Feeling Annoyed

I’m feeling annoyed that I made a stupid resolution to write these things daily this year. I’m not entirely sure that this is the root of my annoyance though. It’s actually highly likely not. We played games with friends this evening and before the gaming we had dinner during which we talked briefly about sinus infections and allergies and treatments. I am currently taking prednisone along with some antibiotics and a nasal spray because my allergy doctor was concerned about the fact that I seemed quite congested at our visit after I had been undergoing treatment with allergy shots over the last six months. He basically wanted to treat me for a possible case of chronic sinus infection.

This particular treatment has been awesome. I’m able to breath clearly through both nostrils which is something rare for me and not really something can remember. Even when my nostrils were “clear” before, I can see now that they weren’t as clear as they’ve been over the last five days of treatment. Today was my last dosage of prednisone. I had mentioned this in passing to our friends, and they had related warnings how prednisone can make one irritable. I had seen that it could possible cause depression.

In retrospect, I think it may have been effecting my mood in this way. It’s hard to tell though because I’m naturally prone to feeling depressed when it’s rainy and overcast as it has been for the last few days. Today was extremely foggy and wet and dreary. As I was feeding the dogs this morning, I was disturbed by the grating slurping sound of rain drops hitting the saturated foot mat that we have on our back porch. Drip. Drip. Drip.

It did seem as though an internal fog shrouded my thoughts today painting everything as grey as the world outside. We can expect more of this ickiness tomorrow and Thursday – possibly with some snow flurries. I hate snow flurries. Once we I had never seen snow accumulation, the sight of snow flurries dancing light walzes in the air had been a jolt of excitement, but now they are just a reminder that I’m far away from real snow and the possibility of skiing.

So now the question is whether or not the irritated state of mind that I found myself in when I started writing this entry was from the prednisone, the mere suggestion that prednisone could cause irritation, from going to bed too late last night, finding the rules of Race for the Galaxy frustrating, or all of the above.

Of course, there’s always the background malaise of the suffering and death piling up daily everywhere. The abandoned pets being executed. The homeless people living a wretched existence. The people weeping over the loss of loved ones. People getting sick or dying for lack of access to health care. People losing their jobs and then their homes. People who are better off spitting words of contempt like fiery projectiles onto the heads of the poor. Bombs dropping to shatter buildings and bodies.

I could continue, but I’ll stop now. I’ve met my quota and I think I’m rather tired.

Initiation to Horror

I have been drawn to horror films (and later on horror stories and novels) since my earliest memories. When I was a small child, I have trace recollections of spying a horror film advertisement on the television or sneaking a peak at a scary film playing on my parent’s television and experiencing the strange rush of adrenaline and repulsion that terror brought to bear on my tiny frame. The earliest memories of terrifying visions on film for me are the helicopter seen from Jaws 2 and the hospital nightmare sequences from An American Werewolf in London.

While I was allowed to watch Jaws 2 and likely Jaws at a very early age (Kindergarten) and for the first years of elementary school enjoyed watching Universal classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman. I had attempted to read classic horror literature like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at some point during first or second grade. In third grade, I eagerly purchased a copy of the novel Jaws and hoped to read it aloud to my classmates during story time. Oddly enough my teacher at the time agreed to this idea, and I was allowed to read a chapter or two to the class on a few occasions. I knew enough of the ways of the world that I censored myself while reading. When encountering curse words during these readings, I would substitue an alternative that was “safe” for my audience. I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but another student in my class whose first name was also John also had a copy of the book and wanted to rotate the readings with me. He wasn’t as cautious as me. During his first reading session, he read aloud the word damn and the teacher allowed the reading session to continue noting that it was all in the context of reading a story, but coincidentally enough we never had time to allow another reading, and I was annoyed that my classmate had not shared my good sense.

Although I was well along my way into exploring horror, I was not allowed to watch an R-rated film until Aliens first aired on HBO in 1986 or 1987 when I was 10 or 11. Years before then, many of my friends had seen early eighties slashers such as Friday the 13thA Nightmare on Elm Street, and Psycho II, but I had never been allowed to watch these films although their eerie VHS cassette cases at the local video store had always called to me with their soft siren sound when I visited with my parents. The video cover for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre although seemed to the creepiest to me. But it was Aliens that first broke the R-rating barrier for me. I have no idea what particular appeal convinced my parents, but somehow I managed to get there permission one night to watch Aliens all by myself in my bedroom.

I still remember both loving my first experiences of the film, how my pulse raced, the mounting tension as the film relentlessly moved towards to its harrowing climax, how I pulled my limbs in close so as not to leave an inch of exposed flesh to dangle off my bed for fear of the slightest possibility that one of the terrifying xenomorphs may have been lurking under my bed. This last fear was similar to the one that I experienced every time I watched Jaws or Jaws 2 when they aired on TV as happened every so often in those days. I never missed an opportunity to catch one of these films, but I always feared during and afterwards when going to sleep that a giant great white shark may have been lurking beneath the bed waiting to pounce and pull me under the imaginary waves surrounding my lonely bed. It is strange as an adult thinking about these fears when I consider that surely I had to know that these fears simply weren’t possible. I suppose it must  be like an amplified version of the irrational fears that even now can grip me as an adult: when sitting up all by myself late at night with all the lights turned out in complete eerie silence, I have on more than one occasion found myself run up the stairs with an irrational jolt of fear that something might be lurking around the corner even though my reason tells me otherwise and some piece of me giggles inwardly at the silliness of the reaction while also savoring the taste of my own fear.

I love the visceral nature of fear. It is like a fine wine meant to be savored slowly and in careful phases. When you fear, you are alive. I love horror. I love the increasingly rare film that can truly terrify me and the almost non-existent book that can do the same.

There are only 289 more days until Halloween…

Shooting Down Straw Men

In the wake of the terrible string of shooting sprees that made their way into the public conscious through focused media coverage in 2012, there has been an upsurge in the debate over gun ownership:

Shortly after the Connecticut shootings, I began observing cheeky memes that attacked advocates of stronger gun control laws by humorously implying that since criminals don’t obey the law, then gun control laws won’t be effective. A similar kind of attack is to point out that laws against drug usage don’t prevent people from using drugs. Beginning with the first point, we can agree that, of course, criminals don’t obey laws – by definition a criminal is someone who breaks the law. It does not follow that laws are therefore useless. Indeed, I’d wager the vast majority of the people putting forth this “clever” argument are far from advocates of abolishing all laws. That’s because laws do accomplish things for good and ill. Breaking a law is risky and in most cases, fear of punishment for breaking a law is a deterrent. Thus, laws reduce behavior even if they do not eliminate it. The fact is that the criminals-don’t-obey laws attack is setting up a straw man by subtly slipping in the idea that supporters of gun control seek to eliminate mass shootings when in fact they merely seek to make them less likely. By holding up an impossible standard, the arguers give the false impression of absurdity to the political view that they oppose.

The related meme concerning drug laws has the same implied false standard of effectiveness, but also falsely equates drug usage and gun usage when they are very different behaviors. Drugs directly stimulate pleasure zones in the body and are addictive. Thus, people are more likely to take risks such as breaking the law to acquire them as the short term pleasure reward overrides their ability to reason correctly about the dangers of the long term health risks or the possibility of getting imprisoned. In contrast, gun ownership doesn’t directly tap into the body’s pleasure system and so most gun owners aren’t going to find continued gun ownership worth the risk of imprisonment or the risk of dealing with the black market. Therefore, while guns would continue to exist and criminals would find ways to still acquire them, if guns laws were strengthened or if guns were banned, overall ownership would be reduced significantly and the chances of someone who is likely to go on a shooting spree having access to a gun would also be reduced.

It is not gun enthusiasts nor even professional or semi-professional criminals who are the ones using guns to commit mass murder. Gun enthusiasts just want to collect guns and use them for hunting and marvel over their crafting. Criminals just want to use them to help conduct their “business” – not to kill random members of the general public. It’s the mentally disturbed or those who pick up a gun impulsively in the heat of emotion or distress who are using them to slaughter people. The logic behind tighter gun regulation then is to make it harder for these people to get their hands on guns.

Personally, I find guns repugnant as agents of death. Politically, however, I support a regulated right to bear arms, especially when exercised collectively in the context of collective defense. What this means for me varies depending upon the culture in question. In our society and culture, I support strengthening our gun regulation laws to include aspects of Japan’s gun control laws such as restrictions on what kind of weapons can be owned, successful completion of safety courses for gun owners, periodic mental health evaluation for gun owners and those with whom they live, and verification that guns are stored securely and safely.

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