Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Blog Challenge: Something Unusual

Now Playing: Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead

Woops. Forgot today was Friday, so this update is a bit late in the day :P

Not gonna add updates here because this turned into a long challenge answer. Although I will say, I rediscovered the awesomeness of the library last Saturday. (Went with Silvia, am going again tomorrow. Weeee)

Week 11: Something unusual.

Well that's...a super broad prompt. I assume it means, "something unusual about you" but that can go anywhere. Me as in, my appearance? Where I live? My upbringing? My family/friends?

Hmmm. Just an unusual fact about me, then.

I'm assuming most people know about or have seen The Blair Witch Project.  I learned about it in a peculiar way--by my dad complaining and my cousins raving about it. My dad thinks it's pretentious, long, boring, all kinds of terrible descriptors. My cousins, I think, were always pretty big fans of it. And for a long time, I was somewhat inclined to agree with the "it's (probably) overrated". It wasn't a fully formed opinion since I'd only seen snippets of it. (Mainly that annoying clip of Heather pointing the camera directly up her nostril while she apologizes for everything that's happened).

It used to run a lot on TV back in Ecuador, and the networks usually did a ton of advertisements for it. Except they'd use reallyyyy vague clips of it, like, footage of someone running with the camera over the forest grass at nighttime, the light of the camera illuminating patches. The movie played really late, so I remember the one time my mom decided to watch it, she sent me to bed before I could see much of it. I caught maybe ten seconds of it, the first scene of the camera focusing on Heather as she motions around to her house. I never got to see it in full until years later--maybe when I was eleven. Despite how much I was inclined to try and roll my eyes at the concept of the movie, I think I did it out of self-defense. For years, I believed that the whole Blair Witch thing was real.

I bit the bullet at some point. I saw the movie, for the first time, at either eleven or twelve, when I had my first laptop. One of the first nights I ever stayed up wayyy too late, just playing on my computer, was the time I found the Blair Witch Project online and I watched it. Midnight, eleven year old scaredy-cat, goes under her covers to watch a scary movie; I didn't sleep for days. I would never admit it to my dad, but I was terrified of it. And I'd also liked it a lot. I saw it again, a few months later. Then again, about a year later. I've seen it countless times since.

So here's the something unusual: I've watched The Blair Witch Project a dozen times because, honestly, it reminds me of my childhood. It makes me nostalgic.

That sounds threatening out of context. But it makes sense with a little unpacking.

I was terrified of a lot of things when I was little. My cousins, aunts, uncles, pretty much everyone from all sides of the family had a fascination for ghosts stories and urban legends. I'm going to guess it's due to the influence of a mostly Catholic society combined with somewhat violently dangerous areas. Whatever the reason, urban legends are abundant in Ecuador. As far as I can tell, everyone knows the same ones.

I grew up afraid of seeing La Dama Tapada and La Llorona*. I heard one of my cousins tricked his sister into believing she'd seen la mano negra. La caja ronca absolutely terrified me and my parents usually forbade people from ever telling me that story, though I heard many variations throughout the years.
Ecuadorians celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, though in a somewhat different fashion than the Mexican festivities. (In fact, saying we "celebrate" it is a bit of a stretch. I think it's more of a day of contemplation...and really delicious food. No cool outfits, though). So I grew up thinking a lot about death and spirits. I wasn't an odd little kid with a fascination of the macabre. I was horrified by it.**

But I guess a part of me was also interested in it, to an extent. I thought a lot about Cantuña and his cathedral, because that was my favorite legend. (Not surprisingly, since the business of a missing stone saves Cantuña 's soul. So in that respect, it has a "happy" ending). And while the one about Padre Almeida isn't my favorite, it's always kind of amused me, so I remember it a lot too.

Aside from urban legends, however, my family also often had a ton of personal stories about things they were certain they'd experienced. It was said that my paternal grandmother saw the Virgin Mary once when she was very young. My aunt saw strange things when she was young, too. She told me she saw a strange creature on the bus--tall, with black fur for skin, hidden by the layers of his clothes--and that when she pointed it out to my grandmother (same one who saw the Virgin Mary), she saw it too and said to pray quietly. Two of my mom's uncles apparently saw La Dama Tapada after a night of drinking. A great grandmother of mine (maternal, this time) was forced to stay past midnight in her school because of bad behavior, and she told us that, in the dead of night, she thought she saw the Virgin Mary approaching from outside; once she came into the classroom, she didn't have a face.

Yeah, the Virgin Mary showed up a lot in these. See what I mean about Catholic influence?

Despite all this, by the way, I don't believe in ghosts. And I can't help but somewhat roll my eyes at people who swear they can see ghosts and spirits and demons, and that so and so family members saw the ghost of whomever the fuck. It's...pretty bullshit. I believe people saw these things, I just don't believe they can actually be supernatural things. The mind is a complex, tricky thing. I saw a ton of odd stuff when I was young, but that's born out of an overactive imagination, religious upbringing, and a tendency to freak out over little things. (Branches shook, shadow on the wall... some witch is here to kill me).

After I moved away from Ecuador and slowly grew away from my beliefs, I didn't think much about the legends or ghost stories imparted on me. I stopped believing in ghosts sometime after I realized I didn't believe in any kind of deity.

But I somewhat missed the terrifying nature of those legends. I missed the intensity of that absurd fear. It was pretty awful, but there's something very, very innocent to remember a time where I believed, wholeheartedly, in magical creatures--even if they were of the evil variety. Sometimes I don't remember the full stories or even much of the way they were told, but I remember vivid images; things I pictured as I was being told the stories, as vivid as if they were real-life memories

Anyways--that's why the Blair Witch Project reminds me of my childhood. I stand by the claim that the best part of that movie is the first thirty minutes or so, when the three of them are finding out the legends just by talking to people or relating what they themselves have learned. Mary Brown's story of encountering the witch as a child reminds me so much of my aunt's own story of seeing that strange creature in the bus.

I wish I could find more horror stories like it. It's a very odd type of nostalgia.

P.S: I found some related art by Roger Ycaza and his work is gorgeous. Check it out.

*I am aware she's from Mexican origin, btw. (Same, apparently, with La Mano Negra). But throughout elementary school, I discovered pretty much all Latin American countries share some variation of her story. (The one I heard was...infinitely more violent than the ones you'll find online). I think I even had an argument with some Venezuelan friends of where she was really from, since we had no way of knowing for sure at the time.

**...which probably also explains my love for Master's Sun. Gong-shil is frightened kitten begrudgingly dealing with the macabre. I can sympathize.

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.