October 31, 2006

Halloween Spook-o-Rama #5: Fear

Fear is a peculiar emotion. It has the ability to frighten, paralyze, even empower us. In extreme cases, fear can prevent us from accomplishing nearly anything.

People fear lots of different things. Some fears are irrational, such as a fear of mice. Others, such as a fear of snakes, perhaps originate from our vestigial animal instincts which helped us survive the millions of years we spent in nomadic hunter/gatherer societies. Still others are simply products of our own over-active imaginations. I’m sure I’m not the only one who, after the lights went out, would leap from the doorway onto my bed to avoid being grabbed by the ferocious monster I knew was hiding under my bed. Although, to be honest, it’s been at least three weeks since I’ve done that. Some people are even scared of an innocent game.

But fear can also be entertaining and amusing. We enjoy scaring the crap out of each other nearly as much as we enjoy getting the crap scared out of us. Just look at the number of horror movies pumped out by Hollywood every year. Or add up the money spent on rollercoaster rides or admission tickets to haunted houses. I can remember dressing up like a scarecrow and propping myself up outside our front door on Halloween. Fortunately, my experience never included something like this.

Case in point, my niece Sarah last night requested that I put more “scary things” on my blog. Here you go, Sarah. These are some of my personal favorite “scary things.” Enjoy!

Bigfoot: Here is a collection of sounds (download them from this site) and a movie clip claiming to be evidence of the existence of this legendary missing link.

Ghosts: Because Sarah liked the Ghost Girl so much, here is another “unexplained” video of the ghost of the Queen Mary luxury cruise ship and some audio recordings of the paranormal.

UFO’s: One of my favorite topics, here is a video compilation of some of the best UFO footage captured around the planet.

And finally, to demonstrate just how much fun it can be to scare the living crap out of another human being, here is a clip from the Sci-Fi Channel show “Scare Tactics”:

If you found this particularly amusing, here are couple more clips from the series (Bigfoot, Biohazard, landmines).

And, if you enjoy learning about the unexplained, the paranormal, or the just plain weird, stay up late some night and search your local AM radio band for a broadcast of “Coast to Coast AM.” Or, just go to their website and look up your area for the times and stations that play the nightly paranormal talk-show. Be sure to give it time, though. Some shows aren’t that interesting, but occasionally you will stumble across a gem, such as the night I was driving back from Anchorage and listened to an interview with a guy who interviewed a guy who was present for the autopsy of one of the Roswell E.B.E’s in 1947. I also got to learn all about the recent leprechaun infestation occurring in upstate New York. It’s very enlightening.

October 29, 2006

Halloween Spook-o-Rama #4: Pumpkins

Carving Jack-o-Lanterns are a favorite Halloween tradition of mine. I don't know if it's the opportunity to demonstrate my mad sculpting skills or because I enjoy flicking slimy pumpkin seeds at Sonja, but I always look forward to gutting a large, orange vegetable and hacking it to pieces with a strange little saw apparatus at least once each year. And the origins of this strange tradition just make it more entertaining.

Apparently, an Irish legend tells of Jack, a lazy but shrewd farmer who used a cross to trick the Devil, then refused to free him unless he agreed to never let Jack into Hell. The Devil agreed. When Jack died, the Devil wouldn't let him into Hell. So, Jack carved out one of his turnips, put a candle inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He was known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-Lantern.

So, it looks like we carve faces into pumpkins to commemorate poor Jack-of-the-Lantern's endless ethereal wanderings. And North Americans have been doing this for hundreds of years, too, as demonstrated by this poem called "The Pumpkin" written byJohn Greenleaf Whittier in 1850:

Oh!—fruit loved of boyhood!—the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
So, in honor of poor Jack, we invited several friends over last night and had our own little Alaska Pumpkin Massacre. Here are the results:

As you can see, we had a small lapse in creativity, as our two guests both opted for Jack Skellington -o-lanterns. Meanwhile, Sonja carved the cool spooky cat and I did the one with the goblin peeking out from behind the curtains. We then proceeded to burn the roasted pumpkin seeds while we watched The Sixth Sense and The Shining. I hadn't seen The Shining for probably fifteen years and was surprised at how un-scary it really was. While Jack certainly did a fantastic job playing a crazy person, this film would never appear on my list of scariest movies.

And next year, forget the pumpkins. I'm carving a turnip!

October 28, 2006

Official Mooch

Well, it's official. I am now mooching off of society. And it's about time, I think. All these years of actually working for a living, it's now my turn to reap some of the benefits. It's funny, but I never really thought I'd end up being unemployed. I guess it's just a right of passage, though, particularly for those who choose a career where many jobs are furloughed for two-six months out of the year.

I suppose this means I should get my application sent out to Kell Varnsen at Vandelay Industries, eh?

October 26, 2006

Snow, Jobs and a Tuba Legend

Seward received its first snow yesterday, several weeks before I was expecting it. Everyone is forcasting a warmer-than-usual winter for Alaska, but so far things have been pretty chilly for this area. Most of the snow has melted in town, although you don't have to climb very high into the mountains to find several inches of the white stuff.

Unfortunately, there is still no news on the job hunt. Except that tomorrow is my last day of work at Kenai Fjords. After that it is unemploymentsville for me until I find a new job. I've never gotten an unemployment check before, so this will be a brand new experience for me. At least it will give me an opportunity to concentrate on sending out applications and resumes. Speaking of sending out new applications, I've recently added Fort Pulaski National Monument to my list. This park's cool-factor went through the roof once I discovered there is an alligator-infested moat around the fort!

Finally, there is sad news in the tuba world today. Tommy Johnson, best known for his work on the Jaws theme, died recently at the age of 71. While you may not have heard OF him, I can guarantee that you have HEARD him. He was one of the most recorded tuba players ever, having contributed to over 2,000 film scores over the last fifty years. Some of the films he has worked on include:

Back to the Future, Jaws, Close Encounter of The Third Kind, Karate Kid, Police Academy, Silverado, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, The Natural, The Godfather, A League of Their Own, Alien III, Batman Returns, Beetle Juice, Unforgiven, Toy Story, Honeymoon in Vegas, Die Hard, Crimson Tide, Lethal Weapon, A Few Good Men, Forrest Gump, Lion King, Maverick, True Lies, Wyatt Earp, Seven, Independence Day, The Frighteners, Tin Cup, Twister, Air Force One, The Edge, Con Air, Contact, Deep Rising, Flubber, Men in Black, Starship Troopers, Titanic, The Rainmaker, US Marshals, The Matrix, and A Bug's Life.

As a fellow tubist, I tip my hat to Tommy.

October 23, 2006

Halloween Spook-o-Rama #3: Movies

One of the great things about Halloween is the chance to watch as many stupid/wierd/creepy movies as you want with little danger of being forever labelled in the eyes of your friends as stupid/wierd/creepy. I thought I'd take a few moments and share with you some films I believe help make any All Hallow's Eve celebration complete.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
One of the all-time classic horror films with an ending that is refreshingly un-Hollywood. Sure, the zombies are little more than slow-moving bad actors with heavy eye make-up, but the overall creepiness of this movie has stuck with me for years. My favorite scene comes in the first fifteen minutes when Barbara and Johnny encounter an unfriendly undead visitor to a local cemetary. Johnny taunts his creeped-out girlfriend with the classic line, "He's coming to get you, Barbara!"

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
A brilliant idea with a genius lead-up to its release resulted in one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. Now, it certainly has its detractors, but most of the complaints I've seen center on the "improbability" of getting lost in the woods for six days in suburban Maryland. Personally, I think that simply adds to the mystery behind the disappearance of three film students. I love that they never show "the monster," instead relying on the imagination of the audience to fill in the blank with whatever terrifying images they can come up with to explain what happens. The scene where they wake up in their tent at 2am and hear kids laughing and screaming outside gives me the willies every time I watch it.

Odishon (1999)
This Japanese film is not for the squeamish. However, if you can handle some pretty graphic scenes, this movie will give you one of the most dramatic "I didn't see that one coming" 180 degree plot twists you'll ever witness. And one of the most improbable bad guys ever cast in a film. Sonja didn't like it. In fact, I think she actually left the room because it got too...disturbing. Some of the scenes were rather unnerving, even for me. "Kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri!"

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
This is one of those movies that, as a kid, you were afraid to let your parents know you had seen it. Back in the 70's and 80's, the level of gore depicted in this film was so extreme when compared to other movies of the time that many video stores refused to carry it. When held up to today's films, with the over-the-top gore depicted in "Saw" and "Hostel" unfortunately redefining Hollywood's standards for horror, it almost seems tame by comparison. Sure, some of the special effects are pretty hokey, but if you like "serial killer slasher" films, skip all the remakes and sequels and forget about Freddy, Jason and Mike... you simply can't get much scarier than Leatherface in this original version.

28 Days Later (2002)
One of many contemporary zombie flicks, this one has an interesting spin on the concept. The story is pretty simple...a guy wakes up in a London hospital completely alone, 28 day after an apocolyptic outbreak of a deadly "rage" virus that turns everyone into flesh-eaten monsters that run very, very fast. Most zombie films before this one portrayed them as slow-moving, mindless drones who prefer to feast on "braaaaiinnnnns!" The "zombies" (they aren't technically zombies, since they're not even dead...or undead for that matter) in this movie are anything but slow, mindless drones. The speed of these guys is one of the things that makes this movie so scary. That and the fact that they tear you apart if they catch you. It's a great indy film that made it big.

Session 9 (2001)
Set in the condemned, but very real, Danvers State Psychiatric Hospital, this movie depicts a hazmat crew sent in to rid the building of asbestos. If that weren't scary enough, one of the crew members finds a storeroom filled with audiotapes of various psychiatric sessions, including some from a woman suffering from multiple personalities. The building itself is the scariest part of this film, eclipsing even the creepy, and sad, story of one of the hospital's patients. Just knowing that places like this still exist should be enough to creep anyone out.

Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Tim Robbins at his best. And, it's even got George Castanza! This is a fantastic psychological horror film that never really answers any of the questions it poses. Unlike so many modern filmmakers that think they need to hold the audience's hand through the story, this one keeps you guessing, and wondering, long after the credits roll. Was it real? Was it a dream? Jacob's journey from sanity into delusion is terrifying.

So, there you have it. Not a complete list, by any means. But some of the better ones, anyway. Maybe this list will give you some ideas as you prepare for any upcoming Halloween parties and scary movie nights.

October 22, 2006

Halloween Spook-o-Rama #2: Costumes

Thinking of Halloween conjures images of trick-or-treating, TPing the yards of your "friends", or dressing up in bizarre outfits and generally acting wierd. Well, some people carry the concept well beyond October 31st. Some people dress up in medieval period clothing and work at Renaissance Fairs, others join a group called the Society for Creative Anachronism. And still others spend their spare time taking the simple game of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) to a whole new "experience level":

Now, as a fan of D&D, I can sort of relate to their game. I certainly spent enough time in high school sitting with friends in our basement for ten-hour D&D marathon campaigns. I even spent one summer with a couple guys trying to devise a way to forge our own swords. However, I think can safely say that you will never see me wearing a kilt and shouting "Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt!"

At least not when there is a video camera present.

Anyway, still no news on the job front. I hope to hear something this week, however, so I'll be sure to keep everyone posted. In the meantime, Sonja and I have been watching the snow creep steadily down the mountains over the past couple weeks. This morning we woke up to find the snow-line had descended down to about a thousand feet above our apartment on Mount Marathon. It will still be a week or two until we get any significant snow at sea level, though. And none of that will end up sticking until well into December or January.

And it's about time they name one of these after me.

October 18, 2006

Halloween Spook-o-Rama #1: Ghosts

In honor of one of my favorite holidays of the year, I have decided to post movies that I find spooky, creepy, and/or scary. None of these will contain any sort of graphic violence, but will instead focus on various paranormal phenomena sometimes captured (or made up) on film.

The first entry is a video that I find particularly creepy. Personally, I don't care if it's real or fake, the idea of being in a cemetary at 1:30 in the morning and seeing something like this is pretty darn freaky. So here she is, the Ghost Girl:

Some people who've seen this video aren't creeped out at all by it, which I don't really understand, cuz it gives me the willies. I particularly like the dramatic and sudden crescendo of spooky music when she turns to face the camera.

October 09, 2006

It's Been a Little Damp, Lately

Ok, more than a little damp. In fact, we almost didn't make it back from Anchorage today due to high water closing down the Seward Highway about four miles from home. We ended up getting a ride from someone in a big pickup the remaining distance, leaving our car at an illustrious, and aptly named, bar called The Pit. Everything seemed to converge in Seward today. The last gasps of a major Pacific typhoon (which brought four days of downpours and winds reaching 50mph) coupled with one of the highest tides of the year made for an interesting walk down by the beach this afternoon. Sonja and Luna are standing in the beachfront campground, or what was left of it this afternoon once the ocean decided to take over. I also took a cool video showing the nifty waves:

So, yeah...it's been raining lately. Aside from the flooding being very cool and exciting, it sucks big time. Have I mentioned that before? Rain in Seward SUCKS! I just don't understand how the atmosphere can hold that much water! It's been pouring down rain for four days now! And the most recent report shows rain through the end of the week. Maybe it will stop raining before we leave in November. Then again, it may not.

October 06, 2006

The Job of President

Jon Stewart ROCKS!

Two Weeks of Rain...One Day of Sun...Two Weeks of Rain...ad infinitum

Well, I found out that I was not selected for the position at Mt. Rushmore. A disappointment, surely, but I've still got lots of applications out, yet. The waiting game is getting old, though. As is the uncertainty that goes along with it. Well, at least the beautiful weather here more than makes up for it.

Or not. Too bad we used up our one day of sun for the month of October already.

October 04, 2006

To Poo or Not to Poo...

shart: (n.) A fart that one has pushed out just a little bit too hard.

Scene from the movie "Along Came Polly" with Ben Stiller (Reuben) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Sandy):
Sandy Lyle: Reuben, I'm in a situation here. We have to leave now.
Reuben Feffer: No. Can we stay a couple more minutes?
Sandy Lyle: Dude, no. This is serious. I just sharted.
Reuben Feffer: I don't know what that means.
Sandy Lyle: I tried to fart and a little shit came out. I just sharted. Now let's go.
Reuben Feffer: You're the most disgusting person I've ever met in my life.

And Wikipedia defines it this way: Shart occurs when one farts but accidently deficates ones self. ("http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shart")

Not that any of this has anything to do with my experience today, of course...

Um, yeah, anyway...

Let's see what Jon Stewart has to say about the fact that last week Congress also sharted (and by saying "also" I mean simply if one had experienced such a thing today...hypothetically speaking, of course).

October 02, 2006

Pets are People, Too

Nothing new to report on the job hunt, so I figured I'd just post a picture of Harvey. Two interviews so far, with notices that several other applications have been forwarded to the hiring officials. Hopefully we'll find out something this week. I'll make a post here as soon as I know anything more.