Sunday, July 07, 2013

Idyllic environs

Amber and the children remained at home while I caught church between the hours of 10:00 and 11:30, leaving just after sacrament because I suspected that Amber’s reasons for staying home would make it unconscionable for me to leave her with two darling but increasingly unruly children. It also happened that a chap sat next to me, greatly disturbing my personal space and —although I’m not really that esoteric—his presence came with an odor. Okay, so he smelled stale. Like he needed to be hung on the line for a while or freshened with a dryer sheet; that, or it might have been my imagination...

We finished the day with a riotous bout of children wailing, parents shouting (or doing their meager best not to) and all of that; so we high-tailed it to the mountains in search of a hike (the final determination of which was the culminating focus of interparental rage). We hiked two miles in a round trip that included children on hips, on shoulders, in arms, sitting down on flat terrain in a mistaken attempt to slide, lying down on the dirt as though it were a welcoming blanket, and poking at the dirt with sticks while fidgeting parents prodded them onward. There were the idyllic environs:  towering pines, soaring blue skies, a pristine lake (named Mary, no less), quaking aspens, and wildflowers like sprinkles on a misshapen green sundae.

But then there were mosquitoes. Not one, not two, and they were not tiny, or imperceptible, but a ravenous net laid across our path in a guerilla-style attempt to rob of us of our much needed blood protein as we flew—er, or haltingly trod and sometimes stood still—down the mountain, swatting, swiping, and sometimes cajoling the wing├ęd menaces.

Noah happily shouted in echo as we neared a natural “chamber” on our way down. (His father may have unwittingly started it by hooting just minutes before.) My intellectual method in accelerating his descent: “Noah, move your butt!” Alas, tomorrow may betray marks both external and internal resulting from this latest display of shenanigans, but it was one of those efforts, not quite herculean, which nonetheless remains worth the venture.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Wizard Lord

Noah, Hannah and I played “Wizard Lord” before bedtime. It involved Noah being the eponymous ruler, and he was not merciful in the least. He wanted me to hunt for people. We collected stuffed animals, my lord and me, and stuffed them under the piano bench and kiddie table in the front room, our overcrowded dungeons. Then I did my best British accent and pretended that his Waldorf doll, with flowing mane and leaf-emblazoned cape, was a hero bursting from his cell. Thence proceeded a wizard battle the likes of which no one has ever seen (or will likely not care to…) I would often conjure an invisible shield of some kind to repel his spittle-laden sound effects, and he would retaliate by attempting to seize my little hero with his hands, which as anyone knows is cheating. There were at least a few forms of magic involving bums, instigated by me, no less. Then Noah resorted to magically altering my hero until at last we arrived at a largish Winnie the Pooh, who received a thorough pummeling, no doubt for impersonating a wizard.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Where can I turn for peace?

On a rare child-free date night my wife and I went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness via some tickets Amber won in some contest. And it was typical of J.J. Abrams, in that the dialogue was snappy, tensions were high, there had to be some scantily clad female, and oh, the fightiness. I cannot pretend I am not a part of the mass populace beleaguered by repeated exposure to violent content. I grew up watching movies like Terminator and Die Hard, etc. Perhaps the continued milieu of fatherhood has made me more aware, or my resolve to no longer watch R-rated fare has by contrast increased my antagonism to its gratuitous inclusion in the Hollywood blockbuster. Whatever the cause, I felt that not only on a moral level, but an artistic one, that there were at least a few moments where the throttling, the bone-crunching, and the repeated pounding could have been cut much shorter, and allowed us contemplation, a denouement before yet another surge of seething testosterone.

My experience (indeed, my lifetime of media saturation) demonstrates how a thoroughly layered exposure to violence, sex (even implicit or mere innuendo), and other forms of moral decay can wreak havoc on internal peace and self-esteem. As I watched punch after punch I wondered if I'd ever feel comfortable exposing my son or daughter to the irresponsible wreck of media immorality that is now so ubiquitous as to be malevolent. Where, indeed, can I turn for peace? Certainly not to Hollywood (or most any media market, for that matter).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why zombies? and Zone One

I've thought a lot about zombies. Not as much as those who believe a zombie apocalypse is approaching, of course, but a lot. (I believe a stupid people apocalypse is much more likely.) Most of my mental cycles deal with why the recent zombie craze? Why are zombies compelling? Tonight I finished Colson Whitehead's Zone One, a book about society trying to rebuild itself after a zombie plague decimates the population and rewrites the definition of civilization, or perhaps by contrast illustrates its fragility or fallacy. Whitehead's writing is thick with delicious metaphor, both micro and macro. That is, most every sentence rings with irony and implicit parallels, but the story overall, pensive and thoughtful, is an exhaustive essay on human existence.

As I read it, not only did I rediscover my intellectual limitations, but came closer to solidifying what I think drives the collective obsession with zombies and things-generally-apocalyptic. Some thoughts: 1) The zombie apocalypse is total, in part because it is a secular armageddon. There is no deus ex machina to deliver even the most righteous. All are potential fodder for an endless turmoil, a hell without the added color of fire pits or pitchforks. It is also total because there is no shore, no harbor, no refuge from its presence. In a zombie world, there is no peace, no real protection. 2) Death by zombie is the most gruesome death the imagination can conjure, excepting perhaps becoming a nest in which an alien larva pupates and then exits. It is gruesome not just because one is eaten, but because one is eaten by a rotting corpse. Exsanguination by supermodel vampire does not come close to being surrounded by the voracious, putrescent undead. 3) The apocalyptic tale (especially with zombies) is rife with primal adrenaline, thick with fight-or-flight emotion. I'm always kicking the character out of the door, perplexed when they don't run, or when they foolishly try to hole up in a run-down house and hope the boards will hold. 4) The zombie apocalypse is really a fictional guise for the aforementioned quite plausible stupid-people apocalypse, in which otherwise sane people give in to an underlying behavior to rape, pillage, murder, etc. if the economy tanks, governments dissolve, global warming leads to global scarcity.

The above ideas were in existence long before I read Zone One, but now I posit (or repeat Whitehead's emphatic observation) that a major reason why we fret so much about an apocalypse is how it will likely render our current existence obsolete, meaningless. The voice of the book, whether in its main character's head or in an all-seeing monologue goes on at length about the world that existed before "Last Night" without ever feeling truly redundant, painting it as an illusion, a thing to be ridiculed or scoffed at, as I suppose one did the days before the Great Depression when fleeing the Dust Bowl and a husk of a farm in a faint hope of work farther west.

Whitehead also illustrates how fleeting so-called civilization is, as though it's really just a coat that humanity put on because it was en vogue, but that it was never our true nature.

However, I also note that at least for Mark Spitz, the main character, the post-plague misery legitimizes his previous isolation, his withdrawal from companionship, his lack of place in the previous world. And magically, his mediocrity in a life structured by incremental achievements makes him seemingly invulnerable when the only criteria of success that matters is survival. (It gives me a smidgen of hope that I'm not so very different from Mr. Spitz in that I have achieved little in this incremental life.)

As with numerous other forms of entertainment, this one boasts profanity par excellence, if only when Whitehead allows his soldier "sweepers" some very sailor-like commentary. I confess that I tried to stop myself from reading and hadn't the willpower. The sentences devoid of f-bombs and the like were all so dripping with delicious language. The proverbial mess of pottage scenario.