Friday, November 30, 2012

Wisconsin 2

I'm going to do two short posts in a row to get the rest of the Wisconsin pictures out of the way. 

1. Amusement in Wisconsin Dells

We spent most of the second day at Devil's Lake State Park in Baraboo, in the central part of the state, about an hour to 75 minutes from our home base. As it is the most popular of all the Wisconsin State Parks as well as I believe the oldest, it has something of an iconic status there. The lake was similar to the kinds of places we go to at home and unfortunately it was 99 degrees so it was too hot to hike, especially with two babies in backpacks and a five year old, but I still enjoyed it, as I am interested in what people and doing things are like in different places. The beach and picnic area were a lot bigger and much more crowded than you would see in most similar places in New Hampshire or Vermont. The park store sold beer (of the Budweiser/Miller variety) and people were drinking it right out in public all over the place, which I liked, as it reminded me of being in Europe. Usually if you carry a couple of beers into a park in New Hampshire and drink them subtly away from the main paths and without making a spectacle of yourself nobody will harass you but technically I don't think you are supposed to have them. Wisconsin people seem to largely contain whatever rowdiness they indulge in within their private group, and tend not to be confrontational towards strangers, so it was an easy place for me to hang out.

2. Mirror Maze at the Dells

The guys missed going to the Mirror Maze in Tennessee I guess. Wisconsin Dells was about a half-hour up the road from the park and it is a fairly infamous tourist hell/amusement mecca akin to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge so we took the children there for a couple of hours because of course these kinds of outrageous places with block upon block of over the top amusements are exciting to them.

3. A Last Wisconsin Dells Picture

4. More Dramatic Prairieland, Seen From Car.

I thought the landscape was quite beautiful and striking there. It had not rained in something like 2 months when we were there and these clouds hovered teasingly over the parched landscape for several hours before  finally letting out about a ten minute shower, which didn't do much. The next day however, there was a quite heavy storm in the afternoon and evening which lasted three or four hours that was much welcomed by the local populus.

5. Next Morning, In the Yard Behind Our Rented Historic Farmhouse

I had wanted to find some kind of moderately placed cabin or old style family accomodation such as we had stayed in in Alabama and Tennessee and I was having a hard time, partly because I started so late in the season and partly because there were not a lot of places like that in the area I wanted to stay in (around Madison) as I guess that is not a big area for tourism. But I found this place on a site called and it sounded too good to be true, being an entire house, old (but with completely up-to-date renovations and furnishings) and quite inexpensive, especially by the standards of the northeast. But it was for real, and even in late June there was still a four day block of dates open in mid-July. So it was quite a stroke of luck that we ended up staying here.

6. Background Patio. We Didn't Hang Out Much Out Here Because It Was Still 99 Degrees Every Day.

Mercifully the house had air conditioning. The owners of this house lived in the barn, which had also been most attractively renovated, across the yard. The gentleman was a minister of some kind, I cannot remember the denomination--I don't think it was Lutheran--I believe retired, as he looked to be at least 70. His wife was quite a bit younger, probably somewhere in her 50s. I needed to replace one of my tires, and the man was extremely helpful, and found a place where I could get a decent used one for $40 without getting the usual hassle about I needed to replace all my other ones too. He even went out to the place with me. There was a prominent poster up advertising an upcoming tobacco festival that was sponsored by a cigarette company and all of that, which he stared at rather intently for several minutes so that I thought he was going to be roused to anger and go off on a long declamation about this event, which old people sometimes will do out of nowhere when something agitates them. However after taking in all of the information he merely stepped back and told me that tobacco was the main crop in that part of the state and quite a big deal and how worrisome the ongoing drought was and so on. The bit about tobacco growing being prominent in the area surprised me, but after that I paid closer attention to all the farms we were driving by and indeed it was so.

7. View From the Backyard "Prairie" of the House, Barn and Weathervane.

There is another picture of the weathervane in the next group. It was an awesome weathervane. Nobody in New England seems to have anything like it. I don't know why.

8. Flower Identification is Not My Strong Suit

The minister's wife (I did not find out what her profession was--she was a little more businesslike than her husband--or I assure you I would refer to her by her own position). had carefully arranged this wild looking and very beautiful garden over about a fifteen year period; she admitted that we were seeing it in something close to its perfectly realized condition. I don't usually go in much for vegetation pictures, but these seem quite vivid and interesting, set off against the totally parched grass and something in the effect makes you feel how hot it was. It's a telling picture.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two Weeks Worth of Wasted Writing

This article was recently linked to from a Facebook account affiliated with my alma mater--which itself usually sticks to lighter topics--and several things in it, and as well in the discussion among our own alumni commentators, caught my attention.

The article is about another article, written by a former student at Amherst College and published in that school's newspaper, about the writer's having been raped by another student in a dorm room, and the college's inadequate response to it. We are informed that the rapist's friends were standing outside the door laughing while he committed his offense, and that 'an underground fraternity...printed T-shirts featuring a cartoon of a bruised, bikini-clad woman roasting like a pig over an open fire'. Allusions were also made in the original article to 'multiple serial rapists, men who raped more than five girls' at the school over the last fifteen years, who despite their crimes being apparently well known, were, it is implied, allowed to continue at the school with a modicum of inconvenience.

My initial reaction, predictably, was surprise, not that so much that rapes were taking place on a college campus, even at a place like Amherst, but that the culture there--especially in the part of the country where I live the school is regarded as one of those occupying a plane of human existence that is incomprehensible to people who have not ascended to that level--should in any of its parts take such a low and artless tone. I also at first glance had the impression that this was all the doing of those usual suspects, jocks,  lacrosse players especially, and this also surprised me because Amherst's athletic program competes at about the lowest level possible and I wouldn't have imagined their players to think of themselves as extra- entitled or superior as a result of their prowess as their counterparts at Duke or The University of Virginia; but on reading the article more carefully, I found no indication that the men involved were in fact athletes. (Still, I think it probable that they were, as the author of the piece indicated that she was an athlete, and female athletes, if they like men, seem to me to be especially inclined to party with male athletes or jock types as opposed to intellectuals of a less aggressive and physically dominant nature, whom I would assume would constitute some significant part of the male student body at a school like Amherst). With regard to the college's handling of the case, they obviously were not comforting or reassuring to the traumatized woman in the least, though it sounds like most of the administrators the author dealt with at least were women, and the president of the college was even a scholar in feminist and gender theory: i.e., the sort of person one would expect to be more than usually sensitive to this issue and eager both to identify and make an example of the perpetrator  and to eradicate all aspects of the social environment that may have encouraged such behavior. As far as I can make out, the opinion of the original writer, and ensuing that of most of the respectable portion of the broader public, seems to be that even if the school had no legal grounds to expel or seek prosecution against the alleged rapist, that it could have expressed more vehement outrage and support for women who are victims of these sorts of circumstances, and taken more forceful steps to show the obnoxious frat crowd that their attitudes and conduct towards the same were not going to be tolerated on campus any longer.

Did I imagine that this sort of thing never happened at my school? Perhaps one does imagine so much of the time, but periodically you will hear whispers, or louder assertions, that such incidents have taken place; sometimes there is even police involvement. My instinctive reaction to all of these, particularly the last, were never what I am pretty sure conventional wisdom would say they ought to have been--if not anger and arousal to ostracize and demand the expulsion from the community of the perpetrator than at least contrition and humility at my own abetment of such crimes by thinking of women as sex objects in my meek but still dark heart, or whatever other general offenses are legion in the run of men of my type. No. They were, in short: 1. hope that whatever happened had not technically been a criminal act. 2. hope that whatever atmosphere or direct expression of feminine anger that could plausibly be aimed at me and hinder my own social interests, feeble as those were, would blow over before too many precious weeks of what remained in the school year (these things always seemed to happen or come out in the spring) had passed by. 3. In certain instances, and obviously assuming #1, I would not exactly feel jealousy toward the man in the case, but I would wonder about his habits and if in his general history this inclination towards forcefulness and perhaps inducing and then taking more advantage of confusion or indecisiveness on the part of the other party than strict propriety would deem acceptable had not in some way served him better in all areas of his life than my approach, whatever it was, was serving me. #2 and #3 are morally disgraceful--my moral upbringing was obviously weak, and my instincts in that realm of life are not especially strong even now--though I have internalized the idea that when it comes to writing at least, one should attempt to tell the truth. One of our alumni commentators on this article, a woman, not from my era (I would guess 6-8 years older just based on something in her overall tone but I really don't know) speaking with regard to sexual assault rather than rape, asserted  that whenever she posed to a group of women from our school the question of whether they had been sexually assaulted while students, a majority would usually say that they had been. That proportion I suppose surprised me somewhat, though if the definition of sexual assault (one was not given) is broad enough to encompass any kind of unwanted physical approach, such as ill-advised attempts at hugging, kissing, groping, etc, that while unpleasant are in many cases probably easily forestalled, I can grasp that it is likely true. If it refers to more violent behaviors, aggressive attacks where no indication has been given of such being welcome, throwing women down on beds and jumping on them, etc I admit that would surprise me more. Even though these techniques, or variations of them, are not unknown in movies or literature, and are often praised when done right for bringing some edge and danger to the work, most men sense that they themselves are not going to be able to bring them off, and therefore refrain from attempting them.

Or maybe not. How big of a fool does one have to be in order that any such statistic confirming the general awfulness of male treatment towards women, especially in upper middle class settings, would be a surprise to him? The problem is this. I am pretty certain that the overwhelming majority of men not from an underclass background--myself included--not only truly believe they have never done anything that would merit the name of criminal sexual assault, let alone rape, but are convinced that the opportunity to commit such offenses, however much they might even feel the slightest twinge from time to time to do so, is more limited for them than it has ever been in human history. How many times in my own life have I found myself alone in a room, or even a semi-private corner of a room, with a female for whom I might have harbored seriously ungentlemanly intentions? It does not seem like very many, and I suspect most men would consider themselves to have had little better fortune--though given that something like 80% of men get some action at some point by their 25th birthday obviously this sense of a dearth of opportunity is in no way absolute; and doubtless there are many who have used even those few occasions to commit an assault of one kind or another. The other possibility of course is that an identifiable small minority of men are perpetrating all these crimes on a majority of the female population at certain exclusive colleges, which to the, for lack of a better phrase, hardcore beta male community, does not focus their attention on the vileness of the behavior so much as to, as ever, invoke the question of "Why are these guys getting so many opportunities to indulge in it?" When you're a proven loser in the erotic arena even if a girl is sitting next to you on a bed in a room in which you are alone at 2 a.m. on Saturday night after 6 hours of drinking, if she is fully clothed and not attacking you or openly beckoning you to attack her, successful consummation of any kind of seduction still seems to be a long way off; multiple things involving the application of skills you do not have and rarely have had occasion to practice still have to go right. Unlike your rivals with their misogynistic T-shirts, you cannot clearly envision what you have to do to attain whatever end it is you desire, or ever have full confidence that if matters come to an extreme point that you will be ready to perform at adequate strength. Most commentary with regard to rape and sexual assault seems to assume that it is easy, practically first nature, for a man to inflict, and perhaps among men deeply accustomed to violence this is true, but this would seem to describe a fairly small minority of the males on a modern day elite or semi-elite college campus. But I guess I underestimate the aggression latent even in apparently meek and spiritless undergraduates.

In any event the majority of these high-profile incidents anyway, as far as the male is concerned, seem to involve men who compared to most of their gender peers are more aggressively sexual, experienced and used to impressing upon women in a kind of unambiguous confusion that sex will be the predominant factor in such relations as they choose to undertake with him, and every second of his time that he permits you to monopolize you are to understand as a tacit acknowledgement of that fact. In the world of sex and courtship there are truly two types of men; men for whom women know and acknowledge that engagment in sexual relations is non-negotiable beyond a certain point of niceties, usually reached sooner rather than later; and men who never force any such idea to enter anyone's mind. Very few men in the second category past about age 18 or 19 can ever move into the first. I certainly could not. And certainly at some basic level they hate the date-rapers nearly as bitterly as women do, while also knowing that they need to be more like them, not to be egregiously criminal but to take risks and go after what they want with a little aggression and a little calm fortitude at least a few times in their wretched lives. This is why many men, I think, who are honest with themselves do not get as worked up in these cases as perhaps they ought to. They do not see themselves necessarily but they see something of themselves that they can hardly despise but in most instances never gained a proper mastery over one way or the other. In my own youth I was perfectly inoffensive, unsensual, in public I was careful to suppress such little energies and petty enthusiasms as I had, I would not/could not engage with all but a miniscule number of women as anything resembling a normal healthy young male human being such as they would have wished me to have been, and what good did that do? There is a real sickness in my soul, and I think a lot of that is the result of suppressing so much physical energy and desire when I was young to the point where I could never be naturally exuberant or comfortable in any physical space with other people, and it only seems to grow worse as I get older.

I've spent two weeks on this topic and I do not know what the hell I think of it. In short it is something like--rape is obviously bad, sexual assault is admittedly bad, but underdeveloped male sensualism, especially in the absence of serious intellectual qualities, is also kind of bad in its own way but how do you present it as such?...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Movies 1972-90 (Is the H.S. Class of '90 America's Great Forgotten Cohort?)

I thought this was my second set of reviews within these exact years, but the other one was 1972-91.

None of these movies are going to rank among my all-time favorites so I am going to try to dispatch of them in a few strokes.

Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)

Well-made, but I found it a little overlong and perhaps a bit stiff. I am beginning to wonder too if the story/source material is perhaps not as great as it seems to promise and that I at least want it to be. I have encountered the story or a variation of it several times now and have never really been able to get into it (I have not undertaken to read the play in French yet, which I think I could still do and get something of the sense of its quality, so I will hold off on a final judgement until I at least attempt that). The premise is good enough, I think, as a starting point, but in execution it comes out rather thin, not fleshed out enough. The two other main characters besides Cyrano are little more than ciphers, and Cyrano's incapacity to present himself as a candidate for love on account of his nose is too inconsistent with his fame and established persona as a literally superior man in the realms of both arms and letters to be believable. However I respect that the story  has been a French classic for 150 years and that it obviously says something to them that resonates. I cannot quite get at what that is however.

Gerard DePardieu's presence in the title role is a plus. Not that someone else could not have done it competently (I'm sure many have done it more competently), but he is the Frank Sinatra or Alec Guinness of modern French cinema, and it seems like he should do a version of as any many classic roles in the national tradition as he can.

The Verdict (1982)

I had never seen this, though I remember it got a lot of hype when it came out. Paul Newman, the experts said, was a shoo-in to finally win the Oscar that had theretofore eluded him (that year's best actor award was won by Ben Kingsley, for Gandhi, which I have not seen but which is talked of with almost breathtaking disrespect by everyone associated with the other top films of that year). It was a gritty courthouse drama, all in all a very serious movie. I was twelve at the time, so none of this made me particularly interested in seeing it, and in fact I had probably not thought about since that time, such oblivion had it fallen into as far as I was concerned, that I was rather shocked when it came up on my list. It would not have meant anything to me in 1982 either that the film was directed by the already venerable Sidney Lumet. Indeed, it does not mean all that much to me today, as the only other picture of his I have seen was his 1962 adaptation of Long Day's Journey Into Night, which was outstanding. Oh, and the screenplay was the work of David Mamet, who would only have been 34 at the time but had seemingly already long won over the esteem and trust of the titanic Hollywood veterans involved with the film. This of course would not have meant anything to me in seventh grade either.

So is it any good? Well, I don't love it, in spite of the persuasive arguments made in its favor in various commentaries about the high level of professionalism and skill that went into making it. It is set in Boston, and much of it was shot there, which provides some interest to me, though it sounds like a considerable amount of the interiors were actually done in New York. I have always found Paul Newman to be a likable star, and I was excited to see that the great James Mason, whom I thought had been already dead by 1982 (he died in 1984, and in fact went on to appear in eight more movies after this one), in a prominent role. I might have been a little more excited by the presence of 60s megababe Charlotte Rampling if her part had been a little less thankless; in '82 it seems, writers were still sorting through what female liberation exactly portended. Probably they still are, but I think the track that it is on at least may be a little less shrouded than it was 30 years ago. The best thing in the whole movie is probably the actor Milo O'Shea's (he played Leopold Bloom in the 1967 Ulysses movie) hairstyle; unfortunately I can't find any good pictures of it to steal.

So what are the problems? Right now I think the movie is passing through the artistic version of a midlife crisis, where everything about it feels ever so slightly dated but it is not old or established enough in what it represents to be a classic. As I have noted elsewhere, I am not a big fan of courtroom dramas, perhaps because I am from the in-between class that is both terrified of lawyers and judges and of being mistaken by the same for one of the ranks of lowlifes from which most defendants are drawn. I did like the depiction of James Mason's modern super-professional cutthroat law firm, with its armies of spies, ambitious underlings, detailed simulations of cross-examination and questioning and coaching of the same, which must be standard operating procedure at any decent law firm but is suggested here to contribute to the subversion of justice. For all that, the presentation of the actual trial seems a little sloppy and not quite authentic. The Paul Newman character is an alcoholic and in a very dark state at the beginning of the film. Usually I find movies about alcoholics attractive--even the Nicolas Cage movie where he drinks himself to death had me thinking 'that didn't look so bad'--but this one was unusually grim. Maybe Paul Newman seems like too much of a winner so it's more disturbing to see him passed out in a cold hallway than it would be a more regular guy. I don't know.

The DVD came with many bonus features, including a bunch of previews of other Paul Newman movies from the 50s through the 80s. A few of the famous ones like The Hustler were included, but a lot of them looked to be in the mediocre to execrable category. From the Terrace, which I have written about here before, and The Long, Hot Summer, which looks to be another bloated melodramatic literary adaptation (though from Faulkner in the latter case), are included. The Towering Inferno, for which Newman at least apparently got paid 12 million clams--I hope Fred Astaire's compensation was somewhat comparably handsome--is here. There was a frigid preview for a 1979 film called Quintet which starred not only Newman but Ingmar Bergman staple Bibi Andersson and our man Fernando Rey whom we were just speaking of a couple of weeks ago, and was directed by Robert Altman, all relatively close to the height of their fame. Seeing as I had never heard of the movie anyway, I am surmising that it did not work. The worst looking one of the whole lot is this monstrosity from 1964. I forget sometimes that most of the popular culture of that period resembles this, which explains how all of these huge and legendary stars (other than Dean Martin, who is in is native element) can actually appear to be comfortable and not in a constant state of humiliation at appearing in this movie:

I have traditionally had a weakness for Shirley Maclaine, though I wonder if it would be able to survive this catastrophe.

Cabaret (1972)

This movie was quite a big deal in the 70s. It won 8 Oscars (though not Best Picture) despite being in direct competition against the Godfather, which is perhaps the most revered of all post-1960 Hollywood movies. Many of the songs in it were familiar to me though I doubt I had heard them in 30 years. And there are a lot of truly remarkable scenes and numbers and performances in it, especially those involving  Joel Grey, whose work in this movie has been often celebrated; but to have heard about how great something is for close to 40 years and to still be more than usually impressed when you finally see it does not happen all that often, so I have to give credit where that is due.

All of this acknowledged, while I think the movie is still respected 40 years on, much in the same way that I respect it, it doesn't seem very beloved. Perhaps that is as it should be, for I doubt it set out to be lovable, but other movies of the time, such as the aforementioned Godfather and something like The French Connection, seem to be lovable in spite of themselves in a way that this is not. The director here is Bob Fosse, whose movie Lenny, made two years after this, I also wrote about here recently. That movie was also pretty good and was well-regarded in its time, but does not seem to have an especially following today. I don't know a lot about Bob Fosse, but the impression one gets from his movies is that he is a skilled director, very smart, probably cynical, probably more than a little nihilistic, sympathetic to people who live in open opposition and antagonism to ordinary society, with all of these qualities slightly more in extremis than is found even in people who nominally share them with him. These attitudes, or at least the forms which they took in him, seem to have been more prevalent in the general population of filmgoers in the early 1970s than they are now. I don't think of myself as being opposed to them so much as they do not do anything for me at the most basic levels. My overarching gut reaction to this movie, I must confess, was that it was gross. Liza Minnelli seems to me so obviously gross that I feel it is a cliche to write it, but evidently there aren't people who feel that way. It was not the sex, not even the homosexuality, nor the poverty that made it gross but the general atmosphere of joylessness. I get that the shadow of Nazism is looming in the background, though at least as depicted here the Cabaret ethos is not a particularly affirming alternative even for people who are young and adventurous. Nihilism is the soil that allows Nazi-type movements to sprout and grow monstrous.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Low Point

I just hit some button inadvertently on my computer and erased three days worth of tapping on a post, which I have been unable to recover. So who knows when I will get anything up here again, if ever. I wanted to keep it up, to keep something up, but right now everything that doesn't involve cowtowing to the needs of some child or other is just hopeless. Yes, I know, I'll be sad when they grow up and all that, and I'm lamenting over losing hours of ultimately pointless writing and pointless anything else I would have done in the same space of time, but it's still frustrating.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

I Blow The Election (Essay)

I guess I had better get my election post up tonight. I have been conflicted on whether I should actually vote anymore or note. My grasp of the issues seems to be feeble, and I'm not sure I even know what kind of society I want to live in or what values are important to me anymore. If you have seen any of those videos where some smart-aleck goes around grilling people on why they are voting for one candidate or another and the people being questioned aren't able to give a coherent answer or supply a single example in support of a general damning statement they have made, at which all of the educated commenters whom the video is aimed at affect to be appalled by the shocking and scary ignorance, I doubt I would be able to do much better. The arguments for the whole process being a sham and a distraction to divert the masses from realizing that some tiny but all-powerful gang of oligarchs will continue to implement policies favorable to themselves at the expense of everyone else in the entire world regardless of which party is in power are also persuasive. However, I still incline to the position that these titans would prefer that I voluntarily give up on voting than that I potentially annoy them, in however miniscule a fashion, by contributing to the election of a candidate who is slightly less satisfying to them than his or her opponent.

It is probably needless to say that I am going to cast a more or less straight ticket ballot for the Democratic party, not based on any particular merits of theirs, but because I do not like the Republican Party's vision with regard to our economic arrangements. Whatever dramatic and inevitable changes in this area may prove to be necessary in the coming years, I really do not want the Republican Party in its current incarnation to have absolute charge of these. It is my personal opinion that the constant fear of the Republicans instituting and vigilantly enforcing a medieval social agenda is overblown. There is a substantial element of the populace and lower potatoes type elected officials who may support this, but it doesn't seem to me that the people really in charge have any interest in banning abortion (I have read in several places that one of the main obsessions of the global super elite is in fact population control), forcing gays back into the closet, promoting patriarchy in the American middle and working class, or whatever else we are supposed to be afraid of. I do not say that this could not happen at some point. I just think if it does, that that will also mean that the Wall Street/Ivy League/Coastal establishment has also been overthrown, and then the game is completely changed  anyway.

I'm not going to go on at length about Romney, though to me his dominant characteristic as a person is that he is really too obsessed with money. Does he think about or have any interest in anything else? The French would be able to say flat out, this narrowness of interest is indicative of a vulgar mind that has no sense of the bigger picture of life, and that is kind of my impression of him too.

The Democratic candidate for governor in my state has not run a very scintillating campaign; her commercials are terrible, she was rather lifeless during the debates, and she has also, according to her Tea Party affiliated opponent, voted for tax increases 99 times during her political career. I have no idea what kind of governor she would be other than that I'm guessing she has no ambitions to eliminate kindergarten and reject federal funds for education and Medicare, which apparently her opponent has pledged to do.

Our Democratic candidate for Congress is a decidedly unlikable woman who comes across as somewhat hostile to men; I will probably vote for her in order to try to keep the Republicans out, though in the long term I don't think the seething and hostile feminist candidate is going to be a good prospect for the Dems if they actually want to win elections.

Although a Democrat, the local candidate for Executive Council is a 33 year old taking his campaign way too seriously, and spending way too much of somebody's money on signs and multiple mailings. He definitely needs to be knocked down a peg or two. I won't vote for the Republican, but I will for either a third party or  maybe I will write myself in

I wanted this post to be better but I am so tired I am not even really anymore at this stage.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Goodbye to Halloween

Nearly  Ran out of time for the modest Halloween party I have been planning.

I can't remember if I have ever gone to a full fledged Halloween party or not. I must have gone to one in college, but no memory of the event stands out. There was a famous one that took place my senior year of high school--even the house where it was held was of the old, dark, spooky, shrouded in giant and spindly trees variety--but you actually needed an invitation to go to it, which measure of quality control doubtless contributed to the higher than usual ton which it sounded like the party attained.

A better video for this song would have been footage of the late 60s era Vikings rushing the quarterback and headslapping and hauling in bombs while diving and sliding into gargantuan freezing mud puddles, but no one has bothered to make one (and I wouldn't know how to, even if I had the time to do such things).

The Ghostbusters theme song has become a Halloween standard in recent years (this sort of recruitment happens when holidays suffer from a shortage of standards. At least it is on the Rhino Records' Halloween Hits compilation.

Not all of Ray Parker Jr's hits adhere to the Halloween theme, but there may not be another occasion to slip this one into the playlist either. When I was in around 5th or 6th grade, a younger boy at school, probably around 8 or 9--he was black, otherwise it likely would not have been hilarious in the least--did a lipsynch version of this song at one of our celebratory assemblies, complete with all the sulky emoting and pelvic gyrations that one would expect of a great performer. The principal, who was a very tough black woman from a family of 22 children whose parents had been sharecroppers in South Carolina or someplace like that, was absolutely splitting her sides, doubled over in laughter, and accordingly most of the other nearby adults were emitting some sign of correlating mirth. It was one of the funnier things of its kind I have ever seen.

There are no good videos for the Martian Hop song either, which is my choice for the most underrated of the Halloween songs, though it wasn't originally written as a Halloween song either, of course, nor were any of these other ones. These products were part of the goofy and highly fecund sci-fi culture of the 1950s and 60s. In contemporary life we do not have much use for these tropes and relics in the service of science fiction, so we have, rather curiously in a sense, adopted them as ready made traditions for Halloween.

This week's hurricane went inland and westward far away from us that we got off fairly lightly. It still rained for a day and a half and a few branches and a couple of sections of the neighbor's fence got blown down, but we never even lost power and the damage in our general area was much less than last year's storm which caused such bad floods in Vermont, including in Brattleboro. Most of my family and a good portion of everyone else I know lives right in the main path that the storm took, but as far as I can tell, nothing unspeakably awful has happened to anyone of my acquaintance, and while Halloween was postponed in New Jersey, judging by Facebook it proceeded right on schedule in Philadelphia and the D.C. area. The impression one gets from the media and the more agitated factions of political commentators is that this is a historical catastrophe, expressed in a general tone that seems unlikely to encourage the kind of unpanicked, sober, responsible behavior in response to the crisis that these sages affect to want. My general sense is that the storm was not quite bad enough to unleash social chaos to the extent that some seem to fear/predict/have a perverse longing for--today's coverage, for example, of the strain the hurricane is putting on the populace featured an account of two women in a housing project getting into a kind of fistfight and the ransacking of a pharmacy, which does not strike me as forboding the complete collapse of civil society. But I am going to wait a few days and see how this plays out.