Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pet Shop Memory

There weren't any pet shops in Summersville, WV in the 1970s. Hell, there weren't even any there in the 1980s. The closest pet shop to my hometown was in Montgomery, WV, near the West Virginia Institute of Technology. There was a Montgomery Ward or G.C. Murphy or some such store that had an elevator, an escalator and a pet shop.

It was soooo cosmopolitan!

My family traveled the 40 miles to Montgomery only during times my grandfather was there in the hospital. During my teen years he suffered through more than a couple heart attacks, and lived with lots of pain in between. We spent a lot of time in Montgomery General Hospital, camped out in it's cardiac unit.

And when grandpa was napping, I'd sneak a quick visit to the pet shop in the store next door.

The colorful birds were my favorite.

(Still are, even though now I think the snakes and lizards are pretty cool.)

My grandpa loved animals, but I never talked to him about the birds that I saw. That ride up the escalator to the cages and the glassed-in puppy and kitten windows was my adventure; to speak of it would reduce the magic.

Today, I can't walk into a pet store without thinking of my grandpa. I miss him. Somehow, in the years since he's been gone, birds have become a lot less colorful.

Wonder if that's a coincidence.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


It's interesting to me that many folks don't think much about the existence of an afterlife until after they experience death.

Despite my having no belief in the traditional Heaven or Hell, I'm fascinated by question of what happens to our conscious, our energy, once we die.

Perhaps nothing at all happens, and we simply cease . . .

Perhaps our energy lives on in a different dimension, or a different reality.

Perhaps tradition is right and we get sent to a great reward or an eternal punishment.

Who really knows?

Not me. And not Clint Eastwood either, if I understood the message in his most recent movie. Eastwood's Hereafter is more about our need to connect with others than it is about an afterlife; a commentary on intellectual curiosity and social need more than religious fervor.

Most folks tend to think little about the possibility of an afterlife until death takes a nibble at us, or takes a hard bite out of someone we love. It's then we lose a bit of faith in ourselves, and question our ability to control our own lives, and our own future. We look for something greater than ourselves. That something gives us hope, and confidence.

And it allow us to put into perspective our intellectual dilemma and the social loss we've experienced.

I'm unsure if Matt Damon's character in Hereafter really speaks to the dead. The best part of Eastwood's movie, though, is that the character himself isn't sure. He recognizes his connection is with the living; he has to touch them, and engage them in order to get the information they need to feel better. Any healing that comes from his psychic readings has little to do with learning about the afterlife, or learning new information from a departed loved one.

The healing comes from letting go: it happens when we stop looking backward, and are able to once again enjoy life in the moment.

A lesson many of us should learn.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2

This sequel, which is mostly a prequel, is one of the rarest of happenings in movies: a second flick that's better than the original.

Creepier. Scarier. More intense.

Paranormal Activity 2 provides information that fills in the back story to the first Paranormal Activity, then tells a terrific original tale without becoming a caricature, which happens too often with sequels. The minimalist style only serves to make the film feel more real, and thus more horrifying.

You'll jump, you'll squeal and you'll scream. And you'll have a helluva lotta fun.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cool Directions

I was lost. So lost, in fact, I was unsure if I was even in the right West Virginia town. So I stopped at a local business for directions:

Me: "Hi. I'm lost. Any chance you can help me find [the location]?

Her: "Sure, you are sort of near where you need to be. Turn right on the road out front, travel about two miles and turn left at the light in front of Go-Mart. Travel that side road until you see the dragon, then turn left. You'll be there."

Me: "Is The Dragon a bar? Or a business of some sort."

Her: "No, it's a dragon. A large, green dragon."

She was right.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Harry Brown

Who doesn't love the work of Michael Caine?

The veteran actor's ability to make a decent movie nearly great made me rent this flick the first day it became available. Sure, the elderly-lovable-vigilante bit has been overplayed on TV and movies, from the droll (CBS's The Equalizer) to the great (Eastwood's Gran Torino).

But Caine...Michale Caine can simply make the movie.

And he indeed makes Harry Brown. Brown's a sensitive ex-Marine who's grown tired of living in fear. His community is over-run by thugs, drugs are rampant and violence is the norm. It's particularly bad in the dark recess of a train underpass near Brown's apartment; his fear of walking through the area -- where gang members steal, rape and murder -- causes Brown to turn to violence as a way to make his life and community more peaceful.

Caine is brilliant, and turns a descent movie into a nearly great one.

As usual.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Let The Right One In

Let The Right On In, the 2008 Swedish flick on which the recent American film Let Me In is based, takes an interesting turn on the vampire genre.

Through the budding relationship between 12-year-old Oskar and the preternatural, faux-12-year-old Eli, viewers question what we think of loneliness and recognize many would do the unimaginable to be loved.

Let The Right On In is a visual treat with its stark cinematography and bleak tone. The child actors are superb. There is very little blood and gore, with the film focusing mostly on the relationship between the two children.

Even with subtitles, it rocks.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Get Him To The Greek

Tried to pretend I
Cared. Was amused, entertained.
Fact is, I wasn't.