Adolescence

Previously I linked to Knox’s comment where she linked to the Glenn and Helen show where they interview Robert Epstein on adolescence, and a test designed to measure how adult one is. As you can see here, I just got carried away snarking on the test, which is actually pretty interesting.

More importantly, I agree with the basic topic: Adolescence is a bad idea. I’ll never forget sitting down to my first college course and thinking, “WTF? We could have done this five years ago!”

Even allowing for my high level of comfort with school–I’m a chronic test taker, read for fun, quite good at sitting still for long periods, basically made for school–college is way too late for just about everyone. The Boy, while fine in school, is nowhere near as comfortable and casual about it as I was, and he’s doing just fine in his class. (And he got a strict teacher, he has to turn in his notes, etc. This will work out excellently for him in terms of giving him real world experience for taking more classes.)

Anyway, I love the way the guy, Epstein, attacks the “teen brain” thing. That kind of stuff–the sort of vague assertions made by some segment of brain scientists–always smacks of phrenology to me. Teenagers used to be plenty responsible. Inexperienced, but not stupid.

In fact, the most plausible suggestion I’ve heard about adolescence is that it was created by trade guilds (unions) as a way to eliminate competition.

Well, let’s be honest: It’s hard on the ego. If we let teens work, they’d end up being better at what we do than we are. I mean, sure, we have experience, but they have energy, alertness, enthusiasm–and putting them to work early is the best way to blunt that. Wait, no, that’s not what I meant to say.

Seriously, though: Teens will work hard, for little money, and they’re eager to assume more responsibility. Adults should be afraid of them entering the workplace sooner–they would threaten our ability to slack!

Of course, if we were shrewd and up to the challenge, we could harness their energy in useful ways, and create a brand new, powerful, responsible demographic, and use our experience to direct them in ways ushered in a new era of wealth for everyone.

As always, the kids are all right. It’s the adults that are the problem.

All The Awful Things That Ever Were

In response to the previous post on The Boy’s college career, Knox linked to the Glenn and Helen show where they interview Robert Epstein on adolescence, and a test designed to measure how adult one is.

I got an “"Adultness” Comepetency Score" of 90%. Double-scare quotes! The quotes around “Adultness” are theirs, mine are around the whole phrase. I’m pretty sure you have to be quite mature to use double-scare quotes.

The results page then lists your scores by subject matter. Of course, I’m an old time test-taker. I could get whatever score I wanted. I answered some of the questions “incorrectly” because I they were phrased badly.

For example, “You can earn a high school diploma by completing high school or passing an equivalency test. Do you agree?” Well, no, I don’t, because it’s not true. You can take the GED–though the current California system bars you from taking it pretty much until you’re 18, take that! you overachievers!–but even if you take the GED, you don’t have a high school diploma, and you won’t be treated like you do. (This is along the same lines of The Boy getting his MBA: Getting the sheepskin is about him having options should he need to get a job, even if his current plan is to be an employer rather than an employee.)

I thought it was amusing that I scored 100% on the “managing high-risk behaviors” section. This (for me) has nothing to do with being mature. I just don’t find most high-risk behaviors entertaining. I guess driving counts. But guns? Very few people are accidentally hurt by guns. Guns are meant to be deadly; power tools probably claim more casualties. Cars do by an order of magnitude.

I scored quite badly on the “physical abilities” section (56%). I see what they’re getting at: An adult realizes that he has to take care of his body. But even at my peak fitness, I never regarded myself as “strong” or “flexible”. Those things are relative. And I tend to look at those things–not just physical fitness, but also intelligence–in terms of where they fail (almost always sooner than where I’d like).

Kinda sucks that poor health makes you less adult than a teenage football player.

The more legit one is “Personal Care”. Legit in the sense of being less a relative use of words, versus actually being accurate. My score there was 78%, but I know it’s because I sacrifice elements of personal care (sleep, in particular) for my children. And I suppose most people don’t really have to do that regularly, but the questions are completely context free, and any adult knows that there are plenty of circumstances where you do sacrifice optimum personal behaviors for your children.

But then, as an adult, I know better than to put much stock in an Internet quiz.

Missing You, or Where The Girls Aren’t

Well, Knox was apparently moving (will she still be “Knox” if not in Knoxville?), Freem had a baby (and a tea party) and Darcy chose this inopportune moment to selfishly go on a cruise. To, like, New Zealand or something. She’ll probably come back with a kiwi for a boyfriend and an Austrian accident.

Without Ruth Anne dropping the occasional pun grenade, it’d be a tomb in here. (And I should note that Knox has stopped by and Freem is still tweeting a bit at odd hours.) Troop just finished (what he hopes is his last) tax season. And otherwise I’ve probably just not been very interesting.

But I got to thinking about the Loudon Wainwright, easily one of my favorite singer-songwriters, who wrote this song back when he was on M*A*S*H for the absent nurses:

And I wonder if they miss us,
Now wouldn’t that be funny?
Now that we’re without them
We can hardly stand ourselves.

But my fondness for the ol’ Loudo has always struck me as odd, in that the guy’s life has been almost at the opposite end of the circle from me. He’s always been a ladies man, incredibly devoted to his mother but unable to keep a relationship together, whose kids have, shall we say, mixed feelings about him.

The trajectory of his life (as the listener can ascertain it, which is–one hopes–dramatized) has followed a sort of predictably sad path from cocky, angry, snarky young man to doubting middle-aged divorcee, to old man contemplating his fate.

And perhaps the appeal is in that trajectory. Despite writing very specific songs that no one else can sing (and reducing his commercial viability as a songwriter thereby), they do speak to certain universal truths.

And I see now that Althouse is talking about sad songs, which fits in with this message, sitting on my laptop for the past 6 hours. Loudon has written some of the most profoundly touching music about his parents since their deaths, and I was thinking about this song, “Missing You”, which I believe is actually about his mother:

He don’t stay out any more
No more staying out past four
Most nights he turns in ‘round ten
He’s way too tired to pretend

Sure you might find him up at three
But if he is, it’s just to pee
Some nights he’s awake till two
That’s just because he’s missing you
Just lying there and missing you

He don’t sleep late any more
Up like a farmer half-past four
When that sleepy sun comes up
He’s halfway through his second cup

And his day’s work is done ’round two
That’s when he starts in missing you
Quarter-to-three it’s time to nap
He always says “No nap, I’m crap.”
His motto is: No nap, I’m crap.

Guess he’s just set in his ways
He does the same damn things most days
Seven twenty-fours a week
With lots of down-time so to speak

He hardly glances at a clock
Since his routine is carved in rock
Man’s a machine what can he do?
Just keep on going missing you
Keep right on going missing you

His teeth fall out, so does his hair
But in his dreams you’re always there
A jewel in his unconscious mind
A miracle, a precious find

But in the end he’s all alone
He wakes up and his jewel is gone
There’s a heaven and he knows it’s true
He’s stuck on earth just missing you
And it’s hell on just missing you
Back where he started missing you

And here’s a wan waif singing it a capella.

Best of Fest

Knox asked me which films I would recommend from previous After Dark festivals, and whether they were things you could actually view on (e.g.) Netflix. Last question first: Yes, they’re all get-able through Amazon.com and get aired on FearNet and sometimes the Sci-Fi channel, so I have to assume they’re available through Netflix as well.

I wouldn’t recommend watching any horror movie on a network that has commercials, with the exception of FearNet because FearNet only puts one commercial break in, early on. (They do the noise at the bottom of the screen, though, which is nasty.)

Recommending movies is a much harder process, because it’s highly personal (and doubly so for horror) and the experience tends to be different at home which affects some movies more than others.

But assuming you’re not a horror fanatic, there are a few recommendations I can make pretty comfortably.

Borderland is probably the most genuinely frightening film of the three festivals, not because it’s based on a true story (which is usually an excuse for lameness) but because it’s so very, very plausible. Americans down in Mexico end up crossing paths with a violent gang. Sean Astin plays a very creepy role. I remember being concerned that it was going to veer into “torture porn” but the horribleness is mostly kept at a very real level–that is, you know, in real life, we’re more rattled by things that we brush off in horror movies–and is still very effective. (UPDATE: My reviews at the time say it is, actually, torture porn-style violence. So, use caution.)

The Gravedancers is probably the most fun. It stars “haunted house” and goes “Poltergeist”, with more than a nod to “Scooby Doo”.

Rinne (Reincarnation)is probably my favorite movie of the three festivals, but it’s not for everybody. It’s a mystery, you have to be very attentive, and it breaks Blake’s law of movie reincarnation (which is that audiences reject using dramatically different actors for the same characters). But it “made sense” to me. (It reveals “the rules” and “follows the rules” without being predictable.) Apparently some people find it slow, though. Subtitled. Must be relatively immune from “they all look alike” syndrome.

I love the atmosphere in Unrest, which is powered almost entirely by the verisimilitude of the situation. The corpses are not just realistic, they’re real. The writer/director having been a med student gets the feel just right.

In an entirely separate way, I loved the “realism” of Mulberry Street,which comes from the setting and the truly excellent characterization. I get the idea that the writer/director pulled his friends out of the neighborhood and said “Here, be in my movie.” Which may be totally false–because they all do their lines excellently and without sounding stilted–but it feels that way. The movie runs out of steam when it goes into standard zombie/plague mode, sort of ironically, or this movie would be a horror classic.

I can’t really recommend The Abandonedbecause I didn’t like it. But I don’t like this kind of movie. No matter how well done, if I know the characters are doomed from the start and yet the movie is going to make them go through the motions of surviving, I get both bored and pissed off. But for whatever reason, this movie is the only one they show on pay cable so maybe it’s a good example of a kind of movie I really dislike.

In the horror-like-Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-is-horror category, there’s The Deaths of Ian Stone.This is one of the few films that had a real budget, like $14M or something. It shows. And while it’s darker than Buffy, it feels like it could be a pilot for a Buffy-like series.

Butterfly Effect: Revelationhas a similar feel. I mean, the whole premise isn’t far off from “Quantum Leap”, which always threatened to scramble Sam’s brains. They just do it in this one.

Out of the 24 films, then, I’d feel comfortable recommending six pretty strongly. Sturgeon’s Law and all that.

If you’re okay with campy low-budget type flicks, then I can add Tooth & Nail,Nightmare Manand Autopsy.The camp in T&N may be entirely accidental but director Kanefsky (Nightmare) knows the limits of his medium and knows a laugh is as good as a shriek–and Autopsy is so completely committed to the “funhouse” style, it’s unimaginable that they didn’t know exactly what they were doing.

So, those are my recommendations.

Except for Autopsy, there’s not really any heavy gore in any of them (and the gore in Autopsy is right on the line of horrific/comic). Oh, there’s a compound fracture in T&N, that’s always good for an “ew”, and the majority of Unrest features half-dissected corpses as props. (I’m trying to remember if there was a lot of gore in Borderland. If there is, I’ve blocked it out.)

For hardcore fans, most of the movies have something to recommend them. And for would-be filmmakers, these would have to be interesting if only to examine: a) how much can be done on so little; b) how easy it is to go off the rails.

But for entertainment, the six abovementioned are worth the 80-90 minutes.