Letters to Holly

Friday, October 22

From Beyond

During a lunch break a few weeks back, I saw a flyer for a local film society's free Halloween movie series. It's a monthlong viewing of cult horror movies playing at the Carolina Asheville, where we three saw The Two Towers in the snow before you went to Africa. Because the viewings are at night, I would have dismissed seeing any of them because it would mean stranding Your Sister with the deputy for the entire.

But one of the listed movies was 1986's From Beyond, my most favorite b-grade horror movie ever ad always. I discovered it around 1988 on the first night I was left alone in the house overnight. I took advantage of our cable channels to see as much stuff that my parents wouldn't allow. Amid bad cop thrillers and campground slashers was From Beyond, an adaptation of an HP Lovecraft story. It came on in the dead of night, around 3 am, on Cinemax (which should tell you a lot about the film right there), and I devoured it. The TV Guide practically dared me to watch it with the warning "not for the squeamish." Well, even then, I was never one to squeam. I was in love with horror movies. I would buy Fangoria, the horror-film magazine almost monthly, and read Stephen King whenever I could. I was the average teen loner boy. I was solitary to the point of being cocooned, and any interests were fixations.

Here's the original trailer:

It's a relatively cheap film. The producers made two movies back-to-back on the same set in Italy. This was the second film; the other, Dolls, is also another variation of the haunted-house formula. The original story is only three pages long, and it's completed before the film's opening credits. Lovecraft wrote pulpy horror about alternate dimensions and creatures so bizarre that men go mad at their sight. He's seen as the link between Poe and King, and of course I read his stories as much as I could, to the detriment of my GPA.

The other 80 minutes of the film is a mix of stilted dialogue, weak plot points (where do psychiatrists get dynamite in the middle of the night?), and enough T and A to earn an R rating. It's schlock, but it's stuck with me as a chippy production that doesn't realize the makings of a very good story are all around the script. I often considered making a comic that adapts and expands this film. That's how invested I am in it.

Because I saw this in the middle of the night and had only ever seen it again on TV screens, it never felt like a movie to me. It was a multimedia short story, and it felt like a secret. I've bought multiple DVD copies on eBay from overseas hoping to get a quality print. Finally, MGM released a director's cut Blu-Ray a few years back. The chance to see it in a theatre was akin to getting into Wonka's factory.

You might remember that theatre has an upstairs section, previously housing an arcade. Now it's a lounge with a functioning bar, small kitchen, and a screening room. Four rows of sofas face a large projection screen, and this is where I found myself last night. Your Sister and I agreed that I'd attend if I watched the deputy during her charity ride last week. And here I was, giant popcorn and giant Sprite in hand. Seeing this among others is as close to coming out as I'll ever experience.

Before the film, we saw a chapter of a brilliantly bad Bela Lugosi evil-doctor serial and a famous acid-trip of a Betty Boop cartoon featuring Cab Calloway. The whole this is here:

Because I hadn't seen From Beyond with a room full of people before, I had perceived it as an earnest, slightly slack movie. With his audience, I realized a) it's fucking goofy; and b) it's a tight, efficient production. It was as if I hadn't seen it before. It was a great crowd, and they were clearly horror fans, even if half admitted they hadn't seen the movie before. I'm pretty sure I've seen it more than everyone else there combined. I may have seen it more than any other movie besides Wizard of Oz. It's my pet film. In my workshop hangs a poster for the film from Belgium. If this movie was a person, my interest would be considered stalky.

I drove home beaming. Your Sister was still up when I got home, and we caught up on the day. Your Parents are watching the sidekick today, and we're just a week away from Halloween, the race, and the party.

Wednesday, October 20

Making Calls

As we near the date for the annual pumpkin party, two concerns may throw in wrenches: the constant rumblings of moving trick-or-treating to our party night (avoiding Sunday because God hates free candy), and the incomplete decking.

We were told way back in early September -- wait, was it late August? -- that the school carpentry students could do this and do it quick and do it well. Your Sister had passed along to me a deadline of two weeks for construction from the class teacher. That span passed long ago, and I suspect the teacher is dragging this out to fill the whole semester. This normally wouldn't be a problem. It's cold and rainy, and we rarely use the deck in the cold rain. But we're hoping to have a deck party on the 30th, and we still don't have the ironwork installed. That makes it dangerous for the kids we hope to host. And probably the random tipsy adult.

I called the police department asking which night they will be dispatched. I'm waiting to hear back. I also called the newspaper and heard nothing back. Maybe the grapevine was off the mark entirely. We announced our party date to match that of the annual town festival and race. But that was before the rumors of moving candy-begging one day earlier. The race organizers don't seem to realize that the police probably can't block the race route and the more popular trick-or-treating zones at the same time. I hope that provides the police an alibi to keep the kids home Saturday night and keep the costumed soliciting on the 31st, where it belongs.

If there is trick-or-treating on the 30th, we'll lose half our potential guests and would be for moving the party to an earlier date. But we need to know what the deal is. The worst-case scenario is two nights of it. Expanding Halloween as a mood is fine, but stretching the food distribution beyond one night will dilute the fun for adults, and there's too much danger of double-dipping. I don't approve of giving the same kids in the same costumes another handful of candy one night later. We're generous candy givers, but we have our limit.

As we watch Jeopardy! we note the careers of the contestants and judge them. A recent contestant was announced as a "stay-at-home mom," and I began to instinctively mock her before I remembered who was sitting next to me on the couch. Your Sister says she doesn't consider herself that; she's a teacher on a leave of absence. I agree.

She dropped off a gift certificate to a coffee store for the service lady ho told me how to rewire the internet connection. She called me back to thank me, and I think she got choked up.

EDIT: The newspaper called me back, and the news editor told me the county council announced trick-or-treating would take place on Sunday, the 31st. There's my answer. Thank you, old-school media.

Picture of the Day
This new sign from a Barnes & Noble is making the rounds online. The store closest to my office is packed with the genre.

Monday, October 18

Fixing Stuff

We didn't make it to the school Friday night for homecoming. We decided not to expose the sidekick to the cold night air and instead stayed in to eat pizza.

I got up early the next morning to donate blood. I had set up a 9 am appointment weeks ago, but Your Sister trumped that when she decided to join the motorcycle charity run that morning. I called late Friday to make a new appointment as soon as the donation center opened. I got there at 7:30 and was out by 8:45. No matter how many gurneys are set up, there are only so many interview stations, and donors back up in the waiting area. Appointment times are nothing more than a hope. My scheduled time was vetoed as apheresis donors were bumped ahead to get them started. I understand; it's a longer procedure. I know to expect a wait and always take a book to read (this time, it was a West Wing script book). The nurse commented on how low my blood pressure was (102/66), and My Mom registered concern when I mentioned it over the phone Sunday. I see a GP in two weeks, and I'll ask her if I'm in a safe range. Maybe, to raise it, she'll tell me to eat more junk food.

Your Sister's ride was short, but she was thrilled with it. She noted the established areas for early drop-outs but made her own when she noticed early signs of soreness. Because I had just fed and diapered the mancub, we were able to head out for lunch, and I started a new project.

On Friday, I called the local phone company to ask about relocating the wireless hub. I had hoped that we could simply plug the machines to phone jacks in the house proper, but that was not so. I wanted to set up a service call with the company to set us up properly and was surprised when the service person instead told me how to fix it myself. The surprise melded with worry when she tossed out technical jargon, but she assured me I could do this. If not, she warned, her repair would cost $50 and might be as long as two weeks out. I told her I'd try it and would call her back if I feared the house would burn down.

So on Saturday, I was outside the house with some tools, opening the phone box next to the power meter. In theory, this is simple: a tiny box that looks exactly like a printer cartridge is inserted into a house's phone box and the chosen phone wire is connected to it. That small box allows the line to receive DSL data. Allegedly, all I had to do was find the phone wire connected to the jack I wanted to move the wireless machines to.

Luckily, this was easier than it could have been. The house's original phone lines are all bundled together and they run through the walls. Without any markers, there's no way to know which line goes to which jack. The wire I wanted to use, however, is a new addition; it was run by the satellite TV service and hooked to a jack behind our TV. That line is stapled under our siding and runs into the crawlspace. I only needed to trace the chosen line from the jack back to the phone box. I traded connections, and we now have our router in out living room, providing us with a stronger signal for our PS3 and allowing us to stream Netflix. Done and done. We plan to send a gift certificate to the service lady.

I used the rest of the day to ink the card art. I used pens and felt pretty good about it until I got to eMMA's hair. I am weak at hair. I overworked it. I'll play with it in Photoshop as I color it.

Since scanning this, I tweaked her abs and added a shadow to Focus's face. It was there in pencils, but I held off on inking it. After a day of looking at the image, I added that shadow in ink. I had a much easier time drawing this in a larger size, and I look forward to working on this scale again.

Sunday morning, Your Sister awoke to more clogged ducts and lost all happiness. Because she caught it early, she knew how to tackle the problem before she grew very sore. Massage and heat were applied, and the deputy was put to work. There wasn't much milk available to him, and he cried the whole way through. About two hours into it, I heard a yelp from the guest bedroom and ran in to find Your Sister laughing and, well, streaming. The deputy had swallowed the plug, and milk was shooting out of her like water out of a balloon. It had shocked the baby, as unsolicited, nasal milk shots would to anyone, and Your Sister asked me to make sure it hadn't gotten on the wall behind her. Within 15 minutes, all the pressure was gone. A bib, onesie, and burp cloth were completely soaked. And Your Sister was greatly relieved. No cabbage was harmed. She's still a bit sore, and I bought her red velvet cake as a salve. Also, it might raise my blood pressure. Win-win.

We made the mistake of getting greedy with bedtime for the deputy. He resisted being put down too early, and his new fleece sleep outfit warms him too much. He howled and howled. I've also cemented my notion that he doesn't care for my reading to him. He prefers Your Sister's voice for this, and I'll drop my attempts at it and sing him to sleep. We're also talking about solid food and walkers. We thought he might be teething, but the baby books say this shouldn't happen for another three months. My Mom helpfully informed us that I teethed around three months, so we may be in the thick of it.