Denver Memories

It may be a strange thing to say (or write, as the case may be) but I was kind of hoping to spend some extra time at the Denver Airport.  When I traveled to Denver for a conference last year, I arrived to a workload (attending AAR/SBL as an editor is all work, not play).  I had no time to hang around the airport.  I knew, however, as a recent New York Times piece states, that the airport has a reputation for the paranormal.  While the Times article focuses on Luis Jimenez’s sculpture “Mustang” to start, it quickly moves on to “conspiracy theories.”  And the parts of the airport passengers never see.  The place has a reputation for being weird.  During construction in recent years, the usually anodyne partitions that block construction from the view of passengers, housed images of aliens, bolstering rumors that Denver, and its airport, have some connection with our extraterrestrial neighbors.

The Times story points out alien graffiti in parts of the Denver Airport where travelers can’t go.  And it also points out that although the fiery red eyes of “Mustang” are to represent Jimenez’s father’s start in the neon business, they give the giant horse a demonic aspect.  The artist died working on the sculpture.  A piece fell during construction, severing an artery.  But the conspiracy theories began earlier.  The southwest has a reputation of being the home of the shapeshifting reptilians that have made it onto mainstream television.  Is it any wonder that Trump stands a possibility of getting the nomination while yet more crimes are actively stacked on his record?

Of course, I was in Denver to work.  I claimed my bag and got a taxi on a snowy southwestern morning.  While there I worked, of course.  It was cold, in any case, back in November, so getting out to see the sights didn’t particularly appeal, especially since it was getting dark by the time the book stalls were closing and I was there alone.  I always want to be on time, and since I’m an early riser, and since Thanksgiving was just a couple days away, I went to the airport three hours before my flight home.  I was thinking I might have some time to do a bit of X-Filing while waiting.  Alas, it was not to be.  The helpful flight attendant put me on an earlier flight and I ended up with a three-hour layover in Chicago.  But I also knew that several “mothman” sightings had taken place at O’Hare over the preceding months.  When you’re a traveler, however, they keep you away from the interesting parts of the airport.

Finding Yourself

Sometimes I look, fascinated.  At tracking info, that is.  I once ordered an item from Montreal, which is, I’m told, in the province of Quebec, Canada.  The estimated shipping time was five days.  It ended up being quite the tourist package.  Its first US port of call was Plattsburgh, New York, which makes sense.  The strange thing is the Canadian tracker didn’t include the states—just town names, all of them small, as if this were a covert operation.  From Plattsburgh it went to East Syracuse, because, well, who wouldn’t want to go to East Syracuse?  From there it leapt right over Pennsylvania, where I live, to Hodgkins, Illinois.  This is a town so small that you really have to be a fan of package vacations to find it.  From there it went to Maumee, Ohio.  It seemed to be heading in the right direction, in any case.  Maumee led to Middlebury Heights, still in Ohio.  Finally it reached Pennsylvania, in New Stanton, not terribly far from my childhood home.  Then Carlisle, about halfway through the state.  Finally to Easton, from which it reached me.  Surprisingly, on time.  

It’s gotta be around here somewhere…

Logistics baffle me.  I had it drilled into me as a child that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Montreal is about 400 miles from here, pretty much straight north.  I wouldn’t venture to tell UPS (the carrier in this instance) how to do its job, but when you’re ordering something carbon neutral (that, of course, you can’t get close to home) it feels kind of excessive to have to stop in so many small towns only to skip the destination state by flying from New York to Illinois so you can drive it back to Pennsylvania.  Logistics people need jobs too, I guess.

Amazon has made many people ask why things can’t arrive more quickly.  The fact is, shipping companies have their own protocols.  It’s like when you have to fly south from a regional airport to get onto a flight north.  You have to reach a hub where they know how to direct your package.  And if your item requires sea freight, well, all bets are off.  There may be no tracking points between Shanghai and Los Angeles.  No matter how much some people may say they hate it, we live in a global society.  We rely on China, and Canada, and everywhere else, to make life go in these United States.  Even following your tracking information can, in that way, be an exercise in thoughtfulness as well as a learning experience. 

More Water Monsters

Monster from the Ocean Floor, one gets the sense, wouldn’t have merited a Wikipedia article were it not for the fact that it was the first film Roger Corman produced.  Despite its B-movie quality, there’s quite a lot to like about it.  First of all it has a strong female lead.  Julie Blair is the only gringo in Mexico to believe the locals that there’s a monster just off shore.  Steve Dunning, the scientist, is an avowed skeptic.  The plot is cheesy—the monster is an overgrown amoeba irradiated by the Bikini Island underwater nuclear tests, and it’s killed by getting a submarine in the eye—but there are some very effective cinematographic moments.  When the young boy talking to Julie in the opening turns to stare at the ocean where his father disappeared, the framing and emotion are perfect.

The theme music for the approach of the shark, and then the amoeba, anticipate Jaws by a couple of decades, and I have to wonder if John Williams hadn’t watched Monster from the Ocean Floor.  (I’m sure even cultured people watch the occasional B-movie.)  There’s also an unexpected religion angle.  A series of episodes in the film have a couple of locals trying to kill Julie as a sacrifice to the monster.  Despite the holes in the plot, it’s remarkable that in 1954 there could be dialogue suggesting that the Christian God (“the other god” according to a local woman) isn’t the God that Quetzalcoatl is.  All the same, the sacrifice is based on the folklore that the sacrifice of the “fairest” (Julie is, naturally, blonde) will appease the monster.  Maybe not the most solid theological basis, but still, not bad for a bad movie.

I’ve recently published a piece on Horror Homeroom about women and water monsters.  Having a strong woman in a 1954 film is especially remarkable.  Julie, despite the skepticism of the scientists, takes the initiative to dive right down and see the monster for herself.  It’s only when she comes up with physical proof that the men consider that she may be right (and in danger).  Of course, the men do have to rescue her—you can’t have it all.  Yes, it’s a cheaply made movie with a paper-thin plot but it was beginning to show that a woman could take the reins and with good motives (if nobody else will do something about the monster, she will).  Although she’s the love object of the movie, she’s so much more.  And a submarine in the eye—that’s gotta smart.

Iron Man?

As a vegan, I sometimes end up thinking more about nutrition than I used to.  Back when I first became a vegetarian colleagues wondered how I got my iron.  I’m one of those apparently rare individuals who really likes broccoli.  I could eat it nearly every day of the week without tiring of it.  In any case, iron is important for health.  I’ve known people with iron deficiencies and it can be a real problem.  Doctors recommend ferrous gluconate as a dietary supplement since the body absorbs iron better from it.  (It’s best on an empty stomach, I’m told, followed by orange juice.)  But I’m no physician.  In fact, I’m quite squeamish, which may seem strange for someone who watches horror.  Still, thinking about iron took me back to my childhood.

I was a sickly child.  Couple this with a tendency to think too much and I must’ve been a handful for my mother.  I remember trying to explain to her once that I didn’t believe reality was real.  I was maybe twelve at the time.  She prescribed ironized yeast.  Now, Mom’s no doctor.  She didn’t even finish high school.  So thinking about broccoli made me wonder about ironized yeast.  First a web search revealed it’s not sold any more.  Further, it was a health food fad beginning in the 1930s.  Although I remember the taste and scent distinctly, I couldn’t find a website saying what it was or how it was made.  More to the point, why did my poor, frustrated mother think that it would help me couple reality with what was happening around me again?  (And was that even such a good idea?)

Questioning perceptions seems to run in my family.  I’ve long known that my thought process is very different from that of other people.  My saintly wife still says the reason she was attracted to me is that she’d never met anyone who thinks the way I do.  My thought process has had plenty of opportunities to drive her crazy since those early days, I suspect.  My brother and I sometimes talk about what it’s like being, I suspect, were we diagnosed, neurodiverse.  It’s easy to fall into the perception that others think like we do.  I suspect all people do that.  Few, at least among those I’ve met, question the reality that their senses tell them really exists.  Physics tells us it’s mostly empty space.  And yet although I still don’t know what it is, maybe I’d better find someone with an old stockpile of ironized yeast to get back to business. It is, after all, a work day.

Who knows what goes on in the mind of others?

People of Slime

An old saying advises not to speak ill of the dead.  And I suspect this also applies to the living dead.  Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a classic horror film that represents the maturing of the genre.  Of course, it’s not the only horror film of the sixties, and I don’t mean to speak ill of it by suggesting that George Romero—who was used to working with a small budget—had seen The Slime People.  But I wonder if he had.  Directed by and starring Robert Hutton, The Slime People was released in 1963 and although it’s really bad, some of the scenes from this black-and-white groaner seem to have been borrowed five years later by the more able director.  The interviews by the newscasters and the driving country roads, and even the chasing of the angry mob could’ve served as direct inspirations.

The slime people are from subterranean earth, forced into action by underground nuclear testing.  Building a solid fog wall around Los Angeles, they take over the city while a pilot, a scientist and his two lovely daughters, and a marine, save the day.  Although the military had been fighting the monsters, they just couldn’t win.  The scientist really doesn’t help solve the issue but the pilot (Hutton) finds the creatures’ wall machine and the scientist is able to blow it up with a spear, saving the day.  This is one of those films so bad that it’s good.  The writing is poor and the plot makes little sense overall.  It doesn’t quite have the style of an Ed Wood film, but it participates in the aesthetic of watching bad movies.

Hutton isn’t a bad actor.  Hampered by a too-low budget (one of the signs that a movie might be one of the good bad ones), he couldn’t film the story he envisioned.  Much of the budget was reputedly spent on the slime people costumes, ensuring that Hutton drew no salary for his own role in his movie.  A couple of the other stars were veteran actors, and this prevents the movie from being a mere hack job.  I take some hope from the fact that many films like this eventually become cult classics.  Yes, sometimes it’s so that we can laugh at them, but I think there may be something deeper involved.  Those of us who watch bad movies might recognize something of ourselves in them.  We too struggle to tell our story, without big budgets and without studio support.  And yet we persist.

Insane Illusionist

The Dark Shadows novels supplemented my early watching of the television series.  It’s funny, but when I remember watching the show, in my mind I watched it alone.  During a conversation with one of my brothers recently, he assured me that he had watched the show too, pointing to the selectiveness of memory.  What I do know is that I was the only one who read the novels.  I bought them when I could find them used, and I kept them in an old pasteboard suitcase (we had no bookshelves and my parents didn’t read).  I didn’t have the entire collection by a long shot and I can honestly say I don’t know which ones I read back then.  I am now, however, two novels from finishing the entire series—a project I began around 2006.

Barnabas, Quentin and the Mad Magician follows the usual formula, although this time around Barnabas is temporarily cured of his vampire curse and Quentin doesn’t turn into a werewolf at all.  They are on friendly terms and both are being set up by the rather obvious antagonist, the mad magician.  I guess you can begin to see the series winding down.  Most of the thirty-two stories are broadly similar and the writing is that rushed, breathless kind that seems characteristic of those who make a living delivering pulp fiction.  There have always been people like me who will buy it.  That’s the reason I typically use the phrase “guilty pleasure” when describing these novels.

As I note in my YouTube video on the phenomenon, Dark Shadows was quite popular in its day.  It’s what we might now call a cultural meme.  Television series, novels, two movies, comic books, lunch boxes—the whole coffin.  The monsters were likable.  That was true of some of the greats—you felt sympathetic toward them.  As horror began to “grow up” the monsters often became entirely reprehensible, with no redeeming qualities.  So as Barnabas and Quentin do their best to expose the true monster, their supernatural powers currently on hold, they have to rely on their money and connections.  Even at the end the “confession” is made suspect by the longer tacked on ending.  If you’ve read enough of these, you grow suspicious when there are ten pages left after the antagonist dies.  Stories such as this aren’t great literature, but they do fill a gap in the world of monsters that nostalgia leaves for those who knew Dark Shadows in the late sixties.

Boggy Down

Okay, so after watching The Creature of Black Lake I realized that I’d never seen The Legend of Boggy Creek.  I did watch The Mysterious Monsters, a documentary that came out in 1975, in the Drake Theater in Oil City.  I was struck by Peter Graves’ serious tone and the information the film conveyed.  I’d not knowingly heard of Boggy Creek then (Graves does list “the Fouke monster” as another name for sasquatch), and besides, Arkansas was far, far away.  Well, to make an honest man of myself, I decided I’d better see it.  The opening of Boggy Creek is clearly the inspiration for the opening of Black Lake.  Their opening shots are very similar.  (I guess I watched them in the wrong order.)

Although Boggy Creek does have a guy in a costume (better makeup than Black Lake), many of those in the film are the actual eyewitnesses to the events it portrays.  They’re clearly not professional actors.  Interestingly, the narrator constantly insists that there’s only one such creature and that it acts out of loneliness.  If there are sasquatch they, out of biological necessity, must have a breeding population.  There had to be a Mrs. Boggy Creek somewhere in the picture—at least on a national scale.  In any case, this movie has become a cult classic, but I can’t help but think it’s so that people can laugh at it.  The acting’s not great and the long, long shots of hunters getting their dogs out of the truck  show the problems with the pacing.  Then there’s that folksy song (also echoed in Black Lake) about the lonely monster.

Boggy Creek came out in 1972, making it one of the earliest Bigfoot documentaries.  Given that sasquatch has gone mainstream (lawn art and Christmas ornaments featuring Bigfoot are common), the movie perhaps started a new cultural meme.  In the movie the poor critter gets shot several times, engaging viewer sympathy (but maybe not enough to write a song about it).  The narrator reflects if this particular southern hospitality might not’ve been overkill.  After all, some of the armed witnesses said they couldn’t shoot it because it looked too human.  The pacing was slow enough to make keeping my weekend weary eyes open a challenging prospect a time or two, but overall it’s a film worth watching.  I have the feeling, however, that this chain of events might lead me back to The Mysterious Monsters.

Black Lagoon, er, Lake

There’s value in watching bad movies.  For one thing, it’s a learning opportunity.  (For another, they’re more likely to be found for free on streaming services.)  The Creature from Black Lake drew me in with its title similar to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and its very low price tag.  It kept me watching with its poor dialogue and obviously low budget.  One of the spate of “Bigfoot movies” that came out in the seventies, this one is the story of two (unintentionally) inept college students looking into a Louisiana swamp creature, based on the beast of Boggy Creek legend.  They end up in Oil City (I had to keep watching now), Louisiana where the local sheriff warns them off and where his daughter is, naturally, attracted to them.

I won’t spoil it for you (although the creature of this creature-feature is so clearly a man with a gorilla mask) but the movie does have a cast of some recognized B-list (or C-list) actors.   And it was a very early effort by Dean Cundey, a cinematographer who went on to work with horror auteur John Carpenter on Halloween and The Thing.  (And also The Fog, although that one’s lesser known, but covered in Holy Horror.)   You’ve got to start somewhere and the premise is good enough, being “based on a true story”—something the movie doesn’t claim for itself since the events, as portrayed, never happened.

Riffing off the earlier Legend of Boggy Creek—a cryptid docudrama from three years earlier (1973), it fictionalizes the Fouke monster incident.  The Fouke monster (which my autocorrect hates) was a creature reported around Fouke (no, I don’t mean Fluke), Arkansas, starting in the 1940s.  This earlier film went on to become a cult classic.  Black Lake suffers from poor direction and even worse writing.  College students, one obviously suffering from post-traumatic Vietnam issues, try to make out with girls they know are in high school only to be saved from criminal offense by a monster attack?  They wind up in jail anyway only to be released by a tough but gullible sheriff who simply trusts them to leave Oil City since he told them to.  I grew up near the earlier and, I’m tempted to say, original Oil City, and I know of no movies set in that town with all its drama and weirdness.  Even with its issues (Jack Elam is a delight to watch, however) this film is a bit of bad movie homework that’s hard to pass up when it’s free.

Funny about Irving

The successful writer, John Green, has been on a tuberculosis kick lately.  You see, writers swing that way.  As the writer of books few people read, I’ve had my own little Washington Irving obsession lately.  So it is that I read Martin Roth’s Comedy and America: The Lost World of Washington Irving.  Roth knew a lot about comedy and he framed Irving’s early work as burlesque, rather than the more usual categorization as satire.  In doing this, he groups Irving together with other writers in the genre such as Laurence Sterne (who sounds like a fascinating character) and François Rabelais, among others.  (Jonathan Swift and Oliver Goldsmith also make appearances.)  Irving is analyzed in comparison to these other writers and his comic style is considered as polite satire, political satire, and domestic humor, as well as burlesque.

Insightful while occasionally assuming quite a bit on the part of the reader’s background, Roth provides quite a bit of good chewing here.  Roth was, by reputation, an unorthodox thinker.  He sounds like the kind of professor you would’ve wanted to have had in the classroom.  A book trying to parse comedy is a good sign, I suppose.  I learned a lot from reading it, and was pleased to see that I had independently come to some of the same conclusions he had.  That signals to me, anyway, that I’m not too far off track.  The benefit for those interested Irving is that, while critical, Roth isn’t judgmental.  It has always seemed odd to me that the premier biography of Irving had been written by a scholar who really seemed to hate him.  Roth, on the other hand, likes a good laugh.

As a used book my copy had lots of pencil marks in it.  So many that I had to erase them so that I could spot my own.  When I worked in the theology library at Boston University one summer I was introduced to the electric pencil eraser.  This was a device for heavy-duty removing of the marks of thoughtless patrons.  Before working for the library I stared in wonder when I would see students (perhaps not the brightest) sitting in the library, underlining in books they’d pulled off the shelf.  I think I was always too well aware that library books were not my own.  Because such folks, I’m sure, the electric pencil eraser was invented.  None of this took away from my enjoyment of Roth’s book.  I learned quite a bit about Irving’s context and, as an added bonus, got to remember using an electric eraser.

I would like to have had an image of the book cover, but mine lacks the dust jacket and finding it without violating copyright was difficult. I tried to trace this image to its origin, but I found it on Pinterest and the link didn’t take me back to the original poster. If you see and own this and want me to erase it, just let me know.

Eternal Return

Amazon gets a lot of bad press.  For me, anyone that sends me books gets a warm fuzzy association.  Besides, returns are a snap.  Amazon has sent me the wrong item a time or two.  You simply let them know and they’ll refund you.  No fuss, no muss.  Twice recently, in my effort to support both the planet and used book vendors, I have received the wrong item.  Here’s where I praise Amazon.  The most recent vendor (reputable and an old player in the used book market) required a multi-step effort to even make the claim of a wrong item, and then wouldn’t pay for the return.  Let me get this right: it is your mistake and I have to pay for it?  Just because someone who apparently can’t read the title put the wrong book in the bag and it took two weeks for me to receive it?  Is there any wonder people buy from Amazon?

To err is human.  I get that, believe me I do.  But if you make a mistake you fess up, you don’t charge the customer for your error.  Have they not realized that looking at the price tag after a trip to the grocery store is more effective than watching a horror movie?  I can’t afford to pay for their mistakes.  Then my existentialist friends come to the rescue.  Yes, they remind me, this is all absurd.  A world based on inheritance and privilege, where an active and alert mind sees that when an error is made, the one who did not make it takes responsibility.  I’m no fan of capitalism, but Amazon doesn’t make me pay for what I didn’t order.  I guess size matters after all.

Perhaps there should be caveats plastered across the internet: buy at your own risk.  If we make a mistake with your order, you will be responsible for it.  It just kills me to complain about book vendors.  Probably I care for books a little too much.  I try to buy responsibly, otherwise there’d be no house to, well, house the books.  I just don’t like feeling cheated when purchasing a used book.  It’s out of character for book vendors.  They’re the modern saints, those who are looking out for the good of the world.  Eventually the seller relented, but not happily.  My associations of Amazon will always go back to when I first discovered that there was a website on which you could find just about any book and have it delivered, and often cheaply.  I miss those days and their optimism.  I need that warm, fuzzy feeling again.  I need to buy a book.

Disputing Tradition

I respect tradition.  Normally.  Once in a while tradition should be disputed.  The other day I was reminded of the seventeenth-century aphorism, “The early bird gets the worm.”  As a lifelong struggler against literalism, I had to get over the bird and worm part, and was thinking early meant, well, early.  This, combined with even earlier saying “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man [sic] healthy, wealthy, and wise,” convinced me that early did reference waking.  And these saying require some revision.  I’m an early riser.  I don’t get many worms and although I seem to be mostly healthy, I’m certainly not wealthy, and many would question my wisdom.  So why do we encourage people to wake up early?  The fact is most people stay awake late.

I’ve noticed a few things about early rising.  One is that I can get a lot of creative work done with no interruptions.  My last three books were mostly written between three and five in the morning.  (The royalties, however, never even approach the cost of the materials required to write them, so strike the “wealthy” part of the equation.)  I’m ready for early meetings at work.  I can think of six impossible things before breakfast.  But.  (There’s always a but.)  Afternoons are my evening hours.  I lose my focus and dread late (i.e., after 3 p.m.) meetings.  As my family is beginning their fun part of the day, I’m heading to bed.  I can’t do evening meetings, clubs, or hobbies.

So why do I do it?  For one thing, I can’t not do it.  I awake early as a matter of biology.  Over the years it’s slipped back from about 5 a.m. to 3:00.  I remember being a child at sleepovers at a friend’s house and waking early, watching the sun stream through the blinds, wondering when somebody else might wake up to play.  In college it was an advantage to get to the showers first.  As I professor I did my research before the duties of the day took over, preventing any real progress.  None of this, however, has made me wealthy.  I do have to admit that I could probably get worms, if that were something I desired.  I see animals out and about when I’m jogging during morning twilight.  There are likely worms about too.  I’m usually awake before the birds.  And this has made me question traditional wisdom.  Of course, I don’t claim to be wise, either.

Dinosaur Planet

Time, as the crew of the Odyssey finds out, can cast things in a different light.  Admittedly I watched Planet of the Dinosaurs because it was free on Amazon Prime and I was having trouble keeping awake on a weekend afternoon.  It’s the kind of bad movie I’d’ve loved as a kid, and if I’m honest, I still do.  Although it was released in 1977 (it’s hard to believe Star Wars was the same year) the award-winning (!) stop-motion dinosaurs are so unbelievable that it hardly seems possible that the film’s budget was almost all spent on them.  It certainly didn’t go to pay a writer because the dialogue is about the cheesiest I recall ever hearing.  Jurassic Park was still a decade and a half away, after which no stop-motion dinosaur would ever be credible again.

Still, bad movies aren’t all bad.  In fact, there’s an aesthetic to them.  For me the real draw, as with an Ed Wood movie, is that these directors were struggling against an inadequate budget.  This isn’t in the Spielberg league.  And you can only afford so much.  The idea is akin to that of Planet of the Apes—which benefitted not only by a better budget but by a script by Rod Serling.  A planet similar to earth but caught in a different time.  And it’s a chance to explore what it would’ve meant for people and dinosaurs to coexist, which, despite some ark hawkers, never happened.  If it had we probably wouldn’t be here to make bad movies about it.

Our set of nine castaways manage to survive with only four eaten by dinosaurs.  And when these stop-motion reptiles aren’t on screen, the people are filmed walking, inanely talking, or thinking that a stockade of sticks and twine will keep out nine metric tons of Tyrannosaurus Rex.  There’s an attempt at social commentary when the vice-president of the company funding the mission realizes that he’s not the boss among castaways.  Where there’s no money, the balance of power shifts.  Of course, he gets impaled by a Centrosaurus.  At the end, the five survivors have settled down, built a house, and started having children.  They look pretty good for having survived on dinosaur meat and berries.  It helps that the corporate VP isn’t around.  I watch movies like this because, like James Shea, I’m on a tight budget.  And Amazon Prime often dictates what I watch when I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open. 

Friends and Dreams

The mind is a labyrinth.  Ever since the time change (especially), I’ve been waking with the weirdest dreams.  One involved someone I haven’t really thought about for years.  Someone I knew in college and who was a close friend, but who’s fallen out of touch.  (And who would likely not approve of my evolving outlook on things.)  Why she came out in a dream is a mystery to me.  It does give me hope, however, that all those things I think I’ve “forgotten” are really still in there somewhere.  A friend once told me that it’s not a matter of “remembering” but of “recollecting.”  He claimed that the memories are still there.  Ironically, I can’t recollect who he was, although I think it was someone I knew in college.

My generation’s ambivalent about the internet.  Most of my college friends I simply can’t find online.  I recall one of my best friends saying he would never use a computer.  I suspect he’s had to backslide on that, for work if for nothing else, but he’s not available online at all.  The same goes for people my age at seminary.  Some I occasionally find through church websites, but honestly, most of them have better pension plans than I do and have retired to become invisible.  We children of the sixties are likely the last generation that might be able to make it through life claiming never to have given in to computers.  It took quite a bit of effort to get me over the reluctance.  One of my nieces set up this blog for me nearly 13 years ago, otherwise I’d still be hard to find.

But minds.  Minds can, and do change.  My mind was dead-set against computers in college.  For one class I was required to do one assignment via computer, and I did that task and that task only.  Seminary was accomplished with a typewriter and snail mail.  Even my doctorate, done on a very old-fashioned Mac SE, was purely a feat of word processing.  Nashotah House was wired during my time there, but that was mainly email.  My mind was slowly changing at each step of the way.  I wasn’t becoming a computer lover, but I was realizing that I was learning something new.  Now I can’t get through the day without writing and posting something on this blog and sharing it on Twitter and Facebook.  And checking email—always email—to see if anything important has come in.  And, perchance, someone I had a dream about might actually email me out of the blue.

The Importance of Sharing

Growing up with siblings, I remember it well—my mother instilling the message of sharing.  If something good came my way, I could count on hearing “Share that with your brothers!”  These days sharing is easy and it only costs you a click.  And it’s very important.  Especially to those of us with soft voices.  You see, there is another new Wicker Man book coming out this year.  This is the 50th anniversary of the movie and there’s a lot of interest.  The other book is getting quite a bit of free press because the publisher knows the importance of sharing the information.  Click that share button!  Meanwhile I’m watching what we in the biz call the NBA (New Book Announcement) creep very slowly out of its box.

A couple days ago I wrote about how Amazon isn’t aware of the book, and Google can’t seem to find it.  In the intervening days it has now shown up on Lehmann’s bookselling shop in Germany.  You here, reading this, are the only people in the United States (if you are) who know about this book.  My voice isn’t very loud.  I don’t get retweeted and I don’t even have a cover image to share yet.  I’m still waiting for it to appear on the publisher’s website.  (This is one of the reasons I’m (hopefully) moving on from publishing with academic presses—they tend to be a touch slow.)  What can you do to help?  Share this post.  It’ll only take you a second.  Look down below this post and you’ll see this:

Of course, I can accept that you don’t like what I’m saying.  But if you’re on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, you can share the misery.  All it costs is a click.  The thing about the internet is that little things can add up to a lot.  That’s the whole idea behind websites that take a small cut to get the item you want out to you.  Life by a thousand cuts.  If enough people share, even those with a “Yop” to utter can save all Whos, right Ted?  I used to think all those YouTubers were a bit gauche with reminders in each and every video to click the “like” and “subscribe” buttons.  Now I’m coming to understand that that’s the way life on the internet is lived.  And May Day is just around the corner. Notice for my book will continue to creep out slowly.  Meanwhile I’ll look at Lehmann’s website and hope for the best.

Rock the Absurd

Okay, so it was bound to happen eventually.  You see, the internet makes us all interchangeable in a way.  I occasionally lament being confused by various algorithms with other “Steve Wigginses” out there (and there are many).  So while innocently checking my personal email after work the other day I spied a message clearly not sent by one of the many organizations that spam me constantly.  It was an invitation to participate in a conference.  Now, with a 925 job that’s just not possible, but I always appreciate being asked.  Then I read what the conference was about.  Agriculture.  Why were they asking me to attend a conference on agriculture?  Then I recalled, one of the other Steve Wigginses is a professor of anthropology, specializing in agriculture.  Was this an electronic mail mishap?

It also made me wonder if this poor soul (I don’t know him and have never met him) has been receiving email about horror films and wondering why.  His research trajectory has him trying to help people (which is why I wanted to be an academic in the first place) in a real down-to-earth way.  This made me realize the dilemma of other biblical scholars I know who are interested in monsters and horror, but who also realize that we need to help the world.  I can say from experience that it’s a lot easier to do as a professor than it is as an editor.  At least a professor has a platform to stand on.  And all of this brought to mind the theater of the absurd, tying me back to my younger days.

As I started high school I learned about the existentialists.  Looking at my own life, I saw it was absurd.  The times when I start to get down are when I’ve started to take all this seriously.  This Steve Wiggins, in any case, spends his life trying to figure things out.  But he lives in a world where two and two don’t always come to four.  Anyone who’s been inside an organization with open eyes knows the absurdities—large or small—that go on within it.  As old Ecclesiastes says, the race isn’t always to the swift.  That’s biblical and bankable.  So it’s a bit absurd that three (that I know of) Steve Wigginses are or have been professors.  It’s absurd that we don’t all use our full names because most two-name combinations on the web are going to lead to duplicates.  Mix-ups are bound to happen and we should just enjoy the absurdity we see.

Photo by Steven Weeks on Unsplash