Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Not So Rockwellesque Holiday Season


By Doug Vehle
For The Daily Bosco

Hey, I just made it through another Happy Thanksgiving time. At least it was if you have something to be happy about on Thanksgiving. So I saw the wife of a guy who used to live and work here in town. He got another job and they bought a house a ways away, but she still works here, even on Thanksgiving. He asks "You still don't have a wife. . . " No. ". . . .Or a husband." Excuse me?

So at what point do you not have anything to be thankful for? Or is it okay to be thankful to at least be away from the Thanksgiving of your childhood? Thanksgiving around my family. Think of the alcohol consumed. Think of the pills swallowed. Think of the kid that started somewhere around age 10-12 to say "I think you've had enough. . . ." For all the good it did. Not much of a Thanksgiving.

 Ah but that's nothing. I saw a guy who used to live a few blocks from the gas station he was sitting in his truck at. Before he went nuts. Things had been happening to him. Like the divorce, though he kept the house. Then he was in the front yard and went around back with the door still open. When he went back inside he found. . .Call him Grandpa. Then came the return of Grandma, who brought help. And our hero noticed there were things missing. When they saw the door open and him not handy, they decided to see what they could take.

I barely knew him, but I was aware of some of what went on as he lost his job in the bad economy and simply went off the deep end as more things happened. The sheer pressure of it broke him. He seems to be doing better now, but trying to rent rooms out to people who did things once they were in his home played a part in him losing it, both mentally AND the house.

It wasn't just the old neighborhood he was coming to from his sister's house in another town. Inside at the gas station was the Granddaughter of Grandma and Grandpa. She comes from a long line of it, I'll tell you. An aunt didn't know what to do after her husband went off to prison and she tried to hold up a convenience store by hitting the cashier over the head to knock him out but couldn't seem to hit him hard enough. When he fled to the back she and her partner tried to open the register. When that didn't work they did what they always do on 'America's Dumbest Criminals' and carried it out, where the police were waiting. I should be glad that, outside of my Mother and several brothers and sisters, my relatives on both sides are good people. Though in another state, darn it.

So I've known this girl, the granddaughter, who was growing up sharing my same motive, to just not be like the rest of our families. When they came to arrest her mother a few years back they didn't take her too because she was working downtown and no stranger to people, the police knew better. Oh, by the way, Mr. Crazy was framed at one point, the police figured the matter out but not before he got put through more on his way downhill. Through it all he was trying to look out for the granddaughter of these people who'd burglarized his house, half jokingly calling her his 'Daughter' when he was sticking up for her at times.

Which became uncomfortable for her at times but then he was also someone she really could talk to while she was growing up and she admits he made a difference. But once he was flipping out you have to remember, he wasn't REALLY family. Even though he's been doing better she hasn't been so accepting. One sided relationships can take many forms.

So I mentioned to her that he was outside, she did that thing where she sighed and said 'I know.' He never had kids of her own, she never had a real father figure beyond him. Most people don't understand so many of the ways the holidays can be hard on people.

When I was leaving I told him that she seemed like she'd talk to him if he went in. He said he had to get going. Sure, he's going to his sisters' and he won't be alone on Thanksgiving. Not really, eh?

I should still think of his Thanksgiving as being better than mine, I suppose. He probably will at least be doing better once he's back to his sister's family. I assume her family is okay but I've never met any of them. These things I'd planned to get done today, I didn't get to many of them. Where did the day go? I walked around a little, saw the little minicastle house a few blocks away that I'd thought of moving to a few years ago, seems they had quite an event going. I'd meant to stay home but I wound up at a restaurant downtown. Just in time for them to run out of the Turkey dinners. Kind of my life, eh?

But it's a long, long way from being the worst Thanksgiving I've known. If I think about old girlfriends, I wonder how many of them are drunk and fighting with someone. The fact that it's probably all of them is why I feel glad I'm not having a good old fashioned Thanksgiving.I'd like to think the worst of those are behind me. Even if I don't think a particularly good one is coming in the future. And for those of us who have a hard time finding something to be seriously thankful for, we can remember it's only one day. Oops, that means we've began what they call 'The HOLIDAYS. . . .'

Friday, October 6, 2017

Uncomfortably Numb


By Rick Miranda
For The Daily Bosco

I was on Facebook yesterday running across so many of the posts regarding the massacre in Las Vegas. Trying to mentally sort out news, opinions, politics and emotion into the appropriate categories and offering my two-bit responses along the way. Being mostly an observer by nature I’m fairly reticent and usually prefer to collect a substantial amount of information before letting my passion fly. But I came to a post by an individual, I guess a friend of a friend, which made me stop and take account of things in a way I hadn’t considered up to that point. He posted, “Wondering how many people are truly shocked and horrified vs how many desensitized.” 

It struck me as a poignant statement. It forced me to stop and take account of my own reaction. Those first words which we almost expect to hear from every news anchor, politician and clergyman have become a knee-jerk response and are so often used these days that their meaning and sincerity have been diluted to the point of becoming vapid fillers to get your word count to an acceptable level. I had to stop and take notice at the words and their meaning – truly shocked and horrified – is that the response I had? Is that the response that anyone had? I am sure there are those who have the empathy and emotions in their reserve to garner that response. The appropriate one I should add. An act this heinous should startle us. It should prove so askew of our normal existence that no one could imagine that anyone could imagine such an act and carry it out.

This is the mayhem and violence of a bad grindhouse, Tarantino or Roger Corman film that no one would admit to watching. We should be shocked and horrified, oddly ashamed to have even witnessed such an act. Even vicariously through the news. It carries an obscenity and evil with it that isn’t even worthy of quantifying. It doesn’t tip the scales; its very weight knocks the whole damn thing off the table. There should be no reality where a man can commit so many murders with no apparent motive so effectively in such a short period of time. Its bizarre nature and the randomness of such an act should have us all pulling at our teeth in shock and horror.

And yet here we are. Or should I say here I am. I won’t speak for anyone else but I am inclined to think I’m not alone in this. I had to stop and take stock. Was I truly shocked and horrified? I must admit, to my personal shame, the answer was no. Saddened and disgusted by this terrible thing, yes. But having seen so much evil and so many horrific acts prior to this I have come to the point of not so much expecting the next awful thing to occur but seeing them as a series or progression of events. Here and throughout the world.

I will not enumerate them as they should be self-apparent. Murder, mayhem, genocide are newsworthy and have always been with us. Perhaps it’s the twenty-four hour news cycle that has made it all the more commonplace. Perhaps it’s the fact that as a result of technology we are all now amateur photographers. We (I should say I) see all the troubles in the world rather than read about them. Are they escalating? I would think yes. But I also think we desensitize at an even faster rate.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe it keeps us functional rather than losing the ability to cope with the violence. But I’m speaking to the danger posed with any pain killer. Too little sensitivity and I worry we won’t feel enough to heed the warnings presented to us. Sherman once said that war is cruelty and that the crueler it is the sooner it would be over. As a corollary to that I fear that the more tolerant by exposure we become to this sort of thing the more it may likely be to occur.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Simply on a personal level I want to resist the tendency to not be shocked by this sort of thing. I don’t want to become so callous as to lose my disdain for the evil perpetrated here that it becomes another story from which I can turn the page or change the channel. I don’t know how one retains that sort of sensitivity but I will continue to strive for it. In the mean time I’ll keep gazing in the mirror and reminding myself that there’s still a world of good out there. This is not every day and it will not stand as routine. Respects to Roger Waters but in the meantime I will fight my being uncomfortably numb.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How to Create A Fairytale Crossover Classic


By Doug Vehle
For The Daily Bosco

It's probably a good metaphor for accomplishing anything in life, but you're going to encounter great resistance if you really do create a better mousetrap and expect the world to be beating a path to your door. There's a counter in the world of technology that says new technology succeeds when it either supports and/or is supported by existing technology. Hence the horse did not fall by the wayside with the advance of the railroads, canals and steamships in the 19th century. In fact the use of horses increased as people not only needed to travel to meet their train or ship, but railroad cars needed to moved around the stockyards and required horses for the job. The horse population in industrial countries actually peaked in the early 20th century before yielding to the automobile. Then the unneeded equestrian population of Europe found its' way to Germany, who conquered the continent using far more horses than mechanical vehicles. Tried and true only fails when you stay with it after it's already proven to not be true anymore.

I think about that a lot when it comes to writing. There's an old saying in Hollywood, (Film and Television) "I prefer to do it second, not first." First means taking a big chance, while second means you consider it tried and true by the time you start. Far greater chance of success. Yet it's also true that for every joke of 'How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb?' ("Change? Who said anything about CHANGE?") There's one about the executives; 'How many development directors does it take?' ("Oh, gee, does it HAVE to be a lightbulb? It's been done so many times.") I'm sure New York and Chicago (Publishing) feel the same way.

So when you're writing your dilemma can be summed up with the question of how to repackage the same old hash so people think it's steak? Before you get started about how that's some bitter statement, keep in mind you boil a lot of water into rice to make it edible, imagine trying to eat a raw potato, etc. Writing is a value added activity. One of the first things I learned as an English major at Cal State Fullerton is the concept of 'After Shakespeare, it's all been done.' Get over the idea that you're going to make something all that original, first we have to recognize the human emotions as our own. Had their never been feuding families with children coming of age, would anyone have cared about 'Romeo and Juliet?' During the era of the Hatfield and McCoy feuds, how many family member intermarried? There will always be a place for this, you just need to keep it from being the same old thing.

So out of curiosity over pent up demand, I've turned my attention to fan fiction. Give the reader what they want. It seems the number one thing they want is 'Star Trek.' On the page, on the screen, new stores with the old casts or with completely new characters, the world is awash with unauthorized 'Star Trek' stories. Not all of it cheesy, you can find how to video on youtube illustrating set building by showing the very professional construction of a starship bridge by would be professional set builders completing a set for, say, 'Star Trek: Axanar,' the controversial series of films that raised over $1 million from fans and inspired a lawsuit from Paramount, who felt themselves in competition. (Maybe if they'd make BETTER films than the current 'Reboot' series they wouldn't have to be insecure.) Fans wouldn't be coughing up all that money if they weren't seeking something they weren't getting at present. The fans are really afraid of the upcoming 'Star Trek: Discovery' show.

Another highly sought after tale would involve 'The Jungle Book.' Not so much the original as the Disney Film. In fact, in crossover with other Disney films. From their 'Tarzan' film, we see Jane trying to photograph a large snake, only to have the snake turn it's attention on her. In fact, it is Kaa, You might remember him trying to eat Mowgli in the Disney film. This is a friendlier Kaa. In fact, he is reinvented.

If you were to actually READ 'The Jungle Book,' you would see Kipling depicted Kaa as friendly, actually standing off the monkeys as Mowgli escapes. Here we see Don Juan Giovanni reborn, all in snakeskin leather. The Beast proves no competition for the attention of Belle. Nor does Shaggy from Scooby Doo, as Daphne succumbs. Someone created an illustration of the ill tempered Tinkerbelle giggling as she falls into Kaa's grasp. Followed by Wendy who, after returning home, looks longingly out the window until she turns to see Kaa has been awaiting her. Peter is instantly forgotten.

And that's part of the fun of this: Someone creates a story, someone else decides to illustrate it. Whether it's Gadget from 'The Rescue Rangers' or various Japanese Manga characters, Kaa is so often in fine form. But the best are the Disney Princesses, such as Princess Jasmine from 'Aladdin.' Dang, these are the girlfriends of serious fantasy/action heroes What does he got that they ain't got?

In a word, CHARM. I think there's an underlying desire for these guys creating and reading these stories to see Kaa, for all his unattractiveness, able to make this magic with his trademark "Ssssssay now. . .What have we here?" So how many times you suppose some of these guys reading and writing these stories have been CALLED a snake? Usually for no more reason than they DARE to not realize how unappealing they are. There's only one hero to win the princess in these Disney movies. Most guys realize they compare more to Kaa.

I especially relate to where Ariel is acting mad while Kaa puts his tail on her nose. I remember the moment with the old girlfriend winding up to do some yelling while I just kept touching her nose. Which seemed to take the fight out of her. Confirmation that Kaa really has some style, right?# I can only guess that this apparently started with a Yahoo Group by the name of 'Kaa vs. the Ladies.' Versus meaning, much like 'The Jungle Book' film, Kaa intends to swallow his victim. The group of course is long gone, yet I found some stories that the author says he posted elsewhere to save it as Yahoo closed out most of the groups. I don't know if this occurred within the original group or sprouted up later, but at some point the inspiration shifted from antihero to underdog. Could there really be hope for Kaa?

By far, I'd say the most popular object of Kaa's affections would be Ariel, 'The Little Mermaid.' If you read the original story, (As always, I seem to be the only one) you realize that sea creatures are born without a soul and mermaids have a way of aspiring to gain one by making a human fall in love with her. If you're familiar with the myths of the Scandinavian Hulders, Hans Christian Anderson would seem to have drawn on them. Like most Anderson fairy tales, it has an unhappy ending: The Prince likes her well enough, but when the princess intended for his arranged marriage arrives he quickly loses his heart, Ariel then dissolves away when she might have lived another 300 years luring humans to their deaths as mermaids enjoy doing in the story. So this is a kids' tale, you say? Obviously Disney changed the ending around.

I just wonder if any of the readers of such fan fiction really do know the original story, if that adds something to it. Ariel herself, like the Hulders, is not going to love the one she uses. Oh, maybe they really do only know the movie. But it's such a novel idea to see The Little Mermaid as apparently unwooable when Kaa goes to work. And yet, somehow. . . .

Now, if you take it in your head to track down these stories to read for yourself, I want to warn you this is not great writing. I like it better for the strength of the ideas, some of these people don't know what to do once they have an idea, no matter how good it is the story won't tell itself. Often they have depicted Ariel as going off to find the bear she'd befriended years ago (At the reunion she and Baloo don't immediately know each other in one depiction) and she falls in with Mowgli, Bagheera, the absent from the film Riki Tiki Tavi (My favorite 'Jungle Book' character) and of course, the ever lovin' Kaa. But I find myself laughing at the situation of Mowgli kidnapped by the monkeys and Ariel tries alone to free him and is taken prisoner. So it's Baloo, Bagheeri, Riki, the usual subjects of the heroism off to the rescue. Joined of course by the one who must rescue his beloved. I laughed so hard at some of these scenarios it almost didn't matter when the writing was bad.

Ah well, I suppose not one of the stories merits a $100 million dollar movie. But a lot of the $100 million dollar movies don't merit it, either.