Saturday, September 15, 2007


My vacation home was due to the convergence of several instigations. First, this was my last opportunity to spend easy time with friends and family before getting on a plane to Vietnam. Also Sunshine's critical language test happened Wednesday, so I thought I'd clear out so she could focus on that. She did well, passing the assessment with required proficiency after only twenty-seven weeks of study. She rewarded herself with a pair of roller skates. The last reason I visited home was to finally renew my North Carolina driver's license. I'd have managed this months ago, but trips home were few and it took a while to gather the necessary paperwork. Tuesday I arrived at the NC DMV after studying the driver's handbook and holding proofs of insurance and identification. I waited over an hour to discover I couldn't take the test because the state of South Carolina had marked me ineligible in some database. I feared this was because of a ticket I'd gotten in 1990 after my home state had mistakenly misfiled the results of an earlier, cleared citation. Then NC DMV had wrongly revoked my license and I found out after midnight on a SC freeway. It took three traffic court road trips to convince SC I'd done nothing wrong. While this week's ineligibility had nothing to do with that, it's certainly as perplexing: SC insists I present valid proof of insurance for a 1994 wreck where I was a passenger in a (friend's) car unceremoniously scrapped after being totaled by an unscathed Roadway tractor-trailer. Say what? Apparently I can pay a hundred bucks to clear this up, while resolutely swallowing another appalling injustice. Done. Next week I'd re-attempt my NC diver's license test if only I hadn't driven back to DC very early today. [Cavin]

Friday, September 14, 2007


Monday, a friend and I headed to the local multiplex for Rob Zombie's recent remake of the seminal teen slasher Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978).1 In its initial incarnation, this movie was a perfect storm of eerie atmosphere, sexual repression, and ritual knifings that launched much of the horror cinema considered iconic in the eighties. Without Halloween, my childhood could have been rendered devoid of derivative horror movies, if such a thing can be imagined. Just to indicate that it shouldn't go without saying: Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007)2 is inferior to the original. The funny thing is that this didn't bother me very much.3 Zombie has done more to reinvent the retro grindhouse thing than anyone working, and he keeps the faith about halfway here, so divorcing his remake from its original template that comparisons aren't initially appropriate. It's supposed to be as if Halloween had been made five years earlier, rather than thirty years after, its source material. But Zombie's focal pivot brings the original film's antagonist forward, minimizing our sympathy for Carpenter's protagonists by the time the literal remaking resumes in the third act. This limits the empathy at the root of the original's horror. Also, Zombie inexplicably drops the seedy under-quality present in his period scenes when he's going over the original movie's present-day material. I can see the artistic decision-making here, but this thwarts the movie's overall consistency. On the plus side, the remake's final acts seem to issue more from the Wes Craven horror school than the imaginations of either Carpenter or Zombie, seeking the subversion of social niceties like sanity through the corruption of domestic space. In eighties horror, there's little more classical than a plucky Last Girl wrecking a house to escape her would-be killer, visiting half the movie's everyday derangement herself. [Cavin]

Thursday, September 13, 2007


One week ago I made the just over five-hour drive from eastern Kentucky to the North Carolina piedmont in just over seven hours. I never knew that I-64 dwindled to one lane amid Charleston, West Virginia. I've driven that route dozens of times, but this time I found myself in the other lane just after three pm, accidentally crossing a rickety bridge into a leafy little South Park neighborhood where the only southbound interstate access was on the far side of the very active central school zone. Having already ruined any chance of a speedy drive, I stopped for lunch in WV's souvenir crafts tepee cum travel plaza Tamarack,* which is lucratively nestled between two turnpike tolls near the state border. This started a culinary trend I'm following throughout my vacation home. Not eating crappy Quizno's subs, thank god, but eating well below my established health goals. Being at home, it's easy to slide right back into past routines of fat cheese sandwiches and kneejerk coffee dates and nightly trips to the bar. Some of this is necessary for the pitched social calendar I'm keeping. Some is habit. Some is certainly part of an eleven-day rebellion against discipline. I've tried to eat healthy sushi for every stacked wad of pepperjack or Irish whiskey Manhattan, so I'm sure I've broken even. Anyway, I'm having a blast. Here's a small update: somewhere during an email exchange yesterday--in which we might've secured a twice-weekly cook for the approaching years abroad--we got a scoop on where we could be living. Take a look at these. Possibly this is just a wishful rumor, but I see no reason not to consider this housing as typical of the places available to us, even if it's not the exact address of our destiny. [Cavin]