I think I’m crying. I am. I am crying. Oh Galaga, I’ve missed you!
It’s that time of year again. I’m proud to say that I’ll be voting this afternoon, not necessarily for a governor of Massachusetts – I though Duval Patrick did a pretty good job and Martha Coakley is a no-brainer – but for the questions. Here’s a rundown:
1. Gas tax
NO. No means “tie the gas tax to inflation” here. Seriously, do we want our potholes filled or not? Those pothole-filling machines run on gas too, y’know.
2. Bottle Bill
YES makes nonalcoholic, noncarbonated beverages subject to deposits and returns. There’s a little noise about this, though it’s being mostly outshined by Question 3, but the thing I have heard nobody mention is that bottles are the main source of income for a large percentage of the homeless population. The environment’s an extremely worthy cause, but has anyone thought about diverting that extra money to fund shelters?
Yet certain busybodies continue to believe that because they have a firmly held personal belief against casinos, nobody should get casinos. There are all kinds of dumb pseudo-economic excuses for this attitude, but it sounds like it comes down to the all-American desire to sermonize people who are trying to have fun.
A NO vote means let them have the fucking casinos. Also, stop trying to undermine the democratic process with loopholes and backhanded legalistic trickery. Are you not adults?
4. Employee sick time
So due to circumstances I have no interest in sharing with you nosy fucking bastards, I am losing my job at the end of December. Not that it’s much of a secret anymore – they posted the ad yesterday. I’m OK with it, I just wish they’d mentioned it was going up, you know? Anyway, the thing that has typified my short time at this job has been the total lack of sick time. I had about one day of personal time that I used on a family get-together – the only time I’d get to see my dad and sisters this year, as well as the last time my now-fiancee, then-girlfriend would have a chance to assess firsthand the family she was marrying into. It had been in the works for eight fucking months, so no way was I backing out. Then, obviously, a month later, I got sick and had to take a day unpaid. Then, because I couldn’t afford not to work, I went to work sick and spent the next month and a half trying to recover on my feet. It. Sucked.
The worst thing is that I may run into exactly the same situation if I get another library job: sic months of probationary, wherein I had damn well better not get sick.
Keep in mind that I’m in a position where I can even take an unpaid day. If you’re living on tips, or if your employer is an asshole who will fire you if you “don’t show up” after trying to call in sick (for sick time you don’t have,) then you know how much less wiggle room you have.
YES means every employer in Massachusetts will have to give people sick time. How is this even a question? If you vote NO, you have no soul.
1. Lost Daughter by the Dry Spells
2. Another Day on the Train by M Shanghai String Band
3. The World feat. Jack White, by Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi
4. From the Colonies by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra
5. Bahamut by Hazmat Modine
6. Hail Bop by Django Django
7. Knights of Cydonia by Muse
8. Making Enemies by Snow Patrol
9. You Are the Blood by the Castanets
(Except for #2, which you’ll need to find on YouTube.)
OK: Christianity is officially stalking me.
My fiancee and I decided to hie ourselves to Harvard Square last evening for a dirt-cheap indie movie. W both had work to do – I have got to read and review a book by an insane Bulgarian and Mary’s got a paper to write – but I’d been working all day and she’d been working all day and darn it we were ready to hang out. For the edification of the rest of us, parking at Harvard is as mad expensive as Brattle Theater is not. Plus, it’s valet and they hate you so. Very. Much. I hated me for using valet parking. Why does anyone use valet parking? It’s like its whole purpose is to turn you into a tool. Don’t fucking park there. Take the goddamn Red Line.
This was apropos to the movie we saw, which was Horns and starred Daniel Radcliffe. To his credit, I rarely thought of him as Harry Potter. He really inhabited the role. Here’s what I got out of the story.
So there’s this dude, Ig. I assume that’s short for Ignatius, which is a religious name that also for whatever reason means “on fire.” And, is also apropos. He and his girlfriend have the perfect relationship, until she decides to take a break and immediately dies. Obviously, everyone thinks Iggy did it. He doesn’t think he does, because for whatever reason everyone associates Dead Girlfriend Character (DGC) with Mother Mary and Ig with Satan. Seriously: they do NOT like him. It seems like they never did. All these people sort of glare at Ig whenever he’s with Dead Girlfriend Character. I don’t blame them. I think he probably killed her, too. I’ll explain why in a minute.
Anywho, as Ig generally reacts badly to all the media attention and the loss of DGC, he suddenly sprouts horns. Nobody seems to think this is odd except him, but they also behave oddly when he’s nearby. For one thing, they can’t keep their damn fool mouths shut. Whether they’re secret exhibitionists or actually despise themselves or want to hurt their toddler, they’ll act out whenever he’s around, and it gets worse as his horns get bigger. They also get needy and suggestible in this really childlike way. They tend to believe what Ig says, ask him for advice, and do what he tells them to. One of the most hilarious moments in the entire film is when Ig gets a crowd of reporters to beat the shit out of each other over a background of Marilyn Manson’s cover of Personal Jesus. Sounds wrong, right? Totally is. I laughed my fucking head off.
Once he figures out the extent of his demonic powers, Ig decides to use them to find out who really killed DGC. It turns out to be his good childhood buddy, lawyer, and all-around trusted “nice guy”, who is actually a closet psychopath who thought that DGC was in love with him and lost control when it turned out that she didn’t. Ig goes full Satan and offs him before dying and reliving his memories of his time with DGC for the rest of eternity, because that’s Heaven for him.
The surface metaphor is obvious: people though he was the devil incarnate, so that’s what he became. People tend to rate themselves in degrees of goodness or badness compared to the worst criminals – the phrase “I can’t believe he did that!” implies “I would never do such a thing!” Except, of course, you might, under the right circumstances. Mental illness, for example, drives people to do horrendous things that they truly regret, but we still generally hold the mentally ill responsible for crimes. Fair? Nope. And if you ever find yourself lying awake at night looking for something upon which to focus your anxiety, ponder the fact that if something out of your control happened in your brain chemistry today, you could be on your way to the chair tomorrow, and everyone in your life would approve.
So the point I saw them making – that we were supposed to take away – was that instead of measuring themselves against Ig, people were being forced to act out the things inside of them that they felt guilty about. Instead of saying magic words and making those bad impulses and feelings OK (at Ig’s expense) they just went ahead and did them. No superego, you see.
And that’s great – except it ONLY happened when Ig was around, and nobody remembered it later. Real-world consequences of incidents where people acted out weren’t clearly apparent. For example, a bar supposedly burned down, but nobody said anything about it, no fire trucks were seen, nothing.
Did it happen? Or was that just what Ig wished would happen?
Ig, by the way, was the narrator. As far as I’m concerned, the whole movie came to us through his filter. And he may well have been imagining destructive or inappropriate things that he knew people wanted to do to their lives to make himself feel better.
Ig also got psychic visions when he touched people, but again, there was never any objective evidence that those visions were accurate. They were, however, all very exonerating for Ig.
Finally, DGC left Ig a note written in Morse code that theoretically told him that she had really broken up with him because she had cancer and didn’t want to waste his time and life. But Ig translated it for the audience. Our hero (?) had actually spoken to DGC’s dad several times, and he had never said a thing about cancer. Wouldn’t he know? Why wouldn’t he say anything? It just doesn’t make sense that DGC really has cancer. DGC, we barely knew you. I think that Ig is probably fooling himself: he’s not really a devil, he doesn’t have powers, his girlfriend really did want to leave him. He’s hallucinating that the people in his life are doing dreadful, id-crazy things because he needs to externalize his guilt. He wants to know that everyone’s as awful as he is. Because, my friends, Ig really did kill his pretty girlfriend. Obviously. And he feels terrible. Of course. That’s why he’s visualized himself as a devil. Ultimately, he dies in a bloodbath along with the only other people who could have sorted things out, so that’s the end of that.
Now, this was based on a book written by Joe Hill, who I must now absolutely read. He is the son of Stephen King, who had a moderately large impact upon my teenage years of of whom I am fond. However, (sorry, Mr. King) he does have some unfortunate patterns. He’s obsessed with psychics, for example, and terrifying psychopaths feature prominently in his stories. I mean, on one level, that’s kind of a no-brainer, but I kind of prefer dark stories where I can see where the villain is coming from, even if he’s a complete monster. It’s scarier that way because it implies that I’m no angel, either. If I can sympathize with Amy from Gone Girl, if I can understand how she got so manipulative based on what I know about her gender and upbringing and even admire her a little bit for playing the system to her advantage, that makes both her and me horrible. Obviously I’m not about to behave like her, but it does play with my insecurities about how “good” I actually am. I think it’s healthy to wonder if you’re really a decent person, to examine yourself now and then and try to objectively see what kind of a job you’re doing fitting into society today.
If Joe Hill’s Ig character is anything like the one I saw in the movie last night, then I suspect that I might actually prefer his writing to his dad’s. I read Ig as an extremely unreliable narrator, sympathetic and realistic in his context, and ultimately as weak as any mortal. Who wouldn’t want revenge for the death of their love? Who hasn’t been so caught up in romance that they lost their identity to it, were destroyed without it, became a beast because of it? While another guy was executed for the murder of DGC, only Ig was aware that this person was at all involved, which says to me that Ig’s probably either delusional or lying to the audience. First person narrator, remember. Still, in his twisted mind, I believe that he really thought that he was using the powers of Satan to avenge his love – and maybe find some way for the murderer to not be him. All the while, his guilt manifested in the indelible horns growing from his head.
It was interesting. I felt richer for having seen it, which is more than I can say for any of the mainstream Hollywood blockbusters I’ve seen recently. As far as reasons for being a parking tool go, this one wasn’t so bad.
In preparation for the assured failure of my New Year’s resolutions, I am performing a death-defying NaNoWriMo this year. As I did last year. I like to pregame my holiday distraction rituals. This time, I’ve given myself a bit more of a margin for success by doing up a novel that I’ve already started to write.
Its working title is “God is a Rubber Ducky.” I sincerely hope that I’ll think of a better one before the whole thing is through. It’s about how God accidentally incarnates as a rubber duck because he’s too out of touch to realize that it’s not the real thing. As a result, he gets a front-row seat to the reactions of Earth inhabitants to his Heavenly policies. Yes, I might be on a God kick at the moment. What can I say? He’s a bastard but he’s a damn funny bastard. Like Archie Bunker. In addition, I’m a lifelong recovering Catholic who is kind of thrilled that a giant perfect man isn’t hanging out in the sky, itemizing my mistakes. THAT is why God gets to be a rubber ducky in my story.
So far, I have a pretty bitchin’ beginning and a pretty awesome end, but getting from one to the other has been a bit of a trick. God’s immobile, you know, since rubber ducks are incapable of movement. The angels look for him but they either can’t find him or they “can’t find him”, if you know what I mean. He’s got to live through half a century of U.S. history without turning into a divine version of Forrest Gump. It’s going to have to get pretty weird.