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Don’t Breathe Will Leave You Gasping for Air

 

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Took two of my teens to see the new thriller Don’t Breathe today and lemme just tell y’all, it was not what I expected. Even though I tried to go into the movie with zero expectations (all I knew was what I’d seen in the original trailer; I read no reviews and none of my immediate circle had seen it yet), I knew that Sam Raimi was a producer and I didn’t expect him to sign off on a piece of crap. So, while I knew the initial premise — three young adults decide to rob a blind guy in his own home — I went in expecting an average suspense. And then, I got the wind knocked outta me.

from gamesradar

Close quarters make for some very powerful dread.

Formula First

Roughly five minutes of set-up was all it took to make Rocky (very deftly portrayed by the cherub-faced girl-next-door, Jane Levy) the criminal you’re rootin’ for, due to the stock set-up. We’re not lookin’ at deep character development here, Friends, but that’s okay because Levy was aptly supported by her co-star Dylan Minnette who played her platonic, moon-eyed friend Alex. Daniel Zovatto, who played Money, gave us enough spot-on machismo to quickly decipher the fact that “ah, here’s the asshole boyfriend everyone wants to see get it.”

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Minnette and Levy give their most thrilling performances when they don’t have to rely on dialogue.

Going in, I couldn’t quite imagine a hunk like Stephen Lang being too thoroughly icky as The Blind Man. Menacing? Yes. Scary as hell? Yes. But gross? I was surprised what blinding Lang’s baby blues and slathering him with grime and sweat, and costuming him in a blood-stained wife-beater could do. In such close quarters, the viewers could almost smell his grime and rage. Nods to the costuming and lighting departments for the former, but all of the menace and rage should be squarely placed on the shoulders of Lang’s years of theater performances.

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It gets truly intense when Lang’s Blind Man levels the playing field.

Brace Yourself

After 10 Cloverfield Lane, I was a bit skeptical that writer/director Fede Alvarez was going to be able to keep us glued to our seats, but he did it. This gripping twist on the current Home Invasion trend delivers all the nerve-wracking anxiety, claustrophobia, and suspense a thrill seeker could hope for.

As I said, this isn’t a deep character study. This is an action-packed thriller with lots of long silent (and terrifying) silences. The momentum depends almost exclusively on the character’s action — or inaction, if you will. With so few principle characters and the limited space of a single family dwelling, it’s easy to wonder how the action and angst can be sustained. Don’t worry. This home-owner may be blind, but he knows his own home like the back of his hand. It’s believable when he appears everywhere and nowhere at any given moment. And, when he cuts the lights, those poor kids don’t stand a chance. There’s nothin’ as gratifying as a fair fight. Is there?

Before the crew of hopeful home invaders decide to execute their plan, Alex wonders whether or not robbing a blind man might be a skeevy move. Well, in hindsight I would advise, “Hey, you prolly shouldn’t disturb this guy. He’s disturbed enough.”

 

Lunchtime Olympics

Ever been whacked upside your head with a metal lunchbox? Are you old enough to remember when things used to be made out of metal? Well, back in my day, manufacturers really enjoyed making everything for kidlens outta metal. We started out with metal highchairs and metal toys, eventually graduating to metal playground equipment and, the best of all, metal lunch boxes. If you’ve never slid down a metal slide in the height of summer heat in Texas, you don’t know what you’re missing. Actually, if you did have the opportunity to, you were missing about three layers of skin. Good times! But, back to the boxes…

Metal lunchboxes came in a wonderful variety of differing themes, which also served as handy indicators of their owner’s ranking in the general student population. The fashionable kids had boxes adorned with Star Wars, Evel Knievel, Charlie’s Angels, or “The Fonz.” You could also be cool with one of the bionic boxes, like Steve Austin’s Six Million Dollar Man or Jaimie Sommer’s Bionic Woman. You may not be ostracized with an Adam-12 box, but you were definitely in the lower echelon of influence. But Heaven help you if you were seen with a Curious George or Holly Hobby box. That was just social suicide.

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Oh yeah, I was one of the cool kids.

 

What’s better than gettin’ a few hundred kids together, all hyped up on sugar  with a ratio of about 30 rambunctious kids to 1 beleaguered teacher, and sticking ’em all in a hot, sticky, stinky lunchroom? Then arming them with awesome metal lunch boxes. Oh, and metal utensils and sometimes even metal lunch trays, too.

At one of the elementary schools I attended, “Box Bashing” was a regular sport. Usually the boys started the game, but right around the time the Equal Rights Amendment was gaining traction, girls decided it would be a good idea to get in on the action, too. The only problem with the game was that you never knew you were a participant until you were slammed by someone’s decorated hardware. Of course, if you had a whelp with the outline of one of Charlie’s Angels on the side of your face, it meant you’d at least garnered the attention of one of the popular kids. So, there was that consolation.

Let the games begin!

 

When the Spooky Isn’t

Eric’s post about paranormal encounters over’t MakeItUltra™ has inspired me to share my own thoughts about “strange happenings.” When I was very young I would sometimes see and hear things that the grown-ups around me didn’t seem to catch, and when I questioned them, I was routinely patted on the head and told that I had an [overly] active imagination.  Those dismissive attitudes encouraged me to seek answers on my own. Thus began my interest in the paranormal and the strange and inexplicable in general.

I was taught by sincere Pentecostal types that anything “otherworldly” was to absolutely be feared and avoided as being “of the Devil” but was confused when my own experiences didn’t fit that bill. What about the times when something inexplicable showed up that didn’t make my skin crawl at all? When “a presence” was comforting or empowering?

In the fourth grade I finally, sheepishly admitted to a beloved teacher that I’d seen “a white spirit” when I was alone at home. The look of horror on her face and her stern warning to ignore it and let it pass (make it go away, I think were her exact words) convinced me that even trusted adults thought me a liar … or worse yet, crazy.

In college, I stumbled across a book by Billy Graham entitled Angels: God’s Secret Agents and it opened a whole new world of wonderful, biblical, possible explanations for the experiences I’d had. Surely good God-fearin’ folk wouldn’t argue with Billy Graham! I knew and trusted that I had at least one guardian in the cosmos.

When my spice and I began our conversion to the Catholic Church, I began studying her take on the angels and saints, and more importantly to me, their intercession and guidance in our daily lives … and my mind was blown.

Angel of the Waters (Bethesda Fountain) in Central Park by Israel Guevara C.

Angel of the Waters in Central Park by Israel Guevara C.

 

 Have you had strange encounters? Please share iffin’ you’re of a mind to.

Feast on This Friday: Fears & Phobias

Coincidentally, I have a phobia of popup books

Coincidentally, I have a fear of pop-up books.

 

Fears. We all have ’em. Some of them are just practical nuisances but other can be completely life-altering. When I use the term “nuisances,” I mean not being able to fall asleep until your feet are properly tucked under the covers, far from the prying hands of the mucussy goblins that live under your bed. Having a fear of heights and being uncomfortable in a tall building is one thing. Having a serious case of acrophobia that keeps a person from accepting an important career opportunity is another.

My spice once pointed out that I have more phobias than anyone he knows, like on par with Woody Allen. I didn’t agree until I had to use my second hand to continue counting ’em.

To my knowledge, my first serious fear stems from the fact that I saw a particular movie by Steven Spielberg when I was only three years old. Yes, I’ve been aquaphobic since I was three. But it isn’t just water that makes my skin crawl, it’s certain types of agua and what might be in them. My aquatic phobias include thalassophobia which is fear of open waters like the ocean, bathophobia (“deep waters”), and hydroskourophobia, which includes “deep, dark waters,” and even limnophobia, a fear of lakes. In my case this also includes selachophobia (fear of evil creatures I won’t name) and megalophobia (which includes any big things you may see in the water, and especially things that can stare back at you).

Some of my phobias, like my selachophobia is very real. C’mon, people say, that isn’t a realistic fear; it’s not like you live in on the ocean. Trust me, my fear of not-so g-r-e-a-t [color] s-h-_-_-  … y’know, is pretty severe. Even just seein’ a picture of the evil, dead-eyed bastards scares the hell outta me, causes me to jump or scream (or cuss), sometimes throws my heart into arrhythmia, elevates my blood pressure, and makes my palms sweat, and my mouth dry. We’re talkin’ serious dread here. My family isn’t even allowed to say the word out loud. At the Home Clan Allen Builds, the creatures are surely demons that shall not be named. Some of my closest friends (including my spice, the jerk) take a perverse pleasure in trying to desensitize me of this particular fear. They especially enjoy posting pictures of the monsters on my Facebook page. Haha. For those who’re counting, that’s six phobias so far.

I also fear closed-in spaces (claustrophobia), being trapped (agoraphobia), heights (acrophobia), flying (aviophobia), clowns (coulrophobia), bridges (gephyrophobia), and dentists (dentophobia). That’s thirteen. Thirteen things that cause visceral responses from my nervous system whenever I confront them. Thank goodness I’m not triskaidekaphobic.

What makes your skin crawl, takes your breath away, or causes you serious anxiety? Please share in the comments below. Sometimes it’s nice to know that we’re not alone. 

You’re a Daisy if You Do

 

For as long as I can remember, daisies have always been my favorite flowers. Symbols of love, purity, and innocence, they’re such sweet, homey, and cheerful flowers. Daisies always bring me sweet memories of my childhood. They remind me of the whimsical little effeuiller la marguerite [pluck the daisy] game that I used to play — only my translation was “He loves me, he loves me lots” so I would always have a happy outcome. Daisies also remind me of the song, “Daisy Bell” that my grandmother sang to me when I was a little girl.

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When we were dating, my future spice was impressed and pleased to learn that Shasta daisies were my favorite because, as he said, “They’re cheap.” He’s such a romantic. Actually, he is … he surprised me with an arrangement of daisies on our wedding day to serve as my wedding bouquet.

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July 6, 1993

Of course, as a self-proclaimed cinephile, I’m always pleasantly surprised by daisy references in cinema, especially obscure ones. I only have a few references that I know of which I’ll share here.  If you know of any others, please share them with me in the comments below.

Movies with Daisy(ies) in the title:

Daisy Kenyon (1947)

Pull My Daisy (1959 short film)

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960)

Daisies (Sedmikrásky original title, 1966)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Daisy (Deiji, original title 2006)

 

Joan Crawford in Daisy Kenyon

Joan Crawford in Daisy Kenyon

 

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Still from the Czech cult classic Sedmikrasky

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Publicity still from Please Don’t Eat the Daisies

Bonus Daisy Trivia:

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My favorite photo of early-Hollywood icon Buster Keaton.

 

Val Kilmer’s character Doc Holliday uses the line “You’re a daisy if you do” in the 1993 film Tombstone. Kilmer’s incredible performance, coupled with shrewd dialogue consisting mostly of witty one-liners, gave the archaic phrase a solid come-back for modern audiences.

 

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Arthur C. Clarke, then visiting friend and colleague John Pierce at the Bell Labs Murray Hill facility, witnessed John L. Kelly’s vocoder synthesizer recreate the song “Daisy Bell: Bicycle Built for Two,” using an IBM 704 computer in 1962. Inspired by this spectacular event, Clarke later created a similar event in the climactic scene of his novel and screenplay for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Clarke’s fictitious HAL9000 computer sings a haunting rendition of “Daisy Bell” as he is disassembled by astronaut Dave Bowman.

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Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore is my favorite modern flower child. She has been quoted as confirming that she loves all kinds of flowers but that daisies are indeed her favorite.

 

 

 

Quoth the Quirky

Following Jackie’s lead, I finally decided to take a go at La Duchesse’s TGBOL prompt for the week* because, hey, quirkiness is something this chick can totally get behind. I like quirk. And, if you like quirk, I’m happy to share mine. I hope you will too.

1/Music: Is it possible to get any quirkier than Disco? My spice and kidlens would shout a resounding No!  As a funky fairy child of the far out 70s, I would steal my beautifully hip disco-queen mom’s strappy high heels and boogie my heart out all over the dance floor that was our living room’s shag rug. To this day, my inner Debbie Harry delights in dancing to disco tunes. And yes, I can do the Hustle. Can you dig it?

Debbie Harry photographed by Maureen Donaldson, 1979.

Debbie Harry photo’d by Maureen Donaldson, 1979.

2/Food: Is sniffing heretofore new foods a quirk? If not, it should be. Look, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have the picky and peculiar eating habits of a fussy four-year-old. So you best believe that I’m not gonna put something in my mouth if it doesn’t pass the sniff test with a thumbs up from my nose. My spice, himself an amateur foodie, oft admonishes, You don’t sniff it, Micki, you eat it. Yeah well, the nose knows.

3/Fashion: I really like fashion. I really love fun. So, fun fashion is like a great big hug from the Universe. However. I’m forty-something. I’m at that age where fun fashion is fine as long as it’s tamed. I’m all for feelin’ fabulous and kickin’ it like you just don’t care, but I have a fairly conservative inner-voice that insists I dress closer to my age. At my age, dressing too fun (funly?) just ends up looking desperate. So for now, it’s simply quirky. Of course, I’m counting down the years until I’m just old enough to be considered beautifully eccentric a la’ Iris. Then I’ll really let my freak flag fly!

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image lifted from elliesfavouritethings.com

4/Speaking with my Hands: Say what? No, I don’t mean using sign language — although I did take an ASL course at our local community college in order to communicate with my wees when they were pre-verbal, but that’s another post. I mean that my hands flap like bathing birds and fly around to illustrate when I speak. I’ve always been this way. My Nonny used to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to speak without my hands. True story: she’d make me sit on my hands to keep me quiet in church. And, thank Heaven for phones that give the time. I cannot bear to admit how many watch faces I unwittingly smashed while conversing over the years.

5/Thinking with my Hands: I’m what you used to call a visual learner and thinker. Not only do I smell in color and love to read words as well as pretty pictures, but just about any time that I’m trying to listen intently to a person, I like to scribble and take notes**. I have pens and notepads everywhere; all around my desk, in my purses, in my car… Without my notes and scribbles, I tend to have to ask you to repeat yourself so that I can clarify what you’ve said. It’s not because I wasn’t listening to what you said [although, your fabulous necklace may have momentarily taken me off track] it’s that I’m not someone who is a quick auditory study. I’m the person who’ll tell you to “take a right on the second street after the QuickieMart” instead of “head west on Elm.”

*TGBOL CHAPTER 6.0 EMBRACE YOUR QUIRKINESS

**Some educators have added read/write to the mix of learning styles. Since I haven’t taught in a brick-and-mortar school for a thousand years, I’m still old school. (pun intended)

The Death of [Ms.] Manners

I swan, nothing sets my teeth on edge like the disappearance of titles and honorifics in our current society. [I offer a hearty “thank you” to Mr. Dad over’ta thedaddyblitz for reminding me of this particular peeve in a recent  blog entry.] Lordy, I know that I sound old writin’ this, but, back in my day we used them or were seen as disrespectful lil’ upstarts.

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Using good manners isn’t just a sign of good breeding or a reflection of your family, it confirms respect — for yourself as well as the person you’re addressing. An important ingredient of good manners is showing special respect for your elders and persons of authority. I see “grown-ups” constantly shaking their heads and bewailing the state of our youth culture and their utter lack of respect for others, especially for authority.

Titles such as “Doctor” or “Professor” or “Officer” signified that the person was an authority, or at least adept, in their field. They had training and were therefore authorized in their function. They held a position of consequence. Their words and actions deserved consideration. Even elders without professional titles were called “Mr” or “Ms.”, “Aunt” or “Uncle” — their title implying a significant status.

Being “on a first name basis” actually used to have heft and meaning. It used to be that first names were used solely among immediate family and friends. It signified a level of intimacy between peers. It relaxed the rules and placed you on a level playing field with one another.

Nowadays, practically everyone insists on being called by their first name. Not only our friends and relatives, but also our doctors, teachers, and even pastors insist we call them by their first name. Intentionally or not, this removes them from their place of special status — and ultimately places them in the common place of “just one of the guys.” There is no clear significance to their vocation or their chosen career. Their authority then becomes negligible, even inconsequential. So who cares what they have to say? It begs the question, Why should I even listen to you? 

It’s as if no one deserves authority or respect anymore. Like school children yelling, You’re not the boss of me!, our society insists that everyone is exactly the same. Is it any wonder then that good manners, on the whole, are quickly disappearing?

Ever Have One of Those Days?

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I’ll tell you what. Some days just aren’t worth getting outta bed for, ya’ know? As positive and optimistic as this peppy chick strives to be, some days just do their d*mndest to prove my Silver Lining theory W-R-O-N-G.

These are the days when I hafta put on my Scarlet O’Hara bonnet and remind myself that the Yankees’ll eventually get the hell outta Dixie. The storms won’t last forever. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t really another train. And that, whatever SNAFU I’m currently facing, this too shall pass. Because, as God is my witness…

Tomorrow is Another Day

I once read somewhere that “you have survived 100% of your very worst days.” Well, hello! I sure have. And, guess what. So have you. So, let’s let that tasty lil’ morsel simmer for awhile before we decide to throw in the towel.

Ever have one of those days? If you’re breathin’, I know you have. Please feel free to share how you manage to put one foot in front of the other and carry on.

Nature vs. Nurture

Anyone who has children knows that the whole nature vs. nurture argument is practically moot. No matter on which side of the argument your loyalties tend to be, your own children are likely to make you question your own position.

According to Saul McLeod,

In practice hardly anyone today accepts either of the extreme positions.  There are simply too many “facts” on both sides of the argument which are inconsistent with an “all or nothing” view.  So instead of asking whether child development is down to nature or nurture the question has been reformulated as “How much?”  That is to say, given that heredity and environment both influence the person we become, which is the more important? (full article)

For what it’s worth, today I lean strongly on the Nature side of the debate. I find it very hard to believe that children are born as anything even resembling a “blank slate” to be formed exclusively by environmental factors. And, while I’m certainly not an expert, I do have a lot of children … including identical twins. They are all very uniquely different.

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After taking several psychology courses in high school and college and reading practically any psychological literature concerning nature vs. nurture that I could get my hands on, I was solidly of the opinion that Nurture ruled basic outcome.

But, in 1995 something momentous happened that made me reevaluate my stance. My husband, who was adopted when he was only three days old, and I met his birth mother and her family for the very first time. He and his birth mother had the same smile and even the same laugh; their philosophies and educations were similar and they shared the same quick wit and dry sense of humor. It was unbelievable and wonderful to witness. I’d met his adoptive family five years earlier and, while some similarities were present, he seemed to me always a singularity in his family; but meeting the genetically linked family … well, everything seemed to click right into place. In fact, I remember having a very sober moment of clarity and thinking to myself, Ahhh. Now Marc makes so much more sense. In fact, his biological family actually mirrored my own. I was immediately comfortable in their midst. And, if memory serves, my husband was too. And yet, there were glaring differences.

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The frightening truth is, I have serious doubts that my sweet spice would be the same amazing, frustrating, incredible man, husband, and father he is today had it not been for the intervention of his loving adoptive parents. His experiences, economic challenges, spiritual influences, and early life choices would have been, could have been, so drastically different. What sort of man might he have become? One thing I know for sure, his steadfast devotion to duty and family is so obviously a byproduct of the closely-knit, supportive, and secure home environment the Allen family provided.

So, I suppose that the debate isn’t as simple as one or the other. It seems more likely that the answer falls somewhere on the spectrum between the two. Who knows really? Gah! Maybe it has something to do with birth order…

What are your thoughts?