DAILY PROMPT: FEAR FACTOR – EEK!

I’m afraid of spiders. Not because they are dangerous, though some are. Not because of the potential toxicity. I’m afraid of spiders because they are creepy, make my skin crawl, and make me scream like a little girl.

Carolina wolf spider with spiderlings, large

EEK, I shriek and jump straight out of my chair with my heart pounding like a trip hammer. The loudness of my EEK and the hysterical pounding in my chest is in direct proportion to the blackness and largeness of the spider. Bigger is scarier. Big, black and hairy might actually kill me from sheer panic and irrational terror.

A friend of mine was attacked by a wolf spider while sun bathing on her patio in Arizona. The thing was the size of a small dinner plate (dessert plate?) and landed on her breast, then proceeded to take a chunk out of her. The pain was one thing. The fear was so intense she promptly sold her house and moved to a place where there are no wolf spiders. I’m with her.

Big Hairy Spider

But today, I am a warrior. I have power. I do not go EEK!

I went into my bedroom to change my clothing this afternoon. There, in the middle of my white blanketed bed was a medium-sized black garden spider. Did I scream in panic? Did I even go EEK? NO! I rallied my womanly strength, balled up my clean pink tee-shirt that I had just taken from my cupboard and squashed it. Kept squashing until it was nothing but a black smear of used-to-be-a-spider. Then, I put the tee-shirt on.

I went and told my husband. He gave me a proud thumb’s up.

I wear dead spider proudly. I am woman. Hear me roar.

WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS – ALL YOU ZOMBIES, ROBERT HEINLEIN

all you zombiesTime travel makes my brain go “eek.” This is not a criticism. It’s a compliment. Not many things make my brain do back flips and somersaults. Time travel is an impossible concept I cannot understand because it is inherently incomprehensible. Therefore, I love it.

This review contains spoilers, so if you’ve never read this, you might want to stop now and be surprised by the story.

I first read this story by Robert Heinlein long ago as part of a compilation of his classic short stories. After all these years, it remains on the top of the heap of time travel tales. I couldn’t remember its title, so it took me a while to find it. It is called “All You Zombies.”

In a strange infinite loop, a baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. “Jane” grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She has a brief passionate relationship with him and becomes pregnant.

RobertHeinleinThe stranger disappears.

During a weird and complicated birthing, Jane’s doctors discover she actually has two complete sets of sex organs. With her life on the line, the doctors change her from female to male. Jane is now a man. Then …. a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby leaving Jane a man and childless.

Depressed, lost, he becomes a drunk and a drifter. He eventually, meets a young woman in a bar, who he impregnates during a brief affair. The story contains even more complexities, involving the Time Corps and a bartender. Throughout, everything continues moving forward and backward in time.

Read it, and get your own brain in a twist.

The story is a paradox, impossible yet structures with its own internal logic that you can neither reject nor accept. At which point, my brain goes “Eek!!” Jane is everyone. Everyone is Jane. She is her family: tree, trunk, branches and roots. I found this amazing diagram of the story. I do not know where it originated and I would love to credit whoever drew it in the first place. Tree of lives The circular logic combined with the impossibility of the sequence where the same person is mother, father and child forever in an infinite loop — the snake eating its tail — is deliciously mind-blowing. You can get it for your Kindle from Amazon for $1.25, or as part of an anthology of Heinlein short stories. There are several listed on Amazon, new and used.

Heinlein did much of his most creative writing in these early short stories. His later novels are better known today, especially Stranger In a Strange Land. The short stories have gotten a bit lost in time but are well worth your time. Most were written for the science fiction fanzines — newsprint magazines that were the primary outlets for sci fi until the genre broke into mainstream literature in the 1960s. Not only Heinlein, but all the classic great science fiction authors started their careers writing for the fanzines.

I’ve read many hundreds of time travel books and stories over more than 50 years of loving science fiction. But this one, this story, has stuck firmly in my brain as the most perfect paradox where the past, present and future come together in a perfect conundrum.

All You Zombies is my favorite for good reason. It’s unforgettable. I promise you will never forget it either.

 

Daily Prompt: STILL WAITING TO EXHALE

Still waiting. Still holding my breath. The loss of my job when the company went bankrupt — my career when my health failed — and my husband’s after 31 years for no good reason and at the same time. The loss of 100% of our income. Two years, zero income, no help from anywhere or anyone.

My son’s career crashing with the towers on 9/11. Huddling together. Three generations trying to survive as the world fell around us. Me, a botched surgery — getting sicker and sicker. No medical care until so close to dead I felt the reaper’s wings brush my face. Then — a miracle. Help! Better (is the siege really over?) until cancer. Surviving again, feeling better — NOW it’s my heart. But we don’t have the money to fund the surgery and rehab.

All lights are headlights of oncoming trains.

75NK-Train-36

Still waiting to exhale. It’s been more than a decade and my breath is tight and painful in my chest. Or maybe it’s my heart. Who can tell?

Yet we laugh. Often. Because life is absurd, hilarious, crazy, mad. Laugh or die sad and full of tears. After all, we shall all die of something eventually … I prefer to do it laughing.

WHERE DID YOU GET THAT THING YOU’RE WEARING?

“How come Gibbs is wearing a coat in Arizona in the summer?”

I was talking to Garry. It was an NCIS rerun. We watch a lot of reruns, though this new fall season of TV is shaping up better than I expected, so maybe there will be new shows to watch.

YLE Wardrobe

The question about costumes comes up often and on various shows. One of the more common “huh” moments is when the male lead is wearing a coat and the female lead is skimpily dressed. No explanation needed for that one. But more weird are when each cast member is dressed randomly, apparently without regard for the story in progress. One is wearing a heavy winter coat, another a light denim jacket. A third is in shirtsleeves. Some are clothed in jeans or other casual stuff while others look ready for Wall Street … or a cocktail party. Women are supposedly hiking and running from or after serial killers while they wear 4-inch spikes. My feet hurt just looking.

Garry and I have done a tiny bit of movie “extra” work so I’m guessing it goes like this:  “Go find something that fits in wardrobe and be on set in ten.”

Everyone hustles off to wardrobe, which looks like a jumble sale or the clothing racks at the Salvation Army store. Most of the clothing in wardrobe probably came from some second-hand source or other. Everyone dives in looking for something that fits. As soon as they find an outfit … any outfit … they head for a changing booth, then off to be on set before someone yells at them. Stars get slightly better wardrobe or wear their own clothing. Wearing ones own clothing, both on TV shows and movies is quite common. I understand why.

NCIS Filming

The real question is not why everyone on a show is poorly or inappropriately dressed. It’s whether or not the people who produce the show think we won’t notice. My theory is they don’t care if we notice or not. They are cheaping out on wardrobe figuring if you and I notice at all, we won’t care or we’ll keep watching anyhow.

It’s a bottom-line driven world and wardrobe is one area where corners can easily be cut.

The thing is, we do notice. You don’t need to be a professional critic or especially astute to see the incongruities of television costuming. Movie costuming is often no better. Whoever is in charge figures if you’ve noticed the clothing, you are must be watching the show. They’ve got you. Why worry?

The thing is, the overriding disdain for viewers adds up over time. Eventually it feels like a virtual slap in the face. As a viewer, I have to assume they think I am astoundingly unobservant or plain stupid … or so hooked on their product they needn’t worry about retaining my loyalty. They are wrong.

NCIS Filming

This nonchalance extends beyond costumes. Sloppy editing, crappy scripts, stupid plots that include blatant factual and continuity errors … Ultimately, we do stop watching. Because it’s obvious they don’t care so why should we?

You notice it on long-running shows that had good scripts and editing but suddenly don’t. The quality of the show starts to slide. Producers are baffled when loyal fans stop tuning in. It isn’t baffling to a normal person but is apparently incomprehensible to producers and network executives.

The most surprising thing is when quality stays high for more than the two initial seasons. Few shows survive more than 3 seasons anymore. An embedded disrespect for viewers is, in my opinion, the root of much of the illness besetting the television industry. They either treat us like morons or discount us because we are too young, too old  or some other incorrect and undesirable demographic. If you are under 18 or over 49, you literally don’t count. There are other, subtler forms of discrimination. Someone decided young people and old people don’t buy enough stuff. No TV for us!  Reality never intrudes into the decision-making process. I’m pretty sure I buy a lot of stuff and so does my granddaughter. Her and her friends are always shopping.

They should be nicer to us. We are, after all, the customers. Aren’t we?

All I Ask Is For All I Ask – THE BYRONIC MAN

See on THE BYRONIC MAN (DOT COM) …

And on Scoop.itIn and About the News

All I ask are moments of peace where I can stop and be in the moment.

All I ask is to be grateful for the things I have.

All I ask is for motivational images that don’t actually connect to the motivation.

All I ask is to be trusted and worthy of trust.

All I ask is to have the courage to try new things, and to be immediately better at them than everyone else.

All I ask is to be liked by people I can’t stand.

All I ask is the ability to orgasm at will.

All I ask is that my friends be less successful than me.

All I ask is to remain at my physical peak with little effort on my part.

All I ask is that “little effort” mean “no effort.”

All I ask is that the things I purchase never break or get worn out.

All I ask is that for one month a year (October?  May?) the schools be devoted to teaching good things about me.

All I ask is that, when I have a conflict with someone, they acknowledge that it’s them, not me.

No offense.

All I ask is for a state to be named after me.

All I ask is that it not be North Dakota or Florida.

All I ask is that the world’s population be reduced by 4 billion without anyone suffering.

All I ask is for a God who has the exact same opinions I do.

All I ask is to be able to make things explode with my mind.

And, really… is that so much?

About The Byronic Man

Recently voted “The Best Humor Blog in America That I, Personally, Write,” The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it’s all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it’s not. Ah, geez. Look, it’s a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

View all posts by The Byronic Man →

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

What he said. Like that.

See on thebyronicman.com

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

I bought a dress from Land’s End. To get the free shipping, I had to spend an extra $10 which would save me $9 in shipping costs.  I bought a blouse. Navy blue cotton knit. Boatneck. Long sleeve. It looks exactly like all the other blouses in my closet.

I couldn’t remember where I’d put it and spent a full hour searching the bedroom. I thought I’d lost it, but it turns out, I had hung it up in the closet. One navy blouse amidst a sea of black, dark gray and navy is invisible. I could — I was — looking at it and didn’t realize it. I had my hand on it … and didn’t know it was what I was searching for.

Me, photographer

All of my clothing looks the same. I’ve been wearing the same clothing for 50 years. Fashions come, fashions go, but Marilyn wears the same clothing. Jeans. The same Clark’s sandals I was wearing in 1962. The materials from which they are made have altered, but otherwise? The same.

Having told Garry I had lost track of a new Land’s End blouse, I had to tell him I’d found it.

“Where was it?” he asked.

“I hung it up,” I said, expecting him to congratulate me on my neatness.

“Big mistake,” he said. “You can never find anything in that closet.” I absorbed that and had an epiphany.

“It makes shopping for me easy. Just buy me clothing that looks exactly the same as everything else I own. You could buy something different, but I probably wouldn’t wear it. If you feel like experimenting, buy a lighter shade of navy or medium rather than charcoal grey.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Well, think of all the time and creativity you don’t have to waste trying to find something different. Just buy the same stuff. Hey, you are still wearing the same shoes you were wearing 20 years ago. I don’t mean shoes just like shoes you wore 20 years ago. I mean you’re still wearing the same shoes. So, Mr. Smarty-Pants, don’t raise your eyebrow at me!”

Time on a warm day in October with my guy ...

He smiled and went back to watching The Six Million Dollar Man, a show so awful it now qualifies as a comedy.

We are totally creatures of habit. I found My Style when I was 16. Round toed shoes. Flat, comfortable sandals. A-line skirts. Jeans. Turtle necks in the winter. Boat necks or slight scoops in the summer, preferably long, at least hip length. Dark, neutral colors with a touch of red for accent. Sometimes something in dusty rose or mauve. Or taupe.

That I have been wearing the same clothing for 50 years — what does this say about me? So does my husband. And best friend and her husband. We are all still wearing the same styles we wore when we were teenagers. Listening to the same music, pretty much. I’m married to the same guy I used to hang out with 50 years ago.

About the only things that have radically changed? What I eat is completely different and I don’t use recreational drugs. They’d probably kill me.

I’m the same person I was at 16. For all practical purposes, my life has been a gigantic circle back to where it began. I’m less agile, more arthritic. A lot less worried about what people think of me. More impatient with stupidity and bureaucracy. Still liberal, still a Democrat.

Still believe in helping other people, though more careful about who I let into my life and home. I’m still a sucker for animals. Horses, dogs, cats, Most anything furry and cute. I still read all the time, unless I’m writing or working on photographs.

I use new technology to do the same stuff I’ve always done. Technology has made doing what I enjoy easier, but it hasn’t changed what I like.

I still scream at spiders and watch birds. My sense of humor is the same. My hobbies haven’t changed: I write and take pictures. I don’t play the piano anymore. Arthritis finished that. I also am significantly less active, but not by choice.

So … how much have you changed from the person you were in your late teens? What, if anything, do you do completely differently? Do you like the person you’ve become? Are you trying to change? Do you fit in? If you met the young you, what would you tell yourself?