Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bewitching: Caitlin turns 9

The child who changed my life:
magic door to first grandmotherhood,
the gingerbread lady in the woods
come home to herself at last
Only minutes old, all pink and gold
I held my breath
and watched her intrepid arrival
Born October 31,
and all her attendants costumed
as if attending some great medieval ball
A magic little football passed from hand to hand
Her birth announced on the radio
during a Canucks game!
Already unique in many ways.
Happy girl in pink, with her Faux-hawk. . .
Cinnamon heart-child. . .

Caitlin by the shore
Little mermaid
Sweet girl in red
Down in Mexico, with Bo Derek braids
Halloween birthday, 2011
Have a Joyous 9th Birthday, Caitlin

. . . and Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Squick-Fest: weird and creepy Halloween gifs

Everybody's talkin' at me. . .


           "Did you run out of kleenex again, Morgus?"
"No, Master. I'm trying to solve the crossword puzzle with my nose."

(Do you think they know I'm gay?)

"I dropped my flute down the sewer. Again."

A strange medieval dance called the Playing Card Shuffle.

The horror couple of all time:

Elsa Lanchester as Bride of Frankenstein and

Charles Laughton as Quasimodo,

who first uttered these immortal words:

"Hand over the Sour Patch Kids, or I'll egg your windows!"

Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Scariest Halloween video EVER!

If you've ever seen Disney's Fantasia, the first one I mean, these figures will be strangely familiar to you. Disney ripped off the whole Night on Bald Mountain segment from Murnau's 1926 silent classic, Faust (even that big devil-guy with the wings). These skeletal horses are a million times scarier than anything Disney ever copied:  I defy you to turn out all the lights, and put it on full-screen.

Preferably on Halloween night.

I have a strange history with this clip. Years and years ago, probably in the early '80s, my husband and I were visiting Edmonton with the kids. We did this periodically to avoid suffocating in the small town we lived in. When we arrived at the hotel, somebody put the TV on, and I swear THIS came on, the hideous horsemen. The music that went with it was very, very strange, not like this prancing dignified orchestral stuff. It was just about as hideous as the animation and went backwards as much as forwards. Then the whole thing just sort of stopped and went back to MTV or whatever it was. I have no idea who had taken this footage and played with it like that, and over the years I began to wonder if I had imagined the whole thing. (I drank quite a bit in those days.)

Then a lot more time went by. Probably eight or so years ago, a strange documentary came on TV. It was in French with an English voice-over and I haven't been able to find it since, though I think I found a reference to it on IMDB. The movie was all about "influences" on Walt Disney's animation: in other words, how much he stole, and where he stole it from.

At a certaint point the French narrator began to go on and on about Fantasia, and in particular Night on Bald Mountain. Then they showed the clip of the skeletal horses, the horsemen from hell - and I realized with a shock, that was IT, that was the clip that made my insides quiver all those years ago!

So I had something to go on, a title at least: Murnau's Faust. This was before YouTube however, so I had to squirrel away the information. Then for a while there was no mention of it on YouTube. No one had pirated it yet.

If you go away for a while, then come back, you'll almost always find what you want. Here it is, in all its hideous glory. Fun! Fun! October 31!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

EWWWWW, look at his face! (or, Polka for Oskar Homolka)

Not quite Halloween yet, but I just can't wait. This is one of my fave movie moments. It's in one of those cheapie William Castle horror films, in which he comes on-screen at the beginning and rhapsodizes about his own movie and how petrifying it is. Supposedly the audience was allowed to vote on the ending, thumbs-up or thumbs-down, deciding the fate of poor Mr. Lockjaw. Only one ending was filmed, so this was obviously just a typical Castle piece of theatre.


I shouldn't give it all away, but the essence of this macabre little tale is that Mr. Sardonicus unearths his father's rotting corpse to steal a winning lottery ticket out of his moth-eaten old pocket. The horror of seeing his father grinning away like Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera causes him to develop a hideous, intractible facial paralysis. In fact he personifies that old Wet Willie classic,  Keep On Smilin':

Well you say you got the blues,
Got holes in both of your shoes,
Feelin' alone and confused,
You got to keep on smilin', keep on smilin'

Yeah, you're about to go insane,
Cause your woman's playing games
And she says that you're to blame,
You got to keep on smilin', keep on smilin'

At least they got that insane part right.

William Castle is notorious for sensational special effects, not in his movies but in the theatres in which they were shown.  In fact, he was known to wire  some of the seats  (though not every seat, so the electrocuted people would think they were going crazy). I don't think he invented Smell-O-Rama however. Mr. Sardonicus is plain creepy and I remember watching it late at night in the '60s with my brother. Good thing he was there. When Mr. S's deathly grimace was finally revealed, I remember we both went "ohhhhhhh" in a groaning kind of way, then laughed ourselves silly. Later Arthur referred to Mr. S. and his "winning smile".

I posted this one at least once before, but hey, it's worth a repeat at this festive time of year. Halloween is a huge business now (what with all the vampire/zombie/other supernaturally-themed movies that are popular as never before), though when my kids were young there were all sorts of solemn newspaper editorials that predicted Halloween would soon be phased out for being too old-fashioned and too dangerous (razor blades in apples, etc., which turned out to be an urban myth). I think everyone assumed it was true. What a weird custom anyway, putting on costumes and running all over the neighborhood in the dark. When you think about it, which no one does because people generally don't think, it's a big waste of time for a bagful of neon Gummi Worms.

But it's one of the few remnants we have left of ancient rituals in which people scare the giblets out of each other. Why not bring back human sacrifice while we're at it? But then you don't get candy.

This is one of those rare YouTube videos which is actually in the public domain and therefore can be watched whole. I've posted the link below. I don't know how they do this exactly, because everyone says YouTube has a 10-minute bandwidth limit or something. Maybe time stretches to include this bizarre little tale.

Oh, and - as Krull, the sinister squint-eyed "assistant", we have the incomparable Oskar Homolka. A scarier man never existed on film. I promised I'd never mention Oscar Levant again, but I lied: I'm still making my way through the labyrinthine ways of his bizarre mind (speaking of horror) in his bio A Talent for Genius.  Levant was a gifted composer with a penchant for whimsy who wrote a piece called Overture 1912, a. k. a. Polka for Oskar Homolka.

Not everyone has a polka named after him. In fact, I can't think of anyone else.

Watch it here - but don't come alone!

(A big P. S.! I just found out, while digging around for info about Mr. Sardonicus, that William Castle was - incredibly - the producer behind Rosemary's Baby, another viscerally creepy classic. About a year ago I tried to find trailers, clips, ANYTHING about the movie on YouTube and came up completely empty. It squicked me out because after the one time I saw it in about 1970, it never came on TV again. I mean never, because I am sure with my relentless bloodhound's nose I would have sniffed it out. It's simply never shown, and I don't know why. I also don't know why the one time it was on TV was so close to the release date.

But there it was, gone.

I finally had to scare up a used DVD. One of the great horror classics of all time wasn't in print any more. I watched it and had that same gut-squirming feeling I remembered from 1970, which did not become full-blown until "the reveal" - another genuinely terrifying moment in horror movies - which is not a reveal at all, but a reaction. Mia Farrow does it all with her face.

I've never seen anything like it, before or since, and though there are now a few YouTube tidbits from the movie, I can't find this scene. When your sweet little newborn baby turns out to be the spawn of Satan, it's apparently just a little but upsetting. The whole disappearance thing is just weird. Castle, the P. T. Barnum of horror, kept claiming there was a Rosemary's Baby curse, that everyone connected with the film dropped dead or something (not true, although Mia had that thing with Woody and John Cassavetes became a falling-down drunk).

But why hasn't it been on TV, and why can't I find anything else on it? Rights or something? It's the inverse of sex: everybody talks about it but nobody has it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cancer in the family: the things you don't want to know

The things you don't know are, sometimes, the things you DO know, packed away in a sealed box of memory somewhere in a dusty attic.

All night I dreamed of spiders. They were huge, big fat ones with distended abdomens, and I wanted someone to come and kill them because I couldn't even begin to go near them. At one point a big black snake sprang up out of nowhere, and I found an Indo-Canadian boy to come and catch it and take it away.

The spiders were deeply enwebbed and camped all around my bed, crouched and lying in wait. I could not possibly use that bed. Where would I sleep?

As an adjunct to the kicking-and-screaming post of a couple of days ago, the one about not wanting to go to the doctor, well. . . I went. I went expecting it to be awful, and in fact it was a relief.

But not for the usual reason, the "oh, there's nothing wrong here". The truth is, we don't know. I came away with a couple of requisitions for medical tests, the sort of thing I would have hated and dreaded before. Now I was actually determined to go ahead with them, even grateful to have them.

What brought on this change of heart? The look on my doctor's face when I told her my symptoms. It was not exactly an uh-oh look, but it was more serious than anything I'd seen on her face before.

Maybe it's nothing, I said to myself, knowing full well it wasn't. Don't be a hypochondriac, don't fuss about every little thing. But at a certain point, you begin to connect the dots.

And maybe it isn't anything. I told myself, statistically, it's probably nothing. For years and years, if doctors asked, I said, no, there's no history of cancer in my family. Both my parents lived to be over 90.

That last part is true. But it was just today, one day post-examination, that I began to remember things. I  remembered things that, strangely, I had never entirely forgotten, but had packed away in a category marked "please forget".

Because both my parents lived to be over 90, I assumed there was no cancer in the immediate family. No one died of it, so it couldn't have been there. Now I realize how erroneous a conclusion like that can be.

Suddenly I recalled being, maybe, 12 years old or so, which was in the mid-1960s. Then without any explanation or warning, my mother was in the hospital.

There were murmurings about what was going on, some sort of surgery, but I remember I was never allowed to visit her. (Never allowed to visit my mother in the hospital?) You must understand, you were not allowed to say the word "cancer" back then, or even think it. The whole topic was drenched with a sense of impending doom. So I never asked any questions about this, because I knew I couldn't.

A long time later, she told me her doctor had prescribed massive doses of estrogen for her when she was in her 40s. There was a book called Forever Young that was a bestseller back then. Written by a doctor, it claimed that estrogen "replacement" would keep middle-aged women young-looking and interested in sex for decades past the "change of life".  It could even turn back the clock and take ten years off a woman's appearance. A preposterous idea, not to mention a very dangerous one.

This estrogen was not balanced with progesterone or anything else, just dumped into the system "raw". I doubt if anyone found themselves becoming preturnaturally young from this. My mother's appearance didn't change except to get older, like everyone else's. But then, years later there was this mysterious, frightening "thing" where she disappeared for a while, and for some reason I couldn't see her.

Fast-forward to the mid-1980s. This time my mother phoned me with some "news", but now I was an adult and I DID ask questions. My father had discovered he had blood in his urine and had to be rushed into surgery. They told my mother the tumor they found was "the good kind", and she countered that with, "There is no good kind." She was right; it was cancerous, but he lived. The surgery had been successful.

It looks now as if both my parents had cancer. Because they didn't die from it, because they both made it past 90, I have never "counted" it in the family medical history. The whole thing sort of disappeared. But when they're taking a medical history, they don't usually ask you, "How many of your family members died of cancer?" They usually ask something like, "Have any of your family members had cancer?"

This doesn't look good for me. But up to now, any weird or scary symptoms I've had have turned out to be "nothing", so maybe this is just more "nothing".

I had a bleak and bizarre thought today when I first woke up, my pelvis sore from all the peeking and probing: I can't die from this, because I don't exist.

You may ask: how can this be?

I am not in touch with my family of origin, a very long story which I will not attempt to tell here. I did not see my mother's obituary until a couple of years after her death. For some reason, I looked it up on the internet.

By some magical act of transmogrification, my mother, who gave birth to four children (five, actually - one died in infancy) now had only two children, my two eldest siblings. I had been completely erased from the record, along with my brother Arthur, a brilliant musician and my closest childhood friend. A schizophrenic, he had brought shame on the family with his mental illness, his pagan religion (Buddhist) and his untimely death in a fire.

Two children from four! That's some mathematical trick, this omission of two lives, two births. It's as if we were somehow unmade because we were unwanted, or at least too much of an embarrassment to keep on the roster.  A friend of mine (stunned) said to me, "But. . . but. . . what about people who knew the family, who knew you when you and your brother were growing up? What would they think? Wouldn't they be confused that you weren't mentioned?"

I don't know.

So, folks, it's good news after all! I can't die of cancer, because officially I don't exist.
I was never born or even conceived. I never was. This gives me a strange sense of liberation, as if I am already floating around free like a ghost.

I thought I had two pregnancies, but you can't be pregnant if you don't exist, can you? My children must have suddenly appeared full-blown like Athena springing from the head of Zeus. And my grandchildren? They were already miracles, but now that I know they appeared out of the thin air, they are more precious to me than ever.

(I'm no great fan of Dr. Oz, but I thought this article was enlightening and well-written and also, I think, unusually honest for a TV guru.),28804,2075133_2075127_2075098-1,00.html


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look

Friday, October 26, 2012

I give up: what is this cat saying?

CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK (or the end of the week):
What is this spooky pussycat saying?
Can you translate?
Is it possible to lip-read a creature
that has no discernible lips?
Give it your best shot.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I hate the doctor, and I don't want to go

The title sums it all up. I hate doctors. When have they done anything good for me? Every time I go, it turns out to be "nothing".

So should I conclude that it will always be "nothing"? The "it hasn't happened up to now, so it won't happen in the future" philosophy sucks rocks because it's illogical. It simply isn't true.

I am at the age - God, I hate that word - where I maybe need to worry. This is the time people are told to have screening tests like colonoscopies (which I always call colostomies by mistake - I freaked out a friend once by telling her I was supposed to have one) which scare me half to death because I've been told they can be agonizingly painful. One health forum had a comment from someone who said she would take her chances with serious disease rather than go through that again.

My husband collapsed on the floor about a year ago, and paramedics and police rushed over. Made me wonder why everyone ignores me when I have a medical problem, but then, he's male and considerably older than me. It might be heart disease, after all (because we all know women don't have heart attacks!). In the hospital they put him through a meat grinder, doing every possible diagnostic test on him. The follow-up was even more rigorous, cardiac, neurological, urological, bowel and guts and everything else they could ream out.

The result was exactly nothing.

So I don't want to go to the doctor. I don't want to go to the doctor because I've had some symptoms lately that are probably nothing, but at the same time scare the hell out of me.

It's funny, because Bill and I have talked about how we can't afford to live as long as our parents did (all four them were well over 90). In fact, we may have trouble affording our 70s. We've joked that if we make it to 80, we'll kill each other, kind of like a duel where we both shoot at once. But what if he misses, and I don't? Will I be charged with murder, or merely self-defense?

It doesn't sound good.

I think about cancer, everyone does, or do they? I don't know, I don't interview everyone in the world, or on the street. The thing is, people with cancer are usually seen as heroes, brave souls who keep smiling no matter how much it hurts. In contrast, don't ever get a psychiatric problem or you will be more or less seen as a fuckup. No one will visit you in the hospital with flowers and balloons because it's your own freaking fault you're there. Their ancient, deeply-buried dread of demonic possession will keep them away. But cancer, now! There's a great opportunity for bravery, for heroism, for stoicism in the face of pain, and lots and lots of warm get-well wishes.

Do I sound just a little bit cynical? I have my reasons.

I don't think I have cancer. So why go? I have this niggling worry. Shouldn't I ignore it? Do I want to be called a hypochondriac? But how can you be a hypochondriac if you hate doctors and stay away for years at a time?

There is something cold and frightening about the medical assembly line, the way you come out the other end feeling like dressed meat ready for the oven. There is a "NEXT!" feeling that only seems to get worse over the years. Too many patients, not enough time, because the equipment is absurdly expensive, the tests take forever and suck up resources, and it's usually for nothing. After all, somebody important might come in.

But we are stuck with it. In the past, if you had cancer, you just died. Probably horribly, because there wasn't even a good way to manage pain. Unlike today, when it's the banner illness that has spawned a million fundraising walks in every color of the rainbow, it was heavily stigmatized: people didn't even say the name. Probably this was fear, a dread that "something" had taken you over, colonized your body and was eating away at you beyond your control. This "something" would suck out the marrow from your bones, cause you to waste away to a skeleton, and probably drive away all but the most loyal family members who probably prayed that it would all be over soon.

All kinds of stuff has been written about illness, its social and emotional significance, etc. Usually the sufferer is blamed for not having it all together emotionally, for having "unresolved issues" (as if everyone doesn't have those). I wonder now if it isn't just bloody bad luck. Have you noticed how unevenly luck and blessings are distributed in life? Ain't it a bitch, and don't you wish it was different? People still get sick and die, in spite of all that fancy equipment. I've had five friends die in the last few years, and three of them were only in their mid-50s. One who was exactly my age at the time pulled his truck over, opened the door, and fell to the ground dead. Perhaps his fate was better than the woman who battled breast cancer for years, or Glen, one of the most beautiful men I have ever known, who escaped from a psych ward, swallowed a bottle of pills, and was found frozen to death beside the railroad tracks.

Oh, and that's another thing: the war imagery we use, especially for cancer. She "battled" breast cancer, she "waged a valiant struggle", and sometimes she "triumped" or scored a "victory" over it. I wonder why we do this. No one questions it, and when no one questions something I just get furious because we are PEOPLE, not cattle! My feeling has always been that you should question everything, especially loony social trends. The war imagery not only renders the sufferer especially valuable for being a "good soldier" (and we still think the military is special, no matter what anyone says), it places the whole thing at a safe, fictionalized distance, as if we're watching a World War II movie on TV or going to the Cenotaph for 45 minutes to watch old men stand in the rain.

Ah, the stoicism, the smiling in the face of doom. I wonder why people feel they have to do this, why it has become such a cultural imperative. If I had cancer, I think I'd raise bloody hell and be so hard to get along with, NO ONE would come visit me (a situation I should be used to by now). Then again, maybe I'd be terrified. I know I would not be stoical. I'd be shit-scared and probably miserable from all the clinical attention, the being fed through machines with no one talking to you.

I've heard it said that quite often, when you get your diagnosis, the doctor comes in the room, says to the patient "you have cancer", then turns and leaves. If I don't go, I won't hear that, will I? These guys are sons-of-bitches, aren't they? Are there any good ones? Well, OK, my brother-in-law, he's a Gunning man and as far as I'm concerned they're all great, but he lives all the way across the country.

If I don't go, I don't need to hear any of that shit. But if I don't go, this little scritchy-scrabbly feeling in my gut may not stop for a long time. If ever.