Friday, June 28, 2013

Hello Cruel World

The internet is weird, and by extension, so is all pop-culture, and all contemporary society, at least in our no-holds-barred consumerist country.  I myself am capable of a huge amount of irreverence and gallows humor, but sometimes I still feel sickened or shocked by something.  Yesterday on tv, for example, I heard not only a bunch of jokes about the recent execution-style murder committed by NFL star Aaron Hernandez (apparently he looked silly and effeminate in the “selfie” he took of himself with the murder weapon for Facebook – ha ha, what a laugh riot), but also two unrelated jokes about molestation, one of them in an otherwise adorable Nickelodeon movie.  I am pretty desensitized (and also, I know that humor is a way to cope with the awfulness of everything), but I am not as far along with that as a lot of people, I think.  Anyway, if I ever needed a reminder that even innocent things are perverted and horrible, all I would have to do is look at the “traffic sources” statistics for my blog, which is one of the features this blog hosting site offers, to let bloggers know who is reading them and what pages and search phrases bring readers in.  The most outstanding “Search Keywords” entry of the week for this blog is www. violent rape xxx.  Goddamn.

get a load of this joker

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Personal History of Tim Burton

Tim Burton

I have been thinking of Tim Burton today; he’s someone whose existence as a creative force I’ve taken for granted the past decade or so, and when I was a kid, like, since I saw Beetlejuice 3 times in theatres in 3rd grade and then a ton more once it came out on VHS, he was really important to me, as a weirdo in the mainstream making movies for weirdos.  Now, you can spend 5 minutes on a search engine and find such cool merchandise that references the most seemingly obscure details from books and movies, but in the 80’s and 90’s when I was growing up, it was harder and more fun to find merchandise if you were an enthusiast like I was.  Like, to find really cool Sonic Youth stuff, I remember I wrote to the fan club that was promoted in the liner notes of a Sonic Youth cassette tape – weird!  and with Beetlejuice, which used to be me and my mom’s favorite movie, she sent away for a Warner  Brothers catalogue and we bought such cool merchandise from there, like a paper bookcover that looked like the book “Handbook for the Recently Deceased,” which I covered one of my text books with in 3rd grade, and I would just look at it every time I opened up my desk and it made me feel like I was somewhere  far away from the shithole of a public school in a shithole part of L.A. that I lived in (aka The Valley) at the time.  And before Frankenweenie was an animated film, it was a live action short film (1984) that had this weird-looking girl named Domino in it; I LOVED that actress, and since I couldn’t just look her up on the internet, I would ask Gothic-looking adult friends of my mom’s if they knew who she was, like, “Have you ever heard of this little girl named Domino?”  Guess who she turned out to be?! – Sofia Coppola!  I only found that out recently, from a little invention called, you guessed it, the internet.  Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns were all among my very favorite films, and they are all Tim Burton creations.  Somewhere along the way he lost my appreciation though.  Some of it has to do with my feminism, and the fact that the romantic interests in his films are uniformly dreamy waifs:  Sally in Nightmare Before Christmas, Kim in Edward Scissorhands, Kathy O’Hara in Ed Wood, the first daughter in Mars Attacks!, Johanna Barker in Sweeney Todd, Katrina Van Tassel in Sleepy Hollow, Sandra Bloom in Big Fish, .  To some degree, this doesn’t bother me, because these female characters are all pretty lovable and great – I’d fall in love with Kim in a heartbeat if I were Edward Scissorhands, she’s beautiful and sweet.  But I loved that movie so much, and I especially loved it (I think I was in 7th grade when it came out) as a romance, and I wanted to have a dramatic, tragic romance just like it, but if that meant I had to become like the Kim character, what did that mean? – that I had to be so pretty I outclassed the boy who loved me and therefore it was a heightened experience for him to win me?  That I had to be so pretty my boyfriend and my secret crush would both want me more than anything, and end up fighting over me?  That I had to be so pretty the boy I loved would pine for me forever?  There just wasn’t the meat there for me in that story line.  I don’t blame Tim Burton for this, because he’s a man, so yeah, it makes sense he’d be making films from a male perspective, and what did I expect, for the love interests to be prickly awkard-looking girls with short tempers who pretend they don’t want to be loved?  Well, yes, OF COURSE this is what I expected from him, but I recognize it as unreasonable.  I do remember feeling really sad once though because the boy I had a crush on said in front of our poetry class that the girl he had a crush on is Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas.  It was the 1990’s, the decade of the waif as a beauty ideal for girls, and it smarted to hear this boy, who I considered my equal in poetry genius (oh teenagers!) and thought would surely appreciate my angst for the way it matched his own angst, tell everyone that he wanted a sweet, patient girl like the zombie Sally. 

Then, also, I find Burton’s more recent movies obnoxious.  The Michael Jacksonesque Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as the addition of the subplot of Wonka’s estranged dentist father, and the absurd rewrite of Alice in Wonderland in the eponymous movie (“Wonderland” is really “Underland”?  Hmmm…) are two examples that come to mind of a cutesy cleverness that made me feel almost embarrassed for Tim Burton when I saw these 2 films.  So now how it stands is that when Tim Burton is mentioned, I say “Oh, neat,” but I have really gotten used to him and never take special notice anymore.  I was just imagining what it would be like to be a teenager today, though, and I could imagine loving these dud movies of his and thinking of them as ‘my’ movies the way I used to think of Beetlejuice or the original Frankenweenie as being my movies.  Even if the girls in his movies are a little spineless, they are still unconventional, and if a teen today, I would probably find a way to admire the werewolf girl in Dark Shadows.  Tim Burton is a mainstream director who the mainstream lets be weird, and as a kid and teenager, I liked the specialness of underground or no-name movies (my other fave in 3rd grade, besides Beetlejuice, was Babycakes, a made-for-tv movie mom taped on Valentine’s Day, starring a very fat and great Ricki Lake as an outgoing and lovelorn mortuary cosmetician), but I also felt the necessity for Tim Burton and his success, and his successful weird movies.  Today I feel that way about the mainstream but still special Wes Anderson.  I think of his movies as ‘mine’ even though there are unpoetic, unweird fashion photographers biting his aesthetic for fashion photo spreads in GQ etcetera (and I don’t think Anderson minds any of this, even if I do), and even though my favorite character, Margot Tenenbaum, is played by the same woman who puts out the ridiculous millionaire’s-club blog Goop and is this year’s PEOPLE Magazine Most Beautiful Woman.   

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sort of Film Reviews

There are so many movies being made all the time, the thought of it is overwhelming, like the concept of infinity or the logistics of Santa’s Christmas Eve itinerary.  I sometimes think it’d be possible to watch every movie that’s made, or at least within a specific set of parameters, like if I were to attempt to watch every movie made in England and the U.S. in 2012.  Usually what tells me that a task like this would be impossible (even if I weren’t a mother with a full time job) is the awareness of some obscure art movie or really shitty straight to video affair.  A good example is the film Transylmania.  Just looking it up on IMDB a moment ago, I found out this 2008 film is a “2009 horror/farce sequel to the 2006 comedy National Lampoon's Dorm Daze 2.”  When I  watched the first half hour once though, after it fell into my possession (that’s right, I once briefly owned Transylmania!) and I told myself “well, you said you wanted to try watching every single movie!”, I couldn’t finish it, because my gut told me it was about to turn into an unfunny, unsexy softcore porn comedy.  Also, did you know there’s such a thing as WWE Studios,  a subsidiary of World Wrestling Entertainment that makes narrative films?  I once briefly owned a copy of the WWE Studios classic The Chaperone, starring Triple H, and this is another movie I couldn’t get through. 
But sometimes, just sometimes, I think maybe I’ve seen more movies at least than everyone on my floor at work, or maybe even everyone on my block.  Lately I’ve been managing to see very many mainstream new releases.  Too many to write reviews of.  But I am going to do a very brief summary review of all the movies I can remember seeing in the past month, with a rating system of 1 to 5 X’s, 1 X being Transylmania bad and 5 X’s being Royal Tenenbaums great. 

Stand Up Guys – XXX – Good revenge violence scene favoring a rape survivor, and pretty good use of the wonderful Lucy Punch.  Good use of old guys and friendship.  Too middle of the road to necessarily recommend.

Gangster Squad – XX – kind of whatevs, but fun to watch if you’re familiar with Raymond Chandler and all them, and fun to ponder whether Emma Stone makes a believable femme fatale.

Magic Mike – X – boring and depressing with no pay off.

The Watch – XXXX – for nesting dolls-related humor and some great one-liners.

Hitchcock – XXX – pretty interesting story of the making of Psycho, and Anthony Hopkins is good.  Also, the last line is great.  A little too neither here nor there, though.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III – XX – all farts, no poo.  It has Bill Murray, though.

Devil in a Blue Dress – XXXX – this one is less recent than the others, made in 1995, and it’s one I’ve already seen.  It’s really neat because it’s a Raymond Chandler-esque L.A. gumshoe mystery, but with Black characters, when the genre is usually White.  It’s just generally good, too, with a surprising twist.

Django Unchained – XXX – I had to miss a half hour of this movie but I got the gist of what I missed.  Meh.  The stylized editing and surprising soundtrack songs were fun and it erased some of the anti-german sentiment left over in my subconscious from having watched Inglorious Basterds, so that’s nice.  But I think it was over-lauded. 

Prometheus – XXX – holy moly, this was one lonely-feeling space odyssey, a la Moon, 2001 Space Odyssey or Solaris, all space movies that I think are sort of boring and claustrophobia-making.  On the other hand, some parts were beautiful and it had good suspense. 

The Master – XXX – I’d been looking forward to this movie when it was more blatantly about scientology than it ended up being in its final incarnation, but that’s okay, it’s still really good, and I thought I’d never respect Joaquin Pheonix again after that “I’m Still Here” hoax but he’s good in this movie and I’ve never seen another character like the one he plays here.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is amazing as usual especially when he sings Slow Boat to China.  The main problem with this movie is somehow it’s missing its oomph.  It’s not quite artsy or disturbing or queer subtexty enough …. It’s not fully anything enough, it’s a little amorphous, though I think some of that is intentional, since the protagonist is a drifter and this movie sort of drifts along. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

short fiction


In second grade I was very unpopular.  My only friends were 2 kids I only saw afterschool when we waited together on the schoolyard for our respective rides home, and one of them was a girl who was nice to everyone, so her friendship was less of a prize.  The other friend was a kid named Jason, so blonde and freckled he was like the personification of a Beach Boys song; there was also a melancholy that clung to him like the better Beach Boys songs that Brian Wilson wrote when he got more ambitious and crazy, and this was because Jason was poor, usually wearing the same red t-shirt 5 days a week.  Oh god, he had a crush on me.  How sweet to have a crush on me, when everyone else made fun of me all day, calling me a Gaylord because I was overly affectionate with girls I admired and being such overly astute witnesses to all my little embarrassments, like the time I had to wear mom’s sagging underwear to school and everybody saw it when I sat down with my legs open.  Jason adored me.  He was sarcastic and affectionate and loyal.  But I thought girls got popular from being mean, and not mean from being popular, so I was mean to him, in hopes of winning more friends.  Then I went back to the same school for third grade and found out that he’d been hit by a car while riding his bike over the summer, and was killed.

Once I told a homeless man named Malik to wait outside of a 99 Cents Store for me, because I was going to bring him out some food and a pair of flip flops.  Then, while shopping, I got a phone call from a guy I liked who invited me to a happy hour at a nearby bar, and I only had a half hour to get there, so I left from a different exit than the one Malik stood by and walked along the other side of the store to get to my car, so I wouldn’t have to spend valuable minutes on him. 

In Junior High, I branded myself with a hanger crudely bent to spell “CUNT,” on the back of my neck, and it is still readable to this day.  I have had to keep my hair long all these years, and worn it loose covering my neck, even when it’s so hot outside I get a rash of little red bumps over the brownish-red, shiny lines of CUNT. 

Once, when my brother was talking to a boy he was in love with, I picked up the phone and yelled “Mark picks his nose and eats it!” and then hung up.  I thought I was just being funny.  Mark always laughs at things like that, even though I know they are just pity-laughs (he appreciates the chance to be charitable, though), but this boy, Jude, was really popular.  If he came out of the closet it was going to be especially for Mark, a pimply but handsome young punk rocker who was maybe or maybe not worth coming out of the closet for – Jude still wasn’t sure.  He just laughed and said “Oh my God!  You’re sister sounds as bad as my stepbrother!” when I did that.  But then, when they went on their first covert date, to a party thrown by college kids Jude knew from sneaking into The Coconut Teaszer all the time, they were about to kiss, standing alone together on a patio, on a warm summer night, the summer the cicadas were alive.  “He was going to kiss me, Laura.  ME.  He touched my elbow and I shivered!  It was going to be the best night of my life!” he’d tell me later that night, crying so much I was scared he was going to choke on his drool.  At the last minute, Jude burst out with a casual laugh and said “I’m sorry man, I just keep picturing you picking your nose.”  They never talked on the phone after that, or saw each other outside of school.  Jude’s first kiss was with a girl named Jacky and Mark’s was with the Algebra II teacher that everyone thought was so cool for letting kids screw around in class.

Once, forty years ago, when I was an old woman with long loose breasts and a short, prickly beard, I went back to my home town, back to the old 99 Cents Store I used to shop at as a vain, wild young woman.  It felt scary to be back somewhere that’d once been so familiar, so long ago.  It is how the Darling children would have felt if they were real and had somehow found their way back to Neverland.  I got off the bus, tucked my glasses into my bosom, and hobbled over to the side of the store where the recycling bin and the small homeless encampment had been, just for old time’s sake.  Oh god, oh horrible me, Malik was still there, ageless, waiting for me to come back with his food and his sandals.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tomorrow Zine: Originally Published January 2001

Hello There Readers,
here is a one-off zine I did called Tomorrow, which I later cannibalized for a short story called Tender Monster Destiny that was published in a long-defunct literary journal.
xox Robin