Day 220: Live this day as if it were your last.

There are a lot of asinine proverbs out there, and “Live every day as if it were your last” is one of them. It can’t be done. You know why? This is why:

Damn, Bill Murray.

Of course, the Book doesn’t want me to live every day like I’m going to be dead tomorrow—just one. It even provides me a handy hypothetical scenario—a meteorite is about to obliterate the planet, and only I know!—so that I’m healthy and there are no consequences, for me or anyone else. I’m Phil Connors for a day, I guess.

What would I do with a day like that? Have a ridiculous breakfast, yes—but I’d be drinking champagne from the bottle, and not coffee from the carafe. I’d be drinking all day, in fact. I’d play with my kids, I’d take my wife on a date (for lunch, before I got too drunk), I’d ignore the stacks of work that I’m mostly ignoring anyway. I might pick a fight with my asshole neighbor. No, no, I wouldn’t do that: I’d just burn his house down. No consequences, right?

Living a “last day” that’s radically different from all your other days seems, I don’t know, wrong somehow? I mean, I wouldn’t go to work if I knew I was going to be dead in twenty-four hours—but I also wouldn’t walk through a parking lot smashing car windows, or hire a van-ful of prostitutes, or gorge myself on french fries and doughnuts and cupcakes. I wouldn’t do any of those things anyway: why would I do them just because I was going to be dead soon?

Because my life is sad and miserable, and I need the extraordinary circumstance of my impending death to enable me to do what I’ve secretly desired to do all my life, the things that will finally make me happy, finally make my life worth living, when it’s finally too late——that, at least, is what the Book assumes. Stupid fucking book.

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Contagion

I just got back from watching Contagion (there’s a dollar theater in Plano—I didn’t know those were still a thing): it’s been on my list of movies to watch since I heard about it, and I went tonight instead of waiting for the DVD release because I’m going to be teaching the film in the spring. A colleague and I are putting together a writing course on disasters, and Contagion is one of the texts.

One of the things that means is that there will be more posts about this movie, from a more critical/pedagogical perspective, as I actually teach it—and so for now, I’m just going to talk about how awesome it was. Also: there will be spoilers.

The film opens with Gwyneth Paltrow, coughing, and we know very quickly that she’s going to die (if, in fact, we didn’t know that going in). When she gets home to Minnesota from Hong Kong and hugs her son, who is about seven, we know he’s going to die, too—and we might expect her husband, Matt Damon, to die as well, but he doesn’t. There’s a fair amount going on during the opening minutes—we’re introduced to some other major characters, we see the early spread of the virus—but the mini-arc involving Beth (Paltrow), Mitch (Damon), and Clark (the kid) is one of the best parts of the film. Beth is sick, sure, but then she collapses at home, is rushed to the hospital, and dies—very quickly. Damon’s performance as he’s being told of his wife’s death is … well, excellent: it is not excessively (obviously) emotionally manipulative, and it gives a personal, individual weight of grief to the sufferings of countless millions that the film gives us. And when Clark dies while Mitch is at the hospital, well, you know that the film isn’t fucking around.

The cast was uniformly good. I was particularly impressed by Kate Winslet—which reminds me that I should watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind again soon—and by Jennifer Ehle (though I must say that Regency-era dress is more flattering than an orange biohazard suit). I am always impressed by Matt Damon.

Jude Law did well with a shitty character—my initial impression is that the blogger he plays is an antagonistically-written caricature, but I may change my mind. The character is used to make some interesting and salient points about the way misinformation spreads virally (get it?), but he also feels one-dimensional in a way that even more minor characters don’t. That’s one of the film’s strengths: despite the large cast of characters, and the ensemble cast, everyone feels like a real person—except Law’s Alan Krumwiede, despite his admirable efforts. I mean, what the hell kind of name is Krumwiede? The next stupidest name in the film is “Cheever,” and that’s not stupid at all.

I’ll end by saying that this is one of the most terrifying films I’ve seen—even though it ends better than one might expect—and now I feel compelled to stockpile canned goods and bottled water and vegetable seeds and ammunition and batteries, and et cetera, so that I can quarantine myself and my family when this shit actually happens, because we’re overdue for an epidemic.

Also: apparently chefs in Asian casinos don’t wash their hands after handling raw pork. So, watch out for that.


Day 215: Welcome a new life.

I’ve linked to the Census Bureau’s population clock before: you have to reload the page to get new numbers, but this one updates as you watch, which is cool, but also a bit disturbing.

If I wanted to go into it, this would be the time to discuss the unsustainability of our current population growth curve, and the ever-increasing likelihood of some sort of catastrophic collapse in which most of the population dies, and what this has to do with late-20th and early-21st century apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fictions … I don’t really want to, though, because it’s depressing to think about. Also it’s late, and I’ve had a few bourbons, and I have to get up early and dig post-holes and put posts in them and put concrete around the posts in the morning.

So.

I’m going to take the easy way out, and offer someone else’s advice: “wear sunscreen,” &c.

I’ll make a few additions, also borrowed, but from other sources:

Life is hard, and then you die. It is the fate of all living organisms to become food for other living organisms. Death and destruction. Smoke if you’ve got ’em. Alcohol doesn’t make life worth living, but it helps sometimes. All you need is love. Shit flows downhill, and payday’s on Friday. The Dude abides.

When the zombies happen, stay the fuck out of the cities.

Rock over London; rock on, Chicago.


Day 198: Have a good cry.

Originally scheduled for Sunday, July 17.

There are people that enjoy “having a good cry” on occasion: I am not one of those people. Never have been.

I don’t cry at movies. I don’t cry at weddings. I don’t even cry at funerals.

I cried when my children were born. Each time, it was a spontaneous losing of my shit. I though I was prepared the second time around, but no, I wasn’t — I cried more than either of the kids did, and they were the ones transitioning from the comforts of the womb (I guess wombs are comfortable?) to the harsh reality of being alive.

Other than that, I don’t cry. I mean, I’m sure I’ve cried in moments of extreme stress a few times in my adult life, but those were brief moments, and I have no desire to repeat them. I don’t find crying cathartic. Maybe that’s a sign that I should do it more often? How would that work? Have a few drinks, watch a sad movie — but which one? Steel Magnolias? — and maybe drop a hammer on my foot for good measure: that might do it, but only the “have a few drinks” part sounds remotely appealing.

Also, there was that one time that I cried in the shower — but if you haven’t heard that story, you’re out of luck, because it’s not getting told here.


Day 190: Follow these directions.

The directions in question are walking directions: walk so many minutes in one direction, take the next two lefts, walk so many more minutes, cross the nearest bridge, etc.

This is a task I very much want to do, but the day it fell on — the day before I left for a weeklong, school-sponsored workshop in Taos, NM — was not a good day for me to spend a few hours out walking. I had to pick up the rental car (I and three of my fellow graduate students drove), I had to finish packing, I had to finish some reading — and I had to not entirely ignore my wife and children, who won’t see me for the next eight days, though I ignored them more than I should have.

Also, it’s hot.

So I’m officially postponing Day 190 — officially, to distinguish it from those three or four days I let slip past unblest, unburied, and unsung (days which I promise I’ll come back to, though I may cram them all into one super day).

I’ll probably get around to Day 190 sometime in August. It will be, if anything, even hotter then, but if I wait for pleasant weather, it won’t get done until after Thanksgiving, and I’ll have completely forgotten about it by then.


Day 186: Cleanliness day.

Two hundred years ago, I’d have been a pretty clean guy. Suspiciously clean, perhaps. But by our current mysophobic and anti-dirt standards, I’m not particularly clean.

I don’t shower daily. I come close to it during the summer, but I average three showers a week during the winter. I don’t wear deodorant.

You’re probably all squirming a bit; tell people you don’t shower every day and don’t wear deodorant, and this is what they picture:

I’m not that dirty. I’m not anywhere close to that dirty. When I get that dirty — which happens, on occasion — I take a fucking shower.

I wash my hands regularly. I wash my face in the morning, and after certain meals (those meals during which I get food in my beard). I brush my damned teeth.

I took a shower today, of course, because it’s cleanliness day. I’d vaguely intended to get excessively dirty beforehand, but the most difficult thing I did all day was read Clarissa, and that didn’t make me dirty — not physically dirty, anyway. I did some jumping-jacks before showering, in an attempt to work up a sweat, but it was only sort of successful.

I cleaned myself more thoroughly than I have in a while. I washed everywhere at least twice, and with Dr Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint Soap — I came out of the shower smelling like a candy cane, and tingling like … uh, something tingly.

I’m certainly not going to start cleaning myself this thoroughly all the time — I’m just going to get dirty again, and I can’t tell any difference between today’s super-clean and my normal sort-of-clean. I guess the problem is that I wasn’t dirty enough to start with, because my normal clean always feel amazingly clean if I get into the shower caked in mud and grass and feces, which happens more than you might expect.

The secret to happiness is, after all, being really miserable before and after, so the brief moment of happiness seems that much better in comparison.


Day 168: Women-only day.

Alright, since I did manly things on “manly-things day,” I should do womanly things today. I guess? What counts as “womanly things”?

The Book’s suggestions, as with both manly-things day and gay-day, were less than helpful, and occasionally border on sexist. Accessorize? Gossip? Open your heart? No, no, no. Drive cautiously? Not a chance. Hate the food you’re enjoying? I don’t even know what that means. Stay home from work with a headache? I’m a grad student; I don’t go to the office in the summer. Entertain two contradictory thoughts simultaneously? I do that all the time anyway.

Cry at the movies sounded good, because it would have meant going to the movies, which I rarely get to do: tickets are expensive, and baby-sitters are expensive, and I’m usually too busy pretending to work, and so I don’t see movies until they’ve been out on DVD for a while.

Multiple orgasm sounded the best of all, but I’m physiologically incapable of that one.

What are some other stereotypical “womanly things”? I interacted with my children; I washed the dishes; I picked up dirty laundry; I put toys away; I swept the floor. I guess those count, or would count, if this was the 1950s — but I do those things all the time anyway, because that’s how I roll.

In the end, I decided to sit this one out: I dont have a vagina, and I think that disqualifies me from something labelled “women only,” in the same way that having a penis means I can’t use women’s restrooms.

Well, I’m not supposed to, anyway.

…and, for the record, I don’t.