Monsters from the Id 11/13/2008
My friend Roger Boylan has sent me a very cool link, to a gallery of nearly 60 classic photographs of UFOs from the Daily Telegraph, dating back (no kidding) to a photo taken in New Hampshire in 1870. Most of them, though, are grainy, blurry, unsteady snapshots from the 1940s through the 1960s, most of them in black and white, and if you misspent your childhood like I did, reading grubby little paperbacks about UFOs, you've probably seen most of them before.
The main response these pictures provoke in me now, in fact, is nostalgia, for that row of paperbacks by Frank Edwards, John G. Fuller, and others whose names I don't remember any longer that occupied the bottom shelf of the bookcase over my bed, where I could reach them without having to lift my head from the pillow. I plowed through most of them more than once, provoking a good deal of eye-rolling from my very skeptical father and some flat-out disdain from my mother, who once told me I couldn't buy any more UFO books until I'd read Huckleberry Finn. Of course, I kept buying them anyway, and didn't end up reading Huck Finn until I was in my late 20s. More fool me, I know. I should (as always) have listened to my mother.
Yet I still get a pleasant chill up my spine, even knowing it's a fake, probably because it's so blurry and grainy and crude. The same goes for all those smudgy photos of UFOs: the photo that would convince all the skeptics would have to be crystal clear and detailed and taken in front of a small army of witnesses. It's the dodgy nature of the photos—their clumsiness, their uncertain provenance, their risibility—that makes them so appealingly mysterious. I don't think a clear, hi-def photo or video of a UFO or Nessie would have anything like the power of these pictures, which are like something glimpsed out of the corner of your eye, or something from a dream. I suspect they still move people because they aren't convincing; you have to invest them with faith in the mysterious to make them work, and after you do that, of course, it doesn't matter how silly they look: they're lodged forever in that part of your subconscious that still jumps at things half seen in the dark.
It's Morning in America! 11/05/2008
My lizard brain this morning is still pretty hysterical, but it's a happy kind of hysterical. I was up until 1:30 am last night, but set my alarm for 6 this morning so I could go out and get a New York Times before they were all gone. In the end, I woke up at 5, listened to the radio for a bit while I lounged in bed, then went out at 5:30 in search of a Times. I bought the only two copies they had at my local Walgreens—one for me and one for my wife, who asked me to get her one, too—then I went over to Randall's, my local 24-hour supermarket, and bought one there, too, to wrap in plastic and keep in the closet with my copy of the Times from September 12, 2001.
Today is Election Day, and I'm suffering from metaphor overload. My nerves are shredded. I'm as jumpy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I'm vibrating with anxiety like a tuning fork. My forebrain, and the poll numbers at Real Clear Politics, are telling me I shouldn't worry so much, but my shrill, hysterical, paranoid lizard brain is screaming constantly at a pitch only dogs can hear. I can't even claim to be unique: you can read all about my condition in the New York Times.
In which I mostly write about books, movies, and TV. An all-purpose spoiler alert: Sometimes I will talk about these works on the assumption that the reader's already read or seen them, so if you haven't, be forewarned.
About Last Night