A Little Something from Terry Pratchett

Because this is something I’ve been thinking about lately whenever I see the news: 


“‘Tooth fairies? [Santa Claus]? Little—’ 


“‘So we can believe the big ones?’ 



I Have No Cutsey Puns for This One

I have two sisters, one good, one Evil. Like, stupid Evil. Good Sister is the youngest in our family, and the one I was always closest to. She loves animals, and Terry Pratchett books, and gory movies; she’s a lot like me. On Sunday, she sent me the following message: 

I have decided that if [Cat #2] is bad sick I will get [Cat #1] a home and be done. I have had a week of non responses to show its cool. You and [Evil Sister] can comfort mom and dad. 

Some context: 1) In February of 2012, she had to put her cat of many years to sleep. She found a new cat, and had to put her to sleep a earlier this year. She got another cat who ran away, followed by a fourth, [Cat #2], has an infection in her uterus. [Cat #1] is her favorite thing in the world right now; 2) This past Thanksgiving, she drank a six pack of beer, swallowed a half bottle of sleeping pills, and called her Best Friend to travel from Pennsylvania to California to find a home for her pets. My sister chose Best Friend because she was far enough away that she couldn’t go over there in person to rescue her. Best Friend made a bunch of calls, which got my sister to a hospital, in which she told the doctors it was an accident, and she was sent home. 

I found out later, from Best Friend, that these kinds of phone calls were not uncommon—this is just the first one that got to that point. Over the past six months, her situation has been precarious. She refuses to speak to our parents, who have been using me as a proxy (mostly because I am also bipolar). She won’t actually speak to me, either, limiting our conversations to Facebook IMing (with one exception, and I’ll get back to that later). Having been in her situation—i.e. not wanting to live anymore, but continuing on because someone else does— I got it, and so I never tried to give her “The sun will come out tomorrow” platitudes that had driven her from her other friends. I was someone with whom she could share her ugly thoughts, such as her resentment of myself and the rest of our family for making her alive. In fact, this, from a recent Hyperbole and a Half essay, has become one of her favorite quotations: 

… I noticed myself wishing that nothing loved me so I wouldnt feel obligated to keep existing. 

And so, on Sunday, just as my spouse and I were trying to recover from a dreadfully boring vampire movie, I received that message. Over the course of an hour or so, I prodded her with questions to find out whether she was seriously going to make another attempt, or if she was just frustrated. And then she said this: 

Could you make sure [Cat #1] gets a good home? 

And her messages stopped for a little while. I reached out to Best Friend, who didn’t get back to me; I called the crisis hotline, who were not very helpful (when it comes to loved ones, they aren’t prepared to handle “experts” in the field like myself). 

And then, suddenly, it was over. My sister seemed to snap out of it. As can happen. She called the suicide hotline herself and spoke to one of the few local friends she had left. Best Friend got back to me and explained that a) she had been incommunicado for a few days, leading my sister to assume their relationship had ended; b) but she finally answered her texts and talked her down; c) my sister went through this kind of thing at least a couple of times a month. 

And so it turns out that nothing I did matters. On her end, the hour and a half I panicked, and mourned, and cried helplessly on the phone to a stranger on a hotline, and hated myself for wanting her to go through with it so she wouldn’t have to be in pain anymore, and suffered survivor’s guilt for having good insurance and a stubborn spouse … all of that meant nothing, because all it took was one (kind of enabling) friend to take care of it. 

I’m fucking sick of this. 

I’m sick of spending the days after these with an emotional hangover, gently poking her on Facebook to see how she’s doing. I’m sick of hiding this from my parents, who are moving to Florida next week and don’t need this shit. I’m sick of being the last person on the list when she needs help. I’m sick of being jealous of the trust she’s passed onto others. 

I’ve made every effort to reach out and be her friend, and she leaves me out—I don’t care the reason. When I flew from DC to LA to hang out and see how she was doing, she spent most of the time drunk and uninterested in doing anything fun. She’s even formed an extremely tight, very public bond with Evil Sister, who has recently offered her a home if she wants to leave California and move in with family. I find this particularly insulting, perhaps childishly so. 

This detail brings me back to the one phone call I received, post-Thanksgiving, in the wee, not-quite-awake hours in the morning. My sister was on the phone with Evil Sister (because it’s okay to talk to her apparently), and Evil Sister stated unequivocally that my sister wasn’t serious about her suicide attempt, because if she was serious, she’d have been successful. Given that Evil Sister made two half-assed, attention-getting attempts on college (afterward, my parents had made me their proxy), she’s kind of an expert on that. She doesn’t believe that capital D depression, or even Bipolar 2, is real. Good Sister took this almost as a dare, and called me to talk her down. Despite this, and despite how horrible of a person she is, Evil Sister will get billed as a rescuer. 

I can’t detach myself from this, because she is a good person, and I love her. But don’t know how long I can keep doing this. 

Talking Pictures

I want to share with you a cinematic pet peeve, one which disproportionately affects fantasy and science fiction movies, and that is the opening voiceover narration.  

A good example of this is the classic Sean Connery monologue: “From the dawn of time we came, moving silently through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you… until now.” Aside from the fact that it kickstarts an awesome Queen song (also, it showcases that sexy, sexy Scottish brogue), it serves no purpose to The Highlander whatsoever. All of the information contained within is shared with the audience over the course of the film.  

Can you imagine what it would have been like to see The Highlander for the first time, watching wrestling, followed by Christopher Lambert straight-up beheading a dude, getting struck by lightning, and then appearing in sixteenth-century Scotland, sporting a nearly incomprehensible accent? You’d be all like, “What the fart? I’d better stick around for answers!”  

But since you’ve had a ton of spoilers dumped on you right away, you don’t ever get that chance. If the first few minutes of The Highlander were a post on Twitter or 4Chan, it would be berated, openly or passive aggressively, until it was taken down. 

The opening narration assumes that the audience won’t get what’s going on, and doesn’t have the intelligence or patience or trust in the filmmakers to stick around and find out. 

Here’s an example of how the opening narration could go horribly, horribly wrong: Imagine a movie that starts out with the “Warner Brothers presents…” card, followed by a panoramic view of a dark, devastated city. Words in a green font crawl up the screen, and the deep voice of Lawrence Fishburne reads them. “In the future, war raged between man and machine. Machine won. They enslaved mankind, taking from them their homes, their freedom, their bodies, and even their very minds, trapping them in a virtual reality world called ‘The Matrix,’ patrolled by sinister Agents whose sole purpose is to keep mankind from discovering its ultimate fate. But all hope is not lost, for there exists in this world a band of freedom fighters … and they are fighting back.” And cut to Carrie Ann Moss ruthlessly slaughtering four regular Joes just doing their low-paying civil-service job. 

So, Hollywood, if you’re reading this, knock it off. Trust your audience for once.