This is not a happy post.
I was spending a little time on the fire-hydrant stream of Twitter, as one does, some days. And someone shared a link to a five-minute game, and the post-mortem of same.
The game is called The Day The Laughter Stopped.
It is not a happy game. It is not an unrealistic game.
In the more detailed discussion from the game creator, they also link to an article by someone I wasn’t familiar with, who writes as Film Crit Hulk. (There are many Hulks online! They often talk in ALLCAPS and refer to themselves in the third person. E.g.: “HULK’S SAYS IT ALL THE TIME, BUT THE PROBLEM WITH PLAYING DEVIL’S ADVOCATE IS THAT YOU’RE ACTUALLY ADVOCATING THE DEVIL.” (The post-mortem also contains a link to http://convertcase.net/, where you can copy and paste the article in question and then change it out of ALLCAPS, if you are annoyed by the prospect of someone internet-shouting at you for the entire length of an article.)
Seriously. The holiday season is upon us. There is stress and hope for kindness and many things to get done and many people being rushed. It is okay to not read the rest of this. Trigger warning ahoy.
Was over at my in-laws for dinner. One of them is an amateur genealogist (do you get professional genealogists? I suppose you could…), and he plugged my dad’s name and birth date into the program he uses. From what I have garnered, it is a loose cloud of information floating somewhere in the internether. You build your family tree there, other people build theirs, if the two of you happen to have a common point then the data which you’ve chosen to make public can overlap.
Someone else had already created an entry for someone who could have been my dad–a couple of data points met–and it included a picture, so I got called over to take a look at it.
It was him.
It was taken in the mid-late 40s, I guess; the scan of it online is greyscale and not very big. You can make out four candles on the cake balanced on his knees (birthday picture, is the guess), but he’s clearly way more than four. I looked at it for a second, and I couldn’t say one way or the other if it was dad, and then there was this realization that I’d seen that expression on his face before, that exact expression, and I felt… nothing as strong as stunned. Taken aback, maybe, or pleasantly surprised, or something.
Part of it was understanding that someone else knew about him; someone I’d never had reason to imagine existed found a picture of him and figured out or was told who he was. Part of it was that he looked happy.
Also I have now learnt my paternal grandmother’s names, and picked up a smidgen of detail about the trip she took to come over from Italy.
 I had a moment of thinking “Am I sure it was a scan?” and then being slightly disconcerted to realize that yes, of course I am sure. Digital pictures were so not an option at that point, after all.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
– Wilfred Owen
Didn’t post last night, and am actually okay with that. It’s nice to not be spiralling into some kind of slough of despond over missing one day, and instead getting up and dusting off and carrying on. 🙂
Went to the Daredevils exhibit in the IMAX Theatre today. It was actually rather upsetting, to be honest. I understand people being cruel, or petty, or unthinkingly stupid. (I don’t like it one bit, but I understand.) And the stories about all the people voluntarily cheerfully planning to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was baffling, and a little sad.
One man thought it would be a good idea to tie an anvil to his feet inside the barrel. For ballast, you see. Ballast would mean that the barrel would float right way up when he got to the bottom of the falls!
They found his right arm.
And then there’s the man who made it over and survived but suffocated when his air ran out, and the man who made dinner reservations whose body was never found, and… I really do not understand. Especially having seen the falls. The idea of going over them is terrifying, and this was entirely voluntary.
An anvil. Was there no-one around to say “hey, Chuck, maybe this ‘going over Niagara Falls in an enclosed space with a 100 lb chunk of iron loose in there with you’ idea is not the greatest”? Why didn’t he listen, if there was?