Friday, May 29, 2009

Mary in the Pre-Apocalyptic World

Man, I hope I die when the bombs start falling.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suicidal or anything, but I have been reading The Road. And Cat's Cradle. And I saw that Terminator movie. In fact, a lot of post-apocalyptic things have been coming across my desk lately and I'm not so sure I could handle that (living in the post-apocalyptic world, that is, not reading about it). It just seems really hard to be witness to the last sputterings of civilization, and right now I am so not in the mood.

I'm good with hardship, actually. In fact, one of my companions noticed that the worse things get, the more cheerful I am. Over compensating, I guess. I like to think (wouldn't we all?) that I'd be good even in a "critical time:" Leningrad during the War, Nagasaki after the War, etc. I even thrive on short-term hardship (as far as I've been permitted to know it), because it's so hard-core, so, in Jamie's terms, "club." If I've got any reasonable hope that things'll get better, I'm on board in a big optimistic way. But knowing that the world is coming to pieces? That's different.

This fear of the end of the world may be why the rapture is so appealing to Christians. Hard times coming and all of us out of the way, suddenly, painlessly, and easily. Unfortunately, Mormons are less optimistic about our role in the end of days, about which John cheerlessly writes, "shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them" (Rev 9:6, as if I need to provide footnotes on my personal musings...sheesh, academia...). Dr. Huntsman once, when we were discussing these chapters, mused that the Saints will not be entirely immune to all of the horrors of the end of days. (And may I remind you those horrors include such things as eyeballs falling from men's sockets and immoliation by firey hail?) Direct statements about the end of days by recent prophets have been more sparce, but doesn't look good.

I'm not one for stockpiling water and food, but I think I could use the kind of mental toughness that leads one to be a "surviver." I'm pretty sure I'd be the person in Titanic who jumps and hits the propeller. Lots of good hussel, but not a chance. Thwack.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

About my Dog

For those of you who don't know him, my dog Frodo is pretty incredible. (Those of you who do know him don't need to be told.) He's perfect for my family: super kind, not aggressive, more interested in people than other dogs, protective, friendly, warm-coated in winter, playful, and increasingly calm. This is incredible, especially when I think about friends of mine who have had dogs that were lacking in this qualities. This is even more incredible when you consider that he just followed me home.

I'd wanted a dog for a long time, but ever since Kenny the Cat, the Hedengrens have been largely pet-free. Oh, my sister had a rabbit that I remember and there was a disastrous lizard ownership, but my parents were pretty much insistent that fish is as cuddly as we got around here. Once a straying dog had showed up at my parents' door while I was at school and it made them think, "hmm, dogs aren't that bad," but she got claimed by her owners soon afterwards. The way was prepared, though.

I was walking home from a calculus study session with Patrick and Becca when I crossed a busy street and saw something dart across, narrowly escaping a car. "Stupid cat," I affectionately said, leaning down to pet it, and found it was a dog. Well, a puppy. A little dark puffball of a puppy. I liked petting him, but my heart had been callused over enough to know I couldn't hide it from my parents in the backyard indefinitely, so I told it to go home. When we walked off, the little guy followed us. He ran full speed, looking at us, so that he ran into several mailboxes on the way home. I picked him up and rang my own doorbell and asked the golden question: can we keep him?

We kept him for the night, wrapped in towels in the sideyard even though it was a warm fall night, and he cried like a baby until I came out and got him to sleep, then I'd try to tip-toe out again and then--eii-eii-eii! I'd come back and try it over again. Poor little dear. The next day, parents decided it was too cute a dog just to take to the pound, so we called the pound and left a description and our contact information and bought a little bag of puppy chow. We posted "Found Dog" signs all over the neighborhood, but no one responded. I secretly had been hoping that they wouldn't.

It was when we bought the big bag of puppy food and the igloo house that I knew we were keeping him. We even decided around the dinner table what to call him. I wanted to name him Isaiah because we found him on 9/9/99. Mom, I think, always wanted to name him after the character in the Black Calderon who always got sticks in his fur. Finally, we went with Frodo, perhaps in part because Emily had joked about wanting to name one of her children Frodo because it would sound funny with a speech impediment. This way the name would be taken and she wouldn't name her child anything embarrassing. (She named her son Sam.)

Frodo's been a great dog ever since, infinitely patient, especially in the winter months when it's a little harder to go out and play with him, but he's had a great life: at least one walk a day, a big yard to play in, hikes in the mountains, lots of rawhide and treats, puppy training classes, sitting in the shade while we read or work in the garden, standing up to his haunches in the irrigation ditch, making friends with dozens of kids in the neighborhood who call us when he's gone off on one of his sprees (he usually ends up in the front yard, waiting for us to come home). It's been great.

I bring this up because I found a weird growth on the side of Frodo's neck. He's an old dog, though you'd never think it, never had any problems with his joints or anything, but he's still ten years old. It might be cancer. It might be nothing. Last night I lay awake wondering what I would do if it was something serious. I'm a firm believer in the "dogs aren't people" camp; dogs don't need perfume or nail polish or only families with kids over 14. But my dog is still my dog. I don't think I'd go for a really expensive surgery, but I also don't want to think about losing my dog, especially because he's been such a good one. I hope tomorrow they tell me it's nothing.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Where the Sun Don't Shine

When it started to be summer-y, I went out to the Rite-Aid and bought two types of sunscreen: the facial kind for everyday and the ultra-sweatproof, waterproof spray-on kind for fun in the sun. Even though there were plenty of only-half sunny days, I made sure to be careful with the sunscreen, avoid painful burn and melanoma besides.

For example, today. I knew I was going to be out in the sun planting flowers for the fair city of Provo, so I put on my usual sunscreen, then also sprayed down my arms, legs and neck. I even sprayed down my part so my scalp wouldn't burn, even though I was planning on wearing my straw cowboy hat. I made sure to apply 15 minutes before going into the sun so that I'd be well protected.

We planted for three hours, even though it only felt like an hour and a half. We planted literally hundreds of zinnias, dreamland red colored (which would be a good font color...), in a planter along Center Street. We worked past blisters and blisters popping and "phase one" of loose planting and "phase two" of dense planting. We rocked the Amber Cox Memorial flowerbed.

So tonight, roasting wieners over a fire, I thought, "say, I'm facing a campfire, but my back is warm. That's weird." I felt back there with my hand and... no! I got a Plumber's Tan! While I was working, leaning over, I must have exposed my crescent, my intercontinental drift, the flatland before the crackland, the giraffe, trashy tattoo canvas, whatever you want to call it, to all of the fair city of Provo while I was working. On Center Street. For three hours. Really, it's decent that we didn't get honked at. But tonight I'm taking a cool shower and some asprin. And I think I'll be sleeping on my side.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Design Day!

So....what do you think?

I'm not sure I'm wild about the red, but I couldn't really match the blues or greens and the white looked odd so here you have it.

I won't pretend that this didn't happen at 1:24 am when I was buffering the latest episode of House. I also won't pretend that this isn't the second successful use of Illustrator I have enjoyed.

If anyone has layout/element/design suggestions, do share. I considered making a poll about whether I should include a poll, but...well, it just got a little too cyclical.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

On My Morbid Streak.

For those of you who don't know me in person (and I suspect there are very few of you), let me describe myself as short, blond, curly-haired, and plump. In short, I look exactly like a character named Mary would in a 1950s-era picture book. I'm afraid that I even look good in pale pink.

That being said, it's a bit of a disappointment that I'm not tall, pale, and raven-haired, because, man, do I have a morbid streak.

Last night I had a dream that I was shot in the back of the head, while I was kneeling--execution style. Actually it was a good thing, because I believe the dream-reality other option was hanging from the neck until dead and dream-me figured the head-shot would be painless. It wasn't. But I stood up and haunted my executioner for the remainder of the dream. A pretty disturbing narrative to wake up from for the ward intramural soccer game. And a pretty awesome one.

My junior high cartoon alter-ego was Suzy Slaughterhouse. I've read every single Edgar Allen Poe story. And Ray Bradbury. And Ambrose Bierce. I tell a doozy of a ghost story; my roommates couldn't get to sleep for hours when I told them the story of Nail-backed Riley. My sister still gets nightmares about the ending of The Living Dead, which involves a baseball bat to the forehead in a suburban basement. When I write, suspenseful horror is kind of my default.

You know that old saw about not wanting to be a part of any club that would let you in? That's how I feel about horror. You may have noticed that my taste in horror is 70-175 years old. I hate slasher flicks. Even some of the contemporary "masters" are so widely hit and miss (eg: Stephen King's Carrie--genius. Stephen King's remake of Kingdom Hospital--honestly, a giant anteater? and who would beleive the conceit of an artist actually making millions? pshw...) that I wonder what their driving philosophy of horror could be. And what kind of person admits to loving horror? Visions of Columbine dance in our heads. I always have to be so guarded when I tell people what I like to read, what I write. "It's like...old school horror, like in sci-fi, old school fantasy...you know, a lot of lead up, very deep, socialogical...uh...you ever see Stalker? Read any Guy de Maupassant..?" At that point, I've already embarrassed myself.

My style is still inchoate, of course, but here are some of my general philosophical principles of how I write horror:

1. People really matter. Respect them.

Don't kill people indiscriminately, and don't make them look stupid when they die. I hate this in horror movies perhaps more than anything else. It's like it's a joke on the side of the writers: "Oh, dudes, what if this next guy dies by swallowing an eel that eats him from inside? Yeah! Eel-guy!" Goodness, have some respect for the fictional guy's fictional family. Even if someone dies in an unusual way, the horror shouldn't come from the novetly of the act, but rather the discomfort we feel in our own mortal skins. Horror should make people feel awe for the fraility of our own existence, not disgust and humor of the icks and bits of the body. It's best to think judgiciously about every death, realizing that this is a person that's dying here. A story with a single death, well contemplated, can be more useful than a pile of corpses and some girl crying "everyone's dying!" This is the horror equivilent of the ranchy sex comedy.

2. Death is scary.

It's true. Even people with the most certain perspectives on the afterlife understand what a leap death is. It's like the virgin's wedding night, full of trepidation and sense of everything changing. It's arguably the biggest life change a person can experience. The indiscriminy of death, the irrationality, the universality of it is haunting enough. Give us time to reflect on this. Let us mourn a little. Or let us sit in anticipatory horror a little. There are plenty of experiences in each person's life that have caused personal, real-life trepidation and horror--connect into that, and you have plenty to give thrills.

3. Human nature is scary, too.

Jonestown. Kosovo. Darfur. "Man's inhumanity to man" yeilds a wide and fertile feild of fear. Even less genecidal examples give us plenty of pause in real life--the account of a Puritan woman who reported threw her infant down a well so that she would know for certain that she was damned has haunted ever since I came across it in a survey of literary history course. The best literary horrors remind us of how close these horrors are to our own lives. The very best make us pause and wonder: am I capable, too, of even that? (Correlary: vicarious experience can be very useful for everyone, but this must be done respectfully, not in the thrill-slasher way that makes bad people prepared to do worse. It's important to remember point #1 in acheiving this.)

I'll have to think long and hard about my general principles. A lot of it, though, has to do with remembering that you audience has plenty to be scared of, already.