Friday, February 28, 2014

4 Interviews with the Girl Gang at Hogwarts

I was a 23 year old beauty, excited to have gotten a job as a mortuary/cemetery clerk at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Memorial Park, where the upper management were some of the worst people I've ever met and the internment services were conducted by rote – it was the McDonald’s of memorial parks:  “Oh, your young daughter just died of leukemia?  Fill out this paperwork and we'll call you up to the front desk when you're number is called.”  

I lasted there for two and a half years before quitting -- it was an intense last conversation with my soon-to-be ex-boss.  

"You're the only person who feels that I'm unfair," she said.  

"Sorry, but that's completely not true.  Nobody would tell you what they think of you to your face, but they all hate you and think you're unfair and look forward to days you call in sick." 

Then, I was unemployed for centuries, in a little suburb called Monrovia.  I was a substitute teacher, which brought in about $150 a month.  Still, the only thing I ever used my credit card for was to go to matinees at the beautiful Krikorian theatre on the main street there.  

One time I went to see the Harry Potter film Chamber of Secrets.  I was all alone in the theatre, thank god, because transformative moments are ideally solitary.  I’d always wanted to be a witch.  I had a few different close friends throughout grade school that I talked into being witches with me,and I also tried to conduct spells by myself all the time.  I loved to feel I could use magic to wish things away.

Hermoine,Ron, Harry Potter -- these kids were so brave.  I loved all the years of watching both their faults and their strengths develop:  Ron is loyal but somewhat average; Harry was cursed with tragedy but becomes a hero, with almost enough action in his life to distract him from being an orphan; Hermoine is a kick-ass genius bitch.  Yes, I followed these fictional characters for years and I like their fictional personalities, but why are the Harry Potter movies so important to me?  They are just the thing that comforts me.  Dumbledore looks like my mom's old best friend who died of cancer.  The meanest seeming man, Snape, is the bravest and most patient man.  Neville Longbottom, the buck-toothed zero, leads the final battle against the Nazi-like (obsessed with pure blood) bad guys.  I love to hear the opening credits music when I'm depressed or having horrible PMS or insomnia.

Today, when I know I am going to have a bad day at work, I either wear the Gryffendor scarf I knitted, the golden snitch necklace with a watch inside, my other, non-functional golden snitch necklace, or my necklace that says “expecto patronum” in lovely cursive and has a silhouette of an elk underneath.  This makes me a happy dork.  My love of Harry Potter is often the thing that makes weird people think I'm normal and normal people think I'm weird.  

Whatevs.  There is nothing wrong with being a witch or wizard.  That sentence doesn't even make sense.  Not only is there "nothing wrong" with being a witch or wizard, but it is also the absolute  best thing to be.  Here are a few interviews with friends who like or love the Harry Potter stories.

Miss G

Which do you prefer, the books or movies?

Movies.  I only read the books after the movie series was finished to fill in some of the backstories - not really a fan of them.

Why do you most appreciate about the Harry Potter stories?  For example, does it exemplify the scariness of childhood for you?  Does it make you feel distracted from the real world?

I used to be really into witches and witchcraft as a young child, so I sort of recognized Harry Potter as something I would've been obsessed with as a seven year old.  Also the art direction in the movies is amazing!! They really do a great job creating a world you want to be part of.

Whose side did you end up on:  Dumbledore or Snape?

It never occurred to me that one needed to pick a side.

Did you fall in love with the stories as a child or an adult?

I wish they had Harry Potter when I was a child.

If you loved the story immediately, do you remember why?  Or the ah-ha moment of your first exposure to Harry Potter?

I was only slightly aware of the Potter phenomenon when the first film came out.  I definitely was not planning on seeing it, but a friend wanted to go and I just fell in love with the aforementioned look of the film.  I had also just moved back to the States from the UK and the Britishness of it made me feel less homesick.

If it wasn’t love at first sight, what was it that eventually drew you to the stories?

No, it was pretty much love at first sight

Were you unhappy with the conclusion?  If so, how would your ideal ending go?

I have no complaints about the conclusion. [On a somewhat related note, I am unhappy that Stephen Fry was never cast in any of the movies]

Does the story touch on any of your political beliefs, i.e. feminism or socialism?

No. I think the plot is pretty much a soap opera with wands.

What is your favorite character and why?

Because I prefer the films, my favorite characters are based on performances rather than actual character personalities. I think Imelda Staunton was great. I also love Julie Walters as the Weasley's mum and Maggie Smith is always amazing.  

Miss G lives in Northern Ireland.  Sometimes she blogs at the garment thread.

Kim Burly

Which do you prefer, the books or movies? 

The books, no question!

Why do you most appreciate about the Harry Potter stories?  For example, does it exemplify the scariness of childhood for you?  Does it make you feel distracted from the real world?

I like that I was able to completely lose myself in them. As a kid I would put myself into the stories I was reading and I was able to do that all over again as an adult when I started reading HP. 

Whose side did you end up on:  Dumbledore or Snape? 

TALK ABOUT CONFLICT. You spend a whole series thinking one thing and then getting hit with Snape's selfless goodness. I cried so hard. Team Severus for sure. 

Did you fall in love with the stories as a child or an adult? 

I was a dumb idiot and refused to read or watch the movies until the summer the 7th book came out. I think I was 25 or 26 and I read the whole series in the month of August. It's now my august ritual. 

If you loved the story immediately, do you remember why?  Or the ah-ha moment of your first exposure to Harry Potter? 

I tried reading sorcerers stone when it first came out because my sister had it, but I think that I abandoned it because she liked it so much, so therefore it must be lame. When I picked it up again years later I was sucked in as soon as I met Hagrid. There has never been a literary character more like my dad. 

If it wasn’t love at first sight, what was it that eventually drew you to the stories? 

My cousin Brit-nasty was obsessed and spent her junior high and high school years lamenting that Daniel Radcliffe as so dang short and she would always have to wear flats with him. She's kind of a badass, so I figured that anything she loves can't be that bad. 

Were you unhappy with the conclusion?  If so, how would your ideal ending go? 

I liked it UNTIL the stupid epilogue. Did we really need to see all of the kids of the characters going off to Hogwarts? How convenient that they ALL managed to have kids within the same year of each other. Still a little pissed that it all ended up in such a bland and fanfic way. Cut that out and it would have been perfect

Does the story touch on any of your political beliefs, i.e. feminism or socialism? 

When I first read it I was still pretty religious and the struggle between good and evil, Snape's sacrifice, it all fit pretty well with my Christian values (funny that so many Christians thought it was so bad. Now I'm more agnostic leaning but I still appreciate that those parallels came out as I initially read it.) 

What is your favorite character and why?  

Luna Lovegood.  She's quirky, smart and totally happy with who she is, even though people around her didn't always get where she was coming from.  Plus, I'd like to think I'd be sorted as a ravenclaw and we'd be pals.

Kim Burly does



Which do you prefer, the books or movies?
I have only ever seen the movies. I'm planning for us to read the books aloud as a family when my kids are big enough. It's hard to wait!

Why do you most appreciate about the Harry Potter stories?  For example, does it exemplify the scariness of childhood for you?  Does it make you feel distracted from the real world?
I think there's something about magical solutions to life's problems-- and magic livening up boring aspects of life-- that appeals to me. For example, I'm always fascinated with the paintings and newspapers, and I'm super thrilled when the wizard world brushes close by the muggle world, like at the train station. To think that there is secret magic all around. 

Whose side did you end up on:  Dumbledore or Snape?
I don't consider it a divide. From my perspective, Snape was a sort of jerky person, but he was loyal and loving to the memory of Harry's mother, and to dumbledore, as an extension of that. The moment where he has to kill dumbledore is so baffling and heartbreaking, but to me it just shows how close they were. And dumbledore, though he has this sort of uncomfortable relationship to power, ultimately, I think he was nevertheless always on the side of right and good, and that counts for a lot to me. 

Did you fall in love with the stories as a child or an adult?
I was probably 30 when I saw the first one. I was against the series because my mom and mother-in-law were both way into it and I wanted-- I still thought I had a chance of being different;)

If you loved the story immediately, do you remember why?  Or the ah-ha moment of your first exposure to Harry Potter?
No, I saw the Goblet of Fire first, and I thought it was an action movie, way too scary for kids. I didn't really see the appeal at that time. But I was working in a kids' hair salon, and kids could choose to watch a movie during their haircut, so I saw tiny bits of the first two that way, and the kids talked so passionately about them, I was moved to bring them home and watch them after that. And the part where they are flooded with letters about Hogwarts, I was so overcome with emotion about that for some reason.  Being wanted? Having a calling? So for me that was critical in terms of drawing me into the story. I like the sweetness of the first two. 

If it wasn’t love at first sight, what was it that eventually drew you to the stories?
Oh, I think I just answered that. 

Were you unhappy with the conclusion?  If so, how would your ideal ending go?
The only thing I wanted was for Neville and Luna to get together, because Luna is my favorite. I like everything else. I love the deathly hallows story and I was glad Harry renounced the elder wand. 

Does the story touch on any of your political beliefs, i.e. feminism or socialism?
I doesn't immediately occur for me that way. It's more like a fundamental good versus evil alignment, which I consider to be a core aspect of my personality. 

What is your favorite character and why?
Luna. She's good, she's mystical, she has smart ideas. And of course, she's very whimsical. 

Jocelyn likes to read and is a student of progressive education. She is an LA native with two little kids. 


Red Velvet

Which do you prefer, the books or movies?

Both have their strengths and weaknesses! I read and enjoyed the books first, but haven't re-read them recently. These days, I'm more likely to watch the movies -- though I prefer watching the Rifftrax versions, as the films can drag in spots, and absolutely have elements of the ridiculous. 

Why do you most appreciate about the Harry Potter stories?  For example, does it exemplify the scariness of childhood for you?  Does it make you feel distracted from the real world?
What I appreciate most about Harry Potter is the world-building. I think that the works are definitely flawed -- the Social Work Grad Students Tumblr does an excellent takedown of what's most problematic about the series from a social justice perspective, which boils down to: the adults are mostly completely untrustworthy, Ron is the quintessential Nice Guy, and Hermione's anti-slavery crusade for house elves is treated dismissively by most everyone including J. K. Rowling. Her entire book-by-book review is really insightful, and very much worth a read!  
Despite its flaws, it's still an interesting universe with whimsical details. And I appreciate a good dose of whimsy and escapism in my entertainment.
Knowing about the series is also an easy way to make small talk. I was teaching in South Korea when the last book came out, and a fellow expat quickly made friends in our small town by loaning out the book to everyone who asked for it. I read it in two days, and could then identify fellow nerds to befriend by seeking out who else read that title, which was handy.

Whose side did you end up on:  Dumbledore or Snape?
Honestly, I didn't really like either character. Snape was a bully, and Dumbledore made things considerably more difficult and obscure for everyone than they needed to be.
Don't get me wrong -- I love Alan Rickman -- but I much prefer Luna Lovegood and Hermione. Give me a brainy lady any day. 

Did you fall in love with the stories as a child or an adult?
I started reading them as a teen, because my younger sister was reading them. I didn't expect to enjoy them as much as I did, but found myself reading the entire series before I knew it. Again, it was the thrill of being drawn into a well-realized world. Which is interesting, as fantasy generally isn't my bag; however, I have a weakness for Young Adult fantasy, stemming from a childhood love of the Chronicles of Narnia series.

Were you unhappy with the conclusion?  If so, how would your ideal ending go?
I was! I thought the epilogue was unnecessary and too pat. I also would have preferred to see more Neville, as I thought that the late-in-the-game reveal that he might have been The Chosen One was interesting and underexplored.
In truth, Harry's a pretty lame protagonist: he knows very few spells, isn't a great wizard, and is just not that interesting a person. I don't think character development is Rowling's strong suit; one of the things that makes the Potter universe interesting is the fact that there's this world to explore with many, many characters who aren't fully realized. So it's interesting to imagine what might have been.

What is your favorite character and why?

Luna Lovegood, as I love an unapologetic female eccentric.

Red Velvet thinks about female eccentrics a lot, and has written zines about spinsterhood, sexting, heartbreak, job interviews, terrible puns, moving, and narwhals. Drop her a line at and she will probably send you some.




Various Occasions of me Brandishing Wands, etc.

Surprise decorations at my cubicle at work this very morning,
on the eve of my 35th birthday (2/28/14)

Temporary Dobby Tattoo that didn't go over well at work

2011 Halloween Party at the office

Trying out a new wand (made by my father in law) some Xmas a few years ago.

a wooden back-scratcher from Chinatown was my training wand

here i am casting a protective spell on my son while wearing a wearable blanket that looked like a gryffendor robe

brandishing  a wand while pregnant the day we saw Deathly Hallows 2 in the theatre

brandishing a wand for what the kids call a "selfie"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Renate Druks

As you know if you are a frequent reader, the late painter and personality Renate Druks, friend to Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Kenneth Anger and other bizarre luminaries, was a close family friends whose care we coordinated in her last years.  To thank us, she left us with her beautiful paintings and other artifacts from her long, sad, interesting life.  I long ago took over the maintenance of the website displaying her works (my dad started it), but I was always dissatisfied with it, because it did not meet the set of aesthetic standards she held.  I have worked a lot on the site recently and I feel that it is finally beautiful and organized enough to memorialize her, though of course her spirit lingers right over my shoulder as I type this, haranguing me for not buying the right kind of shampoo.

Renate Druks, Catharine Ross and James Caan in front of Druks' painting "Games"

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Being a vendor at the recent L.A. Zine Fest was uncomfortable in some ways and has made me hyper-sensitive about the inevitability of aging, even more so than usual.  I ran into a few people I used to know, the majority of whom I hadn’t seen in roughly 15 years, and I felt sad that I don’t look the way I used to. 

In High School I believe most people thought I was gawky, and it’s true that I was, and I highlighted the gawkiness, keeping my teeth messed up as they were and a pretty jacked up haircut and boy’s clothes or else stained vintage dresses with my legs and armpits unabashedly hairy and sweat-socks pulled up above Converse high-tops.  I didn’t even feel bad about having regular break-outs of bad skin on my face.  I’m not going to try to sound humble-braggy here, as I write in detail about my looks, because it would be dishonest to pretend that looks don’t matter, and as a feminist, I try to keep keenly aware of expectations of women and girls, and to buck those expectations that are sexist by being as honest with myself and others as possible without leaving myself open to any vulnerabilities that would cut me too deep to expose.  Being honest about my looks isn’t one of those off-limits vulnerabilities.  I was teased mercilessly for my looks in Junior High and then I became a feminist and proudly non-conformist and I remain so to this day.  I don’t look like a hipster because I don’t like to signal my “individuality” to the world through my clothing anymore, and I don’t look normal, because I still have hairy armpits and bad teeth.  These have all been deliberate decisions, just like looking sort of ugly (to deflect the expectation of stereotypically feminine behavior) was, when I was in high school.  I often think of the line from T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,”:  There will be time, there will be time/To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.

When I moved away for college, all of a sudden, people would allude to my good looks, even calling it beauty sometimes, as if it were an objective fact.  This sort of killed my actual real self-confidence throughout my late teens and most of my twenties, replacing my actual belief in myself with a cocky fake belief in the face I prepared to meet the faces that I met.  I usually feel confident taking what’s owed me:  when someone tries to bully me at work, or when someone who clearly thinks they’re more important because they’re rich tries to cut in line, I very directly keep them in check; but when I was a teen, I did so with the knowledge that I don’t deserve to be stepped on like I was in Junior High. In contrast, when I took what I was owed during the golden decade when people thought I was pretty, it was with the hope that each person I confronted would think I was pretty enough to let me get away with it.  I used my effortlessly cute bedhead and disgustingly bony skinniness (so prized by cute boys who like women to still look like little girls) to pile up more and more compliments; oh my god, this is what it feels like to be longed for, I was always thinking to myself, meanwhile casting my pearls before swine, as a friend recently said of this period of my life. 

The people I ran into at the zine fest had known me when I was boldly gawky or generally considered pretty, and neither of these are true of me anymore, at least not right now.  I am a frazzled office worker and devoted mother, and I don’t have time to prepare a face to meet the faces that I meet, and I also know that there are more important things than that.  I presented myself at the zine fest with a fat tummy not pushed in with Spanx and clothes I bought from Target because they were cheap and were next to the bread on sale that I was buying at the time.  I need to be this practical, I feel, to help keep my beautiful family in organic cotton clothes for my son’s sensitive skin and organic food for his lovely insides, and tons of nice Christmas gifts for my husband, to let him know he’s appreciated.  I do deserve better than to be cooped up in an office all day, or to buy cheap clothes that are probably made overseas in sweatshops, which, in theory at least, I deeply oppose.  But right now I’m trying to catch up with all the practical necessities I put off for so long.  So I have a fat tummy and my bedhead doesn't look cute anymore and I never have time to fix it up, and nobody I ran into on Sunday showed any signs of thinking “Wow, Robin’s still punk,” or, “Geez, she’s still pretty, and rail thin – how does she do it?” 

I have aged.

Friday, February 14, 2014

ROMANCE & Valentine's Day

I use Grammarly's free plagiarism check because your their.  

Hi Tomcats and Kittens,

It's been awhile since I posted, but it's because I've been so petrified/nervous about doing the zine fest on Sunday , and because I'm dry of ideas at the moment and also have been feeling a little too lonely this week, like a ghost-girl.  Just to keep me visible though, I'm checking it to say hi to the lovebirds and single romantics on this dumb day of Romance that I totally started celebrating yesterday, nonetheless.  I like the excitement of holidays.  I will probably make a papier mache replica of George Washington's wooden teeth on Monday's Presidents Day, though reports that that is just a myth.  

You all know how much I love movies, so here is my list of the 5 most romantic movies I can think of.  Snuggle up and stare at the TV set tonight.


#5 - REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993)

This movie is so sadly romantic it kills me to watch it, but it is a wonderful movie about two domestic workers who are too brainwashed by the upper-class concept of them as automatons to allow themselves happiness.  I LOVE the two main characters, especially Miss Kenton -- Emma Thompson is amazing in every role she plays, even that of the melancholy writer in the faux-artfilm Stranger than Fiction.  


This is one of my 6 favorite movies of all time.  It depicts the most beautiful and sweet friendship-loves in the world.  

#3- DOGFIGHT (1991)

The first time I watched this movie was on VHS when I was a teenager and River Pheonix had just died.  I was watching it with my mom, and the two of us, both inveterate criers, turned to each other at one point and simultaneously both cried, because he is wonderful in this film and it was so sad to lose such a talented young man.  In addition to being such a well-acted and romantic movie, with an amazing first-kiss scene (it takes place in a penny arcade), the subplot of the Vietnam War is perfectly executed, remaining in the background as a black cloud hanging over everything young and new, even in sweetest moments.

#2 - ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001)  

I have a hunch that this is one of the favorite movies of every artsy person my age.  Some lesser directors rely on a good soundtrack to convey emotions instead of providing effective character development, so that their movies are like music videos, but the amazing soundtrack for this film makes the poignant scenes, of which there are plenty, painfully poignant.  If you love this movie already, I'm guessing your favorite scene is the one where Margot exits the bus in slow motion to Nico's "These Days."  There is something really cool about the relationship between Richie and Margot.  The word "cool" is used so much that it's really a non-descriptive adjective, but if you think about the word when it was kind of associated with subculture still (at least I imagine so), like, how beatnicks would use the word but maybe not the Normals, that's how I mean the word.  Margot and Richie are two cool characters -- you see a rare complexity in both of them that makes their interactions so sweet and kind of sexy.  Also, I seriously love Danny Glover (the heart and soul of the Lethal Weapon franchise, and such a funny guy when I saw him at a Sam Ash in Hollywood sometime -- he plays guitar!), and his character is so lovable in this movie, and it's sort of the only good movie Ben Stiller has been in.

#1 - FLIRTING (1991)

This New Zealand film, set in 1965, uses racial tension and the awkwardness of coming of age as two perfect backdrops for this sweet boarding school romance.  I usually prefer not to consider the loss of virginity because all the stereotypical thoughts that go with virginity are pretty gross and sexist, like the idea of how morally valuable a girl's cherry is and how she's expected to be in pain to the point of bleeding the first time -- lame.  The virginity loss in this movie though, is really touching and endearing and thank god, not tinged with any prurience.

princess robin

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mental Health Professionals I’ve Known: Part One

from the film Snakepit

My first one was a nice psychiatrist I saw when I was 16, after having been physically attacked, leading to PTSS.  She was patient and easy to talk to, even though her naivety exasperated me sometimes, though in retrospect, it may have been a technique to help me arrive at my own answers.  Her office was in Marina del Rey.  There was a small pagoda-shaped building in front of the large office building where her practice was located, and I guessed the little pagoda used to be where a security guard or greeter spent his days, but it stood completely empty the 20 or so years I lived on the Westside.  The main problem with our sessions was that I only saw her once every two weeks, necessitating a lot of time catching her up on recent events instead of discussing my reaction to them.  She thought it would help to meet weekly, and so did I, but I was not the master of my own destiny at that age, so the twice-monthly meeting schedule continued.  One day she came out with it and recommended Prozac, the perceived seriousness of which threw my family in a tizzy.  As punishment for this suggestion, our appointments ended.  Now I had nobody to curb my self-mutilation sprees for.  My thighs were a mess of superficial paring-knife marks, a cat’s cradle pattern of what looked like cat scratches.  To this day, self-mutilation, as a compulsion, interests me.  Just the other night I dreamed that I carved “Tomorrow” into my chest very deeply, and the letters dripped blood, but it was just for fashion, and I walked around in the world and met for a family dinner and continued normal activities without the cuts raising any eyebrows.  At one point I worried “Is this going to suddenly hit people as something disgusting?  Should I pour hydrogen peroxide on this mess and wear a turtleneck until it heals?”  but I woke up before I had to decide anything.  I like to give sad, knowing “Hang in there, kiddo” smiles to teenagers I see with their little self-inflicted punishment scratches on their arms.

Anyway, my next psychological professional was a kind therapist from the counseling center at my college, when I was a freshman.  He emanated the mellow acceptance of an aging hippie.  I respected him enough to attend the anxiety-control workshops on campus that he recommended.  The workbook for these meetings cost $18, a major expenditure at the time.  I followed along with the exercises when I was at the meetings, but never completed the written follow-up exercises back at my room.  Some people feel better commiserating with others in the same boat as them, but for me, it has always been depressing to be in the room with other people that have problems like mine. 

After Christmas break, I stopped attending these workshops, and consequentially had to stop seeing this therapist, out of guilt for not following through better.  He’d lacked a tiny bit of effectiveness for my personal extreme temperament, anyway.  He believed in the healing power of St. John’s Wort capsules and Valerian Tinctures.  My sadness and madness and panic felt too big for natural remedies.  I wanted to beg him, “Please stuff me to the gills with the strongest drug ever until I drool and shuffle like a zombie and can’t remember my own name.  Please bang at my frontal lobe with a hammer.”

My next therapist, also from the college’s counseling center, was also a mellow old hippie, a woman this time, with short salt and pepper hair and great chandeliers of indiscriminately ethnic jewelry hanging from her ears, her neck, her wrists.  Like her predecessor, she believed in St John’s Wort and Valerian tincture as well.  The best thing about valerian tinctures, though, is the extra spaciness it causes when you add a drop or 2 on the little nest of weed smushed inside the bowl of a bong.  

This therapist sort of saved my life once, though.  My 2 best friends and I went off campus every night to track down our semi-friends, the cute boys who lived in town.  We always stayed out late and drank the amount of alcohol only teenagers can bounce back from.  I got nothing from these nights, except visibility in the town I wanted to become popular in, and an acidic stomach from my vegetarian staple of French fries.  Four days in a row, our attempts at bewitching these jaded boys were so near-successful we wanted the good times to last forever.  So these four days in a row, I got home at 7 am, slept til 11 am, and then went to class.  This made me feel crazy.  My therapist didn’t want to put me through the loss of power involved in a 72-hour psych hold but she was concerned about my well-being, so she arranged for the more maternal of my 2 best friends to come in to meet with her.  They went over a game plan for stabilizing me, and decided I’d sleep in my friend’s bed for a long time (this was the most calming thing I could imagine), and when I woke up, she’d feed me and take me for a walk.  Sometimes it’s actually good to be treated like a dog. 

from the film David and Lisa

To Be Continued.