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What would a dark elf slip into Santa’s bag besides Sabrina’s new book? Why, for the bookish but less romantically inclined, it would have to be an H.P. Lovecraft inspired holiday. The Necronomicon would be a great gift! Who wouldn’t enjoy a little light and mind-destroying reading about the Elder Gods? I’m sure that wouldn’t end badly! Not on Christmas day, right? The insanity would likely require at least 24 hours to take hold. Surely the sacrifices and bloodshed would hold off until Boxing Day.
For the younger, budding cultist, a plush stuffed likeness of Cthulu or the almighty Daigon would be just the thing. The child’s screams of terror in the night insisting that the toys are whispering foul, horrible things? Overactive imagination. Surely! Just note that the links between children receiving these toys causing an increase in playing with matches and various accelerants – totally spurious. Correlation. Causality hasn’t been established.
For the musically inclined, Santa’s cultist elf would slip this CD into the gift pile. It’s a real thing you can order from Cthulu Lives. Of course, maybe all a dark elf would have to do for the gamers on your list is bring the newest MMORPG. Elder Scrolls. Wildstar. You’d never see your game addicted family members again.
We’re a family cut adrift from our roots. Dad was in the military. When he enlisted, he left his Midwestern family behind. He married my southern mother and ended up being stationed far, far away from *her* family. They started a family of their own – by adopting cats. I was a distant second thought. At least you know I come by the cat thing honesty. Regardless, the point is that my folks came from two very different cultural holiday traditions. They had kids in a state as far away from their respective families as the Air Force could possibly send them. Alaska. In 1964 (fortunately after the massive earthquake).
We moved often. Including overseas to Iceland. Each place we lived had it’s own set of traditions.
So we cherry picked. Nothing was sacred. Some of the food came from my dad’s family. Most came from mom’s. Everything else? Totally up for grabs. In Iceland, post Christmas, there’s a midwinter/early spring holiday wherein kids put a shoe in a window sill. In the morning, the shoe is filled with candy, treats and coins. My folks were willing to play that game, but only while we were in Iceland. Once we got back to the states, that was over. We settled in the US after Dad retired and we fell into a set of traditions – maybe habits. They weathered me getting married – even reached out to encompass my husband’s family, and welcomed my younger sister’s baby into the mix.
But these days, change is once again the name of the holidays. For all of us. My husband’s family moved to sunshine. Florida. After last holiday season, my husband and I looked at my folks, you know, the only people with an actual house, and we realized they were exhausted after hosting the holidays. Mom had been doing most of the holiday cooking for the past fifty years.
It was time to cut my parents a break. Either my sister or I had to step up and host, or we had to come up with some new traditions again. I live on a boat with an oven the size of a bread box and maybe 400 square feet of living space. My sister lives in a trailer with her daughter. She has a real oven, but no more space than I have.
So this Thanksgiving, we’re going out for our dinner. I’m still at Mom and Dad’s doing the holiday baking. For Christmas? We’re not sure yet. Yes. My folks will put up a Christmas tree (for the granddaughter – but the girl is old enough now to do a bunch of the work herself). My husband and I will likely sail the boat over for the week of the Christmas holiday. But at this point? We’re playing tradition by ear, because really? All my life, my parents attempted to make my weird, nomadic childhood as normal as possible. Now, they’re in their 70s. It’s my turn to make their lives as easy and comfortable as possible.
Oh. And there’s still a cat. He’s gotten into the spirit of this season of change. He decided to contribute to Thanksgiving Dinner. Behold, Nicadeimos, the mighty hunter and his offerings for the feast:
My memories of the winter holidays growing up are not particularly strong. Being Jewish in a predominantly Christian town, we didn’t do much. The only image that floats in my consciousness is of a leaf-shaped menorah and not much else. I have stronger memories of being the only Jewish family in different town and celebrating Christmas that year so we didn’t feel left out. We didn’t play dreidel (spinning top game), we didn’t eat latkes (potato pancakes), we didn’t get together with the extended family. It was the holiday that wasn’t.
When I had my own daughter, I felt the need for rituals that had a spiritual basis of some sort. I wish I could admit to devising some detailed plan of great religious meaning. What actually happened was more organic–a series of ad hoc decisions that over time became our Chanukah traditions.
It started when my daughter turned three–that neat age when you can talk to kids, even reason with them and they respond to you. Most of her friends at day care and the neighborhood were not Jewish, which at times made it hard on her. So in an effort to be inclusive, I had several small dinners where we invited friends over for latkes, dreidels and just sharing winter traditions. Learning from my mother, I ordered latkes from a local caterer cause I had no idea how to make them. We had so much fun sharing Chanukah that inviting people over, often more than just one night, became the first pillar of our holiday rites.
The following year, my daughter attended a Sunday school of sorts and came home with two menorahs she made out tiles and bolt holders. The previous years we used the eagle menorah my parents gifted us. With my wide-eyed stubborn girl determined to use all three menorahs, we adapted a more orthodox tradition–one menorah per family member. So counting our cat in the mix , we lit three menorahs and I discovered I liked it. The scent of fire, a room bathed in candlelight, a sense of abundance that comes when everyone has their own but we work together to make the lights glow.
That year, I got more ambitious–I made my own latkes. Okay with a box mix but I tried, right. The potatoes did not go brown, but I’d never fried anything. They were edible. Enough, so I established two pillars that year. Use more than one menorah and a commitment to making latkes.
After two years I mastered the boxed latke and my ambition grew. I would make them from scratch–once I got a food processor. Success. I now make my own latkes, and even experiment with them. Just last week, I won a small Thanskgivica cook-off for pumpkin latkes.
Finally, last year I added one more level–a commitment to respect the giving nature of the season by incorporating charity into our traditions. Last year, I gave it as an additional gift. This year I shared with my daughter a donation to charity will replace one gift one night. She not only supported the decision, but volunteered to give up two gifts to help others. Charity, the last pillar of my tradition, is now in place.
For the moment.
One never knows how it will change or expand in the years to come.
My story’s just that gentle reminder that traditions, like writing, are our stories to create. Sometimes we plan them, sometimes we pants them. And they evolve, never remaining stagnant event though we tend to think of them that way. But any way you get there, is the right way.
Happy Thanksgivica to all.
Post script: I’ve got a new book coming out December 6. Take a peak at the cover. Its really quite lovely. More about it next time.
Have you ever had one of those days when you know you have something that has to be done – say – a blog post about your favorite noir book, movie or what-have-you, and everything that could possibly go wrong with your computer DID?
Yeah. The irony is that I had no idea what noir even meant (besides ‘black’ in French). After a fashion, it could be argued that I had a demonstration this morning, courtesy of my Netbook and Windows 7. Sigh. Windows. Why you suck so bad? Though granted, I’m comfortably certain there’s not a noir anything out there in the world that’s used that question.
I had to look up what constituted a noir film. I found an excellent site about film and film history. They have a very thorough write up about film noir – several pages. At its most basic, the site notes that film noir is a mood – dark mood, tone, and themes. It also generally refers to a historical period after WWII.
I then looked for a list of films. Yet another site listed the 100 greatest noir films. Ah ha! I can write about one those films! Surely . . . nope. Look at that. I have seen exactly zero of those movies. And here I thought my film education was reasonably well rounded.
Enter the NEO NOIR. (Movies made post 1960 that have the same mood/tone as film noir.) Pay dirt.
Bladerunner! It would never have occurred to me to call that ‘noir’. It is, to me, ultimately optimistic at its core. And of course, it’s science fiction first in my broken, disorganized brain. But, you know, amidst all of the classically scifi questions of ‘what constitutes life’, ‘what makes us human’, ‘what is humanity’s fate at the hands of humanity’s creations’, there IS a dark, fatalistic core to Bladerunner.
<SPOILERS BELOW: If you want to see the film, stop here. It is well worth a look. If you have seen the movie, nothing here will surprise you.>
The hero’s humanity is, finally, only intact because it is so fractured and his moral sense so warped and unutterably human. Not *humane*, but certainly human. And there is question at the end of the movie whether that’s a good thing. He’s flying off into the sunset talking about being with someone he ‘loves’. Never mind that he had to rape her to get her to admit she isn’t actually human. Ultimately, he’s human because he can love – but IS that really love or some kind of Stockholm Syndrome? I had always thought it was an optimistic movie because Deckard’s humanity is confirmed – albeit in a totally inhumane way. Thus. Noir.
The topic of the day–favorite film, book or anything noir. Part of my wants to just point out the black dress in my closet and call it done. But I did a little research and found out one of my all time favorite films is considered a pre-noir film, a genre pre-cursor. The Thin Man reigns as one of my favorites—not because of the mystery or the noirish backdrop, but because the banter between Nick and Nora Charles was, is and I’m betting always shall be, some of the wittiest written. Ever.
Here a few choice selections. But if you an watch the movie. Nothing can compare with the way the deliver these terse, perfect interchanges, which show in seconds, the depth of love and the dry wit of a good relationship.
Nora: You asleep?
Nora: Good. I want to talk to you.
Or this one.
Nora: How many drinks have you had?
Nick: This will make six Martinis.
Nora: (speaking to the waiter) All right. Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here.
Or this one.
Nora: Pretty girl.
Nick: Yes. She’s a very nice type.
Nora: You got types?
Nick: Only you, darling. Lanky brunettes with wicked jaws.
And then of course, there was Asta. Always good for a smile.
It’s difficult to whittle down to three “I’m Grateful For…” because I’m grateful for the small things in my life as well as the BIG things. Everyday I’m grateful just to wake up with my body healthy and my mind intact so I can create. Maybe because I’m getting older these two things are very important to me.
I’ve had a difficult year but I’m grateful for the lessons I needed to learn so I could move towards fulfilling some of my life time dreams. I had to go inward and face my fears and demon-self-talk in order to push through them. I had to change my attitude about myself and what I can give to others.
I read a book that was all about gratitude and how giving thanks brings more blessings into your life. Maybe it’s too simplistic to think that this would make a difference, but I can’t discount the power of gratitude. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that create powerful changes within us.
PS: Sins of Lust is a Finalist in the Paranormal Category!
Thou shall not kill.
For archangel Razi-el, he had no choice. He would break God’s commandment again if it were to save Uri-el from a demon’s talons. Yet even God’s most trusted archangel cannot avoid punishment. No longer Razi-el, he is now Izar, a Protector sworn to kill for the angels.
When a Protector kills an angel, Izar is summoned to work alongside Uri-el to capture the killer. Izar is shocked when his bloodlust spikes hot for the archangel. He knows better than to go after forbidden fruit. Refusing to give in to temptation, he ignores his body’s tempestuous arousal for Uri-el until a heated argument turns his blood into molten lust.
As they rush to find the killer, their passion plays into the demon’s plan. Izar will have to make a choice between life and death if he is to save Uri-el again.
I have to begin my gratitude post with some sad news – but it relates directly to the rest of the post. This is Erie. We lost her on September 29. She was eighteen and a half. She’d lived with us for exactly 18 years. We’d adopted her in September 18 years ago, when she was five months old.
Losing my elderly girl made me grateful for the rest of our silly, adorable feline family. That’s one thing, I know. But there are three of them. So I contend it totally counts. Besides. There are only so many photos I can reasonably expect you to look at. There’s nothing quite like losing someone you love to make you realize how lucky you are to have had that love. So I’m taking a moment to appreciate my felines.
Meet our only boy, Autolycus (Uh tall uh kus):
He is a complete nut job. He thinks my husband walks on water (this is not related to the cat being a nut job, I swear). Autolycus is one of those cats who lives for trouble. The more I tell him not to do something, the more invested he is in doing it. He’s a combination teddy bear and alarm clock. When I go to bed, he snuggles down next to my face to purr me to sleep. But sleeping past 6am? Forget it. He’s up dancing on my pillow, pulling my hair, and touching my face with his cold, wet nose. This is a boy who doesn’t want his breakfast to be late.
This is Cuillean. (Qui-lay-un) She’s a little shy, not that you’d know it from this picture. I said shy, not modest. She’s my lap fungus. When I sit down to work, Cuillean is on my lap. She has a lovely, gentle purr and a sweet set of chirps and trills. She doesn’t actually meow. Unless you try to put her in a carrier to go to the vet. Then she wails this heart-wrenching WOOOOE! WOE! I’m kind of surprised the ASPCA hasn’t paid me a visit.
When our alarm goes off in the morning, she comes in for morning pets. This involves coming into the master cabin, getting between me and my husband and having both of us pet her. Eventually, she flops down on her side and kneads my husband’s armpit. This is sweet until her claws get past a certain length. And then, love hurts.
Finally, Hatshepsut. I pronounce her name for you in the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBhIGCP5iCs if you watched the video, then yes. She’s always that intent. She has a HUGE purr. Little cat, great big purr. She wields it as a weapon. Many an attempt to listen to her heart or lungs has been thwarted by that purr. She loves to have me hold her. Or pull her toys. I cannot make a bed without Hatshepsut help. It’s against the union rules. All beds being made must be inspected for bed mice (my fingers, under the covers). The disturbing bit is that she purrs like a freight train while rabbit kicking the crap out of my hand…
I am eternally grateful for the love and fun and laughter my four footed family members bring. They’re always focused on right now. They’re an excellent reminder to take joy everywhere I can.
I don’t know if it’s a curse afflicting all writers, or if I’m just lucky, but if you show me something horrifying, it is seared into my memory and IT NEVER LEAVES. Think back to the last real horror movie you saw. Do you want the grossest, most terrifying scene staring back at you from the insides of your closed eyelids for the rest of your life? I don’t.
I mean, I realize I’m
psychotic odd. I can watch true crime shows – you know – where real people actually died and be fascinated by how science solved the crime. I can watch medical shows and be completely absorbed regardless of the blood and exposed anatomical bits. But put me in front of a fictional account of monsters ripping through humans and you’re going to have to scrape me off the floor.
I discovered this fact when I went to see An American Werewolf in London with a pair of my friends. I didn’t even get a quarter of the way into the movie. The initial werewolf attack happens and there’s a shot of one of the men. He’s lying dead on the moor, his abdomen ripped out, his meaty, bloody ribs exposed in the light of the moon. Got up, walked out and went next door to watch The Empire Strikes Back for what had to be the twelfth time.
I can’t even tell you why that was so horrifying. It’s not like I don’t do blood. Medical shows and true crime, right? So what’s the problem with fictionalized stuff? No clue, but it’s a thing and I respect that. The last movie I saw that could remotely qualify as horror was Pitch Black. I do like that movie. Alien is, of course, a classic, but I’ve talked about it before. I think Pitch Black works for me (I watched the whole thing without flinching much) because most of the movie focuses on how the survivors are freaking out about Riddick, while the audience kept thinking, “He’s the least of your concerns.”
Once we got to critters ripping people apart, you saw little of it on screen. Some, sure, but just enough to let you know the characters were up a creek without any kind of paddle. The focus of the story wasn’t on the horror or the gore. It was on the people and their bid to escape.
Most of the horror movies that came out when I was a teen (and we won’t talk about how long ago that was) were focused on how inescapable the horror was and they were incredibly misogynistic. Young women died simply because they dared to own their sexuality and express it. Young men died, too, but in far fewer numbers and their bloody corpses didn’t wander into the high school to haunt their surviving sex partners.
Just so many things wrong there. That’s probably another blog topic we should put on our list – the notion that horror is extraordinarily specific to a single society and even then, only to certain slices of that society. (Nightmare on Elm Street only works if you’re never taught that you control the reality of your dreams like most pagan kids are…)
Anywho. My second and real current favorite? A book. The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle.
The end of the world walks right up to the closed gates of Katie’s Amish community. An illness has killed or altered millions of humans, turning them into creatures of unholy evil. When Katie finds an injured man just outside the community’s fence, she’s compelled to bring him secretly in and treat his wounds. But then, it becomes clear that evil has found a way into the village filled with Katie’s family, friends and former fiancé. Did her act of compassion doom them all?
Like Pitch Black, this story concentrates on the characters and a community facing the inexplicable, rather than focusing on gore. Which isn’t to say there aren’t a couple of scenes that aren’t — pretty. But the writing is gorgeous and Katie is courageous. It’s a great combination.
Anyone else a complete wuss when it comes to horror? Or am I cowering all alone over here in the dark?
Fortunately for me, I can obfuscate the age thing a tiny bit because my favorite childhood show predates my birth. I *thought* I’d been watching My Favorite Martian on first run – but clearly I thought that simply because the shows were all new to me as a kid, but I was watching in reruns. Probably not even first or second run, now that I think of it.
In My Favorite Martian ‘Uncle’ Martin comes to earth and ends up living with the young man who’d seen him land – Timothy O’Hara, played by a very young Bill Bixby. Ray Walston played Uncle Martin. Most of the shows centered around the threat of exposure for both men. Timothy would attempt to resolve the situation on his own. Yet, in every show, Uncle Martian would deploy his alien powers, further risking exposure, and resolving everything happily (and frustrating Timothy into the bargain).
This was very early science fiction that preferred comedy as its preferred mode of expression. Uncle Martin’s alien super-power seemed to be sarcasm. I haven’t seen an episode of this show since I measured my age in single digits. I wonder if it would survive the years with its comedy intact.
If we want to talk about childhood crushes as well as shows that date us, then I have to admit to having had an unhealthy fixation on The Wild Wild West. Oh. Look at that first run date. Guess I was watching that in reruns, too. When I watched the show, I wanted SO badly to be an agent, too. I wanted gadget mastery as one of my talents, damn it. And I wanted to live on that train with those guys because they got to have all the fun. I was too young to be actively attracted to either of the characters – but to be that involved in a TV show, even as a young kid, sort of evolves into crushing as we grow up, doesn’t it? So maybe this show was my pre-crush. I say that my fixation on the show was unhealthy because in retrospect, The Wild Wild West was one misogynistic bit of TV fluff. But look. Steampunk before we even had a word for it.
What about you? Do your favorite childhood shows survive modern examination?
Old [ohld] adjective:
far advanced in the years of one’s or its life: an old man; an old horse; an old tree. (www.dictionary.com)
I’m not exactly old. Not really. And my hairstylist is well-paid to ensure no rogue grays foil my plot to defy the aging process as long as possible. There are some things, though, that simply can’t be modified to seem younger than they are. One of those things? My absolute favorite television shows from childhood. There are a few I loved — the original Scooby Doo, whose feet sort of slid along as he walked because it was a real cartoon, not a computer generated show; Flipper, the show that made me want to be a marine biologist; He-Man, who made riding a tiger cool, had long hair, wore a loincloth and was my first step toward falling in love with Sam Bond. But of all of the, ahem, not-new shows that were around in my youth, there’s one that stands out as a clear favorite, one I still watch every chance I get.
I love this show. I wanted to be Ginger, who had kickass gowns and serious va-va-voom on a deserted island. I wanted to be Mary Ann because she was gorgeous and resourceful. I wanted to be the Professor because he was just too cool. I loved the Skipper’s temper. The Howells made me laugh at their ignorance and shallow attempts to remain socially elite. The island natives who were hysterical. And Gilligan? I loved Gilligan. I saw so much of myself in him–this kid trying to do all the right things and just bungling it regularly. He made me laugh out loud and cheer him on and sympathize, all at the same time. I never missed the show.
There was an innocence to the entertainment that I miss. Or maybe it’s my innocence I mourn. I’m not sure. Life was simpler then, and Gilligan’s Island personified for me what that meant — laughter, survival, friendship, camaraderie and, above all, hope. Pretty impressive impression to leave a kid with. High five, my lovely castaways.