Thursday, August 14, 2014

Clowns, zombies, and ambulances, oh my!

Jason Kuznicki has announced he is leaving Ordinary Times to start his own blog, called "Clown Town."  I shan't be linking to it or reading it, alas.  Not that he doesn't deserve to be read.  My choice not to read it is my loss and no one else's.  But I just can get past the title, "Clown Town."  And when I visited that site, the lede picture is a photo of two clowns.

I hate clowns.

I won't say I've always hated them because when I seem to remember that when I was a very young child I liked them.  But sometime, perhaps it was by middle school or perhaps it came later, I got to where I couldn't stand them.  Even the sight of a clown--or a clownish figure, like a mime in white-face--makes me ill at ease and, perhaps on some level, mildly sick.  No, I don't get nauseous*, but I don't want to be around them.

They're scary.  But it's not just that they're scary.  They're also icky.  It's actually pretty hard to explain, especially to someone who doesn't have the same reaction I do.  And don't get me started on the old Pagliacci trope, where the guy is laughing on the outside but crying on the inside.  Yes, the tears of a clown are a horrible thing because they're supposed to be so happy, so why are they so sad?  What a tragedy!  (Hint to Smokey Robinson:  clowns aren't the only beings in the universe who have complicated, sad/happy emotions.)

I feel the same way about zombies.  I can't watch zombie flicks, and I don't really like to be around people in zombie costumes on, say, Hallowe'en.  My dis-ease on the matter is a little easier to convey.  We're not meant to like the undead in the same way we're meant to like clowns.  Still, the ickiness of zombies is reminiscent to me of the ickiness of clowns.  One of the frustrating things about the very few zombie movies I've seen--which probably includes only the 1980s remake of "Night of the Living Dead" and the spoof (but not really a spoof) "Shaun of the Dead"--is the way no one can ever escape.  Once there's a zombie attack, the logical conclusion is that the earth is fished up.  Because no one can escape, no one will escape.  (It's like when astrophysicists say "nothing" can escape a black hole.  If that's true, then why aren't we in, or destined soon (in geological time) to be trapped in, a black hole?)

I mentioned "Shaun of the Dead" as a spoof that's not really a spoof.  That's because it doesn't overcome the ickiness of the zombie story.  It doesn't even try.  Its creators apparently believe that making a few funny moments and playing a Queen song during the climactic attack obviates the fact that it's a zombie flick.

Besides their (to me) unrelenting ickiness, zombies and clowns share one thing in common.  They're supposed to be "fun."  And there's supposed to be something wrong with people who don't find fun things fun.  Yes, "supposed to be" in the last two sentences are passive constructions.  Supposed by whom?  I won't answer that.

Ambulances are yet another thing.  They're not supposed to be fun.  They are, in Poe's words, the conveyors of "loud alarum bells" and are supposed to save our lives and other people's property.  If someday I'll ever be in need of one, I'll be grateful if one shows up.  But for all the prerogatives their drivers enjoy to exceed the speed limit and pass through red lights, they seem, in Chicago at least, to go unrelentingly slow, alarms blaring all the while.  That's understandable.  Chicago streets are crowded with cars, self-righteous ("share the road!") bicyclists, and even more self-righteous pedestrians like myself.  But that also means the sirens last seemingly forever.  You can hear them from a great distance, and they drone on and on.  And on.

Unlike clowns and zombies, people aren't supposed to like sirens.  The important thing about sirens is that they work, not that people have fun listening to them.  The fact is that they don't work in Chicago.  Whatever the intent, their function seems to be to make noise while other cars ignore them or race to cross the street or make that all important left-hand turn that will save them a total of 43 seconds on their trip home.  But the (in my opinion) mostly uselessness of these noisemakers doesn't obviate the fact that they're supposed to be doing good.

So, I wish Jason Kuznicki all the best.  But I won't be reading him anymore, or at least not on that blog.

*Yeah, I know the standard term is "nauseated."  But this is my blog and I can do what I want.

UPDATE, 8-16-14:  Erggg, brumble, brumble.....My wife pointed out a spelling error in the title.  So I changed "amulances" to "ambulances."  Mr. Conroy apologizes about the error.


Anonymous said...

Have you heard of uncanny valley?
Everyone hates clowns -- at least the "classic" kind.

Gabriel Conroy said...

I hadn't heard of that before, but I googled/wikipedia'd it. What I skimmed/read seemed to make sense.