Matt McHugh

Matt - Blog - September 2009


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Some More Random Things


September 15, 2009

Just some random thoughts, events, perceptions from the last few weeks.

Recently at a dinner party, Sarah Palin was mentioned and it was soon roundly agreed that she was attractive and none too bright. My wife fumed at the persistence of that female stereotype and Ms. Palin's inadvertent yet strident reinforcement of it, saying, "She gives women a bad name and it sticks in my craw."

My 6-year old daughter sympathetically interjected: "Mommy, don't let something with a bad name stick in your crotch."

I dreamed I was hosting some kind of banquet or convention dedicated to cheese when a famous gastronome came to my table to be served. I had nothing so I ran around to the various booths to find a suitable variety, but I couldn't think of any. The one name that popped into my head was "Wensleydale" so I asked for that at a booth. As I brought it back, I peeled away the wax rind and it began to crumble. I had no idea whether this was appropriate or not and I began to wonder how I ever the got job as host of cheese convention.

After waking, I realized I only know the name "Wensleydale" from the Monty Python Cheese Shop skit.

Sat and watched with the kids Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins, a live-action TV movie about how the gang and dog all met in high school. Fairly lame, but harmless enough and the kids enjoyed it. In the past few years, I've endured vast amounts of kids' entertainment, and so much of it has been so stunningly good, that I'm a little taken aback by something mediocre like this. I guess it is rare that something really works for all ages.

Anyway, best part: Velma is Asian (makes perfect sense) and actually rather hot when her glasses are removed and she's given a makeover as a disguise.

Read The Martian Chronicles recently. I'd read a couple of the stories before, but not the whole thing. Quite enjoyed it. In fact, when I finished on the train, I closed the book and spent the rest of the ride thinking about a story I could write in that vein, with the same quasi sci-fi/heartland ethos and Bradbury-esque narrative. Came up with a decent idea, too, but I want to work with my own ideas in my own voice. I'm a good literary mimic and imitation is a comfortable thing to slip into. The most seductive aspect of it is that it's easy to tell if you're succeeding or not, if your counterfeit invokes the spirit of the original. When it's all your own idiom, you have no such instant barometer and it can be tough to tell if something sucks or not.

Now I recall why I avoid reading fiction for long stretches: stylistic contamination.

-- mm


9/11 Eight


September 11, 2009

I didn't even realize it was 9/11 until I hopped over to during my mid-morning break.

The fact it slipped my mind doesn't bother me. In a sense, I'm glad it's not something I obsessively mark, as I once did. I suppose what bothers me is that I no longer know how to feel about it.

For the first year or two, it was hard to even think upon. All I felt was rage. I remember on 9/12/2001, I saw a woman in a Muslim headress in a supermarket and it was the closest I've ever come to flat-out assaulting a stranger. It was all I could do not to yank it off her head and scream How dare you wear that out of the house today. But, of course, attacking random members of a group you perceive as having dealt your group unjust injury is, to say the least, an inappropriate response to 9/11 for a thinking person.

For years beyond that, there was just sadness about it as I watched the memorials with solemn, weeping crowds standing by as lists of names were read. Little by little though, cynicism creeped in. With the Bush Administration's deplorable twisting of those emotions into justification for invading Iraq and the ensuring morass, I found my rage newly redirected toward that dangerously stupid spoiled child in the Oval Office and his black-hearted puppet masters -- not to mention the 40% of functionally retarded, poll-taking Americans who believed Saddam was behind 9/11. A thinking person can not witness much of that without stopping wondering why so many seem to hate us so much.

As the endless political squabbling over memorials and redevelopment went on and on, then the inevitable rise of the conspiracy-mongers, the whole thing became distasteful to contemplate. As people close to me died naturally, the concept of tragedy scaled down from vast historic events to intimate personal reactions. A family that lost a husband and father to 9/11 suffered a tragedy no greater than one lost to a drunk driver or a heart attack or a truck bomb in Baghdad. It seemed wrong for some to have their right to mourn annually inflated by the mob.

Now, after truly not many years at all, I'm left with a strange mixture of emotions. Still when I see footage of a plane slamming into a tower, or one collapsing like a house of cards, the feelings of the day just flood back intact. Disbelief, mostly. Bewildered awe. This can not be real, yet it is. I walk slowly, stunned, toward the last train out of the city, my only thought to get home to my family.

And there's my take-away, I guess: How fragile it all is, and how important we cherish the delicate balance of it while we can.

-- mm


Two Anthropomorphized Animal Dreams


September 8, 2009

Here's a pair on interesting dreams I had on the same night a few days ago:

Snow Bus Bigfoot Encounter

I was in some kind of bus-like vehicle which was traveling up a snowy ski slope at night. It had seats only around the perimeter and large, rounded windows like a cable car gondola. You could see a heavy snowfall reflected in the headlights, and the path it rode on was lined with trees on either side, just wide enough for the bus. Inside, I was surrounded by people I knew from work and the mood was jovial, as if this was a company social outing. Someone was recounting a joke I told in a presentation that was somehow politically incorrect yet hilarious, and he was marveling at how I got away with it.

Up ahead on the hill, I saw a group of people walking down the slope, which seemed surprising at night. As I went to the front window for a better look they stepped into the woods. I asked the driver if he saw them too, and he said yes. Then, much closer, another group walked across the path in front of the bus and I could clearly see they were tall, hairy Bigfoot-type creatures. They went by slowly and I got a very good look. My first thought was: "Shoot, now I'm going to be one of those 'I know what I saw' Bigfoot-believers on Discovery Channel documentaries." As I leaned against the glass to see better, one turned and stared right at me, his face sternly impassive. We were only a few feet away as we passed. I woke abruptly and was spooked and paranoid for ten minutes.

Giant White Saber-Toothed Tiger Sapiens

Later the same night, I dreamed I was listening to someone talking about rituals where men proved themselves by hunting different creatures in a dense, wooded forest. The greatest of these was an elephant-sized white saber-toothed tiger. I saw it stalking through the forest, easily biting the head off a grizzly bear. It went up to a small cabin and crushed the timbers of the roof with it's jaws like a demolition vehicle. I could hear a family screaming inside as it leaned its head in and ate them. I watched as someone tried to escape it, climbing a huge marble staircase inside a vast indoor mall. The tiger caught up to him with a few graceful leaps. Trapped, the fugitive begged to be killed quickly and mercifully, and the tiger did so with one swift bite. I understood it was extremely intelligent and, in fact, some kind of guardian of the forest -- savagely indifferent to humans, but not willfully cruel to them.

I decided it was possible to strike a bargain with the creature to leave humans alone. I set out from a large, well-lit glass building, which represented the edge of a designated "safe" area into the forest, along a tree-lined path. I was carrying a roasted animal carcass as an offering, and I had plan to speak to the tiger. Apparently, I was a wizard or sage of some kind and I was going to pledge to help a woman -- a local goddess or witch -- who lived in the forest to conceive a male child who would become the heir of the tiger. This was all to be accomplished by magic I alone had knowledge of, not by any direct siring of any kind. As I walked, I could send the tiger following close behind, yet I was not afraid. I knew he would listen to me when the time came. I woke feeling wary, but exhilarated.

That's it. The first, I had in the middle of the night; the second, just before waking after dawn. Fantastic symbolism in both. I can think of half-a-dozen conscious roots of the imagery and things they suggest to me, but as always, I prefer to leave them relatively unanalyzed.

-- mm

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