Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Very Puppet Christmas

Ian, never one to back away from fulfilling my obsessions or showing me with gifts, delivered this year with a puppet theme . . .specifically, MST3K.  I recieved a silver Tom Servo necklace, 3 Gizmonics patches, a very warm red sweater that he stiched to read "Joike" (in reference the opening skit in Santa Claus; Gypsy had started knitting it for "the other guy" but ended up giving it to Mike)  and, from his newly-sainted mother, 3rd-row tickets to go see Cinematic Titanic in Feb.

Ian also got me Hobgoblins 2, which is the un-riffed sequel to my very favorite episode. I unabashedly love Hobgoblins, occasionally exchange emails with Rick Sloane (who is a very smart and charming man) and I have the Fontanelles on my mp3 player.  It's fun and it's silly and it's cheesy, a perfect execution of a very bad movie.

The sequel?  Not so much.

I was expecting a sequel, but it's really more of a reboot.  Kevin, Daphne and the gang are back, but Mr. McCready's in a mental ward, they're all in college and they've never been attacked by Hobgoblins before.  We have to waste time getting to know the characters again even though we remember them from the first movie--Daphne's a slut, Amy's frigid, Kevin's a weenie, Kyle likes porn, Nick is a tool (literally and figuratively).

The Hobgoblins manifesting your biggest fear is kind of cool, but overall, it's too self-concious of it's cult status, and the joke's never funny when the target is in on it. 

Also, the guy playing Steven Boggs (Kyle) part is ugly.  Steven Boggs looked exactly like a guy who broke my heart when I was 17, but that didn't stop me from being the president and co-founding-member of the Steven Boggs Fan Club.  My sister Hilary was VP, and he whole of our duties involved owning a pair of red shorts.

They did, however, make sure to play "Kiss Kicker" "Love-Me-Nots" and "Passion Kills" at various points throughout the movie.  That brought joy to my heart.

Sorry Rick.  I hope you'll still autograph my copy when I send it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Hannukah!

My friend Beth and I saw Eight Crazy Nights on the 8th night of Hanukkah when we were in college . . . and it's become tradition to watch it every year.

Happy Hanukkah!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Alec Baldwin is a Douchebag

I'm doing a Boys on Film post early, because I can't keep my voice quiet on this.  It's too stupid and anger-inducing and I'm home sick anyways.

Remember When He Looked Like This?
Alec Baldwin, former cutie and now professional coke-addled fathead, got kicked off a plane for refusing to turn off his phone.  Why?  Because he's more important that you--well, his reason was (other than being more important than you) was because he was playing Words With Friends.

And gamers are defending him.

Hardcore gamers disgust me.  They are loathsome, vile creatures (I can say this because I've dated them) who think only of themselves and their stupid fake worlds.  Hey, it's okay if I skip dinner with my girlfriend, I have a guild meeting!  Couldn't come to class, I had to go on a raid! (yes, that was an actual excuse from a student).  And now with Angry Birds and Words With Friends on our damn phones, we can ALL become self-absorbed douchebags!

Ten years ago we would have collectively told Alec Baldwin to clamp his jowls shut and to stop being such a nerd, then one of us would have given him a wedgie.  Now, since it's socially acceptable to be a geek/jackass, we leap to his defense.  He is the 1%, thinking that he has priviledges that we non-TV star 99% don't, and we're defending him because we too cannot tear our faces away from a game for a few hours. 

Imagine if the flight attendant told him he'd have to stop snorting coke in order to put his tray table up.  We'd be shaking our heads and saying "Poor Alec, he needs rehab."  But because it's a game, and games are "harmless," we jump to defend a grown man who threw a temper tantrum because he had to stop playing his video game.  A grown man.  I haven't thrown a tantrum about a video game since I had a Nintendo.

Word to the wise, Alec.  You have to turn your cell phones off when you're on a plane.  It's the law, we all have to do it.  If for no other reason than having your phone on means someone will call, and you'll answer, and then everyone around you has to listen to your stupid inane conversation for the entire duration of the flight and it would be completely justified for the flight attendants to strangle you with your oxygen mask.  You can live for a few hours without your precious widdle tele-o-phone.  Do a crossword puzzle.  Watch It's Complicated as your in-flight movie.  Nap.  Flip through Skymall.  Turn to the person next to you and say, "Hi, I'm Alec, I'm going to Denver, what should I do when I get there?"

Oh., and act your damn age, you big baby.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Anne Perry is O.G.

Original Gangsta
I watched Heavenly Creatures last week and it really freaked me out.  Screaming, bloody people do that to me. Watching it before bed was probably not the smartest thing I've ever done.

But one of the things I learned about this is that Edgar-winning mystery writer Anne Perry is, in face, Juliet Hulme, who, other than being played by Kate Winslet was, in 1954, convicted of beating her best friend's mother's head in with a brick wrapped in a stocking.

She writes crime novels now.


Let's just say, hypothetically, that I had a professor who, if rumors are true, did hard time.  Let's call him "The Grimace" because, well, that's what he looks like.  And let's also say that this professor published a book of crime stories.  But he, unlike Perry, won't talk about it.  Absolutely refuses.  And I suppose I can see why--although it's a great platform for a mystery writer and being a wuss about it only proves my point that Anne Perry is O.G.  Sure, she doesn't go around bragging about bludgeoning a woman to death, but it's there on her wikipedia page for the world to see.  No sense hiding from what someone can track down.

She knows murder because she's murdered someone.  Her novels have an admitted raw intensity because she knows what it's like to take a human life.  It's not what I would recommend as a course of action for a mystery writer, but damn if it doesn't--in some weird way--make me admire her just a little bit more.  Maybe because she's not such a weenie about admitting it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We Need to Talk, Walton

It's about your ad, darling.  You are a strong southern man with a perfect ass and inky eyes and abs I could bounce a quarter off of.   You play sensitive, troubled, violent men with a charm and a grace usually relegated to the British. You have replaced Clive Owen as my primary brooding delivery system.

But Walton, dearest, real men don't say "ephemeral."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Justin Townes Earle at Foothills

For the last few weeks I've been obsessed with Justin Townes Earle's "Harlem River Blues," which is about as close to a come-to-Jesus moment as I've ever had with a song.  Not because of the lyrics, which are ultimately about suicide, but just in that it's so exubrant and whole and uplifting and spiritually fulfulling that I tremble whenever I hear it.  I want to put it on a mix tape and send it to Walton Goggins and tell him I think of Boyd Crowder whenever I hear it in hopes that he likes to too.  I have become a disciple of JTE.

. . . . despite the fact that he looks like an Irvine Welsh character

So he was performing at Foothills last night and for twenty bucks, I had to go. Thor went too, and we both sat in revered silence while he played.  I'm still new to his music, so I didn't know most of his songs, and although he played "Harlem River Blues" and my heart palpatated and I actually trembled, I was sad that he didn't play "Can't Hardly Wait," as he's been known to do.

But he officially won my heart when some drunk guy yelled "Play John Prine!" and he yelled back "Don't tell me what to do!"  I want to marry him. 

Also, I got Harlem River Blues on vinyl, and he signed it.  It's the only signed record in my collection.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Boys on Film Guide to Being Deathly Ill

If you're anything like me, you're going to work yourself into a crippling cold/flu sometime this winter.  And if you're anything like me, you're also going to be a big baby about it.  When I am sick, I require the utmost in pampering and comfort, i.e. making a nest on the couch, catering to my demands for drugs/remedies and letting me watch whatever I want to watch on TV.

For your convenience, I've compiled my essential pairings for surviving the flu season--these remedies and shows are tested and proven to go together like apples and sharp chedder, bacon and eggs, Morrissey and crying a lot . . . you get the idea.

1) Breaking Bad and Nighttime Theraflu: Theraflu is such a wonderful invention.  It tastes so, so gross, but when it kicks in, you feel great.  You don't even care that you're sick . And I'm pretty sure you can make meth out of it (which is probably why it's so effective) making it a perfect choice for when you're skipping chemistry.  It's science, yo.

2) Law and Order and Chicken Soup: L&O is the ultimate in comfort.  For all the bad stuff there is in the world, you know that in 55 minutes, all will be well again.  I recommend original L&O because Sam Waterson and Jerry Orbach exude a stern, grandfatherly
warmth, like forcing you to push fluids because they know what's best for you and you know they're right.

3) Bernie Mac and Saltines and Ginger Ale: Last AWP I got food poisoning, and God bless Matthew, he trooped out in the D.C rain to find me ginger ale and saltines while I stayed in my room, watching Bernie Mac only because I was too weak to change the channel.  They were running a marathon, and when he got back, we watched all day.  It was funny, heartwarming, and clever enough without going over my foggy head.

4) Mystery Science Theater 3000 and ginger tea: I love MST3K, but even more than that, I love falling asleep in front of MST3K.  It's a steady stream of level noise, rarely punctuated by any explosions (which would have cost too much) or yelling.  The movies are boring, and Joel has such a soft, comforting voice, you almost can't help but drift off. (Pod People also has that sleepy new-age soundtrack)  The ginger settles your tummy, opens up your sinuses and reduces inflammation.  The best ginger tea, by the way, is made from ginger chews--pour boiling water over one and stir until dissolved.

Me again!
5) Beetlejuice and Green Tea: This works so well I recommend it to my students in my syllabus.  Beetlejuice gets better every time you watch it, and green tea is really good for you.

Get well soon!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lyrics I Like: "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley

Who's with me that the famous Don Henley lyric "I can tell you, my love for you will still be strong/after the Boys of Summer have gone . . ." would be a hell of a lot better if it was:

"I can tell you, my love for you will still be strong/after the poison spiders have gone . . . "

 I think it's a much more evocative lyric, describing two lovers separated by a giant spider invasion, hoping to be reunited when and if they both survive . . . way better than some dumb summer romance.

That's what is sounds like he's saying, anyways.  Why Warren Zevon hired such a mushmouth as a backup singer, I'll never know.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am grateful this Thanksgiving for, besides my readers, finally having enough sense to say to hell with National Novel Writing Month and writing my book on my own damn time.  For finally figuring out that Chris Baty is just a dope with a website who doesn't determine my writing career, and that this book will get done when it gets done and no sooner.

Morrissey once sang, "There's more to life than books, you know," and I'm starting to realize that.  For so long, I defined myself by my work.  I had to work harder, stronger and more than everyone else because I had to prove that I could, that I wasn't just another lazy slob like everyone thought I was.  It was routinely suggested by both friends and family that I not even bother applying to most colleges, because I wasn't good enough to get in.  What that instilled in me was a merciless drive to succeed, to prove them wrong, often at the cost of my health or employers taking advantage of that ethic as a means of paying me less for more work . . . but this past year has shown me that none of that really matters.  What matters is the friends that I love, my fluffy kitten and my boyfriend.

This isn't to say that I've given up on writing or that I'm taking a step back.  Not at all.  I still have that drive to succeed, but it's going to be on my terms.  I'm not going to kill myself for another book that won't sell.  I'm not going to beg for acceptance anymore.  And it is that peace, that faith that something larger than myself will sustain me, that I am most grateful for this year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fighting Fish

My friend Eeon had a video camera back in college and used to film all sorts of weird things, like me talking to our friend Jim about pornography (and inserting Chewbacca in post) or making a music video for his hit song "Emo Kid," the follow up to 2003's "Crazy Werewolves" and both featured on his album Bad Music for Bad People, still rated as Triangulon Records top-selling album. He also served as the cinematographer on my film Barbie Girls which, God willing, will never see the light of day.

But here, in it's entirety, is perhaps Eeon's most famous film, "Fighting Fish."

Eeon is really a master of sound, bringing to the film a Thom York-esq understanding of how sound can create not merely a mood, but an unconcious understanding of the underlying construct of the scene.  These are not just melodies, these are emotional notes.  The set design and the clever use of garbage, including the tin cans covering the windows--perhaps to block out the ever-present eyes of the Big-Brother-esq Department of Social Productivity (played with a subtle sinisterness by Jim Devona) give this film a gritty, Robocop-Detroit feel inside a confined apartment space, creating a realm which is both concrete and abstract in it's twisted parinoia.  It is not merely a box of Zebra Cakes, it is our faceless narrator's increasingly tangled emotional state, a head full of junk, not unlike the twisted wreckage of the car crash that claimed his parents lives.

Really, there isn't enough room on this blog to dissect and get to the core of "Fighting Fish."  It is a stark, brutal film, one that haunts and lingers long after the credits roll.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Week in Musical Obsessions

"The Moment" by Atomic Tom.  I don't sleep when I'm in NYC and find myself watching a lot of basic cable, usually culminating with me catching a few precious minutes of zzz's in front of Two and Half Men.

One night, while flipping channels, I came across the Fearless Music showcase, featuring Atomic Tom's "The Moment."  As you've probably noticed, I'm pretty damn cynical about modern music, but this just blew my mind--it reminded me of something I could remember, struck up an emotion I couldn't name. 

I like real love songs--songs like The Replacements "I Will Dare" that capture the awkward desparation of falling in deeply, madly, passionately infatuated in love. "The Moment" is exactly that.  It's about that one moment where you get that absolute rush of love, those great terrifying shivers that cause you to seize up and go silent (or worse, babble) in your beloved's presence.

I'm pretty much done falling in love.  I've met the man of my dreams and we've been together for awhile.  But sometimes I miss that tipping-backwards feeling of a new love.  That's where music comes in.  It's fantasy.  For 4 minutes and 35 seconds, I can remember that rush without having to go through all the trouble of falling in love again.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Record Party!

My friend/Odd Couples stage manager Thor came over last night for an oft-delayed record party.  Holding a record party is simple, you just get some records and play them and maybe have some food and talk about whatever comes to mind. We talked about our high school music teacher Mrs. Sobieski, apartment hunting, tattoos we'll never get but like to joke about, really, just random stuff.

One of the really cool things about record parties is that because the record sleeves are so BIG, you notice the names of the musicians who played on them and can draw neat parallels between the session musicians.  For instance, last night I noticed that Rick Marotta played drums on both Steely Dan's The Royal Scam and Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy.  Neat, huh?  And sure, you can look that up on the internet, but without it right in front of you, would you?

We got through Katy Lied, The Queen is Dead, Rockabilly Classics and the first disc of Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King.  We chatted.  We drank pink lemonade.

And then Thor put on Justin Towne Earle's Midnight at the Movies and the game changed.

When I was finishing the first season Justified, starting the currently in-between-titled novel I'm writing now (not for NaNoWriMo) and planning for my two-week trip to Oklahoma, I became very interested in Kentucky.  I rented Harlan County USA and watched it the instant it came in the mail.  What really struck me about it was all the singing.  They were out on the picketline, singing union songs from the early part of the century.  One woman wrote a song to teach everyone.  Not in a "I'm going to go to Nashville and record an album" kind of song, but a song to say what she was thinking.  Song, in this culture, was a means of communication.  It was raw and unacompanied and sung to get a message across.

And that's what I heard when I heard Justin Towne Earle.  It was music in it's pure, raw form, and it was heartbreaking and sad and lovely and wonderful.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to put it on a mix CD and mail it to Walton Goggins.  I wanted to listen to that album all night long.  He covered "Can't Hardly Wait," which automatically endears him to me because I love The Replacements.

That's the magic of a record party.  Your friends bring some stuff you don't know, you play some stuff they don't know.  Thor got his first real taste of Warren Zevon.  I discovered Justin Townes Earle.  And at the end of the evening when we said goodnight, I realized how such a quiet little evening had reintroduced me to two friends--not just Thor, but the power and the core of music itself.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

F*** You, NaNoWriMo

I had a major breakthrough with NaNoWriMo this week--it can go to hell.

It's not that I'm giving up.  I planned to write 60K in 30 days.  It's a doable goal, and I intend to finish it . . . but if for whatever reason, I don't, my life is not over because some twerp in California decided 30 days makes or doesn't make me a novelist.

NaNoWriMo plays on a culture of selfishness--it encourages people, good, normal people, to abandon their families, their pets, their pleasures in life to indulge in a pathetic attempt to create meaning.  These are not real novelists.  A quick glance at the Published page reveals very, very few legitimate authors (and if you've ever read The Night Circus, you can tell it was written in 30 days--maybe less) at legitimate presses--a lot of POD and micro presses. 

No, these are housewives and teenagers, helping themselves to a chunk of time at the beginning of the ultra-busy holiday season to demand This is MY time!!!  I'm a NOVELIST!

Let's face it, Jesse Pinkman
is just a teenage Shane Vendrell

I had two choices the other night after working 2 of my 5 jobs--write 2K in a book I honestly couldn't care less about, or watch Breaking Bad with my darling boyfriend, who I hadn't seen all day, and snuggle my kitten.  I chose Breaking Bad, and not just because Aaron Paul is the flavor of the week.

So I graded some papers and watched Breaking Bad.  Aaron Paul is a hottie.  And Ian was sweet, and Bosco was cuddly, and when I am on my deathbed, I doubt I'll be saying "I wish I'd spent more time in my office working."

It's admirable that NaNoWriMo people want to write.  I'm glad it's helping me get back in the daily routine.  Maybe it will remind me to update this blog a little more.  But in the end, you have to ask yourself why you're really doing it.  Is it to feel special, to accomplish something, to escape your miserable life?

Writing can be enjoyable.  It doesn't have to be a coffee-swilling, hair-pulling, cat-ignoring frenzy.  But a story needs more than 30 days to unfold.  I have an outline and I'm still discovering new things about my characters (like that the mother in this book is the same Virginia Davenport that protagonist Oren Barry fantasizes about in the other novel).  The "No Plot, No Problem!" slogan is a recipe for frustration and disaster.

Why only be a novelist in November?  Instead of chaining yourself to the desk while you could be eating cranberry sauce with your kids, why not write 1K a day over two months?  Or give yourself Sundays off and take a walk.  Don't give Chris Baty another moment of your precious time. 

Happy Birthday!

Happy 40th to Walton Goggins . . . and here is a present for all of you.  I already took the liberty of unwrapping it:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NanoWriMo Week 1

I'm three days in and at 4K . . . I'm doing 2000 words a night in about an hour and a half, and I haven't done Day 3 yet.  The novel is breezing along, thanks to the outline I meticulously constructed the week before.  That's the secret to NaNoWriMo.  Outlines.  Plan it down to the bone marrow and you'll never lack for something to write.

I'm almost enjoying it, actually.  Seeing my word count on the little graph each night, type-typing away, finally feeling good about writing again.  (Finally writing again, frankly.)  2K isn't an unattainable amount by any stretch of the imagination, it just requires some patience and the ability to say no to TV, no to kitten, no to friends dropping by for a few hours each day. It's only for a month, after all, and only for a few hours.  And besides, TV is mostly wasting time anyways.  Even if it's The Shield.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Rounding out our Spooky Cartoons feature, Disney's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in three parts.  Far superior to the Tim Burton mess and a Halloween tradition in my family dating back to my very early childhood.  My dad has a photograph of my sister Hilary and I in our footie pajamas, acting out the dance scene.  It makes me happy just thinking about it.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NaNoWriMo: The Nathan Rabin of Book Writing

The last time I did National Novel Writing Month was my senior year of college--and after about a week, I got bored and moved on to something more interesting.  I "won" (completed 50K) in 2003 and 2002 (yipee) but decided that I was finally past the realm of part-time writer and onto bigger and better things.

Well, the other night I had a cool dream, and I plotted that dream out to novel-length--YA novel length, to be exact.  And with a million other things going on, I realized that NaNoWriMo might be a good way to partition out some time to focus solely on finishing this book.  YA novels generally clock in around 60K, which is only 2K a day, 500 over the usual NaNoWriMo haul.  I'm a workaholic, so the only way I can allow myself to do anything I'm interested in is if I lable it work.  I need goals and limitations, otherwise I use what little idle time I have watching MST3K.  By structuring myself into to 30-day limitations, I have to go hard or go home.  But while persusing around the website, I noticed two things:

1) Like most people who post on forums, the NaNoWriMo forum goons take themselves WAY too seriously.  Heaven forbid you write down a note that you might use later (and possibly word for word!  oh my!) in your novel.  I get it, we're supposed to write a whole novel just in that one month, but that brings me to my next point

2) NaNoWriMo hates working writers.  Camp NaNoWriMo boasts as one of their objectives, "To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work."

Fuck you, NaNoWriMo.
I apologize on behalf of all those asshole "writers" out there who dare labor over their work, polishing it to perfection and submitting it, often times to multiple rejections and, if they're lucky, to rewrites by editors and agents towards publication, because you're better than them.  You wrote a novel.  You jacked off 50K of bad spelling, plot holes, over-wrought prose, cliches and tripe over a 30 day period and that makes you special.  I apologize to all the "auto mechanics, out-of-work-actors and middle school English teachers"  who are so offended by the works between hard and paper covers in their libraries and bookstores.  I apologize on behalf of Raymond Chandler, John Steinbeck, Dorothy Allison, Jane Austin, Mary Shelley, Alexander Dumas, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum. Roald Dahl, George Orwell, Flannery O'Conner, Michael J. Nelson, Jim Kelly, Mike Kimball, and all those other jerks who dared to waste time on their craft.
When did sub-par become admirable?  I get it, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to practice writing without tearing down, but sneering at and spitting upon working writers who struggled to get recognition is a dick move.  It manifests that continued theory among artists that if you have to work for something, you're not a genius, as though some magical fairy exists solely to dig through people's desk drawers and pull out manuscripts deemed worthy of admiration.  It's Rabin-esq, and it's wrong on all fronts.
I'm kind of sorry I signed up for it, honestly.  As one of those criminal professional writers who takes herself and her career seriously, I don't know if I want to be lumped in with a bunch of bitter housewives and teen girls in Twilight tee-shirts.  I don't want to comiserate about what a hardship it is because I live that hardship every day.  Writers block blows, but I don't get the luxury of logging onto a forum and bitching--I have until 3pm on Tuesday to get a story done, and if I don't, there's a big gaping hole in the Hometown Oneonta where it would go.  I labor over essays short stories that get rejected time and time again.  But I love it, and that's why I keep doing it.  And I will keep doing it long past November.  I was doing it long before November. 
Writers stock our bookshelves.  They make our TV shows interesting.  They fill our newspapers and our magazines with more than just ads.  How about giving them a little credit, NaNoWriMo, instead of ripping them to shreds?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Halloween Playlist

Halloween is my favorite holiday, easy.  I love the costumes, the candy, the movies (Ed Wood, old-skool Tim Burton before he sold out and became dumb, Elvira, the Addams Family, the whole campy lot)  The halloween parties I threw in college are still talked about, and this year's party will mark a whole decade of my annual bash.  This year Ian and I are going as the Maitlands.  Not only is it an awesome couples costume, which I've been bugging him to do for years, but it fulfills my lifelong dream of being Geena Davis.

Not Pictured: Me Marrying Jeff Goldblum

I hate going to club Halloween parties and hearing them play whatever crap is on their ipod.  I can dance to "Bad Romance" any day of the year (not that I would).  We only get to hear "The Monster Mash" once time a year, and I want to hear it at least six times, followed by "Dead Man's Party" and then back to "the Monster Mash".

For those readers who are throwing their own parties, here's the official Record of the Month Club Halloween Playlist, compiled over ten successful party years. Spin these and your party is guarenteed to howl.

-"Bump in the Night" A-Teens (yes, it's from Scooby Doo 2--but it is consistantly the most requested song at my parties)
-"Dead Man's Party" Oingo Boingo
-"Monster Mash" Crypt Kicker Five
-"Hell" Squirrel Nut Zippers
-"Hayride to Hell" The Fontanelles (on the Hobgoblins soundtrack--hard to find, but if you're interested, shoot me an email and I can show you where to get a copy)
-"Monster Rap" Elvira
-"The Addams Tango" (because where else are you going to see Indiana Jones tangoing with The Joker?)
-"Zombie Stomp" Elvira
-"Weird Science" Oingo Boingo
-"Boogie Man" White Zombie
-"Haunted House" Ray Stevens (my dad's favorite)
-"Moondance" Michael Buble (more dancible than the original--for the couples)
-"The Time Warp" Rocky Horror Picture Show (even the people who don't dance will dance to this.  That being said, I hate the Rocky Horror Picture Show and always have.  Kevin Murphy agrees with me on this.)
-"Thriller" Michael Jackson (for years I had a "no Thriller" policy, but my friend Seema finally convinced me to include it, and it's stayed ever since.  Still not one of my favorites)
-"Remains of the Day" Danny Elfman (from The Corpse Bride.  Damn it, I love Danny Elfman)
-"Devil in My Car" B-52's
-"Feed My Frankenstein" Alice Cooper
-"Little Demon" Screamin' Jay Hawkins
-"The Ghost in You" Siouxsie and the Banshees (again, for the couples--there's something sincere and sweet about seeing couples in costume slow dance, and it gives everyone else a chance to get a drink and see if there are any fun-sized Snickers left)
-"Every Day is Halloween" Ministry (I like to play this at the end of a party--it's a nice reminder to come back next year)
-"Halloween" The Dead Kennedys
-"Living Dead Girl" White Zombie
-"Cemetary Polka" Tom Waits
-"Halloween" The Misfits (mosh pit!!!!)
-"Ghostbusters" Ray Parker Jr. (not Jack Black)

-"Bad Devil" Devon Townsend (This was played at the 2006 party only)
-"Pet Cemetary" The Ramones
-"Poor Skeleton Steps Out" XTC (not a dance song, but still fun)
-"The Ghosts that Haunt Me" Crash Test Dummies (very chill--good for when people are coming in)
-"Cretin Hop" the Ramones
-"Halloween" Siouxsie and the Banshees
-"Red Right Hand" Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
-"Whistlin' Past the Graveyard" Tom Waits
-"Don't Fear the Reaper" Blue Oyster Cult
-"Werewolves of London" Warren Zevon
-"Who's That Creepin'" Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
-"All My Friends are Zombies" The Pricillas
-"Party at the Leper Colony" Weird Al
-"When You're Evil" Voltaire
-"Black Magic Woman" Santana
-"Boris the Spider" The Who
-"Beetlejuice theme" Danny Elfman
-"Riding on the Wings of Steam (remix)" Chris Vrenna (from American McGee's Alice)
-"Gremlins theme" Jerry Goldsmith (I can't explain it, but every time this came, partygoers start hopping up and down.)
-"Phantom of the Opera" Nightwish
-"Bela Lugosi's Dead" Bauhaus
-"Nature Trail to Hell" Weird Al
-"The X-Files Theme"
-"Masqurade" Phantom of the Opera
-"This is Halloween" The Nightmare Before Christmas
-"Requiem" Mozart
-"I Put a Spell on You" Screamin' Jay Hawkins
-"Dead Man's Party" Hillbilly Hellcats
-"Mean Green Mother from Outer Space" Levi Stubbs (from Little Shop of Horrors)
-"Eye of the Zombie" John Fogerty
-"Zombie Zoo," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
-"No One Lives Forever" Oingo Boingo
-"Surfin' Dead" The Cramps
(The following pair have to be ripped from the videos themselves--they're almost impossible to find otherwise, but well worth the effort)

-"Transylvania 6-500" The Creature with the Atomic Brain

-"Squeezit The Moocher" The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo
 (From Forbidden Zone)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October Feature: Spooky Cartoons

Part 1 of 4 in a new Boys on Film feature--spooky cartoons to celebrate Halloween  This week, "Lonesome Ghosts" (1937)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where Have All The Grown-Up Movies Gone?

Watched True Lies the other night with Ian and I got thinking about how there really don't seem to be date movies for grown-ups anymore.  You know, the kind mom and dad left you home with a babysitter or made you go to bed while they watched in the living room.  Some action for the men, some kissy stuff for the ladies, and enough humor to make it enjoyable for everyone.

When was the last time one of those came out?

Movies for people who pay their bills and have jobs and don't live with their parents fall into two catagories: Adult-alescent action movies (i.e. anything starring Jason Statham) and chick flicks.  Girls get dragged to watch some skank like Megan Fox or Olivia Wilde tongue a dude in some vague application of "love story" and guys have to see some emasuculated toad like Ryan Gosling play video games (but then be forced into giving them up for the woman he loves)  in some vague application of masculinity.  And let's not forget some laughs from the writers/producers/caterers of Insert Judd Apatow-Type Movie Here.  Girls poop in a high clas department store!  Steve Carell is encouraged to date-rape a drunk girl!  Oh for fun!

What happened to movies for grown-up couples?  Not 35 year old adolescents playing Xbox and farting on each other and miserable housewives fantasizing that Pierce Brosnan and Hugh Grant would fight over them while singing?  And when did we, as women, start embracing the concept that we could be gross too?  What would Arlene Dahl say?

Also, sexy scenes.  Where did those go?  The striptease in True Lies is far sexier than anything Hollywood could soft-focus today.  It's a little raw and a lot clumsy and kind of romantic, which keeps it being as exploitive as a lot of similar scenes feel.  It's not Showgirls.  Jamie Lee Curtis is awkward, and that's what makes it feel real . . . and real is sexy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Library Book Project

For those of you who weren't helping me haul boxes on Sunday (thanks Eeon, Mike and Tim!), I moved (again) to a little two-bedroom rental house on a private road with a yard that you could film an episode of Justified on.  And for those of you who haven't known me very long, I have a rich and sordid history of moving.  Since I was eighteen, I have packed and unpacked sixteen times, making this most recent move my seventeenth.  On average, I stay in a place for about nine months, the longest stay being three years on Chestnut Street . . . and in all likelyhood, we'll be packing up and moving out of this place in the spring, with the intentions of buying a house.

Each time I've moved, I've gotten rid of more stuff.  This time, I got rid of a ton of clothes and books.  All my lit mags were handed off to Mike, a hefty chunk of pulp novels went to Amber in exchange for bagfuls of awesome sweaters and dresses (and sweater-dresses, including a blue-green hooded one I've craved ever since I first saw her wear it at the Green Earth).  Records and DVDs went to both the Oneonta Teen Center (including the first entry in "Teenage Wasteland," Empire Records) and The Vault in exchange for a few bucks.  Clothes that weren't traded went to the consignment shop, and clothes that they wouldn't take went to Salvation Army.  Some books went to a used book store, others were given away . . . and those that I couldn't bear to part with were packed up and stored.

I've decided that, for the length of time that I'm here, I'm going to rely on the library and books handed off to me by friends.  I realized that I rarely read a book twice (with the exception of The Long Goodbye, which I read yearly) and that having a ton of books on hand did little but take up space.  I realized that simply having The Handmaiden's Tale on my bookshelf did not mean that I was ever going to read it.

Also, I recently discovered the pleasures of going to the library.  Unlike bookstores, which seem very very daunting to me, a library has a sense of quiet order to it.  There's the sense that, because you're reading on borrowed time, that the reading takes priority.  If I take out The Handmaiden's Tale, I'd better read it in 14 days or cough up a quarter for each day I delay.  The best part is that the library is free, and there's no clutter or anything to pack up at the end.  If I don't like a book, I can take it back, no questions asked.

This isn't to say I don't support the Green Toad, my local bookstore.  I love small bookstores much more than any big-box mega-store on the planet.  And this doesn't mean I'll be getting an e-reader anytime soon either.  I like the feel of a book in my hand, and I like to give books as gifts. 

But I consider this an opportunity and a challenge--if this was a stunt blog, I'd make careful notes about my library experience as a way of preserving libraries or other such silliness.  Heaven knows I'm not so great about keeping up with the blog and the last thing I need is another column to write.  If anything, this new undertaking is a way of clearing out the clutter of my life and of getting back out in the community.  Ordering a book for a penny on Amazon doesn't force me to interact with anyone (not even the mailman, because our mailbox is located at the absolute top of our driveway).  Having to go to the library will force me to engage with others. . . and I don't think that will be a bad thing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Holy cats, I just got back from seeing Steely Dan, and it was awesome.  "Rarities" night at Beacon . . . demos, songs they wrote for other people, songs that didn't fit on albums, songs they only did in concert and one that go erased in the studio during Gaucho and had never been re-recorded . . . and, of course, "Peg" and "Reelin' in the Years."

It was too awesome for words .  . . but worry not, I'll have plenty of words on the Emmys tomorrow . . . well, really only one . . . either a "NO!" or a "WHOO-HOO!"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kurt Sutter IS Nathan Rabin in PEOPLE LIBBY HATES

Despite writing, acting on and executive producing The Shield, Kurt Sutter still manages to be a tremendous douchebag.  Not only did he throw a pissy little bitch fit because the lame Sons of Anarchy didn't get nominated for an Emmy, but now he's saying that, not only is TV written for men, but "I've learned that men write shows about the struggles of men better than women. . . men can write male characters more accurately."

Pictured: Kurt Sutter's Emmy
Fuck you, Kurt Sutter.

Never mind that Shawn Ryan said that there is no reason why women, who make up the majority of the TV watching audience, shouldn't be in the writer's room.

And never mind that FX, on both which Sons of Anarchy and The Shield ran, is pretty much the ass network.  There are naked male backsides galore.  You can't tell me that isn't there for the ladies to enjoy . . . your arguement doesn't wash, Sutter, so shut your stupid mouth.
I am a broad and my male characters kick ass.  Check out the Jay in "The Weather Girl" or Johnny in "Johnny Strikes Up The Band".  Don't you sit there and tell me that because of gender I don't understand how to write the other.  It's this kind of bullshit sexism that makes middle-age women blame the patriarchy for why they can't masturbate and then I have to listen to them read lurid descriptions of "self-discovery" at open mics and other such literary events.
You're ruining it for everybody, Sutter.  Just because you behave like little girl who didn't get a Bratz doll for her 6th birthday doesn't mean the rest of us have to. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Teenage Wasteland: Monkeybone

Wish I Had a Brendan Fraser in B&W Pajamas
When I was 19. Brendan Fraser in leather pants was about the sexiest thing in the world. It was just before I developed my super-crush on Ewan McGregor, and I unabashedly loved Monkeybone. It was a huge influence on my fashion in college; I have a black-and-white cocktail dress inspired by the one Fonda is wearing in the dream sequence at Hypno's and used to own a green velvet dressed modified to look like the one Rose McGowan wears in the prison break.  I also have a little plush Monkeybone in black-and-white pajamas.

I might be the only one, and in later watchings, I can only barely see why.

Yes, it's a weirdly messy film.  In the directory commentary, Selick reveals that a lot of key scenes got lost in editing and that Fox kept insisting it be raunchier, which explains the extended and awful Chris Kattan sequences (punctuated by Brendan Fraser in leather pants singing a version of "She's a Brick House" that tragically gets blander as I get older).  But the parts of it that are good, namely the Downtown sequences, are amazing.  They're creeply and playful and weird, which makes them even more creepy.  I've always loved Tex-Avery/Carnival visuals of Hell, Purgatory and the Afterlife, and Monkeybone had all of them.  The use of black and white, the lavish puppets are top knotch, but why the hell would anyone want to see puppets when they can see Chris Kattan playing essentially a rotting version of his Mango character? Oh that's right, no one.  Pandering to your audience never works, kids.
But in later viewings, I do see why the film didn't hold up with mainstream audiences.  It required a knowledge of what the product was supposed to look like, rather than what it did.  It required the viewer to look past Chris Kattan and see the beautiful visuals, the lovely Anne Dudley score (why they didn't get co-star Bridget Fonda's husband Danny Elfman to compose is beyond me)

I've always felt a little sorry for Henry Selick--he's the real director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and his talent for stop-motion is unmatched.  Burton was originally supposed to be part of Monkeybone, but dropped out and left Selick hanging, which might explain why Fox felt they could push him around.  Adding insult to injury, Burton went with another animation company on The Corpse Bride.  But then Henry Selick kicked his ass by returning with Coraline, so I guess he won the puppet wars in the end. 

Ultimately, Monkeybone suffers from the same style-over-substance that destroyed Cool World (another flop I've got a soft spot for) But there is some substance in there, buried deep underneath a lot of lameness.  It's a film that I'm better off not watching again, instead savoring what I remember it being rather than what it might actually be. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Food. Sir Mix-A-Lot and My Ass Complex

For some reason, at every wedding I've been too, the DJ plays "Baby Got Back."  Nothing ruins a hip-hop song more than seeing your mom/your dentist/your friend's aunt doing the humpty-hump.

I love this song, but it's giving me a complex about my own backside.  I've been told that I have, as Mickey Rourke put it in 9 1/2 Weeks, a "heart-shaped ass," but at 5'3" and 98 lbs (through no dieting or planning of my own) I'm sad because Sir Mix A-Lot wouldn't stop his Mercades to whistle at me.  I'm fine with being an A-cup, but I wouldn't mind having a bigger booty so I could effectively dance to this song because as it is, I feel like a dope out there.  I've only recently gotten over not being a Brick House, but I'm just not content to be lumped in with the "skinny girls."  Especially because when people say "skinny girls" it always comes with a sneer.

I love food.  And I know, people hate when "skinny girls" say that they love to eat, but ask any man I've ever gone out with and he'll comfirm, which has always made me a very popular date.  I love to cook (which also made me a popular date).  I love red meat and good cheese and crusty bread, dear God, I love bread.  And fruit desserts topped with lots of fresh whipped cream.  And bacon and eggs in the morning. Salt bagels with Nutella.  Life is too short not to eat delicious food . . . especially with beautiful boys.  So please, Sir Mix-A-Lot, show me some love.

That being said, if I am ever in a position to make a mix tape for Walton Goggins, you know this is going to be the first song on there. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Dreams

When I'm not lying awake and panicking or having wake-up-screaming nightmares, I tend to dream very cinematically and, if I'm lucky, can remember the dreams when I wake up.  I've gotten some of what I consider my best work out of dreams, and I credit this to three of them starring Walton Goggins.  It's like getting to watch my favorite TV shows while I'm asleep, and sleeping is something I love even more than watching TV.

Nice of you to invite me into
your dreams
The third, which I wrote over the weekend while trying to avoid writing an article about the devestating flood that washed away Middleburg and Schoharie, (I grew up in Schoharie County, two towns over) was inspired by the one dream I didn't have about flooding.  No, in this dream, I got shot while during an interview and wound up in Purgatory, with Walton Goggins and Jay Karnes playing my roommates (but not as themselves or any of their characters) 

I wrote it in a very different way than I've written any of my other dreams.  The narrative is very short and the whole thing comes to 912 words and is written with minimal description and dialogue much like "Hotel Jesus".  It made me rethink how stories are written.

Traditionally, fiction is taught in that Raymond Carver school--long, plenty of dialogue and description, a slow build to a climax, a short story as we all picture a short story.  But in flash fiction, there isn't room for that.  And I suppose I could have written "Purgatory Blues" the same way I wrote "Keyton's Keys" (which also came from a dream and also starred Walton Goggins")  which clocked in at just over 6K.  I could have described Purgatory in full detail, but for whatever reason (laziness, I imagine) it called out for a more compact format.

So I began to wonder--do we choose the story's format, or does it write itself?  I have a friend who refuses to write anything under 15K.   He just doesn't think he can.  Never mind that most places won't pay for and publish that length of work anymore, and although plenty of online lit mags (like Tin House) will publish longer work, he wants to get paid.  It's fair, I suppose, but do all stories need to be told in long form?  Is more description, scenery and dialogue required in order to tell a proper story?

I didn't set out to write a flash fiction piece.  If anything, on "Hotel Jesus," I actively tried to avoid it for fear of becoming a malcontented douche.  But after what seemed like a hundred false starts, I settled into the form of "movements" and short scenes that became the Pank-published piece it is today.  All without becoming a malcontented douche.  Let's hope the same works on "Purgatory Blues"

Monday, September 5, 2011

Teenage Wasteland: Empire Records

In keeping with my reminiscing about my late teens/early 20's, I took a personal day and watched Empire Records.  I was 19 when I saw this movie, a full five years after it came out, but I watched it in Oklahoma, the first summer I was out there after Martin, who I saw every time I was out there, dumped me to marry someone else, and only shortly after Dan, who looked exactly like Lucas, (black sweater and all) broke my heart. 

When I wasn't holed up in my room watching movies rented from Blockbuster and listening the Smiths on my discman, I was sulking around in my Doc Martens and getting told by my now-ex-stepfather that I was an embarassment to our family.And having worked in a chain music store (and a chain video store), I could only have dreamed of getting to pick whatever I wanted to listen to instead of having to listen to Crutch eight hours a day.  I liked to imagine I could live a life where I worked part time at a cool place and had an apartment with a plaid couch and got to wear awesome clothes and play records.  Empire Records was pretty much pornography for me.

I kept Empire Records around in later years as a guilty pleasure because, frankly, it's not that good of a movie.  It breaks the 4th wall in weird places, it's so carefully plotted and intricatly designed to appeal to a generic "teen" audience with fake edginess, pseduo-deep problems (Gina is a slut who hates herself, Cory is a secret speed addict to keep up her perfect appearence, AJ wants to go to art school but is too scared, one girl tries to kill herself) and radio-friendly soundtrack packaged to showcase the hottest new bands (Cracker, Better than Ezra, the Cranberries and the Gin Blossoms). 
I watched it today because I needed some cheering up.  And despite all of it's awful, it did the trick.    I like movies with 90's pop music, guys in black turtlenecks, combat boots with plaid skirts and Renee Zellwegger.  I'm difficult to pander to, but it's nice that someone made the effort.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

College Mix CD Time!

I came of age during that shameful period of music known as the late 90's.  This was when VH1 ruled the airwaves, handing us down the top ten videos of the day (who decided these things?) in a never-ending loop of Smash Mouth,  Shawn Colvin, Sugar Ray, Fastball, and Savage Garden.  The radio was alive with ska and neo-swing from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.  Thanks to the Spice Girls, a short girl could easily purchase platform shoes tall enough so she could kiss Jeff Goldblum squarely on the mouth, should the chance ever present itself (my knee-high platform boots had dragons up the side and caused me to be late to math class enough times to warrent more than one detention).

My college years were earmarked by two things--Clerks (both the movie and the cartoon, which I still quote) and the 90's music I had come of age with.  Now that I didn't have to share the lone family computer and dial-up internet access with three sisters, a mother who was finishing college and online-poker obsessed stepdad, I was free to peruse Kazaa for songs I was too cheap to buy on CD and that had been lost to mix-tape technology years ago.  Better still, my friend Courtney was living in a dorm with fast internet (for the time) and a computer that could burn CDs.  I would send her lists and she would return with CDs when she came home on weekends.  Fiona Apple.  Barenaked Ladies.  Classics like "Call Me Al" and "Burnin' for You."  Theme songs from TV shows like The Advntures of Pete and Pete and Roundhouse   I played Love Amomg Freaks "Clerks" and wrote chapters for what was sure to be my breakout novel (it wasn't). 

Baby Boomers and hipsters like to mock people for liking late 90's/early 2000 music, always forgetting that it was what surrounded us.  Our parents could play all the Beatles records they wanted, our older siblings could give us Smiths CDs, but like it or hate it, this was the music that we came into our own with.  For a lot of us, these were the first CDs we'd purchase with our own money, making that transition from cassette to CD (my first was Savage Garden's eponymous debut--and for the record, "I Want You" still holds up--the rest don't, but that remains a solidly crafted song--also, the keyboard player was smokin' hot).  Embarassing as some of them are, there's a lot of joy there, a reminder of carefree days . . . and really, isn't the whole point of music to make a listener feel something? 

Next time you're in the car, bust out the Goo Goo Dolls.  Sing "She's So High" to your girlfriend at karaoke.  Play "Fly" at a party and see how many of your friend's faces light up.  Tell high school stories.  Remember old jokes and quote movies from your teenager years. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reprise the Theme Song and Roll The Credits

When I was nine or so, my lifelong ambition was to be on SNICK's Roundhouse.  It seemed like such a perfect fit for me--I could wear babydoll dresses and floppy hats (neither of which, at nine years old and stick-skinny, looked good as on me as they did on the 20-somethings that populated Roundhouse) and I could sing and dance and be on TV.  More than being on TV, it was the singing and dancing part.  Especially the singing--the songs were the next logical step on my way to music geekdom, making that transition from Disney soundtracks to what would become the pop music I adored.

I was very fortunate to be a kid in the early 90's, when surreal and odd was in for children's programing.  The dad on Roundhouse had a chair that he could roll around the stage in and the sets rotated to become classrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, whatever was needed.  The loudspeaker was an actor with a cardboard speaker on his head.  The Adventures of Pete and Pete had two brothers with the same name, a payphone that wouldn't stop ringing and a squid for a school mascot. 

And let's not talk about the insanity that was Ren and Stimpy or Rocko's Modern Life

It was all so weird and clever, when kids were trusted to have their own worlds and not be talked down to or yelled at.  None of it was pandering, none of it thrived on the latest fashions or guest stars we would recognize (what 10 year old knows who Iggy Pop is?).  SNICK trusted us to be intellegent and creative in our own rights, and that's why those shows endure with my generation today.  Will Hannah Montana play well ten years from now?  Will anyone remember iCarley or The Wizards of Waverly Place

My guess is no.

If they revived Roundhouse right now, I would go audition on the off chance that maybe I could finally get a dream to come true.  Okay, so I'm not the greatest dancer, but I can learn a few steps and belt out a tune . . . and I finally rock a babydoll dress.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

From the Vault/Saddest Songs: The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs Vol. 1

My friend Bix understood exactly how I felt about the Magentic Fields 69 Love Songs vol 1.  I had put "The Book of Love" and "All My Little Words" on a mix I made for him, and he came up to me with this wonderous look on his face, as though he couldn't believe I knew the Magnetic Fields too.  Because with all the white noise of music out there, between Lady GaGa and Nickleback and Katy Perry and Justin Beiber and all the other billions of bands overtaking the airwaves, it's almost wonderous to find someone who knows the same little band you do

He, like me, played that album over and over and over, terrified to listen to anything else by them for fear it wouldn't be as good.  "Then I heard "Papa Was a Rodeo," he told me one night over champagne at an art gallery in Brunswick Maine.  "And I played that one over and over.  And I knew."  He had this dreamy, sincere look on his face, as though the two of us were speaking the secret language only Magnetic Fields listeners understand.  Because there's something so intimate about the music that you swear you must be the only person on earth who feels the lyrics, and when you find someone else who feels them that same way, it's almost magic.

My sister Shaun, giver of all things wonderful and musical (including The Smiths and Siouxsie and the Banshees) gave me 69 Love Songs for Hanukkah one year.  I took to it instantly, playing it through headphones on my discman, laying on the inflatable mattress I slept on during visits home, mouthing along in the dark as though the words on my breath might somehow reach their intended targets in the universe.

69 Love Songs was my album for boys who had no intentions being for me what I needed or wanted them to be.  "Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side," "Absolutely Cuckoo" and "My Sentimental Melody," in that order, were all songs for Dwight, spelling out the ever-deepening emotional divide between us.  "Come Back from San Francisco" went on the first CD I made Michael, "I Don't Want to Get Over You" was for James, who I eventually got over and "Reno Dakota" was for Jay, who had a habit of vanishing for years on end, leaving me wondering if or when he might ever reappear. 

And like any good album, it grew on me.  I discovered songs that I'd skipped in early listenings now held a curious truth to them, like the cleverness of "Chicken With it's Head Cut Off" and I can't hear "All My Little Words" without picturing Jay Karns in the shower and Walton Goggins lifting weights.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I have realized something beautiful about Netflix Streaming.  Something more beautiful than being able to watch Archer in one sitting.  Something more beautiful than Blackadder

Netflix streaming will be the death of film nerds.

I am a film nerd.  And I can be a pretty arrogant one.  I mean, heck, I keep a blog about it.  My freakish knowledge of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and other formerly-obscure B-movies lends me a sort of superiority, especially when combined with my extensive background in literature.

No more.  And I couldn't be more grateful.

For as much of a film snob as I am (I've seen three movies this year because everything else looks so mind-numbingly dull that I'd be better off getting a lobotomy) I hate other film snobs.  I hate hearing people sneer, "Oh, well, Robert Rodriguiz doesn't really do grindhouse film because he has more of a budget then grindhouse directors had, which is why the original films look that way"  No, really?  Please, tell me more crap any idiot already knows.  Please, go on about how special you are because you've seen Rubber.

Now, with streaming, we can all see Rubber.

No more pawing through VHS tapes at Salvation Army in search of the Mamie Van Doren hosted "Teenage Theater" version of Ed Wood's The Violent Years.  No more buying pirated DVDs of foreign films from Kim's Video on St. Marks.  No more tape trading.  And with the death of all those activities goes the thrill of being able to turn your rubbery chin up at someone who's never even heard of Never Been Thawed.

And soon, former film snobs will be able to come out of their basement and into the light.  Instead of looking down their blackhead-addled noses at other people, they'll be able to converse with them about Poultrygist and Mother.  New dialogues will open up over Mountain Dew and Snowcaps.  We will all make in-jokes about Dr. Katz together and we will know what someone is referencing when they say "*Except this glove." The AV Club will go silent, and Nathan Rabin be forgotten.  My God, it will be beautiful.

But, with the good comes the bad.  Like that Charlie Sheen won.  Major League III is no longer avaliable for streaming.  He did it!  He finally did it!  You maniac!  You took away the greatest thing America has ever seen!

*The Critic "A Little Deb Will Do Ya"

Saturday, August 13, 2011

From the Vault: The Pretenders "Back on The Chain Gang" or, The Hardest Pop Song On Earth

I've been trying to get back into singing lately.  My friend and Odd Couple co-star Tio was a finalist for the local Idol competition, and I've been thinking about trying out.  I did a lot of singing in high school--musical theater, showchoir, chamber ensemble and all the terrible things that come with them.  That, and I never scored below a 5 out of 6 (usually getting a 6) at NYSSMA.

But a neck injury in college and a bout of infection that left me sounding like Tom Waits for six weeks when I was 22 more or less ruined my chances of ever being the screeching soprano in a metal band (or opera, whichever) and my descision to no longer persue musical theater left me with very few options for professional singing.  I don't play an instrument and there aren't a lot of karaoke options here, so I just sort of reduced myself to singing in the car and, occasionally, karaoke.

But I was listening to the Pretenders, and I was thinking about all my friends that do Idol every year, and thought that maybe I should get back into it.  I put "Back on the Chain Gang" on my record player, looked at my cat sitting politely on the couch, and, as I began to sing, I made a discovery.

"Back on the Chain Gang" is the hardest song in the world to sing.

My friend/writing partner Matthew makes fun of me for loving this song.  He calls out Chrissie Hynde as being a proto Natalie Merchant, a whispy little thing with a fairy voice.  Her voice is a little on the fey side, but what she does have is a master's control over it.  "Back on the Chain Gang" is riddled with grace notes, which less-talented singers usually gloss right over.  This explains why American Idol-type covers of The Pretenders always suck so monumentally.  Because they key isn't sliding up and down the scale, it's about hitting each one of those notes individually and moving to the next one.  It's a lot harder than it sounds.

This, by the way, coming from someone who routinely (and against her will) sang "Seasons of Love" from Rent, which a lot of musical theater types will agree is the hardest song in the genre to not screw up.  "Back on the Chain Gang" is a million times harder. Because not only are you trying to hit each of those notes, but you're trying to convey the same tough/tender/melancholy/hopeful tone of the song.  It's not about making it sound "pretty," it's about making it sound as real as Hynde makes it.

Maybe someday I'll get it . . . but for now, I'm having fun trying.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lyrics I Like: John Mellancamp "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)"

"This loud Cuban band is crucifying John Lennon . . ."

What a great lyric.  It's probably one of my top ten of all time.  There's just this wonderful atmosphere around the whole song, you know what that band sounds like without ever hearing them.  The whole song is filled with great images like that--"the bone colored dawn," in the 3rd verse springs immediately to mind. 

I have loved this song since I first heard it in my early teens, thanks to VH1's Top Ten Countdown.  It easily ranks among my top favorite songs of all time.  Every time I hear it, I have to play it at least twice.  There's this beautiful longing to it that you don't hear very much anymore, this yearning that lacks violence or whining, a straightforward "Please, just look at me" that every lover, at one time or another, feels.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

All I'm going to say about Cowboys and Aliens is that it didn't have enough Walton Goggins.  Although, to be fair, a movie could be nothing but him standing there nude for two hours and I would have the same complaint.

(If you want the full review, just click that link up there and it will take you to Liz Ellis' The Insatiable Critic.)
But let's talk trailers.  For starters, I reiterate my previous hatred of James Franco.  He makes this face, and I can't do it because I'm on a blog and you're all out there (but come to my house and I'll do it for you) that I can only describe as his "Look Ma, I'm acting" face.

Secondly, I kept hoping Battleship was a joke, like Don't! or Werewolf Women of the SS.  But it's real.  It's real and it exists and it is so horribly stupid that I felt my brain leaking out of my ears and all over my refashioned western-style shirt.

I watched Breakfast on Pluto last week, driven by the fact that I love Cillian Murphy because he looks exactly like my dear friend/former boyfriend Geza . . . but I couldn't stop staring at Liam Neeson.  Man, he's sexy . . . but Battleship?  Really?  Look, I can forgive The Phantom Menace (we all make mistakes) but he conciously made the choice to star in a movie based on a toy no one I know has ever played.  I don't understand why he would do this.  It hurts me to think of all the sad reasons why. 

And that's what sort of bugged me about Walton Goggins part in Cowboys & Aliens.  He may not be a household name, but he's well-regarded by critics, has a small but insanely rabid fanbase (me) he got nominated for an Emmy (some say one show too late) and he has a damn Oscar . . . and the part he played seemed beneath him, like it was something he would have played in his early 20's, when he'd just arrived in Hollywood and would take any part they threw at him.  It seemed a little too dumb, a little too hick-like, for someone who consistantly tries to show his native South as anything but a hornets nest of poverty, ignorance and toothlessness. Even his role in Predators had more meat on it

I won't post the Battleship trailer.  Here's Werewolf Women of the SS instread.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Alas, Poor Lem
Let's just get this out of the way first.   Yes, I do have tickets to the midnight screening of Cowboys & Aliens.  I've been waiting a year for this film and I didn't want to have to wait another day.  Hell, last night I dreamed Shane Vendrell was a Jedi and was flying around the galexy with Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor--it's the one part of my Star Wars roots I just can't seem to stay true to, sorry) on a quest to avenge Lem's death.  Oh, and Jedi Shane was in love with me.  I dream in really bad fanfiction.

Point is, I'm staying up past my bedtime, and I even have a snap-front western shirt I fashioned into a dress to wear.  Liz Ellis over at The Insatiable Critic kindly agreed to host my review, so I'll post an update and you all can duck over there when that goes up.  Liz is awesome.

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I wasted way too much time reading The AV Club's Silly Little Showbiz Book Club yesterday, (that is, before I realized it was by my arch-nemesis Nathan Rabin) but in reading Nathan Rabin hate on Chris Farley for being Catholic and tearing off melodramatic, angst-ridden prose like sheets of cheap toilet paper in the Taco Bell bathroom, I had a breakthrough of clarity and realized that my Creative NonFiction mentor Jaed Coffin had been right--snarky prose is for douchebags.

Rabin's style consists of, if I may borrow mentor Coffin's wise words, shitting all over everybody and everything.  He hates Catholics,  he hates people who don't know who Belle and Sebastian are, he hates everyone who isn't as smug or as darling or as bald as he is.

And I used to write much the same way.  I was better than everyone, smarter than everyone, smug and pretty to boot.  You can see it in some of the prose I have over on the sidelines there.  And even though I resented being called out on it the first time (figuring that he was just not as good/smart/smug/pretty as me) I realized later, especially listening to Jaed talk about respecting the stories and the people you're interviewing, that a guy we called "Brospringer" behind his back was actually right.  And he was not only right, he was a genius for bringing honesty and respect and not being a privilaged douchebag back to CNF.

When you're writing CNF, you are basically saying to the audience, "I have something important to tell you about myself.  My life is so important that you have to listen to me."  Whether you're writing about your parents dying or your drug addiction or going to the movies or listening to records, you are already being kind of a dick by expecting that peole care about what you have to say.  If you're good, like Kevin Murphy, you make your stunt into something universal, something all the readers can connect with.  If you're a dick, like, say, Dave Eggars, the audience is chained helplessly to their chairs, forced to listen to you scream in their face MY PARENTS DIED AND THAT MAKES ME SPECIAL!!!!!  I SHOULD BE ON MTV!!!!  LOOK AT ME!!!! 

It is my goal now, as I write this blog and as I write essays, to step away from the snark that gets me laughs and look at the subjects of my essays, whether they're myself or my ex-boyfriends or my wacky family, with the kind of respect that makes my readers say, "wow, she has rendered that in a way that I can relate to."  I'm just sick of being a jerk to my readers--they don't deserve to have all that negativity thrown at them.  I want to learn to tell them a multi-facited story so they can decide for themselves if my ex-boyfriend is a dope without having me screaming HE WAS A JUNKIE OTAKU LOSER, CAN'T YOU SEE THAT?!?

That isn't to say I won't still be snarky.  I'm not perfect.  I will probably still say sarcastic things about my mother and my ex-boyfriend and Nathan Rabin.  But my goal is no longer to be the smartest/smuggest/prettiest girl at the dance.  Mr. Rabin already has that covered.