This Week On Facebook

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I’m toying with making this a regular feature, if only to get me posting here more. Basically, I want to observe some of the things that my friends are talking about on Facebook, and go into a little more depth here. It’s a prompt of sorts. We’ll see.

At any rate, this week I’m seeing a lot of this:

richardson

If you’re not familiar with Terry Richardson, here’s the deal: he’s an “American fashion and portrait photographer.” His “snapshot aesthetic” utilizes a white backdrop, and lighting which gives his subjects a very blanched, beat look. He’s very trendy.

He’s also a completely repulsive human being.

It doesn’t take a lot of Google sleuthing to yield some very unsavory information about Terry Richardson. And yet celebrities flock to him, because – simply put – having Terry Richardson shoot you means that you’ve “arrived.” A Richardson portrait is the 21st Century equivalent of a Warhol silkscreen. And because of this, famous people are completely willing to overlook the nastiness, the abuse, and the degradation of NON-famous people in order to have those bleached-out, totally gross portraits of themselves. Status will always trump decency. So, you know, well played, famous people. If you stay good and drunk, you can continue to not think about how many women have been exploited and abused by this fucking creep, and that you’re basically enabling him to do it. May you treasure those pictures always.

giphy.com

On a more bittersweet note, loads of my music scene pals posted the link to this bit of news, about the impending demise of Central Square’s, um, “finest” pizza establishment: Hi-Fi:

hifi

What can I say about Hi-Fi? From around 1988 to 2002, it was the place I went to because I was too scuddered to walk down Massachusetts Avenue to Wendy’s. Unceremoniously jettisoned from TT’s or The Mid East for being a drunk ho? Get your shit together at Hi-Fi.

Once I got sober? Never set foot in the place again, even as I continued to see and play shows in the immediate vicinity. One – because I no longer needed that refuge in which to weep while attempting to “soak up” the alcohol braying through my bloodstream. Two – because sobriety afforded me the chance to get reacquainted with my taste buds.

Horrible pizza. Just terrible. A friend of mine has argued that it was at least “good enough” to keep them in business for 40 years, but I don’t buy that. The reason they stayed in business for 40 years? LOCATION. Within stumbling distance of two major clubs. I ask you, fellow denizens of The Scene: did you ever actually, specifically, go to Hi-Fi for pizza when NOT either at a show or playing a show? Like, did you go there to have dinner/lunch independent of a show? If this was a place you willingly went to because you loved that pizza SO MUCH, I would love to hear from you. Because you puzzle me.

And yet, I lament its closing. I truly do. It’ll be said over and over for the next few days, and I’ll say it, too, because it’s true: END OF AN ERA. My 23-year-old self would not recognize Central Square these days, and this is one more landmark that will be replaced by a Domino’s, or a bank, or some terrible place that sells those Vera Bradley quilted bags. Sadness.

dog

What Animated Dog Am I? Mr. Peabody. DUH.

complaint-weather-comparatively-less-annoying-seasonal-ecards-someecards

Finally, it’s March in New England, which means volatile weather to the max. Yesterday it was sunny and in the upper fifties. On Monday we woke up to snow. It’s going to snow tomorrow, too, probably. It will go back and forth like this until at least mid-April. We know this, and still we complain. And if we’re not complaining about the snow, we’re complaining about people who are complaining about snow. Because Facebook.

Oh, Christmas Tree

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I posted a picture of my Christmas tree on Facebook last night.

tree

My friend Vikki responded: “Oh, you’re a white lights person.

I could FEEL the disapproval with every keystroke. I told Vikki I was fully prepared to defend my choice, and throw down, as it were. And while she admitted that my tree is beautiful, she expressed disappointment, because she thought I was “one of us.”

Listen, admitting that I prefer white lights on my Christmas tree is NOT EASY for me. I am the only one of my siblings who does this. It is perplexing to them.

My complicated relationship with white lights began somewhere around 1980-81, when my family moved from one quaint South Shore town to another. Hull and Hingham are right next to each other, geographically, but from a sociological and cultural standpoint, moving from Hull to Hingham was akin to relocating to Neft Dashlari, or Mars, or Cleveland. I mean, it was an adjustment.

There are a lot of insane things about growing up in Hingham. I could write a whole book about growing up in Hingham (and I kind of am, at present). But one of the most insane things about Hingham? The unwritten, unspoken agreement that you do not do colored lights at Christmas, ever. At all.

Okay, MAYBE in the neighborhoods that nobody paid much attention to (like ours, which was practically in WEYMOUTH, for God’s sake), one could get away with a strand or two of multi-colored lights on one’s shrubs. But in most areas, and particularly on Main Street, it was understood that come the holidays, your home was to be decorated thus:

• An evergreen wreath on the front door. NO PLASTIC.
• A red ribbon on said wreath. NOTHING ELSE.
• An electric candle in any window facing the street. One candle per window, WHITE BULBS ONLY.
• If your tree is viewable from the street, the lights on that tree are WHITE.
• Absolutely no colored lights on the bushes. Actually, you really shouldn’t have ANY lights on the bushes.
• And, certainly, it should go without saying that nothing inflatable goes in your yard, ever.

Really. If you don’t believe me, take a trip down Main Street in mid-December and see for yourself.

There was something absolutely soul-sucking about this, every time we took Main Street en route to the Hanover Mall. I’d sit in the backseat and feel terrorized by this display of conformity. As a teenager, those little white lights represented everything I hated about living there.

And, yet…..I had to admit that I preferred them.

Believe me when I say that I would rather have admitted to just about anything than liking little white lights. I believed that white lights absolutely meant that I was a giant snob. For several years I used red, green and white lights on my tree. But I simply couldn’t keep up the façade.

In all other respects I am the Queen of Trash. If it is tacky, mismatched, unloved, or on the rack in the back of the store, I champion it. I believe in casseroles topped with potato chips, Cool Whip, and two-liter bottles of orange soda. Honey Boo Boo is my spirit animal. I cheer when we drive by a house that is so bedecked in flashing lights it can be viewed from space.

But, yes, Virginia. When it comes to my Christmas tree I am “a white lights person.”

Can’t we all get along?

You can feel the cushion but you can’t have a seat…

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me88

My 25th high school reunion is this coming weekend, and I’m not going.

I am feeling very torn and somewhat uncomfortable about this.

I’m not going, mainly because of “scheduling.” We are at the point in our caretaking journey where we simply cannot leave my mother-in-law unattended for any significant period of time. It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and securing some kind of care is going to be nigh on impossible.

A high school friend has gone so far as to offer to COME GET ME, and let me stay at her house, just so I can be there and offer my particular brand of Snarky Running Commentary™ on the whole shebang. But I don’t feel right about leaving Kevin by himself while I’m off at some waterfront shindig with a bunch of people who probably don’t remember me, while all the while I’m worrying whether or not my upper arms look fat. Good times, right?

So I’m not going, and I’m feeling about it the way I felt 25 years ago, when I didn’t go to my prom. Am I missing something? Am I going to be denied some poignant moment of connection because I’m staying home? For years, my friends from high school have been telling me that I Really Didn’t Miss Anything™ by not going to the prom. I don’t believe them. I am certain that if someone had asked me, and I’d accepted, it would’ve been the crucial turning point of my teen years. I’m not sure exactly what would have transpired to achieve this, but I KNOW it would’ve been crucial, okay? I just know.

And now I’ve up and convinced myself that THIS reunion, unlike the previous two reunions I’ve attended, is going to be similarly, er, crucial. And the thing is, history has shown that while I’ve had a pleasant enough time at these functions, I typically tend to stick with the people that I’ve been in touch with the whole time, which to me sort of defeats the purpose of a “reunion.” I lack the balls to go up to someone who wouldn’t have given me the time of day 25 years ago, because even though I am now in my forties, and have survived everything from mental illness to cellulite in the years since I trotted across the stage wearing a giant picture of Elvis on my mortarboard (because why not?), those social constructs are still hard-wired into my brain.

I went to my 20th. I had several people tell me they recognized me because my hair is still the same (short, spiky, dyed to within an inch of its life). I stuck close to my friends from the Drama Club and the Math Team. I DID make a fairly profound connection that year. I got reacquainted with my friend Drew, someone who traveled in similar circles back then, although we never really hung out one-on-one. I wound up realizing that Drew and I have, and had, LOADS in common, and we have remained in touch. So that was nice. Nice enough that I think, “Well, if THAT happened, then what’s going to happen THIS TIME?”

And that, I think, sort of captures my alcoholism (or my “addictive personality,” if you prefer) perfectly. I live in a sort of perpetual state of expectation, and subsequent disappointment. It’s not enough that I’ve managed to maintain solid, quality friendships with so many of my high school classmates (to the point where they’re offering to put me up so I can go to this fakakta reunion). I want more, and I don’t even know exactly what it is I want MORE of. Throw in my OTHER mental health issues and I can work myself into quite an impressive lather of MORE. More memories, more connections, more of something that I can obsess over, or cultivate, depending on my state of mind.

I didn’t go to my prom, but I survived. Maybe I haven’t quite gotten over that, but I’m here. Likewise, I’ll get over not being at this reunion.

Anyway, there’s going to be a DJ. Since at least a couple of my friends from high school read this, have him or her play this one for me, ‘kay? Thanks.

“Luck” of the “Irish”

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I was emailing back and forth with an ex of mine recently (I am, in fact, friends with a couple of these fellows, despite the fact that they, by and large, had every reason to completely cut me adrift). I’m not even sure what prompted the “conversation” (probably an invitation to see a show), but at some point I mentioned the series of seemingly miraculous interventions that enabled me to survive my twenties without, you know, dying. And he said something like: “us micks are made of strong stuff.”

I have mixed feelings about that.

I was brought up in an “Irish Catholic” household. In terms of my heritage, I have been taught to identify chiefly as coming from “Irish” stock (and on paper, that would be hard to dispute: I am the product of a McColgan married to a Flaherty, who in turn wouldn’t have come about if a Flaherty hadn’t been married to a Coyle). Going back another couple of generations yields the surnames Daley and Dorsey.

Now, I must needs confess that German and Dutch are also in my personal mix (Wirth on my mother’s side; Janse on my father’s). And yet not much fuss was ever made about that; we were, at turns, “Irish Catholic,” “Boston Irish,” and the sneering “Two Toilet Irish,” when my family moved from the city proper to a suburb south of Boston (an area known as the “Irish Riviera”) and eventually obtained a house with two bathrooms.

Culturally, we’re taught that as “Irish,” we are supposed to be loyal, hot-headed, creative. And, apparently, drunk.

To boot, we’re also supposed to be able to endure that heady mix of temper and perpetual intoxication. Hence, my ex giving me a verbal chuck-on-the-chin by telling me that I lived to tell about my decade-long bout of self-destructive behavior because I am genetically predisposed to survival, as much as I am also genetically predisposed to alcoholism.

Drinking is the arguable birthright of anyone coming into the world with even an infinitesimal fraction of “Irish blood.” You’re expected to drink, and to fight, because the history of colonialism, poverty, starvation, and persecution has embedded itself into your cultural DNA. But on the flip side, you’re not supposed to talk about it if it becomes a problem. Stoicism. Shame.

Even when I was still drinking, I avoided St. Patrick’s Day revelry. Even as I began to feel the cold, damp grip of my addiction preparing to yank me into the depths of hopelessness and desperation, I was unwilling to participate in the ritual of deliberate public inebriation, trimmed with shamrocks. I suspected, even as I drank alone at home, that perpetuating that stereotype was none too smart. It certainly wasn’t anything that I held dear, at the end, when I’d lie in bed at 3 o’clock in the morning thinking about dying. I wasn’t thinking so much of suicide as I was realizing that if I just, well, died somehow, it wouldn’t be the worst thing.

And yet I get it. On the surface, it’s funny. I still joke about it. A friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook not too long ago, of a bunch of girls in green tshirts passed out in various improbable positions above the caption “IRISH YOGA.” She tagged me and my friend Niamh (born in Ireland, not a “plastic paddy” like myself) and asked, “So is this accurate?” And I scanned the picture and made note of a partially finished pint of Guinness and replied, “An unfinished drink on the dresser? Hardly.”

But then I think, “Aren’t I still willingly contributing to the stereotype by joking about it?” I joke about it, in part, because this is something else I’ve been programmed to do. The Irish joke about terrible things, casting our misfortune in a darkly humorous light, because that’s the way, isn’t it? Example – my father is a twin. He survived birth while his twin did not. Nobody really talks about this, other than to tell this joke (typically at wakes): “Sure, Johnny was a twin. Ma had a boy and a turd. The boy died.” My friendship with Niamh, as long and as deep as it is, is peppered with insults. Tinker. Knacker. Scrubber. It’s how we communicate. We see nothing disrespectful about it.

And so I struggle with this idea that I am supposed to be these things, that I am supposed to accept that I am these things because of genetics and culture and the counties where my Nana and Pa were born. I survived my alcoholism for the very same reason I became an alcoholic? I don’t know.

As Americans of Irish descent, we cling to these ideas of who we are, I think, because we fear a lack of identity. We wear the Aran sweaters and affix the reproductions of vintage Guinness advertisements to our walls and tell jokes on ourselves. And a lot of us drink. And a lot of us drink too much. Some of us survive that slow and steady poisoning of our bodies and spirits. But some of us don’t.

I let it go at the time, the comment about being made of strong stuff. I don’t know that I am. I’m not strong. I’m lucky. Luck of the Irish? Jury’s still out.

Horror Story

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Lest everyone think I only write about deep matters, I would like to take this time to talk about a television show.

This one.

It’s long been established that I have a predilection for anything creepy, spooky, gory, bedecked in cobwebs or performed by Peter Murphy. Not too many television shows deliver almost all of the aforementioned goods (as far as I know, Peter Murphy has yet to appear on an episode).

It’s not for everyone. People who are easily frightened/grossed out/offended would do well to stay far, far away from this show. Because it can be frightening. It can be quite gross. And just when you think there’s a line this show WON’T cross, it will go ahead and cross it. Yea, verily, it will leap over it, run circles around it, and even double back and cross it again. It “goes there,” and brings back souvenirs – mental postcards that will never be purged from your brain, never. Ever.

So if you’re not versed in all things American Horror Story, here’s the deal: it’s in its third season. Each season is a different story. There are no returning characters, but there are returning actors. Jessica Lange is always there. Ditto Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, and Lily Rabe. Season One takes place in a haunted mansion in Los Angeles. Season Two – a mental asylum in Massachusetts. This season focuses on a coven of witches who live in a private school for “exceptional girls,” in New Orleans.

This time around, Lily Rabe plays an ostracized witch who also happens to be obsessed with Stevie Nicks. It’s PERFECT. The cast this season includes Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Gabourey Sidibe and Patti LuPone, which has led my friend (and Cohort In All Things Creepy) Dan and I to rename it American Horror Story: Bitches.

coven

I have friends who turn up their noses at it, in the main because they think it’s “derivative.” Of course it’s derivative. Horror stories ARE derivative. Personally, I enjoy catching the references to other horror movies. I enjoy that a story about witches suddenly brings on a herd of zombies, and then turns into a scene straight out of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Derivative, you say? BRING IT, I say. I laugh like hell every single episode. Every one.

And, because I’m an alcoholic and notice these things, every season deals in some way with addiction. Jessica Lange is always portraying someone in the throes of alcoholism: Constance, the aging, failed actress in Los Angeles; Sister Jude, the former barroom chanteuse/hit-and-run driver turned nun; Fiona, the coven’s leader (or “Supreme”) whose powers are not enough to stop her aging.

Fiona can raise the dead, erase memories, persuade people to do her bidding….but so much more in her life is out of her control, and so she lies, she covers up, and all the while pops pills and drinks as her carefully-created façade crumbles around her. It’s about as accurate a portrayal of a woman alcoholic as I’ve seen. The witchcraft element just drives the point home. You can’t fix everything, no matter how much power you think you have, no matter how much you try to control the outcome.

And that, I think, is the real horror at the heart of it all.

Notice

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For the last several weeks, I’ve been taking the bus in the morning.

As my mother-in-law’s needs rise in inverse proportion to her decline in ability, Kevin stays with her in the morning until her aide arrives.  He’s made arrangements with his employer to that end.  So we don’t drive in together anymore.  It’s a morning ritual that I miss, but understand needs to be set aside for the time being.

Nothing in this life is permanent, and expectations must be managed, if not jettisoned altogether.  This is certainly something we’ve come to understand over the last 3 years.

So I’m back on the bus.  The bus full of bons mots which I had started capturing via Twitter a couple of years ago, before we started driving in.  I suppose I should start paying attention again.  Mainly I’ve been sitting in the back, headphones on, listening to a lot of 80s industrial.

I’m part of a crowd of “regulars” now:  the folks that are catching the 8:20.  There’s the lady with the plushie TARDIS dangling from her backpack, the conspiracy theorist who starts hollering about starting his own monarchy whenever the bus is late, the teen girl in the private school uniform having very loud and very dark conversations on her iPhone. 

I notice them, but until this morning it hadn’t really occurred to me that I was being noticed in kind.

I bought a “new” dress last weekend at a local thrift store.  The dress in question was actually on the rack the employees had designated for “Halloween Costumes!”  This happens a lot, actually; clothing that other people would only wear on October 31st tends to be clothing I’d wear to a board meeting.  Here’s the dress:

polkadotdress

I’m guessing the thrift store staff put it on the Costume Rack, thinking “Minnie Mouse,” or – perhaps – “Rockabilly.”   At any rate, I’m wearing it right now, and was therefore wearing it at the bus stop this morning when one of my fellow regulars, a woman who frequently rides with Plushie TARDIS Lady, gave me the once-over and said, “So…polka dots today, huh?”

It struck me as kind of an odd thing to say by way of greeting.  And as I made my way to the back of the 108, I thought, “Do she and Plushie TARDIS Lady take note of what I’m wearing every morning?” 

Do they notice when I switch up my hairdo?  My handbag?  Good God – did they notice that I was carrying a knockoff Louis Vuitton bowler yesterday? 

This must be how the Kardashians feel.

The Smarts

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I am not what one could ever mistake for an intellectual giant.

I mean, I’d LIKE to be; I have always tried to surround myself with the trappings of intellectualism. I have built-in bookshelves, for God’s sake. But I have a number of strikes against me…strikes that really and truly separate me from the bona fide intellectual.

For one: I’m lazy. I mean – I am really, really lazy. I am a procrastinator par excellence. I spent my entire academic career (1975 – 1996) waiting until the last goddamn possible minute to read that book/write that paper/turn in that thesis. I was the one who’d announce, at dinner, that I had a series of posterboards due on Marie Curie for the Science Fair. The next day. I was THAT KID. It’s a wonder my mother didn’t drive me to a remote wooded area and leave me to be raised by coyotes. Even then, I’d have been all, “Oh, you needed me to eat that housecat NOW?”

I’m also easily distracted. An ex of mine once summed up my modus operandi thus: “Ooooh, shiny!” Honestly – for me to get anything done I have to be sealed in a concrete bunker with nothing but a folding chair and table and the task at hand. And I’d still wind up fascinated by the underside of the table.

Then, of course, there’s the slight problem of my being a Pop Culture Whore. So much of the real estate in my brain is taken up with “Brady Bunch” plotlines, vintage commercial jingles, and 80’s ephemera that facts and figures enjoyed by the truly intellectual simply don’t stand a chance of finding purchase. You want someone to rattle off the lyrics to “The Most Important Person,” I’m your girl. Discussing Proust? No chance in hell, folks.

And yet I’ve always wanted to be an intellectual. I wanted to be a Smart Kid, a kid who always made Honor Roll and got to collect a bunch of little scholarships at graduation, who was on that whole Smart Kid track that I could clearly see, but never quite jump on. I was excellent at memorizing lines and absorbing huge amounts of information about shit that nobody else cared about. (Go ahead, ask me about the entire history of the “Our Gang” shorts, and which of those kid actors went on to do voiceover work for Chicken of the Sea, or got shot in the groin over a $50 debt. NO ONE CARES. No one. And still I know. I know ALL about it.) I had the skills to be a Smart Kid, but – in the parlance of frustrated teachers throughout the Hingham Public School system – I was lousy at “applying myself.”

I figured, then, that if I couldn’t actually be smart, I’d hang out with the kids who were. I couldn’t dazzle them with my intellect, but I could make them laugh, and so they let me tag along. I felt rather like a poodle in a sweater around them, and I never could quite shake the feeling that as soon as I ceased to be amusing, I’d stop getting invited to their parties. Of course that wasn’t true, and when it came time for our senior yearbooks to be passed around and signed, I was struck by how many of these Smart Kids saw through me: in so many words, they told me that they sometimes wished I’d drop the “character” and let people know the real me.

All these years later, I still struggle with this idea that I’m not “smart” enough. I couldn’t hold my own in a discussion about public economics or second-wave feminism. Even in groups of people who share my interests (writers, musicians, actors), I feel like I don’t have the c.v. to pass muster. I used to drink to cover up for my perceived intellectual inadequacies. Now I just have to hope that someone will wonder aloud, “Whatever happened to Alfalfa, anyway?”

And when THAT happens, watch me hold court, y’all.

On the Art of Fright

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WARNING:  this entry contains clips of gross horror movie stuff.

My friend Jamie recently posted about having seen The Conjuring over the weekend.  A single sentence was all it took to TOTALLY convince me to see it:

I have never in my life screamed so high and so much.

SOLD.

For those of you who don’t know me particularly well:  I adore being scared shitless.  It’s probably my favorite thing ever, or at least up there with Sriracha, Billy Squier, and naps. 

A few years ago, I stumbled onto this treasure trove of scary stuff.  Kindertrauma is dedicated to all things that frightened us as children.  I rediscovered movies and commercials that I had buried deep in my subconscious.  It made me utterly, utterly happy.  It still does.

It made me think back, though, through my history of so-bad-they’re-awesome scares.  I am singularly “fortunate” in that my mother is a horror buff.  In fact, I have a theory that she had me and my siblings just so she could fill our heads with all kinds of nasty stories, creating – if you will –pint-sized, walking Encyclopediae Horrifica.  Her legacy.  To that end, I was allowed to watch horror movies on Saturday afternoons, I was allowed to stay up and watch horror movies that were too horrible for Saturday afternoons, and she taught me this song when I was but a wee bairn:

So, if I were hard-pressed to come up with my earliest recollection of being deeply freaked out, I’d say it was the whole “lady walking around holding her severed head” thing.  I was horrified-yet-fascinated by “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” for similar reasons.  And don’t get me started on the French Revolution (Did I mention my mother was also a high school history teacher at one point?  I was doomed from the womb, kids.).  Decapitation.  Yeah.  That was a big one.

 

This record was another one.  I’m fairly certain it made me wet my pants a couple of times, but that didn’t stop me from listening to it over and over and OVER (I still own it, by the by, and you can come over and listen to it if you want, but you have to bring chips, and Depends).

Oh!  And Lady Elaine Fairchilde scared me, too.  What the FUCK?!

imagesIn terms of actual movies that scared me, though?  Loads. 

 

For a lonnnnng time, I believed that I hallucinated this one as the result of some kind of feverish stupor (I was often sick as a kid, and had to be nursed through bouts of German measles, chicken pox, mumps, impetigo, staph infections, and a case of lymphadenitis that kept me out of school for a month in fourth grade).  Turns out – this movie really did happen.  Thank God for YouTube. 

(As an aside, when I showed this to Coombsie, he stared at it, hard, and said, “Huh.  I think that kid playing the ghost wound up being in Repo Man.”  He’s totally right.)

 

Listen, I know when you watch this stuff NOW it looks completely cheesy and not AT ALL frightening.  But a lot of Tom Baker-era “Doctor Who” scarred me for life.  And I mean that in the best possible way.  “The Brain of Morbius” was fucking TERRIFYING to me as a seven-year-old.  I mean, THEY STUCK HIS BRAIN ON TOP OF THIS…THING.

Brain_of_MorbiusWITH A GIANT CLAW.  AWFUL.  And Sarah Jane Smith’s been all blind and stuff but she’s starting to see again and OH MY GOD DON’T TURN AROUND, SARAH JANE SMITH.  AAAAUUUUUUGGGGH!

(For some reason, my sister and I decided that burning marshmallows looked like the Brain of Morbius, so we spent one summer dropping them into the barbeque grill in the backyard while yelling “MOORRRRRRRBIUS!”  True story.)

And then, you know, duh:

The very early Eighties brought with them the hideous one-two punch of icky-face-meaty-thing scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Poltergeist.

My mother, naturally, took us to see BOTH of these movies.  You know – these were state-of-the-art films we’re talking about here.  She wanted us to be exposed to, uh, “history.”  Because “Raiders…” was kind of based on history.  Yeah.

Look, it’s not as if she went to these movies by herself and LEFT US IN THE CAR, right?

Just the other day I posted this to my sister’s Facebook page.  It makes us laugh and laugh and laugh.

Unfortunately, all these years of taking in all of this horror has made me really picky.  I was beyond excited to see The Blair Witch Project, having bought into all of the hype, and when I actually saw it, I was FURIOUS.  LIVID.  Because that movie SUCKED.  I’m sorry, but it’s true.  I remember ranting about it at a party not long afterwards, and a friend of mine kind of sneered at me, saying, “Oh, what, so a movie has to have HUGE SPECIAL EFFECTS for it to be scary?”  And I was all, “NO.  A movie has to NOT SUCK, special effects be damned.”  Plus, it gave me a blazing headache.  Ugh.  I don’t even want to open that can of worms again.  You people who loved that movie go batshit insane whenever someone criticizes it.  I’m done.

Anyway.  I had my doubts about The Conjuring.  But I trust Jamie, so I’m going to go see it.

The best that you can do…

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One of things I love about my band (I mean, besides the fact that we get to play B-52’s songs all the time) is that we’re all, more or less, coming from the same cultural perspective. We pretty much have the same encyclopedic knowledge of popular music.

Last night, we took a mid-rehearsal break and somehow the conversation turned to Christopher Cross. If you were around in the early Eighties, chances are very good that you’ve got you some Christopher Cross ineradicably scorched onto your hippocampus. Dude was lord-god-king of soft rock from 1979 to about 1983. Listen – I won’t front: I had the “Think of Laura” single. I’m not one of these people who insist they listened to nothing even remotely mainstream in the Eighties.

There was a very specific kind of pop song that flourished in the first couple of years of that decade. Air Supply. Rupert Holmes. Robbie Dupree. Dan Fogelberg. And at the risk of drawing ire from any fans of the aforementioned, that specific kind of pop song can best be described as “schmaltz.” Slick, sentimental schmaltz. Because you’re talking about a period of “prosperity” and excess interwoven with the fear of nuclear annihilation. The Top 40 charts reflected this. The music that hung onto the top spots for weeks and weeks at a stretch were soft, comforting, sweet things…the aural equivalent of coffee cake. And Christopher Cross was everyone’s favorite coffee cake.

This morning, my bandmate Josh sent me a link to an interview with Robyn Hitchcock, in which he takes apart “Arthur’s Theme,” one of Cross’s biggest hits. Hitchcock touched upon the very things we talked about last night at rehearsal – that the socioeconomic climate at that time set the stage for what was essentially the “dawn of the power ballad.” It really is a great interview, perfectly illustrating why I love Robyn Hitchcock so, but I DID take issue with one thing he said, in the context of the film itself:

(The song) is applied to this sentimental early-’80s film with Dudley Moore—may his soul rest in Elysium—but his working partner Peter Cook was a terrible alcoholic, and it always amazed me that Dudley Moore did what struck me as a rather goofy, sentimental characterization of a really serious problem.

I disagree. I frequently recommend Moore’s turn as Arthur Bach as one of the better, more heartbreaking portrayals of an active alcoholic. Perhaps that’s because I see the layers in it now that I’m sober; there is a very palpable pain under the clowning and cackling. There’s a scene in particular that gets me every time, about a minute and a half into this clip:

He’s on the floor, completely scuttered, and trying to reassemble this mail holder at stupid o’clock in the morning. It’s agonizing to watch, because I know that feeling: you’re too fucked up to fix the simplest thing. Audiences laughed at Arthur Bach, because alcoholic sad sack millionaires lolling drunkenly in their limousines are funny. This is not to say that people SHOULDN’T laugh; it’s a comedy, after all. But there are moments throughout the film where those “in the know” recognize the exhaustion beneath the façade of being the life of the party. Too, there is Arthur’s deep ambivalence about coming into himself as an adult.

One of Hitchcock’s many problems with “Arthur’s Theme” also has to do with the feeling of it, that of a “combination of defeat and indifference.” In this way, it really is the perfect song for the story.

Asking.

4

If it’s been a few months without hearing about Amanda Palmer, you can be pretty sure that you will be hearing about her again in short order.

She’s had a larger-than-usual presence on the internet lately thanks in no small part to her recent TED talk (below):

I’m not going to get into what I think of Amanda Palmer here, other than to say that I’m not a fan.

What bothers me about the controversy surrounding her and the idea of “crowdsourcing” is what I’ve witnessed coming from a disturbingly large percentage of her detractors.  Almost every article about Amanda, her “We Are The Media” philosophy, and the apparently groundbreaking concept of ASKING for support is invariably accompanied by comments throwing considerable shade.  That’s to be expected, of course; I’ve said it here before:  the comments section is where common sense goes to die.  But there has been a theme rearing its head in these comments, and it goes a little something like this:

Amanda Palmer is married to a very successful writer who has a net worth in the millions.  Ergo, Amanda Palmer shouldn’t be asking her fans to fund her projects because her husband is rich.  She should just bat her eyes at him or do whatever it is she needs to do to get him to open his wallet.  Or something.

Some choice comments I’ve encountered:

My issue is with people who have the means to pay for this themselves asking for money on here (she could, her husband is a multi millionaire, why not ASK him?).

She isn’t wealthy? She’s married to a millionaire author.

I guess her multimillionaire husband couldn’t finance the endeavor…

Can’t she leech some of that Coraline money off Neil Gaiman?

Adorable, right? Trust me when I say I didn’t have to dig real deep to find these. Questioning ethics here is one thing; genuinely believing that Amanda Palmer – an established artist in her own right long before Neil Gaiman came into the picture – should “just ask her husband for the money” is another.

It’s not exactly a stretch here to call this sexist. I am trying to imagine that if the reverse situation was on the table we’d be seeing the same kind of comments, but I’m coming up short.