Preparation A-G & I-Z

I’m way too prepared.

I’m prepared for far too many different instances. Why I am, I don’t really know. I usually chalk it up to the fact that “I was a Cub Scout”… but they NEVER taught us that in Cub Scouts. They probably stress that more in the full-fledged Boy Scouts, but I never made it past Webelos rank before my family moved, and we never bothered looking into the new local chapter.

Even so, I don’t think the Boy Scouts think to prepare for some of the crap I prepare for. Course, I’m pretty sure I don’t prepare for the things they do, either. I don’t know where the interest/obsession for “Emergency Supplies” comes from, but I’d be curious to find out. Maybe, deep down, I’m a closet Survivalist. Who knows? If that’s the case… I’ll survive some pretty odd instances…

Should a Zombie Outbreak occur… I’ll be all set. I have two copies of the Zombie Survival Handbook… bought one, and received another as a gift (so now its one for the house, one for the car). I’ve seen all the movies, read a lot of books, have access to blunt makeshift weapons, and am pretty confident that should the dead start to rise, I’m equipped to be able to deal.

The fact that Zombies rising is a complete impossibility hasn’t stopped me, and nor should it you.

Yeah, it doesn’t make sense… but I figure there’s about as much a chance as that happening as there is an actual nuclear war (I hope I’m not wrong on that), and at the very least, it’s a lot more entertaining hobby-wise. So when I visit new buildings or apartments, it gives me a neat mental assignment to evaluate the “Zombie Defense Factor”… how well would it stand up against a horde of walking dead? Hey, it gets me through the day.

Not that all my preparations are relegated to the world of fantasy… most are quite practical. I think, at least. They are for everyday, minor-in-retrospect, real-world everyday situations that have occurred, and continue to for we regular folk. I like to think it’s for these small, minor situations and crises that I’m fairly well-equipped.

For instance, I always carry a handkerchief… not for my own use. Life throws sucky things at you… things that will make a lady cry. I like to be able to show a little chivalry by being able to provide a clean, soft cotton/linen handkerchief for a lady to wipe her tears. Or use it to help stop the cut on a bleeding child (hopefully when a lady is watching… in theory that gets big brownie points). The one thing I *don’t* do is blow my own snots into it. That’s what tissues are for.

I like to keep a small magic trick on hand in my jacket pocket. Usually the “disappearing hanky” trick. It’s simple, impressive, small and easily portable… and allows at a moment’s notice, the ability to be amazing. This one is mostly for the kids.

I also always keep a small bag in my car, with a clean pair socks, underwear, t-shirt and sweatpants. Just a small emergency outfit, should I need to change into clean, dry clothes. (This is in addition to the Roadside Emergency Kit, which already contains flares, duct tape, jumper cables, Fix-A-Flat, small wrench set, etc.) That outfit has come in handy on quite a few occasions. Like when I got into a car accident in 1998, and that car wasn’t going anywhere else. Since I was visiting family for the day, my apartment and clothes were far away, and I wasn’t getting back to it that weekend, that’s for sure. It was very nice to be able to change into fresh clothes. Or for an impromptu sleep-over at a friend’s… when again, driving back home was going to be too far. I think that’s just generally a good thing to keep around. Yeah, it’s not that fashionable, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Of course, I always have a First Aid kit in my car… everyone should have one. I try to change it with a new one about once a year. Sure, the expirations are longer than that… but when a plastic case sits in your car… through hot heat and/or icy cold… I feel better having band-aids that haven’t been through the ringer, weather-wise.

Emergency Supplies in your car, I believe, are a necessity not for oneself, but for others. That is, of course, if you’ve got a touch of the “Good Samaritan” in you. When I was living in a small apartment in East L.A., I was driving home from work on a Sunday (after picking up some weekend hours)… it was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I remember. There was one of two ways I could go home… the longer roundabout way, with less traffic, or the more direct route with a lot of traffic. Both would take about the same amount of time. On this day, I opted for the roundabout way… (it was the way I normally didn’t go). Then, on the 210 Freeway, an SUV about 30 feet in front of me, got cut off by another car… it lost control, hit against the concrete guardrail, turned sideways, and rolled about 3 times… right in front of me. I saw the sparks from when it hit the guardrail, and had to swerve out of the way, or I would have collided into the rolling SUV. I swerved into the left-hand breakdown lane, immediately pulled to a stop, jumped out of my car, and ran towards the SUV… which came to a rest on its side. Other people had stopped too, and when the door opened, and a young Asian kid poked his head out, with blood running down his face… well, it sure gives you a different perspective on things. Myself and the other motorists got the family out of and away from the car (A woman and her 3 kids), someone was already on the horn to the police… and then I went to my trunk.

Pulled out my First Aid kit… wrapped an Emergency Blanket around two of them (it looks like folded tin foil, but it’s good for keeping in body heat… and better than nothing), gave the young boy the fleece pullover I was wearing (yes, I literally gave him the shirt off my back, and I let him keep it. He needed it more than I did, frankly… I grew up in the cold.), then pulled out the flares and set them about 20 feet from the wreckage, so the police and emergency vehicles would find it better. I hung around long enough to give a statement to the police, and waited for a relative of theirs to come by and get them… I just wanted to make sure they were safe.

When seeing their uncle run up, and they all grabbed a hold of one another, crying and scared, I remember thinking that they were going to be VERY thankful that year on the upcoming Turkey Day… and would hug each other a little tighter, and every “I Love You” would mean that much more, because thankfully, they were alive, which was the most important thing. Of the motorists that stopped to help, I was the second-to-last to leave… the other guy stayed longer because the family was sitting on the back of his pickup. Otherwise, the police and paramedics had it all in hand, doing what they do best.

My best friend told me later that I was “meant to be there to help them” at that moment. Maybe… that would be a neat psychic-like reason for me to take the route I normally didn’t… but I would sincerely hope that if I wasn’t there, then surely someone ELSE would have given a spare blanket, a first-aid kit, and had flares to put out. It boggles my mind to think that someone might have those, and NOT use them in that situation.

That year, *I* was thankful that I had those things to be able to contribute to the situation. Soon after, I replenished the lost supplies, and I’m set for the next time an emergency rears its ugly head.

That’s probably the most “Emergency” (with a capital E) type of situation I’ve encountered. All the other emergencies I’m prepared for are more of the “minor everyday crises” kind.

For instance…. Tampons.

I’m a male. Technically, I personally should not have, and hopefully never WILL have, a personal use for a tampon or other sanitary napkin. (I actually have, but that’s an embarrassing medical story from the late 90s and I don’t feel like relaying that…) But I have tampons close by “just in case”.

In my last relationship, I bought a box of tampons (the brand my girlfriend used), and hid them. So that if she ever needed them in an emergency, I could pull them out, relieve her suffering, be her daily hero again, etc. (I like that kind of thing.) When we broke up, I pulled them out of hiding, and gave them to her… because what the hell would *I* do with them?

Later on, I got to thinking… and figured, “Well, I have a lot of female friends and acquaintances. Surely, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of them will be caught needing one and not have one.” Though I still thought it would look incredibly weird (more so than I usually am) if I kept a large box of assorted absorbancy tampons in my car. But then I was roaming through a pharmacy and found the “Travel-size” aisle, with all the mini-versions of toiletries for about a buck or two. And some places offer a miniature box of tampons in the selection. Only contains 4 of them… but that seemed just the right amount that would get someone through an emergency… and the box is small enough to fit in my glove compartment, or hide in the bottom of my emergency bag. As an extra preparatory bonus (and probably an easier reason to explain why a male keeps these), if I ever get a gash or large cut on myself while out and about… unravel one and slap it on. Nothing absorbs blood better.

Sure, I’ll still get the weird looks of “Uh… why do you carry tampons?”… but I’m used to being the weird one. So what? And in a pinch, I’d think the beneficiary would be glad that I *did* have them. And having a small box feels easier to justify and explain then keeping a Costco-sized batch sitting on my back seat.

So yeah, I’ll never personally have a need for a tampon, but others will. That’s actually also my thinking behind picking up the Plan B pill.

In the whole “Emergency Contraception” debate… I’m on the side that figures, “better safe than sorry”. I’d rather have it around and not need it, then need it and not have it around. Though, with my luck in love and dating… I actually doubt that it’ll be used after sex that I personally have been involved in. But I have friends. And I know that “things happen”. The sooner its taken after the unprotected sex, the better… so it could make a difference that it comes from me a lot sooner than it takes to drive to a pharmacy, buy the Plan B, and drive back. I think 45 bucks is worth helping out a friend before they need the help. Hell, I’d even be willing to give it to a gal I hope never to see again, should she be in that situation and I’m in the area. Because I’m not doing it for her… or even for my friends that I’d be giving it to. It’s for that future child. No child deserves be thought of as “a mistake”, even for a split second. Better to hold off birth until proper preparations can be made, if possible.

So I have it. Sitting in a little “train bag” filled with all the toiletry items in my Emergency Bag. By this point… after doing this for years, and adding to it every now and then (“Oh, that would be good to have in the kit…”)... it’s gotten to be pretty big, actually. This is the list of what I keep in there at this moment:

1 roll of waterproof medical tape.
1 single-use instant Cold Compress
2 glow-sticks
1 small bottle of hand sanitizer
Small waterproof case with matches
4 pack of AA batteries
1 army-issue neckerchief/scarf (multitude of uses)
Leatherman multi-tool
4-pack of Playtex Tampons
1 travel pack of tissues (Tissue? I hardly know you!)
1 travel size deodorant
1 toothbrush
1 travel size toothpaste
1 pack of “scrubbing toothpicks”
4 decongestant pills
travel case of advil
1 Tide to-go instant stain remover
1 travel shampoo
1 travel styling gel
1 mini sample of cologne
1 travel bottle of mouthwash
1 travel roll of toilet paper
1 pack of earplugs
spare contact lens case
1 travel bottle lens-cleaning solution
1 small bottle lens re-wetting drops
1 mini case of band aids
2 single use Oxy-Clean wipes
1 travel pack Moist Wipes
1 travel pack Clorox Disinfecting wipes
The Plan B Emergency Contraception
2 pack of Hand Warmers
1 pack of Toe Warmers
1 sample pack of bodywash
1 extra handkerchief
1 travel bottle moisturizing lotion
pencils and paper

… and on occasion, I’ll put in a travel shaving kit, with razor, shaving gel, balm, etc. I also tend to go through it every few months to replace out older items, just in case.

Looking through the bag just now as I’m writing this (to remind myself what I had in there)… I noticed I had two travel size deodorants in there. I took out the extra one… I can use that room for something else.

Excessive? Maybe. But over 90% of that stuff has become useful and used on more than one occasion.

What do you think? Have I forgotten anything?


Oh, the Horror!!

I love Horror movies. Always have. I honestly don’t know where this love comes from, as I hate real-life violence. I can’t stand needles, don’t like the sight of blood, and pain hurts me.

But sitting me in front of a horror film… I’ll be a happy camper. I like the adrenaline rush, the “what would I do in that situation” after-thinking, and I love watching it with a date that gets scared. I don’t mean that in a sadistic-I-like-people-to-suffer-in-fear kind of way. It’s actually a more practical reason. When a lovely young lady is scared in a movie theatre, ideally, she grabs onto your arm, squeezes up against you, and buries into your shoulder… coming to YOU for protection. In a testosterone kind of way, that’s a neat feeling… being a protector. She wants to cuddle up to me? I see that as a win-win situation… and I wish it happened more often. A good horror movie can do that.

Even though… well, face it. Most of the horror films and stories out there… suck. Majorly. There’s some wonderful diamonds in the rough… but strictly speaking… putting something in the “horror genre”, usually means you’re in for horrible effects, bad story, abysmal script, and embarrassing acting.

Yet, in the entertainment industry… Horror is a near-guaranteed moneymaker. The general consensus seems to be that its got an automatic built-in fan base, and as long as you put “Boobs and Blood” in a movie… it will sell. Personally, I think that’s half-right.

Sure, there’s a built-in fan base. I’m one of them. But it does take more than “Boobs and Blood” to make a good horror movie. Then again, those that are putting in the boobs and blood… aren’t exactly going for “good” in their pictures. Rather, they’re just going for something that will sell. Sadly, we keep buying. To be honest, when I was 13, I loved the whole “Boobs and Blood” thing… if you were a young boy just entering puberty, you would too.

But I’m about 20 years beyond that now… and I like to think my tastes are a little more discriminating.

For one… I hate nudity in films. ANY kind of film. Not because I’ve gone conservative, far from it. I always have been and always will be a big fan of the female form, in all its variations. If I’m in the mood to see nudity? There are plenty of films made for an audience old enough to rent them from the back room (or hell, just find it on the Internet for free). As a bonus, they don’t even TRY to have a plot to bog it down, and they show more naked body than any horror film would be allowed to. Or if I’m dating someone… I can see it in person (which is even better). If I want it… I can find it. Don’t bother going out of your way to throw it into a horror film. Most of the time… the filmmakers seem to be going out of their way to throw it in.

If it doesn’t make sense to the story… I don’t want to see it. I’m giving anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours (on rare occasion, more) to get involved in a movie’s story. Don’t bog it down with useless crap. Get on with it… and don’t say you’re “slowing it down a bit” so people can catch up. I don’t think people are that stupid. Treat them as if they’re intelligent, and they’ll like you more. This also applies to love scenes… rarely have I seen one that actually makes sense to the plot and story. Frankly, if I’m being chased by Werewolf-Zombie-Vampire hybrids, the last thing I’m doing is getting an erection… no matter how attractive my leading lady is. No, I’d need a few days and some therapy before I even think about that. But that’s just me…

So take out the sex/nudity, please. You should only keep it in if it makes sense to the plot and, more importantly, *drives the story forward*. If it doesn’t directly push you into the next scene, why is it in there? Take it out and make the movie a few minutes shorter. I’d much prefer that, as it lets me get on with my life. And if you do find a reason for a character to be nude? Think about something first: Does it really need to be *shown*? If you’re looking to be a little “sexy” with the scene, or show a little sensuality to the character… its usually more effective when you *don’t* see everything. Implication holds so much power in these instances. I don’t care how much of an “artistic statement” you think you’re making with it… it can be done without showing every nipple… and will often times be more effective for that. Every movie scene that I’ve heard be defended by a director saying it’s “vitally important” to the story… really hasn’t been. And every actress in those scenes that was agreeing with the director… “Really, it was artistically important for me to give him a real BJ on camera”… I just want to pull them aside and gently say, “Darlin, you’ve been conned.”

As for blood and gore… well, if you ask my Mom, she’d tell you that’s what I live for. She seems to think that if I’m watching a horror movie, I must *obviously* be loving it for that very reason. On the contrary… I respect and prefer the horror films that don’t use a lot of blood and gore, or use it very sparingly. If you spend an hour of a film effectively building up the tension and story, when you finally DO show a little bit of blood, it becomes so much more effective.

When I watched the first Saw movie, I was impressed and pleased to see that it wasn’t as gory as the reputation made me believe. It actually had a decent story, and was effectively done. Sure, there were some extreme parts… but I think it could have been a LOT more visceral than it was. I applaud the filmmakers for that. In fact, whenever I look at one of the big franchises… and actually watch the very first one, I’m often surprised to see it’s not as extreme with its blood effects as the sequels. Rather, they all rest on a pretty unique idea (especially for the time it was made), and do it pretty well. It just seems that any sequels automatically lose that novelty, simply by rehashing it with “bigger and more” opportunities for the squeamish to cringe.

Take A Nightmare on Elm Street. The sequels are VERY silly. Mostly because Robert Englund is majorly hamming it up with puns and over-the-top silliness. Granted, the scripts are nothing to shake a stick at. But each killing he performs tries to go too far out-of-the-way to be a unique and imaginative one, and ends up being a little too silly. Watching that schtick makes it easy to forget that the very first movie… was actually really unsettling. Essentially, he was just jumping out and saying “Boo”, then killing in a straightforward manner… it was the unique places he was jumping *out of*, that made it different and ultra-creepy. Plus, you never saw him clearly and well-lit. The sequels, you saw every little scar and ripple on his skin, every burn mark on his sweater. The original… you rarely saw it. He either was obscured by the dark, or moving too fast to be seen. The silhouette of him became much scarier than any gross make-up that would be put on him… because when you have to imagine it… when your mind is forced to fill in the blanks that you’re not seeing… that’s what makes people’s hair stand on end.

The old classic movies really knew this. Granted, the ratings board and system was very particular about what they’d let people get away with… and it wasn’t much. But when you look at the classics… Dracula, all the Frankenstein movies, The Wolf Man, The Mummy… the filmmakers managed to do quite a lot with very little. One of my all-time favorite movies is The Haunting… the original B&W one from the early 1960s. It has no blood, no flashy special effects… just atmosphere and story all the way through. It’s freaking brilliant. (Please, avoid the remake at all costs)

Yet, I think if I were to pick a point where Horror started to go wrong… it would be at the tail-end of the period where those Universal Classics were made. After a while, they started mixing and matching. Sounds like a good idea on paper… Wolf Man was popular… Frankenstein was popular… let’s put them together and be TWICE as popular! Let’s add in Dracula, too! Hollywood Gold!

That idea may have worked for Chocolate and Peanut Butter… not so much in this case. I don’t think the Monster-Mash movies ever really worked, frankly. Sure, I love The Monster Squad… but when it comes down to it, the idea behind it doesn’t exactly mesh. (That movie in particular isn’t a horror, it’s a kid’s adventure movie. A supernatural version of The Goonies) Mainly because of the Frankenstein Monster, and Dracula. You see, a major part of the story and existence of Dracula owes itself to the notion that “God exists”. Crosses repel him, Holy Water hurts him, etc… so for that to actually make sense, it must serve as concrete proof that God does indeed exist. No problem, right? Well… then you add in the Frankenstein Monster… whose very existence is concrete proof that God does NOT exist. Which was the point of the story. (If only God can create life, the fact that a scientist created life himself invalidates the notion of God… therefore, there is nothing man is not meant to know, and he is answerable to no one but himself, with no ill consequences when we’re gone. Essentially… it’s the fear of “No Hell”) One is solid proof of God existing, the other is solid proof of God NOT existing. In either story, we’ll go along with it… that’s our suspension of disbelief (no matter what religion you are). But mashing the conflicting arguments, and saying that both are absolute fact… doesn’t make sense. And as an audience, we’re lost. We can’t be scared in that instance, because subconsciously, we’re too confused. At best, the Monster Mash movies are more “adventure-thrill-rides” than actual horror movies. Excuses for neat special effects and some referential in-jokes.

That’s a reflection on the nature of Horror as a whole… where a lot of movies and stories seem to go wrong, I think. They don’t play to the metaphor. In too many ways, we’ve lost the meaning to many of the classic monsters and fears.

One of my biggest annoyances in horror concerns Vampires. Too often I’ll hear interviews about a Vampire Movie where the actors or the directors talk about how “Vampires have always been metaphors for Sex”.

I want to track them down, tie them to chairs and beat them severely about the head and shoulders screaming why they are certifiably WRONG in that. Vampires have not “always been about Sex”. If anything, Sex was only briefly introduced just over 100 years ago, and only gained real prominence in the last 25 years.

Look at what we call a “Zombie”… a walking corpse trying to eat people. (Technically, that’s not a Zombie. A zombie is a Voodoo slave… and not even really dead.) But 1,000 years ago… that image was what they called a Vampire. This was due to a little thing called The Black Plague. It rotted your skin, made you pale, deathly-looking, and when you were kicked out of your town because you were going to infect everyone else, you shambled over the countryside, trying to get help. To others, you’re a disgusting-looking monster trying to eat them. Hence, the origin of “Wampyre”. Now, this directly ties into the age-old methods of Vampire dissuasion… Garlic is healthy for you; An old home remedy for curing sickness and “whatever ails ye”. If something medically mystified people back then, they turned to their local priest, who brought in God to cast away the evil demonic sickness… hence, crosses and holy water and most anything connected to God, are now vampire-fighting weapons.

Vampires are metaphors for Disease. That’s how they are ingrained into our subconscious. Look at some of the vampire literature from the Victorian era… where it started to really bloom. People want to make Dracula into the “definitive sexual example” of vampire fiction. Now, I love that book… I won’t argue its greatness. And yes, there are sexual ELEMENTS… but you also need to look at them in context. In 1898, in England at the time (where the book was written), there was an outbreak of syphilis. It was considered to be on an epidemic proportion. Syphilis… can be spread sexually. So now the images of rape and (very heterosexual) intercourse are a bit on the obvious side. Again… a symptom, not the origin. One of the side-effects of Syphilis? Insanity: Renfield is in an insane asylum, not to mention Jonathan Harker feeling like he’s going insane and trapped in Dracula’s Castle. Look at the symptoms of syphilis, and the events of the book… you might realize a whole other angle you’ve never seen before. Especially when you see that Dracula is moving around in the daylight, and other normal vampire stereotypes aren’t exactly fitting to the book. Those were all elements that Hollywood inserted in… often just “making them up”.

Side note: H.P. Lovecraft… long considered one of the greatest horror writers of all time, suffered from syphilis. Most, if not all, of his stories deal with extreme insanity and his characters are always going crazy. Cause he himself was.

There is a slightly earlier vampire tale, by Sheridan Le Fanu, called Carmilla. Some have pointed to that as being “obviously” a metaphor for sex. The story of a young female vampire seducing a young girl. Plenty of lesbianism to go around… eat that, blog boy! Not quite. Yes, the homosexuality is abundant… but remember that it was written during a time where homosexuality was considered a *disease*… and a curable one at that. Sorry to spoil it… but it’s got a happy ending, with the vampire being vanquished, and the young heroine surviving, and going on to lead a normal life, evermore.

Fast forward to the early 1970s… to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Written in 1973, published in 1976. Right around that time, in the medical community, a little something was starting to pop up. Wouldn’t be given full publicity until the late 70s, early 80s… but groups of people were already starting to be affected. This little something would eventually be called HIV/AIDS. And the largest demographic group being affected? Gay men… especially in the San Francisco area, the largest hub of Gay Culture imaginable… where Anne Rice was living and writing her books. “Gee, I wonder why there’s so much Homoeroticism in these stories… Hmmmm?” She has even said that the character Claudia is based on her daughter who died of leukemia in 1972. Again.. disease.

1987… Near Dark, the first “southwestern Vampire movie” (before it became a trend). The Vampires are shown as people “from the wrong side of the tracks”, the kind of people that are often considered “a disease on society”. That one, is a very neat twist… and works wonderfully.

Disease. Do I need a pie chart to make it clearer?

Werewolves are also metaphors for disease… but in a different way from Vampires. Vampires are physical diseases. The common “condition” associated with Werewolves is “Lycanthropy”. And Lycanthropy IS an actual medical disease. It’s not a person who turns into a wolf… it’s someone who THINKS they’re turning into a wolf. It’s a mental disease. One of the earliest illustrated depictions of a “werewolf” is of a farmer who “turned into a wolf and ate his children” while his shocked wife looked on. But the man… doesn’t have a snout or tail. If you look closely, he’s just on all fours, with an overgrowth of hair and beard, with his kid in his mouth, chomping away. Definitely not normal… but look at the circumstances. This was from back in the day where a large portion of the world was not civilized. This depiction is just a farmer out in the middle of nowhere… probably only makes the long slow trip into a village maybe once every 4 months, and his only company is his wife and very small children. The guy just went stir crazy… he was seeing the SAME people every day, cooped up… effectively cut off from civilization. It’s called Cabin Fever… and some people do just snap and kill their families. Sometimes, they just lose it, and think they themselves are wolves (one of the animals they were seeing on a frequent basis, and fighting off)… hence, the mental disease of Lycanthropy.

An American Werewolf in London… in my humble opinion, the best werewolf movie there is, puts a lot of focus on the main character’s feelings of going crazy. His dream sequences, which truly are maddening, are the scariest parts of that movie. Even the classic Universal picture The Wolf Man spends a large part having Lon Chaney Jr. say, “I’m going crazy! I’m mad, I tell you!” Dog Soldiers, deals with special ops soldiers fighting off werewolves. Makes for great action… and gives you a nice appreciation when you think of the condition “Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder” or “Shell Shock”, which you see these characters are definitely going to have when they’re through… if they survive, that is.

The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde… its metaphor? Alcoholism. That one may be hard to see at first. But notice how Dr. Jekyll drinks his “formula” and becomes a different person? Yet, he feels he can control it? So, he keeps drinking the formula, becoming Mr. Hyde… then soon, he needs the formula to STOP from becoming Mr. Hyde, that’s when he realizes he’s in deep doo doo. Bring that basic explanation to any AA meeting, and I’m willing to bet you get a lot of knowing nods.

Godzilla… the original movie was a Japanese Horror film. His metaphor? He’s the walking embodiment of nuclear terror. From a country that was still recovering from having Fat Man and Little Boy dropped on them, causing mindless destruction in its wake. So that movie freaked the living hell out of them. Can you blame them?

We’re missing the metaphors these days. Too many movies and books are churned out without giving us those hooks that really connect us to it… and that’s what really scares us.

A few years ago, I picked up a book… a Vampire book. It looked interesting, it had won the “Bram Stoker” award the previous year, and had a lot of praise written on the back. So I got it, and read it. That book… was the biggest pile of SHIT that I’ve ever read in my life. Narrative-wise… it was atrocious. The very beginning and the very end of the book were one plot… which the entire middle had NOTHING to do with. I only fought my way to the end of the book, hoping to the Almighty that it would redeem itself with a great ending. Nope. If anything, the ending was the worst part. Some interviews praised it for its “honest sexuality”… so an elderly man’s fantasy about a pubescent-girl’s body is “honest”??? I seriously thought the guy was rubbing one out while he was at the typewriter. I don’t call that “honest sexuality”… I call it pathetic masturbation fantasies. Useless references to incest (added nothing to nowhere)… introducing “major characters” 4/5 of the way through the book… casually doing away with the creepiest villains of the story with nothing more than a “oh, I killed them” side note… languishing too long on the uninteresting parts… and all-too-quickly-glossing-over of what would have been the most interesting parts. I hate that book and author with the fury of a thousand suns… and no longer have any faith in the “Bram Stoker Award”, because they apparently give it out to utter crap. When I found out that this was one of the author’s last books, and he had died about a year earlier… I felt bad… because now I couldn’t personally lambaste him for being the worst hack I’ve ever read. I really hope that guy didn’t die of natural causes. I won’t even honor it enough to mention its name on this blog. My blood is actually boiling, and I read this several years ago.

I really hope that’s not what the world of Horror is heading towards. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the current “Torture Porn”… and frankly… You’re preaching to the choir.

While I did enjoy the first Saw… it was novel and different. Anything after that… is old hat. So, I don’t even need to see the movies whose only selling point is the extreme violence. That’s not a story. (Same reason I didn’t see The Passion of the Christ… I already knew the story, and the violence isn’t an attraction, so why bother?) The gore IS the story, not a tool for the story. Now, I could be wrong on that… maybe there are very intelligent metaphors that inspired those stories, I don’t know. Honestly… I haven’t watched them. But when the focus by the media and filmmakers is all about “look at the gross stuff we can do”… I have no interest to even look for a good metaphor. Gross-out stuff will only disgust me, but it won’t actually *scare* me.

I wanna be scared.

I’ve only been scared by one movie. I’ve jumped at a few, but only one that actually crawled under my skin and really frightened me: The Blair Witch Project.

It was the last movie I saw right before I moved to California…. I saw it with my best friend. The entire theatre was packed with young folk aged 16-19… the age group that you’d definitely consider to be the rowdiest, loudest and most obnoxious theatergoers of all.

The place was so silent, you could hear a pin drop. Love Blair Witch or hate it… most people hit one of those extremes… it was definitely original. It’s worth seeing it for the marketing campaign alone… And that experience of seeing it was one of the most unique ones I’ve ever had in a theatre.

Why did it scare ME so much? Possibly because all the stupid crap those characters were doing: Finding old graveyards, exploring old condemned houses in the dark, etc… My friends and I have actually DONE that crap ourselves. I have seen an abandoned house in northern New Hampshire… that has black handprints on the walls. (No, it wasn’t the same house in the movie) Once the movie finished, I turned to my best friend and said, “You know… in retrospect, maybe we shouldn’t have done all that creepy, stupid shit through college”. She said, “yup”… and neither of us slept that night.

I think Horror can get better. For all the crap out there… we do find some really good stuff every now and then. Once in a while, a new classic will be born… one that really hits us where it counts, and makes us scared again… and then 1,001 bad knockoffs will instantly be born.

Which is probably the scariest thing about it. *shrug*


Who is Victor Riley?

I suppose I should explain this eventually. As a semi-regular column called “The Hidden Hero” doesn’t make that much sense, especially since there’s not a lot of heroics written on here.

Victor Riley is NOT my real name, it is just an alias. But it’s an alias with a story.

Back in 1994, I was in undergraduate college… and the unthinkable actually occurred. Miracle of miracles… an on-campus construction project was actually FINISHED! In the several years I had schooling, whether it be public, college and beyond… that was the only construction project that HAD been completed and I was there to see.

It was the new “union building”… it had all the mailboxes that the students were now to use, had conference rooms for clubs, computer rooms, a gymnasium that wasn’t used solely by the Athletics department, a small canteen with a Taco Bell and cafeteria spin-off, etc. It was meant to be the centerpiece of the campus for the students. Seeing as how it wasn’t a large campus to begin with, that wouldn’t have been hard.

It had opened up in the spring, right after Spring Break. There hadn’t been an official “opening ceremony” yet, but everyone was allowed to start using it. I was walking by myself one day and started walking through, seeing what it had to offer. It was all-new modern architecture, it was clean, it was shiny… and I said to myself, “We need to make a spy movie here.”

I’m sure you see the logical progression, there. Isn’t it obvious?

At dinner that night, meeting with all my friends, I announced my reaction/conclusion to the new building. They emphatically agreed. (See? It *was* obvious.)

Out came the notebooks and pencils, frantically scribbling down ideas as they came to us. At no point in this creative process did myself, or anyone else really, give a flying crap about quality story. We just wanted to have fun. Therefore, we did not look at this project as, “We have intriguing characters, let’s find the right person for the role”. Rather, we said, “We have friends, let’s find a role for them.” So, there were a LOT of characters.

We had the villain: Mr. Big.

The Femme Fatale: Ida Know

Our own “Q” type character: Dr. Ette Degree

The Double Agent: Bea Trayer

The head of the Good Guy Agency: The Boss, Bob Boss.

The Informant: Guido D. Stoolie

A rival agent to the hero… Seymour Berkowitz… this one has a small story of its own. Very soon after this project was undertaken, we were having an unrelated “Evil Dead Marathon” (all 3 movies in a row). Myself and another friend (the one playing “Boss Bob Boss”) went walking around exploring the campus’ steam tunnel network, which was my first time doing it, and it was neat. (If your campus has steam tunnels, do yourself a favor and check them out. Just for the hell of it. So you can say you did.) When we finished, we went to the dorm room where the Marathon would take place, and our other friend started off with:

“Very funny, guys.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Real cute. My question is: Who’s Seymour Berkowitz?”

We looked at him very quizzically… “Huh?”

“The phone message you left… on my answering machine.”

“Uh… we didn’t leave any message. We’ve been in the Steam Tunnels for the last hour… right after we saw you at dinner.”

“Wait… really?

“Yeah. So what are you talking about?”

“Uh… then this makes NO sense. Listen to this.”

He presses ‘play’ on his answering machine and we hear:

“Yah, dis is Seymour Berkowitz, calling for ‘Da Boss’. Wanted to let him know I’ll meet him at his house at 9:00. Later.”

“I thought it was YOU guys, cause he said “the Boss” (as in Boss Bob Boss)… but I just didn’t know who Seymour Berkowitz was. So what the hell was that?”

*shrug* We never found out an explanation. Maybe just a very odd-yet-coincidental prank phone call? That’s the best guess I had. So, with such a random name as “Seymour Berkowitz”… we HAD to make him a character.

We even had a character we called “The Running Gag”. His main thing… go streaking across the screen, wearing a gag over his mouth.

We were ALL about the silly joke names.

The Hero’s partner we named Honesty Mace… a play on the name of an old spy-novel heroine named Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell. (I have no idea how many of my friends knew the connection, other than myself. Yeah, I came up with this one.)

Finally, we got to the hero. When I asked, “Who should be the hero?”, everyone thought for a second, looking around. Then one of them said, (I don’t even remember who) “Well, this was all your idea… and out of all of us, you’re probably the best suited for it… so I say it should be you.” Next thing I know, everyone is agreeing… and it was then settled, *I* was the hero. (A nice unexpected compliment)

But what should we name the character? Someone mentioned “Victor”… because then, at the end of the movie, someone can hand him a granola bar and say, “Kudos to the Victor”.

Victor, it was. Last name? That took a little more thought. Then someone else said, “How about ‘Riley’?” That way if someone asks “Really?” You can respond with “No, Riley”. Then we got the inspiration to add in “The Running Gag” with it. So the full gag would be:


“No, Riley”

(Running Gag enters, exits)

“What was that?”

“A Running Gag.”

We loved this stupid joke so much, that before you know it, we were using it in our regular conversations. Since asking, “really?” was fairly common usage, it all flowed nicely… even if we weren’t talking about Victor Riley, or the movie, or anything related to it. “Really?” “No, Riley” “What was that?” “A Running Gag”.

Ultimately, the movie itself never got made. Frankly, we had more fun just talking about it and giggling over all the gags then actually doing the work to film it. But, this exchange would be repeated… for YEARS. Seriously. We’ve never had so much fun with a silly joke. It never got old. It went on so long, and so often, that even when I moved to Northern California, I was chatting with someone, and in response to something I stated, they said, “Really?”

I immediately, without even thinking just said, “No, Riley”.

Suddenly, I started to feel a little embarrassed, because I just pretty much blurted out a non-sequitor that doesn’t make ANY sense to the people now around me. But at that moment, a third person… one who didn’t quite hear what I said, asked, “What was that?”

Wow… 3 naked women inviting me to a foursome would not have been more tempting. The situation was too damn perfect. I tried to resist, but it didn’t work. I don’t care if I become “That guy that just *says things*”… it was truly the greatest Running Gag I’ve ever known.

But that’s where it stayed, for a good long while. Just an in-joke amongst a few friendly weirdoes. That’s where we liked it. It did start to bleed into our lives in other ways… whenever you ended up doing something *really cool*… like, say you’re walking and you trip, but on the way down, you just happen to tuck your head the right way, and next thing you know you’re doing a roll, and back on your feet… we called that a “Victor Riley moment”. (Because he was the cool, awesome hero Super-Spy) When a moment of absolute coolness or heroism comes your way, and you amaze even yourself… that’s the spirit of Victor Riley possessing you. Those… ALWAYS made for good stories.

Then, in 1999, I had a breakthrough. I was at my local Staples store, and happened to notice their prices on business cards. 9.99 for 1000 of them. That’s each one for a penny, and you buy 999 of them, you get 1 free! Neat! I had never had a NEED for business cards, nor could I fathom what to do with them, other than a joke. But for 10 bucks… that’s a joke I could do 1000 times. So of COURSE I’m going to do it. But what to get?

My initial idea was inspired by Wile E. Coyote. In some of his cartoons with Bugs Bunny, he presented a business card that said:

Wile E. Coyote


And I wanted a business card that said my name and “Super-Genius” right below it. That’s it. No number, no contact, nothing. I think that would be hilarious. But I wasn’t 100% with that idea… because it WAS done by Wile E. Coyote first, and no matter what, it’s just re-using that joke that someone else made up. As great as a joke as it is (to me), it’s not original. All the ideas I “wanted” to do… were already done in another cartoon or show… and it just didn’t feel right. I was wishing I could do something “original”, that wasn’t found anywhere else, something I could come up with that, suck or great, came from *me*.

Then, it hit me.

As I stood there, with the pen and the order form, half a second away from writing my own name and “Super-Genius” underneath it… it totally hit me. I then got 1000 business cards that said:

Victor Riley


Has the inspiration of the Wile E. Coyote – Super-Genius… but was mine. Nay, OURS.

Because I shared this. As soon as I got that first batch of cards, I was going to see friends that night. I walked in the door, when right over to the living room, and started handing out chunks of cards with instructions:

“Whenever you do something nice for someone, whether they know it or not: Hand them a card. Leave it on their car windshield. Discreetly slip it to them, anything. When you perform a small or large act of daily heroism… let this be the mark of your “Victor Riley Moment”. Don’t tell them your name… don’t explain this. Just leave it, and walk away. Even if nothing remotely heroic is done… just hand them out to strangers.”

One day, in Northern California, I handed one to a guy I knew. He stopped, looked at me and said, “Where did you get this?”

“Huh? Oh, I made them.”

“No, seriously… where did you get this? Where did it come from? What does it mean?”

“It’s… just something I had made, kind of an in-joke. Why? What are you talking about?”

“Dude… when I was home in Los Angeles… I found one of these, and I’ve been wondering ever since where the hell it came from!”

Hehehehe… it was getting around more than I thought. How awesome is that?

We were now taking Victor Riley to the next level. Out of the realm of in-joke… and into the area of Urban Legend. Unlike other Urban Legends that are usually about death, pain, serial killers, kidney thieves, and whatnot… this would be a *good* one. One that people would like the idea of believing in, even perpetuating. How great would it have been if stories of heroic acts started sprouting up all over the place, being attributed to Victor Riley? Someone’s family is saved by an unidentified savior? That’s Victor Riley.

It wouldn’t be meant to diminish the heroism of the real individual that DID do the rescuing… but maybe give it a little more weight. Because when *I* think of what a “hero” is… I honestly think of people like Superman, Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man, etc. Not because they’re wearing spandex and brandishing super-powers… but the ultimate underlying message. They’re individuals who want to simply *help* people… and not get, or need, any thanks in return. They wear costumes, so they can do it anonymously. They don’t want rewards, they don’t need praise… just helping someone in need, solely because they need it. The whole idea of “virtue is its own reward”. I believe in that.

In Grad School, I remember reading, “Heroes represent to the values of society”… which kind of explains a lot… namely why people like Michael Jordan is considered a “hero”. A stance I passionately disagree with. I have a hard time buying that one, especially. Why is he a hero? Because he makes millions upon millions of dollars, throwing his face and name on every endorsement deal he can, retiring and re-joining his sport because he “feels” like it? If I absolutely had to, there are other sports stars I would place above the likes of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant (a rapist and adulterer is considered a hero? Huh?), Barry Bonds… even Tom Brady (and I’m a die-hard Patriots fan). Talented athletes, yes. Heroes? No.

I would not put sports stars on the same level as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Captain America. Who WOULD I put in the same category as them? Firefighters. Police officers. EMTS and Paramedics. The altruistic individuals that tried to save lives during the Holocaust. The good Samaritans that help their fellow man and NOT feel the need to speak at a press conference or hire a Public Relations Manager so they can “take advantage of the situation”. When you try to profit by it… you lose credibility with me. Yeah, there’s always going to be a few bad apples in those bunches… the corrupt cops, or the EMT that just doesn’t care, or the firefighter that’s really a pyromaniac… but those are rarities as far as I’m concerned. Not reflective of the whole. Personally, I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt. (And for the record… I had this opinion LONG before 9/11. It wasn’t the tragedy that gave me this opinion… but in some ways it did become “fashionable” to honor them after that. It’s pathetic that’s what it took… which is more a reflection on the average joe than anyone else.)

But that’s a hero to me. Those that do good, and don’t want, or need, a reward. Those who prefer to stay hidden, because that’s where they do what they do best. The ones with a little Victor Riley in them.

So who is Victor Riley? Part in-joke. Part urban legend. Part philosophy.

Not a bad alias to have, if you ask me. :)