HBO’s ‘The Leftovers’ and childhood trauma

HBO’s new series, The Leftovers, looks very intriguing. And a little scary. After roughly 2% of the world’s population disappears in a rapture-like event, the show follows what happens to those who remain behind. This reminds me a bit too much of the movies I was forced to watch as a child while attending a Southern Baptist school.

I grew up without television, so when our teachers decided to show us a movie it was usually a treat. Not only did we get to feast our hungry eyes upon delicious cartoons like Bambi, we got to skip the monotony of classroom activities. Unfortunately, the movie selection wasn’t always so innocuous.

While still in elementary school, we were shown A Thief In The Night and A Distant Thunder – films that detailed the Rapture and the horrifying events that followed. These movies not only showed people being forced to receive the Mark of the Beast, but what would happen to those who refused. The first movie in the series had a particularly haunting song that is stuck in my head to this very day.

There’s no time to change your mind; the Son has come and you’ve been left behind. I wish we’d all been ready.
Children died, the days grew cold. A piece of bread would buy a bag of gold. I wish we’d all been ready.

Because the Holiness church had taught me nothing about the Rapture but everything about what would happen in the End Times, I knew I would be one of those who was left behind to either take the Mark or be put to death. I wept hysterically throughout both films, so much so that my teacher mistook my tears for a desire to be born again. She led me in prayer a couple of times, but soon realized she was getting nowhere and told me to talk it over with my parents when I got home.

Needless to say, it was a traumatizing experience. Almost as bad as the time my aunt and uncle (also Baptists) showed my family a video of people dying in car accidents and going to hell. Good times.

So, it is with trepidation that I am actually looking forward to watching The Leftovers. Hopefully I have watched enough horror movies and reality television over the past 20 years to desensitize myself.

Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’

Last Wednesday evening, I donned a wig, fedora, red satin jacket, black surgical mask, and a sequined glove to go watch Michael Jackson’s This Is It – a documentary chronicling the King of Pop’s last days. Before leaving, I jokingly referred to the four people accompanying me as my “entourage.” It turned out to be not far from the truth when they almost had to drag me to the car a few hours later.

As soon as we arrived at the theater, two women spotted me and freaked out. As other fans arrived, several began to ask if they could either photograph me or have their picture taken with me. Some brought their children to greet me, whispering in my ear that they wouldn’t know the difference. This scene continued up until we were able to go into the theater and grab some seats on the top row.

I had been looking forward to seeing this film for weeks, and it exceeded all my expectations. I saw Michael Jackson as I had never seen him before – a man in charge of the smallest detail, but a human being who was full of love and graciousness towards others and filled with concern for our planet. I have no doubt that the concerts he was rehearsing for would have been some of the best that the world had ever seen. It’s a shame that this is the closest we will ever get to seeing the final product, but also a blessing that his death has exposed so many more people to his message.

I had been expecting to have a strong emotional response to the film, but found myself only tearing up a few times – once when Michael referenced his brothers and parents, and again when he sang a few lines of “Speechless.” MJ was thin, but amazingly energetic and his voice was flawless. It was much easier to be enthralled than emotional.

As the film ended and we made our way toward the exit, people once again started coming up and asking me for photos. I met one very nice lady who insisted her kids stand beside me for a picture. She adjusted my hair, stood beside me for a snapshot, and then gave me a hug as other fans gathered around with cell phones and cameras pointed in our direction. She began talking about what a wonderful person Michael was and her eyes welled up with tears. As she walked away, I heard her daughter ask, “Mom, are you sure that’s not Michael Jackson?”

After posing outside the building with a few more beaming MJ fans, my partner insisted that I go to the car. I was getting quite a head rush from my five minutes of fame and also felt inspired that so many people in my area are fans of Michael Jackson.

There is an instant kinship among Michael’s fans. We understand what it means to love someone that the world considered to be outside the concept of normal. We know what it’s like to be ridiculed for having that appreciation, and to constantly have to defend someone whom most of us never even had the privilege of meeting in person. As crazy as it might have seemed to some, I felt honored that these people allowed me to be their substitute for the evening; a way in which they could continue to physically cling to the thing they miss the most.

Random thoughts

I hate winter. I used to like it, but the ice storm we had in January completely changed my perspective.

I heard on the radio the other day that two books in the Bible, Esther and Song of Solomon, don’t mention God. Strange.

Pineapple Express is so freakin’ funny.

I am learning to not judge my paternal grandparents so harshly. They are who they are, and they aren’t going to change any more than I am. I’ve been spending quite a bit more time with them since going to work for my father, and it never fails to amaze me how physically fragile they have become.

We have been doing little projects around the house lately. One of the things we are planning to start within the next few weeks is replacing all the stained/varnished doors and trim with white.

Chris Brown is an idiot… and so is Rihanna for going back to him.

Do they really expect people to not continue calling it the Sears Tower?

Honey went with his mother to put their dog to sleep yesterday. Sparky had been with the family ever since he was a puppy and remained there after both Honey and his sister grew up and moved out of the house. Needless to say, it’s a great loss for all of them, but especially his mom.

I played Poker for the first time last night when we stopped by the home of our friends, Todd and Kelly. It all seemed terribly confusing at first, but I did pretty good once I figured out it was all about the ability to bluff.

I am making the switch from Microsoft Expression Web to Macromedia Dreamweaver for managing websites. It’s quite a bit different visually, but I think it will be far superior once I get used to it.

Right here, right now

I remember one morning getting up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself, ‘So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And, of course, there will always be more.’ It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.

Meryl Streep, ‘The Hours’

Blogbits

Debt – As of yesterday, I am officially free of credit card debt! I had over $6000 of charges racked up this time last year, so the relief I feel is exquisite.

Cats – I cannot stand having pets in the house. Don’t get me wrong… I love my cats, but life has become a constant cycle of lint rollers, cleaning up cat vomit, and scooping litter boxes. I’m beginning to think that it’s really not worth all the effort.

The Strangers – This was one of the most suspenseful, terrifying movies that I’ve ever seen. I screamed so loud that we were afraid the neighbors might call the police.

Neighbor – Our 90-year-old neighbor took an ambulance ride to the emergency room last night because she was feeling really bad. Turns out the bottom number of her blood pressure was only eighteen! This resulted in her temporarily losing her vision, but after a full checkup and some fluids, she was able to return home around 1 o’clock this morning.

Wal-Mart Sucks – I know I shop at WM way too much, but what other alternatives do I have in this pathetic town? Anystore, I found a bed-in-a-bag set that I really liked and bought it last night. Today, after washing the sheets twice with fabric softener to get them nice and comfy, I discovered that a Wal-Mart “queen” must be a completely different size than anywhere else. The sheets wouldn’t even begin to fit on our bed.

‘As Good as it Gets’

A few nights ago we watched the film As Good As It Gets, which stars Jack Nicholson as an author battling OCD. I’ve seen it several times, but always thoroughly enjoy it.

During one scene, Nicholson stands in the waiting room of his psychiatrist’s office, looks around at those suffering from unknown ills and disorders, and asks the pertinent question, “What if this is as good as it gets?”

That made me think a bit. I’m always looking for something better, banking on someday. Someday we’ll have the house we want, someday we’ll be out of debt, someday we’ll be able to get married.

Even though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having dreams of a better tomorrow, I do think it’s sad that I can’t live in the moment and be satisfied with what I am currently blessed with.

With the cost of living skyrocketing while the economy goes down the tubes, it is quite possible that this is as good as it gets, so I’m going to try to be a little more thankful and content with all that God has given me.

Eternal embrace

It was a chilly but sunny day a little over two years ago when, on a whim, Honey and I decided to drive over two hours to the nearest movie theater that was featuring Brokeback Mountain. The film company was rolling the movie out slowly, part of an ingenious marketing strategy that used word of mouth as its main form of advertising. Online message boards were buzzing with tidbits and spoilers about this groundbreaking film that featured two gorgeous, young Hollywood actors in the most unexpected roles.

We arrived early, took our seats at the rear of the theater, and then watched in amazement as the room filled to capacity. Not bad for a film showing in the middle of the day and dealing with a controversial subject.

But that was what was so astounding about the movie; aside from a brief physical scene early in the film, there was nothing that seemed to make anyone in the theater the least bit uncomfortable. This was a story about love, and love doesn’t always fit into our preconceived and somewhat narrow-minded formulas.

While most of the film’s hype had been centered around the tall, dark, and handsome Jake Gyllenhaal, it was Mr. Ledger that caught my attention. He was quiet, brooding, and tortured – probably a reflection of his personality off-camera – and it was terribly easy to fall in love with him.

The saddest part of the film was the ending, where a lonely and dejected Ledger weeps as he looks at a pair of shirts hanging on his closet door – a tattered denim shirt that once belonged to his lover, now hanging embraced inside one of his own.

The news this evening was a shocking lesson in reality, and a reminder that money and fame almost never brings true happiness. I couldn’t help picturing Heath in a terrible moment of despair, something akin to the pain he portrayed in the film. Some reports say that he had been having trouble sleeping recently after playing a rather demonic character in an upcoming movie, which might explain the sleeping pills found by his side.

Many people believe that suicide is a mortal sin, one that will surely send the perpetrator to a place of eternal damnation. I disagree. I just can’t believe that a loving God would punish a person for trying to end their pain. I prefer to think that much like those two shirts at the end of Brokeback Mountain, right now, somewhere up in heaven, God has Heath all wrapped up in his love.