Daily Archives: October 8, 2016

The Lost Sounds Of Fall – a nostalgic look at bamboo rakes

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. The Sun is bright, the air is crisp and the leaves turn a wondrous range of colors. When I was a boy,  there were also the special sounds of Autumn.  As the weather turned colder, the last noises of lawn movers ceased and the world became quiet.

The whining of small engines was replaced by the unique soft sounds of bamboo rakes as people gathered the leaves into huge  piles. There were the delighted laughs of children when they ran full speed and jumped into the piles. Dogs barked as they chased each other through the leaves and searched for sticks as if they were hidden treasures of pirates gold.

People aren't the only ones who love leaf piles

People aren’t the only ones who love leaf piles

No one rushed at the task of raking. Adults spent a lot of time leaning on rake handles and chatting with neighbors about what they did over the Summer and asking each other how bad they thought the Winter was going to be. At the end of the day there would be the cracking sound as the piles of leaves were set on fire and we would warm our hands as the piles slowly melted into ash.

But somewhere along the way, the removing of leaves changed from being a slow, honored ritual, and became a noisy efficient task. Incredibly loud gasoline leaf blowers began appearing everywhere. They drowned  out all hope of civilized conversation. The people not actually operating the blowers retreated inside behind closed doors and windows to try to escape the noise. Leaves were blown to the curve, where giant vacuum trucks sucked them up and carried the leaves away. The delighted squeals of kids playing in the leaves were replaced the revving engines of two-ton diesel trucks.

Bamboo is superior to leaf blowers

Bamboo is superior to leaf blowers

The new way of getting rid of leaves is amazingly  efficient, and after the trucks move down the street not a single red oak leaf is left  behind. But in the race for speed, an American tradition has been lost forever.

The point of gathering leaves in Autumn was never to see how it could be done the fastest. The ritual for leaf gathering was a way for people to celebrate Life itself.  The older adults cherished  the last few days of  bright Sunshine with friends, knowing that soon they must face the inevitable dark Winter to come. There was solace in seeing that children and dogs forever live in the moment and take joy from the small pleasures.

A few years ago California had a voter referendum to try and ban leaf blowers. In our fast paced world, the referendum was soundly defeated. If I had lived in California I would have voted for the ban.   Give me a bamboo rake any day. It takes longer and is less efficient than a leaf blower. That’s the whole point.

The Forest – A Horror Movie Where the Strangest Parts Are True

The Forest is a horror movie where the strangest parts are true. It is about the “Sea Of Trees”, a dense forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, where Japanese traditionally go to commit suicide. Stylized suicide has a long history in Japan going back to the days of the samurai.

Even today, people will travel from all over Japan to commit suicide in Aokigahara Forest rather than do the act at home. Often individuals have not yet made a decision, so they will bring tents and camp deep in the forest. Sometimes, days or weeks later, the person will decide to live and return  from the forest. However, more times than not, the person never returns.

Aokigahara Forest (The Sea Of Trees) at the base of Mount Fuji

Aokigahara Forest (The Sea Of Trees) at the base of Mount Fuji

In The Forest, Natalie Dormer is Sara Price, an American who is in Japan searching for Jess, her missing identical twin sister.  Jess is a teacher who went to the Aokigahara Forest more than a week before and has not returned.  Sara cannot accept that Jess has killed herself, and decides to take on the futile task of trying to find Jess in the immense “Sea Of Trees”

Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney in The Forest

Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney in The Forest

No Japanese person wants to help Sara search in the Aokigahara Forest. They are afraid of the Yurei, which are demonic figures lurking in the forest trying to trick people into killing themselves.  Then Sara meets  Aiden, another American (played by Taylor Kinney), who is willing to help search. It is only after they are deep in the forest when Sara realizes that perhaps it was not smart for a young woman to go into the woods with a large muscular man who she actually knows nothing about.

Natalie Dormer stalked by a Yurei in The Forest

Natalie Dormer stalked by a Yurei in The Forest

The Forest has all the usual horror movie scares. Strange creatures appear that may be real or may be hallucinations brought on by being alone in  the woods. It has the regular “jump scares” where people or things suddenly pop up.

Taylor Kinney as "Aiden". Nice guy or Killer?

Taylor Kinney as “Aiden”. Nice guy or Killer?

However, we found the the true story of Aokigahara Forest and ritualized suicide in a modern society the most interesting part of the film. Japanese politeness extends even into this darkest hour of human existence.  For example, if you are walking through the forest and see a person camped with a “suicide tent”, you are not to interfere. Japanese feel the decision should be left to the individual and you should not try to “rescue” that person.

There is also the bizarre feature of bright yellow tape crisscrossed in the forest.  People want to kill themselves deep in the woods, but many  also want their body to later be found and taken away by family.  Therefore, when people go deep off the trail to kill themselves they  leave a path of bright colored tape from the trail to their final death location.

The Forest is not a great horror film but it is still worth watching. Unfortunately it has some unintentional humorous  aspects that take away from its scariness.  Natalie Dormer (Sara) keeps showing people a photograph of her identical twin asking if they have seen her. Why does she need to carry around a photo, when they are “identical”?

The funniest scene is when Sara decides to visit the school where her identical twin was a teacher. Remember that Jess has been missing for a long time and presumed dead.  Without thinking about this, Sara walks into the classroom. The children start screaming, believing that Sara is a ghost.  The director of the film (Jason Zada) probably meant this to be scary, but it actually comes across as really funny.