Tooth Fairy Out Sick - No Teeth Pickup Until 8/10

It was announced early yesterday that the Tooth Fairy, due to a slight illness, will be unable to pick up any teeth Saturday, August 9th.  Teeth pick-up will resume on Sunday, August 10th.

To ensure children are informed and understand, please let them know to keep their teeth safe in approved tooth containers from the dentist or, if unavailable, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Due to the nature of the Tooth Fairy's schedule and magic, a temporary replacement was unable to be located in time for the routine pick-up.

This message goes out to all families in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.  

Truth in Fiction

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"I'm going to tell you something important.  Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either.  Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing.  Inside, they look just like they always have,  Like they did when they were your age.  The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups.  Not one, in the whole wide world."
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Lettie Hempstock's ocean flowed inside me, and it filled the entire universe, from Egg to Rose. 
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I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled.  I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I found joy in the things that made me happy.

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Watching It All Go By

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Most of the time I am too busy to entertain such fantasies.  I have filled my life so completely that many days there is no time to think about the fact that I am living it.  But these moments, usually in a strange city, give me the illusion that in some sense the person that is really me sits somewhere quietly at a table, watching it all go by.

- Roger Ebert, "My Life: A Memoir"

If we're defined by the media we consume, then a significant portion of who I am is directly attributed to Roger Ebert.  Next to my father, no one had a greater influence in not only the films I watch, but in how I watch them.  Always open, always receptive, and and always wondering, questioning why something affected me the way it did.  Falling into the role of film critic at the Sun-Times in 1967, Ebert immersed himself in the fundamentals of cinematic language the same way so many of us who love film did: by soaking in the silver celluloid glow of as many movies as he could.  His film criticism, always in the first person, never failed to convey the passion derived from simply jumping in, connecting a film's themes and technique as often as not to something completely outside the world of cinema, unafraid to judge a movie on how it affected him emotionally, even if it confused him intellectually.*

It was the television show in all its iterations that drew me in, but it was his writing that had the most influence on my life.  Whether it was his series of essays on the Great Movies (currently collected in three volumes), his weekly reviews at the Sun-Times or the online journal (calling it a "blog" seems a disservice) he turned to late in his life there was always something that reached out.  Through his guidance I learned why Bergman is so much more than a visual reference in Woody Allen movies; why the stillness of the camera in an Ozu film can be as emotionally stirring as the whiplash movement in a Kurosawa epic; that it's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.**

But more than that, I saw expressed in his writing the same fears, the same doubts, and the same joys in life that I had.  Even if the triggers were different, I could recognize the spirit of contemplation, of resolve that had been and is often still missing in my own life.  It's the type of writing I've always aspired to.  More often than not I would fail, but now and again, usually when I wasn't thinking too hard it would catch: a word, a paragraph that would ring true.  I would read it out loud and know that this was my voice, the cadence caught and the idea clear, and sometimes it could carry the weight right to the finish line.  If you write, you know the feeling. 

"If you write, you know the feeling."  The thing about writing is you have to actually write.  And for too long I've said "I write" even as the pages start to yellow and the keyboard gathers dust.

But then Roger Ebert died, and the best I can do is try to emulate a man who, in his own words, filled his life so completely that many days there was no time to think about the fact that he was living it.  It's a beautiful quote, almost misleading you to think it's something good.  For too long I've filled my so completely I've been forgetting I'm living it.

Rather than watching it all go by, it's time to stop and live it.  Rest in Peace, Roger.

*I modified the quote from Ebert, which is "Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you."

**Probably the best advice on film criticism I've ever read

The Flu Update

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It seems like every time I get back on the writing horse, someone pours a Gatorade jug of bacteria on me.  In this case, it's a confirmed case of Type B Influenza.  This despite the fact that I got a flu vaccination back in November.

So I'm a little behind in my media reviews/updates.  On the movie front, I watched Sleepless Night, a French thriller that was either a refreshing return to a classic genre or a been there, done that cliche that offers nothing you haven't see before (i fall in the first camp).  I also re-watched Looper and The Fantatsic Mr. Fox, both of which were even better on second viewings.  The Fantastic Mr. Fox in particular was great due to seeing it with another couple and a few drinks down in the basement/theater room.

For books I dove into the Jim Butcher Dresden Files series, reading Fool Moon, the second book in the series as well as Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot.  Fool Moon had a very specific purpose: I've come to grips that, despite not being a fan of the Urban Fantasy genre, the novel I'm trying to write has a lot in common with it, and with The Dresden Files in particular, so I want to see how Butcher worked the format.  The reason for reading The Marriage Plot was simple: Eugenides is a stunning writer, and both The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex had a profound impact on me.  The Marriage Plot doesn't quite hold the same power over me, but it was a fun book, and I hope to write both up while I'm laid up in the bedroom.

Right now it's almost 3:00am, and between the 13 pills I'm taking and the fever that seems to roll like waves, crashing into my body with chills and shaking only to fall away again leaving me exhausted and drenched in sweat, there's not a lot of sleep coming.  I'm under quarantine until Tuesday at the earliest, so it's time to dig in and make the best of the situation with some good movies and books.

Good night, Internet.

Oasis | Fiction

I didn't want to go too long without posting something, and since I'm still working on two films and a book review I thought I'd try something a little different. It started with two visuals: the first sentence and the last. They kept replaying in my head: shots from a dream inside the head of Sergio Leone by way of David Lynch. Out of that "Oasis" came to be.

I gave myself one rule: it had to be less than 1,000 words. In that place where fiction lives Frank's history stretches - back to a painful and messy birth, in a small cabin in the middle of a plot of land still struggling to understand the sensation of being settled. But I could never decide if Frank's time ended there in the desert, or if this was just another chapter in a life that would go on. Reading it again I still don't know, and there's strange comfort in that.

Frank's hand trembled again, a bead of sweat tracing the path of a blue, gnarled vein that disappeared into the cracked landscape of a knuckle. His fingers twitched in fitful rhythms against the parched leather of his holster, which in turn rested against the dusty, cracked leather of his chaps. His thumb intermittently flicked the hammer of his Colt, catching the sun in a Morse code of pinpricks. He doubted it would obey him now; he had stopped counting the days, and only knew it had been too long since he properly cleaned and oiled the revolver, let alone been in a place where the wind didn’t fill every crevice with the grains that were even now tearing at his exposed flesh. Every step forward was another step further away from recollection, and closer to forgetfulness.

And now even that had stopped. For how long he didn’t know – long enough that the tips of his boots were partially buried, the exposed tops looking for all the world like black pools of tar, rippling in the heat and giving the illusion of water where there was none. His last taste must have been a day or two before the horse gave in, eyes rolling up and collapsing with a human sigh into the dune he had been using as a shield. Frank kneeled next to the beast, the rise and fall of her ribcage diminishing with each labored breath.

There was no sound but the roar of the wind.

The skies were beginning to darken, so while he could still see he unslung the empty water bag from his shoulder and unsheathed his hunting knife. Holding the bag open as best he could and using his legs to prop the horse’s head in position, he cut the beast’s throat, catching what he could into the water bag. It was messy, and imprecise; less than a quarter filled. His hands were failing him. He stood up, took a deep breath, and brought the bag to his lips. He choked on the first gulp, almost vomiting, but his body’s demand for liquid, any liquid, was too great, and he kept it down.

But that was a day, maybe two days ago, lost in the endless horizon line. Now there was nothing but the sick sweat, beading on his fevered head at night, his body revolting on him, refusing to hold onto even that diseased moisture. In the blindness of the day there was nothing, not even a drop to sting as it traveled down his burned and blistered face.

He craned his head as far to the left as he could and, hands shielding his eyes, slowly panned to the right, taking in the world.

Empty.

Not even a mirage to buoy his hopes, beguile his mind into false respite. His end would come in the middle of a limitless sea, drowned in heat and sand. Frank dropped to his knees, his torso upright and swaying in a sort of penitent slouch. His hat traced tiny counter-clockwise circles as his fingers fumbled with the strap on his holster. The steel of the barrel scraped against the leather as the revolver came free, a slow-motion draw that ended with a thump as gravity pulled hand and gun to the earth. For a minute, two minutes, he didn’t move, his head bowed, his body sliding into the environment. The wind cried, began its ritual rising, but the old familiar stillness had overtaken him. Hand and fingers shifting, the Colt began to rise. Slowly at first, the actions so long ago built into muscle memory there was no hint of trembling now. In a fluid motion his forearm swiveled, tracing an arc with the barrel until it came to rest lightly against his right temple, the metallic click of the hammer being pulled back lost in the wind.

The contact between barrel and head was brief: a second, no more. Frank brought the gun around. He stared into the small circle of black, the period that had sentenced death to those that deserved it, and those that didn’t. For the first time since the robbery, since San Verde and Mara, since the crack in the window that cast a rainbow on the wall, a rainbow that witnessed a promise, and a lie, Frank smiled. He lowered the gun back to his holster, drew a long, slow breath, and rose.

“Draw.”

In a blink the machine he trained his arm to be whipped up, the Colt an extension, and accusing finger. Pointing at nothing but half-remembered ghosts he pulled the trigger.

A dry click, then nothing.

The smile remained. His arm, satisfied one final time, dropped as he did, kneeling once more on the ground. The barrel of the Colt pitched in the sand, angled as his hand held the grip, then fell as he let go. The winds immediately began their work of concealment. Frank reached into the desert in front of him, those hands pushing away the grains. The winds and lack of moisture made it hard, but he was used to hard, didn't know an other way, and after a few minutes he managed a small but noticeable indentation. It was enough. Cool, beautiful, he thrust his hands deep into his oasis.

He pulled his hands out and brought them, cupped, to his mouth.

Arching back, his hat falling, left to dangle by the cord tied around his neck he drank, long and deep.

If the vultures, flying overhead, could speak, they would have remarked on the man in the middle of the desert, grinning like a fiend as he swallowed mouthful after mouthful of the ever shifting sands.