Thursday, October 31, 2013

This Was Halloween

BOO!
So, If you've been keeping up, you can probably imagine that this was not the happiest of Octobers for Uncle P

Still, I'm plugging away and trying to regain a sense of 'normalcy.' Today was my first day back at the Day Job, where I was asked to judge both a departmental cupcake contest (in a department other than my own) and the company-wide costume contest. I'd like to believe I was asked because people there actually respect my opinion, though I wouldn't be surprised if people were just trying to cheer me up. Of course every one said it was the former, though the latter was very helpful. 

Until I got home, where I had exactly 12 Trick-or-Treaters

Last year I had just over 40. The year before that, 8. I live on a side street in my development, which serves no real purpose other than to provide housing. You can't really get anywhere significant by driving on my street (unless of course, you count my house). The number of children living on the street varies from year-to-year, depending on who is living here at any given time (some houses here seem to have revolving doors) and growing fears about asking strangers for candy have further reduced the number of kids willing to brave the darkness, especially on a weeknight. Still, I had a few princesses; Batman and Robin and a very clever Popcorn Machine with real popcorn and a light in the dome. But it wasn't quite the same without Mom fawning over the cuteness of the little ones and the cleverness of the older kids. The last knock on my door came at 8:17. I turned off my giant spider and Dracula's Pub lights at 9:00.

Of course, when my sister and I were kids, everyone went door-to-door for hours on end. We'd fill a pillowcase, come home to dump it and head out again. Those days are gone, I'm afraid. And that just makes me all the much sadder about the current state of my favorite holiday.

Still... I watched last night's episode of  "American Horror Story: Coven;" had some delicious (if I say so myself) Hungarian stuffed cabbage for dinner; spoke with my sister about our mutual lack of candy-beggars and did my best to enjoy the evening.

There are major and minor changes happening in my home (both physical and emotional). The number of programs I DVR has been slashed in half and I no longer feel quite so compelled to watch what I've recorded (with a few exceptions), though I catch myself being angry and/or sad that Mom will no longer be able to enjoy some of the shows she loved. I have made some progress in obtaining the necessary paperwork which accompanies someone's death, though find myself frustrated by the operating hours of certain government agencies (Damn you, SSI!). 

It's a process, I suppose. It will take time and be aggravating and even downright blood-boiling at times. I continue to take my anti-hypertension medication and try to take on each issue as it arises... But the wound is still so fresh and painful... 

Hallowe'en has evolved over the centuries from a day of keeping evil spirits at bay to a day of celebration. And it's that spirit I tried to maintain, today. I think Mom wouldn't have wanted me to do anything less. I may be sad that she's no longer here to share the celebration, but oh so very glad for all the times she was.

I hope you had a great Halloween and that you and/or your children got all the goodies you can stomach for the next month or so. If you got a Reeses' Peanut Butter Cup, think of Mom when you eat it. She loved them and loved giving them out. I'll be taking a few dozen or so to share at the Day Job, tomorrow.

And honestly, for folks like Uncle P and several of my friends and family, every day is Halloween:



Turkey Month starts tomorrow and I hope to be back to posting more regularly...

More, anon.
Prospero
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Friday, October 25, 2013

A Bit of Advice

Mom feeding a lorakeet at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, a few years ago.
It's almost 2 weeks since Mom passed away and the logistics have been a bit of a nightmare. 

Several years ago, Mom made arrangements to donate her remains to science. Noble, yes? Undoubtedly. Successful? Eventually.

The company Mom used is located in Omaha, Nebraska. They promised quick pick up and the eventual return of cremains once she'd given all she could. The problem? Bodies are very difficult to transport across state lines. Of course, my sister and I didn't discover this until today, when we went to get death certificates for her.

The ICU staff at the hospital where she passed assured me they would take care of everything. Needless to say, they didn't. Rather than contacting the company Mom had used, they contacted their local donor network, which doesn't accept full body donations. The hospital never bothered to let me know this. 

Today, my sister and I tried to get death certificates so we could close out her various credit cards; transfer her car to me and collect on her life insurance, only to find out that the certificate hadn't been filed by the hospital because her body had yet to be released. She was still in their morgue. After a trip to the Trenton City Hall, we made our way to the hospital where three lovely ladies came to our aid, descending on us en masse in the cafeteria. They clucked and made phone calls and did everything they could to help. Bizarrely, in all of their collective years in the health care industry, they'd never come across a case where the decedent wanted to donate his or her body to science. Both my sister and I were astonished, but they all agreed this was a learning moment for all of us. After an hour at the hospital and many phone calls, they were finally able to arrange donation to the Mercer County Community College's Mortuary Sciences program, where Mom will (hopefully) be treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve upon passing.

When all was said and done, I was able to procure 2 copies of my own birth certificate (ironically needed to request the death certificate), get Mom to a place where her last wishes could be fulfilled and gain some insight to the problems associated when one eschews the rip-off that is the Funereal Industry. Hopefully, I'll be able to get the required documents before I return to the Day Job on Wednesday.

Add this to cleaning out 40+ years of clothing; shoes; accessories; makeup and doo-dads and we have had quite a few days. We donated 13 large trash bags of clothing; three large boxes of shoes and her left-over medical supplies (including her walker; shower seat; leg-lifts and more) to Goodwill. We were able to sell her jewelry (a rather extensive collection) to cover additional costs associated with her passing and start to prepare for a Spring yard sale for the rest. I still have a full 12 foot closet and two armoires full of clothes to get through, as well as lots of paperwork; insurance claims; document shredding and assorted other things to get through, but we're well on our way. I don't imagine everything will be settled before next summer.

My house already looks very different and will continue to change over the next several months. My family, friends and co-workers continue to be amazing and I can't imagine getting through all of this without them.

But I want to give all of you out there a bit of advice.

First: Make sure your last wishes are well-known and well-documented. And don't let anyone tell you "We'll take of it."

Second: Keep accurate, up-to-date and easily accessible records. Nothing Mom had was labeled or organized. I still have mountains of paperwork to go through.

Third: Destroy all financial documents after 5 years. I have stuff to shred dating back to 1989!

Fourth and finally: Document EVERYTHING! Keep well-labeled, organized multiple copies of everything your family and/or loved ones will need. I had copies of my grandmother's birth-certificate, but not my own.

Plan ahead. We all die. Make sure you don't leave a mess for those left behind.

Well, this was not a happy post, was it? I just hope I've helped a few readers who may be faced with some of the same problems, down the line.

Tomorrow night is the Family and Friends gathering to celebrate Mom's life at one of her favorite places to eat. And while it may very well give closure to less immediate family members, my sister and I still have a ton to do. Ugh!

Anyone interested in buying several hundred flocked clothes-hangers? I could put Joy Mangano out of business....

More anon.
Prospero
You have read this article BS / Bureaucracy / Death / Documents / My Mother / My Sister / Nonsense / Ramblings / Red Tape with the title October 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://tammycross.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-bit-of-advice.html. Thanks!
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

1st Ever 100% Accurate Fortune Cookie Fortune!

100% Accurate
This last week or so has been a rather emotional one for Uncle P, as you can probably imagine. While I'd been mentally preparing (without telling her, of course) for Mom's passing ever since the diabetic shock episode a few years ago, I really thought she'd be coming home again this time. I'm glad she's not in pain, anymore. The last few years, she was in increasingly miserable pain from arthritis, a botched knee replacement and all the other issues plaguing her. Just reaching for something would elicit a groan, grunt or yelp and I felt so bad for her.

Long-time readers and friends know how I feel about religion and an afterlife... And of course, the obvious explanation for what happened tonight is coincidence (or what Jung termed 'Synchronicity').  I suppose some exposition is needed here, so:

Needless to say, I haven't really been following my usual eating patterns for a while now and in the past week find myself eating less and less. Part of that is not wanting to bother making the effort to cook for myself. In the past month I've cooked chicken soup (which didn't turn out quite right) & hamburgers and reheated frozen meatballs marinara. Mostly, I have eaten out or had deli sandwiches, most of which have lasted for two or more meals. 

Tonight, once again uninterested in cooking, I ordered Chinese from my favorite take-out place, Wing Wah. We've been going and getting take-out from them for years. The food is consistently excellent, even if the atmosphere (why I prefer take-out) is less so. I had my favorite, Sesame Chicken. It was delicious as always but like most things I've been eating lately, half went into the fridge (which needs cleaning out - there's stuff in there from before Mom went into the hospital on September 8th). 

Then I opened my Fortune Cookie.

"You will be graced by the presence of a loved one soon."

My sister is scheduled to arrive at the Atlantic City airport tomorrow at about 11:00 AM, Eastern.

Intellectually, I know this is purely coincidence, despite the fact that this probably the first actual "fortune" I've gotten in a fortune cookie in a very long time. The last fortune I got was from a lunchtime cookie at work, 5 or 6 years ago. It read: "You will enjoy a nice piece of cake." Pretty non-committal, but likely, because who doesn't like and/or get a nice piece of cake now and then? Most of the slips of paper I and my friends have gotten on cookies have been statements, i.e. "Time is the healer of wounds, but love is the healer of hearts" Really? Ugh.

Emotionally? Well, that was a whole other story. Talk about dead-on! I took a picture with my phone (see above), posted it to Facebook and then called my sister. We both laughed at the coincidence, but there was that lizard-brain part of me that wanted to believe there was some meaning in a random piece of paper in a random fortune cookie that just may have well been given to some one who wasn't expecting a visit from a loved one. And I've just now decided that of course there was meaning to it. It had immediate meaning to me and my sister, it's coincidental nature notwithstanding. 

Still, I imagine it's probably the first and only 100% accurate fortune cookie fortune anyone has ever received. In fact, I'm going to have it custom framed with an engraved brass plaque which says just that. And I'll take joy in watching the people who get up close enough to read a tiny piece of paper I thought worthy of framing, and then sharing the story which goes along with it.

Ever had a fortune cookie fortune come true? Let me know in the comments. I so love hearing from you.



Mom loved Chinese food and was saddened a few months ago when her cardiologist told her she couldn't have it any more, because of the sodium. The old story of Buddha visiting Heaven and Hell comes to mind. It's nice to imagine Mom feeding and being fed with giant chopsticks. Maybe I should play the lottery numbers on the other side. I know Mom would say I should.

Namaste.

More, anon.
Prospero
You have read this article Chinese Food / Food / Fortune Cookies / My Mother / My Sister / Nonsense / Ramblings / Synchronicity / Uncle P with the title October 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://tammycross.blogspot.com/2013/10/1st-ever-100-accurate-fortune-cookie.html. Thanks!
Monday, October 21, 2013

How Does It Begin, Clarice?

Porcelain Minnie Castavet and Rosemary Woodhouse
I find it rather hard to believe that Rosemary's Baby has never appeared on any Top Ten list I've ever done. Or has it? If not, it certainly should have been on just about every one of them (maybe not musicals, though I don't think I've done a Top Ten of those, yet). 

Think what you will about Roman Polanski, he's never been shy about delving into the darker sides of life. Based on Ira Levin's novel, the movie was a sensation when it was released in 1968 and rightfully so. Perfectly cast with some of the best actors of the era (and possibly of all time) and both wittily and creepily directed, Rosemary's Baby taps into so many Psycho-Religious-Paranoid-Horrifying things all at once, that it takes multiple viewings to fully appreciate it's brilliance, even 43 years after it was first released. Ruth Gordon rightfully won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Minnie Castavet, the push,y elderly Satanist with a heart of coal. Mia Farrow got an infamous haircut and divorced Sinatra while making the movie.  And there are some amazing appearances from classic character actors Ralph Bellamy, Maurice Evans, Charles Grodin and Elisha Cook, Jr; as well as uncredited walk-ons/voice-overs from William Castle and Tony Curtis. 

A very amusing, anonymous Facebook friend (once known as Magnolia Thunderpussy but now going by Hilda Swandumper after the geniuses at Facebook realized Maggie T wasn't a real name) posted the photo above to a mutual friend's timeline. And I immediately coveted...

I reposted it, saying that anyone who bought me the Minnie Castavet doll would get me as a slave for one week a year for 10 years or 50 Saturdays, not to exceed two in a row. And I mean it. Yes, I have lots of 'stupid' things. I have both Mulder and Scully action figures; a Locutus action figure; a Frank-N-Furter action figure; a Norman Bates action figure; a remote controlled zombie; a zombie teddy bear and other assorted toys. But I would gladly give up a third of my collection to own a doll modeled after Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castavet. Of course, the two dolls are undoubtedly a set, though I hope the obviously inferior Mia Farrow as Rosemary doll doesn't decrease the value...

The true movie lunatics out there know exactly what I mean.



Genius.

More, anon.
Prospero
You have read this article Classics / Dolls / Genius / Halloween / Hannibal Lecter / Horror / Mia Farrow / Movies / Roman Polanski / Rosemary's Baby / Shocktober / The Antichrist / The Devil / Toys with the title October 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://tammycross.blogspot.com/2013/10/how-does-it-begin-clarice.html. Thanks!
Saturday, October 19, 2013

King of the Mountain

I was 15 when I was dropped off for a Saturday matinee of Brian DePalma's brilliant adaptation of Stephen King's first novel, Carrie. I had read the novel the year before and was in the midst of reading "'Salem's Lot" when Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie gave two of the most amazing performances in the history of the genre. Since then there has been a really awful sequel; a musical (revived and revised for a recent Off Broadway production which is now being done by community theatre companies everywhere); a drag parody of the musical and a TV remake starring Angela Bettis and Patricia Clarkson. Yesterday a new version opened, starring Chloe Grace Moritz and Julianne Moore, two actresses I admire (along with Judy Greer - whom I adore - in the Betty Buckley role). The reviews have been tepid and I won't be rushing out to pay $11.50 to see it, any time soon. 

To mark the occasion, TribecaFilm.com has come up with their list of the Top 20 Stephen King movies. Their list is very different from mine. Of course, art is completely subjective and King is notoriously difficult to adapt for the screen. Your list will probably be different than mine. And that's good. Still, in response, here are my Top Ten plus my Five Worst Stephen King movie adaptations:

THE BEST:

10. Pet Sematary. Based on the book King claims to have had to put away for several years because it gave him nightmares, director Mary Lambert's TV star-filled film is very, very creepy. The last project for the late Fred Gwynn, this atmospheric movie works so well because they all seem like such ordinary people (the strength of all of King's characters). Of course, there is that screaming living corpse of a sister in the back bedroom...



9. The Dead Zone. David Cronenberg's 1983 crack at King is a true anomaly - a film that's actually better than the novel on which it's based. Of course, much of that is thanks to Christopher Walken's performance as a man who awakens from a coma with a gift he doesn't want and a dilemma to rival Hamlet's. Oh, and Martin Sheen's Greg Stillson is a far cry from Jed Bartlett.



8. The Mist. Underrated and misunderstood, Frank Darabont (who has two other amazing King movies to his credit) finally made the film version of one of King's most popular novella's with an amazing cast and an ending (which some claim is nihilistic) that's far superior to King's rather ambiguous original. Darabont should make every Stephen King movie for as long as he can.



7. Misery. Kathy Bates' Oscar-winning performance as James Caan's insane greatest fan is absolutely chilling. Rob Reiner's second King movie is a doozy!



6. Christine. John Carpenter's King movie surprisingly holds up quite well after 30 years, mostly thanks to the performance of Keith Gordon as a boy whose evil car turns him evil, as well.


5. Stand By Me. Rob Reiner's nostalgic adaptation of King's novella "The Body" (itself supposedly based on a true event from King's own childhood) is a classic for so many reasons, least of all it's young cast.



4. Carrie. Brian DePalma's 70's teen-angst horror movie is very nearly perfect, despite the very silly tuxedo scene and the deliberately dizzying prom dance. Spacek is the embodiment of King's character (despite him describing her as overweight) and Piper Laurie is just stunning as the religious zealot Margaret White (a name Uncle P uses to troll Westboro Baptist Church). And that shock ending has been copied countless times, since.



3. Apt Pupil. Bryan Singer's version of King's novella stars the late Brad Renfro as a young man who discovers that his kindly old neighbor (Ian McKellan) is a Nazi hiding in suburban America. McKellan is brilliant, as usual, but Refro's transformation is the real horror here.



2. Dolores Claiborne. Kathy Bates makes her second appearance as a King character in Taylor Hackford's absorbing and gorgeous adaptation of the story of a woman accused of killing her long-time employer and the strength she found to escape an abusive husband.



1. The Green Mile. Frank Darabont's version of King's serialized novel is very nearly perfect. The late Michael Clarke Duncan gives a performance to match every other amazing performance from Tom Hanks, Michael Jeter, Sam Rockwell, Bonnie Hunt and Patricia Clarkson. I weep like a baby every time I see it.



Honorable mentions: The Shawshank Redemption; Cujo; Creepshow; Needful Things; 1408; Hearts in Atlantis.

THE WORST:

5. The Shining. Kubrick made a terrific horror movie, but an absolutely atrocious version of what well may be King's best novel. Even King hates it. Of course, the TV version isn't much better. Give me $80M and I'll make a version of "The Shining" that will make you poop your pants.

4. Graveyard Shift. Bad acting, bad script and bad special effects make this story about killer rats silly, rather than scary.

3. Maximum Overdrive. Even King himself couldn't make a scary movie out his very silly short story "Trucks." Emilio Estevez doesn't help.

2. The Mangler. Poltergeist director Tobe Hooper's ridiculous movie about a demonic ironing machine isn't helped by the presence of genre favs Robert Englund and Ted Levine. 

1. The Lawnmower Man. Even the then gorgeous Jeff Fahey can't help this POS, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with King's story about pagan gods. King successfully sued to have his name removed from this CGI cyber-nonsense.

Dishonorable mentions: The Night Flyer; The Secret Window; Silver Bullet; Children of the Corn

I have a copy of King's latest novel, "Doctor Sleep" sitting on my coffee table. It's the sequel to "The Shining" and I can't wait to dig in. I suppose I'll be taking it to Florida with me when I visit my sister for Christmas.

More, anon.
Prospero


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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Deepak Oprah or: 'Oh No, She Dit-int!'

The Lizard Queen?
"Uma... Oprah. Oprah... Uma." - David Letterman, hosting the 67th Academy Awards in 1995. 

As reported in several media outlets, while interviewing endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, Oprah Winfrey has supposedly said that atheists don't believe in awe and wonder. And while I and every other Humanist I know would disagree 1000% with that concept, further review of the clip may well belie that claim. 

What the 'lifestyle guru' actually says is that she doesn't believe that an appreciation of and belief in awe and wonder constitute atheism.  OK. Big deal I don't really see the reason for Humanist/Atheist outrage here. In fact, Nyad's logical and well-spoken response is pretty dead-on. 

Can I not believe in a "Creator" and still be 'spiritual?' Odd as it may seem to some, yes. Of course I can. As I often told Mom, one of the laws of physics is that energy and matter can neither be created or destroyed; only transformed. Our 'spirits' (or minds) are the result of the electrical impulses in our brains, which evolved over eons to become modern Homo-Sapiens. Of all of this I am more than certain. Beyond that... there is likely little more. It would be nice to believe in an afterlife, I suppose. I'm sure it gives many people comfort and a way to deal with knowledge of our own mortality. Mom always thought of religion as a 'crutch' for the weak and frightened. And while I would never deny anyone's right to think otherwise, you all know by now that I think so, as well. Among Mom's last wishes was for her body to be donated for research and/or teaching. Her wishes have been honored. A private dinner for family and friends will be held in Mom's memory at a date and place to be determined.

The Cult of Winfrey is no more or less ridiculous than any other, be it religious or momentarily culturally relevant. She didn't actually say what she's been misquoted as saying. And she, like every other human being has the right to do so, is simply expressing her own beliefs. And whether you agree or not, it's no reason to (you should forgive the expression) demonize the woman. Yes, she's promoted her fair share of charlatans; liars and fakirs. She's in the Business of Show, my friends. She doesn't care if you really buy what she's selling. I assure you, she's far more interested in you buying what her advertisers are selling. 

Watch the 'controversial' clip below (via) and decide for yourselves. I'm not afraid to tell you what I do and don't believe. Don't be afraid to disagree. I won't think too much less of you...;)  



Here's the thing: What matters is now. Life live on your own terms but do nothing to harm others. Tell the people you love that you love them as often as you can. Treat everyone... EVERYONE... the same: with compassion, respect and empathy. Laugh often; laugh hardily; laugh loudly! Taste everything you eat or drink. Savor every damned bite of every delicious thing! Don't waste your time or energy on negativity. Take risks. Travel. Meet new people and make new friends. Don't deny yourself, but take care yourself, as well. Move. Dance. Have sex. Act. Write. Create. Make love. Do what brings you you joy. Get everything you can out of every moment you can. It' all we've got, folks. It's all we've got.

More, anon.
Prospero


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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Goodbyes Are Never Easy


After four weeks in and out of hospitals and rehab, Mom passed away peacefully at 10:02 PM Eastern Time. I was by her side, accompanied by my three dearest friends in the world.

Mom's favorite flowers were carnations and I am posting this one in her memory.

If you would like, you can make a donation to the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association in her name.

RIP - Sallyann Grobels Bara, 9/28/1941 - 10/13/2013.

Loved and missed so much. She always said the best thing she ever did was raise two great children. My sister and I would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has been so supportive in the last few weeks. We couldn't have gotten through this without you.

More, eventually.
Brian
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Friday, October 11, 2013

Uncle P's Mom (Updated)

Waters Edge Rehab Center, Trenton, NJ
The past few weeks have been rather difficult for your old Uncle P. My mother (aka Malaprop Mom) suffered a heart attack last month which left her with kidney damage, requiring regular dialysis. It also left her very weak and debilitated. After two and a half weeks in a local hospital where she ranged from ornery to recalcitrant, Mom was moved yesterday to a rehab center in an attempt to regain her strength so she might come home. But I fear she has given up and may never come home.

To understand how distressing this is, you have to know a bit about my amazing Mom. Both strong-willed and emotionally vulnerable, as kids, my sister and I were always asking her to slow down so we could catch up with her. She taught both of us to read before we ever stepped foot in a school (and got yelled at by both of our First Grade teachers because we were already ahead of the others). Mom never wanted to be anything else than a Mom. She wanted 5 children and ended up with 2, the second of whom was born prematurely but fought and grew into one of the strongest people I know (and one of the best friends I could imagine). Nothing was too good for us, growing up. When I was in High School, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe and Mom went out and got her first job since she was a teenager to help pay for it. When my father left her, she soldiered on, dancing her way through my sister's wedding, just a few weeks after her own father passed away. 

A self-confessed "shopaholic," Mom was always smartly dressed with a killer manicure and the perfect heel for every outfit. And after arthritis required a knee replacement, she switched to smart and stylish flats. Mom loved the sun and maintained a year-round tan, naturally. And an avid reader herself, it wasn't unusual for her to go through three or four novels a week. She read mostly thrillers and mysteries, but was not above the occasional romance or even a Stephen King novel (she just finished "Under the Dome" a few days before she went into the hospital). Her current favorite TV shows include "Castle;" "Parenthood" and "The Good Wife," along with "The Walking Dead" and "Falling Skies." Since my first High School role in Bye Bye, Birdie, she has been a staunch supporter of my theatrical and artistic endeavors.

After my a-hole father left her, she actually 'found' herself. She dated several guys (including an old High School flame and one hot Russian who was actually two years younger than me!), but gave up on romance when she realized most men are a-holes (something which seems to apply to both straight and gay men). When I finally came out to her, she said she already knew and cried because I thought she'd be upset.

Of course, ever since being forced to retire when the auto-dealer for she which she'd worked for almost 18 years went out of business, her health has declined significantly. In the past four years, I've lost count of how many times I've had to call 911. This past February, she spent a week and a half in the hospital for congestive heart failure. She seemed fine after coming home and I never imagined she'd be back in the ER so soon.

My father passed away in 1999 from brain cancer. He was living in Las Vegas with his second wife (a whole other post could be devoted to that wedding, alone) and I hadn't seen or spoken to him in at least three years. I was in Provincetown, spending 4th of July weekend with my then boyfriend, Ric, whom Mom adored. We got home late that Monday afternoon and Mom informed me that Dad had passed. And I felt... well, to be honest... nothing.


 Today, watching Mom get dialysis while drifting in and out of awareness, I felt... everything. Anger. Remorse. Pity. Fear. Anger. Frustration. Worry. Love. Anger. 

Of course I know we are all human, and being human means we die. We all will die. But that doesn't make it any easier to watch someone you love; someone who was always there for you; someone who loves you unconditionally, come closer to that final milestone.

It is my fervent hope that rehab will help her gain her strength so she can return home and spend at least a few more years with me. But seeing her tonight, covered in bruises and scabs; weak and drifting in and out of coherence; hooked up to a machine which does a job her own organs can't... well... that's just not right. Not for the Mom we had to tell "Slow down" when we went to the mall to shop for Back-to-School clothes. Not for the Mom who fought when I was unjustly accused of misconduct my freshman year of High School. Not for the Mom who taught me to love to read and write. Not for the Mom who made me crazy so many times. Or the Mom who made me laugh so many times. Or the Mom who, after I made her watch the premiere episode of "The Walking Dead," knowing she'd appreciate the show's humanity, loved it. 

Not my Mom. 

Not yet.



More, anon.
Prospero

Update: Not long after I finished this post, Mom was rushed to St. Francis Medical Center ICU with internal bleeding. I saw her briefly today. She is very pale and hallucinating, but recognized me and held my hand. I'm hanging on by a thread, myself. I can't stand to see her like this. I know we all go through it, but I thought I'd have a few more years...

Uncle P
You have read this article Aging / Death / Family / Health / My Mother / Ramblings / Uncle P with the title October 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://tammycross.blogspot.com/2013/10/uncle-p-mom-updated.html. Thanks!
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Super Twink?

That's a new Superman action figure by Play Arts. It's part of something they call the Kai Variant Series. Now, while Uncle P remains an avid fan of  Superheroes, it has admittedly been many years since I've read any comics ("Watchmen;" "The Walking Dead" and "Chew" don't count). I think I was 13 the last time I read an issue of "Superman" or "Batman." And I know there have been changes in the timelines and weird revisions and alternate universes. I get it. But there are a few things I don't understand. 

First of all, why does Kal-El need any armor, let alone Samurai-inspired armor? Or is this some official military dress uniform on Krypton? Or is this some sort of Cyber-Kal-El, enhanced by advanced bionics (look at his wrists) after some terrible accident, far away from the yellow sun? Or is Superman visiting the planet Krull?

But I think what bothers me the most about this particular action figure is it's disproportionately tiny head, which makes Supes look like a 19 year old twink headed out to a gay cosplayer rave in Vegas.

Personally, I like my Supermen to be Henry Cavil hot, Christopher Reeve compassionate and Brandon Routh adorable, with just a dash of George Reeves cockiness -- hold the Nicolas Cage, thank you.Wow! Talk about impossible standards... No wonder I'm still single. (Not LOL'ing here... No, seriously, FML). Oh, wait. Superman is fictional, isn't he? Never mind, then.

Anyway...

As a gay child, I think I figured out pretty early that many superheroes were in fact, gay allegories, whether they were intended to be so, or not. Outsiders, different from everyone else for whatever reason, who decided or were compelled to stand up against evil and protect the good, all why wearing fabulous spandex costumes with capes and amazing accessories (at least three designers featured utility belts last month in Paris). Eventually, both DC and Marvel were ahead of the curve by featuring gay characters (don't ask me what's going at DC right now, though) and even Archie Comics, once owned by a Christian publishing company, has a gay character with his own title, Kevin Keller

And please, no comments about internalized homophobia. I don't hate twinks. I don't hate anyone. I feel very sorry for exceptionally ignorant and douchey a-holes who don't get that we're all in this together and we better figure out a way to make it work, or we're all doomed. I just hope I live long enough to witness their inevitable extinction. 

Anyway...

This was an odd post ending an odd day (long story). So let's perform one more amazing segue to tie all of this nonsense together with Shocktober, shall we? I still haven't decided what I'm going to be for Halloween this year, though my fall back is the amazingly easily-achieved "Middle-Aged Gay Man."  In case you're still stumped, here are some ideas for Superhero costumes from last year's NY ComiCon:



More, anon.
Prospero
You have read this article Cosplay / Costumes / Gay / Halloween / Nonsense / Shocktober / Superheroes / Superman / The Gayest Thing with the title October 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://tammycross.blogspot.com/2013/10/super-twink.html. Thanks!
Monday, October 7, 2013

This Is the Best They Got?

Aaron Eckhart as a Hot Creature
Along with Dracula, Frankenstein and Frankenstein's Monster (or Creature) have been the subjects of movies since the days of Edison

Most people think of James Whale's Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein from Universal in the 1930's. Hammer Films had their own version of the franchise in the 70's and there have been any number of stage and television productions of the story. Portrayed in various versions by Boris Karloff; Bela Lugosi; Lon Chaney, Jr; Glenn Strange; Fred Gwynne; Christopher Lee; Peter Boyle; Peter Hinwood; Shuler Hensley and Robert DiNiro (among many others) in I, Frankenstein, Aaron Eckhart is the Creature from Mary Shelley's novel, still alive after 200 years and apparently drawn into a fight with gargoyles or some such nonsense. The movie comes from the same people who keep making those deplorable Underworld movies. Eckhart and British character actor Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest) are the headliners among a cast of unknowns in a cheesy Underworld/Legion mash-up of some kind. Based on the "Unpublished" graphic novel by actor and Underworld writer Kevin Grevioux, I, Frankenstein is conceptually interesting, but...

Personally, I haven't seen a trailer ever work so hard to convince audiences to stay away from what looks to be an absolute piece of Winter Cinema Garbage.



I don't know if it's the ridiculous dialogue ("Frankenstein must be destroyed!")*; the atrocious CGI FX (1997 called, they want their Macs back) or Eckhart's impersonation of Christian Bale's Batman... Well, they all contribute to what looks like traditional January/February studio crap dump. It makes me glad they waited until after Halloween. Both Eckhart and Nighy are better than this. I just hope they invite me to the latest summer house it bought them.

*


More, anon.
Prospero
You have read this article Aaron Eckhart / Bad / Bad Movies / Frankenstein / Horror / Monsters / Movies / Shocktober / Trailers / Universal Monsters / Universal Studios with the title October 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://tammycross.blogspot.com/2013/10/this-is-best-they-got.html. Thanks!
Saturday, October 5, 2013

15 Years On...

Tomorrow marks the 15th anniversary of the attack on Mathew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. My reaction is a confusion of "It's only been 15 years?" and "15 years, already?" Funny how witnessing history settles in your memory in so many odd ways. I remember crying when Matt died. Most of the world; the compassionate, empathetic and good people; the Humanists and the religious, alike - we all cried when Matt died.

On October 6th, 1998, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson lured Matthew from the Fireside Lounge bar, pretending to be gay, supposedly with the intent of robbing him. They drove him to a remote area, tied him to a buck fence and beat him mercilessly with their fists, feet and the butt of Henderson's gun. Matthew was found 18 hours later by a fellow UW student who'd gone off trail while biking. Six days later, Matt died from his injuries and the world cried.

Matthew Shepard was a young, idealistic and full of hope for his future as a social activist. He was attending the University of Wyoming and had joined the LGBT support group. Unfortunately, Matt was literally bullied to death. Along with Anthony Milano; Seth Walsh; Pheobe Prince; Kameron Jacobsen; Bailey O'Neill; Tyler Clementi and so many others. 

Matthew's story inspired Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project to create The Laramie Project, a pastiche of interviews, memories and recreations of the events leading up the attack and its subsequent effects on the sleepy western town and her people, right through to the trials themselves.

Productions of The Laramie Project have often been (and I hate say, will probably continue to be) the source of conjecture, especially in educational situations. Most recently, a production at the University of Mississippi ("Ole Miss") was heckled by at least "20 members of the football team" and others. They supposedly taunted female cast members about their bodies; yelled "f*g" and "d*yke" and were generally disruptive. UM issued a lame apology, though Gay/Straight Alliance groups and allies like Brendan Ayanbadejo are pushing for more.

As part of our on-going campaign to prevent bullying and the unnecessary and premature deaths of so many young people, The James Tolin Memorial Fund presents a one-night only special event, a staged reading of The Laramie Project, followed immediately by a talk-back with cast, director and special guest, LGBT activist and member of the Tectonic Theatre Project, Cathy Renna. The reading will be held at the Kelsey Theatre on the Campus of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ. Curtain is at 7 PM.

As of this writing, tickets are still available online at Kelsey@mccc.org;  at the box office one hour before curtain or by calling 609-570-3333. All proceeds from this special event benefit The Tyler Clementi Foundation

Let's put an end to this epidemic. Educate to Stop the Hate. 

Don't let those whose lives have been taken by hate, be taken in vain. Share their stories. Share your stories. Reach out, but listen too. If you see an act of hatred, say something; call the police; do something

I can't help but wonder what Matthew and my friend Tony would think about the massive strides since they've been gone. And how maybe some of those strides might have come sooner, if they were still here. Matt had dreams of being an activist and Tony was a very talented artist with a decidedly twisted sense of humor. What might they have accomplished in these many years? Sadly, thanks to hate, we'll never know.

If you can't make the show, you can always visit our website and make a safe, secure donation via PayPal. Or, watch the excellent HBO movie version and make a donation to your local anti-hate charity. 



So... how do we Stop the Hate? How do we assuage the fears of those who don't understand? With works like this. With art that makes people think differently. With the truth, I would hope. Sadly, everyone's truth is different, to one degree or another. I don't care what you think your version of 'God" says about Queer people (yes, even the Native Americans who venerated us as 'magical' beings - thanks, but as much as gay folk might think we're magical, we really aren't). Different from most people? Certainly? Wrong or evil because of it? Hardly. And of course, I know I'm singing to the choir here, as it were. But it's more and more likely that most straight people know at least 1 queer person, whether they're aware of that person's sexuality or not. 

Progress is being made an astonishing rate and things I never thought I'd live to see are happening all over the country. And while so many places in the world have yet to evolve, I can't tell you how happy I am to see the tide turning, at long last.

More, anon.
Prospero
You have read this article Anthony Milano / Bullying / Equality / Hate / Hate Crimes / Homophobia / JTMF / LGBTQ / Matthew Shepard / Teen Suicide Prevention / The Laramie Project / Theatre / Tyler Clementi / Witnessing History with the title October 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://tammycross.blogspot.com/2013/10/15-years-on.html. Thanks!
Friday, October 4, 2013

Review "Gravity"

Okay, I just have to start by saying "Holy Crap!" Believe everything everyone has written or said about this movie. No, seriously. The critics are not being being hyperbolic in the least. Director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men), using a script he co-authored with his son Jonas, has crafted an exceptionally intense thriller which zooms along for 90 minutes of truly exceptional and groundbreaking film making. 

Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is the seasoned veteran astronaut on his last mission and Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is the still nauseated newbie on her first. They are adding an improvement to the Hubble telescope when word comes from Mission Control (voiced by Ed Harris) that the Russians have blasted one of their old satellites, the debris from which causes a chain reaction, hurtling debris from all sorts of other satellites their way. With almost no time to react, Stone is sent hurtling away from the shuttle and the race is on to get her and Clooney to safety. I won't go into any more detail, because I don't want to spoil a second of it but it is squirm-in-your-seat intense. Clooney is at his charming best, ably maintaining his cool under the worst possible circumstances while Bullock gives another amazing performance as a woman dealing with almost incomprehensible terror. Gravity, indeed.

All of that is all well and good, but when a terrific script with terrific performances is enhanced by technical wizardry that seems so effortlessly real (K and I turned to each others several times to ask "How the hell did they do that?") it's... truly unlike any other movie you've ever seen. And for the first time ever, I am going to insist that you see a movie in 3D. In fact, I feel sorry for the people who don't, because they can't possibly have the experience that I and four of my six companions had (the fifth thought it was "okay" and the sixth, poor thing, was bored - though I don't see how that was possible). Q, Dale, Mike, K and I all loved Gravity and were in awe of its FX; stunning visuals and cinematography (so many amazing shots and moments, including an exceptionally gorgeous homage to Kubrick's space masterpiece); intense script and fine performances. Even Steven Price's magnificent score -- punctuated by long silences -- is perfect.  GO SEE THIS MOVIE! NOW! IN 3D! ON THE LARGEST SCREEN POSSIBLE!  

**** (Four Out of Four Stars). Not only the best movie I've seen this year, it may very well be the best I've seen in many. Cuaron has set the bar higher than ever with this one.



Well, what are you waiting for? Go! I'll be talking about this movie for weeks, to anyone who will listen.

More, anon.
Prospero
You have read this article Alfonso Cuaron / Best Of / George Clooney / Movies / Reviews / Sandra Bullock / Science Fiction / Space / Special FX / Thrillers with the title October 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://tammycross.blogspot.com/2013/10/review.html. Thanks!
Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Different Kind of Shocktober

Ossified Flamingo, Tanzania
I hate that I missed posting on October 1st. Of course, Uncle P is dealing with a bit of real life turmoil. My mother has been hospitalized for a week and a half now, with no indication of when (or if) she might come home. The staff at the hospital is terrific; her doctors have been wonderful and I have never felt kept in the dark about what's going on. I just wish none of it was going on. Uncle P, for the first time in his life, is feeling rather helpless and ineffectual right now. But I must say that I have a rather amazing support team among my friends who are (and will undoubtedly continue to be) helping me through.

Of course, that does nothing to diminish my love of all things October, including the onslaught of cable channel Horror movies. Marathons of Friday the 13th and Halloween movies abound, no matter how good or bad they are. 

As part of this year's decidedly different Shocktober, I've decided to just make some suggestions of movies you might enjoy as part of the season. And I've decided to start with one the season's best holiday-themed movies, Trick 'r Treat. An anthology of related stories, writer/director Michael Dougherty managed to create an Internet sensation with his long-delayed movie filled with terrific performances from the likes of Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin and Brian Cox (the original screen Hannibal Lecter) while providing some of the best scares and hilariously ironic moments in Horror Movie history. If you've never seen it, you owe it to yourself to do so. 



A sequel has been bandied about, but I won't be holding my breath.

More, anon.
Prospero
You have read this article Halloween / Horror Movies / My Mother / October / Shocktober / Trailers / Trick 'r Treat / Uncle P with the title October 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://tammycross.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-different-kind-of-shocktober.html. Thanks!

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