town mortician, Victor is not exactly coping with his mother's recent (unrelated to the serial killings) death, and his father less so. Victor is a Mexican emo/goth type, which I love because the personality is treated respectfully, without the ironic sneer that most movies aim at teen goths, especially Hispanic ones. Victor is a horror movie afficionado, but what he seems to respond to is old-school Dracula stuff, not grisly slashers. Nevertheless, Victor is clearly working something out as he makes his own homemade horror movie, a stop-motion animated slasher film called “Revenge of the Valley of the Dolls.” The lurid stop-motion work is painstakingly created with Barbie and Ken dolls, and interesting in itself, as well as for the characterization and the contrast it offers in color and pace to the rest of the film, which glides along as slowly and inexorably as an obsidian glacier.

Sadly, the film doesn't amount to much. There's no mystery as to who the killer is—and any mystery is stomped out when key dialog is repeated in multiple voiceovers. If the film is intended as a character study or coming-of-age story, then the key revelations or discoveries remain below the surface, as it were (pun!). If this were a book, I'd say the words just aren't on the page. Something deeper than the plot climax occurred, but I don't know what.

I tried to watch La Mission (2009) last night, but I got only halfway through this story of a Hispanic father who discovers his son is gay and reacts badly (to say the least). The father is played by Benjamin Bratt, who I've always liked (though in recent years he's been too thin for my tastes). The film has macho melodrama written all over it and that, plus the loving depiction of car culture, was what drew me in. But I just didn't feel it.

The movie-of-the-week style earnestness turned me off, and there was no depth to the characters. I mean, in my experience, part of what sends Hispanic fathers into homophobic rage at their gay sons is that deep down, the dads knew all along and preferred to ignore it. This papa seems genuinely stunned.

I liked that the film drew parallels between the homosocial low-rider subculture and the homosexual clubbing scene; I liked the few risks the movie took during the father-son confrontation: the son suggests the father must have some experience with gay sex after having been in prison; the father bristles at the idea of his son bottoming for a white guy. Wow. O_O

But aside from those strokes outside the lines, I didn't care about the characters or feel any urgency about their situation. These afterschool specials all have happy endings, right?

 
ETA: Today, Bradley James Nowell would've been 43. RIP, baby.

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