From Shorpy



Daughter just came in to tell me a joke: “A Hobbit woke up in the middle of the night because he heard ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’ I guess you could say it was -

And we said the punchline together.

C’mon, you can figure that one out.

I have no issues, no stories, no gripes, no thoughts; no meat, no soup, no gruel, no itch to scratch. What I needed to say today I said and frankly, I’m just wasting your time. Twenty minutes. 1000 words. No revisions. Go

1. Why am I watching American Horror Story? I’m not a particular fan of the genre, but I like to be chilled now and then. I like stories about houses with bad history; it’s a constant in the genre, as if the incorporeal ichor of evil can seep into plaster and beams, hold a malevolence determined to . . . well, be mean. That’s what all these spirits and ectoplasmic remnants are. They’re just mean.

I hate the genre’s attention to perversity and pain, though. There’s a difference between horror that frightens, and horror that shocks and appalls, ups the ante, revels in the misery and discomfort of the innocents. The tone of “American Horror Story” is odd, because it plants one foot in the creepy-atmospheric-gothic tone of a good shuddery mystery, and the other in the slough of depravity you get in your Saws and Hostels. One of the reason it works as well as it does is completely unearned, and completely unfair.

They’re using Bernard Herrmann’s “Vertigo” score. Not the “Psycho” score, at least I don’t think so. Not yet. But “Vertigo.” The aching, yearning, utterly bereft soundtrack of James Stewart’s character, which may be some of the loneliest music ever written.

All of Herrmann’s music is lonely, though. If it’s not depressed and lonely, it’s apart, separate. No surprise that Scorcese tapped him for “Taxi Driver,” which has two themes: one with the smothering chords of dread Herrmann did better than anyone else - they have the same weight of a great telltale John Barry chord, but they’re troubled and pained. I mean, listen to the chords he lays on in the Vertigo opening.


What is that at :50?

How your heart just collapses at 1:12. The entire movie in that one moment.

So lonely. But "Taxi Driver" also has that love song with the sax, which is as romantic as anything from a noir movie - but rueful and doomed, a good emotion recollected at the cusp between a drunken flush of pleasurable recollection and the moment you throw the glass at the wall.

“American Horror Story” also has Jessica Lange, who used to live about 30 minutes away from my house.

2. Apps I no longer use include something that let you take one second of video every day and stitch it into a quick flickering tapestry of your life. I did not quit it because it proved the unvarying dullness of my life; on the contrary, I was actually impressed with how things had been going. I made a point of inserting a shot from behind the grocery cart every Saturday, with that one second of RED PLASTIC and BRIGHT LIGHT punctuating the week. But A) it bombed as regularly as a McLean Stevenson sitcom, and B) one second wasn’t enough. It couldn’t be. Please don’t tell me a day could be reduced to one second, barely comprehended before the next snippet took its place. It’s all going by so fast.

Five seconds, that would be better. The developer, however, insisted on one second, because that was his Idea. That was the thing he put up on Kickstarter, that was the hook. One second. Why, five seconds every day would be like a Bruckner adagio. I understand; when I’m doing videos for the paper, I have a big loud clock ticking away in the back of my head, gonging out the minutes. Three minutes is good, four is pushing it, five is expecting way too much unless there was a cat making an amazing free-throw during a Harlem Shake dance at 1:45 and the rest of the video is slo-mo recaps of that one moment, which will then be extracted and turned into a 3-second GIF.

Which is pronounced with a hard G, by the way. Soft-g GIF is peanut butter. The hard G is for Graphical.

Also, Hard G is my rap name.

Anyway, I’ve been shooting slower videos for family archives. A few years ago I stopped shooting monthly videos, and started doing Events and Moments, thinking that my daughter is more likely some day to watch them if they’re not daunting slabs, but a tray of sliced appetizers. This year I’ve been shooting mundane normal things. No plot, no point. Just the way things are. Put the camera on the counter, capture a normal supper complete with clean up and dog barks and bad jokes and parental remonstrations and praise and reminders about practicing piano. Just a day.

We have the ability to capture the mundane, but we seldom bother. Because it’s mundane. But it’s only mundane now. When it’s gone it’s precious.









3. OMG SNOW. We live in Minnesota and it’s March and there was SNOW.




4. Daughter was in a black mood when I picked her up from play practice. Hungry and tired and really, we were having CHICKEN for supper? Rote dismissal of my meal selection. This is a big red button on my forehead that says Do Not Press Seriously You Know Why, but she jabs it every time I announce that supper is not pizza, pasta, or tacos. Burritos are unacceptable. Tacos are good. Quesadillas are good. Burritos, no. Ribs are good. Sandwiches with pulled pork in barbeque sauce are not.

Sulky mood over life and everything and chicken in particular.

So we go to the grocery store where I’m going to pick up a pre-slaughtered pre-gutted pre-seasoned pre-cooked chicken, and you know what? We’re not going to have fun. I’m not going to be fun dad. We’re not going to walk down the aisles and shop and chat and see if there’s anything new and make fun of fonts and recall that gross old Mac-and-cheese stuff she used to like. Get the chicken and get out. (1007 words. Well, keep going.) When we get home I say: Complaining about what I cook? Cut that crap out.

“Well it’s not like you should take it personally. You just bought the chicken. You didn’t make it.”

Pause. Wait. Pause. “You’re really not grasping the pith of my point here. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t make it. It’s the whole idea of meal selection. And I’m making the potatoes,” I said, getting down a bag of magic spud powder. I’d served real potatoes over the weekend - a miraculous thing, really. You threw the bag in the microwave, and it swelled up while the baby russets cooked, and lo, really good potatoes. Damned near artisanal.

“They’re purple inside,” she’d said.

“That’s because they’re special.” Or bruised. Here. Smear on some sour cream and the requisite dried chive-flakes.

Not as good as roasted potatoes, no. But our oven heats unevenly. Our oven believes in a wide range of diverse outcomes when it comes to a tray of spuds.

Unlike the ice maker, of course. Uniform cubes for every drink -

Oh, damn. I’d left the other bag downstairs when we came in and I had to get something out of the closet. That was the bag with the ice. The ice I bought because the icemaker stopped working. Go downstairs, get the bag. Solid brick. Well, it can be stabbed and cracked; throw it in the fridge.

Last night, you may recall, the water-pressure booster was coming on every 1:11 seconds. Silent house. Not a peep or creak. Silent snow outside. No planes. Not even the snorts or whimpers of a dreaming dog. Utter silence - then a grinding sound from the downstairs utility room. Every 1:11 seconds.

When I turned off the ice maker, I waited. And waited. It had stopped. That was it.

Of course, that meant no ice, but I’d have to have that fixed. In the meantime I put ICE on the grocery store checklist, which is why we had rotisserie chicken from the store. Because I had to go for ice. Because the ice maker was on the fritz. Which I knew because I heard the booster labor in vain. Which I heard because the house was silent. Which was because everyone was asleep and I had decided to stay up and watch “American Horror Story.”

Later I got out the ice to dump it in the bin. The bin was full. The ice maker had turned itself on.

Not the sort of thing they’d use in a haunted house movie to make people feel unnerved, because the critics would rip you up if something was literally chilling. Unless that was considered a sly reinvention of the conventions, because Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” was playing, or something.

Oh: The Hobbit who heard “Don’t Stop Believing” in the middle of the night? I guess you could say it was an unexpected Journey.

1576 words. 32 minutes. I miscalculated. Refunds will be handed out upon request.









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