Wolf in White Van

I read it. I didn’t like it. I think it’s really well-written and well-executed, but I just didn’t like it.

I hate books like that–where you feel like you should be able to enjoy it, because look at how objectively good it is, but you just can’t ever settle into it as enjoyable.

Though, honestly, I don’t know. I feel a little numb myself still, in ways that continue to surprise me. The other night, the Butcher just opened the door and let the dog out without hooking him up, because it was raining and he was convinced the dog would come right back in. And when I went over to check on him, of course, he was gone.

And I turned to the Butcher and said, “that was a dick move.” And then I sat back down. That struck me as odd–that I could recognize that the dog was missing, but I couldn’t give a shit (and believe me, this whole discussion becomes funnier, in context, as the month goes on).

And there’s been lots of good news, too, that I just can’t give a shit about. I mean, I care, just, not that much.

I know I will come back to myself eventually, but it’s taking a while.

An Evening of Movies

First, I watched Thale, which is short and sweet and amazing. Maybe it’s because I’m emotional and I have all kinds of feelings about my parents coming down and being genuinely helpful and tender, but I cried at the end. I guess this is supposed to kind of be a creepy movie, but it’s more like a beautiful fairytale. Yet again, well done, Scandinavia. (Though, fair warning, one of the main characters is named Elvis, which, I suspect, in Norway isn’t funny, but it kind of colored how I saw the character.)

Then I watched The Punk Singer, which is a documentary about Kathleen Hanna. It’s really, really good. I was too isolated to have been plugged into the whole Riot Grrrl thing as it was happening and I kind of thought that I knew nothing about Kathleen Hanna, so I was really pleasantly surprised to discover how many of her songs I knew and to see how influential her–and her peers–had been on me, three or four or a million ripples removed from the actual impact. I don’t really have a huge punk rock influence, but I do believe that this world sucks and that the only way to survive it in any meaningful way is to band together with like-minded people and to make and do things that matter to you. Art, to me, is the court jester’s fuck you to the human condition.

So, yeah, I really liked it. Though it’s impossible to watch and to not wonder what the fuck is wrong with Courtney Love (though she’s mentioned very, very briefly) which I guess is why Netflix then recommends Hit So Hard, the documentary about Hole’s drummer, Patty Schemel. It’s also really good, but it’s heavy and I can’t quite shake the feeling the documentary gave me. It’s weird to finish a movie about a band you love and end up feeling like you wish almost every one in it’s lives could have gone better.

The Day the Whistles Cried

This afternoon, I read Betsy Thorpe’s The Day the Whistles Cried, which is about the Dutchman’s Curve accident, which was the worst train accident in history. It’s a quick read and really interesting. It’s arranged kind of like an episode of Law & Order. The first half is all about figuring out what happened and the second half is a courtroom drama about who’s to blame.

I’m thinking a lot about how to write about history in a way that’s interesting for people who aren’t scholars, so I was paying special attention to how Thorpe handled it. She takes a narrative approach, where she’s telling you the best story she can based on the facts she knows. And she seems to have run down just about every fact a person can still get his or her hands on this many years after the fact. I cried. I found it really moving and effective.

I think she also does a really good job of bringing up a lot of issues that you need to know if you want to do more research into the accident without overwhelming you if you don’t care to know more than she shares with you. I mean, you come away with a pretty thorough understanding of how trains in the South were set up to be death traps for black people and how black people in Nashville were taking huge risks to get that changed. So, if you want to know more, you know there’s meat on that particular bone and can go look.

I want to say that Thorpe’s book is an excellent place to start, but I’m afraid it sounds like an insult and I really mean it as a compliment. I think her volume is the place you should start if you want to learn about it. For some folks, this book will definitely be enough–it’s very thorough–and for others, Thorpe’s laid out clear paths to other interesting topics.

Lake Mungo

So, they have it on HBO right now and the description calls it a mockumentary, which meant that I spent the first twenty minutes waiting for it to be funny. Happily, it was weird and creepy, so even though it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, I kept watching. And wow. I don’t say this lightly. I think this is one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever seen/read. At least among the most satisfying. It’s not a typical horror movie. There’s no brutal murders (on-screen or off). There’s no inexplicable malevolent forces of evil. There’s not even anything that jumps out at you. It’s just a whole movie’s worth of dread and horror.

It is filmed like a documentary, which means that there’s a lot of reminiscing about what happened, and a lot of pretending like these events would have been so well-known to you, but here’s the real story. This leads to this wonderful moment about a third of the way into the film, when a handful of really creep things have happened and you’ve convinced yourself that it’s okay, because they’ve–in real life–just done it with mirrors and trick camera work, when they “reveal” in the movie that they’ve just done it with mirrors and trick camera work. I can’t tell you how delicious this moment is, when you feel like you’ve drifted off into a “not real, but close to real” realm so there’s some distance, some ability to sit back and just enjoy, and the film makers reground you hard in the real world.

I was telling the Butcher, too, that it’s a little like watching a Penn & Teller act as a horror movie. They show you how they did everything. I still found the last frame of the film to be fucking terrifying.

I don’t know how this didn’t make a bigger splash when it was released. I mean, yes, it’s a low-budget Australian ghost story, but it’s so well-done. I was really hoping I could talk the Butcher into rewatching it last night, but he didn’t seem that game. But he eventually conceded I had been right about Trollhunters, so I think I can get him on-board with this eventually.

Edited to add: I ran across this, by the guy responsible for making it look the way it does. It makes me want to watch it again.

All Them Witches

I told the Butcher that this is what happens when a kid raised on Black Sabbath and Zeppelin goes back through time and discovers The Doors. He said, “Is that supposed to make me want to listen to it?” I said, “No, I’m just trying to explain to you why I love them.” Seriously. If you don’t hear it in the way they “Ooos” go, then this is just not going to be for you. But, if you do hear it, this is going to be the best thing you hear all day.

I don’t know who Charles William is, but I’m secretly hoping it’s the Inkling Charles Williams.

Ender’s Game: The Movie

Allowing for the fact that I never read the book and I never was a boy–what the fuck was that hot mess? Let’s just start with the fact that, on a planet with seven billion people, why did they keep being all “The aliens killed tens of millions of people.” We have seven billion people on a huge planet. And I’m supposed to believe that the whole world came together because an intergalactic force wiped out Southern California? We couldn’t all come together to stop Stalin and at the scale of space, he lived in the same house with us, sat on the same couch, put the moves on whoever had the middle cushion, even if we were dating them. Couldn’t the aliens have killed a billion people?

But the main problem with the movie, frankly, is that it tried to hew too close to the book. Ender’s family could have been way parred down because all that shit about being a third matters in the book (I assume) but means nothing in the movie. We needed less time with the whole “Ender beats up bullies” and more time with “Ender is having something weird with this game.”

But the Butcher and the Red-Headed Kid looooved it. Loved. So, you know, to each their own.

More on Sound of Noise

Okay, so here are some other things I loved about it. There’s a man and a woman at the core of it. They might even be said to have a very tiny thing. But it doesn’t go anywhere! And that’s not a tragedy. It was really fun to listen to. In that way, it kind of reminded me of The Innkeepers. (Just in that way, though. South of Noise is not at all, even in the slightest, a horror movie.) And, for a movie about music and making music, there are a lot of really delicious silences.

It makes me wonder just how outlandish a central premise you could come up with and still frame it with “real”ness.

I feel like many of my stories are obviously not quite here, like we have all moved over together into unreal Nashville (or wherever). But this movie was very “real” except for the central two things. And I kind of like thinking about that, moving one or two strange things from “unreal” into real.

Like everything is the same as it is here, but you can use butterflies as a heat source. Like, how little a change could you make?

I don’t know. I’m thinking about it anyway.

Men in Black III

The Butcher, the Red-Headed Kid, and I watched it. We all really liked it. I’m not sure we would have liked it if we hadn’t heard it sucked, but, because our expectations were so low, we were pleasantly surprised at every turn.

We did laugh long and hard when Josh Brolin’s character said he was 29.

It’s too bad he’s such a douche in real life, because I have had a huge crush on him since that Pony Express show.

Same Story, Different Books

Things went a little strange here this weekend, thus freeing me up a lot of time to read while waiting for people to arrive and leave and arrive again. So, I read Sarah Water’s Affinity and John Searles’ Help for the Haunted.

In order to talk about what I want to talk about–that these are the same story in different books–spoilers abound.

So, to be clear, I’m not making any kind of accusation of plagiarism. It’s not the same writing. I don’t think Searles ripped off Waters. The plots are really different. But both books are about what happens when people pretending to have supernatural powers come into contact with women who aren’t allowed to be lesbians and what goes wrong because of that. In fact, I’m pretty sure I guessed that Rose in Help for the Haunted was gay precisely because of Affinity.

Anyway, I really enjoyed them both. I think Affinity is slightly better. But it’s so terrible. I would say, about 2/3 of the way through, I figured out what was going on–though not exactly the particulars–and I spent the last half of the book really hoping I was wrong or that, at the least, Margaret would have some kind of happy ending. But no!

Help for the Haunted has some things it’s probably best to not think too hard about–like why a troubled girl is made the guardian of her younger sister instead of dumping the sister into the foster system, or why the younger sister would be able to kill a person without any kind of real fall-out. But it was still entertaining.

Just weird that two books, kind of picket at random, just for the Spiritualism tie in, would be so similar in other ways.

The United States of Paranoia

This weekend I read Jesse Walker’s The United States of Paranoia. And it contains a brief discussion of The Mystic Clan! Which is not the only reason to read it, but it’s a good one. Anyway, I feel like, if you were just going to read two books on where we are as a nation at this moment, you could do no better than this and Balko’s book. Somewhere, in the space between them, there’s just a lot of good truth about where we are and why.

Walker does some things very nicely. I think he does a great job of showing how paranoia is built into the fabric of our country, that it’s been there pretty much from the moment the English met the Indians and worried they were conspiring with the French or other Indians to do them in. And he’s appropriately sympathetic to the truth in that old bumper sticker that just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you. (Pause for an appreciation of Nirvana’s ability to turn a bumper sticker into a song lyric). There are actually conspiracies, just not always the ones we think.

I also liked that he got into how we talk about belief in conspiracies as if it’s just the provenance of wacko lefties or nutty right-wingers, but they’re actually interwoven throughout races, classes, genders, and political beliefs.

He organizes types of conspiracies we believe in into four main ones–the enemy outside (The Indians are plotting against us!), the enemy inside (Your wife is secretly a witch!), the enemy below (the slaves are plotting against us!), and the enemy above (a secret society headed by Andy Jackson really rules the country and they’re the ones agitating the Indians, witches, and slaves against you!)–and then talks about how these motifs reoccur and morph into each other.

One of the most interesting things he talks about is how our brains are so determined to find these kinds of patterns that you can end up with a situation where, say, 10 college history professors get together and decide to play a game where they will “prove” using historical documents that every U.S. president is or has been a vampire, and they can find “evidence” of this secret vampire cabal pretty easily and even, weirdly enough, considering they know they made it up, find themselves forgetting that this isn’t true.

In other words, if you put a compelling enough narrative order to random facts, your brain will begin to accept the truth of that narrative order even if it’s just arbitrary and made up. And he talks a little about the trap where even the absence of evidence can be evidence. So, if you couldn’t find anything that suggested that FDR was a vampire, it wouldn’t necessarily prove that he wasn’t. He could, after all, just be the best at keeping it secret.

It’s interesting to think how this thing that is normally a force for good in our lives–learning to recognize patterns and developing understanding from those patterns–can easily also work against a person.

But it’s also kind of the driving force behind Project X–Sam Houston was really a werewolf! Adelicia Acklen collected weird canines! That cute girl at the brothel was really the Devil! So, I’m convinced it’s a good book for writers to read, just for understanding on how to build plots that contain sinister plots.

The Family Fang

1. I feel like this is the story of the emotional truth of my upbringing, just enlarged.

2. Whew. I’m glad to have read this.

Not My Thing

In the past couple of weeks, I read I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro and North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud. They’re both short-story collections. They’re both exquisitely written. I mean, god damn, each story is like some perfectly crafted jewel.

Some perfectly crafted jewel that just leaves me feeling like blech. What is this thing I have just read and why did I just read it?

I want to think some more about what I didn’t like about them. Like I said, it’s got nothing to do with the quality of the writing. These are folks who have brought their A-games. Possibly not just their A-games. But there’s a kind of heaviness to their writing that I don’t like. I finished both of them and felt like “Great, now I can’t breathe.”

Woochi

Holy shit! We watched this movie, Woochi, this morning and it was fantastic. I just couldn’t believe it. It starts out strange and beautiful and then just remains so. And I don’t know if it’s the fact that, since there’s already a lot of wirework, I, as a viewer, was willing to accept a level of corniness or if they just did a great job with the CGI, but a lot of the plot hinges on there being a scary rat and rabbit and, by god, they are scary.

I kept asking the Butcher how he learned about this movie, but he said it was just a crapshoot that he picked it.

Dr. Parnassus blah blah blah

We watched that Dr. Parnassus movie which started out so intriguingly and then kind of petered out into nonsense. Beautiful nonsense, but still nonsense. I was trying to decide if it would have been better had Ledger lived, but the truth is that it called for such a weird change of Tony’s character from scamp to evil-doer that I don’t think so. How could anyone make that work?

Still, I can’t stop thinking about it. It was so beautiful and just the right kind of strange.

Valerie June

It’s everything I hoped it would be. Except that I somehow have it on my iPod twice, so it plays each song like an echo when it’s over. Which is not ideal when trying to think about it as a whole.

But it makes me feel like when you are floating in a lake and it’s wonderful and then the fish start nibbling on your leg hair.

Not that that’s ever happened to me.

I’m just saying, I heard the fish in Percy Priest might do that.

Villains

Last night I read Chuck Klosterman’s I Wear the Black Hat, which I thought¬† would be a good follow up to Radley Balko’s book, since they are both, in their own ways, meditations about evil. And they do make an interesting pairing, but it shouldn’t be a comparison Klosterman welcomes. Balko’s book is just much, much better written. Balko’s book has a through-line. You feel like you ended up in a different place than you started. Klosterman’s book is interesting, but every chapter is like “let’s just consider a different (mostly male) villain.”

Instead of making an argument, he’s just mulling things over. Which, fine, except that he ends the book with a meditation on Hitler. Up until that point, Klosterman has made two interrelated arguments–one, we love in fiction what we’d be repulsed by in real life; and two, the villain is the person who knows the most and cares the least. And then I thought he was making an argument that real life people cannot be perceived of as heroes or villains until they enter a kind of fictive space. In some ways, we have to strip away what we know of them as full people in order to reduce them down to a fictional character we can classify.

But then he’s all, “Well, Hitler is kind of the ultimate villain, but he doesn’t fit my ‘knows the most, cares the least’ formulation.” And I kept waiting for him to say that this is because Hitler hasn’t been successfully fictionalized. The aftermath of what he did is still too real. That’s people’s grandparents who are dead. (Same for Stalin, I’d argue). Hitler can’t be moved comfortably into fictive space where he can be simplified and “villainized” because he doesn’t reduce very well. Yet.

Which isn’t to say that Hitler’s not evil. Just that he’s not a “villain” because he’s not quite distant enough to be comfortably fiction.

But that argument never came! Or at least, didn’t come successfully. So, it gave the whole book this kind of sad undermining of itself at the end.

Also, I think he talks about maybe three women as villains in the whole book. One of them is Sharon Stone’s character from Basic Instinct. And I know, in some sense, he’s writing about villains he identifies with. So, it’s maybe not surprising that so many of them are male. But on the other hand, it also kind of is. He can imagine what he has in common with Kareem Abdul-Jabar but he can’t imagine what he has in common with, say, Hillary Clinton? Or go on at more length about how Sarah Palin operated as a villain?

It’s not noticeable at first, but it starts to get weird after a while. Maybe there is something particularly masculine about villainy, but, if so, he should make that explicit.

Anyway, he’s obviously talented as fuck. But eh.

The New Hostess

I got some cupcakes. They are smaller and somehow not quite as nice. They’re not as tall. There’s not as much room for the creamy middle. Somehow it feels like a metaphor for corporate America. Even the things you want as a shitty indulgence has been made mediocre. Corporate America: Won’t Take You Clear to Hell in a Handbasket, but Will Charge You The Same Amount to Walk the Road to Heck Yourself.

KITSUNE by Jessamyn Johnston Smyth

I finished this chapbook and promptly died of jealousy. It’s so good. Can I just quote you a lovely part?

everything, everything for me has conspired

to make of me a person of no

and by sheer vexed stubbornness I am determined

to continually say yes, yes, come closer, yes

Christ, it’s all that matters

So, the poems are all on a theme–and that theme is about a shape-shifting lover. And there’s something very performative about the whole thing. I’d say theatrical, but it kind of reminded me of The Pillow Book. Like there’s a kind of detached framing and then each poem kind of plunges you right into a dramatic, emotional moment.

On Facebook she said that this is part of a larger grouping of poems all about shapeshifting lovers. I now cannot wait. Anyway, you can buy it here, if you’re looking for some poems about a fox-dude.

I want to say, too, that I really like poetry, even some of the more typical poetic stuff that a lot of people hate. So, I feel like my endorsement of something might make you instead dread to read it. But Smyth’s language is just like in that excerpt–somehow it’s the language of everyday, but slightly skewered. You don’t have to work really hard to understand what she’s saying, but the poems are sturdy enough to withstand rereading.

Sitting Around: Great. Having to Sit Around: Terrible

I am so bored. So very, very bored.

I watched The Frankenstein Theory which was surprisingly good. It didn’t transcend, but it did settle you cozily into a wonderful dark corner. I watched Session 9, which was embarrassingly bad, considering that the acting was so good. Like they were just like “Hey, we’ve got some fine television actors. Fuck a coherent story.” Seriously. If you’ve seen any movie, ever before in your life, you know what happens in this movie. Which is weird, because The Frankenstein Theory also telegraphs its end right from the beginning and yet, with that one, it works. I don’t know. Like I said, The Frankenstein Theory isn’t the best movie ever made but it is what it is so well that I really, really enjoyed it.

I also finished Re-dressing America’s Frontier Past, which was excellent all the way through except for the last part of the 5th chapter, which I’m sure is of interest to theorists but I was so very bored. BUT other than that, wow, this is amazing. As I suspected, it becomes even more apparent that there’s a lot of fertile ground between “crossing” and “passing” and that female impersonators and minstrels are operating on different, but similar dynamics. Like I said, I think it’d be really interesting to hear more about what minstrelsy scholars made of Boag’s book.

The other thing I found really interesting about it is how it puts to lie this notion that we somehow never had same-sex marriage or even a need for it until my lifetime. Tons of the people in Boag’s book marry and, even when it ends up poorly–they’re “discovered” or something–there’s not any sense that the marriage wasn’t valid. It might have been strange or confusing to people how you could marry someone of your same sex and not know it or why you would want to marry someone of your same sex. But there simply was no doubt that these people were married.

If I had to guess, it seems like “crossing” had to become separated enough from the idea that wearing men’s or women’s clothing didn’t make you a man or a woman in some fundamental way and sexual orientation had to become separated enough from gender presentation to allow a space to develop where we as a culture came to believe that gay people couldn’t marry each other.

I read a story about a guy in Australia, I think, who was under house arrest and, eventually, he got so bored that he begged to be thrown in jail for the remainder of his sentence. I thought that was probably apocryphal, but I’m starting to believe it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I read it yesterday evening and I think it’s pretty much perfect. It’s a book for adults about being a child. And it’s about forgetfulness and fantasy and I just really love it. It’s really short, too, so it’s a quick read.

Cross-dressing

On Bridgett’s recommendation, I’ve just started Peter Boag’s Re-dressing America’s Frontier Past. I’m only through the chapter on women who dressed as men, but it’s blowing my mind. Boag’s trying to walk an unenviable line where he uses the term “cross-dressing” as the broadest category and then tries to drill down into as much material as he can find on each cross-dresser to try to understand how that person understood his or herself–and the understandings he finds are pretty fascinating. There were a lot of women who dressed as men in order to be able to travel freely. But he also has a lot of examples of people who were recognized by their society to be women who always felt that they were men. And there’s a lot of variety in between. I don’t envy Boag’s attempts to try to find contemporary words that easily map onto these people’s understandings of themselves, but I think Boag does a good job of reminding the reader that this mapping is problematic and obscures as well as illuminates.

I had known from how people maligned poor Uncle Walt, patron saint of this blog, that 19th century people certainly did have an understanding of “homosexuality” (I put it in quotes only to try to acknowledge again that there’s that mapping–me putting a contemporary word on a concept that doesn’t quite line up), even though we, as a culture, often pretend like gayness is something that was born in the ’20s in San Francisco. But I had no idea how much public discussion and acknowledgement there was of people who didn’t fit gender-presentation and sexual-orientation norms in the 19th century. Which is not to say that people were necessarily accepting, but that they knew people could be in these situations.

And that’s the other part that’s been blowing my mind–just story after story of people I had no idea existed. The women who dressed as men in order to become criminals. The women who dressed as men in order to marry wives. The people who were only discovered to be biologically female upon their deaths.

History books like this are great because you hear these stories. But I have this experience, too, of feeling like I had, until that moment, been robbed. These stories should have been available and were not, because they don’t fit some ideal of what it means to be American. So, they just got hidden away, kept from the kids.

Like I said, I’m not very far into it, so I don’t know if Boag gets into it or if it’s just something I have to hope someone writes about later, but it seems to me that there’s really fertile ground between the concept of (and anxiety about) “crossing” and “passing.” It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around, because I grew up in an era when we have arguments over these things like there are definitive answers. You have a set gender, sex, and race. We might fight over who gets to decide what evidence is recognizable when making those determinations–in other words, do we trust you when you say “I’m a white man?” Or do we decide certain biological standards carry more weight?–but we believe those things exist and are intimately and fundamentally embodied. For better or for worse, we’re committed to the idea that our bodies are evidence of who we are.

But this anxiety a hundred-some years ago about “crossing,” like the anxiety about passing, seems to suggest that those things were not linked for folks in the same way. They had a lot of anxiety because they seem willing to believe that you literally could become the type of person you were dressing to be.

In which case, it’s little wonder that there’s such heavy policing of the boundaries between blacks and whites and men and women–those boundaries could, if not heavily guarded, easily be traversed. And I’d like to hear some smart thoughts about that. So, I’m looking forward to the work that’s going to come out of this work, as well as looking forward to the rest of the book.

Two Brief Reviews

1. The Shining Girls. I liked it, not quite loved it. I wish I could read a story that was as if The Shining Girls and Gun Machine had a baby. Because I feel like there’s something really important about Gun Machine‘s idea that any city has any number of maps, of ways people understand it, and that, when someone is time-traveling, he is, indeed, making his own map on an axis most of us don’t get to experience. Anyway, it’s pretty good. I’m just not sure the author’s map of Chicago-land quite matches up with mine.

2. The new Superman movie. I loved it. LOVED it. There are two really alarming parts, though. One is when Pa Kent encourages people to hide from a tornado under an overpass. NOOOOO, Pa Kent, noooo! That’s an incredibly dangerous place to be in a tornado. The second is the part where Superman is talking to a priest and the camera frames him and Jesus in the same shot, you know, in case you didn’t get the parallels. People in our audience groaned. But other than that, I thought it was a really lovely meditation on parenting and finding your way in the universe and all that jazz. It had a lovely, big heart at its center, which I was a little afraid about. I mean, the best superhero movies lately have been about brooding or snarky superheros. So, I was worried about how a sincere, good guy might play. But I have to say, I think they did a really, really good job. I found myself really, deeply moved by the depictions of loving parents and a guy who would have been a good guy even if he weren’t Superman. I kind of didn’t know how hungry I was for a story like that again.

Hansel and Gretel: Terrible Movie, Critics’ Wet Dream, or Both?

Holy shit! We watched that Hansel and Gretel movie with that dude in it last night and it was amazing. It made me wish I were a dual historian/women’s studies professor so that I could spend a week in all of my classes watching this movie, turning to fifteen to thirty people and saying “What the fuck? How is this possible in this day and age?”

I mean, I expected to feel uncomfortable as someone who enjoys a little woo in her life, watching witches as bad guys. But this is not an anti-witch movie so much as it’s just a–and I do not use this word in this instance lightly–misogynistic blow-out. You want to see women getting punched, shot, kicked, smashed, decapitated, tortured, burned alive, and threatened with being raped to death? Were you hungry to relive the days in which every powerful woman simply must be a creature of Satan? Perhaps, among all the violence against women, you wanted to see a light-hearted sequence where a teenage boy tries to touch the breasts of an injured and unconscious woman and it’s played for laughs?

And, even the violence against women aspect aside, the biggest problem with the movie is that it’s not some great think-piece, but by the end of it, it’s not clear that the witches are wrong about people and our best use maybe being as witch food. I mean, the witches are terrible, but they are terrible to everyone equally. The things the villagers do and allow to happen in the name of “justice” or “safety” are laughably vile. These are the shits we’re supposed to be in sympathy with?

For instance, one of the witches starts a rumor that Hansel and Gretel’s mom is a witch (this is true because every adult female character in the movie with the exception of one is, but the villagers don’t know this). The villagers burn her alive and then hang to the death Hansel and Gretel’s father. Then, a bit later, Hansel gives a brief speech on revenge and you think, “Oh, great, he also got revenge on the village.” But no! Just killing the witch that started the rumor was revenge. The sick fucks who would actually kill a couple who have never harmed them, against whom they have no actual proof? Those guys I guess just need to be understood.

The whole thing was just bizarre. But I reiterate: if you’re looking for something to show people that illustrates how these kinds of historical slanders work, this is a great contemporary example.

Plow the Bones

Yesterday afternoon I read Douglas Warrick’s short story collection, Plow the Bones. It’s extraordinary. I’d put it right up there with Jagganath and Let’s Play White which you know are the two best short story collections I’ve read in the last couple of years. It’s strange as fuck and really intense. I could only read one or two stories and then I had to check twitter or walk around a little, just because it was kind of too much to swallow at once. And he’s just a hell of a craftsman.

But the best story in the lot is “Ballad of a Hot Air Balloon-Headed Girl,” which I feel like told me something so true about people that I’m kind of at a loss as to how to go on after reading it. But this isn’t one of those cases where it’s “the best story by far.” Every story is really great. I also liked the one about the golem rock band. Hell, I liked them all.

Anyway, if you’re like, “Man, I want to read something like Jagganath but sadder and scarier,” here’s your thing.

Plus, honestly, when was the last time you read a fiction book with references to Paglia? Hell, he takes his title from her! And then, I suppose she beats him to death with a life-sized mannequin of Madonna, which I think is how all interactions with her must end, so that will be sad, but somehow fitting.