Monday, April 21, 2008

The Ruins

I always feel a little self-conscious and embarrassed whenever I buy mass-market paperbacks, especially at places like Powell's. As ridiculous as it sounds, I worry that the clerks are secretly judging me by my reading choices, and although there are days when my arms are piled high with Thomas Pynchon, various classics, and nonfiction ranging from historical examinations of Victorian England to the selected writings of artifical intelligence researchers, there are also days when all I sheepishly bring to the counter are fantasy novels and Stephen King paperbacks, maybe a Carl Hiassan book or two. All it takes is a twitch of the cashier's eyebrow and the faintest hint of a smirk to for me to flush and feel suddenly ashamed of my English major, like I should be reading something more intelligent instead of wasting my time on such (gloriously delightful!) trash literature.

Buying hardcore pornography would probably be less embarrassing. That's how big a deal this is.

Today wasn't too bad, though. I suspect buying a Jasper Fforde novel along with Scott Smith's The Ruins was a good idea, if only because it allowed me to preserve a little of my English major cred and save face in front of the clerk. I didn't bother telling her that the whole point of the Powell's expedition in the first place was to secure a copy of The Ruins. Certain things I won't admit to in public.

I wanted to read the book mostly because The Boy and I saw the movie over the weekend, and it was so delightfully silly that I had to see if the book was equally so. We went into the film with the lowest of low expectations -- there wasn't anything else out that we wanted to see and yet the idea of a movie in a movie theater was incredibly attractive -- and as a result, I was pleasantly surprised that there were a few decent thrills. It's not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a moderately entertaining little horror film, and I jumped more than a few times, much to The Boy's amusement.

The best part, though? Man-eating plants. That shit's awesome.

What cracks me up most is that The Boy is something of a carnivorous plant aficionado -- he's currently raising a bunch of different North American pitcher plants, and at various times he's also had sundews and miscellaneous fly-traps -- so now he's all gung-ho for me to read the book so I can (a) tell him how it is and (b) perhaps even let him borrow it, so that (c) he can determine whether the author did more research into carnivorous plants than the filmmakers did.

"My guess?" I told him. "Probably not."

"Still, though," he groused. "Green, leafy plants underground? What kind of shit is that? And there's no way vines like that could produce the kind of digestive enzymes you'd need to eat away human flesh so quickly!"

"You're cute when you get your geek on, you know that?"

"Pfft. Nah. Although that's another thing -- why vines? That makes no sense either." And with that, he was off again.

It probably says a lot about me as a person that instead of finding this annoying, I find it charming and the point where I am excited about reading the ridiculous book solely so I can share the good bits with him and -- if I'm lucky -- listen to him rant some more about the digestive properties of the average pitcher plant as compared to those of the plants in the fly-trap family.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stories of the City

Although I've slowly been cutting my caffeine intake, I'm still more addicted to the stuff than I should be. Unfortunately, I'm also out of coffee filters. In need of a coffee fix, I decided to wander down to Anna Bannanas on 21st, because they do this thing with espresso, dark chocolate syrup, and orange extract that's utterly, sinfully delicious.

Halfway there, I'm stopped by a gangly young man with Flock of Seagulls hair. He's got a painfully earnest expression, the sort I associate with border collies, and he carries a sheaf of photocopies in his hand. He tells me he's a wandering poet. The photocopies are his poems, he says, and in exchange for a small donation to his travel fund, he's giving signed copies of them to people. For when he gets famous.

He looks crestfallen when I tell him I don't have any cash on me. Maybe he could read me one for free? Feeling somewhat sorry for him, I acquiesce, and he shuffles through his photocopies until he comes to one about spring flowers and the smile of a particular girl, and, standing there on the sidewalk with people walking by, that black wing of hair falling into his eyes, he reads the poem aloud with the sort of shaky-voiced sincerity I'm normally a little embarrassed by, although for whatever reason I'm not embarrassed by it now. Maybe being with The Boy has softened my cynical little heart somewhat. It's not a very good poem, but it's clearly heartfelt, and I mean it when I thank him for reading it to me. He smiles happily and wishes me a good day, and we both go our respective ways: me, headed towards my coffee Nirvana; him, up the sidewalk with his photocopied poems.

Only in Portland.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fun with Drugs

I get sick maybe once in a blue moon, so I suppose it's fitting that when I do finally take ill, my body really goes for it. It's nothing more than a cold, but it's a fucking EVIL cold. Eeeeeevil. We're talking "I already ran out of Kleenex and now I'm halfway through a roll of toilet paper" evil.

At least my throat doesn't hurt as much as it did yesterday. I felt like I'd swallowed a nest of fire ants, which is never pleasant.

Anyway, I'm currently home from work and drugged to the gills, viewing the world through a strange, hazy fog of decongestants and lemon tea. We're having the sort of week where I'm probably going to get shit for taking a whole day off,'s not like I would've been that productive anyway:

"Hey, maybe Kathleen can help us!"
"No, she's just sitting in her chair, sneezing miserably and staring off into space."
"Oh. Fuck her, then."
"Yeah, fuck her! Her and her cold. Pffft."

...see, I do this thing where I make up conversations in my head a lot? I guarantee that by tomorrow, I will have convinced myself that this exchange really happened.

An Open Letter

Dear zombie authors and filmmakers:

First of all, I just want you to know that I love you. Okay? I really love you guys, fully and completely, with all of my heart. Not only will I defend your creations to the death, but I will argue for their cultural significance. Zombie fiction is a mirror. It matters. I will never, ever get tired of it.

That said, can we please dispense with the genre blindness already? I think that zombies have enough pop culture clout at this point that, should the dead spontaneously come back to un-life in order to devour the living, everyone has a pretty good idea of what to do. We've all watched the movies, read the books, seen the internet memes. Don't let them bite you. Destroy the brain. Head shots, head shots, head shots. Do you honestly expect us to believe no zombie movies exist anywhere in the fictional universes you create?

It's always the same. People are really, really surprised when the dead start coming back to life, and they spend a rather stupid amount of time trying to figure out how to kill them again. Yes, I have to admit that I'd be more than a little startled if zombies started lurching around Portland, but we should all know how to deal with this problem by now. Go for the brain! THE GODDAMN BRAIN! It takes characters forever to figure this out!

I would also like to take this moment to point out that while I appreciate fresh takes on the genre, like the not-quite-zombies of 28 Days Later or the notion of sentient zombies, I draw the line at zombies that can go invisible (
David Wellington, I'm looking at YOU!). I'm sorry. I just can't deal with that. I like to think I'm a fairly tolerant reader when it comes to suspension of disbelief and whatnot, but even I have my limits.

Seriously, though. Let's have some genre-savvy characters for once, hmm? Think of how much fun that could be! Characters who know exactly what the odds are and what they're up against! Wouldn't that be awesome?

Love always,
A Diehard Zombie Fan