October 31, 2009

Obligatory Thoughts on Monsters and Wild Things

Nothing complicated for this one; since it's Halloween, I thought I'd cough up one of my reheated metaphorical theories about monsters and horror and stuff. I actually hate horror movies and monster stories, but I appreciate the symbolism that many of them have. Since I've studied too much Dante and Milton, my own tendency is to attach all kinds of western Judeo-Christian stuff to monster narratives, and so I glommed on to the idea that each type of monster is a metaphor for one of the seven deadly sins. It's not a very original idea, but none of them ever really are, so I'll just list 'em:

Vampires = Lust, Zombies = Sloth, Werewolves = Wrath, Ghosts = Envy, Skeletons = Gluttony, and...and that's about as far as I get. I can't think of any undead-ish monsters that apply to Pride or Greed. Devils work well for Pride—that was Satan's original problem, after all—but they're not human/corporeal like the others are. Witches aren't really monsters either, and there are plenty of Wiccans who'd be offended by that idea anyway, so I don't include them.

That's that, except to note that these things have popped up everywhere in western literature (and every other culture, too) for thousands of years. Some interesting twists have always been involved—Victorian classics like Frankenstein's monster alluded to the hubris of science creating life (hey, there's a good one for Pride: a golem), and Dracula and vampires have always symbolized uncontrollable carnal desire—but the most interesting ones for me have been modern-ish takes: the bored, diva-tastic bloodsuckers of Anne Rice; the zombified shoppers of 1950's horror films, etc.

One problem is by creating these outsized metaphors for the most disturbing human behavior, we sort of gloss over the fact that mere humans tend to do more monstrous things than any fictional nightmare. In spite of that, I do have a few favorite monster metaphors. One of them is the werewolf character Lupin from the Harry Potter books, who has always struck me as a stand-in for an HIV-positive person. Not full-blown AIDS, but something with enough of a stigma and sting to make the simple allusion to lycanthropy work for a kids' book.

My other favorite is the Bret Easton Ellis short story collection "The Informers." Ellis, of course, famously gave us "American Psycho," but I went back to re-read "Informers" after it came out on film earlier this year to a chorus of pans. The movie had no vampires—and for a collection that was, literally, sold in Japan under the translation "Vampires and Zombies" (as an allusion to the hyperbolically active and passive freaks of 1980s Los Angeles), that was supposedly a major fatal flaw. Since I haven't actually seen the film yet, I'll refrain from judgment.

Speaking of movies, though, Em and I did belatedly catch "Where the Wild Things Are" today and, well… I don't really have anything meaningful to say about it, because I didn't really feel anything about the film one way or another. I don't know how else to describe it except by quoting the baseball writer Roger Angell, who once said something like "Whenever I went to a Yankees game, I felt like [megalomaniacal team owner] George Steinbrenner was in the way. I wanted to see Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, but all I saw was Steinbrenner."

That's sort of how I feel about this movie: I wanted to see Wild Things, but all I saw was (director) Spike Jonze and (writer) Dave Eggers and their achingly hip neuroses. Now, maybe I'm too used to being manipulated and told how to feel by movies (I did just cite Harry Potter, didn't I?), but to me this "Wild Things" seemed emotionally cold and almost dead (with the exception of actress Catherine Keener). That self-consciously arch, Wes Anderson-type ennui that pollutes so many movies of the past decade had its tendrils in this one too—and it made the thing so desperate to be Meaningful and Important that it kinda turned me off. But who knows—maybe I'm not getting something, which is very likely.

Anyway, on that ugly note, happy Halloween, kiddies. Eat lots of candy and don't worry about us grumpy old people and our silly griping—it's only a metaphor for the bitter ravages of age, after all. Did I mention it's my birthday in two days?

October 26, 2009

It's That Glorious Time of Year Again, Part II

The Dubious birthday week continues, today with a nod to my sister Lis. As you can see from the photo, Lis has clearly always enjoyed spending time with her big brothers, which is surely why she now lives 500 miles away from both of us. ;-) Happy birthday Lil!

October 25, 2009

It's That Glorious Time of Year Again

Yup, it's yet another Birthday Week for the DuBois kids, and we are kicking it off in style. Today it's Bryn's turn. Everyone wish him the best, because for eight high and mighty days, his age is only one number below mine. Happy birthday bro.

October 21, 2009

Be Careful Not to Touch the Wall

Yeah Bobby, cause there's a brand-new coat of paint going on over at ye olde My Band Rocks Dot Com. Mira:

The Honey White version of the site has actually looked like this for most of 2009, but I figured it was high time to re-vamp the rest of the bands' pages over there and effectively bring them into the year 2001 with some basic, gimpy CSS. Right now they look a little bare-bones, for sure—but the plan is to (relatively soon) integrate them with a relatively agile content management system like MODx.

Also, they're pretty dependent on social media tools for content right now. Those ugly little ShareThis! buttons are on every page, the HW news is piped in via FeedBurner's RSS thingy, all photos are in Flickr slideshows, HW and Low Tide have small YouTube pages, and as always every album is streaming in the XSPF Flash players from archive.org. But it's a start.

It's also the reason I haven't been blogging about stuff for a little while, for those impatient few who've been bugging me to post something. Like Bryn. More as it develops...

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