05 November 2011

Airplane Haikus 10/14/11

Streams below, written
In a curvy, flowing script -
Heaven's point of view.

The Court held UH-OH
Screaming, kicking, grabbing hell -
"Lap child" redefined.

31 March 2011

This Just In: Local Woman Confesses, "I am Santa Claus"

Earlier today, Kristin Mary Johnson admitted to fans worldwide that she is, in fact, the legendary Santa Claus. With the help of a fake beard and aging red suit, she has spent centuries bringing joy to little boys and girls across the globe, but today, she says, she is finished.

"It's just not as much fun anymore. All the kids want are birth certificates, and I'm simply not allowed to produce those," she said, citing the trend of paranoia circulating among American children in particular.

Kids, it seems, have been expressing a growing fear that if they seek the presidency one day in the future, they will be harassed endlessly by the Tea Party, whether they were born in Tennessee, Wyoming, Connecticut, or Hawaii.

Johnson hopes that her replacement will be able to make some progress with the contemptible little monsters and their parents. However, she isn't holding her breath.

"They've just gone completely blind to all common sense. Glenn Beck pulls out his chalk, their eyes glaze over, and they start to drool like Pavlov's dog. I just don't understand it. I really thought people were smarter than that. I pray to Allah that someday soon, we can get over our egos and remember how to live in peace with each other."

05 January 2011

New Year's Haikus

Ambitions abound,
Excuses, rationales, too.
Will it ever change?

Freezing, thunderstorms,
Pendulum swinging wildly.
Heinous climate "lies."

My resolution:
BE heterosexual?
Nope, still doesn't work.

02 December 2010


It never gets old. That’s why I own it, so I can get it out a couple of times a year and watch people so real, it’s as though they’re walking around in our living room. I laid the DVD on the kitchen counter over a week ago but still didn’t have time to watch it until this weekend. I’ll probably watch it again over Christmas break. It came out in 1999, and it never ages, at least for me.

We have a rosebush outside our front door, although it’s not an American Beauty. I think it’s a Peace rose, as a matter of fact. I planted it there years ago, probably at least six. I cut it down to the ground every winter, in the midst of one of the hardest and most dramatic freezes, because I heard on the street that that's what you’re supposed to do. I don’t know if I’m doing it right or not, but it comes back every year, and grows a bit every year, too. Its progress is so slow that if you weren’t watching it with great purpose, really watching it, aware of all the possible little changes, you wouldn’t realize it was happening.

I do watch, though, very closely, not to the exclusion of everything else in the world, but with great intention. As a rule, I notice changes, different smells, colors, positions of things... moods, shoes, haircuts, those kinds of things. I would bet I’ve actually missed a few things in the past couple of weeks, because I don’t feel like I’ve looked up from anything I’ve been doing for even a second, but I know I’ve still caught quite a few details.

This may seem rambling, but it’s not. I think I like the movie “
American Beauty” as much as I do because I notice. I try to make a practice of “looking closer,” as goes the main theme of the movie. It can mean a thousand different things from the beginning to the end, and I’m sure I still haven’t recognized them all.

Lester Burnham opens the film with a narration about his life--and death. It turns out he’s to be murdered, and just when he’s finally rejoined the living. Lester has been in quite a rut. He works...somewhere, in flourescent-office-world, selling ad space in a magazine for an obnoxious young asshole named Brad. The environment is pale, lifeless, toxic, and reflects what must have become Lester’s soul by this point in his life. His wife, Carolyn, is a manic realtor busting with insecurities and a certain measure of self-loathing, which only build after she starts up an affair with the “king” of real estate - yes, Buddy King himself. It’s always curious to me to watch someone grow to hate themselves steadily more as they engage in some act they deeply believe to be wrong but which they’re trying like hell to use to make themselves feel
better about their lives.

This film is loaded with some textbook
cognitive dissonance, in Carolyn's becoming more and more disgusted with Lester even while she’s cheating on him in an effort to mask her feelings of guilt and shame; in the desperately homophobic and deeply repressed gay man next door, Colonel Fitts, who is actually the one who shoots Lester, after trying to kiss him, rather than have to face him again and feel whatever terrifying things he was feeling; and of course in Lester, at each major turning point in the story when he realizes that he wasn’t as committed to his own misery as he had previously believed. When we join the Burnhams in their lives already in progress, we can see the dysfunction oozing out of the pores of the film. They all appear to absolutely loathe each other.

Lester speaks in a voice, when it can be gathered, that rings with “I don’t give a rat’s ass about any of this." Carolyn’s voice pulsates with a withering “I hate you SO much, and I can’t believe I’m stuck here with your dead weight, instead of out winning my way into the stratosphere and beyond, where my real life is happening!” (Her subconscious really would say something like that too... crazy.) Their daughter, Jane, can’t stand either one of them, although it’s obvious that she has no trouble reading Lester’s thoughts and has simply been spending her time adapting to his unavailability, even before it really came. Still, they have a collective frustration about them you might see in a bunch of people trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner with one hand tied behind their backs. The Burnhams don't understand what happened to them or why they just seem to be chasing each other around the drain. As Lester learns to enjoy himself more again, with help from Colonel Fitts’s son and Janie’s new boyfriend, Ricky, and his high-quality pot, he begins to remember what he liked both about himself and about Carolyn, although both are still firmly too ensconced in their communicational habits to get very far.

relational dialectices in this movie are like a fireworks show. Lester and Carolyn continuously cycle through patterns of integration and separation, stability and change. The Fittses express nothing, while the gay "Jim" couple who live on the other side of the Burnhams seem to express everything, even though they could be perceived as being at the greatest disadvantage for doing so. The Jims are happy; the Fittses are not and have too many other issues to discuss in any writing they must share with the rest of the movie.

You don’t always get to pick your catalysts and Lester’s revelatory period is sparked by one of young Janie’s school girl-friends, Angela. From the moment he sees the girl on the high school basketball court at halftime, throwing her pompons around, he basically moves out of the home he shares with Carolyn and directly into his fantasies about the pretty teenager. Fortunately, he’s too much of a coward to engage in any real pursuit of her early on, and as the film progresses and he gets “better” outside, he grows up on the inside as well. He finally is granted a shot with the girl on the night he dies, but upon hearing that she is a virgin, suddenly remembers that he's looking at a child, like his own daughter, like himself when his whole life was ahead of him, and he grows very protective of her, bundles her up, fixes her a sandwich, and
talks to her. The feeling here is that his fantasy was fulfilled after all, and in fact, it was...by him. As he sits down at the dining room table with a beer, gazing at a picture of him, Carolyn, and Janie - laughing, playing together - the muzzle of a pistol eases into the shot, the camera pans away, and blood hits the wall. Earlier in the evening, Colonel Fitts, possibly the single most pained man in the world, had flipped out next door, beaten the crap out of his son, and in his fragile state, had wandered over to Lester’s garage and tried to kiss him. Lester, of course, had pulled away from him, so, so gently, with no judgment whatsoever, but the demon had been let out. Colonel Fitts, it seems, was not ready for beauty.

The movie is breathtaking. Everything in it, every relationship, every emotion, has another layer beneath, or multiple ones. Beautiful things can be ugly; and the most seemingly hideous things can be the most beautiful. There’s something to the eye-of-the-beholder angle, but it’s more than that. You just have to look for it, whether it's in this movie (or this blog about it), a sunset, the soft purring of a contented cat, your children's laughter, the rush and rustle of the wind, the coolness of a windowpane at night or it's diffuse warmth in the mid-afternoon sun, a plastic bag dancing alone in an alley, your wife's eyes...don't take anything for granted. Look closer.