Saturday, February 05, 2005

Classic Horror Stories: Entry No. 1

This weekend I read a volume of short stories called Classic Ghost Stories published by Dover. It was interesting how diverse this particular genre could be. There were stories that were sad, funny, literary, and downright chilling. Probably the most terrifying story was “The Judge House” written by Bram Stoker, best known for the story Dracula, which spawned a whole genre by itself.
There were actually moments in the same story where I laughed almost in the same breath as shuddering from the chill running down my spine. This is likely due to my joy at being scared by a good story. It is a sort of masochistic impulse, that desire to see how badly a story can scare me. I like stories that genuinely inspire fear in me. But it is equally entertaining to take the journey with the writer and to see exactly how they plot and plan their frights. Like “The Judge House”, Jerome K. Jerome definitely achieved that purpose with “A Ghost Story”. “Dickon The Devil” by the writer of the seminal tale “Camilla”, Sheridan LeFanu, inspires a chill touched by a sense of the strange and arcane. Along with the protagonist, we exit the tale feeling a sense of relief that we barely missed being a victim of the evil, ghostly presence haunting that small English village. “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs is more than just a ghost story. It is a tale of horror where the reader is spared full knowledge of that fearful yet unknown threat. And perhaps the “what ifs” are even more terrifying.
I found “The Moonlit Road” by Ambrose Bierce, a literary offering that is sad as opposed to frightening. Although it is a ghost story, it is first and foremost in my opinion a story about regret and loneliness. It is about the limitless repercussions of a thoughtless act of violence and it is particularly effective at showing the soul-deep despair that the survivors of that act feel. The ghostly victim is no less spared this desolation. The last story, “The Confession of Charles Linkworth” was both vividly disarming and poignant. This story deals with a lost soul who missed out on an opportunity in life to confess and find absolution before he is executed for murder. He is bound to this earthly realm until he is able to do so. Driven to complete this act, he reaches out to a doctor who volunteers in the prison and who is ‘sensitive’ to paranormal phenomena. This story illustrates the ability of a genre story to drive home the universal emotional core of humanity and the needs inherent as a human being. Charles Dickens’ “To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt” also touches on an intrinsic human need, justice. In this case, the ghost is the one in search of justice. And this ghost, the murder victim, is committed to haunting the jury foreman, the prosecutor, the judge, and various people in the courtroom until he achieves his goal. This work was interesting and subtle, but the end message struck me deeply. As far as humor, probably E.G. Swain’s “Bone to His Bone” tickled me the most, proving that even the heavy subject of a haunting can cause the reader to laugh. Perhaps it was the perplexity of the protagonist in dealing with this spectral presence who shares his house and love of books that provided the most comic relief. Yet along with that laugh came the unsettling knowledge that a force beyond the grave was at work.
While rather short, this collection of ghost stories definitely encompassed a variety of unique approaches to the delicate art of the scare. And they left me with a chill, a smile, and some thoughts to ponder.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Let's Talk The Men From Down Under

For purposes of simplification, I will discuss both the Aussies and the Kiwis in this talk. They are the actors from Australia and New Zealand that made me realize that Great Britain is not the only place from which actors with accents that make me happy cometh. These guys are good-looking, great actors, and have a laid back vibe that is unique to them.

The Aussies (Australians)

1.Hugh Jackman
2.Guy Pearce (born in England but grew up in OZ)
3.David Wenham
4.Simon Baker
5.Russell Crowe (he was born in NZ but grew up in Oz)
6.Trevor Goddard (God rest his soul)
7.Will Snow (he plays the fine Lord John Roxton on The Lost World on tv)
8.Heath Ledger
9.Eric Bana
10.Dominic Purcell (born in England but grew up in OZ)
11.Mel Gibson (born in NY, US but moved to Oz as a child)
12.Julian McMahon
13.Paul Mercutio
14.Noah Taylor
15.Hugo Weaving
16.Anthony LaPaglia
17.Jonathan LaPaglia
18.Costas Mandylor
19.Jesse Spencer (on House MD and officially a new inductee)

The Kiwis (New Zealanders)
1.Karl Urban
2.Marton Czokas
3.Sam Neill
4.Martin Henderson
5.Kevin Smith (God rest his soul)

I'm sure that there will be more...soon. These guys from Down Under are always breaking on the US movie and television scene.

Why Keanu?

I remember the moment when I realized that I would always love Keanu Reeves. It was during the opening credits of Point Break. The rain was falling down and this beautiful soaking-wet, young man came out and started shooting these targets. There is this one scene where he looks over his shoulder: the epitome of male beauty. That's how it started. Before that I saw a few of his roles and I like him but Point Break was the starting point of my one-sided love affair. Ever since then, Keanu has held a special place in my heart. I've gritted my teeth when people have disparaged his acting, calling him "Ted", again and again. Saying that he sounds like a surfer dude. I've rolled my eyes at peoples' comments about him being untalented. I've tried to ignore peoples' mean-spirited innuendoes about him being gay. And still I've loved him. And I always will. Why do I love him? Let me try to tell you.

1.He is totally unique--whether or not you like his acting or his looks, you would have to admit that there is only one Keanu Reeves.
  • Even his name is different. Keanu means "Cool Breeze Over The Mountains." Paired with Reeves, it's just very different sounding.
  • He's a delightful mix of English, Lebanese, and Chinese ethnicities.
  • Then there is his dulcet, low voice. Only one man speaks that particular way. I know his voice without even seeing him onscreen.
  • He also has a singular walk that I've never seen in another person. I find it very sexy.
  • What about his lack of shallow, materialistic Hollywood values? It was years before the man bought a house.
  • And as far as his acting career, you can't pigeonhole him. He's played naive boys in the first blush of love, a redneck wifebeater (very well too), drug addicts, a male hustler, a serial killer, a religious figure (twice if you count Neo), a cop, a world-weary demon fighter, a football player, even a sleazy Little League coach. Heck he even played the son of the Devil. How many actors can boost this filmography?

2.On to point two, did I mention that he's incredibly generous?

  • He lovingly takes care of his family--he's given limitless millions to help his sister Kim in her fight against cancer. He's bought homes for them too.
  • And on the set of the Matrix movies, he gave up part of his salary so that the crew could get paid more. And at the end of the shoot he bought each and every stuntman a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
  • He's even been caught on camera giving homeless people money.
  • He's also very generous with himself when he meets fans. He's always very friendly to fans and goes out of his way to be receptive to them. At Comic Con last year, he told a fan to come upstage even though the security didn't want him too. And he accepted her gift, a book that he already had with the gentle grace that personifies him.

3.I mentioned his film career but I'm going back there. When he takes a role, he is that person. He's not Keanu Reeves. He doesn't care about awards or recognition, he loves to act and he loves to be part of the movie-making process. It's not about the money to him. And I've never seen a better kisser on the big screen. Whenever I see him kiss a co-star, I fervently wish I was that lucky actress. His passion is evident and seductive to the viewer.

4.He doesn't let anyone define who he should be.

  • How many rumors have the faithful fans heard about him being gay? He doesn't deny it because he doesn't care what people think about him.
  • As far as his music career, he did that out of love for it, not for recognition. Seeing him play with Dogstar, I can tell you that he was into it. He wasn't there for him to be the star of the show.

5.He's low key in his private life.

  • He's not one of those stars who eagerly courts public moments so his picture will be in all the movie magazines. He lives his life just out of the limelight.
  • And the man doesn't kiss and tell. He's notoriously private about his love life. Sure there are rumors but he's not on the front page of US Weekly and The Enquirer like a lot of actors and actresses.

6.Okay, I won't deny that his physical beauty is a big part of it. I couldn't deny it.

  • He has this wonderful, soulful face with beautiful dark eyes that have a slight Asian tilt to them.
  • That dark, luxurious hair that makes you want to run your fingers through it.
  • The mysterious smile of his that makes a grown woman sigh.
  • He's so tall and lithe. Sometimes he's muscular and sometimes he's almost too thin, but he's always physical and alive. For that reason he's so great at those roles that demand physicality like The Matrix movies or Speed.

My love for Keanu has spanned almost twenty years. I've enjoyed watching many of his films...from The Night Before to the upcoming Constantine. And it keeps growing. Just seeing the joy and the modest thanks on his face when he got his Star on the Walk of Fame on Jan 31 enriched my love for him. I cried for him when he lost his daughter and his ex-girlfriend. I suffer with him about his sister who has cancer. I can identify because my dad died of cancer. Whether he's Neo or Constantine or Jack Traven, he's always going to be the one and only Keanu Reeves. My favorite actor ever. In some small way a part of my life. If you know me you know how much I love him. So I guess you know by now why I love Keanu. Maybe I didn't convince you , but at least you won't have to ask anymore.

Black History Month

This is the month dedicated to remembering all the accomplishments that Black people made in this country. Too bad it's just one month. I want to definitely take advantage of the opportunity this month and every month. Because of my Black forefathers and mothers I can vote, work, live, and be free in this country. And not just Black people benefitted from the actions of these courageous people, this whole country and every American did too. Did you know that Charles Drew came up with a way to store blood products as plasma? He was a Black man. He did this for all people, not just his own people. And the powers that be had the nerve to say that the blood had to be stored according to race because they didn't want Whites getting blood from Black people. Crazy but true.
Did you know that the first person to reach the North Pole was a Black man? His name was Matthew Henson. Although he was denied credit by his colleague, he did reach the North Pole first.
Did you know that the person who designed the layout for Washington D.C. was a former slave? Frederick Douglass, a Black man did this.
How about this: The first casualty of the Revolutionary War was Crispus Attucks, a Black man.
Bulldogging the sport of steer wrestling was invented by Bill Pickett, who was a Black man.
Do you know who The Black Moses is? She's Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who went on to serve as a scout and spy for the Union Army and to free 300 slaves through harrowing trips back and forth from the South using the Underground Railroad, and she never lost a slave!
Rosa Parks is a hero because she refused to give up her seat to a White person on the bus, leading to the hugely successful bus boycotts that helped to declare segregation on the buses illegal.
George Washington Carver invented over 300 uses for the peanut in his ground-breaking studies on crop rotation that helped to restore fields that were depleted by cotton crops. Another Black man.
I could go on and on about what Black people have done for this country and for all the citizens.
On the radio a couple of weeks ago, there was a man complaining about the fact that Martin Luther King Jr's birthday was celebrated as a holiday because he didn't recognize the significance of what he did for this country. Well, I don't think there was any question about that. Ever heard of the Nobel Peace Prize, the March on Washington, the "I Have A Dream Speech?" Then you can see why he deserved to have a holiday in his honor. He brought to the forefront the fact that a rampant injustice was going on in this country of so-called liberty: American citizens were being treated worse than illegal immigrants. Blacks were considered second class citizens. They had to use separate and often inferior facilities, they were forced to sit at the back of buses when they paid the same fares as Whites, and they were denied the same jobs and opportunities as other American citizens. He fought and died so that there would be liberty for all people, not just Black people. By organizing boycotts, sit-ins and demonstrations, his work led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So yes, he deserves a day in his honor.
There is so much yet to learn about the history of Black people in this country, and the mere 28 days in February is only a good starting point to learn it.