Friday, April 5, 2024

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Some thoughts on Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon's NEFARIOUS (2023)


Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon's R-rated Nefarious (2023), which I watched last night, is an interesting paradox—a beautifully acted and written, absolutely top-notch demonic possession horror film with wide genre appeal, written with a primarily Christian audience in mind.
You can easily imagine youth pastors all over America solemnly arranging viewings in church basements for their older teenage congregants, warning them grimly that while what they're about to see may frighten them, it's all scripturally sound and a dire warning about the state of worldliness, but it's still "just a movie," and reminding them that it was made by Christians, "so you're safe."
What makes it a paradox to me is that while Evangelical and Catholic audiences will doubtless have their "aha!" moments with predictable, near-epileptic regularity, any sophisticated horror viewer will be able to settle back into the exquisite writing, and particularly into the occasionally terrifying performance by Sean Patrick Flanery (whom I had not seen since he broke my heart as the eponymous star of 1995's Powder) as the possessed death row inmate Edward Wayne Brady.
The film is set at a prison in Oklahoma on the afternoon before Brady's execution for multiple murders. A psychiatrist, Dr. James Martin (Jordan Bell) has been brought in ascertain whether Brady, who claims to be a demon, is actually insane, in which case he would spared execution. All of which is a pretty standard death row horror movie setup.
What followed was extraordinary: an extended dialogue between the two men—the death row inmate with the odd twitch and the rough, bulky mannerisms of a dockworker speaking in perfectly crafted sentences, exhibiting a vast knowledge of theology and Christian mythology, while never once breaking character and becoming pompous and artificial, and the avowed atheist psychiatrist, exhibiting a brittle intellectual and clinical disdain for Brady's "delusion," at one point taunting Brady's demon to enter him—a moment that doubtless brought both the Evangelicals and the horror fans in the audience together in a "you fucking idiot, don't do that!" moment.
Having known nothing about very publicly Catholic filmmakers Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon's cinematic oeuvre before this film (you can look them up), I didn't make the connection until a throwaway line by the demon, explaining how he began to enter Brady's body when Brady was a child who'd received a Ouija board from his grandmother, tipped me off
Evangelicals and Catholics are obsessed with "gateways" to "demonic possession," and they've always been quite excited about Ouija boards and Dungeons and Dragons in particular. I paused the film and did a quick Internet check, which confirmed my suspicious. But I was enjoying the film so much that I went back to it, and was not disappointed that I did.
As I said, the writing was stunning, and a viewer knows that he or she is in beyond competent hands when a film that is basically a set-piece of two men talking can be that frightening (of course the cast expands later in the film, but by the time I does, the horror die has been well and truly been cast.)
If did force me to examine something I hadn't really thought of before: we have been absorbing Biblically-founded horror for centuries, much of it written by believers of one kind or another, from Dante, to Milton's "Paradise Lost," to Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," to The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976), and even The Devil's Advocate (1997.)
The films that came to mind while watching this were, in particular, The Seventh Sign (1988) and, oddly Exorcist III (1990), film with which it shares some thematic overlap.
A devoutly Catholic filmmaker can bring what William Peter Blatty brought to The Exorcist—an "insider" view of the darker side of Christian mythology, as offered by someone who literally believes in the possibility of what he's writing. If done by a gifted writer, you get something like Nefarious. If done badly, you get a Chick tract.
Part of the horror of this film came from the shape of the demon's sadism and hatred towards its human host —some grotesqueries that I won't share in this note, but even things like making sure it requested the electric chair for its host to die in, knowing it would be more painful for Brady than lethal injection. Or even the scene where it allows Brady request his final meal as himself, then cancels it when he repossesses him, and leaves Brady to wonder, when the time comes, why he isn't being fed in the hours before his execution.
The magnificence of Flanery's performance derives in no small part from the moments when the demon let its tormented, wretched human host show through—the murderer who doesn't remember his crimes, and who is aware of being dominated by a malefic force against which he is utterly powerless.
The film has been criticized for using the demon as a mouthpiece for the filmmaker's fundamentalist beliefs, but to that I said, so what? They do it seamlessly. It's a horror story about exactly those themes.
The things the demon says to the atheist psychiatrist are exactly the sort of things any demon worth its brimstone would say to an atheist psychiatrist, and the lines are delivered with a deadpan matter-of-factness that is genuinely chilling.
And to their credit, they resisted the temptation of making Dr. Martin into an Evangelical caricature of "an atheist."
Only a clunky, pedestrian info-dump second-to-last scene—an interview between Dr. Martin and Glenn Beck—threatened to sink the entire film, but miraculously did not—perhaps the truest evidence of the endless war between good and evil in the film.
There were two natural places in the third-to-last scene of the film where it could have ended on near-Wagnerian note, but populist American Christianity is to art what a hidden vine stretched across the forest path is to joggers: if there's a way to trip and fall flat on their faces, they'll find it.
But at the end of the night, even that couldn't ruin Nefarious, a film which I recommend highly, particularly for anyone with a basic grounding in religious thinking, mythology, or imagery. It adds to the film's punch, but is in no way a requirement.
I'm reminded of the difference between the way The Exorcist affected Catholic friends of mine vs. how it affected Protestants, Jews, or atheist friends. The Catholics took the film personally. And that's powerful.
As I said: while it will doubtless give religious fundamentalists a tingle in their trousers in the same way Mel Gibson's gory Renaissance pietà The Passion of the Christ (2004) did, a more sophisticated horror viewer will see a masterclass in mortal relativism, supernatural suspense, and psychological sadism, and they may even occasionally jump, as I did more than once.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Some thoughts on Jonathan Glazer's THE ZONE OF INTEREST (2023)


OK, so—The Zone of Interest. The coldness I felt after watching this film last night dissipated on my walk with Beckett this morning, and I'm ready to consider why it feels more like an unusually disturbing nightmare I woke up from this morning instead of brilliant, deliberate mini-masterpiece I watched on television before falling asleep.
First off, what it's not: it's not gory, it's not overtly violent, it's not "shocking" in the way we've traditionally come to think of Holocaust films. It's not Schindler's List (1993), and it did not set out to be. It's an eerily voyeuristic look at the family of Rudolf Höss, living on the other side of a human abattoir where 1.1 million people were murdered over the relatively short 5 years of the camp's existence.
Writing negatively about the film in The New Yorker last October, Richard Brody said the film "turns the horrors of the Holocaust into scenes from a marriage," and calls it, a bit grotesquely, "Holokitsch."
With all due respect to the eminent Mr. Brody, who doesn't need lessons in film reviewing from the likes of me, he may have missed the fact that director Jonathan Glazer's clear intention in shooting the film that way was to quite precisely contrast the utter banality of the day-to-day existence of high-ranking Nazis families with the monstrosities occurring on the other other side of the wall where, in the case of Zone, Daddy works.
It's a technique that was employed with much more overt drama in Mark Herman's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas(2008), and to a slightly different degree in Frank Pierson's Conspiracy  (2001) which depicted the 1942 Wannsee Conference, where a boardroom full of high-ranking Nazis calmly planned the logistics of the eradication of Europe's Jews, as dispassionately, even cordially, as a stockholder's meeting—with lunch and cigars included.
Last night I was trying to put my finger on where this film's genius heart lies, and it occurred to me how much it structurally resembles the first 3/4 of Jaws, where the great white shark is kept more of less off camera. The audience knows it's there, and the fact that it's not being shown simply ups the terror.
In Zone, the great white shark is Auschwitz itself, rarely glimpsed, and most often represented by the wall.
The difference is, in Jaws, even at its most carnivorous, we all knew the shark was killing to eat and survive. In Zone, we know that Auschwitz exists exclusively for the purpose of wholesale human slaughter, for the convenience of people like the family in the well-appointed villa on the other side of the wall, where the grandmother lovingly closes the children's bedroom windows at night so they're not woken by the agonized, terrified screams of the people just beyond the garden.
Zone, like Chernobyl (2019) draws heavily on the imagery and traditions of horror films, and at the end of the day, it's a bloodless, gore-less, melodrama-less horror film about disconnection from humanity.
As I mentioned, the audience already knows what's happening on the other side of the wall. It haunts the film like a malevolent ghost, accentuated by the ambient noise of gunshots, screams, ugly male shouting, dogs barking, and train whistles.
The genius of director Glazer is that the audience gets used to those sounds over the 1h 46m of the film, as we are most likely intended to. He forces us to squarely identify with the Höss family, who are likewise used to those terrible sounds which have become merely part of the fabric of their lives. My abrupt awareness of my complicity in that, as a viewer, was one of the more devastating moments of the film for me, along with the lurid red light of the crematorium flickering on bedroom walls, or the whistle of the death-trains in silhouette.
The other monster in the film, besides Auschwitz, is the character of Hedwig Höss, the commandant's wife, brilliantly essayed by Sandra Hüller, who portrays "the Queen of Auschwitz," thus named by her husband, as a frumpy, slatternly German housewife with a graceless, ungainly waddle, risen from a less than modest background to become the ogress wife of the ruler of a death factory.
When Rudolf is about to be transferred, she insists he make sure that she and her children can stay at Auschwitz. "We've built a good life here," she tells him querulously. "We've finally got everything we've wanted since we were 17."
We see Hedwig trying on the fur coat of a Jewish woman from whom it was taken upon her induction. The coat is too small, and Hedwig scowls at it in the mirror, turning this way and that to find a flattering angle. She scuttles over to her dressing table and dabs her lips with the dead woman's lipstick, which she found in the coat pocket.
Hedwig presides over a houseful of female servants whom she verbally abuses at will, and with all the cruelty that can accrue to someone intimately familiar with powerlessness, but who always dreamed of having power over the powerless, making them feel as vulnerable as she once felt. "I could have my husband spread your ashes across the fields of Babice," Hedwig casually informs a housemaid she suspects of insolence. Her visiting mother asks her about the servant girls. "Jews? In the house?" she demands, taken aback. Hedwig casually replies, "They're local girls. The Jews are on the other side of the wall."
While the film is indeed about the banality of evil—a phrase so overused today that it's become almost beside the point—what it's really about is dehumanization, and how easily and insidiously that occurs.
It's about how ordinary people, albeit with a likely natural inclination towards sociopathic disassociation borne of deep-seated prejudice, can abruptly become casual terrorizers of people they no longer consider human, and co-exist with murder as though it was a neighbour who rarely leaves the house.
It's about how the audience can be romanced by the beauty of the Polish countryside in summer, all the while knowing that they're only seeing it because they're watching a film about the most famous and devastating genocide of the 20th century.
Its power comes from Glazer's seduction of the viewer in forcing them to see the world from the Höss family's perspective, and to see for themselves how easily it could all happen again, particularly in 2024 where the locks on the cellar doors where the monsters live have been all but chipped away.
It may not be the "best" Holocaust movie, if such a bizarre ranking exists, but it's absolutely one of the most needed, especially right now, and it's one we haven't seen before.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

When life is Kenough


This is the Ryan Gosling I met almost 30 years ago in Montréal, on the set of my friend Ron Oliver's "The Tale of Station 109.1" episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark: a humble, precocious, polite, dignified, lovely 14-year old boy, who was a delight to be around, and a joy to interview. Ron was effectively the first director to put Ryan in front of viewer's eyes as an actor, in Dark, and, later, Goosebmps, and would then go on to nurture him in the following years—hardly the first example of Ron nurturing and mentoring young talent, but perhaps the most objectively striking example of it, as history will record.
I hope Ron writes his own memoir someday, because an important part of a 38-year best-friendship is knowing when to let the other one tell his own stories, and when to keep quiet. But I celebrate Ron's life and career, and what he's accomplished, much of it in private, with a dignified modesty that seems out of date in 2024. I love him for that, as for so many other things. And I can draw a clear, memory-laden temporal line in my mind between their first meeting, at the casting session for Dark in 1995, and what the world saw onstage tonight at the Oscars in 2024.
Speaking for my own memories, what I'll say of Mr. Gosling, who owned the Oscars with his "I'm Just Ken" routine tonight, is this: one minute they're snoozing on your sofa at your house in Toronto, or you're faxing them their homework on location, or ferrying them to photoshoots—and the next minute they're the biggest star in Hollywood. It might make someone else feel old, but it makes me feel marvellously fortunate to have lived the life I've lived.
Ryan and I last saw each other in 2012 when both he and Ron were both shooting films in Toronto. The four of us went out for dinner (the Hero MD,™ who hadn't seen him since the 90s, went with us) and I was delighted, but again, not remotely surprised, to be reminded that he grew up to be the perfect adult incarnation of the kind, humble, precocious, polite, dignified, lovely kid I met on that rainy night in Montréal in 1995. Like many others, I can attest that he is everything he seems to be onscreen, except to the decent, unpretentious nth degree. What a euphoric experience to watch him own that stage tonight.
Sometimes life is more than wonderful—It's Kenough.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

A year on

A year ago today, a month post-final cancer surgery, hobbling a bit, but feeling...something. Probably not "joy," because I was too tentative about the future and its possibilities. "Optimistic" is the wrong word too, because "optimism" didn't enter into my lexicon again until this past December. Probably feeling very "at one" with the word on that snowy morning, feeling gratitude. And feeling a sense of smallness, and a oneness with life that I hope I never forget. Truly, looking back at this picture feels like one of those dreams where you're falling into vast space. It's not fear, it's just an utter disconnection from anything I can feel right now.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Second cup


Yesterday afternoon, I stopped into the Cherie Bistro for a quick lunch before heading home. At the next table were two young people—one visibly trans, the other gender variant. They were having lunch and speaking to each other in rapid-fire Spanish. 

Something about they way they leaned towards each other, obviously sharing gossip, laughing, and ordering cocktails reminded me of my friends and I in the early 80s, either out with friends or having lunch with co-workers at whatever restaurant was closest to our places of employment. 

The one striking difference was the long-ish periods during which they stared at their phones, tapping away. For obvious reasons, this would not have occurred during those early-80s lunches. But the joy the took in each other's company, and in he possibilities of their own youth, was instantly recognizable and familiar.

After lunch, I went next door to the Second Cup on Church Street to pick up some coffee beans. There has always been a Second Cup on Church Street, from the famous "steps" of the 80s, so immortalized in THE KIDS IN THE HALL and elsewhere. 

The current incarnation, due to yesterday's cutting cold, meant that the patio was obviously close, and the guests were inside, pressed close to each other at the tables, laughing, and the air was redolent with the strong smell of delicious coffee.

As I waited, I looked at the crowd, which was easily 90% older gay men. I don't even mean "older," I mean "old," in every glorious sense of the word—white hair, wrinkles, "old man" clothes and shoes. And again, much like in with the two in next door at Cherie Bistro, their joy in each other's company was palpable. 

It occurred to me how many years queers spend listening to people teach them to dread growing old, telling them that they'll become  "invisible," and "undesirable," and yet there was almost more joy here than there was next door. I loved the idea of youth and age being bracketed by two restaurants, side by side, on what is still he Main Street of Toronto's gay village.

My friends of my own age and I seem to have been largely immune to those teachings. We are obviously part of the "60 is the new 50" generation, so there's that. In addition, we are the generation that survived AIDS, even as we lost some of the people we loved the most in the world. Perhaps living under that shadow has given us more of an appreciation for the gift that life is. Or maybe those lessons didn't damage as many of us as they might have. 

Clearly, and to my delight, both the young friends at Cherie and the older gay gentlemen at the Second Cup were completely in their moment, and in their joys, in their own circles. 

The images moved me enough to jot down some notes about it in my Moleskine as soon as I got home. Everyone has their time, and their times, and life is a series of concentric, overlapping circles of those times, and the luckiest of us know all of them. ☕

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Throwback Thursday: MIDNIGHT MASS, 2021


Throwback Thursday: The sequence in Midnight Mass where Henry Thomas plucks Wild Fell out of Kristen Lehman's hands in order to dance with her, to Neil Diamond's "Holly Holy," is one of my proudest moments as a grownup horror nerd, let alone as a novelist. It's nothing I could have imagined in 1982, at age twenty, when I watched him play Elliot in ET The Extra-Terrestrial. The entire scene is sunlight in a bottle, and even more so in light of the horror that follows. It looks gorgeous on the new TV, but I've always watched it when I needed a lift. I'm so grateful to Mike Flanagan for reaching out in 2020, and for inviting the book to play a small part in that glorious miniseries, one of my great filmed narrative loves.

PRIDE, coming spring 2024


The new book, PRIDE, will be published by Douglas & McIntyre two months from today, just in time for full spring. I'm delighted to be able to share the beautiful cover for the first time. Please follow along for updates as we get closer to publication day.

Monday, February 26, 2024

The brave, cruel death of Aaron Bushnell


I am haunted tonight by the story of Airman Aaron Bushnell, who set himself on fire yesterday in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., and died screaming "Free Palestine."
Quite apart from the fact that self-immolation is one of the oldest, most violent, and ultimately most self-sacrificing forms of political protest, the fact that his death should be a source of mockery and amusement in the gutters of social media should give everyone pause, no matter where they fall on what has been sterilely described as "the Israel-Gaza conflict."
In the absence of evidence that Mr. Bushnell had mental health issues (and no such evidence has been forthcoming) the only available conclusion is that he made himself the ultimate statement of the gravity of his beliefs. Where I land, that makes him a pure martyr, whatever anyone believes about his cause.

Furthermore, unlike other self-styled "martyrs," he took his own life without taking anyone else's. Perhaps unsurprisingly in a culture where so many so-called "believers in democracy" can't be bothered to even vote, the depth of commitment to an ideal that a sacrifice like his represents is most likely incomprehensible to most.
But the people circulating picture of his burning body on Twitter—in many cases, self-identified "pro-God" American Christians—make me wonder, yet again, if the real political divide in our society is between left and right, or if it's actually between the humane and the utterly inhumane—human beings so divorced from their own humanity, and the humanity of their fellow man, that they see humour, and find a source of sadistic disdain, in the tragic, horrifying heroism of a man burning himself alive to protest what he saw as an atrocity inflicted upon people he never even knew.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Airport thoughts, Sunday night


Tucked away at the airport with a Bloody Mary, doing some work for the publicist assigned to the new book, and thinking about this spectacular weekend with John Foster and Linda Jones, and the indomitable Coraline. Quite apart from having seen a part of New York I'd never seen before—John and Linda's Brooklyn—the trip was a joy in deeper ways.
After recent events, including my battle with cancer, this series of travels, most lately the visit with John and Linda, finished off a particular series of journeys. Last spring, I visited my deer Ron Oliver in Palm Springs for the first time since the pandemic; then, this past fall, it was Boston and Chicago to visit loved ones there, and attend to important, precious fires that may have burned a bit low during the past few years, and build them up bright again.
Personal adversity and illness focuses life in a way that almost nothing else does. I am cognizant of every single one of the precious people who were there for me during those dark times. I am also cognizant of the ones who, for whatever reason, were unable to extend, however close I may have once thought we were. I genuinely wish them well and send them on their own journeys will authentic love in my heart.
For me, for now, and for the foreseeable future, I will immerse myself in the relationships that sustained, and sustain me, and now that I am well and strong again, I will do my best to pay it forward.
Glorying in John and Linda's warmth, kindness, solidity, and hospitality this weekend—dinners at some of their favourite neighbourhood places, long walks, zipping across the city on the train system I've never really explored before, long, deep talks in their cozy, light-filled, book-lined living room— I was reminded yet again of my favourite Yeats quote: "See where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends."
Outside the window of the lounge the sky is New York blue dappled with slender bands of yellow and orange. It's going to be a perfect night for flying. 🍁

Friday, February 2, 2024

Sleep deeply, dream sweetly, Brianna


In Manchester, UK today, two teenagers, a male and a female, were sentenced to 20+ year terms in prison for the sadistic murder of a 16-year old trans girl named Brianna Ghey last year. In a text, one of the two murderers said, "I want to see if it will scream like a man or a girl." In court, another of the murderers said "I wanted to see what size of dick it had." Brianna Ghey was stabbed with a hunting knife 28 times in her head, neck, chest and back
My friends on my FB friend list are good people—I rarely accept random friend requests, and I'm generally able to place any name on my list in some sort of context when I see it. That said, my friends have friends, and they have friends, and some of them are not very good people.
To my friends I beg this—the next time you encounter transphobia on this site, either casual or vindictive, please call it out. It's dangerous. It's not just "a personal opinion." Reporting hate seems minimally effective on Facebook in 2024, because the official policy is not to care very much. It's also a growing social policy in countries like Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain.
If Brianna had been a member of some other minority group, including gays and lesbians, and not a trans teenager, this ghastly story would have been on the cover of TIME, accompanied by a prizewinning think-piece about how it was time for a "reckoning," and that a "national dialogue" was needed.
But she wasn't. She was a member of an ultra-vulnerable minority group comprising 1%-2% of the population of Great Britain, and therefore, in the minds of many, utterly disposable, and, in their minds, probably brought it on herself by being herself.
While conservatives in Alberta, Canada spend this weekend gloating about how they've just implemented the most vicious. most un-Canadian anti-transgender legislation in our history, and while pick-me gays and lesbians throw trans people under the bus hoping that it will take some of the heat off themselves, and while self-righteous TERF campaigner in England loudly bray about how Pride flags in a national railway station "are a threat to women's rights," somewhere tonight Brianna Ghey's grieving mother and father will find cold comfort in the fact that their daughter's murderers will spend the next two decades in prison. Their arms will always be empty, and the ache and loss they feel will be with them until the day they die, like every parent of every child lost to monstrous bigotry turned violent that someone, somewhere, thought was their right to indulge.
Monsters don't all wield knives. Some of them wield words and lies, spoken aloud or gleefully share on social media.
We've all heard at least some of the words: "troon," "t*anny," "he-she," "groomer," "pedo," and worse, whether they come from dirtbags on Twitter, right-wing politicians, carefully camouflaged by bestselling children's authors, or brazenly trumpeted by billionaire comedians who validate the exact hate that led to this murder, and call it "comedy," and make it seem somehow righteous. The blood-drenched end result is all too tragically often the same.
She was a teenage girl, full of dreams about the possibilities of her own life. She could have been any of our daughters or granddaughters.
Rest in peace, Brianna. And love and comfort to all parents of murdered children who will be mourning them tonight.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Queen's U, here I come


I'm delighted and honoured to share that I'll be speaking a Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario at the Jack.Org annual summit, on February 10th, 20204 at 1:00 p.m. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

ThinkPad glory days

Re-reading Dan Simmons' A Winter Haunting this evening, I came across a mention of an IBM ThinkPad, and it sent me down an unusually deep rabbit hole of memories.

I loved my IBM ThinkPad. I wrote a significant number of my articles on one when I was still a working journalist. It travelled well, it was small, and I could work on it for four hours or so during cross-continental flights between Toronto and L.A. or Toronto and Vancouver.
Of course, a lot of that had to do with the fact that pre-9/11 airline seating was much more humane, and you weren't in perpetual danger of having the person in front of you slam his seat back and wreck your laptop.
At some point I acquired a Vaio, which I loved. I wrote the first version of OCTOBER on that Vaio, as well as the bulk of Other Men's Sons.
My friend Ron Oliver 🦌🎄 once kindly said that the Vaio was the laptop for non-Mac users who should be on a Mac (which was his unusual attempt at sensitivity, when what he meant was "Join the 21st century and get a fucking Mac.")
And he was right, of course. I probably should have paid attention to that fact years before, after the two of us collaborated on a piece of short fiction and learned, the hard way, how difficult it was to get an IMB and a Mac to cooperate.
Eventually I did get a Mac. I wrote both Enter, Night and October on a MacBookPro, and my Mac laptops are now basically extensions of my hands. I'm even keenly eyeing the "space black" 16-inch model, which is gorgeous, and which I categorically do not need...yet.
But weirdly tonight I miss my old ThinkPad, with the screen I tinted dark pink. It went everywhere with me on assignment from New York, to L.A., to Grand Manan New Brunswick, and even to Transylvania.
I suspect what I'm missing is less the Think Pad, which is a totem, or a relic-talisman (much like my beloved Filofax and my tiny red Motorola Razr phone, or my No. 801 Reporter's notebooks, or my tape recorder ) but rather the thirtysomething edition of me—the resilient magazine journalist who could write all night, sleep till 11:00 a.m. then get back at it no worse for wear, and who dreamed of being a fiction writer. The fearless, relatively unscarred, limitlessly optimistic guy who looked sexy when unshaven, not merely sweetly untended.
Those things, much like old model laptops, are replaced, as we age, by newer-model strengths and virtues—resignation, deeper understanding of fragility and a concomitant desire to appreciate it and protect it in others, forbearance, tolerance.
And the fearlessness is replaced by a kind of resignation that simultaneously understands fear and is able to put it in it's proper mental file—a much more secure and helpful place than he emotional floppy discs of past decades.
But man, it was fun remembering my tough little ThinkPad, both the literal and the metaphorical one, tonight. Thanks Dan Simmons, and for the fun ghost story too.


Sunday, October 15, 2023

Someone else is cradling a dead child

My only goal today is to turn down ugly voices—whether they're political commentators on television, or social media chatterboxes blithely dismissing unspeakable agony being endured on the other side of the world. Or casually discussing it like it as a video game, or a reality show. Or cheering it on as though it were a football game for which they, as fans, paint their faces in team colours and call for the "death" of the players on the opposite team, all the while knowing
that they're doing it in safety and comfort, from a barcalounger in front of their television, or in a chair in front of a laptop, utterly immune from concomitant injury.

The fact that millions of them self-identify as "people of faith," whatever that faith, merely makes their casualness all the more ghastly. They're inured from the cruelty and the inhumanity of their own words, partly because they're written or spoken in a self-validating echo chamber; but mostly because their words ultimately have no effect on the people's lives being blown apart, literally and metaphorically.
All of that is happening to someone else, somewhere a long, long, way away. Someone else is cradling a dead child. Someone else is trying to shield their family from a hailstorm of rockets and bombs. As Yeats wrote, "the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

How to help, via NPR