What Made Me Happy This Week – I

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After reading my last few blog posts, I worry a newcomer will assume I am three shots away from finishing a fifth and taking a hostage. In general I am a content person, mild-mannered and attempting to live rather than have the world consume me. Things get me down, of course, and with Lent underway I decided to approach the season differently. I don’t give up meat/chocolate/booze/[REDACTED] anymore. It lasts a week and my butt slides off the wagon and into the mud puddle. This year I want to focus on things that bring a smile to my face, things other people might like, too.

If you don’t, enjoy your Friday fish sticks. Whatever gets you to Easter.

1) Sleater-Kinney – A New Wave

(h/t to @ThatsAGirlsCar for retweeting what got me to this video.) I’m not sure how I missed Sleater-Kinney the first time around. I lived in Athens during the big 90s indie rock, post-Cobain boom. Maybe The Breeders and Luscious Jackson got in the way. Well, better late than never, and I’m up for anything with the Tina Belcher seal of approval. I’m currently enjoying their newest, No Cities To Love.

2) Inappropriate Cross Stitch

I wish I could crochet properly. I can’t get past the first chain and I envy anybody who can. Cross stitchers, too. I long for your patience and keen eyesight, for I’ve lost both. A fellow Trout Nation board dweller created these beauties. I could envision my walls covered in them.

3) The Last American Vampire – (ARe / AMZ / BN / KOBO)

(From my Goodreads review) Henry Sturges is a vampire created during the first English settlement of the New World, and his life is a “Forrest Gump”-style panorama of adventures, in that he connects with many of the noted people in their respective eras. We find a few of history’s greatest mysteries and tragedies are actually attributed to vampire involvement.

I liked Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, but I think I enjoyed this book more because with the expanded time gaps there’s more to do. When you discover Henry’s prime nemesis it’s rather clever how that ties into specific events. It’s a horror in the gory sense, though. Some very bloody scenes.

4) Adult Wednesday Addams

(discovered via Mara Wilson‘s Twitter) Wednesday deserved a spin-off. Always. For all of H’wood’s love of remaking and rebooting and recycling, I can’t believe a sitcom about Wednesday in college or Wednesday in suburbia never got the pilot treatment. Friggin’ Tabitha from Bewitched got a series. It only makes sense.  Good thing Melissa Hunter is helping fill this need. If you like it, go help her out via Patreon.

5) Kate Pierson has a solo album!

In elementary school I wanted to be President when I grew up. In college I changed my answer to Kate Pierson.  Given either option now, I’m still going with the latter. We may not completely align in terms of certain beliefs, but if can reach 66 and still rock and look incredible… I had a listen of Guitars & Microphones and love. One day I’ll get my ass to a show, solo or with whichever B’s are still touring.

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Fandom is Magic

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I fret often as a mother. I’ve been at this gig for a decade and thankfully nobody in a suit has come knocking on our door. I agonize over little things, like why hasn’t she mastered the waffle iron yet, and does she know our phone number in case something happens?  I wish I could remember what I knew at her age, and gauge if she’s on track, or perhaps if I was a bit behind growing up.

I knew long ago she’d set herself apart from the herd. You won’t hear Taylor Swift or Iggy Azthma, or whoever the hell she is, on our radio. She may well be the only girl in her class to have seen Rush live, and to tell apart everybody in Led Zeppelin. She doesn’t watch TV, and when she does it’s Love It or List It or The Property Brothers or My Little Pony and anime. She loves to read and play video games and can make her own sandwiches, and still I wonder if that’s enough.

I’m at the point in my life where I could care less what other people think of my interests, but she’s about to enter the prime Mean Girl Period where peers pick you apart for every little thing. I suffered plenty in parochial school, and such bull get amplified thanks to social media. Had Facebook and Twitter existed thirty years ago, I’m sure I’d have received nasty messages and such, simply for existing. I want to her to enjoy what she enjoys without having some insecure twerp shame her for it. People ribbed me in high school for listening to the Beatles, while they were into metal, which always struck me as odd because many of their favorite groups evolved because of the Beatles.

She doesn’t need that. Nothing’s happened yet, but I’ll always worry, and study the work of George Hayduke in the event I need to exact some justice on some nasty tweens.

Back on topic, she likes a variety of fandoms. Her room is a trove of Monster High, Wimpy Kid, and My Little Pony paraphernalia. The ponies take precedent now, so much that she’d begged me to take her to a fan con. I conceded to a recent MLP convention on the stipulation that she make honor roll, and she held up her end of the deal. For my part I drove a total of sixteen hours to and from New York, and froze my ass off on a train to get her there. Dedication.

Once at the venue, her eyes lit up. We saw people of all ages – many in costume, more in T-shirts – lots of us huddled in line awaiting our lanyards. I’ve been to a number of general SFF cons, but this was my first one that concentrated on a specific fandom. I knew to expect “Bronies” and older fans, but I also saw boys and girls my daughter’s age connecting over favorite characters and cartoon episodes. We attended a Q&A for a voice actress, participated in trivia, and mainly people/pony watched.

My daughter and I share things in common with My Little Pony. John De Lancie voices a character, and I’ve been a fan of his since Days of Our Lives (he wasn’t in attendance, though, maybe next time). Weird Al Yankovic voiced a pony once (big fan) and his character was well repped. There’s some Doctor Who crossover with the fandom, too, and I think she takes advantage of that when she wants me to buy her something.

I think what I liked best about this convention was the overall tone of the community – an outsider might glance and find it odd to see a guy in rainbow tresses and wings, but you know what – he’s a nice guy. He could be a doctor for all I know, or maybe he lives in his parents’ basement and codes for a living.  It doesn’t matter; he seemed law-abiding to me.

We met many nice people here, and it refreshing to be surrounded by such positive vibes in a world where we tend to run into jerks more often. I don’t excuse myself here. I’ve figuratively shown my tush on plenty of occasions. Lessons from a cartoon might help me to check myself on days I want to rage.

I don’t know if we’ll get to another MLP-centric con, but we don’t say never. We will certainly look into attending general comic and culture events. The cosplay bug her bit hard, and thankfully I know people who can advise us there.

If there’s a way to parlay her interest in My Little Pony into a Ph.D. and a lucrative career in something, I’m all for  it, too.

Photo by JM.

Insert Vinyl Scratch Here

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Be warned: some stating of the obvious, mostly personal insight follows.

I officially realized the extent of my advanced age this past Sunday night, during the Grammy Awards. I didn’t watch the whole show, because we had skipped Downton Abbey the prior week in favor of the Super Bowl, and we thus proceeded with the 7PM repeat, the new Simpsons, channel surfing and half-watching an oft-seen Big Bang Theory, and then the 9PM episode. Occasionally we did flip to the awards in minute-long increments to catch a performance or speech. Those moments pretty much went like this:

HUSBAND: (Pointing to somebody dressed as either a life-size Muppet or the face on the Shock Top beer bottle) Who the hell is that?

ME: (Squinting) No idea.

Then back to Sheldon Cooper.

It wasn’t always like this. There had been a time, I’d say from the early 80s through the first years of marriage, where if I didn’t watch the entire Grammys ceremony I searched for the results the next morning. In fact, I can pinpoint the beginning of my fascination with music awards and the belief that my positive vibes might have affected a favored artist’s success. This would be the 25th annual awards in 1983, where holding my breath in front of the television aided in deserved accolades for a band I adored:

“We are the men, and we’ll see you again.” Yeah, I was eleven at the time and hadn’t yet been schooled on the Best New Artist curse. I didn’t see the Men again until 1998 in a small Virginia Beach night club, and by then they were down to Colin and Greg (RIP).

This week I’ve caught Twitter and blog rants on why this album/song should have won over the other. Eddie Trunk’s pissed about the Metal category, people debate Beyonce over Beck, etc. If you’re upset your favorite singer or band didn’t win a Grammy, it’s fine. Be upset.  I recognize that it’s possible to simultaneously be pissed about a Sia shutout and the state of the roads. Rant away.

I had those screaming “WTF” at the TV moments, too. I remember Brothers in Arms, one of the perfect albums of the 80s, perhaps the whole rock era, losing awards left and right to Phil Collins’s Su-effing-sudio and “We Are The World,” while I sat open-mouthed and baffled. I remember hottie Julian Lennon losing to Sade for Best New Artist, and I pouted like the hetero tween I was. By then, though, I had become vaguely familiar with the Curse and the knowledge softened the blow. The two of them appear to have survived it, though.

In the early 90s The B-52s lost the Pop Duo/Group award to a sappy Linda Ronstadt ballad. I think I set something on fire in retaliation.

I’ve even had retro moments. When I got into Rush I looked up their Grammy scorecard to find “YYZ” had lost Best Rock Instrumental to the Police’s “Behind My Camel” and stopped breathing for a full minute. Mind you, I was a Police fan first and back in the day I had cringed over the bad timing of Synchronicity pitted against Thriller  for all the awards, but “Behind My Camel” is probably the band’s worst piece outside of “Mother,” whose presence on Synchronicity might have tipped the scale in Thriller‘s favor for all I know. How Rush has yet to win at the very least a rock instrumental trophy from this country (Canada knows better in this regard) confounds me.

I don’t pay much attention to major media awards anymore, mainly because I don’t follow current music trends, or watch much television, or see first-run movies that don’t star talking snowmen. I’m not completely out of touch, but my interests have veered from the mainstream. Upsets at major award ceremonies seem aptly named, and social media is a good tool for venting. I can’t tell you if Beck deserved the Best Album award over the other nominees, because I need to hear all five contenders first. Even then, I can only give you my opinion. That said, here’s what I think of major media awards in general:

You’re never going to be 100% happy with the results. Ever. Your favorite artist or movie could sweep all the minor heats and lose the biggest award of all, and you’ll fume for days. See: Saving Private Ryan, Brokeback Mountain.

Often, an award is given as a lifetime achievement trophy or an apology for neglecting to award the victor at a time when it was genuinely deserved. See: Two Against Nature by Steely Dan, Dame Judi Dench for Shakespeare in Love.

Eddie Trunk makes a good point about that Metal category. Jethro Tull won the inaugural award. I love me some Tull, but they’re not metal. #NeverForget

The greatest award an artist can receive is your memory. Awards are nice to receive. You get a trophy and a line in an almanac. Legacy, though, ensures the value of your creative output remains strong.

I’d rather have people reading my books a hundred years from now than remembering I won an award a hundred years prior. I’d also hope in a hundred years the Grammys figure out that Metal category.

Graphic from SXC.HU

#ShareTheLove Blog Hop

Welcome to the Share the Love Blog Hop! I have recently moved my blog under the umbrella of my main site, so enjoy the new digs and don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.

So this hop is dedicated to the blogs we love, places we visit for news and not news. I tend to gravitate toward writers, so it’s no surprise that I frequent some bookish places. I check out Sarah at That’s a Girl’s Car when she has something to share (she’s a fellow Rush fan and well worth the time). If you’re into listies and books, Book Riot offers a number of those, but you’ll find some more interesting stuff, too, like the right purse to match your reading tastes and what not.

When I need to smile or think about the issues, Jenny Trout is quite prolific and hilarious. When I need cheering up, The Militant Baker usually has something upbeat to share.

As a Rush fan, Rush Is a Band is a great source of info, much needed with a new tour on the way. Though I follow him on Twitter, I sometimes check Eddie Trunk’s blog when he has a podcast I want to hear.

Yes, I’m all over the map and should get out more. If you have a favorite blog let me know in the comments. 🙂

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Dreams in the Dark and Fiends on Screen

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I bought Patton Oswalt’s Silver Screen Fiend on the strength of this excerpt in Vulture,  a tragically wonderful story of a script reading thwarted by the threat of legal action. In this chapter, Patton talks of how he came to stage live readings of The Day the Clown Cried after getting a copy of the script, and the ensuing fallout.

Before I ramble down too many tangents, here’s the tl;dr: The Day the Clown Cried is the story of a circus clown imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and given the task of Pied Pipering children into the gas chambers. At the end of the film, Helmut leads them inside and follows, closing the door behind them. This was to have been Jerry Lewis’s first dramatic performance on screen, perhaps in his mind a legitimate Oscar grab. Hell of a way to debut serious, but after all the work he put into the project there were rights issues and problems and lawsuits, and the reels are probably disintegrating in Jerry’s shoe closet.

While reading, I wavered between awe and jealousy and anger – the latter mainly because I’d never had the opportunity to witness this live reading. One could argue Patton performed an important service in the name of odd cinema, bringing people as close as possible to one of the most famous films never released (and never likely to be seen on a grand scale). For now, we must console ourselves with fantasy, the dream of discovering a dank tunnel in an office building that propels us back in time into Harry Shearer’s head the night he got to see a rough cut of the film.

More than that, I’ve become obsessed with discovering how Patton got the script in the first place. He doesn’t elaborate in the book, and my guess is that part of the story lacks the excitement of his confrontation with a frothing lawyer clutching a cease and desist. I’d always assumed, since the film remains under lock and key, so would the script all these years ago (nowadays, though, you’ll find it via Google search).

In my mind, I’d like to believe Patton acquired the script similar to how Giulio swiped Sultan Mahmud’s bejeweled dagger in Topkapi – lowered from an opening in the ceiling and searching Lewis’s office while Bob Odenkirk and Dave Foley remained on the roof holding the ropes. I watch them fleeing for their lives afterward, the script clamped to Patton’s chest with one arm, as they dodge a multitude of angry Dobermans while Lewis, shaking a free fist in the air while the other crushes a filled hi-ball glass, wails in the distance.

I became aware of the film’s existence in the 90s, after the success of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, which presumably renewed interest in comedic action set in bleak places. A now-defunct website I followed, called Coming Attractions, recorded the progress of several in-development and development-hell films, with Clown added sometime after Beautiful won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. I checked the site daily, and the idea that somebody with clout might concede to a release excited me. During this time I delved deep into odd and so-bad-it’s-good cinema, buoyed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the discovery of Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension. In my search for more information I found references to the Shearer interview, which doesn’t reveal much about the cut he viewed other than “It was like going down to Tijuana and seeing a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz.”

A quote like that could rust Crow T. Robot’s jaw from all the salivating. How could I not want to see such a movie? I have so many dreams in the dark theater where the projector doesn’t glow, a cinematic bucket list that I will never fulfill simply because the movies do not exist:

Alejandro Jodorowsky has a bricks-thick book detailing his vision of Dune that I really really want to read.

A trailer on Variety teases us about the Superman movie that might have been, with Nicolas Cage in the blue tights.

The tweens swoon over Orlando Bloom, but I mourn the Beatle-cast Lord of the Rings that never happened.

Throughout college I received the official Rocky Horror fan club newsletter, wherein each issue we were told that Ritz O’Brien had written a sequel and we would finally see it. Any day now.

Yeah.

What differentiates Clown from the others, though, is that it does exist. Nobody will allow us to see it. That grows the obsession.

I can relate to Patton’s movie-watching behavior as recounted in his short book (quite short – so you know, the last twenty pages comprise a list of every film Patton saw in the time these stories happen). Somewhere in my house I have a scrapbook in which I kept every stub from every movie I saw from high school graduation to college. I’d even noted the date of viewing and the people who accompanied me. One day I’ll tell the stories of greater film obsession:

The trip from the Westside of Jacksonville, Florida to the Neptune Beach 4 (36 miles) to see The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover because that was the closest theater showing it. To this day, I’m sure I’m the only person in my graduating high school class who saw it first run on the big screen.

Calling in sick at my job at the UGA Library in Athens, GA so we could go to the Tara Cinemas 4 in Atlanta to see the uncut, four-hour version of Branagh’s Hamlet.

Practically living at the theater in the student union at the University of Georgia while my husband got his doctorate, for the opportunity of seeing an endless stream of cult films and foreign releases: The Red Shoes, Shaft, Before Stonewall. Hearing Julius Epstein talk before a screening of Casablanca. Meeting the man whose childhood in a concentration camp inspired the scene in Schindler’s List of a boy diving into a latrine to escape death.

Actually, I suppose I told you everything. Maybe I haven’t. I still have dreams to fulfill.

graphic via SXC.hu.