Sweet nothings.

Things that make me sleepy: being tired (duh); wearing my retainers (weird); being under some kind of cover(s) up to my upper body, if not all the way up to my neck… meaning, my lower body has to be covered. Especially my feet.

If my feet aren’t covered, I feel exposed. Not scared, just not right somehow. This phenomenon of perception is common amongst us, I know. It comes from childhood, maybe from the “monsters under the bed” phase. Not sure. But as far as I’m concerned, “monsters under the bed” is the most amusing of the theories… that, or, “the boogeyman.”

(In all honesty, I don’t remember whether I actually had a “monsters under the bed” or “the boogeyman” phase.)

So if I’m in bed snuggling with Callaghan and my legs are draped over his lap at an angle such that my right foot is sticking out of the covers on his side AND I’m not sleepy, but he is, then any attempt at conversation I strike up about the boogeyman goes awry.

Our “sweet nothings” conversations can easily go something like last night’s:

“My foot is sticking out of the covers. The boogeyman is going to get it,” I said.

“Poor boogeyman.”

I start laughing. He doesn’t, as he’s mostly asleep. But I continue on, because I’m having fun being entertained at his expense. I want to see what he says next.

“What? Are my feet that gross?”

“ALL feet are gross.” (He has a foot aversion.)

“So you’re not a foot guy?” (Knowing full well that he’s not.)

“No, I’m not afraid to die.”

“I didn’t ask if you were afraid to die. I said you aren’t a foot guy…”

“It’s all about the foot.”

“It’s all about the foot?”

“It’s all about the foot.”

This morning, he had no recollection of this conversation. I’ve got it word-for-word, though… because immediately afterward, I got up and sat down here to write it out. And that, my friends, is the danger of living with a writer. Anything you say can or will end up in a blog post.

By the way, some of you are pushing it, even if you don’t live with me. You know who you are.

That concludes this ridiculous post.

 

Bright morning, blue wash. (12 July 2017)

 

“The End!”

Incidentally, Callaghan has no idea that I’m writing this. He’ll read it later. That will start a whole new conversation. See how that works? haha!

Callaghan is designing clowns and I don’t know what to do.

Heading into off-season at the amusement parks, Callaghan’s evenings of late have been filled with lots of freelance work. He hung onto a few of his European amusement park clients when he accepted his position as a motorcycle designer, because why not? It’s feast or famine in that industry. He’d only be swamped a few months out of the year.

Now that American Halloween hype has started to gain traction in France, French theme parks want a piece of it in a more major way. So they’ve asked Callaghan to design some clown attractions… because you can’t have spooky, ooky Halloween décor without clowns, of course. If there’s one thing the French have picked up on in their Halloween education, it’s that clowns are essential elements of the fear factor.

Even better, some of this Halloween-inspired design will remain a permanent fixture, so visitors can enjoy the park’s creepy side no matter when they go. Here’s Callaghan’s first design, a rough draft of a horror fun-house-type attraction (with mirrors inside):

 

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

 

You have to have clowns with wide open mouths as entrances, you know.

And there will be more. Oh yes. I’m already imagining waking up at night, shuffling into the kitchen for a glass of water, and noticing a dim screen-light casting vague shadows on the wall. I see that it’s coming from Callaghan’s office. I go in and find that his computer has turned itself on. The clown file is displayed, and it’s flickering.

Thanks, Parc St. Paul. And Festyland (You mean FESTY THE CLOWN-land, I said to Callaghan when he told me the park’s name), and thank you, Parc du Bocasse.

Here’s a draft of his Parc du Bocasse poster, featuring the bee mascot he’s been creating for years:

 

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

 

He loved my idea of designing a vampire version of the bee. Buzzy the Vampire is made of awesome because Callaghan’s art is kick-ass. It’s great no matter the subject. Even clowns.

Lights Out. (Non-review movie review! No spoilers.)

We went to see Lights Out two Fridays ago, which happened to be the night of our first major monsoon storm of the season.

It was daylight when we went in, and darkness with rain, booming thunder, and flashing light when we went out. The movie had been darkness and flashing light, too. All kinds of light. Flickering light, steady light, florescent light, candlelight, black light, light bulbs, headlights, stage lights, overhead lights, lamp lights, cell phone light, you name it.

 

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Lights Out is an old-school horror film that benefits from its uncomplicated plot, one part jump scares and one part jittery suspense. (In another dimension, one part atmosphere, one part sound design, both exquisitely crafted.) (In yet another dimension that’s irrelevant, no part award-winning acting.)

We didn’t care about the acting, and we didn’t care much about plot, although the plot in this film isn’t badly lacking. We just cared about being spooked by the monster as we sat ensconced in the dark theater.

See, in this movie, you don’t know when the lights will go out, and the first thing you learn is that when the lights go out, scary things happen. Lights Out preys on – or resurrects – our fear of the dark. It’s a simple premise, and that’s why it works.

Rather than wasting time and effort trying to impress us with plot complexity, character development, and CGI effects, the film teaches us how to react. It lends a coat of paranoia to each interior scene, each room, confining tension within the walls. The attention paid to the integrity of each scene maintains the mood, and I appreciated this consistency. There we were in a house that seemed real, with lighting that seemed real (not forced, as props as central motif can seem), holding our breath the whole time. Lights Out is back-to-basics, monster-under-the-bed horror, enjoyable and making no apologies for its lack of embellishments.

I found the monster in Lights Out to be satisfying, too. It’s scary because it’s elemental. It’s unencumbered by CGI overload, devoid of the cheesiness that often ruins the spook potential of contemporary horror movie evil entities.

To make my conclusion as simple as the movie itself: Lights Out is an entertaining horror movie.

 

L’Hôpital d’Antibes – Silent Hill (with a touch of American Horror Story: Asylum).

Back in Arizona as of last night!  This morning, I woke up after sleeping for 3 hours out of the last 31. It always takes my body a few days to resolve east to west jet-lag across 8 time zones. Luckily, the weekend starts tomorrow.

So, France. We had a good visit with everyone despite the somber circumstances. In an extension of “funerals bring people together,” I got to meet several of Callaghan’s cousins from his Mom’s side, even though Papy was his father’s father.

One of the cousins had her baby the day of the service. The next day, I went with Callaghan, his sister, and his mother to visit her at the hospital in Antibes.

Little did I know.

Walking into the hospital, I had no reason to suspect that the place wouldn’t resemble any other hospital, medical clinic, or urgent care center. You know what I mean… a place brightly lit and charged with the hectic energy of people working and visiting, information desks and nurses’ stations, and the background noise of beeping, clicking, and clanging sounds… machines, doors opening and closing, patients shuffling down the hall with their I.V. poles, people talking, phones ringing, alarms, voices over the announcement system… normal hospital sights and sounds.

Even the quieter hospital areas feature sounds and human activity of some kind.

Naturally, I was taken aback when I found myself in a hospital that resembled the abandoned hospital in the horror video game Silent Hill. 

First, the interior of the hospital opened to a vast, cold emptiness.

 

Hospital lobby/foot traffic area... ?

Hospital lobby/foot-traffic area… ?

 

Hello?

Hello?

 

It was so quiet, you could hear an ant yawning.

It was so quiet, you could hear an ant yawning.

 

It was surreal. So silent, and so very strange.

 

Another deserted hallway

Another deserted hallway

 

Where is everyone? Why is it so quiet? What’s wrong with this picture?

Let me explain about Silent Hill. I generally don’t play video games. Silent Hill was the exception years ago because when I looked over my then-boyfriend’s shoulder and saw that the game he was playing was a 3D survival-horror-type deal with an eerie atmosphere, it hooked me, of course. You know how I can’t resist the thrill of any kind of horror! Silent Hill sucked me in. Next thing I knew, I was up playing it in the dark in the dead of night, every night… because 2:00AM is the best time to maximize the game’s creeptastic effects.

The game’s intriguing narrative involved an old hospital in the abandoned town of Silent Hill.

I felt like I was in the game.

It was bizarre how the inside of Callaghan’s cousin’s room seemed normal, with the right people stationed in the right places – mother and newborn in the bed, baby daddy and visiting family members standing around – but when we left and walked back through the hospital and it was still unnaturally quiet, dimly lit, and devoid of human life, I found myself listening for the spooky static noise forewarning of approaching malevolent creatures.

 

Yet another deserted hallway

Yet another deserted hallway

 

There wasn’t even a nurses’ station in sight of the maternity ward! There was literally nothing and no one. A nurse did come into the room briefly while we were visiting, but where she came from was a mystery.

I found an evacuation plan posted on a wall in a (deserted) general area. Who was there to evacuate, exactly? At that point, everything about the hospital seemed sinister to me.

 

Hospital evacuation plan

Hospital evacuation plan

 

I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the hollow corridors on our way out. Callaghan and his sister jumped in to photo-bomb the pics.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-HospitalAntibes_interior6

 

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(Maman joined in on the monster act, cracking up with the rest of us, but I’m not posting her pic because I know she wouldn’t be okay with it.)

Impressed with the interior’s resemblance to Silent Hill’s hospital, I rushed out to give the hospital’s exterior a good look as we headed back to the car, since I’d been oblivious going in.

I swear the only missing elements from the game were snow and monster birds swooping in to attack us.

Here’s the exterior:

 

Hospital in Antibes

Hospital in Antibes

 

And here’s the hospital in Silent Hill:

 

Hospital in Silent Hill

Hospital in Silent Hill

 

Right?!

In fact, the hospital in Silent Hill looks less creepy than this one in Antibes, on the outside, at least.

 

Hospital in Antibes

Hospital in Antibes

 

Hospital in Antibes

Hospital in Antibes

 

Hospital in Antibes

Hospital in Antibes

 

Seriously....

Seriously….

 

AND THEN. We passed a certain building, and suddenly the whole thing merged with American Horror Story: Asylum.

 

AHS: ASYLUM

AHS: ASYLUM

 

The picture was complete, but of course, Callaghan and his sister ran up to pose.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-HospitalAntibes_exterior6

 

At the end of the day, I can honestly say it was the weirdest hospital I’d ever seen.

Callaghan’s cousin and her baby were sweet, though.

Dust mites. (So the house in France wasn’t possessed, after all.)

As I was making the bed yesterday morning, I thought of an article I’d read last week about how beds contain dust mites that eat dead human skin cells. Before you go imagining harmless balls of fluff that collect on the floor under your bed, like I mistakenly did at first, let me clarify that dust mites are alive, outfitted with multiple legs and a mouth that looks like a vagina, and not to be confused with dust bunnies. The article is called “Scientists Tell You Why Making Your Bed Is Disgusting – And Bad for Your Health,” and it was helpfully posted to my Facebook feed by one of my many helpful friends. I wish I could remember who it was. If it was you, thank you.

I read the article and it stuck with me because it’s all about how making your bed enables these vile little beasts to do their dirty work. The article reveals, as indicated in its title, that making your bed may not be the healthiest thing to do.

In her article, Ms. Harper reports that “each bed contains more than a million Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus – the scientific name for dust mites.”

Somehow this surprised me, but I guess everything alive has to have a scientific name.

“…feeding off of your dead skin cells and pooping (yes, pooping) out an allergen that can trigger asthma-like symptoms.”

 

Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, aka dust mite.

Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, aka dust mite.

 

Apparently, dust mites can’t do their things in an unmade bed because an unmade bed is exposed to daylight and circulating air, which are lethal for dust mites.

Dust mites are basically microscopic vampires who can only thrive in the dark. Exposure to daylight kills them. A bed that’s made is their coffin. At night, they feed on your biological matter.

(Okay, they’re not pure vampires, since vampires feed on living blood while dust mites prefer dead skin cells. They’re more of a hiding, creeping vampire-vulture hybrid.)

These findings aren’t new. Ms. Harper explains that the research she references was published in 2006. Then she recounts other research findings that suggest a correlation between making the bed and better mental health, including benefits such as lower stress and higher productivity. She points out that we have to decide which is more important to us: the mental well-being that comes with making the bed, or the knowledge that by not making the bed, we’re destroying the carnivorous creatures who feed on our dead, discarded skin cells at night.

So yesterday morning I was making the bed while re-thinking what I was doing, hesitating for the first time. After some serious consideration, I decided that for me, the benefits of making the bed outweigh the benefits of not making the bed.

See, I was hardwired to make my bed every day before I joined the Army. When you join the Army, if you’re not already hardwired to make your bed every day, you come out programmed to do so, and I’m talking bounce-a-quarter-off-the bed kind of programming. For me, the consequences of not making the bed would be more disquieting than the consequences of turning the bed into a hovel for skin-devouring dust mites, but it’s not a sense of threat that propels me to continue making the bed. It’s more of a reflex, more like how it feels wrong to put on your right sock first if you’ve always put your left one on first. It’s a deeply ingrained habit. To stop making the bed would mean putting forth effort to break the habit, and it would challenge my mental health to see the bed all messy and unmade every day. (Not to mention that our unmade bed would end up covered in cat fur.)

It wouldn’t be worth it, especially since we live in the hot, dry desert, where our dust mite problem is minimal compared to other places we’ve lived. As stated in this other article I found, “…if the humidity is under forty percent dust mites don’t live well so that is why parts of the southwest don’t suffer from this problem.”

I now know that the raging skin problems I’d endured while living in France were probably due to dust mites. That second article also states: “Some people will have an allergic rash reaction of eczema. This is similar to the situation with food allergies: Some people get respiratory types of reactions and others will deal with the problem via their skin by having a rash response.”

Mystery solved.

In France, I suffered constantly with horrible, rash-like outbreaks all over my body, front and back, from my feet to my legs to my torso to my arms. Callaghan never had anything. It was an infuriating mystery, and we couldn’t solve it. While the problem persisted on the French Riviera (when we were there, it was more often overcast and rainy than bright and sunny, and being on the coast, it was never dry), it was much worse when we were up in la Région Rhône-Alpes.

We figured I was having a reaction to some kind of insect. I’m severely allergic to insect bites; they wreak 10+ times the havoc on my skin than on Callaghan’s, so it would make sense that if we had dust mites in our always-made bed in the perpetually dark, damp wilderness of our little mountain abode, I would have this reaction, and Callaghan would not. I’d often wake up with one or several itchy bumps that would erupt into a horrible rash that would burn and itch uncontrollably. If I’d scratch the slightest little bit – even lightly – bruises would form.

All of it vanished once we moved back to the States and the sunny, arid Southwest.

I was going to supply a photo here (one of many) of the strange bumps, scabs and bruises that I constantly had all over my body, but I decided to spare your eyeballs because “what has been seen cannot be unseen,” as we all know. (You’re welcome.)

When the sea boileth over. (My roach nightmare come true.)

We interrupt (what has become) our standard Friday kitty-update programming for something entirely the opposite, and I’m abjectly horrified that I even have such a thing to report.

The cataclysmic event happened the day of our recent exterminator appointment. I’d arranged to telecommute that day because we didn’t know what all would be involved.

We didn’t want to call the exterminator. The idea did cross our minds when the crickets started showing up at the beginning of the summer, but we thought we could get away with avoiding it. We said to each other, “The crickets will leave. The problem will resolve itself.” Which, of course, led to the brisk proliferation of crickets in the house, until such a point arrived that we were living amongst them like no civilized people do. Finally, just as we’d wound up vacuuming herds of spiders in our house in France, we had to get medieval on the crickets in this house… Creepy Crawley Pest Control style.

We’d seen no insects other than the crickets. We had lizards, mostly baby ones, but we’re fond of them and don’t view them as pests. Scorpions don’t trouble us, either. My one major, remaining phobia, as many of you know, is roaches. Summer in Arizona brings the sewer roaches, which I always envision as boiling up from the bowels of hell. Had we seen a roach anywhere on our property, inside the house or out, I’d have been on the phone with Creepy Crawly that same second.

I knew this company. I’ve used them before, in previous houses, and I had confidence in them. I know that their product isn’t harmful to dogs and cats, and I know that they’re effective, so I’m happy to open the door when Z from Creepy Crawly rings the doorbell.

He’s a no-nonsense guy and explains the process succinctly. He would “blast” the outside first, then come in with a different apparatus to drip-deposit the de-insecting solution along the baseboards inside the garage and house. 

Now, let me just pause to assert that if I had my druthers (am I old enough to get away with using that phrase? I’ve been waiting to age into the right to say it, kind of like get off my lawn, which would actually be funny considering this post)… if I had a choice, I wouldn’t choose to have a lawn. I dislike the maintenance involved, and, moreover, I don’t believe in cultivating lawns in the desert. Alas, our house came with its front lawn and the smaller lawn out back. When we moved in, ripping out the grass and xeriscaping our yard went high on our list of “Projects to do one day.”

We bought the house about a year ago. We still have the lawn.

No-nonsense Z from Creepy Crawly explains the treatment process and wastes no time. He does the exterior first, spraying his lethal brew along the front of the house near the door and making his way around the perimeter of the lawn, winding around the date palm and wrapping around to the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, Callaghan is in the garage, getting it ready. The garage will be done next. I go to give him the tool I’d retrieved from the house as requested and walk back out onto the patio, stopping to stand under the awning. I’m looking out in the direction of our neighbor’s house when –

“This is why you need me,” Z announces loudly as he heads toward me from across the lawn.

“What was that?” I turn my head to look at him.

“THIS. Is why you need me,” Z says again, a note of glee ringing in his voice as he gesticulates with the hand not holding the hose. He’s indicating something on the sidewalk. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be looking at, and then my eyes pick up movement.

It’s movement happening so fast, it’s literally a blur. It’s actually happening on the lawn. There’s an animated cloud flashing in shades of dark and red, a fast-moving, chaotic cloud glinting in the sun. I’m confused. It reminds me of the swarm of bees that appeared in front of our neighbor’s house back in San Jose that one time….

My chest seizes up, my insides suddenly on high alert. It’s summer in Arizona.

“What is it?”

“Roaches. Those are sewer roaches.” Z sounds downright triumphant.

The word “roaches” grips my larynx and I feel paralyzed in my throat. My mind falters. I CAN’T be looking at a huge, thick cloud of spastic roaches on my lawn, I think. It can’t be possible.

“Don’t worry, they’ll all be dead within 15 minutes,” says Z merrily, as if that solves everything.

He has no idea. Or maybe he does. He does this for a living. How can anyone do this for a living?

“Baby,” I croak.

“What?” Callaghan steps out of the garage.

“Over there.” I’m fighting my roachaphobic body’s urge to hyperventilate. “It’s… roaches….”

“Roaches? Where?” Callaghan studies where I’m pointing, and the look of confusion on his face probably looks exactly like the one I wore when Z said “roaches.”

“There. That cloud…”

Callaghan slowly makes his way to the sidewalk and approaches the area with unusual care in his step. He stops and looks. I can see his face, and it tells me everything.

I’m shivering in the heat. The broad span of air up to two feet above the lawn gleams thick with oily, reddish-brown wings. Callaghan stumbles back up the driveway and says, in awe, “It’s a sea of roaches.”

And the sea boileth over.

Z is laughing. He’s laughing at our shock. He’s laughing at my pain. He explains that water from the sprinklers has collected where the lawn dips down to the metal grate covering the main water valve. Moistness attracts sewer roaches in the summer, he says. When he sprayed the lawn with his lethal concoction, he activated them into the frenzy stirring before our horrified eyes.

I’m thinking, I’ve walked across the lawn over that exact spot many times. I’VE BEEN TREADING OVER A SEA OF SEWER ROACHES.

My ankles prickled. I was mired in a scenario straight out of my worst nightmare.

I went inside and Skyped a message to my co-worker.

They like to take shelter in palm trees, sewer roaches. This roach population likely came from the palm up against our house. It’s unbelievable, miraculous, even, that we’ve never seen a roach of any kind on our property, outside or in.

Later, I asked Callaghan how many roaches he figured there were. He thought out loud: “I could only see maybe 450 of them, so if you take into consideration what I couldn’t see, I’d say… around a thousand. There were probably a thousand roaches.”

“That’s it,” I said. “That lawn is HISTORY. I don’t care if we can’t afford actual landscaping right now. WE HAVE TO KILL THE LAWN.”

Callaghan, who’d peered inside the swarming sea of a thousand roaches hovering above the lawn, and who, unlike me, is not phobic about roaches, needed no arm-twisting. “I’ll shut off the sprinklers,” he declared. “The lawn will die.”

We stopped watering the lawn, but it’s monsoon season, so we’ve had some rain. The grass grew, and I couldn’t help but think about a thousand huge sewer roach corpses hidden in it.

Before long, Callaghan had to go out and mow the lawn. I watched from my office window as he courageously pushed the lawn mower over the mass roach grave.

The grass is slowly dying, but the ghastly image of the hovering, flashing roach cloud refreshes in our minds every time we look at the lawn, because this is what the lawn looks like right now (I took this picture yesterday):

 

Our front lawn right now.

Our front lawn right now.

 

Lest you wondered whether my phobia caused me to exaggerate, as that can certainly happen, LOOK AT THAT LARGE PATCH OF GRASS THAT’S LUSH, LONGER AND GREENER THAN THE DYING GRASS AROUND IT. That is Exhibit A. That’s where the roaches were. The decomposing bodies in the mass grave have been fertilizing the grass we’re trying to kill.

The lawn can’t be ripped out soon enough! I’m going to call the City of Tempe today to ask about their conservation program (that financially assists with homeowners’ xeriscaping costs).

Z the exterminator is coming back this morning for a follow-up treatment, but I’ll be at work this time, so if another cloud of roaches rises above the ground, I won’t be here to witness it.

Halloween Festivities!

HELLo! This image-centric post is brought to you by one of America’s favorite holidays, Halloween, which is TODAY. Yay!!

This is just to say Happy Halloween, and here are a couple of pictures I took of creepy sights around town, and here’s another one of Zombie Callaghan, and here’s one of our jack o-lantern (not in that order), and hey, here are a couple of pics of the cake I made last night – the cake that I’m bringing to our Halloween potluck at work today, because I love my co-workers so much!

As for this evening? After celebrating Halloween pretty much all month, Callaghan and I are going to enjoy a low-key night at home. We’re going to watch this week’s episode of American Horror Story and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. THAT IS THE PLAN, STAN, and we’re sticking with it. =)

Let’s start with home…

 

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We decided to go with a fake jack o’lantern this year.

 

Then to the Melonhead Foundation’s Drag Bingo charity bash!

 

Remember when I was escorted to Drag Bingo by a jovial French zombie?

Remember when I was escorted to Drag Bingo by a jovial French zombie?

 

I don’t exactly have coulrophobia (a pathological fear of clowns), but still…

 

Earlier in the month, I spotted a random clown tucked into a hallway near the entrance of a Wal-Mart.

Earlier in the month, I spotted a random clown tucked into a hallway near the entrance of a Wal-Mart.

 

And in our neighborhood, this house always catches my every-horror-tuned eye…

 

The sequel to the sequel to the sequel of "The Amityville Horror" is going to be called "The Tempe Horror." It's the windows under the peaked roof that do it.

The sequel to the sequel to the sequel of “The Amityville Horror” is going to be called “The Tempe Horror.” It’s the windows under the peaked roof that do it.

 

And for work today, I made this cake, a tradition I’ve done for Halloween potlucks for years:

 

The return of the litter box cake, just for my co-workers!

The return of the litter box cake, just for my co-workers!

 

 

Ronnie James approves.

Ronnie James approves.

 

Happy FRIDAY Halloween, Everyone!

Our Halloween Laundry Room

On Friday, I wrote about the heartwarming qualities of a well-maintained, staffed Laundromat. It’s entirely coincidental that this morning’s post is also about a laundry space. On Saturday, before I’d decided what to write about for today, Callaghan and I stood in our new laundry room at home talking about the most important feature of that room, which is, of course, that it makes me think of the laundry room in the horror film Halloween. Because we all know that no laundry room is complete without the mental image of a masked killer standing outside of it, watching as you blithely go about the business of doing your laundry.

That original Halloween from 1978? Stands out in my memory as being the movie that sparked my interest in the horror genre, which has long since been one of my favorite film genres. I find the laundry room scene in that movie to be a wonderful scene, especially because it arrives at that moment.

You know that moment. It’s the moment in a cheesy horror movie wherein the tension gathers itself into a jagged-edged ball with frayed, stripped wires poking out all over the place before it begins its bouncing, chaotic journey downhill, picking up speed and snagging everything along the way until it slams to a halt with everyone (except that one, token survivor) dead at the end. (Long aside: It’s fun if the survivor is the one person that you’d predicted would escape. Sometimes, a horror movie starts and some characters have DEAD written all over them from the very beginning, right? We like to make predictions within the first 15 minutes. “He’s dead.” “She’ll be the first to go.” “That person’s going to be the one who stays alive.” It’s actually the most satisfying when we’re wrong, though, because being wrong means that the movie wasn’t as predictable as we’d thought it would be.)

Taken out of context, this scene from Halloween isn’t particularly creepy, but it’s brilliant in its place (no gore here):

 

 

I honestly don’t know why this came to mind on Saturday. Our laundry room isn’t especially creepy. Maybe it’s because the start of the fall semester means that fall is near, which, in turn, signals the approach of Halloween, bringing to mind the movie Halloween. Whatever the case, Callaghan and I had the chance to discuss the matter gravely.

“This reminds me of the laundry room scene in Halloween,” I said as we stood in the laundry room. It was empty. The washer and dryer were to be delivered later that day.

“What scene?”

“Remember that scene? The girl is babysitting, she goes out to the laundry room – it’s night – and the killer is there, creeping around outside. This is like that laundry room.”

We were having this conversation because our laundry room is only accessible from the backyard. It’s connected to the main house, but you can’t walk through. The only other time I’d seen a laundry room like that was in Halloween.

 

Our laundry room at night, not creepy at all under the patio's two bright lights.

Our laundry room at night, not creepy at all under the patio’s two bright lights.

 

“In this laundry room,” Callaghan said as he looked around, “the only place for the killer to hide is behind the door. So you enter it by kicking the door in really hard… and then there’s no more killer!” With his French accent, he pronounced it “keeler.”

But the killer would be wilier than that, I thought. I could picture how it would happen. The killer would crouch around the corner, or, if the patio lights were out, in the inside corner of the patio.

 

The laundry room in the dark.

The laundry room in the dark.

 

I’m not really concerned, though. The laundry room is spacious, but it’s narrow, and other than the one on the door, there are no windows. That means that I would have the advantage.

All of this makes me think of American Horror Story: Freak Show with increasing anticipation. We can’t wait for the return of Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulsen, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Even Peters, Emma Roberts, et al! October 8… only a month away!

 

 

Jeepers Creepers

I’m not big on practical jokes. I don’t usually enjoy being on the receiving end of them, and it almost never occurs to me to play one on someone else. I guess you could say that I’m an opportunist when it comes to practical jokes, because the only one I can remember playing was in Nice two summers ago, and it was totally spontaneous. An opportunity presented itself, and that opportunity was just too good to pass up.

The joke was on Callaghan, of course.

First, some background: Jeepers Creepers is one of our favorite cheesy horror movies. Not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but in order to get the joke, you should know that a psychic woman calls the two (sister/brother) main characters on a diner pay phone and issues a warning about the classic jazz song “Jeepers Creepers”:

When you hear that song you run, and I mean run! ‘Cause that song means something terrible for you, something so terrible you couldn’t dream of it… not in your worst most terrible nightmare!

Then she plays the song for them. It’s the original Louis Armstrong recording from the 1930’s, which I can imagine would be a suitably creepy thing to hear over a pay phone.

We spent the summer of 2012 helping Callaghan’s father renovate three apartments in an old building in Nice. I should say “creepy old building” because it really kind of was (creepy). (I mean that in a good way. I like creepy. I like old buildings. Creepy old buildings = Good). One apartment was downstairs, the other two were upstairs, and there was a small, dusty old radio that seemed to float around the building, usually ending up with Callaghan’s father, who always had it set to a jazz station. Maybe the radio was his. I don’t know. I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. Anyway.

One morning, Callaghan and our friend Jean-Mi were working together in one of the upstairs apartments while Callaghan’s father and I were in the downstairs apartment. At some point, he – Callaghan’s father – stepped out for a little while, leaving me alone in the creepy old apartment with the radio, jazz music blaring away.

Well, when Louis Armstrong came on singing “Jeepers Creepers,” I couldn’t believe my luck. There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity! I grabbed my cell phone and dialed Callaghan’s number as I ran to the radio. When I got there, I held the phone up to the speakers. I was cracking up laughing, but I managed to stifle my hilarity while Callaghan answered his phone and heard:

 

 

Hahaha!! He was up on a ladder at the time, too, he later told me. Ha! Just envisioning him standing up on a ladder listening to “Jeepers Creepers” on his phone cracks me up all over again!

Ahem. Maybe this is another example of me being too easily amused, but you have to understand that thanks to the movie, that song had become one of our inside jokes. We’d say things like, Oh, well… the day could get worse… we could answer the phone and hear “Jeepers Creepers!” Because in the movie, hearing that song was the ultimate Bad Thing that could happen.

A song portending the arrival of a horrible latex monster would make everything so much worse.

And cheesier.

Happy Friday, all!

Halloween Masks and the Question of Teeth

I have this theory about Halloween masks. There’s a formula for what makes the mask spooky, and it’s simple: No teeth = spooky. Teeth = not spooky. This is not to say that all masks without teeth are spooky, but just that the spookiest masks I’ve seen are the ones without teeth.

We went to check out the masks at the Goodwill (famous for its Halloween displays), Walmart and Target. The main thing I noticed about the masks in these major stores with popular Halloween sections (we didn’t go to any Halloween specialty stores) is that they mostly represent zombies and other toothy creatures. Today’s trend is monster masks, and snarly carnivore teeth seem to be the common denominator and defining characteristic from monster to monster. They’re fun, these masks, but I don’t find them scary at all… the gaping, snarling or grinning mouths jagged with sharp teeth just don’t chill my spine.

Here’s a sampling of the masks I tried:

 

Lots of teeth all around, except for the clown in the bottom right corner.

Lots of teeth all around, except for the clown in the bottom right corner.

 

To me, the spookiest one is the toothless clown at the bottom right corner… and not just because it’s a clown. The mask on the opposite end of that row is also a clown, and that one’s not scary to me. It happens to have teeth, which I think kills the creep factor, though it is a pretty cool mask.

In contrast, take the vintage masks of yesteryear. I’m talking about the old-fashioned, simple ones, those plain, homemade masks that not only didn’t feature teeth, but whose mouths were often so brief that they seemed like afterthoughts… those masks of the “pillowcase over the head with eye cut-outs” variety. Those, I have to say, really kind of creep me out. There’s not much to them, and maybe that’s why they work. Less is more, as they say. It’s those minimized, close-lipped, atrophied or warped little mouths that give those masks that certain spooky je ne sais quoi.

 

Old-fashioned Halloween masks, typical of their time. No teeth.

Old-fashioned Halloween masks, typical of their time. No teeth.

 

 

Imagine opening your door to find this pair...

Imagine opening your door to find this pair…

 

 

And who can forget the mask on this child in the chilling Spanish film The Orphanage?

 

The masked child in The Orphanage

The masked child in The Orphanage

 

I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly not a vision I’d want to see standing at the end of my bedroom hallway! No teeth necessary.

Just to rule out the possibility that it’s the black-and-white photo effect at work, I examined my snaggle-toothed mask mosaic again as a black-and-white image to see if the absence of color would add to its spookiness.

 

Black and white. Still not scary.

Black and white. Still not scary.

 

Conclusion: the creepiest masks are the ones that don’t have teeth. It seems counterintuitive, but think about it… lack of emotion is scary. A closed mouth is a mysterious mouth. We don’t know what’s going on behind those lips, and the unknown is scary and unsettling. (The Mona Lisa would not be nearly as mysterious were she revealing her teeth.)

Only three of the masks I tried on didn’t have teeth, and my favorite was one of those:

 

Weird little girl

Weird little girl

 

 

It's at Target. I should totally go back and get it, right? For next year?

It’s at Target. I should totally go back and get it, right? For next year?

 

 

Callaghan cropped me out of the picture...

Callaghan cropped me out of the picture…

 

 

...then we used this photo I took of September's full moon...

…then we used this photo I took of September’s full moon…

 

 

...to make this image.  (Callaghan decided to draw me a left eye.) "FrankenKristi."

…to make this image. (Callaghan decided to draw me a left eye.) “FrankenKristi.”

 

Happy Halloween!

It was Karen Black with the Candlestick in the Library: My Tribute to Karen Black

We initiated ourselves into the joys of juicing vegetables last week on Wednesday, and I was going to tell you all about it today, but then something happened on Thursday that takes precedence. On Thursday, the landscape of pop culture changed. We lost American actress Karen Black to cancer, and I want to take a minute to write about her in this space.

 

American actress Karen Black (July 1, 1939 - August 8, 2013)

American actress Karen Black (July 1, 1939 – August 8, 2013)

 

Although she earned critical acclaim – including Oscar and Golden Globes recognition, among others – for films such as The Great Gatsby, Nashville and Five Easy Pieces, the made-for-television movie Trilogy of Terror (1975) propelled Karen Black into the stratosphere of B-movie Scream Queen fame.

I’m fuzzy on the details of the first time I saw Trilogy of Terror.

I don’t remember exactly with whom. I don’t remember exactly when, and I don’t even remember where… but I do remember that a). it was with a girlfriend, b). we were in high school, c). we were at someone’s house… maybe mine, and d). an excessive amount of junk food was involved. There were probably Nacho Cheese Doritos, Twinkies, M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Coke. OH! Those chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie things, what are they called?

Got it – PINWHEELS. By Nabisco.

The cheesy tortilla chips were especially appropriate for the occasion.

As indicated by its title, Trilogy of Terror contains three separate stories. Karen Black stars as the protagonist in all three of them. The first two of the three bizarre short films that comprise the Trilogy are psychologically bent. The third, entitled “Amelia,” features a Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll… and that’s about all that needs to be said about that.

As far as I’m concerned, no prop in Horror will ever compare to Trilogy of Terror’s maniacal cackling, growling Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll. The clown in Poltergeist can’t touch it, and Chucky doesn’t even come close. Even the creepy doll in The Conjuring looks like Malibu Barbie next to it.

 

Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll in Trilogy of Terror's "Amelia"

Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll in Trilogy of Terror’s “Amelia”

 

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, and if you’re a Horror afficionado, I suggest you get Trilogy of Terror and skip straight ahead to “Amelia,” the third segment. Then go back and watch the first two, “Julie” and “Millicent and Therese,” so you can come away with the full Karen Black Trilogy of Terror experience.

At least two things came about as a result of Trilogy of Terror:

–After Karen Black did Trilogy of Terror, she went on to become something of a B-movie horror cult figure, more or less concentrating her efforts in the genre. A gothicky punk/shock-rock kind of band in New York even named itself “The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black” in her honor.

–Watching Trilogy of Terror spawned my affection for the Horror genre, which runs deep in my pop culture veins to this day.

Yes… for me, it was Trilogy of Terror that started it all. Why will I always run to the theater to watch the latest creepy movies, rather than the romantic comedies? It was Karen Black with the candlestick in the library.

At some point, a copy of Trilogy of Terror on VHS made its way into my movie collection, after which I pestered everyone I knew to watch it with me. (I’d long since lost track of how many times I’d viewed it.) Callaghan was the exception, because by the time he and I got together, I no longer owned a VCR, and neither did he. We moved to France. After I populated my bookshelves there with books from my collection, I carefully positioned my Trilogy of Terror video cassette on the edge of one of the shelves. I really need to replace that with a DVD version one day, I thought to myself as I did it.

I haven’t acquired the DVD yet. But I will.

When Karen Black’s death was announced on Thursday, I turned to Callaghan. We had another Glenn Close bunny-boiling Fatal Attraction situation on our hands. Callaghan still hadn’t seen Trilogy of Terror, so he couldn’t truly appreciate what Karen Black meant to me. I mean, he had no clue about the Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll! How could that be? Appropriate action had to be taken at the first opportunity. The next evening, we finally sat down to watch Trilogy of Terror together.

And, as always, “Amelia” induced laughter, because for all its spooky, cringe-worthy ferocity, that Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll is quite hilarious in some of its scenes. Callaghan loved it, as I knew he would (we have the same taste in just about everything).

When I mentioned that I would love to own a replica of that doll, Callaghan quickly said, “NO!”

Speaking of boiling bunnies, here’s a bit of trivia about Karen Black that endears her to me even more:

 

from: http://www.peta.org/features/Karen-Black.aspx

 

Thank you for everything, Karen Black. You will be missed… but, you know, you’ll never really die. Heheh.

Oh, THAT Apocalypse.

We saw three movies over the weekend: Pacific Rim, The Heat and The Conjuring.

Brilliant times were had.

In the existing sea of apocalypse movies, newcomer Pacific Rim does a fair job of defying all of the superlatives in the English language… and that’s okay, because it handily makes up its own as it goes along, relieving me of the burden of description for those who ask. It’s inventive like that. Pacific Rim is such a staunchly self-defining film that I can only recommend that you go watch it for yourselves so you can see what I mean. It’s visual bombast at its finest. It’s one of those movies that manages to inhabit its own cinematic space while stealing from everywhere at the same time. I might be saying this to lazily avoid thinking of the words, but I also might be doing you a huge favor. Go and enjoy yourselves a hearty 131 minutes of campy, cheesy, Godzilla-mated-with-the-Loch Ness Monster-in-the-aftermath-of-a-nuclear-event-and-spawned-meets-Iron Man goodness. Sit back in your seat in the dark and let your eyes gobble up the spectacle that spills out before them. Not since the delightfully awful Tank Girl have I been so gratified at a Good vs. Evil apocalypse fun fest (though Tank Girl is technically post-apocalyptic). Seriously, I’m not a sci-fi fan per se, but I love these movies. They are the exceptions for me. Like Tank Girl, Pacific Rim is a sci-fi action film that I’m going to want to watch over and over again.

Side note… there should be an industry awards category called “Best Use of War-Paint in an Apocalypse Film,” because Mako Mori co-storms into combat wearing red lipstick, and she would get my vote for that award. Red lipstick? It might sound frivolous and potentially reductive, but it isn’t sexy or glamorous so much as bad-ass. (Becca in Tank Girl wore it too, come to think of it.) People from cultures all over the planet have fought battles wearing paint on their faces from the beginning of time, so there’s nothing new going on when Mako shows up wearing her “Yeah I’m a Rookie SO WHAT” shade of red. She just does it with aplomb, and it’s a costume detail that stands out when you consider the character’s personal circumstances. It’s a dash of defiance. (Interestingly, I can’t find a still online showing Mako in that red lip, but I swear I saw it in at least one scene, and Callaghan remembers it, too.)

If the Kaiju monster in Pacific Rim is the new Godzilla, then Ashburn and Mullins in The Heat are the new Beverly Hills Cops (though Ashburn’s actually a Special Agent), as Callaghan aptly remarked as we exited the theater. We went in expecting raunchy fun times ahead, but we honestly didn’t think we’d laugh as much as we did. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make quite a pair!

Finally, The Conjuring pulled off the nearly-impossible and thoroughly creeped us out with its sneaky direction, pacing and use of, um, props, shall we call them. (No spoilers here!) I definitely am a fan of the horror genre, and it’s hard to make me jump. The Conjuring did it.

In summary, it was an excellent weekend at the movies, which is an intensely satisfying thing, especially since a weekend at the movies is a rare event for us. Neither a cent nor a second of our time went to waste.

Okay, so I dwelled on Pacific Rim a bit longer than I’d intended. I also wanted to point out one of the hidden hazards of public transportation.

When this is your bus stop...

When this is your bus stop…

...and this is across the street...

…and this is across the street…

This happens. hahaha!

This happens. hahaha!

Thrashing around in the Throes

“Mr. Hammond, after careful consideration, I’ve decided not to endorse your park.” (Jurassic Park)

What a great conclusion! What valleys of chaos traversed to reach it! (Hmm, if we were to return to our wilderness home in France, would we find T-Rex and Velociraptor tracks in our wake?) Humans seem to thrive on mayhem. What is it about disaster – especially violent disaster – that mesmerizes us?

“I wonder if robots will ever watch Terminator and figure out that they’re supposed to kill the humans,” Callaghan mused as we were eating our salad the other night. “Maybe it’s the movie that’s going to trigger everything!”

Indeed. When it comes to entertaining ourselves with disaster, it’s not enough for people to kill other people. Nature killing people isn’t enough, either. We need robots to kill us, too.

For me, it’s clowns… call me a traditionalist, or maybe just a person with a weak imagination. For those of you who were wondering, the incessant buzz over World War Z extinguished my preoccupation with zombies. Main-streaming the topic to that over-budgeted extent in a “summer action blockbuster” production finally killed it for me. (I enjoyed Zombieland, but even that was borderline. We did try to watch Warm Bodies recently, but we lost interest not even halfway through, and couldn’t finish it. When it comes to zombie movies, nothing does it for me like Shaun of the Dead.) World War Z might be a great movie, and I might really like it, but its making dethroned zombies from the top of my list of dark, fantastical obsessions. My horror sensibilities are stimulated most effectively in the more obscure tunnels of pop culture. Reading the hundredth little article on the production troubles of WWZ, I turned back to clowns with a perverse nod of respect and restored to them their hold on the freak-out center of my brain.

Clowns scare me because those colorfully diabolical characters embody the insane. Insanity means complexity, and the more complex something is, the more there is to fear. Clowns also tend to be smart, and that makes them terrifyingly unpredictable. Zombies are brainless and therefore completely predictable, engendering fear in the opposite way. (If we use this comparison as a political analogy, which would be the scarier party, then, the Clowns or the Zombies?)

Plus, clowns’ origins can be found in nature. This explains everything:

 

Am I right?

There is a Devil. Its Name is Netflix.

Callaghan looked over at me as the final episode of American Horror Story: Asylum dwindled away with the closing credits.

“Wow. What’re we going to do now?”  

Season Two, fini. The wind bludgeoned our closed wooden shutters as if to make the ending perfectly clear. If you’re going to watch a disconcertingly evocative horror production such as the fine piece of art that is American Horror Story, March is your month. The weather’s antics heighten the effect, and after all, one of the goals of watching such a show is to get scared. Crazy wind, rain, snow and even hail braced the atmosphere of Murder House and Asylum during the four days it took us to tear through those two seasons. We curled around each other in the gloom of the overcast days and inky nights and had to scrape our eyeballs, dry in the chill and artificial heat, off the screen when we were done.

“Season three comes out in the fall,” I said, just as forlorn.

“But what are we going to do until then?”

“What I was wondering, exactly.”

We sat and stared at the dark, blank screen.

The next day, Callaghan got on Facebook and posted a line from the Asylum theme song, “Dominique,” which ignited a conversation with his friend Matita, a fellow American Horror Story fan. We returned to mourning the end of season two.

“I should call Matita and ask her what she’s going to do,” Callaghan said.

“Maybe we should start a support group,” I said. “For people suffering the throes of American Horror Story withdrawals.”

Hey baby… wouldn’t it be great if we could do the support group in an asylum? We could play that song, too.”

 

 

Monsters under the Bed

I woke up this morning all motivated to jump onto Monster.com to search for on-line writing jobs.

Callaghan was quick to inform me of its short-comings:

“Monster.com isn’t what it used to be. For one thing, like everything else, they ditched the fucking monster.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, remember they used to have a little monster mascot?”

“Oh. Yeah.”

But in actuality, I didn’t remember, because I’d never been to Monster.com. Thanks to Callaghan, I’m now prepared to confront a sadly monster-less site, which might shake my faith in its accuracy and ability to provide up-to-date job opening information. Isn’t it false advertising to call your site “Monster” without a monster anywhere in the picture? I don’t see how a job-search site with false advertising can be trusted. It makes me wonder what else could be missing.

I’m sure that all they need is a monster make-over. Maybe they could create different monsters to represent a variety of career fields? I have some ideas:

-Serial Killer career: Hand-cuffed monster

-Underwater Basket-Weaving career: Brain-dead monster

-Sperm-Donating career: Tired monster

-Bullshit Artist career: Tap-dancing monster

-Vampire career: Sparkly monster

-Werewolf career: Blurry monster

Callaghan read my list and made some weird faces, like he couldn’t decide whether to say anything. Whatever!

I still haven’t visited Monster.com. I might get around to it later today, but I’ve lost my motivation. Maybe I’ll go outside and play in the snow instead. I could make a monster snowman and name him “.com.”