My First Memory

This title is a lie. My first memory is actually an accumulation of several smaller fragments of memories; two-dimensional snapshots from an old Polaroid camera, the inscription of pen on the white strip faded to the point of bare legibility.

The snapshots are these:

                A library somewhere in one of the outlying counties of Denver, Colorado. Not the full library, just the entry way, one snapshot upon entering, the other as I am exiting. The narrow way was occupied by privacy desks down the center of the walkway. They stood high over my head, though I now believe they were probably small by adult standards, fitting that average height of a hundred years ago, though the building could not have possibly been that old.

                As one began to walk further down this hallway, the checkout counter is on the left, manned by several slow moving adults and one or two of the younger generation, whose energies always seemed to strain against the pressure of solemnity that a proper library demands.  To the right are rooms, but their specific details have faded from the picture.

                Almost to the books, but not quite, several of the desks have computers on them. Large, charcoal screens that dare you to free them, to be hypnotized by their use. I always acquiesce. The keys to these beasts lay in a mystical cupboard somewhere beyond the long checkout desk. To obtain them, a signature and confident air is required. I am bound to choose one of two keys that are each contained in the plastic cartridges of film negatives. One of these containers is red and will read me the story of Clifford the Little Red Puppy while displaying the accompanying pictures. The other is housed in a black magazine and when played reveals a story called There’s an Alligator Under My Bed. Though the story of Clifford is to me as he is to Emily Elizabeth – comforting, familiar, and lovable – I always find myself inexorably drawn to the latter. I hate this story. Though I do not remember the first time I watched it play out before me, I am sure that I hated it at the very beginning. Yet still that voice inside me claws its way from my stomach, past my pounding heart, and to my lips and asks for it.

                The adults at the counter know that I will choose one of these two stories and I do not deviate from my choices. They allow the independent four year old to operate the large computer by herself, inserting the film, starting the program, plugging in the cold blue headset, becoming entranced.

                The story is one of basic childish literature, with haunting repercussions. It’s about a boy who discovers that there is an alligator that has taken up residence under his bed. So that he doesn’t get his feet bitten off by the animal, the boy must use a wooden board as a plank to get to and from his bed safely. The story ends the way it must. The boy lures the creature out from under his bed by setting a candy trail that the alligator follows out from under the bed, through the house, and finally out the garage, never to return. But for me the alligator never could be lured out.

                My preschool dreams were plagued by night terrors that the voices in the dark whispered and spun around me; not voices in my head, but from some place that my vivid, childhood imagination allowed access to. Caught in the spiteful world of dreaming that you are awake in your bed and trying to sleep, they would come. Not just the alligator, which was far more fearsome and terrifying than any illustrator of children’s books could create – black as a shadow with eyes the size of my thudding heart and incandescent red – but also a creature conjured entirely by own mind. It was a miniature monstrosity the size of a large guinea pig with the jaw and teeth of deep sea angler, the dead, menacing eyes of a shark, covered by the quills of a porcupine, and its salivating mouth emitted a sound that was akin to a metallic snake’s hiss. This devil made its attack on my life from under my pillow. When these two wretched things failed to produce the screaming wails that became a common accompaniment of my nights, the insects would set about me. Everywhere I looked, small ant-like creatures descended on me, devouring my soft flesh, chewing their way through my tender sinews and bones, but, most horribly, they would consume my eyes. As soon as they would reach this most vital and betraying pair of baby blue eyes, I would be shaken awake.

                 These are the snapshots that plaster the walls of my first memory.

                Once again assailed by these hellish dreams, I awake in a panic, my hummingbird heart tapping out a rhythm that my feet cannot match as I jump from the bed, careful to gauge exactly how far I need to jump to be out of reach from the alligator’s snapping jaws. I run down the hall of our bi-level home, past the room where my two older sisters lay sleeping in peaceful calm, and to the stairs where I take refuge on the top stair of the two parallel flights. The second flight, which I cannot see because the banister is blocking the way, leads down to our school room, where my mother home-schools us and we recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, and to my parents’ bedroom.

                Tucking the frilled edge of my yellow nightgown over my knees, which are pulled tightly up against my chest, I call for him. The only person in the world who is big enough to frighten away that which frightens me. I am his baby girl and he is my valiant protector.

                I can hear him speaking, hear his strong voice speak to my mother in friendly tones, a hint of laughter in his voice. I call him by that moniker that so many children reserve for this most important person. But he does not hear me. Again and again I call him, each time a little louder, each time more confident in my rescue.

                There is a hush from below and I know his ears, if not his heart, has alerted him of my troubles. I call to him again and there is a sound of a great rush of air issuing from a cave of lungs.

                Something has gone wrong. I can feel it. My heart, which was calmed down, now resumes its frantic pacing. Great sounds of booming footsteps I can hear and want it to stop. But it doesn’t. It’s closer now. On the stairs. Coming for me. As he rounds the small entryway landing that serves as the point of separation of the two staircases, I know. I know that I am wrong. I know that he is wrong. In his eyes I see reflected, not the warm paternal tenderness I have come to expect, but the eyes of hell fire that I have just escaped from.

                He pauses on the landing for the briefest of moments, those eyes locking in on the target of their wrath. On my four-year-old, trembling body. My feet shoot out from the comforting lock of my arms and hit the stairs but I cannot propel my body fast enough. His legs are long and his reach is far. He grabs me before I can begin my retreat and I am propelled towards that room of my nightmares. I wait to be woken up, but I know that this is not the ants devouring my eyes. This is worse because this is not a dream. The screams that fill the night will not be sufficient to wake me.

                I am forced to the putrid orange, shag carpet. I am not going to be unceremoniously tossed back in my bed as I can only hope for, but rather under it, where that black beast waits with savage, open maw. I do not see him, for my eyes are pressed tightly together. I flail and struggle against an iron grasp. But I know he is there and I wait for the inevitable disarticulation by razor teeth.

It does not come.

The voice, just moments ago tinged with love and laughter, demands now that I see I am safe from monsters. But I see nothing. The consuming fear of this moment embeds itself ten layers into my future. As he leaves me, shaking and alone once again in my big, empty bed, I realize the truth of it all: That night the monster had escaped. Through some horrible mitosis, the creature I feared most had split and one half will return every night until I can finally bring myself to confront it again when I am a defiant fourteen years old and I force myself to give the beast one final ultimatum: destroy me now, or be gone, but be done with this teasing charade. The other half has engulfed the person I love most. His eyes, his voice, his strong hands, the things I took so much sanctuary in, joined the league of beasts that would assault my unconscious for the remainder of my childhood. The monster was both without and within.

This is my first memory.

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Forward Progression

After a rocky few days, I feel like we are finally making steady progress in the right direction. We’ve made some cuts to our itinerary that was unfortunate but necessary, and for the next week, we know exactly where we’re going and where we’re staying, which is a nice relief.

After leaving Galway, we went took a train back to Dublin, a quick taxi to the bus stop, and then jumped on a bus up to Belfast. The north of Ireland is so different from the Republic of Ireland! You can feel the shift in economy and see the nuanced differences of the British rule. In some ways, Northern Ireland is much better off than the southern three territories, but I still prefer my ROI.

We spent two days in Belfast and we saw the Titanic Experience and did a bit of wandering around the city on the first day. The second day was filled with a tour to the Giant’s Causeway, a last minute addition we made based on a recommendation from one of my co-workers. It was a great decision! The Causeway was a wonderfully odd place that made me think of fantasy novels and oyster crackers. I’ll post a picture update soon so that you can see what I mean.

Early the next morning, we took a bus to a ferry across to Scotland. It was my first experience of a ferry and it was quite enjoyable. I’ve never been on a cruise ship, but Barbara assured me they were very similar in amenities, but obviously much different in size.

Scotland was nice, but I felt as though I was missing a giant portion of the country, as we did not get the chance to see any real countryside or Highlands. Glasgow had some beautiful architecture and an incredible Necropolis that I very much enjoyed wandering around, but after two full days there, we had exhausted everything there was to do.

We took the overnight bus out of Glasgow and slept on beds that reminded me more of coffins in their size and shape. Barbara and I both had difficulty sleeping, and I woke up with a horrible crink in my lower back because my legs were just a little too long to fit comfortably. But it was a fun experience, nonetheless.

Right now the bus is on a layover in Cardiff. All the beds have been re-converted into seats and we’re waiting for the last push into Bristol, where we will spend two days and nights before heading into London.

Barbara and I are getting along much better, though it’s still a bit touchy at times. Our first day in Glasgow we split off from each other and each did our own thing. The separation really seemed to do us both good. I’m hopeful that we can continue to enjoy each other’s company as well as this trip.

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“I’m Batman!”

http://blogs.screenconnect.com/post/2012/06/Holy-Remote-Support2c-Batman.aspx

Batman is unique in a way that so many other superheroes are not. He’s not an alien. He didn’t get bitten by a radioactive spider, or fall into a vat of radioactive material. He didn’t undergo some ridiculous experiment by a mad scientist or experience an anomaly in space that changed his biological chemistry. Bruce Wayne is just an incredibly rich guy with nifty gadgets. Like a less intelligent Tony Stark with a butler and worse costume. Money aside, he’s basically just a normal guy, and because of this, it’s easier for a normal guy to fantasize about being a superhero.

Once in costume, Christian Bale’s version of Batman develops an intensely deep voice that has been the subject of much confusion and mockery. Combined with the accessibility of the character, it has led to some fun pop culture references. Some of my favorites are:

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Crime TV – Creating or Dissuading Murderers?

It’s no secret that Americans are fascinated by crime and injuries. If there’s a traffic accident, people will slow down to a 5 MPH crawl as they pass simply to see what kind of damage was done. Console and computer games featuring violence and mayhem are among the nation’s bestsellers. Detective and justice books (John Grisham, Robert Patterson, ect) are always collecting a strong fanbase, to say nothing of the True Crime book genre. Movies provide a good, albeit temporary, fascination with the evils of the world. But it is television shows that provide some of the most entertainment when it comes to brutal murders and mutilations.

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As I child, I grew up watching Matlock, a detective show featuring the late Andy Griffith. As I grew older, and my tastes turned to something slightly more gritty, I watched Law and Order, which soon had the spinoffs Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Soon, however, I longed for something a bit more psychologically in-depth and was provided with CSI: Crime Scene Investigators, which led to CSI: Miami and CSI: New York. Around this time I also discovered NCIS which was a Navy based crime show, which now has a spinoff NCIS: Los Angeles. When I got bored with the plots that only showed tiny glimpses of the same unrecognizable crime scene type plots, I switched to shows that featured more gruesome crimes and catered more to the cerebral experience. So I turned to Bones, Numbers, Dexter, and Criminal Minds. 

21672Incredibly, these aren’t even all the crime/detective shows popular in the States, and some of the cases shown on these shows, while usually fictional, still make Jack the Ripper look like a preferable choice of death. So what is the effect these shows, some of which are well into their double digit seasons (series), have on those who watch them? Despite 99% of shows ending with catching and gaining a confession from the criminal, for avid watchers like myself, there is a certain morbid joking of being able to create the perfect murder.  Anyone with even a casual interest in criminal investigating knows that the equipment and resources available to the characters on the shows is no where close to reality. So do these shows give ideas to would-be killers? Or do they dissuade them?

flow chart

In most every crime show, the criminals face one of two outcomes: Either they will be killed in police action, or they will confess. This is the critical element. Far more so than the way the criminals are caught. The confession conveys that no one is a good enough liar to get away with murder for long, or that your conscience will get the better of you. The killings by police action is for those who believe that they could get away with it. The message is that it’s not how you are caught, it’s when you are caught. In none of these shows a murderer escapes justice for long. So while they might teach you good ways to dispose of bodies, they leave you with the knowledge that in the end, there’s no such thing as a perfect murder.

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National Single’s Awareness Day

February 14th is a day of widely mixed emotions. For some, it means a romantic night with a loved one, flowers at work, breakfast in bed, chocolates in a heart-shaped box, barely eatable chalk-like candies with words printed on them, grand sweeping gestures of love, and an all-around endorphin-filled day. For others, it means disappointment, loneliness, and putting on a brave face while watching and listening to others enjoy their day of romance. Valentine’s Day is one of the most emotional days of many people’s year. As it turns out, the history of Valentine’s Day is filled with just as much emotional turmoil as it creates.

Firstly, the man himself, Saint Valentine. Unfortunately much of the history of Saint Valentine has become mythologized and convoluted over the years. What seems to be agreeable is that there was a Catholic priest in Rome who was martyred on February 14th some time around the year 270. It wasn’t until 496 AD that Pope Gelasius decided to mark February 14th as a day of celebration in honor of his martyrdom. Most theories say that Valentine was caught performing marriages for Catholics during the reign of the Protestant Claudius II, who ordered the priest to be clubbed and stoned. When this failed to kill Valentine, he was then beheaded. One rather interesting story is that while in jail, on the eve of his execution, he wrote a letter to the jailor’s daughter and signed it “From your Valentine.” Not only is Valentine the patron saint of young married and engaged couples, love, and happiness, he is apparently also the patron saint of bee keepers, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, plague, and travelers.

Just in case celebrating a man who was tortured and beheaded wasn’t grim enough, there’s the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre to think about as well. In 1929 the Chicago gang of the south side Italians (Al Capone) dressed up as police men, lined up several members of the north side Irish gang against a garage wall and open fired on them. Killing six instantly and sending one (conscious) survivor to the hospital with 14 bullet wounds, who died three hours later. The killings were so brutal that they nearly obliterated the faces of two of the men. This massacre was a massive statement of territory take-over by Capone. The intended target, Bugs Moran, the leader of the south Irish gang, was not killed, however, as the gunmen mistook one of Moran’s associates for Bug’s. These killings only served to escalate the gang violence.

Finally, the most iconic image associated with Valentine’s Day is , obviously, the heart. It’s not secret that the symbol of the heart looks very little like the organ of the same name. So where did it come from? There are several theories. One is the idea that if you take two circles of the same size, holding one still and rotating the other around it, you get the shape of a heart. Perhaps that best theory though is the one that claims the heart is the shape of a woman’s buttocks as she’s bent over. Of course, there’s also many more crude and illicitly detailed body parts for both males and females that have been ascribed as the basis for the heart. Either way, the shape of that candy chalk you’re eating, doesn’t look so tasty now, does it?

So whether you’re looking forward to February 14th with happiness or derision, keep in mind that what you’re really celebrating is the beheaded saint of epilepsy and bee-keepers, gang massacres and probably some interestingly shaped genitalia. Happy V-Day everyone!

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$3.8 Million in 30 Seconds

The Super Bowl is arguably the biggest game in all of American sports. People of all athletic preferences gather on couches, tailgates, and in bars for the big event. Families join together. Parents pass on the traditions to their children. For many, the teams playing aren’t nearly as big of a deal as the advertizements that play in between. As America’s most watched sporting event, pressure is on for businesses to put their best and brightest ideas into capturing the massive audience’s attention – and hopefully business! Nearly every American target audience will be watching en mass. It comes as no surprise than that prices for Super Bowl commercials are at a premium, and growing every year. This list compiled by The Huffington Post shows how much is being spent on 30-second spots:

  • 2013_$3,800,000
  • 2012_$3,500,000
  • 2011_$3,100,000
  • 2010_$2,900,000
  • 2009_$2,800,000
  • 2008_$2,700,000
  • 2007_$2,600,000

With costs so astoundingly high, it is expected that the commercials shown would be phenomenal, yet every year there are clear fails, clear wins, and not-so-clear ads that leave the audience scratching their head in confusion. While there are plenty of sites that will give a play-by-play of every commercial shown (like this one for example), I only want to emphasize the ones that are the best examples of what I’m talking about.

Some of the commercials that were rated the highest were the ones that appealed to peoples’ pathos.  Such as the Budweiser, Jeep, and Dodge Ram commercials.

Other favorites were the comedic ones such as Taco Bell and Doritos. Ironically, the ones which were for the least healthy (but probably tastiest) food choices.

Some managed to combine the cuteness factor and the humor like Kia.

Ones that left the audience scratching their heads a bit were the Skechers, Bud Light, and Calvin Klein.

And then of course there were the commercials that just made you want to turn your head and hurl into the nearest empty bucket of friend chicken, or send the children away as quickly as possible. Like this one. Clearly, GoDaddy.com has forgotten that children watch the Super Bowl as well… Apparently, however, so has the Super Bowl halftime show.

Everyone has their opinions of course, but one thing to keep in mind while watching them is, were they really worth $3.8 million per 30 seconds?

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Chivalric Expression in America

While attending a seminar yesterday that touched on chivalry and what it meant during the reign of Charles I, I was confronted with my own ideas of chivalry and what it means to me as a twenty-something American woman. While chivalry originally meant a sworn loyalty to your king, it has taken on a different meaning in our monarch-less America.

To ask an average American what chivalry means would elicit responses of men who hold open doors, pull out chairs, open a car door for a date, and show a general respect for women; A good Samaritan image. While most women would claim that it is difficult to find men such as these and cries of “Where are all the good men?” and “What happened to chivalry?” are unfortunately all too common, I would argue that they are not all justified. I would say that the reason “chivalry is dead” in America is mainly for three specific reasons.

  1. I know several men who still do these things for women, but their gestures go vastly unnoticed and unappreciated. This speaks largely to the women who seem solely attracted to the “bad boy” stereotype. While women want a good man to marry, they have a tendency to pay no attention to the men who would treat them as ladies because their brains have been trained to ignore it.
  2. Some women become so over-empowered with their feminist ideals that it is insulting to them to have a man show a gesture of chivalry, and these women are not afraid to tell the would-be gentlemen exactly how much they don’t need their help. This leads men to not risk the verbal lashing for what should have been a simple, kind deed.
  3. Our idea of chivalry being an absolute gentleman taking care of a lady is hindered by a lack of ladylike qualities in women. I find myself annoyed by how many women claim that chivalry is dead and there are no gentlemen in the world, then conduct themselves in most unladylike behavior.

While, of course, there are more than these three reasons, I believe that these are the main three.

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