Perchance to Dream

Many years ago, too many to count or even admit to, I used to listen to a radio show called America’s Top 40, hosted by Casey Kasem. His sign off phrase was, “Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground.” This is good advice. Dream big, but stay somewhat practical.

Sadly, as children and even well into adulthood, we are often discouraged to dream at all. Sometimes we are discouraged by people who don’t support or believe in our dreams, and sometimes we’re knocked down just by pure circumstance. Perhaps, however, the reason we’re afraid to dream is because we are afraid to fail, or maybe, just maybe, we’re afraid to succeed. Whatever causes the death of our dreams, I just know it doesn’t have to be that way.

Balance is of course a healthy part of life. It’s good to be smart about life, to be grounded, and of course I always say to have a “Plan B.” And “C.” And even a “D.” Believe me, I’m not telling you to throw your life away in pursuit of foolishness. I’m not telling you to quit your job, sell your stuff, and backpack around Tibet. Unless of course, that’s something you really want to do. Then I’m all for it. Send me a postcard!

The young dream big, don’t they?  I mean, they can dream like we adults can’t even dream of dreaming. So who are we to snuff that out? Don’t we know that one of the cruelest things a person can endure is when someone they love can’t support their dreams? In a sense we’re saying we don’t believe in them. We don’t mean to. We’re just trying to protect them from the hurt we may have endured ourselves.

Plus, we think we know it all. We’re adults, right? We’re supposed to know it all. What we have to realize is that it’s better to let go and pursue our dreams rather than to always live with the ache of what could have been. I for one don’t want to be responsible for that in my life or the lives of my children.

What about us older folks? Those of middle-age and beyond. Do we think we’re too old good to dream? Our dreams are what move us to accomplish greatness and gift the universe with our brilliance… or maybe they just allow us to get through each day as we struggle with overwhelming mediocrity.  I will digress here for a moment to point out that Grandma Moses, pretty much a household name now, didn’t start painting until she was 78.  She painted right up until her death at 101. 101!  Her favorite quote, which indeed seems to tell her own personal tale, was “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” Words to live by indeed.

Bram Stoker didn’t create Dracula until he was 50 (Stoker, not Dracula). I mean, seriously, where would the vampire genre be without him?

Donald Ray Pollock received quite a bit of attention for his debut novel, The Devil All the Time, but did you know that he dropped out of high school to work at a meatpacking plant for many years before moving on to a paper mill where he worked for 32 years as a laborer and truck driver?  The same year he turned 55, he took the leap and published a book of short stories – just a year before graduating Ohio University by the way.  Three years later, in 2011, along came The Devil All the Time which won him the Guggenheim Fellowship.  Talk about following a dream.

To digress even further (thanks for your patience!), Laura Ingalls Wilder… well, there’s another one. Even though she was a columnist at the age of 44 and doing fairly well, her Little House books made her a household name, and she didn’t publish those until she was the ripe age of 64.

After the death of her second husband, Mary Delany began creating amazingly intricate paper cut-outs of flowers to help her deal with her grief. She was 68. She created more than 1,700 pieces of this unique form of art and continued with her artwork until she was 88. Her pieces were so delicate and so incredibly beautiful that they now reside in the British Museum’s collection.

My point is, dreams shouldn’t be snuffed out… not in children, and certainly not just because a person has mastered the aging process. If anything, aging gives our dreams greater meaning. Life may throw us curve-balls or set us on a different path than we ever expected to be on, but dreams…dreams can set us free and put a new life in motion.

Where have all the vampires gone?

Maybe I’m old school, but I just can’t buy into the new trend of vampires that are everywhere on TV and in movies these days. You know what I’m talking about. The sexy, brooding bloodsuckers that wear designer clothes like skinny jeans and leather jackets. Or no clothes at all to better show off their hairless pecs and abs. Their hair is all shiny from the Shisheido mousse they’ve slathered all over their head to get that spiky just-out-of-bed-and-oh-so-handsome look perfected.

Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries…they may be entertaining, but they’re all posers as far as I’m concerned. “Hip” is not a word that should be used to define vampires. Sure, the characters in these shows are charming and sexy, but they’re supposed to also be fierce, narcissistic, predatory, and dangerous, just as vampires are meant to be.  Vampires aren’t meant to be shallow shells of an Abercrombie commercial with fangs thrown in.  Following a vampire should be unsettling and titillating, not just the latter.  Who does this best? In modern-day, it’s Anne Rice of course, the Queen of the Damned (See what I did there?  Nice reference, right??)

Lestat and Louis, these are the archetypes I always return to when I think of the perfect portrayal of this mythical and terrifying species of monster. Rice keeps these two more closely related to the characteristics held by the legendary Dracula and vampires from past eras. By that I mean that the focus of their identities is placed more on their malevolent charm, their perspective that humans are just prey to be taken down like how a lion stalks weak gazelle on the Serengeti.

Louis leans a bit more on the side of brooding, which many of these new Emo vampires rely heavily on to make hearts flutter (the damaged soul syndrome that high school girls are helpless to resist) but he still embodies what a vampire should be. And Lestat…well… he is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate vampire. He is always on the hunt, always seeing fresh meat when he eyes a human, always ready to kill, whereas the majority of True Blood vampires (for example) are only truly fierce when they have to be. When they’re not hungry they’re just hanging out at the bar playing pool, mixing with human society, and shooting out smoldering gazes left and right as if their blood lust is a switch that can be turned off and on with ease.  Indeed, Eric Northman is the only one in True Blood with the characteristics worthy of a vampire.

I desperately want a t.v. series or movie that harkens back to the age-old vampire legends. While I don’t hate Twilight, I also don’t count it as part of the vampire genre. I mean, come on. And True Blood, while enjoyable, is more like a soap opera that often runs off the rails (werewolves, shape shifters, goddesses, fairies, they pack in a lot). The movie Interview with the Vampire was decent enough and I truly enjoyed watching Lestat leap off the pages and onto the screen. But in the book (and we all know books are so much better than their motion picture counterparts), Anne Rice’s artistic combination of Lestat’s fierce, predatory charm and the despondent, soul-searching nature of Louis (who was himself capable of great violence) sparked an epic vampire tale. Now if we can just get that translated to an HBO or Showtime series, I’d be in heaven.

What I’d love to see is a return to this ruthless vampire archetype. I want the danger of being in their presence. I want to understand the despair of immortality. I want to see ferocity again. The genre is getting neutered thanks to this YA trend and it needs to grow its fangs back.

a must read for vampire fans

a must read for vampire fans