This Ish Just Isn’t Fun Anymore

“You’ll find more cheer in a graveyard.” – Gimli, The Two Towers

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The thing about porn is that at some point––unless you’re an addict––you have to stop and say, okay, I’m done with this nonsense.

Last night I reached that point with what has become for many people a Sunday night ritual of torture porn, The Walking Dead.

It took me about five seasons to become a regular viewer of this show, and now that habit, I think, is purged. I’ve never been a fan of zombies; unlike vampires or werewolves, they’re just not my monsters. My husband has been with it from the beginning, and though I didn’t like it because inevitably there’d be zombie nightmares involving our children each night I’d watch it, I used to enjoy his humorous recaps of each episode’s highlights. When I first asked him what the show was about, back in the first season, he told me it was a zombie show, yes, but it was also, like most good stories, about the Human Condition.

“It’s about these survivors’ attempts to maintain their humanity in the face of the end of it all around them. It’s a story about whether they will stay human or become zombies, yes, but also about whether they will retain their goodness in the face of other survivors’ becoming monsters.”

Hey, an exploration of humanity in the face of an inhuman threat––sounds like some good science fiction, doesn’t it? It didn’t take long to realize that the true threat of the zombie apocalypse isn’t zombies, who can be stabbed or shot in the head by a kid with enough practice. (And the implications of that detail, in and of themselves, are horrifying to contemplate.) The true threat, of course, is the people who turn on each other. The ones who care about nothing other than power in whatever corner of the world they have left. The ones who aren’t really any better than the bad actors we have in real life, and who aren’t even any worse, they just have more clout in their respective spheres of influence.

This could have been a show about rebuilding society in a way that improved over the calamity of the past. But then I guess it wouldn’t have been horror.

I think one of the problems I have with certain movies and television shows is the lack of creative problem-solving. I’m not learning much if anything from a lot of these stories. I liked The Matrix and even the sequel, but the third movie made the whole trilogy worse. I just felt hollow after watching the end of that cycle, as if the people who had conceived of this fantastic science fiction plot and these engaging characters who could literally bend reality couldn’t come up with anything better than resolving their dilemmas with guns. I liked Daredevil really well until the characters couldn’t get along and everything was just ultra-violence: the first season was compelling; the second one, at times confusing and insensible. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was great for a while, but now it takes longer and longer for a season to get good while half the characters––the ones who get the most plot time––stagnate in a soup of poor choices. The Jason Bourne movies––which have devolved into a cast with only a couple of women (both of whom are caricatures), long masturbatory car chases, and a brooding spy who never answers the question of will he or won’t he––haven’t been good for a while now.

And the violence––good grief, the violence. Probably by now you’ve read a bunch of the commentary on why people are leaving The Walking Dead in droves after last night’s last straw. There was no real character development; no one did anything that wasn’t predictable. And Negan? Seriously? What the fuck is that guy? He delivered on the promise of the last season’s finale, but worse. I suppose, in retrospect, we couldn’t have expected that he wasn’t going to be this way. The episode last night was just a confirmation of our worst, stomach-turning dread, executed in the most unnecessarily assaultive ways. I’m not sure things could have been worse if Lucille had gone after Maggie in her stomach and then her face. I’m really tired of the cheap shock, of the tug on my heartstrings that doesn’t have any heart in it. If a story wants to upset me, it doesn’t have to attempt to be the most brutal, most bloody, most creatively grotesque gore we’ve seen yet. Believe me, I don’t find that stuff creative. Tedious? Yes, sometimes. Insulting? All too often. It’s like they don’t even care that human beings, people with thoughts and feelings and relationships, are in the audience watching.

Dictionary.com defines porn as “television shows, articles, photographs, etc., thought to cater to an irresistible desire for or interest in something.” Yes, we all know it first means this in a sexual context. But we now have food porn, disaster porn, and torture porn (among others, no doubt). I love food but don’t really care about seeing everyone’s dinner on Facebook. I used to love my superheroes and their big-budget action films, but I’m tired of the stakes always being world-calamity-high. I don’t feel connected to those stories anymore, because they no longer feel like they’re about people, not really.

When I think about The Walking Dead––and I’ve thought about this for a while now––I don’t know how much longer the series can go on. At this point the zombies are hardly even a character anymore. The cycle of find a place, meet another group who are assholes, fight that group, find another place, meet another group who are bigger assholes, fight them in an uglier way, lather, rinse, repeat––I just can’t. I no longer care whether that world survives; I’m no longer sure it should. And the thing is, I don’t know what disturbs me more: the content of last night’s episode or the show’s enduring popularity.

Have you been paying attention to what’s going on in our culture right now? If so, then you are probably aware that real life is pretty badly screwed up in a lot of ways. It’s –isms as far as the eye can see. I’m not looking to escape into worse violence when I turn on the television. It doesn’t make me feel better about my own situation; it makes me feel worse about the human race. What’s happening on some of these shows we’ve been watching turns my stomach, but what bothers me more is that I’m not having the zombie nightmares anymore. Even after last night’s episode, which literally nauseated me––and by the way, blood does not make me squeamish––I didn’t have those dreams. This tells me I’m becoming desensitized to it, even if only a little. And that tells me it’s time to pull out while I can.

Game of Thrones, you’re officially on notice. You’ve still got Peter Dinklage and amazing costume design going for you, and I’m genuinely curious to see how a world full of matriarchies plays out, especially since only two of the leaders of the various regions or clans appear to be psychotic––a significant improvement over the life art purports to imitate.

But pull any more sensationally cruel and insulting stunts like the Red Wedding, Sansa’s wedding night with Theon and Bolton’s bastard, and Princess Shireen, and you and your lack of taste and storytelling prowess will probably lose me, too.

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For another really interesting post about giving up on The Walking Dead, check this out.

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12 Days of Christmas Music That Isn’t Awful (Day 9)

One of my very favorite Yuletide songs is “Carol of the Bells.”  When I was a child, I knew this song only as a lovely and too-short instrumental piece, but when I sang in the mixed chorus in high school and actually learned there were words and what they were, it became the one song in the repertory I looked most forward to singing.  Like probably every other high school chorus ever, we sang it a cappella, of course, in four-part harmony, of course, but to me, it was special.  It was also one of the first songs from which I ever learned to appreciate the complex workings of overlaid voices, and everything coming together at once felt sort of magical.

Many versions of this song have been made. I’m rather partial to George Winston’s piano rendition on his album December (Windham Hill, 1982) — which is a great album, by the way, if you like piano music.  Actually, the only version of this song I’ve ever heard that I did not like is the one they play on Houston’s Official Christmas Music Station.  (I’m sure you’re shocked by this.)  I don’t even know who’s responsible for that version; they sound like a typical 1970s mixed adult chorus who are probably all wearing matching polyester with matching helmet hair and are swaying and snapping their fingers in a matching Stepford-like pattern.  The accompanying music screams jazz hands.  This version of the song has very different and extremely religiously-charged lyrics.  (Now, obviously, I understand that there is a very healthy foundation in this holiday which is religious, and I have no problem with that.  I actually like many religious carols, too.  But the way they screwed up this one, ugh.  Bad doggie, no biscuit.)

Enough of that.  I’m presenting to you two videos of this song.  The first is from a television special that came on when I was young; it had the California Raisins and other Claymation figures performing Christmas music in a sort of variety show format reminiscent of Sha-Na-Na. (Do you remember that show? No? God, I’m old.)

Here, maybe this will jog your memory.  Because how could anyone forget Bowzer?
Here, maybe this will jog your memory. Because how could anyone forget Bowzer?

 

Anyway, the California Raisins and Claymation in general were a big deal back then, too, and my dad had recorded this Christmas music special onto a VHS tape, and we must have worn it out just rewinding and rewatching the “Dumb Bell” segment because we thought it was so funny.

 

 

But in case this kind of camp isn’t to your taste anymore — and you would have all my sympathies if it weren’t — I’ve also found this lovely video of ThePianoGuys that might be more your speed.  Enjoy.

 

 

Happy Yule.  🙂

The Dark Knight Trilogy: How I Learned To Quit Worrying And Love The Bat (Again)

My relationship with Batman is complicated. But then, that’s the only kind of relationship Batman ever has.

First, some backstory: I was fortunate enough as a child to be raised on comics and science fiction and fairy tales just as much as the literary classics. The first book I ever read on my own, at the age of four, was Continue reading “The Dark Knight Trilogy: How I Learned To Quit Worrying And Love The Bat (Again)”

Horse Punchers? Seriously??

At the moment I’m neck-deep in novel revisions and poem revisions and essay revisions.  I’m also working on a couple of new pieces for this blog that are more substantial but which require more time to craft and hone, and which I hope you’ll enjoy.  The upshot of all of this is that this weekend, instead of putting up something that’s half-baked, I want to shine a spotlight on another blog I follow which is hilarity manifested in e-space.  In other words, I find it funny.  I think you will too.  It’s called The Byronic Man, and today he had some timely commentary about a recent problem in the television industry.  Enjoy!

And don’t forget about the poem contest I mentioned last weekend.  Here’s the deets.

Finally, a little housekeeping note for this blog:  I’ve added an archives page, where you can find links to my old posts.  Just look up at the top of this page at the menu tabs, and you will find it.

Have a lovely St. Patrick’s Day!  Don’t forget to wear green so you won’t get pinched.