Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Stewart O’Nan’s Songs for the Missing is maybe the saddest book I’ve ever read. I mean that as a compliment.
It’s not easy to write about sad, just like it’s not easy to write funny. But O’Nan is an expert at writing heartbreaking books. I mean that as a compliment, too, though I know saying that most of his books are sad isn’t exactly a great way to recommend him.
The thing is that O’Nan writes books full of sadness that are not depressing. They are sentimental and beautiful, but never contrived. I often hate sentimentality because so often it’s a mask, a way of trying to get a reader/viewer to feel something without earning it. O’Nan’s sentimentality is different. Virtually every character he writes is yearning for something in the past—the narrator of Snow Angels who can’t forget high school, all the players in The Night Country whose lives seem to have stopped on the fateful Halloween night a year previous, etc.
In Songs for the Missing we get something similar—a book about a girl who goes missing that is almost entirely about those left behind and not the missing girl herself, who we only see in the brief opening chapter, and then not again. This is a good trick on one level because it puts us in a position of great empathy with the characters we’re reading about—the parents, the sister, the boyfriend, the best friend. None of them know what happened to the girl—neither do we.
But what really makes the book succeed is what always makes O’Nan’s books successful—the sense that he’s not writing for the reader. A bad sentimentalist writes with a deliberate intent to create some kind of emotion in the reader. O’Nan doesn’t seem to care about his audience at all. His books are often potentially subject to the criticism that nothing happens, that they lack a plot, that they go on too long. And yet, they are compelling. You won’t find yourself unable to put down Songs for the Missing (or, for that matter The Good Wife or Last Night at the Lobster) because you want to know what happens. If you’ve ever read O’Nan you’ll probably have a good idea that not much is going to happen. You won’t be able to put the book down because you’ll want to stay with the characters.
O’Nan is not a complicated writer, nor is he a spectacular writer. This is part of why he’s somehow able to put out a novel every year and have them all be astonishingly good. His writing is simple, a reflection of the people he writes about.
Many writers who write about "everyday people" do so either condescendingly or, alternatively, with the deliberate intent to celebrate their ordinariness. O’Nan doesn’t bother. His books could be non-fiction. He finds characters in interesting but not spectacular circumstances. Most important is that he cares about the characters he creates. He writes with no agenda other than to tell their story. As such, when we’re with the girl’s father in Songs for the Missing we understand him and feel what he feels. When we’re with the girl’s mother we understand why she’s furious with her daughter’s friends, who withheld information that might have helped early on. When we’re with the friends, we understand exactly why they did. Neither party is right or wrong. But they feel true.
What might be most amazing about O’Nan is not his efficiency (seriously, a book every year?), or his empathy, but the range of topics and locales he takes on with such precision. I’ve said previously that his characters tend to be ordinary people, but none can be said to be more alike than that. Years ago he wrote a novel actually called Everyday People about inner-city, mostly black residents of Pittsburgh. This is the kind of book from a white male author that should fail spectacularly, but it’s beautiful (if nowhere near his best). Since then, he’s written about a small-town cop, a wife waiting for her husband to return from prison, the family and friends of a missing girl, the owner of a Red Lobster on the last night before the restaurant closes, and more. Most of the stories take place in New England, but he’s also written about urban Pittsburgh, rural Ohio, and Vietnam.
There is a point, maybe two-thirds of the way through Songs for the Missing, when I started to wonder if the book was going to go on just a bit too long. Almost immediately, the tone changed, events threatened to happen, then did. The brilliance of the book, I think, is not simply that I spent 200 pages reading about nothing much happening—and knowing full well nothing would—but that I almost wondered if the events that form the resolution such as it is were necessary at all.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Both my parents have to have surgery this month. For my Dad, it's a relatively minor outpatient thing, but my Mom is having her thyroid removed because they're afraid it may be cancerous. If it does turn out that it's cancerous, thyroid cancer is about the best kind of cancer you can get - but of course I'm still scared for my Mom. At the same time, my grandma who had a stroke about two years ago, has been told that parts of her brain are dying. The doctor has told her she has to move into some kind of assisted living facility ASAP.
On top of it, we have a small leak in the roof over the garage. It's been there a while actually and we have been bad homeowners and mostly just trying to ignore it. Last week's rains of course reminded us again that we're going to have to get it fixed, which is going to be expensive and no fun at all.
Diana was going to Vegas with her work friends over Labor Day weekend and I was kind of looking forward to the chance to have some alone time, try to put aside the stress from work, which has been especially bad lately, and all the other family and life stuff. Then our ceiling caved in.
Actually, I want to try to be positive, because everything could have been way worse. Diana called me as I was on my way home Friday night and told me the ceiling was falling. I had just come from Erin's neighborhood, where Thursday night's storm had knocked over trees and power poles and pretty much everything else, so my first concern was that we had storm and roof damage. That was not the case, thankfully. Instead, the air conditioner, which is in the attic, was leaking.
This is what the ceiling looked like Friday night:
There must have been a lot of water on the floor, but Diana had pretty much cleaned it up by the time I got home. I got up in the attic and figured out it wasn't storm or roof damage, but stupidly it didn't occur to me that we should turn the AC off until Saturday morning. By Saturday, it looked like this:
I also got to spend the night in the house Saturday and Sunday night with no air conditioning. That's just lovely in Phoenix, right? I spent most of the days away from the house because doing anything out was better than being there. When I came home Sunday, the whole thing had finally come down:
When Diana came home on Monday we were able to pull down some of the insulation and I could figure out exactly what was leaking. We rigged some pans so that we could have the AC on without causing any more water damage. Yesterday we finally got the AC fixed so it's not leaking anymore. Don't know yet when the ceiling can get fixed.
The real bitch of it is that most of the attic AC unit is underlaid by a drip pan (ie, a pan that collects and drains any water that leaks out). Except, the drip pan wasn't as big as the unit! And where it dripped from was a part not underlaid by the drip pan! Someone was really thinking when they installed this system, right?
But, really, it all could have been worse. You can't tell but this part of the ceiling is in the hallway just outside the guest bedroom and the bathroom. The floor was tile so none of the floor was damaged, even the sofa table and the quilt we had right there managed not to get wet or damaged. It's hard to luck at this situation as lucky but, if this had to happen, we're lucky it happened where it did.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
“Every day should be a good day to die.”
That’s maybe my favorite Dave Matthews lyric. Not because it’s such a unique sentiment, or because it’s especially poetic, or delivered with any kind of special grace or intensity. It’s none of those. But it is, to a great extent, what I think of as the overarching theme of nearly all the music he has written.
It’s not as innocently hopeful as his more famous (and certainly stolen) “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” There’s some subtlety in that "should." There’s an acknowledgement that not every day will be.
It’s not as deliberately carpe diem as when he sings “Don’t burn the day away.” It’s a more reflective lyric; the song in which it appears was released on the same album that had him singing, “If I should die before my time.” It’s an older, more reflective lyric.
But it’s still, as I said, the very core of what I love about Dave Matthews. I once reviewed one of his band’s albums for my high school newspaper and made a joking comment about his overuse of the carpe diem trope, but I didn’t mean it in a discouraging way. It was the very hopefulness of the music and lyrics that so spoke to me so many years ago and still makes me a fan today. The lyrics say it but the music makes you feel it. When a song like “You Never Know” is playing and I get caught up in it, that moment is pure joy. When, at the end of that song, Dave sings “Every day should be a good day to die,” it signals not just a hedonistic call to the pleasures of that night, but a deeper commitment you make with yourself to really live every day to its fullest. The moment doesn’t always last, of course.
The last time I saw LeRoi Moore play as part of Dave Matthews Band was last September in San Diego. They played “You Never Know” that night.
It wasn’t just Dave Matthews who made me a fan of Dave Matthews Band. While many people have mocked the unusual line-up (drums, acoustic guitar, bass, violin, and sax) I loved it immediately. I think I really started to love LeRoi when I first saw them play “Lover Lay Down” live. It’s a slow song, not a ballad really, but just a sweet, quiet groove and LeRoi’s saxophone is the highlight. I remember being amazed that he could so easily howl his way through a loud song, and be so beautiful on the quieter ones, as well.
But then, I think every fan loved LeRoi. He wore sunglasses on stage for most concerts because he never quite got over his stage fright. At shows he always seemed quiet, almost passive. But if you watched him up close you could tell he wasn’t bored—he was soaking it in. There were times when watching him was like watching a fan—he was just enjoying the music. Off stage, in interviews and from all accounts I’ve ever heard from those who met him, he was the opposite of his unassuming onstage self. He was funny, kind, had a big laugh. I happened to “meet” Dave Matthews outside a hotel in Chicago once; I shook his hand. But I would have hugged LeRoi. I’m pretty sure he would have been used to that kind of greeting, even from a grown man, and that he would have returned it.
I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I’ve been through all the rumors and crazy stories. Like Dave is gay. Or has AIDS. Or both. One that seemed to recur a lot was that LeRoi had died in a car accident. Maybe because of that it was especially cruel to learn earlier this summer that he was in an ATV accident and badly injured. The good news was that he seemed to be doing well. The band’s tour continued. It wasn’t the same without Roi, but all indications were that Roi would be back as soon as he could. I had even started imagining the great reception he would get at, say, the first 2009 show when he returned.
Given all that, today’s news was an absolute punch in the gut. I literally did not believe it. Not until the news came up on the official site, and then on the front page of CNN, and everywhere else. Now that I know it's true I still don't believe it. I want to fall asleep and wake up from this bad dream.
And maybe it’s silly. I know people who think that it’s silly to be sad about the death of a celebrity. But (even though I ultimately disagree with that) the point is that Roi was more than a celebrity. I’ve seen DMB live … well, a lot. I listen to them … a lot. He’s part of my life almost every day in that way. I don’t know what to say. He’s someone I never met, but I miss him.
My thoughts are with his family and with all members of the DMB family. Rest in peace, Roi.
“Every fire dies
I find it hard to explain”
Thursday, July 03, 2008
The same page has links to the library of our DVDs. We'll let you borrow, but a credit check is required. Also note the link to my LibraryThing catalog of books (it's a lot more fun if you choose to view by 'Covers' instead of 'List'). Borrower cards for the library are free but late fees can be hefty.
Yes, I'm aware it's a sickness. My wife has mentioned it a few times.
Among the picture albums on the site are some that I took on my trip to San Diego a couple weeks ago. I had tickets for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and was sharing them with my Dad as a Father's day gift (for last year, this year, and presumably another five or six years to come I should think). My parents spent almost a week there, but I went out on Thursday afternoon. Still, I got to attend the tournament on Friday and Sunday and, as an added bonus, on Monday for the playoff. I had an unbelievably great time all around.
I didn't even get to see this moment from the tournament in person, but I'll still never get tired of watching it:
On Monday I was even on TV as Tiger teed off on the first hole (maybe more than that but I haven't watched the recording which Diana wishes I would get off our DVR already). I'd love to figure out how to do a screen cap and post it, but for now you'll have to take my word for it.
I had a work commitment that meant instead of coming home from San Diego on Monday as I had originally planned, I needed to be in Orange County. While there, I settled a claim for $1,075,000.
On Tuesday the check came into the office and so, for a brief while, I held in my hands a check for over a million dollars that had my name on it. Of course, I don't get any portion of that, but it was still kind of surreal. I didn't get a picture of that either as there were a lot of people around my desk wanting to check out what the big deal was.
JK Rowling gave the commencement address at Harvard this year. It's really, really good.
Go here and you can watch it, read it, or download an mp3.
OK, that wasn't really the last thing. This is. I present to you ...
Murr in a box!
Monday, June 30, 2008
I can’t remember with certainty when I first started hoping Dave Matthews Band would cover Peter Gabriel. It could go as far back as 10-12 years ago, when I first bought a used copy of Gabriel’s “So” album because I liked “In Your Eyes” and quickly fell in love with it and, in short time, most of the rest of his discography. It could have been sometime later, though, maybe as the result of a thread at (now dearly departed) Nancies asking what covers we’d like to see. Or it could have been driving down the road one day, rocking out, and having it suddenly hit me.
I don’t know exactly when, but the idea has been kicking around my head for a long time. I remember talking to Romi about it (I was probably trying to convert her into being a Gabriel fan) and the last time I saw her was 2001.
There are a lot of songs in Gabriel’s catalog that DMB could take on nicely. I can imagine LeRoi whistling through “Games Without Frontiers,” and a roaring solo at the end. I think of how well the band can take on the dark rock sound of a tune like “Eh Hee” and know that they could do marvelous things with “Digging In The Dirt.” But, really, the best candidate was always “Sledgehammer.”
While it was one of his biggest hits, a hugely popular video, and still one of his best-known songs, “Sledgehammer” is not one that most fans of Peter Gabriel would count among his greatest songs. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s a little more pop and a lot less substance than the majority of his work. But that’s a huge part of what made it such an appealing cover tune.
I have never really thought of DMB as a band that does many covers—what covers they do play tend to be arranged in a way that is very unique to the band (“All Along The Watchtower,” “The Maker”). Most of the covers they do play are hardly of the typical variety. Most bands play covers for a good time; it’s another song the audience is likely to know even if they didn’t write it. But DMB has played three different songs by Daniel Lanois who is and will always be far more well-known as a producer than as a musician himself—all three of those (“The Maker,” “For The Beauty of Wynona,” and “Still Water”) are either dark or quiet tunes. Other covers the full band has taken on over the years include “Long Black Veil” and “Cortez The Killer”—cheery these songs aren’t. Sure, “Exodus” showed up once every five years or so, and “Watchtower” is fun in a sort of loud and dark way, but that was about it until 2005, when they debuted a cover of “Time of the Season.” 2006’s
There were small signs of hope. In the online community, as it turned out, I was by no means the only person who saw the genius of the idea—inasmuch as there is ever widespread agreement in online forums, the thought that DMB could do a killer cover of “Sledgehammer” was widely agreed upon. Furthermore, during the Dave & Friends tour of 2003-4, that band betrayed Dave’s obvious appreciation of Gabriel by doing a cover of “Solsbury Hill.” That was fine and all, but “Solsbury Hill” is about the least interesting Gabriel cover possible and I was neither going to any Dave & Friends shows nor did I have much burning desire to do so.
Starting in 2008, prospects got even better. The first month of the tour has been full of new (and mostly upbeat) covers—“Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin,” “Money” [the Pink Floyd Version], “Money (That’s What I Want)” [the Beatles song], “Bitch,” and “Hey Hey My My” have all been in rotation. There were even rumors that “Sledgehammer” was being soundchecked, though I always find soundcheck rumors questionable at best.
But, Saturday night, it happened. And they rocked it. Even better than I’d always imagined.
Now, I just can’t wait to get to a show. (Amazing that after seeing 17 shows since 2004 this is the summer I’m only going to see two.) A festival seems like a good place for a cover like “Sledgehammer,” right? Like, say, the Mile High Music Festival? Or, if not, then surely Saturday night in
Saturday, May 17, 2008
It was definitely not the hardest course I’ve ever played and it was playing short so that’s a huge advantage for me … then again it’s certainly not the first time I’ve played a short course, it is still the first time I’ve shot 68. Or ever been more than two shots under par at any given time during a round (I was 5-under on the back nine). It might be the only round I’ve ever played with only one bogey. I made five birdies—more than I’ve ever had in a single round. And I was about half an inch from a hole in one. Hell of a day.
So, to celebrate and because I now you really care, here’s a lost of the 5 best rounds of golf I’ve ever played.
#5. Tie: June 1994, Meadow Hills Golf Course, Aurora, CO (82, 12-over par). I’m calling a tie for these two landmark rounds. On the last day of eighth grade I played with a few friends at Meadow Hills. I had never broken 90 before, though I’d been close all spring. Out of nowhere, I played completely out of my mind and so the first time I broke 90 it was by shooting 82.
August 1995, Legacy Ridge Golf Course, Westminister, CO (79, 7-over par). By the next summer I was fighting to break 80. One Friday my Dad and I played a course called Mariana Butte in Loveland and I had a great chance to do it but made a double bogey on 17. The next day we played Legacy Ridge. I had a horrible front nine, shooting 9-over, which meant even if I played the back nine in even-par I would shoot 81. On the back nine, I made six straight pars—then made about a 30-foor putt for birdie on the par-3 16th and somehow birdied the 440-yard par 4 17th. I almost blew it on 18, but manager to make a sand save for par and shot my first 79.
#4. Summer 2002. El Rio Golf Course, Tucson, AZ (69, 1-under par).
This was the summer I lived in Tucson and I played a lot of golf. I played some of the nice courses at their discounted rates, but mostly I liked playing a few of the city courses—if you played after 4 and walked, it cost $4. Hard deal to beat, even if the heat was unbearable and I was alone on the course, and probably seriously risking my health. El Rio was the course I played the most because it was just about a mile from my apartment. El Rio is an old, traditional-style course, very short, but tough with a lot of elevated greens. Plus, because it was summer and extremely dry the course played strangely hard. It drove me crazy all summer. Finally, late in July I played a round where I made pars like crazy, just a few bogeys and a birdie. I went to the 18th at 1-over. 18 was a medium-length par 5, a severe dogleg right around the driving range, but it was tough to reach in two because the dogleg was short and there wasn’t much of a way to cut the corner. On this day, somehow, I figured out how to hit a cut around the corner, and then hit an iron in. I ended up with only about 15 feet from eagle, but I was putting from the fringe. Made the putt, for eagle, and shot 1-under. Because that course was a par 70, that became the first time I’d ever shot in the 60s.
#3. (Today) May 2008. Club West Golf Club, Chandler, AZ (68, 4-under par). Made tap-in birdies at 3, 4, 6, and 8. Had other decent birdie tries at 1, 2, and 9. Probably the best nine holes I’ve ever played. Nice inward half, too: missed a few make-able birdie putts, but finally made one at 13, and also made a few good par putts. I went to 18 5-under and without having made any bogeys. It hit a bad drive and from there just got a couple bad breaks, which I can’t complain about since I had 17 holes of good luck previous. Still, my par putt lipped out and I wanted to drown myself in the lake. Still as solid as I can play, and my best score both in relation to par (by three shots) and in strokes.
#2. May 2001. PGA West (Stadium Course), La Quinta, CA (81, 9-over par).
I’ve played a lot of really hard golf courses in my life, but nothing even comes close to how hard this course is. (See the 17th hole above? That’s not even a short par 3. It’s 170 yards. No. 6 is a 255-yard par 3 that’s all carry over water. I had to hit 3-wood to the bail-out area on the left. This hole would be a tough par 4, if it were a par 4. On the courses web site, they have a quote from the designer: “Golf is not a fair game, so why build a fair course?” That’s about right. Everything about that place is brutal. Shooting 9-over was the lowest possible score I could have made, probably could ever make. I was playing great that day, driving it straight and long, hitting irons well, putting well. And I still shot 9-over.
#1. Labor Day Weekend 2004. Ventana Canyon (Mountain Course Front-Canyon Course Front), Tucson, AZ (71, 1-under par).
A combination, finally, of a really good score and a really hard course. One of those good but boring rounds. I made pars all day long and almost never had birdie chances. I made bogey early in the round, got it back early, made another bogey and then just stayed steady at 1-over. Finally I birdied 16 (Canyon no. 7) and was at even par. I missed the green at 18 and was sweating about whether I could get up and down … and then chipped in for birdie.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
TRISH!!!! This is for you!
Several weeks ago Diana and I sat down on a Saturday night and watched "Jaws." All the way through. (Turns out there actually was quite a bit of it I'd never seen - a lot of the on the boat stuff.)
Will you be my friend again?
Thursday, January 24, 2008
A journalist’s job is not just to report what’s going on, it’s to make decisions about what’s important and worthy of the public’s attention. One of the first things you learn as a student of journalism is how to interpret press releases—even at our university paper, we received well over 20 press releases a day. Most were so banal they were never even read in full. Others were interesting but not news. Maybe one a day included some piece of information that with proper follow up (also known as reporting) was a legitimate news story.
Even the first time it happened – four Super Bowls ago – the GoDaddy thing was a total publicity stunt. That’s what making a “shocking,” “boundry-pushing” ad is all about. Whether it was their intention to make something just offensive enough to be censored I don’t know, but either way they were going to come out a winner. Either the ad would make it to air and (presumably) offend enough people to create a “controversy” that put the company’s name in news stories … or the ad would get rejected and you’d have the same “controversy.”
GoDaddy complaining about the rejection of their Super Bowl ad was clever in 2005, but at least then it was new, which if you can read you understand to be an important part of news (roughly seventy-five percent, give or take). Now it’s just tired. And yet they’ve had front page stories on azcentral.com over several weeks. It’s poor journalism and poor editing.
* * *
Speaking of poor editorials decisions made by azcentral, when I opened it up this morning the story about Kate Walsh making an appearance at yesterday’s Barack Obama rally had a headline of, “Star power trotted out to back Obama at ASU.” Yes, really. Journalism professors all over the state no doubt laughed, took some aspirin for their headache, and then printed it out for future lectures on what not to do.
By this afternoon, the headline had been changed. Weak. At least before you were wearing your bias proudly, Republic editors.
[UPDATE] The old headline is still in the archive.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I’m annoyed by the “Whopper Freakout” Burker King commercials, the ones where they show what happens to people visiting a Burger King when that location has supposedly stopped selling the Whopper for a day. It’s a really bizarre marketing strategy.
Look, if we remove just one item from our menu, most of our customers don’t even want to eat here anymore! The rest of our food is so bad that customers will threaten the lives of our managers! Come on in! Have it your way!
I get that the Whopper is the item they’re known for and everything, but if you wanted to go down this road wouldn’t be a little better to first show people being sad to not have a Whopper … but then realizing that, “Wow, these chicken fries are great!” Every other company in the world seems to understand that what people want is choice. But then most companies also realize that advertising shouldn’t terrify customers, too. I’m looking at you, The King.
A proviso. The above explains why the new campaign confuses me. It doesn’t explain why it annoys me. Here then:
So, it’s Saturday night and I’m craving a burger (specifically, Red Robin’s Blue Ribbon Burger), but I’m not really interested in going to a restaurant. So, I get in the car, I’ m heading west on
Sometimes I hate myself.
Friday, December 28, 2007
The rules are that you Bold those you’ve seen.
Italicize movies you have started but couldn’t finish.
Add an asterisk* to those you have watched more than once.
The Shining* - I read the book and loved it long before I ever saw the movie. As such, the first time I saw the movie I was unhappy. But i got over it. This is a 100% classic.
The Exorcist* - For my me this is one of the scariest movies ever made, and a good lesson in how it's not good effects or gross-out stuff that makes a great scary movie because, while this movie has both, the effects are so comically bad that they don't work for the most part. Also, not the kind of movie you sit and watch and scream during, but the kind of movie that you won't sleep very well after seeing. I was in college when they re-released this in theatres, and I went with some friends who had never seen it. They were so freaked out that I ended up having to stay and sleep on the floor in their room because they didn't want to be left alone (because, what, I'm going to protect them from Satan?), and they left the lights on all night, too. That's a good scary movie right there.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre -This is OK in and of itself but to the extent that it has inspired slasher flicks and, even worse, Rob Zombie, i find it hard to have positive feelings about it. But what a great poster this flick had. "Who will survive and what will be left of them?" That's great.
The Silence of the Lambs* - This is a very good movie, but I've never really seen it as a horror movie.
Jaws - I know, i know, start the outrage. It's not that I started it and couldn't finish it; I've just seen parts, maybe even the whole movie, but not in sequence and/or all at once.
Halloween - I don't much like the original but it's certainly light years better than the remake.
Psycho - Hitchcock has a lot of far better movies, and ones that don't suffer so much for their age.
Seven* - I rented this one night in high school when my parents were out of town and I was (duh) home alone. Bad idea. There was also a huge thunderstorm going on outside while I watched it. Freaky. But one of my favorite movies. I'd say it's one of the best movies made in the past 10 years ... except I'm thinking it might be older than that now. And that makes me feel old.
Rosemary’s Baby - No interest in seeing it, either. One of those where I have pretty much taken in the story via social osmosis anyway,
Poltergeist - Again, I've seen parts of it recently, but if I ever saw the whole thing when I was younger then I don't remember it.
A Nightmare on Elm Street -I think the first and only time I saw it was at a sleep-over back in elementary school. I have never been interested in this series.
Friday the 13th - Pretty much same as above.
The Thing - Never seen it, not interested.
The Evil Dead* - I'm the kind of person that "cult movies" generally appeal to, but this one doesn't. I've seen it twice because they did a midnight showing of it at Gallagher when I was in college and I went, hoping to "get it." I didn't.
Carrie - Probably the only time I saw it was ... junior high, maybe? I know I'm generally anti-this kind of statement but, given how short and good the novel is, there's no reason the movie should be so inferior to the book.
Night of the Living Dead - The first horror movie I ever saw. When I was growing up, there was a high school-aged kid who lived across the street who sometimes played basketball with me. He invited me over one time and I watched this with he and his family. My mom was pissed when she found out, but this movie really isn't good enough to be scared by.
The Omen - never seen the original.
An American Werewolf in London - Never seen it.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - Never heard of this movie.
The Hitcher - Never seen the original. Diana watched the remake one evening while I napped because I had a headache. I heard the remake had a DMB song in it, though.
The Blair Witch Project - This movie scared the hell out of me not because it had any aura of "real"-ness around it; that always seemed like pure propaganda to me. But it did a very nice job of creating that effect, so I applaud it for that. The reason it scared me is because I have been lost in the woods before; it's amazing how easy it is to get a few feet off a trail and suddenly feel like you have no idea where you are and have no idea how to get back to where you need to be. That's a horrible feeling and this movie had me full of it the entire time I was watching it. Haven't seen it (all the way through anyway) since that first time in the theater, when it was brand new.
Pet Cemetery - Never seen it, never read the book. I think I may have seen the end of this once on TV, actually.
Saw - A clever idea for a movie ruined by the (now thankfully dying) more gore aesthetic that came over horror movies this decade. Gross things aren't scary, they're just gross. That and Cary Elwes' final scene ruined this one.
The Ring* - I imagine with any horror movie hype can really kill the experience. Diana and I saw this at a sneak preview, without really knowing anything about it. Scared the hell out of both of us. She can tell you all kinds of embarrassing stories about just how much it scared me.
Scream* - I have mixed feelings. I don't like the slasher sub-genre at all, so to the extent that this movie is part of that (and even more so to the extent that it re-invigorated the genre) I disdain it. But, as my dear wife is so fond of pointing out, it's also a very clever movie. It's not quite a spoof, but it winks so often that I found it funny (and this is good because the reason i don't like slasher flicks is that they're almost never scary). So, to the extent that it's a movie-about-movies, I liked it.