Let's talk about love and Valentine's Day.

There’s rather a lot to unpack about Valentine’s Day. Let’s start with the part about St. Valentine, shall we?

Valentine, according to legend, was a holy Roman priest under the rule of emperor Claudius the Cruel. Claudius was apparently having trouble getting soldiers to join his military and he decided it was because they were all too attached to their wives and families so he banned engagements and marriages. Valentine went against this decree and married young lovers in secret. When his defiance was discovered, he was arrested, tortured, and beheaded. The beheading reportedly took place on February 14th in the year 270. His martyrdom, supposedly in support of the union of lovers, is what propelled him to sainthood. However, factual history debates the legend seeing as how there are no fewer than three different Saint Valentines – all martyrs – mentioned in the early Catholic records under the date of February 14th. It is also possible that the romantic significance of Valentine’s Day was merely a way for Pope Gelasius to put an end to the pagan love feast of Lupercalia which saw men randomly draw the names of young women to be with. Like a pagan key party of sorts. The Pope disliked this festival and declared February 14th to be St. Valentine’s Day instead of the Feast of Lupercalia. Whichever legend or Valentine is true, Valentine’s Day started with martyrdom of some fashion and likely ended with the overwriting of a pagan festival.

Now let’s dive into the love game. There is a lengthy list of synonyms for ‘love’. A sample includes: affection, devotion, fondness, friendship, infatuation, lust, respect, passion, yearning, amity, ardor, admiration, attachment, adoration, tenderness…  With so many words that elaborate on or relate to love, why do we insist that such rigid boundaries define our actual love interactions? Valentine’s Day typically reflects on romance – the love that is romantic in nature and infused with notes of lust and adoration. It typically neglects anything other than heterosexual sex-and-partnership unions of a romantic nature. But there are many types of love. Not only on the LGBTQ spectrum which are just as romantic but in terms of how humans can love each other full stop. Love is a multi-faceted emotion. It does not deal in strict boundaries. Look at the synonyms: lust, respect, fondness, friendship, ardor, tenderness. These are loves that speak beyond the strictly romantic definition we work from. These are the loves so often cited as “Greek loves”: agape, storge, philia, and the like. Just as with our own word for love, however, the Greek words for love are similarly multi-facted. They are interchangeable within context and relationship. The love of a parent to a child or a child for a parent. The love for a deity. The love between siblings. The love between mentor and mentee. The love between companions on a like journey. The love between friends. The love between partners. The love between first-time lovers. The love between those long-married. The love between creative muses. The list is endless. Love itself is not constrained by our arbitrary definitions, it springs up between the cracks of the walls we erect and the rules we attempt to enforce. “Love is a many splendored thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all we need is love,” as Christian so passionately declared to Satine in ‘Moulin Rouge’, defining the power of love without fencing it in.

This Valentine’s Day, celebrate the fullness of love in your life. Whoever it is that you love – your parent, your child, your sister or brother, your best friend, your creative partner, your inspiration, your spouse, your lover, your idol – whoever it is that makes this life sweeter, makes you smile, makes the sun shine brighter and the struggles less difficult: that’s your Valentine. That’s your love. That’s who this day ought to be for.

To quote the inimitable David Bowie himself, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

- Corinne Simpson

Die Hard (is the greatest Christmas movie ever made) 2016 version

This is a re-blog, word-for-word of a piece I posted in December of 2014 that itself was a word-for-word re-blog of the original post written in December 2013. I never re-write the actual post itself because I stand by my assessment and every year I re-read it I say "Hell YES I got that right, Die Hard IS the greatest Christmas movie ever made for these reasons". But 2016 has been a terrible year in many ways and one of the first ways in which it was terrible was stealing Alan Rickman from us. So at the end of this re-blog I will link to the piece Nathan and I wrote after his death early this year. Christmas: a time for joy and reflection. And Die Hard. Let us never forget the importance of Die Hard.

This is a re-blog, word for word, of a piece I posted last December. That's right - I haven't changed a single thing. If you read this last year, too bad! Read it again this year. Because there are some of you who still aren't convinced. There are some of you who don't believe in Die Hard's Christmas spirit. There are even some of you who have not yet SEEN Die Hard. And that needs to change. People, Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie ever made. Read. Watch. Believe.

Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie ever made.

I’m in the business of bold statements.  I don’t need to back that one up: you all know it’s true.  But for the sake of literary exercise, I will defend my position. 

This film has everything.  Bruce Willis.  Alan Rickman.  Some of the best solo hero action sequences ever set to film.  One liners.  FBI guys.  Machine guns.  Comedy.  Romance.  Explosions.  ... “Vampire Nomad, stop!  Just stop.  We know Die Hard is a great movie.  But you called it the greatest Christmas movie ever made.  CHRISTMAS movie.  It doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas other than being incidentally set on Christmas Eve and you know it.”  

Oh really?

(Oh: spoilers.  There are going to be so many spoilers.)  

Bruce Willis is flying to LA to reunite with his family for Christmas.  It’s set on Christmas Eve at a company Christmas party.  Argyle plays ‘Christmas in Hollis’ by Run DMC in the limo.  The teddy bear wears a giant red bow.  The suspenseful opening sequence where the ‘terrorists’ take over the Nakatomi building is backed by a score that contains elements of ‘Winter Wonderland’.  The SWAT team’s movements are narrated by one of the terrorists to the rhythm of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.  It is heavily lit in shades of frosty blue and festive red with evergreen windows.  It contains the written message “Now I have a machine gun. Ho - Ho - Ho” in it.  Bruce Willis fights to save his wife and isn’t love the greatest Christmas story of all?  But!  It even contains a Christmas miracle.  The impenetrable and celestially-lit vault opens to the strains of Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy’.  IT’S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! And then Bruce Willis, barefoot and filthy, saves every hostage, gets his wife back, and kills Alan Rickman.  IT’S ANOTHER, BETTER CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!  Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNNN DUN-DUNNNNNNNNNNN.

As a side note, a friend once decided that the best Halloween costume ever would be to go as Bruce Willis in Die Hard and then, through the course of the party, change into successively dirtier and more torn wifebeaters until ending up half-naked in a black one at the end of the party.  Every time I watch this movie now I’m struck by what a genius costume that would be.  People, it’s truth.  Bruce Willis is hard on wifebeaters.  

The thing about this movie is that as a whole, at a glance, it seems preposterous.  I mean honestly.  One guy fights back against a group of heavily-armed ‘terrorists’ who have taken an entire office tower hostage.  And he does it barefoot.  Solo.  He steals machine guns and climbs through air vents and swings outside the building on fire hoses and walks through broken glass and the top of the building blows off and he has to also fight off the FBI.  It’s insanity!  One guy can’t do all that!  How can we suspend disbelief and enjoy a movie that so clearly defies the rules of logic and human endurance?  But we don’t take the movie as a whole.  That’s the beauty of it.  While watching it we’re immersed in it and we take it moment by moment, as it happens.  Director John McTiernan is so adept at action that he ramps it up in a very believable manner, unspooling the various plot threads with such perfect timing that we are completely suckered.  Every choice John McClane makes, within the world of the movie, makes a kind of sense.  At the time we accept that, were we too rogue New York cops whose wives were threatened, we would quite likely make the exact same choice.  And as the action explodes improbably to engulf not only the entire building but great swaths of the outside city and police and FBI forces as well, we are still on board.  We buy it.  We don’t want it to end.  It’s a crazed adrenaline rush from start to finish and the characters, so often left out of the think tank in action films, are compelling and clearly drawn.  Alan Rickman is possibly the greatest villain ever written for an action film.  He’s wondrous: suave and grandiose and petty all at the same time.  And Bruce Willis is the most reluctantly antagonistic and ballsy hero ever to foil villainous plans.  Die Hard is one of the great game-changing action movies of our time.  Many have tried to duplicate it but precious few have come close.

Back to Christmas.

“It’s Christmas, Theo, it’s the time of miracles.  So be of good cheer and call me when you hit the last lock.”  
“You asked for miracles, Theo? I give you the F. B. I.”
Alan Rickman should really just be in everything.

At any other time of year this would have been just an action flick, you know?  One of the great villain/hero standoff movies of our age.  But it’s set in the midst of holiday anticipation and an underlying sense of the need to survive because it’s Christmas, dammit, pervades the film so successfully that it elevates it to something greater.  It flavors events with a vague goodwill and the little festive flairs - the poinsettias, string lights, lit snowmen, ‘ho ho ho’, red and blue hues, gift wrap - are deftly placed and remind us that ultimately John McClane is just trying to get home for Christmas.  We all understand that.  We just don't all have to wade knee-deep through shards of glass and crazed villains to get there.  BUT WE WOULD IF WE WERE JOHN MCCLANE.  And that, my friends, is why Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie ever made.  Bruce Willis doesn't just save Holly and most of the hostages and portions of some of the Nakatomi tower, he saves Christmas.  He's like all of Scrooge's ghosts combined with a Terminator combined with the Who song.  He just saved Christmas.  Barefoot.  You're welcome.

Merry Christmas.  Yippee-ki-yay motherfuckers.

2016 Update:

RIP Alan Rickman. We lost one of the greats in 2016. It's okay to mourn the loss of someone you never met because the work and creativity of strangers can touch the deepest parts of us: that's the beauty of art. That's the joy of interconnected humanity. So thank you, Alan Rickman, for everything you gave us. And fuck you, 2016, for everything you took. 

Read: Alan Rickman and Grief.

Merry Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas to all of you lovely humans. Thank you for reading and for being amazing. This Christmas and every day next year, take care of yourselves and each other. In the immortal words of Bill and Ted, "Be excellent to each other."

xo

Corinne Simpson, the VampireNomad

 

Lyric Analysis - Winter Wonderland

Lyric Analysis - Winter Wonderland

Full disclosure: While writing this analysis I listened to five different versions of this song on repeat. In order, versions by Lena Horne, Amy Grant, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr., and Diana Krall. No, I do not have a favorite. After awhile they all blend together and sound sort of like a vaguely jazzy choir in my head. I really could have listened to probably fifty-seven more versions since this is one of those songs that is perpetually and always added to Christmas albums. There is nothing new that can be done with this song except maybe for Jimi Cringle to do a heavy metal version which is sadly lacking. Get on it, Jimi.


Sleigh bells ring

Are you listening

I think this song is presuming we are outdoors. And in a more rural setting. Sleigh bells aren’t something I have a lot of practical experience with except in the context of Christmas songs and snowy literature. The White Witch of Narnia did not have bells on her sleigh because she had banished Christmas, you see, but when Aslan neared and kick-started the thaw which allowed Santa back in, sleigh bells returned with him. So sleigh bells, to me, are not a practical thing so much as a good times holiday thing. Right away I’m in a festive mood because: sleighs with bells. So yeah, I’m listening, song. Continue.

In the lane

Snow is glistening

A beautiful sight, We're happy tonight

I mean this hits pretty close to home. I live in Edmonton. Snow is definitely glistening in the lane and everywhere else. It’s sorta beautiful if you squint and don’t think about the drive in to work tomorrow. I’m relatively happy tonight because I’m indoors and full of hot dinner so... I’ll give you this, song. But I’m happier thinking about the bells than the snow, to be honest.

Walking in a winter wonderland

Sure, this is a thing people do. Lunatic people with a penchant for frostbite and a weird disdain for the indoors.

Gone away, is the blue bird

Because he is smarter than the rest of us.

Here to stay, is the new bird

Not having a background in ornithology I wasn’t sure exactly what sort of bird flew into winter while all the other (smarter) birds flew south so I googled it. As it turns out Canada apparently has a lot of birds that stick it out year-round. They don’t so much fly in for the beautiful winters as they just choose not to leave. The top ten wintery birds are black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, finches (house, purple), northern cardinals, blue jays, American goldfinches, common redpolls, brown creepers, cedar waxwings, and red-breasted nuthatches. Along with house sparrows and woodpeckers and so on, there are a lot of birds just chilling (PUN) over the holidays. So there you go: the more you know.

He sings a love song,

Though, do creepers really sing LOVE songs?

As we go along

Walking in a winter wonderland

We’ll assume it’s more of a beggar’s call: “spare some seeds, lady?” because conditions here can be dire.

In the meadow we can build a snowman

And pretend that he is Parson Brown

Lesson time! YAY! ‘Parson Brown’ refers to parsons who were Protestant or Anglican ministers who went town to town performing, among other things, wedding ceremonies for those who did not have a local minister. Parson Brown was not a specific real person; it’s more like ‘John Doe’ as a generalized term. In this reference, Parson Brown is just an example of a parson made out of snow butting into your love life on your walk. Let’s hope you are walking with your loved one, as the song assumes, and not, say, with your boss or something awkward.

He'll say are you married

We'll say no man

But you can do the job When you're in town

I mean: he’s made of snow. How legal would the union be? Not to mention the weird fixation with getting all wintery walkers hitched pronto. I’m not sure where you’re heading with this, song.

Later on We'll conspire

As we dream by the fire

‘Conspire’ is a more suitable rhyme than ‘perspire’ which is probably more accurate. Romantically well-played, song.

To face unafraid

The plans that we've made

I assume the plans that were made were spontaneous wedding plans which, yes, might strike fear in the hearts of lesser couples given that what started as an innocent freezing walk ended up at a snowman-officiated altar. But I’m glad we’re facing our fears and solidifying our plans now. Nothing like a little fireside rumination to shore up intent, am I right?

Walking in a winter wonderland

Sleigh bells ring

Are you listening

In the lane

Snow is glistening

A beautiful sight,

We're happy tonight

Walking in a winter wonderland

Taken as a whole this paints a very Currier and Ives portrait, does it not? “What is Currier and Ives, VampireNomad?” Well, curious kittens, the Christmas standard ‘Sleigh Ride’ contains the lyrics “it’ll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives” and indeed from 1834 to 1907 the American printmaking firm of Currier and Ives produced high quality lithographs of works from artists. Often on a pastoral or landscape theme, many popular prints were snowy winter scenes involving sleighs and so on. BOOM: two lyric analyses in one! Don’t say I’m not a giver.

Gone away, is the blue bird

Here to stay, is the new bird

The brown creeper or maybe the blue jay. Brown creepers really like cedar berries and blue jays are reportedly fond of cracked corn so if you’re wondering what to get for the winter bird in your life, those are two solid ideas.

He sings a love a song

As we go along

I think the only bird song I’ve ever had follow me on any walk is the sinister cawing of crows. Snow White I’m not. This song is assuming the walkers attract a more romantical-style bird than the type I normally associate with.

Walking in a winter wonderland

In the meadow we can build a snowman

And pretend that he's a circus clown

I mean I’m not aching to marry but if my only snowman options are a parson or a clown, guess which one I’m choosing?

We'll have lots of fun with Mr. Snowman

Mr. Snowman the circus clown. I dare you not to think of It. Or Twisty from American Horror Story. How romantic is this song now, hmmm?

Until the other kiddies knock him down

Kids are jerks, man.

When it snows ain't it thrilling

Though your nose, gets a chilling

All things considered a frozen nose is the least of your worries given that you narrowly escaped getting spontaneously hitched and murdered by a clown on this walk. Truth be told, I’ll take a little chill.

We'll frolic and play,

the Eskimo way

This song was written in 1934 and this is where it shows the most. Widely ‘Eskimo’ is now considered to be a derogatory term for Inuit people. And this is definitely true in Canada. According to my cursory research, however, in Alaska the word ‘Inuit’ is not preferred by the Yupit people mainly because they are NOT Inuit and the word doesn’t exist in their language. They prefer to be called Eskimo. So this lyric has kind of come full circle from innocent to offensive and back to acceptable again because song-writers Felix Bernard and Richard Smith were American and American Inuit are Alaskan Eskimos so Eskimo is the right word to use. (Though not in Canada.)

Walking in a winter wonderland

Walking in a winter wonderland

Did you know this song has been recorded by two hundred different artists? And I only listened to five while writing. I feel like I’ve let you all down. I’ll do better next time, I promise.

 

- Corinne Simpson

Sweet Update-y Goodness on 'The Disappearing Act' and 'nightwalk'

"Hey remember when VampireNomad was promoting that short film she did makeup for called The Disappearing Act back in August? Did that thing get made? What's up with that?"

"Hey remember when VampireNomad implored us over and over again to vote for a StoryHive project called nightwalk? Did they win? Is it being filmed? What's up with that?"

"DO ANY OF THE SHORT FILMS VAMPIRENOMAD TELLS US ABOUT EXIST AT ALL? WHAT IS UP WITH ANY OF IT?"

I hear your questions, pretty mortals. I hear you loud and clear. And today I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people [who care about The Disappearing Act and nightwalk].

I present to you: UPDATES!

That's right, just click on the "UPDATES" and it will take you to the official Kissing Habit Films site where writer/director/producer Andrea Beca has written updates on both films for you to eagerly consume.

Long link, for those who like to see what they're clicking on: http://kissinghabit.com/blog-1/2016/11/6/update-the-disappearing-act-and-nightwalk

TL:DR Both films exist. One is heading into post-production in December and the other is currently in pre-production. CLICK ONE OF THE LINKS, DO NOT BE LAZY. Reading is a privilege and you shouldn't squander the ability.

That is all, I love you, now go back to your regularly scheduled day.

xo Corinne