Reading Matters

I was awakened by a spirited round of cat rugby in the hallway outside my bedroom at 3am this morning. Being rudely awakened by  sounds remarkably similar to burglars rampaging through your house is not conducive of settling back down to sleep. It doesn’t matter if the sound was caused by the adult cat finally getting tired of the younger cat’s antics and slamming its head repeatedly into your door, and not a band of ne’er-do-wells looking to try out their new zip guns and gravity knives or whatever it is the hooligans are carrying these days. Sharpened thumb drives, I don’t know.

Going back to sleep being out of the question, it was time to enumerate what options were open. Ideally, I’d go back to sleep and simply come into work in the afternoon, my schedule is currently flexible enough for that; but no, big staff meeting in the morning. Oh, well. Might as well go in incredibly early.

This is going to be a very long day.

Got some reading done over the suddenly-free weekend. First of all, I finally found the Peanuts strip I was looking for. In The Complete Peanuts, 1950-1952, there it is, on Sunday, November 16, 1952. Lucy – who has gone, in less than a year, from wearing footie pajamas in a crib to totally jacking with people’s karma – for the first time jerks away a football, causing Charlie Brown to fly through the air and land on his back. In the very same strip, she then holds the ball so tightly that he trips over it. The dailies for the week following involve Charlie Brown losing at checkers to Lucy over and over again, until, when he finally wins, Lucy tells him that she let him win because she felt sorry for him.

And there it is. With an almost audible sound of shattering crystal, Charlie Brown’s spirit breaks. Oh, there’s still the Christmas strips, but it’s obvious he’s just going through the motions so no one will suspect, or they will fall upon him like jackals upon a wounded wildebeest. He’s just delaying the inevitable, of course. He will spend the next few decades in Hell.

No, weisenheimer, reading comics isn’t the only thing I do. It’s just a very large part of what I do. Compilations of comic strips present me with an incredible amount of content – it took me well over a month to get through Peanuts 1950-52. I was excited to find my branch also had the first volume of the Bloom County archives, but I’ve still got two volumes of Popeye to get through. It’s a damned nice problem to have.

But. Non-comic related stuff. Sort of.

I am currently enjoying the heck out of Seth Grahame-Smith’s How to Survive a Horror Movie. I’m pretty sure this material has been covered before, but Grahame-Smith covers it in a snappy, hilarious, yet extremely knowledgeable manner.  As the cover reminds us, he is, after all, the best-selling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. He even goes so far as to give pointers on how to tell if you’re in a sequel, and the “stop, drop and roll” of horror movie survival: C.R.A.V.E.N.: which stands for  Cover, Reconnaissance, Arsenal, Vehicle, Escape, and North – apparently the horror lessens the northier you go.

Here’s one of my favorite bits:

10 PLACES TO NEVER, EVER GO UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES

1.   Rooms lit by a single hanging lightbulb
2.   Rooms lit by nothing
3.   Any graveyard that isn’t Arlington National Cemetery
4.   Summer camps whose annual counselor murder rate exceeds 10 per cent
5.   Maine
6.   “The old ________”
7.   Hotels/motels that aren’t part of giant international chains
8.   Upstairs
9.   Downstairs
10. Any log cabin anywhere on the face of the earth.

Every page is drenched in stuff like that which keeps me nodding in agreement and grinning with recognition.

The other non-comic book is 101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die, edited by Steven Jay Schneider. Now, I dislike Top 10 lists and that sort of thing, but something like this I find irresistible, if only to find out if I can pass on with a clear conscience or not. It’s a fat little book, with an emphasis on the “little” –  it measures an almost square 6 x 5 inches. It affords each movie only four pages, and two of those pages are photos – usually a poster and a publicity shot. It’s dandy junk food reading, since in-depth analysis is impossible at two small pages, and it becomes an orgy of “oh, yeah, I’ve seen that“, which allows you to feel like you’re one of the in-crowd.

Well, up to a point. I like that the authors have made a point of finding movies throughout the history of cinema, and across international lines. It has so far nudged me that I haven’t yet seen the original Solaris or Stalker (aaaaa! Commie movies!), but exactly how I’m supposed to track down copies of obscurities like Paris Asleep and Who Killed Jessie? is beyond me. I guess that means I’m functionally immortal.

All these of course came from my local library. After years of not using it, I have taken to using the library system with a vengenace. Fort Bend County opened up a very nice, very fancy and very modern new branch a few months ago, a ballsy thing to do in a recession, even if it was partnered with my employers, the Houston Community College System. Then again, the city passed a bond issue that paid for the library quite handily, so the public support was definitely there.

So it gets a bit discouraging when you hear that Chicago’s Fox station did a story claiming that public libraries in this Internet age were a waste of tax dollars. But it gets heartening when Chicago’s Public Library Commissioners skillfully rebuts the story, and in fact – to use the Internetese – completely pwns it – and, moreover, the Fox station has the guts and professionalism to actually publish that rebuttal. Good for them, and good for the Commissioner. I’d send her flowers if I could afford it.