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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Catfish and Chainsaws

Last night my parents came to town and we had a lovely dinner together. It's astonishing how rewarding it is to spend time with people I've always known. Real family, real community, real love, is endlessly replenishing.

Dad told a cute story about how as a boy he used to catch catfish that rose to the surface of the sewage-polluted lake and then sell them to fish dealers, who shipped these poop-eatin' fish to fancy city restaurants. It reminded me of the damage we're doing to aquatic life, and of how time has passed since Dad was a boy, since I was a boy. It also reminded me of a recent trip to The McWane Center with a friend who was my almost-semi-girlfriend. The center had catfish and such critters on display, and she told me specifics about the needs of these animals, and the damage we're doing to them. It's no complement to say that thinking of ugly ol' catfish reminded me of her, but so it goes. (She's much cuter than catfish... ah me.) A tale of catfish triggered thoughts of the passage of time, the inevitability of mortality, environmental holocaust, and dashed hopes for romance. The fact that I don't think I betrayed any overflow of emotion is a testimony to my stiff, inexpressive nature. Every once in a while it pays off.

On a different topic, I've posted before about why I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but there's more to say. I'm inspired in part by a hysterical editorial someone showed me (and I'm not going to give it the dignity of a link) which blames a class on horror movies (including TCM) and lit for warping that V. Tech school shooter's mind. The editorial insists that there's a very simple choice between being a Christian or enjoying horror stories.

I've spent way more time watching and reading horror stuff than the VTech killer did in his life, and guess how many people I've killed? Go on, guess. (Hint: 33 fewer than he did. I suspect people who find TCM's horror to be incompatible with Christianity would be equally against Flannery O'Connor's horrific, gruesome, nastily funny, and deeply Christian stories. If O'Connor had been a low-budget filmmaker in the seventies, she might have made TCM.)

Something I love about TCM is a transubstantiation that takes place midway through the film. The protagonists in this film are, to me at least, really annoying, whiny, bickering, unlikable kids. They spend about half an hour getting on each others' (and my) nerves.

Then they get attacked by sickos and I start rooting for them to escape and survive.

Granted this viewer-response stuff is pretty relative, but for me it's a pretty remarkable shift. Usually in a movie when one goes from disliking a character to rooting for the character it's usually because the character changes to a more sympathetic type or because the film gradually reveals that the character is more sympathetic than s/he initially appeared to be. But here the shift is purely circumstantial; once these annoying characters (or more accurately, characters whom I find annoying) become sympathetic (or more accurately, become sympathetic to me) it reveals to me that people have worth, their lives are important, even when I don't have any compelling reason to "like" them. For me this movie remains an overwhelming affirmation of the worth of human life.

The other thing that inspires me to post about this is a dream I had last night in which I'd bought a new chainsaw and was testing it on a log in the back yard. The chainsaw turned out to have a flexible blade which swiveled and sliced my wrist. This was probably inpired more by the Robert Frost poem Out, Out than by TCM, but it was a prototypical horror dream. One message of horror is that our attempts to cut will cut us. Our attempts to hurt will hurt us. Our attempts to rule will rule us. The VTech killer was too callow to read these horror texts with any insight, or they would have helped him heal. So it goes when you hide inside yourself and stew in your own juices; You can't interpret anything. You can only accept or reject input based on whether it appeals to your undeveloped palate.

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