Tag Archives: memories

Being Quiet

The days I remind myself to shut up

seem to expand.

A brave new world of vast global communication

and still I hear this message inside and out to be quiet,

Stop talking

You’re blathering

Nobody cares what you’re interested in.

The voices come mostly from inside, I suspect.

Echoes of my father’s “I don’t want to hear any more about it.”

Echoes of my mother’s “You don’t have to tell me about every single thing.”

But then how and where does this lonely country only child share?

Not in school. “Stop talking.”

Not with friends. “Nobody’s interested in that stuff.”

Not a church. “You ask too many questions.”

 

Ultimately it come to this: a pen, a notebook,

a keyboard, a file,

a blog spiraling its way into the vast emptinesses of hope

to friends I’ve never met

people I’ll never know

other voices needing to be heard.

All of us crying into the darkness in a desperate attempt

not to shut up.

 

– By Judy Wall Crump, 2012

Please don’t reproduce without credit. Thanks.

 

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Oh, the Horror! Part 1

I like scary movies. Sometimes. Some kinds of scary movies. I’ve been thinking about movies that I actually found scary, and it’s not as many as you might think.

First, here’s how I categorize scary movies:

1 – The “BOO” movie. These are the ones that count on surprising you to make you jump. You know those horrible videos that make the rounds on the internet, where you’re told to watch something harmless “VERY” closely and you’ll see some small thing, like an animal or a ghost or whatever? So you’re watching closely and suddenly some awful monster image shrieks into the screen and scares the bejeezus out of you? That’s a BOO scare.

I hate those. If I think it’s nothing but a BOO movie, I  won’t watch it.

2 – The Gross-Out movie. These are the movies that count on gore, death, gory death, close-ups of mutilations and gory tortures and the like and call it scary. No. Not scary. Gross and disgusting, yes. Vomitous, yes. I’m looking at you, “Saw” and “Hostel” and all your kin. Those things aren’t horror movies, they’re just sickening.

If I think it’s a gross-out movie, I won’t watch it.

Which leaves 3 – the Scary Movie. I define scary as something that involves tension, characters I care about, an element of creepiness or the unexplainable, and something that makes me want to hide behind a pillow or watch between my fingers.

Before I move on into the movies, I have a confession to make. I’ve never seen a movie that scared me as much as two short stories have. If you want to understand what real horror is, I recommend “It’s a Good Life,” by Jerome Bixby and “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison.

The first movie I can remember  being really scared by was the 1941 “Wolfman.” When I was just a little girl, it was showing on TV one day. All I remember is  hiding behind my Uncle Dock on the couch and being scared.

In 1958, “The Blob” showed in one of the theaters in Amory (yes, there were more than one back then). My Mom and my Aunt Bob went to see it and they took me and my two-years-older cousin with them. I would have been about 3 at the time, and all I remember from that was being scared and hiding under my Mom’s legs. Oh, and the theater floor was really sticky. Some things never change.

The next movie I can remember really being terrified by wasn’t technically a horror movie at all. Sometime in the early ’60s I saw on TV the 1953 version of “The Great Houdini,” starring Tony Curtis. I was so totally freaked out by his magic tricks and especially the thought of being trapped underwater that I had nightmares for weeks. That was weird.

After that came a long dry spell of uber-religiousity and no movies except what made it onto TV. I learned to love Alfred Hitchcock and found “Lifeboat,” “Rear Window” and “The Birds” to be nicely chilling. The first horror movie I saw on the big screen after that was “Halloween” in 1978. Holy cow. I was scared witless! I still think the original “Halloween” is the scariest of that whole bunch and never needed to be remade. I saw “Halloween” in Cincinnati on a weekend night when flash flooding was slamming the area and my friends and I had to drive back to West Virginia in the foggy rain in the middle of the night after watching “Halloween.” Yeah, it was a seminal experience. LOL

The next year, I was so terrified by the TV ads for “Alien” that I had nightmares and was afraid to go see the movie itself. When I finally worked up the nerve, it was, in fact, scary as all get-out. I still find it scary, and  I’ve probably seen it four times now. Just for the fun of it,  here’s  a list of movies I’ve found worthy of being called a “scary movie.”

* The Shining, until the end when it did something so different from the book that it jarred me entirely out of the mood.

* The Thing (1982), which has a wonderful tense and paranoid feeling going on until the special effects monkeys got out of the box and spoiled it with silly monsters.

* Freaks, directed by Tod Browning, 1932. “One of us, one of us…”

* Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956. I think this one is more or less a perfect horror movie. No monsters. No explosions. No gore. Just sheer nail-biting tension and queasy fear.

* Village of the Damned, 1960. Who could watch those sinister all-alike children and not be creeped out?

* The Innocents, 1961. Arguably the best ghost story movie ever made. Based on “The Turn of the Screw.”

* Carnival of Souls, 1962. I only saw this movie last year for the first time, and I have to say that it’s weird and creepy. It probably wouldn’t be scary or surprising to a contemporary movie fan, but for its time it was out there. Way out there.

* The Haunting, 1963. Based on Shirley Jackson’s classic “The Haunting of Hill House,” this movie still has power to scare the pants off the unwary. It was remade sometime in the ’90s, I think, but that version is wretched. The original still holds power to mesmerize, to draw you in and leave you as heart-thumping terrified as the unfortunate people who come to stay in a haunted house. This would still go on my list of Top Ten Scariest Movies Ever.

* Scariest movie I never saw: “Night of the Living Dead.” When it came out in 1968, I didn’t want to be anywhere near it. One of my cousins, who was just a bit older than me, went to see it and then told me the whole thing! Aaaargh! So I got the nightmares without even seeing the movie. Still haven’t seen it. Probably never will.

* The Wicker Man, 1973. The makers battled studios and everyone to get this made the way they wanted it, and it’s a creepy masterpiece. Do NOT be fooled by the remake with Nicholas Cage. *shudder* “The Wicker Man” depicts a modern man running headlong into an ancient and isolated way of life, and it remains eerie, with a surprising, maybe even shocking, ending.

* Carrie, 1976. Needless to say, this one hit a little too close to home for a chick who grew up in an uber-religious setting. Man, did I feel for Carrie. Her rage was frighteningly cathartic.

* The Omen, 1976. “All for you, Damien!” Need I say more? This one has a bit more  gore than is absolutely necessary, but it’s fairly easy to see it coming and close your eyes.

* An American Werewolf in London, 1980. This one is a bit more gory than I like, but it carries it off with such wit and charm that it’s impossible not to like it. And really good music. 😀

* Poltergeist, 1982. The tree. Need I say more? Okay. The clown doll. Yeah. Go calm down. I’ll wait here for you.

* Cujo, in 1983, reminded me anew that I was terrified of big  dogs. Dammit, Stephen King, that was not necessary!

* Aliens, 1986. Ripley in the orange mecha suit facing down the queen monster.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so empowered as by that scene. And I love Ripley, totally.

* Prison. A 1988 haunted prison movie that I bet you’ve never even heard of. I wouldn’t have either, except that my crazed fandom of Viggo Mortensen drove me to search it out. It’s a decent scary movie, directed by Renny Harlin.

* Jacob’s Ladder, 1990. One of the rare movies that affect me and my husband equally strongly. We couldn’t even talk after it was over, just walked out to the car in a daze and drove… somewhere… in a daze. Emotionally wrenching, the exterior horror elements of demons and whatnot never overpower the interior horror that the main cast members are going through. Another for my Top Ten list.

* The same year, “Misery.” Kathy Bates is awesomely terrifying as the “very best fan” of a stranded writer. *shudder*

* The Reflecting Skin, 1990. This post-World War II story twines the stories of a younger brother who’s become fascinated by the idea of vampires and an older brother who’s home from the Pacific following the deaths of their parents. Child abuse, vampirism, lonely love and the aftermath of bombing in the Pacific mingle to make an eerie, tragic story. Hard to find. This is another Viggo movie.

* The Kingdom. This was released  as an eight-part TV series in Denmark in 1994. Directed by Lars Von Trier, it’s eccentric, haunting, funny, terrifying … everything you could want from a horror movie. If you can, watch the Danish original. There was an American remake later, with Stephen King, and while it’s okay I find it’s not nearly a effective as the original. Even with subtitles.

Ooops, out of time. Will finish this later, maybe  tomorrow.

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Hey Hey, We’re the Fundies!

I spent the formative years of my life being forced to attend, a minimum of three times every week, a church that was so far right it believed that Southern Baptists were evil, liberal heathens. Yeah, you read that right.

Ever heard of Bob Jones University? We believed that fine institution was too liberal.

No kidding. It was an evangelical, premillenial, independent Baptist church. Theologically and socially, it was somewhere to the right of Rick Santorum. This week, when I was thinking about the lessons I learned from The Monkees, I also pondered the lessons I learned in church. It wasn’t all bad. There were some truly sweet people and at least three people that I actually considered to be Christians. But the lessons I learned from all those years in the fundamentalist tent have haunted me ever since.

* Obey authority without question. All authority. Always.

* Do what you’re told.

* Don’t ask questions. (This was a big one.)

* Accept your fate.

* Do what you’re told.

* Any personal dreams or hopes you might have don’t  matter.

* Movies and TV are godless and Satanic, but it’s perfectly okay for preachers to deliver sermons that cause nightmares for weeks. Yes, this happened, more than once. The one I *still* have nightmares about now and then is the one where communists arrest my mom and make me watch while they stick needles in her eyes and nails in her ears. Yes, this was a sermon. I was maybe 10 or 11 years old.

* Do what you’re told.

* The best sermons/testimonials are the ones where the person spends 9/10s of the time talking about their lives of sin, in detail, and then wrap it up with a little bit of praise God I got saved. Those were almost as good as TV/movies.

* It’s possible for a preacher to break my Daddy’s heart.

* “Mean Girls” have nothing on Christian girls.

* Do what you’re told.

* Two-faced is normal.

* Sly hypocrisy and underhanded meanness are apparently Christian acts.

* Do what you’re told.

I was about 25 years old before I finally managed to break free of that quicksand horseshit, and it’s the reason I’m as liberal as I am today. I’m not anti-Christian: I just don’t see many of them around. I just see way too many hypocritical Pharisees.

In some ways, I miss church. It’s nice having that church family around. But I won’t go there again. Until I find a church that preaches love, compassion and acceptance, I won’t be darkening any church doors. I doubt that God minds. If He does, She’s never mentioned it to me and we talk all the time.

Hey Hey, I’m Free!

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Kickstarter

In an attempt to raise enough money to rent space for my writing workshops, maybe advertise them a little, and print up a small booklet of some of the resulting writing, I’ve signed up to try and start a project on Kickstarter.com. No idea how it will work or if it will work, but I really miss teaching and I don’t have the money it will take to schedule the workshops. I’ve got the money I made from selling hats at the Windows Market, but less taxes and charity and existing expenses, there’s not enough for the workshops.

So maybe this Kickstarter thing will work. I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Oh, and also … I’m giving my Freedom manuscript one more thorough onceover, and after the first of the year I plan to start sending it out. Feel free to send me any good wishes you have lying around unused.

 

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Be Quiet!

I  was five years old when I started school. There was no such thing as kindergarten in rural Mississippi back then, so thanks to my December birthday I started first grade at age five. To be honest, I don’t remember much about first grade, but I do remember two things.

One, at some point I was given a printed-out copy of a drawing of a Scottie dog to color. With due diligence, I colored said Scottie perfectly, completely black … with a red collar. I recall someone – new teacher? mom? – saying something along the lines of “That’s not very cheerful.” To which I replied, more or less, “It’s a Scottie dog. They’re black.” This continued for a bit with comments about bright colors and comments about yes, but it’s a Scottie dog and they’re black.

I would not be moved.

So that’s the first thing I remember from first grade. I had a tendency to be stubborn and could be argumentative. And I knew, dang it, that Scottie dogs were black.

The second thing I remember from first grade is that I got in trouble a fair amount, and always for the same thing – talking.

Don’t talk.

Be quiet.

Stop talking.

Sit in the hall until I say you can come back in.

Give me your hand (for the ruler swat).

Always about talking. I made perfect grades, did whatever I was told, was a class leader, read all the time, but still played sports on the playground at recess. But I liked to talk, and it kept me in trouble through my whole first year’s encounter with formal education.

At some point in that first-grade year, I decided that talking just wasn’t worth the trouble, so I shut up. I didn’t really speak in school much for the next 12 years. I wrote. I talked to my cat, and to my short-term dog. I talked to myself, while wandering the fields and woods around my home. But I didn’t talk in school.

Talking has always been my Achilles’ heel. I like to talk with people. It made me a pretty decent reporter, and a more than okay teacher, but it just keeps me in trouble with people who don’t talk much.

I talk too much. I blab on. I babble.

So I’m told, even now. Guess it’s time to shut up again, and start writing it all down. And talking to the dog. Heck, I can get a fake ear-phone-thingie and talk to myself even in public, and nobody will think I’m some kind of lunatic.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Be quiet.

Thanks.

 

P.S. Scottie dogs ARE black, dang it. And I’ve colored outside the lines ever since. So there. 😀

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Kind words live a long time

When my husband says to me, “I’m proud of you for how hard you fight,” meaning the ongoing battle against manic-depression, that makes me feel about two feet taller and twice as strong. When he says, “I’m glad you’re so good at keeping the house clean enough,” that makes me happy, too. I know I’m not a great housekeeper, so “clean enough” is high praise.

When my daughter says to me, “All my friends think you’re really cool,” well… who wouldn’t be flattered? Seriously. When she thanks me, in her way, for giving her four years of extra attention and all the education I could manage to squeeze into a homeschooling setting, that makes life worth living.

But I was challenged to think of the best compliment I ever received, and after some pondering, I think it has to come down to two.

In college, I minored in Speech and Theater. I loved everything about it, from solo performances to big plays to painting sets to doing makeup to competing in Forensics Tournaments. I had a bit of a crush on one teacher. Heck, I think every female in the department had a crush on him, and maybe some of the (deeply closeted at Bible college) males. He was tough and demanding, but he wasn’t afraid to give some praise if needed.

During my last semester, I didn’t have any classes with him or contact with him at all. I’d changed from glasses to contacts, done a mind-blowing student teaching job, and among a lot of other things, took part in a production staged by a graduating friend. In the line after the show, which was a one-shot thing, this teacher came up to me, looked at me as if he’d never seen me before, and said, “You were wonderful. And you look lovely.”

Well. Well well well. That was unexpected, and I walked on air for several days after that. All the way through graduation, in fact.

But cool as it was, that’s not my favorite compliment.

For just under ten years, I taught college. I taught journalism and writing and mass media history, among other things. It was early on during that part of my career that I received my best compliment ever. A student lingered after class and said to me, “Y’know, I never thought about it that way before.”

Can a teacher receive a better compliment?

What are we there for, as teachers, if not to help our students see things in ways they’ve never seen them before? Whether an equation, a diagrammed sentence, a previously despised book, a lab experiment or a different slant on some segment of history, teachers make it clear. They make it understood. A good teacher opens doors in minds, not so she can fill them with her own opinions, but so they have room to consider a larger portion of the immense world.

“I never thought about it that way before.” The best compliment ever. I’m honored to have gotten it more than once.

Truth is, I miss it something fierce. Teaching, I mean. Next time around, I’d like to be a teacher again, letting fresh air into sometimes sludgy minds.

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