1 March 2017 Entry: The Blair Witch Project / Character Development vs. Situational Storytelling

Last night, I rewatched one of my most favorite horror movies: The Blair Witch Project, a movie whose (Can I use “whose” when referring to inanimate objects? Always learning!) scariness is debatable, but has influenced other movies, such as Paranormal Activity and REC. Debatable, indeed! My girlfriend who had never seen it didn’t think it was scary. “These characters are stupid,” she said in the middle of the film, when one of the characters, Mike, revealed that he had kicked their map into a river the day before. I tried explaining to her, but I’m not good with words.

These were normal people who had lost their sanity, and most importantly, their trust in one another. The map that was supposed to guide them out of the woods was useless either way because they were never going to get out. Something supernatural was causing them to walk in circles, keeping them in the witch’s territory, even if they followed a compass going all the way south.

I was 9-years-old when the movie first came out in 1999. Imagination was still intact. Cellphones and the internet weren’t as accessible. The world was more closed and mysterious. Film documentaries were all too real. From what I remember, The Blair Witch Project did a great job fooling people that it was real through campaigning. Remember the missing posters? It was years later when I found out that it wasn’t real, thanks to the internet. Oh, and it made $250 million on a $60,000 budget. It’s considered a landmark film because of its success and influence.

But my girlfriend, like many, didn’t like it.

I understood while watching the movie in 2017 that it looked outdated. Scenes were choppy. But it was supposed to be a movie put together using “found footage”. The female protagonist, Heather, did too much screaming while I had the Bose sound on (so to hear the cackling in the night). But the “acting” seemed to be genuine. Heather was too proud and Mike was too stupid. But one wouldn’t think something was wrong at first, and the loss of sensibility was a progression. Loads of “buts” that could deem it a bad movie if the audience isn’t flexible enough.

So why do I like it?

Last semester in Creative Writing class, Professor John Weir, author of The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket and What I Did Wrong?, asked his class, during a practice workshop, if the piece of writing we were discussing had character development. “Did it have character development? Or was it more situational?” It was something he never expanded on, but it gave me ideas on what created effective storytelling. Throughout the semester, he touched on characters starting somewhere and ending up elsewhere. “Did the characters change someway?” He didn’t say explicitly, but, of course, he was talking about character arcs. Some of my fellow classmates whose stories were situational felt like their stories tried too hard to impress, to the point that they sounded contrived.

The Blair Witch Project gives us three normal people in the beginning. They experience supernatural events. As a result of those events, they deteriorate psychologically. Cause and effect. The film is so deliberate in this aspect. Every night, things get worse and worse. They first react with questions and confusion. Then, they become frustrated and angry. Then, they turn on each other. Then, there’s screaming and crying. Then, there’s surrender. Three people, the woods, and a hidden antagonist that makes it even more psychological. What was stalking them? In my mind was a floating woman wearing a black, tattered cloak, her eyes constantly watching them. Why did she leave rocks outside their tent? Even she has to have motives. Was it to taunt them?

My girlfriend likes the movie Hush better, a movie I find to be okay, but lacking character development. To me, like many lazy horror movies, it’s more situational storytelling. It’s about a woman who lives in the middle of the woods (cliché) and is attacked by an intruder, but with a twist: she’s deaf. It reminded me of Home Alone, a movie with an identifiable character arc (Kevin is a scared little boy in the beginning, but then becomes brave enough to protect his own home). Hush has a “cool” concept, but that’s just it, and I didn’t find myself caring too much for the protagonist.

So what’s up with character development? The characters become much more real. The story becomes a bit more personal. There’s a chance that you’ll care about these people – empathize – and you’ll put yourself in the story. And when you put yourself in a horror story, that will make it even more of a horror for you.

Speaking as a student of psychology, I think The Blair Witch Project is one of the best psychological horrors out there, considering the fact that they did so much with so little. And, at one point, it was real. All too real.

 

Poem: “Fussy”

21 May 2015. That was the day I bought my first ever musical instrument. Well, I bought drumsticks when I was a kid so I could air guitar, but I never became a real percussionist. I never became anything with music. Not until I bought a Fender acoustic, one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my entire life. Because learning an instrument raises one’s IQ by a few points, right? I don’t know. I think so.

Oasis – mostly Noel Gallagher – made me want to learn guitar and be a rock ‘n’ roll star. I’ll write something about Noel Gallagher and how much I worship him in a later post because he is probably my biggest hero. His songs have been with me since my darkest days.

The song I wanted to play on acoustic was “Talk Tonight” by Oasis. It’s a slow acoustic about the need to talk to a special someone who was there for you. I couldn’t really play it because the chorus incorporates some hammering down with the pinky and plucking individual strings. The first song I probably mastered was “Songbird” by Oasis. Three chords only. My most favorite song to play is “If I Had a Gun” by Noel Gallagher’s solo band, High Flying Birds. It’s my most favorite love song.

The earliest songs I practiced on acoustic guitar were mostly sad songs; songs that made me sound like I was emo, which is not cool. That is why I named my guitar “Fussy”. Because his melodies used to be about love and getting hurt. It don’t fuss nowadays since I’ve learned more chords that have made me a more versatile guitarist, but the name stuck.

I ended up writing a poem about this special instrument. Once again, I suck at poetry.

“Fussy”

My Fender has been fussing
The melodies are its whining
Dark clouds don’t hover above
But my ears have been in love
Sadness isn’t stalking
Anxiety’s the one haunting
Music cures all ruminating
Lulling me back to dreaming
Maybe I wanna be a rock star?
Maybe Fussy’s gonna get me far
But rock stars don’t play sad songs
The chords are hard to reach in singalongs

Poem: “Dad’s Cooking” (The Five Senses)

By the way, I suck at poetry.

“Dad’s Cooking”

The taste of his cooking was always impressive
His chicken adobo was sweet and seductive
The thigh moist and tender in my mouth
I chew deliberately so there’s no trouble going south
The food was appetizing and delicious
Dad can’t eat some since he’s on dialysis
Even if I was full, the smell pulled me in
Sticking to my diet was something I couldn’t win
So when he says, “Food is ready, get your plate”
I can’t help but always take the bait

23 February 2017: “I Have an Anal Fissure!”

raw

“I have hemorrhoids!”

Thank you to the hilarious Michael Scott of The Office, played by Steve Carell, for speaking out about his rather embarrassing affliction. (Although, he yelled it out in the middle of the woods where nobody can hear him.)

Upon further research, I’ve concluded that I’ve been experiencing an anal fissure. What am I? A doctor? No. How do I know this? During defecation, there’s sharp pain, and stinging afterwards, sometimes for the rest of the day. And there’s fresh blood in my stool, something that has been a childhood fear of mine, but something I’ve gotten used to with exposure.

This is a little embarrassing to talk about, but I’ve realized, after talking with colleagues and family, that it’s common. “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who need it.” So I hope this will help others out there because I honestly thought I was going to die. There was so much malaise. A colleague said to be careful because it could become something else, like cancer. It’s a pessimistic outlook, but she’s a cancer survivor.

Pain from my anal fissure had been occurring since January 9th, the day I left for the Philippines. It occurred before that day even, but since that particular day, it hadn’t really stopped. It subsided overseas for a little while, when I had traveler’s diarrhea, but it recurred when my stool returned to normal. Even when the stool was soft, there was pain and bleeding. The last few days in the Philippines were torture and I was frightened to go to the toilet in the airport at Taipei during a 13-hour stopover because there was still stinging from the last defecation.

I kept holding off defecation because I wanted time to heal, but this was the wrong idea. When you have to go, you have to do so right away because the stool will harden when it stays too long in the rectum.

After talking with others and doing my own research online, I’ve discovered other remedies that helped. They are no-brainers.

I used to watch constipation commercials on television and snide about how people need to take pills for constipation, when, in my mind, all you have to do is drink water. (My view has since changed after my father went on dialysis and now sometimes requires pills to pass stool.) But water has been a key to (hopefully) curing my anal fissure. I don’t just drink the recommended eight glasses a day. I drink ten just to be sure. But what goes hand in hand, the most important key to my improvement, has been fiber. It has helped things move along smoothly. I bought Benefiber and drink 10 grams of fiber in the evening because my usual time to go to the toilet is in the morning. You get fiber from fruits and vegetables as well.

I researched posture while sitting on the toilet and found a Youtube video that helped. I used to perform the squat position, but squatting on the toilet made it hard to relax since it’s physically demanding. The first time I sat on the toilet with legs spread wide, torso hunched forward, and myself humming deeply, the first time I defecated pain-free for the first time in a month. Thank God. No more planning to go see a doctor.

My manager gave me additional advice so it’s best to open up because there might be some good advice to be heard. She drinks warm water (not hot, not cold) in the morning with her coffee. From my understanding, the warm water in the morning provides a boost for the digestive system and the coffee serves as a laxative. She also convinced me to change. You have to make changes in your life to get better.

What else? I said you have to go right away when you feel like it to prevent stool from hardening in the rectum, to drink water, to get enough fiber, and to find a posture on the toilet to help things open up and pass smoothly. So what else?

Consistency. If I miss one day without enough water, the pain and blood returns. No fiber leads to constipation. The pain and blood returns. Not relaxing while defecation? Pain. Blood. Returns. Ouch.

What else? I was just talking about what has worked for me, but I read exercise helps. There’s also going to a doctor. But I’m 26. I hope I don’t have to go to a doctor for this. At least not for a while. Not until I’m 50, which is the age recommended to have regular colonoscopies. I’m too young for this!

Do I have to go to the toilet now? Oh, c’mon! I’m on campus! I hate doing it in public! I think I’ll let it wait until I get home. It’s that damn fiber I chugged down last night. It wants out. Am I being disgusting? Was reading this disgusting? I’m really sorry. But this is reality. And I’m trying to help and offer advice to the world. Has it been helpful? I don’t know. It has for me! Sometimes… when I’m consistent. I’m not a spokesman for Benefiber who’s trying to sell! Well, I’m a man speaking out about how it has helped me! What am I talking about? Should I end this post now? I think I want to write more! This is my way of showing that I want to write more: when I just type away what’s at the top of my head. Okay! Enough!

Cheers.

A Quote about a Young Mind

“A young mind is out of control.”

Today, I had an engaging conversation with my manager who’s been someone like a mother to me. Despite our rough beginnings and her volatile personality, I’m happy to have her in my life and I enjoy her presence, most especially (don’t say anything), when she’s in a pleasant mood.

We were talking about people who could be mentally unstable. I’m not saying names. People who get angry easily, who have no control of their emotions, who gossip, who listen to stories and peoples’ problems and spew what was heard back around with their own spin. She’s been victimized in the past so I understand her.

She’s sometimes crazy herself.

Maybe not so much.

A few minutes earlier, a customer threw a tantrum and threatened to “knock [my] head off [my] shoulders” (which is impossible because I have a big head). The anger! The sheer rage he expressed! (I can’t go into details right now about what I do for a living, but I don’t sell crystal meth to children.)

I think I had control in a potentially dangerous situation. In the past, I’d experienced this thing where things would go blurry while in the moment. I’d be overwhelmed with emotions – fear, anger, confusion, fight, flight – and then, I wouldn’t be in the situation. Like brain fog. Like being in the fog of war. Then, my body would tense up, I’d grind my teeth and get so angry inside, and my day would be ruined after much rumination.

But this customer – not even a customer! –  tantrumed as if he were a child. A grown man. My manager interceded. “Okay, enough,” she repeated about half a dozen times.

“Don’t talk to me like you’re my mother!” The angry man yelled. Maybe he has mommy issues.

“Enough!” My manager yelled with sheer authority and a sense of finality that silenced the angry man with mommy issues. Hey! She’s my mommy! Get your own!

But I remembered being in the moment. There was no fog of war. My breathing was calm. So this is how clutch people… well… deliver in the clutch! The moment doesn’t get to them. And his scowling face, my customer’s indisposed and not-in-the-mood (what’s the word for it?) face, the entire moment… was crystal clear. No fear. No anger. I was in control.

He obviously wasn’t.

Since it’s unrelated to the incident, I forgot the context of the quote, but I said it to a co-worker who I’m training an hour afterwards and, for some reason, it sounded cool at the time. “That’s going on my blog!” I told her. She’s eight years younger than I am and ever since naming her my “protege”, her job performance has improved. Because you have to pass down wisdom to those younger like what my “mother” does with me. My trainee’s response?

“Tumblr.”

“Nope! WordPress!”

Now, that moment is gone and its true meaning is forgotten. Such a quote could mean anything in different situations.

What does it mean right now in time?

Maturity.

Attempt at Humor: “The Filipino Club”

I was walking around the basement of the student union at Queens College with my girlfriend. She moved from the Philippines about three years ago.

We peered into every room at the different clubs. We passed by the Sikh club, the Hakuna Matata Club, the Tech club, and then a room which looked like the Filipino club. Inside were Asian students talking to each other.

“Hey, look…the Filipino club,” I said to her.

“They’re not Filipino. They’re Chinese.”

“Oh,” I said. “Maybe they invaded.”

3 February 2017: Meditation Session

Clear the mind.

Breathe in and out.

Focus.

…Without being bothered by Haley’s piercing meows to leave the room. To head to the litter perhaps?

…Without thinking about how loud my mother’s voice is while she speaks to another cat like a baby. Her voice really is loud. A consequence of getting old and deaf?

…Without being seduced by the aroma of cooking. Longaniza. Hopefully garlic rice. I haven’t had a proper breakfast today. Popcorn and coffee with whey isn’t enough.

…Without feeling impatient to immerse myself back in Skyrim. I have a lot to do, such as securing the road between Helgen and Falkreath and clearing out some caves along the way.

…Without feeling anxious to call work back. They have the nerve to call me now that they need me. It’s not the fault of the person who’s calling. It’s the nature of the business.

…Without feeling anxious about an oddity in my Degree Works that states I have 43 credits, when I actually have 46. 45 credits is needed to graduate. And I will graduate.

…Without remembering that reading has to be done for Professor Weir’s class.

…Without discomfort building in my neck. Moving it up gives relief.

…Without losing patience that I might be wasting my time. I’m not. This is for anxiety. Hopefully, for my IQ as well.

Eyes open.

It’s been under two minutes. This session is over.

There’s a need for improvement.