Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas To All

Yes, all the toys are opened, the roast beast has been carved and eaten, and it is hours before the Doctor Who Christmas Special comes on...please try hard to hang on to your holiday joy and leave the existential ennui to the people who do it best: French cats.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Eight Nights of Chanukah: Those Were The Nights (of Chanukah)

This is the last night of Chanukah. It seems fitting, given recent events, to end with the Yeshivah Boys Choir.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Eight nights of Chanukah Music: Ocho Kandelikas

In times of great stress, we take refuge in ritual and routine.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eight Nights of Chanukah: Happy Hanukkah

It wouldn't be Chanukah without Matisyahu and this song, in particular, is especially important as all proceeds will go to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. You have through December 16, so go to Matisyahu's website and donate. I really like the reggae feel and the outright romance of this song-it's a sexy love song as well as a song about belief.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eight nights of Chanukah Music: If You're A Macabee, Then You're a Hammer

"Be a modern Macabee and stand tall and hammer a world of peace and justice for all."-Mark Novak

Yes, this does feel a little kitschy, like someone trying too hard to be cool and down with the kids, and may bring some flashbacks to Jim Belushi's White Rap. But it is cute and it is fun to have a song which gives the history of Chanukah and then ties the holiday to present day fights for social justice.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: I Saw Hannukah Harry Beat Up Santa

It wouldn't be a holiday if there weren't some extremely kitschy novelty songs floating around. I really never gave much thought to Hannukah Harry's relationship to Santa Claus. Had you asked me to think about it, I would have said they were both independent contractors who didn't really have much reason to interact except on those nights when their respective holidays overlapped. This song not only asserts that they are brothers, but that they both hang out at the North Pole.

Of course, Hannukah Harry isn't all that old a tradition. His first appearance was in December, 1989. Who would have thought a Saturday Night Live sketch would have such an enduring legacy? Clearly NBC did not as they don't have the full video available on their website. Which is sad because the idea that Hannukah Harry would deliver gifts while Santa is under the weather is pretty awesome and appropriate to the season, not to mention the full sketch is all about how, deep down, no matter who we worship or what we believe, we are all alike.

So, sure, Harry and Santa might engage in occasional sibling shenanigans, but in the end, they respect each other and want to live in a world where they both can coexist. It turns out, the North Pole is big enough for the both of them.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: Gelt Melts

"If goys can eat a chocolate bunny, why can't we eat chocolate money?"-The LeeVees

Get up and dance, it's a punk rock holiday song about chocolate!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: Latke Clan

I hadn't planned to do this again, mainly because I feared I would not find enough music. But here we are, the first night of Chanukah and, once again, The LeeVees have come through with a song that is so toe tappingly awesome that I had to share it. Because I am hopping up and down with a big smile on my face as I listen to this. And because we are latke fans!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

We've Got To Break Up

This made me cry.

Even if this didn't happen to me, I know many couples who have found themselves in this exact situation. As someone outside the couple in question, I always want to scream, "You will give up the love of your life for this vague desire to procreate? Kids aren't all that! There are too many people on the planet as it is, go volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club or something!" to the person who wants kids and "One kid is not so bad, really, give it a try, you will totally love a kid that is your own!" to the person who doesn't. Because I believe in love and I hate to see people, even people I don't know, breaking up when they still love each other. But I also hate seeing people grow resentful because they compromised something for the person they loved and after years of saying that it wasn't so important, they find out it actually was. Sometimes love is not enough.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Alice's Restaurant

"If you want to end the war and stuff, you gotta sing loud." Arlo Guthrie

I remember in college, there was a guy who insisted we all had to listen to Alice's Restaurant because it is a "Thanksgiving tradition." I was raised by folkies and it was the first I heard of this tradition. I soon realized that this was because, amusing tradition or not, there was absolutely no way people who hosted a 30+ person sit-down Thanksgiving dinner would have the time to indulge in an 18+ minute sing song.

One thing that amazes me about Thanksgiving as an adult who does not host Thanksgiving is how incredibly calm it is and how much time one has on one's hands. I can totally understand how this tradition took root among people who looked at the yawning chasm of time between waking up and getting to one's destination and worrying at how it could be filled. Especially before the internet was invented to take the edge off of everyone's boredom. The parade is over, the ballgames haven't started, an 18+ minute song that begins on Thanksgiving? Sign us up!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


For all the conspiracy theories popping up surrounding the rapidly mushrooming scandal surrounding the resignation of David Petraeus, I am wondering why no one has yet blamed Hollywood for the whole thing. Come on, the head of the CIA is forced to step down due to a sex scandal on the very day the latest James Bond film opens in US theaters and you expect me to believe it is all a magical coincidence? I mean, I do in fact believe it is all a coincidence, but only because this whole story seems to be so boring, despite the high powered individuals involved; you would never catch M communicating with a lover through an unsecured email account and Bond would never consider going to a politician because he felt shut out of an investigation. As in so many other areas of human existence, spies in real life are so much smaller and more ordinary than they are in the movies.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

People Have The Power

I know it feels like you are just one person, that it doesn't matter if you vote, but remember, every drop of water contributes to the rain.

I won't say I don't care who you vote for, that would be a lie. But even more than that, I care that you vote.

People have died for this right we lucky enough to take for granted.. Honor their sacrifice.
Make your voice heard.


Monday, November 05, 2012

The Future's Owned By You and Me

We won't use guns, we won't use bombs, we'll use the one thing we've got more of-that's our minds.

We've always been privileged. Privilege just means "private law." That's exactly what it means. He just doesn't believe the ordinary law apply to him.

They are brought up to give orders, they know that they're on the right side because if they are on it then it must be the right side, by definition, and when they feel threatened they are bare-knuckle fighters, except they never take their gloves off. They are thugs. Thugs and bullies.
-from The Truth by Terry Pratchett

Why vote?

Because we have waited patiently for them to bestow rights upon us, and instead we have seem them continue to chip away at the rights we have already garnered.

Because the gap between the super wealthy and everyone else keeps expanding, yet they still insist the wealth will eventually trickle down. 

Because they don't want us to.

The only reason the bullies have power is because we give it to them. Yes, they have been raised to believe that their wealth and strength is a sign of inherent superiority. When we don't vote, we confirm this belief. Sure, they say that we are all equal, but look at their policies, does that look like equality to you? That future they have mapped out for us is nothing much to shout about. So go out there and vote. 

There won't be fighting in the streets
They think they've got us beat, but revenge is gonna be so sweet.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Your Racist Friend

"This is where the party ends
I can't stand hear listening to you
And your racist friend.
I know politics bore you
But I feel like a hypocrite talking to you
And your racist friend."
-They Might Be Giants

The stage manager for Screwtape (Matt) would put music on during our group warm-ups. One time, he played Flood and it was notable that a little more than half the cast was knew every word by heart and sang along while the rest looked at us and asked how we all knew this record of which they were completely unaware. Which struck me as odd because we were all roughly the same age and it was a platinum record; I could see not knowing every song on the record, but if you went to college in the late 80s-early 90s, how did one avoid hearing Istanbul (not Constantinople) or Birdhouse In Your Soul? I'll admit, I wrote these people off as unobservant and dim, not to mention lacking taste (an assessment which was later confirmed when one of these actors announced that "Journey was a GREAT BAND" without the slightest smidge of irony. Um, yeah, don't stop believing, hold on to that feeling).

In a way, that is what the current political climate feels like. While it always feels like a near even split in the electorate, with 48% voting Republican and 48% voting Democrat and the horse race occurring in that 4% undecided, one would have to be blind not to notice that something was different this time around. A recent article in Slate described it as follows
White people—white men in particular—are for Mitt Romney. White men are supporting Mitt Romney to the exclusion of logic or common sense, in defiance of normal Americans. Without this narrow, tribal appeal, Romney's candidacy would simply not be viable. Most kinds of Americans see no reason to vote for him.
This comes as no surprise to so many of us. After all, we knew that despite everyone's hopes that an African-American president would help race relations in our country, one does not overcome the deep rooted systemic racism in our society in just a few years. We knew that the forces of evil would find a way to fight back and we know racial attitudes have gotten worse (we didn't need a study to tell us this, all we had to do was turn on Fox News and listen to what people feel comfortable saying in public)
For more than four years, without pause, Republicans have been campaigning and propagandizing against an imaginary Obama. At the most grotesque end of the fantasies, he is a foreign-born, anti-colonialist Muslim. In more reputable precincts, he is a power-mad socialist and a dumb affirmative-action baby, promoted all the way to the presidency by a race-crazed, condescending liberal elite. (As if the presidency of the Harvard Law Review were awarded to anyone but the hungriest shark in the shark tank.) This is the position of the party's mandarins and reputable spinners—that Obama was foisted off on regular Americans against their will, despite all those votes last time around.
We have been hearing the stuff said by conservative pundits and politicians and we can't understand how the Republicans we love can stand it, much less stand by and support it. For their part, those loved ones see no racism, coded or otherwise, and can't understand what we are all hearing and write us off as overreacting and seeing things. Even after we tell them exactly what we are hearing and exactly why it is racist, they brush it off and say we are just imagining it. Or they shrug and say they can see it is wrong, but that's not why they are voting for Mitt Romney.

I so want to take these people at their word. Because if I don't make excuses for them in my heart, the truth is, I respect them less and that is too painful a prospect. It is easy to write off all the people I don't know who make up the 48% of the population who will likely vote for Mitt Romney on Tuesday, but it is far harder to reconcile the votes of people I love. Especially if this vote is indicative of a larger political change which the person has undergone. I need answers and yet, there are none. How can someone who instilled in me a belief that it is not just enough to be anti-racist in one's heart, one must also speak out against racism when one encounters it, now be voting for people willing to pander and encourage those feelings if it means they will win? How can someone who once actively fought racism now be seemingly ignoring it? Was it all a lie? Was I a fool to believe?

So I rationalize. I tell myself there must be a good explanation, even if I can't find one. I tell myself it will all be okay. I tell myself they just can't see what I see.  I make excuses.

Of course, making excuses for people is precisely the problem, isn't it? We want to believe the people we love are good people. However, maybe it would be better if we reminded them that people are known by the company they keep. If they choose to stand next to a racist, they shouldn't be surprised if people will assume they agree with the racism. If they vote for people who use racist strategies to get elected they can't be surprised if those politicians assume they agree with the racist message. We need to hold the politicians accountable, but we also need to hold the people we love accountable. Because if it doesn't work, it will stop. It may well be a lovely party and taking a stand is hard. It is so much easier for some to just sit, bobbing and pretending. The rest of us, however, wonder how they can tolerate it? Because you can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding. If they care about our country, they need to have the courage to stand up and say, "This is where the party ends."

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Bloodbuzz Ohio

Go read or listen to this amazing interview with the Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National.

"Growing up middle-class, I never thought to question that I was provided for. My parents, we never talked about money. They had plenty of money stresses but as kids we never really felt it. They made Christmas ornaments out of costume jewelry, stuff like that, but we never really thought about being in a class -- and if you're in a class where you don't have to think about it, then you're in a class that's well enough off not to worry."

When I first heard this song, I thought it was a love song. Then I thought it was a song about going back to the place you grew up and feeling nostalgic for a time when that was all you knew. Then I thought it was a commentary on the financial crisis. Apparently, it was all of the above.
"I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
The floor is falling out from everybody I know."

I feel like I have been tremendously lucky in my life and, in particular, the last few years. It would be so easy to tell myself that it wasn't luck, that our remaining financially solvent is a direct result of our intelligent and responsible choices. Sure, maybe. But over the last few years, I have seen friends lose their jobs and go into large amounts of debt, friends who thought they were making similarly intelligent and responsible choices. And, let's be honest, our circumstances have a lot more to do with our relative privilege, and the privilege of pretending we aren't privileged, than it does with any choices we made.

One of the things which surprised me was the disdain displayed by the Republican Party for people who are struggling, both in their platform and in the things they say when they think no one is looking. Heck, I have been stunned by the Republicans I know who have said casually racist and classist things, so casual they don't even think they are being racist or classist and they accuse me of being too PC if I mention it. However, I guess it shouldn't surprise me. If one chooses to be completely blind to one's own privilege, if one constantly tells one's self that one's success is entirely one's own doing, that you built it, that one's community and family wealth contributed nothing, then I guess one would believe that all the people who were not doing so well were just irresponsible moochers whose hardship is their own fault. Because if you are born on third base and thought you hit a triple, you would certainly cry foul at anyone who gets walked if they are hit by a pitch.

Yes, economic recovery has not happened fast enough. However, it makes no sense to suggest that the way to fix our economy is to reinstate the same policies which caused the meltdown in the first place. And it especially makes no sense to say people deserve to live in poverty and go hungry or that being too poor to pay federal income taxes means one is irresponsible. But I guess sense doesn't have a lot to do with it, it has to do with the way you see people. I certainly don't think all Republicans look down on those who are struggling. However, they are supporting policies which advocate increasing the tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy while cutting the programs which help those most in need. What is in their hearts and their very best intentions are all well and good, but ultimately, those are not reflected in how they vote.

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Whole Point of No Return

All righteousness did build thy arrow 
To shoot it straight into their lies 
Who would expect the mighty sparrow 
Could rid our world of all their kind?

I have been hearing this song a lot lately as the Style Council is one of Fred's favorite bands and Pandora is so accommodating. It freaked me out to read the lyrics as they seem to be a fairly cogent response to Mitt Romney's economic policies though they were written over a quarter century ago. But to be fair, The Communist Manifesto was written over a century and a half ago and that could also be considered a commentary on the Romney/Ryan tax plan as well as what seems to be the Republican Party's views of society. It shouldn't surprise me. If history teaches us anything, it is that humans have a tendency to make the same greedy choices which cause harm to the have nots in their society. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but think about it. When you keep pushing most of society down, telling everyone to just trust you because you have a huge pile of money, and you keep peddling the idea that wealth will eventually trickle down even though history has demonstrated this only leads to a greater gap between the rich and the poor, what exactly do you expect? Eventually, the proletariat will start to complain and some of those complaints won't be so law abiding as the Occupy movement. As a person who believes in responsible capitalism (and not the robber baron sort of which the right in my country peddles as "fiscal conservatism") and as someone who wants our economy to grow, I am very worried about the upcoming election. My father-in-law (a proud Republican) asked me if I thought everyone should vote for only one political party and I am sure he thought he was making some great point about democracy. Unfortunately, we currently have one political party who advocates the transfer of more wealth into the pockets of wealthy and corporations (because they are people, my friend) and has vowed to grind government to a halt unless they are we do as they say, and they have done exactly this when given an opportunity. So while, yes, I think having more political parties is in general a good thing, I feel like the only hope for our country right now is that we not reward these obstructionists or give them any opportunity to further enact their dangerous economic policies.

Of course, my other thought when listening to this song is that the bloody revolution never sounded so smooth.

Rising up to break this thing 
From family trees the dukes do swing 
Just one blow to scratch the itch 
The law's made for and by the rich 
It would be easy. 
So, so easy.

P.S. I am sure there are many people who are far smarter than I am who can explain exactly how my pessimistic fears are completely unfounded and how my grasp of history is all wrong. Please do so in the comments as I could do with a bit of cheering up right now.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Day of the Dead

Halloween may be over, but that doesn't mean you have to put the skeletons away. I made this one for the school halloween party and it lives with us now. (maybe I should add a red hat to make it appropriate for Christmas).

I also made a few ghostly banners (I am afraid these don't photograph nearly as well as Bones)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Julian went as a ninja for Halloween, as did half the kids at his school (or so it seemed).

Fred and I went as Calvin and Hobbes.

Monday, October 01, 2012

I'll Wear Your Clothes When We're Both High

There is something frustrating about hearing a twenty year old song for the first time and knowing how much my twenty year old self would have loved it. Not only would I have felt it was appropriately named, I am fairly sure everyone who knew me would agree that if ever a song should be about a girl named Alison, this is what it should sound like.

Reading the lyrics, this is one of those muse who is so messed up that her craziness is enchanting to the comparatively stable singer songs. It's a shoegazer, dream pop version of Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (about which I realize I have never actually written and now I probably never will). I am not sure if every man once secretly wished to be in the thrall of the sort of girl about whom these songs are sung, but most of the women I know did, once, secretly wish to have been such a girl. Maybe not so broken and crazy that we would be lost forever, but enough so that we would seem foreign and mysterious to our peers; given that that growing up in and of itself was an oftentimes damaging experience, we all wanted to believe our still open wounds were beautiful, mysterious, enchanting as opposed to just bloody and festering. To have someone write a song like this for us would give our pain meaning, right? 

Of course, the sad truth is that being that girl for someone wouldn't have made a difference because it would never have been the right person--we didn't care if just anyone found our messed up world thrilling. Because it was never the person we wanted to feel that way about us who did, those persons were off writing songs for other girls, girls who hadn't been damaged, at least, not by them. In fact, who is to say this song wasn't written about me (I mean, aside from the fact that I don't know these people)? It doesn't change the past, it doesn't change the pain.

But here is the cool thing, the silver lining on the dark cloud of painful experience: while we all not so secretly wished to be the muse, we also could have written this ourselves. Maybe that is the true lesson of growing up, realizing that you can write your own songs, that being the muse is all well and good, but it doesn't hold a candle to creating the work itself.

Hey hey, sha la la.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Sacrifices We Make In Our Heads

This morning, it felt like NPR kept replaying a piece about returning war vets and mental illness--each time, after cutting away to news, they would play the same piece. Obviously it was just someone pushing the wrong button, but it reminded me of what happened eleven years ago, when NPR kept interrupting a piece on European cinema to give news updates only to then go back to the beginning of the piece on European cinema. I think they replayed the beginning four times, but I don't I ever heard how it ended. Not that I would remember and, if the NPR website is correct, I am completely wrong about all of this.

One thing I do remember correctly is what I was wearing.

This afternoon, I tried on the dress I had put on before I found out I wasn't going anywhere. It was one of my favorites then, but I haven't worn it since I was pregnant. It fits. Eleven years and fifteen pounds later, somehow it fits. What I wouldn't give to have it not fit, but have it only be meaningful because it was one of my favorites and I wouldn't even remember that I wore it that day because it would have been just another Tuesday morning.

I know that sounds shallow. I know that not fitting in a dress is pretty insignificant. In the days that followed that day, I remember thinking of all the things I would trade to have it not have happened (anything anything, please just make it not have been), sitting and watching the endless stream of confusion that was broadcast commercial free, I went through my list of imagined sacrifices because it was a way for me to pretend that I was not completely powerless. Maybe if my offers were enormous enough, the laws of space and time would shift and history would be rewritten. I understand that it never having happened would mean that I would never know the enormity of it because in order to understand one would have to have to have experienced it. I need to have experienced that day to know why I never wanted to experience it.

At this point, I have lived over a quarter of my life since that happened. I can't imagine life without the experience, I don't know where I would be or who I would be in that parallel universe where it never happened. I wonder if I would still be hearing about returning vets and mental illness on NPR in that parallel universe; maybe it all really was inevitable, maybe we would still have gone to war without that catalyst, maybe far worse events would have happened instead. Maybe there are parallel universes which view ours as the lucky one.

Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning

A song about a sunny Tuesday morning and the day which follows, about all the quotidian details which fill our days when we are trying to avoid thinking about the things which cause us pain, but also, how sometimes we find we have more strength than we ever suspected. It's about endings and beginnings. It is an artifact from before and, really, the only thing which ties it to this day (or that day) in my heart is that it starts on a Tuesday morning.

Yesterday, I heard something in it which I never had before and which, obviously, was never intended. What if we listen to this song as if it were a document of that Tuesday morning?

We don't talk much about how people were still living their lives even though it seemed like the world had stopped. We don't often think about how there were births and breakups which, for the individuals involved, were bigger than anything going on in the world outside. So I listen to all the times that the protagonist is insulated from contact with the outside world, either through her own actions of avoidance or circumstances. The only person in the song she talks to is Jenny, who has a black eye she got from her boyfriend the night before, clearly, she has her own personal drama consuming her thoughts. So maybe we can listen to it as a song about how someone spent her last day before finding out the world had ended.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Tongue Tied

I love this firefly of a song. It makes me happy and every time I hear it, I want to spin around, waive my arms over my head, and shout the chorus at the top of my lungs, however, since I am usually in the car when it comes on the radio, I must be content with satisfying one out of three of my urges.  I suspect, much like a lightning bug, we won't even remember it come December and come next summer another song will be filling our hearts with joy and sunshine, but for now, this will be the song which makes me smile while also forcing me to concentrate hard on not driving into other cars.

The title of Grouplove's record from which this song comes is Never Trust a Happy Song and, wow, does this video live up to that warning. At first, it just seems messed up in a Memento sort of way, but then we get a good look at the band and it suddenly seems like it is a party at The Dustbin*. All is explained in the end (and though it is predictable, it also completely confirms my feelings that this looks like something right out of Renn Fayre** because the dame thing kinda sortof happened to me once a couple decades ago).

*Can you believe The Dustbin doesn't have it's own Wikipedia page?
**At this point, I strongly believe that the only people reading this blog already know what I am talking about, but if I am wrong and you are scratching your head, google it. Or let me know you exist by leaving a comment and I'll explain it.***
***Ugh, I decided that sounded a bit snotty, so here's the Wikipedia link. But please feel free to leave a comment telling me you love me.

Left Of Center

Once again, I found myself transported back to the eighties while grocery shopping.

Of all the songs on the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, I feel this best captures not only the essence of the film*, but the essence of all those John Hughes films we loved so much back before we became aware of concepts like white privilege, class privilege, and date rape (Does Catherine saying she liked waking up in The Geek's arms cancel out her having been too drunk to have given consent? Discuss). It's the fantasy so many of us entertained, the one where the unpopular wallflower wanted the popular person, not because he/she was exceptionally pretty or desirable, but because the watchful eye of the wallflower saw hidden depths in that popular person and, someday, that popular person would look over and see the person they never noticed before and, la la la, happiness would ensue. Of course, we all cast ourselves as the wallflower, we told ourselves we had intelligence and discernment that the socially adept lacked and that this made us superior to them, even if we were the only ones who knew. And maybe this fairy made the teen years more bearable for us. Maybe.

As an adult, I have noticed that it seems as if everyone carries this fantasy with them. Everyone. While I assume that there are people out there who did not, in fact, feel awkward and misunderstood, people who were popular and not hampered by depth or intelligence, I have yet to meet an adult who will admit to this. I have met former cheerleaders and football captains who swear they were as awkward, lonely, and unloved as the rest of us, that they really weren't as shallow as "all the other cheerleaders/football players" and while I suspect this interpretation of their teen years is inaccurate, I believe they believe it to be true. If they weren't singing along with Suzanne Vega word for word, they believe with all their heart that she was singing to them.

But here is what I would tell my teenage self: IT IS A LIE. That thought that somewhere inside of you you are similar, if not the same, to that object of your affection is a result of your brain being deluded by your hormones--it's the reason why so many women in America right now would be willing to overlook Ryan Lochte's star spangled grill. And just as most American women will do little more than drool over a particular swimmer, you will likely remain on the outskirts and in the fringes. Nothing changes in the song, she is still left of center and she will remain there if all she does is wonder. Stop believing the fairy tale.

Having said all that, I am overwhelmed by Suzanne's makeup, hair, and clothes in this video. When people hearken back to the mid-80, they tend to go for aqua and fuchsia, ripped Flashdance sweatshirts, and crazy hair metal hair. It's nice to be reminded of the short boots, baggy clothes, and messy short hair we all actually wore back in the day. I don't know about you, but I have a strong desire to go as 1986 for Halloween.

*Suzanne Vega wrote the song specifically for the film.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

White Light

So I just kept breathing my friends
waiting for some god to choose
saying this ain't the day that it ends
'cause there's no white light and I'm not through
I'm alive I'm alive
And I've got so much more that I want to do
Was it music? Was it science that saved me?
Or the way that you prayed for me?
Guess either way I thank you -George Michael

Once again, the universe wanted me to know what was going on with one of the musicians I loved as a young teen.

George Michael's bizarre coma recovery
The singer and former Wham! frontman scared his doctors by speaking his first words in an accent totally different from his usual dialect.
Michael, who normally talks like the London native that he is, found himself inexplicably using a distinctive burr from England's West Country for a couple days. Since he'd just spent three weeks in a coma due to a life-threatening case of pneumonia, medical staff feared this meant he'd suffered brain damage.
This story is bizarre, I'll grant you, but also awesome. At least it is for me because

1) George Michael!

2) You may recall I have some experience with people suddenly speaking in accents not their own, though I am pretty sure the girl in fourth grade was screwing with me

3) One of my favorite of Fred's near death stories from his childhood is the one from when he was five and, after being hit by a car, was in a coma for a few days. The doctors had prepared his family for the worst case scenario ("he may never wake up and, if he does, we don't know what condition he will be in"), but were allowing extended family to see him. Fred's Grandma Mary walked into the room, Fred opened his eyes and said, "Grandma, do you have a present for me?" Grandma Mary, being the quick thinker she was, said, "Oh, I left it in the car" and proceeded to buy him a Snoopy stuffed animal at the hospital gift shop. She told me that story when I first met her in 1995 and I was so young, I don't think I fully grokked all its nuances; at the time I thought it was an amusing illustration of the roles grandmas often play in kid's lives, but now I understand she probably had to restrain herself from buying him every stuffed animal the gift shop had because relief makes one giddy.
Michael noted that although his doctors were concerned, his family was just so relieved to have him awake that they found the bizarre accent hysterical.
So, yeah, George Michael is back, prouder than ever, maybe louder than ever. The song is really good and the video, well, no one makes videos like the refugees from the 80s. They remember when it was an art form in and of itself. Dunes, Zebras, Kate Moss in a fur coat as a coin flipping Angel of Death! This is how it is done people!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Sound of Sunbathing

I was well into my thirties before I became familiar with this song, but when I hear it, I flash back to summers of teenagerhood and the sleepy sad hopeful dopey feeling of adolescence. Though it is by a band who are likely unknown to most of us (The Sinceros...I googled), it sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack for Valley Girl, The Karate Kid, and all those John Hughes teen films. It was released in 1980 and it feels like it foreshadowed what was to come, compressing a good chunk of the decade within its three and a half minutes; it's wistful, it has the occasional non-sequiter shoehorned in to complete a rhyme, it seems embarrassingly earnest and self-important and though it sounds simplistic, but it alludes to deeper feelings of loss and longing. Not to mention, it is filled with synthesizer magic. It just strikes me as being the quintessential New Wave summer song. (Obviously someone at WXRT agreed as they played it this afternoon. Usually this song only gets played on Saturday Morning Flashback, but I guess the 90+ degree weather and the forecast for even hotter temperatures inspired them to hit the archives).

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

With or Without You

Life just happens to you: like an accident. No: it happens to you as a result of your condition. Not choice, but- at best- process, and at worst, shocking, total change.-Salman Rushdie

Love, a zone in which nobody desirous of compiling a human (as opposed to robotic, Skinnerian-android) body of experience could afford to shut down operations, did you down, no question about it, and probably did you in as well.-Salman Rushdie

Contentment. It beats excitement. Try it, you'll like it.-Salman Rushdie

I hated The Joshua Tree when it first was released. This was a big deal for me as I loved U2, theirs was the first concert I went to without my parents (at UIC Pavilion. I was 13, it was the second leg of The Unforgettable Fire tour) and the record was such a huge hit when it was released, to hate it was a little bit like saying you hated chocolate (i.e. people would look at you cross eyed and ask what was wrong with you, but a small select group of people would say they TOTALLY understood where you were coming from, they hated it too). I can't entirely explain this well now, except to say that the music on this record seemed like such a radical departure from the punk influenced sounds of Boy and War, not to mention they were no longer exploring themes of rebellion and protest (themes which obviously appealed to me as a disaffected teen). And one cannot discount the huge role everyone else liking it probably had on my feelings because this was the period of my life when I believed that musical tastes were a great indicator of personality and morality, so what did it mean that, suddenly, people with whom I had nothing in common, people I actively disliked, were all over this record? If bullies and idiots were liking this record, clearly, there must be something wrong with it. Not to mention that it seemed nearly impossible to get tickets to see them in concert and (I had already adopted my "no arenas or stadiums" rule for concerts at this point). By the time Rattle and Hum came out, it was just easier to see U2 as a childish infatuation which I had outgrown. Among the super cool kids I encountered in high school, college and beyond, writing off U2 as cheesy, naff, too earnest, and, yet, complete sell-outs was the thing to do. Occasionally, I would have heated discussion with people about whether they should have/could have remained a "little protest band" or if the world had forced them to become larger than life and if, perhaps, it was understandable why they had chosen the path they did.

Then Achtung Baby came out and from the moment I heard The Fly on the radio, I found myself dragged back into listening. Which didn't mean I had given up on my cool kid affectations: I vividly recall seeing Faraway So Close and telling a boy who I suspect was interested in dating me (he was a friend of a friend and he had very large teeth) that U2 was probably past their prime, that all their best music was a decade old; I mean, I loved the song Stay, but I didn't have to tell him that. I liked Zooropa and Pop and being out of school I found there were fewer people willing to have philosophical arguments about music. Then All That You Can't Leave Behind came out and I found myself cast in a show with Joel, and after we became friends I learned he was someone who not only could outgeek a lot of the superfans waiting in line at a concert with his U2 knowledge, but was willing to argue down all my snotty complaints about how they should be making music to inspire us to storm the castle walls and I found it far more entertaining to get excited about something I liked than to sneer at it because some people thought it was uncool.

I met Salman Rushdie on September 7, 2001 and asked him what it was like to be a rock star among writers and he spoke to me at length about hanging out with Bono. The following week, I found that those U2 records from the early eighties were the only ones to which I could bear to listen, it expressed what I was feeling despite being from before, it felt real when so much else (including having met Salman Rushdie) felt so irrelevant.

But despite this, I maintained my general dislike of the The Joshua Tree. 

Then one day I heard this song in a store and realized the reason I didn't like this album (and this song in particular) when it first came out was because I didn't have the ears to hear it. Because  while U2's earlier records were about rebellion and anger, things about which teenagers know quite a lot, this one was about love and pain and growth and acceptance. Yes, it's true, every teenager is Hamlet, every adolescent thinks they invented love and pain and believes that no one in the world understands them. And then they grow up. They have their hearts broken (sometimes more than once). They get rejected and they falter. They have to  compromise their hopes and dreams. They sometimes feel trapped. But they also find love. They witness moments of beauty, moments of grace. They sometimes find great opportunities in the most unlikely of places, at the most unlikely of times. Someone once told me that experience is what we get when we don't get what we want and life is a string of experiences except, sometimes, what we get is not so bad, even if it is something we didn't think we wanted.

Not all questions, young prince, are as easy as the one pondering whether to live or to die.

We are all walking backwards on a tightrope stretched across a dark unknown and since we cannot know where we are going, as we can really only see the past, we never know if the right thing to do is to continue on the rope or to fall into the abyss.

Of course, I couldn't know any of this, much less understand it, at fifteen.

Monday, June 04, 2012

My Baby Left For Sleepaway Camp!

This morning I made the first of what I imagine will be many good-byes to Julian.

He was beyond excited by the prospect of going away to camp, though he kept reminding us he wasn't really going away for a week as a week is seven days and he was coming back on Friday.

So excited was he that he forgot to say good-bye.

I on the other hand, felt like this
Don't worry, Julian was goofing around with his friends and pretending to cry. It is totally a coincidence I got this picture as he was not paying any attention to me at this point.

I keep thinking of the Holley's words to Miss Spider when the subject of her travelling sans car came up
Those mice could bite you, Holley howled
The river's full of snakes.
To think of you atop a frog
Gives me the quiver-shakes
and while I know the chances of him getting bitten by a poisonous snake or breaking his legs are miniscule and, let's be honest here, the frogs have more to fear from him than vice versa, that doesn't mean I won't worry.
What Julian thinks of my concerns
Obviously, I have years before he reaches adulthood and, contrary to Bono's plaintive cries, while Julian may well think he doesn't need me anymore in moments of bravado, those moments are quickly followed by his demands that I do something for him or attend to an injury, so, yeah, I know he still does. We have had months to prepare for this day, so I know he is ready for the adventure, and, I can't lie, I have also been looking forward to a week of dining out with Fred and having more time to write. So my sense of meloncholy may well seem self-indulgent if not downright hypocritical, except, it seems like this day came so fast and, in my heart, Julian still looks like this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


There's nothing, there's no one to stand in our way 
Get dressed up and messed up, throw all cares away -The Go-Go's

A few weeks ago, Julian and I were in Old Navy and this song came on. Julian had to endure the embarrassment of watching his mom sing and jump around the store while I explained that that was how we danced to this sort of music back when I was only slightly older than he is now. It probably had been a good quarter century since I heard this song as it isn't one of the "remember the eighties, remember the Go-Go's" sort of songs, but, of course, I still remembered all the words.

When I was in sixth grade, I listened to the Go-Go's all the time. They were the first band I obsessed over (if you don't count Shawn Cassidy and The Monkees). It was easy for my pre-pubescent self to identify with them for they represented girl power and exuberance and seemed to promise that being a grown up was just like being a kid except you got to play the guitar. I know now that this was all a cleverly packaged image designed to appeal to all us girls and reassure our parents, that the Go-Go's weren't just rocking as hard as the men, they were having just as much of the sex and drugs which went with the rock and roll as well. And when I think about the lyrics to the songs, yeah, I guess I can hear it, but it takes a bit of work. After all, I was so young when I first memorized these words, it is hard for me to fully see them in an adult context.

You may have noticed that I have mentioned the lyrics and my ability to summon them up a couple of times. You would be correct in wondering if this is an important piece of information. It is. Fred has commented many times that he is not a lyrics person, that he get overwhelmed by the entire sound and mood of a song and it takes him a long time to even try to listen to the words and, often, he can't entirely make them out. While I feel this describes me as well, it seems like I manage to pick the lyrics up as well and, before I know it, they are saved in my long term memory cells and I find myself thinking about them, analyzing the phrasing and how they compliment the music. I assumed everyone did this until Fred told me he didn't.

I am a word person and I have been for as long as I can remember.

I wasn't alone in my huge identification with The Go-Go's. In addition to being one of the first New Wave bands to make it big, they were huge at the school I attended for fourth and sixth grades. There was a group of older girls who would choreograph dances to the songs and would perform them at the talent shows, decked out in early eighties new wave fashion, and, in a way, a lot of us wanted to emulate them imitating the band as much as we wanted to emulate the band members themselves.

So when I got to sixth grade, there was a group of girls with whom I became friends. I was already a fan of the Go-Go's, as were they, and one of these girls had seen them in concert the previous summer, which, in addition to the strength of her personality, made her the unofficial leader of the group. Each of us had a favorite band member. While Belinda Carlisle had initially been my favorite, the other girls (led by our leader) convinced me I should really like Jane Wiedlin because she had dark hair, like me, and played keyboards (I played piano at the time) as well as guitar. I was impressionable enough that I went along with this and, after reading the liner notes of the records and a few magazine interviews the band did, I was firmly on Team Wiedlin. How could I not love the fact that she (along with Charlotte Caffey) wrote most of the band's songs and, even then, came across like a slightly deranged pixie? If I could be as cool and talented as she was when I grew up, I thought, that would be a million kinds of awesome and, besides, isn't it just so typical and cliche to like the lead singer of a band? (I am pretty sure I did not express this thought to myself in this way as I am almost 100% sure I did not know what the word cliche meant when I was ten, however, I think I did appreciate that liking a more obscure (again, word I did not then know) member of the band implied you were that much more of a fan).

I turned eleven and had a slumber party. There were five of us, so we spent the whole night wearing our Go-Go's t-shirts pretending we were the Go-Go's, each of us playing the instrument and singing along with the albums. The only problem was that the girl in the group whose favorite was Belinda Carlisle didn't know the words to most of the songs (see above observation re: favorite member revealing the depth of one's fandom) so I was Belinda for the night. I was fabulous (in my own mind at least) and I was positive we could have created our own, awesome talent show routine which would rival the older girls. If I had grown up to become a rock star, I would probably reference that moment as my first indication that I could totally command a stage with the sheer force of my personality and my exceptional ability at remembering all the words. However, we know that did not happen, and maybe the why of that is the real lesson to be learned from all this.

Soon after that party, these girls dropped me. This was probably to be expected as group of five cannot work in the long term, people break down into pairs and someone is bound to be the odd man out. Even at the time it made sense that it would be me as I was younger than they were and socially awkward and spazzy and a mess in so many stereotypically adolescent ways, not to mention a mess in so many ways which were completely individual to me. When I think back on those girls, I am not entirely sure why they were my friends in the first place and the most logical answer I can come up with is they needed a fifth person in order to mirror the Go-Go's and once it became clear no one was doing any talent shows, they cut me loose.

I left that school and lost touch with all the girls save one. She and I ended up going to the same schools with one another for the next six years, oftentimes being in the same class with one another. In eighth grade I brought a picture of us from that birthday party to school and everyone expressed surprise at how "young" we looked (two years makes a huge difference when you're thirteen) and she told me that the reason they made me pick Jane Wiedlin as my favorite was because they didn't want me to "be" Belinda Carlisle. Which she didn't have to say as I had already figured that out.

With nearly three decades of hindsight, it is almost laughable how apt a choice it was for me to choose (or have thrust upon me) the person who wrote most of the group's songs, but was not allowed to sing any of them (because if Jane is singing the song, what would Belinda do?) as my favorite. As an actress I may have dreamt of playing Juliet, but I soon learned I would always be relegated to being the best friend, the character, the smart one, maybe the one who got away because the guy only remembered how awesome she was in retrospect, and there were a number of roles I didn't get because I was deemed to be "too pretty" and, yet, I was obviously too dark, too short, too quirky, too much of a spaz to be the lead as written in most scripts. This didn't stop me from acting, but it did effect the way I viewed my career and my fellow actors. If I had ever joined a band, I am pretty sure I would somehow have been relegated to standing behind the keyboards, mouthing all the words I wrote while someone blonder, cooler, taller, inexplicably more worthy and acceptable sang them. Though this didn't stop me from writing songs, I just wrote and sung them to myself, avoiding the potential for embarrassment of rejection and, even worse, the sting of being told that while the work itself is good enough, I somehow am not.

But there comes a point when one has to just decide to ignore the scars and cut loose the memories which tie one down. Just as Jane wrote and Belinda sang on their first record, there isn't anything or anyone standing in the way and it is high time to throw those cares away. Or to quote another song Jane penned, "I've got no more time for feeling low."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Achin' To Be

Well she's kind of like an artist, sitting on the floor, never finishes, she abandons, never shows a soul-The Replacements

Something which struck both Tracy and I when we read the Patti Smith book was how it sounded so much like us when we were just kids ourselves, but unlike Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, we didn't become critically acclaimed and famous artists when we grew up, we just grew older. I think that is an important part of the book, something which I think Patti Smith understands, that there are a lot of brilliant people in the world whose names we will never know, whose art will remain obscure. In our discussion, I pointed out that we weren't in the center of the universe artistically, we were in Portland and Tracy brought up grunge and I said, "yeah, but it isn't like there was a place for artists like us in the grunge scene, we would have been groupies or girlfriends." Not to mention, we were worshipping at the feet of the great god Academia at the time, everything else was considered secondary, shallow, less significant and insubstantial. But more importantly, what I don't think either of us really had was that one person who believed in us more than we believed in ourselves, who prodded us to work when we didn't feel up to it, and who had the marketing and self-promoting skills that we both so sorely lack. Almost all the other actors, writers, choreographers with whom I have collaborated are cursed with the same ambivalence with regards to self-promotion (it feels so arrogant and cheesy) and the same crippling lack of confidence in the work we contribute. Just as the world is filled with artists toiling away in obscurity, there are probably even more who resemble the she of whom Paul Westerberg sings. Twenty years ago, I wouldn't have seen a resemblance between me and the she of the song, in fact, I would have said this would never be me (just as I have said I will not be Kevin Spacey's father with boxes of unread, unpublished stories for my son to stumble upon after my death), but now, I am ashamed because despite all my youthful ambition and all the love and privileges with which I have been blessed, the words ring a little too true. For, I have spent years telling myself I am not any good, telling myself that I am a cliche, just another girl with a journal who wants to be a writer. I have mocked myself for writing poetry, in particular rhyming and metered verse, and self-revelatory essays (though songs never go out of style and memoirs just grow ever more popular), in part because of the aforementioned stereotype. I have indulged in the belief that all the poems, performance pieces, essays, plays I have written do not count, that only fiction writing has value and I will only be worthy when I get a novel published. I have a bunch of stories in my head, but the actual act of writing fiction always seems wrong for me, and I have been telling myself that it is this feeling of wrongness, the hardness of it, which makes it valid, makes it so worthy of pursuit. And it isn't just with words, it is also with visual art. Even as I created, I told myself the work wasn't any good, that I was not a "real artist" and all the photographs and collages and paintings are all are just for me, that no one else would see them as worthwhile (and when someone might compliment my work, I would think they were just being kind, that they didn't really mean it). And what kills me is that it isn't only me, I know so many brilliant writers who no one has read, songwriters whose music is better than most of what is on the radio right now which few will ever hear, actors who will never play the roles they could have remade in their own image, visual artists whose work remains unviewed, so many people struck down by demons inside and out. Robin Hitchcock once sang, "The bastards that destroy our lives are sometimes just ourselves, but mostly, they're invisible."

How do you kill something you can't even see?

Still, as daunting a task as it may be, identifying the beast is the first step towards slaying it. So I am sharpening my sword and polishing my armor and I am riding into battle because no one knows the names of the knights who didn't try to kill the dragon. Invisible or not, I have to at least try, because love this song as I do, it cannot be playing at my funeral.

Swingin' Party

If bein' afraid is a crime, we hang side by side-The Replacements
This song makes me think of college. Not because we were listening to The Replacements a lot at that point, but because this seems to capture the boredom and ambition and waiting for life to start feeling which seems palpable in so many of my memories from that period of time. Wikipedia says the songs on the album Tim are "an assortment of alienated narratives from a motley crew of low-lifes and losers, often tragically unable to function as responsible adults." Which is a pretty apt description of all of us at eighteen. But there is also a sweetness here, like this should be the soundtrack for two girls walking around campus collecting empty beer bottles, ostensibly because one of the girls decided she had a crush on a guy who said he was sleeping on a sofa in the SU and surviving off of the bottle deposits, but mainly because it was something to do on a Friday night. Two short girls in vintage dresses and clunky shoes, giggling about boys between serious discussions about culture and art. Who we hang with is as much a coincidence as it is a choice and the universe knew what it was doing when it conspired to bring Tracy and I together. Because even with the distance of years and geography, even with the responsibilities of family and work, all it takes is a phone call and we are back there, eighteen years old, talking about books and waiting for our lives to begin (it's a good thing we can still fit in the dresses and never threw away the shoes). 

Friday, May 04, 2012

Flying Cats

Years ago, my parents gave me a stuffed animal for Christmas and said something along the lines of, "But you always wanted a cat." I think you can understand why they think I lack a sense of humor.

So I would do this thing with Fred where I would be flying the cat around the room and then, oh no, the cat kamikazes onto Fred's chest. Dive Bomb Kitty. That Fred found this funny probably explains why we are together.

In spite of this similarity to Salvador Dali, I never imagined, in my wildest dreams, there would be a Hello Kitty Airlines.

Clearly, I haven't truly allowed my imagination to bathe in the surreal soup of rainbows, sunshine, and marketing which is the Sanrio Co., Ltd's raison d'etre. Sanrio, your ability to find new and clever ways to sell Kitty White to the world, bathing us in a sugary coating of twee, is truly awe inspiring.

United, American, Delta, Southwest, and the rest of you, just think of the ridiculous fees you could charge people if you did something like this.

It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "Fly the Friendly Skies." (I am sorry, I couldn't resist).

(all photos Reuters/Pichi Chuang)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why I Love Country Music

I wrote about my love for this Lloyd Cole and the Commotions song during our last election cycle, but back then, no one had uploaded videos of him singing the song. This is probably as much a function of these performances not having happened at that time as the technological advances which have turned us all into videographers and documentarians. Now that I have stumbled upon this, I felt the need to revisit the song and, yes,  the line, "What she needs, I don't have, that's not in the hand that I'm holding" packs the same quiet punch it did when I first heard it when I was fifteen. I can't help but wonder what was wrong with me that I identified with songs like this back before I had ever even kissed anyone and that I still identify with songs like this even though I have been happily coupled with the same person for close to two decades. Maybe it is a sort of payment I make for being happy. Maybe there is this other Alison out there who is living a life of sorrow for me and I have to listen to these songs or else she will come and take my place and I will be forced to take hers. Maybe I am just a memory and a YouTube video away from finding myself in an apartment somewhere playing Roy Orbison records till dawn. Or maybe I am reading to much into it and I just like it because it is really good and I have excellent taste.

Of course, it is impossible to watch this video without being struck by how Lloyd Cole has aged. he was always an attractive man, Lloyd Cole, and it is a bit unsettling to see how his aging has taken a similar path as another similarly attractive man from that era, Bruce Campbell. It is a bit uncanny. I am wondering if the two men google one another from time to time ("hey, what's that guy with my face doing these days?"). Also, looking at pictures of these men, I am having that weird sense of "how did these guys get so old when I haven't age one bit?" sense because, in my mind, I am still thirteen.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ignore The Media Frenzy

As a stay at home mom, of course, I have thoughts about the current kerfuffle.

First things first. A liberal pundit and lobbyist, Hilary Rosen, said the following
What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, "Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and, When I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing."

Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of, how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and how do we -- why we worry about their future.
Oh the horror. Or if you are a Republican Party strategist desperate to get everyone to stop noticing how misogynistic your policies are, "Thank you, Hilary Rosen. Unleash the hounds!"

The Romney campaign said that the "choice" to stay home is as valid as the "choice" to work. Ann Romney created a Twitter account so she could respond and go on about how she chose to stay home and raise her children. As someone who "chose" to stay home, I am so irritated that they are turning this into a discussion of "choice" because, for so many women, the decision to continue working after having children is not a choice, it is a financial necessity and for so many women who choose not to work, it is more of a response to financial realities than a desire to stay at home. But by making it about "choice, they get to frame the mommy wars in the stereotypical way sure to inflame the hearts of red state voters: the woman who realizes that she doesn't need a fancy career in order to be fulfilled, she has her kids vs. the feminist who is neglecting her children because she cares more about her career.

Unfortunately, some of my online friends have started to talk about how hard it is to work and raise a family and how much easier stay at home moms have it or have said that, ugh, staying home to raise kids is hard work in a different way, and by engaging in these conversations at all, we are missing the point. It isn't about who works harder or who has it worse. It isn't about whether Ann Romney's lack of work experience influences her ability to understand the issues important to American women. When we start to engage in discussions about whether working mothers or stays at home mothers have it worse or who works harder or whose opinion has more validity, we fall into the trap the Republicans want us to because it is inevitable that people will end up discussing "choice" and slamming someone else's. And we allow the Romney campaign to get us to avoid discussing his proposals and how they will effect women (all women-the ones who work and the ones who don't, the ones with kids and the ones without).

Some people have said that the real issue is that Ann Romney, like her husband, is out of touch with most Americans. While it is tempting to simply dismiss the Romneys as being the Mormon versions of the girl Jarvis Cocker sang about in Common People, we really should avoid the urge. The complete lack of awareness about how the vast majority of people live is not simply a function of Mitt having been born into wealth or Ann having never had a job, and I think it is dangerous to suggest it is. Because we all know wealthy people who were able to step outside the bubble their privilege afforded them and understand the plight of people with far less and did so for reasons other than wanting to get those people's votes. Some women who stay home to raise families volunteer at women's shelters and soup kitchens and tutor low income schoolchildren or spend a lot of their free time reading about injustice and trying to find ways to battle it (cough cough). So let's be honest here, the reason the Romneys don't understand what most of the voters in this country are feeling is because they are not interested in understanding except in so far as it might get us to vote for Mitt in November. In this respect, they are even more annoying and awful than the girl who came from Greece and had a thirst for knowledge.

So as a stay at home mom by choice, I want to know how Mitt Romney's policies help women. I want to know what choices women will have if they are not paid the same as men (and are denied the right to sue employers when this is the case-because that is what not supporting the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act means), have no access to contraception (that is the reality of personhood amendments and allowing employers to have "religious freedom" in what health services they will cover), have no access to affordable health care if they do not receive it through their employers and/or have pre-existing conditions (though he once thought the Massachusetts law should be a model for the rest of the country, that was in another time and place. Mitt Romney says he will repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), and merely must hope that jobs and prosperity trickle down from the small number of people benefiting from the Bush Era tax breaks and the extremely low tax rate on capital gains? It just seems to me that in Mitt Romney's America, the "choice" to stay home may be one more American women will be forced to make, not because they want to, but because there won't be any others for them to make.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trailer Review: Blue Like Jazz

A friend of mine sent me a note asking if I had seen this trailer and how she thought of me because of the Reed connection.

I hadn't, but I went and watched it. So, my review of the movie based upon the trailer: FAIL. I mean, sure, it may be an awesome story and well made and all, but in terms of depicting the college I know, not so much.

So it is based on a book about an Evangelical Christian boy who goes to Reed. According to the Wikipedia page, the author, Donald Miller, audited classes at Reed around the same time I was there. However, the film looks chock full of false assumptions about Reed that many Portlanders have. I don't remember any "Here at REED college" sort of lectures by professors and while the student body is certainly liberal, overall, they are not on the whole so hostile to religion that someone suggesting someone else "get in the closet" with their religion would be a regular experience (I am not suggesting it never happened, just that, overall, people had more important things to worry about than other people's religious views)--sure, there were a few people who were hostile towards Christianity, but only a person with an axe to grind would look at those view and extrapolate that out to the entire community. For example, there was a girl in my Hum 110 conference freshman year who was, according to her roommates, an Evangelical Christian. One of her roommates said she would cry because she knew she would never meet the man she wanted to marry at Reed and why do you go to college if not to meet your spouse? I should mention that her roommate was not a nice person. However, yeah, someone espousing such a viewpoint wouldn't be shunned for being an Evangelical Christian, but for being a dupe of the Patriarchy and naive. I am sure she left thinking Reed was a hateful, evil place, but the reality was just that she had hateful, evil roommates ( an experience which, I can tell you from my own experience, she was not alone in having). So, yeah, I guess I can at least accept the fish out of water aspect of this story.


I guess the thing which bugs me the most is that Reed just isn't all that weird. Sure, Renn Fayre has crazy stuff like popes riding bicycles and naked people painting themselves blue, but that is ONE weekend out of the year. The rest of the time everyone is too busy studying to do that sort of thing. I feel like in their rush to make some modern day, Evangelical Christian Paper Chase*, they failed to include the real thing which makes Reed special, which is the intellectual rigor of the place (and, again, if someone wasn't overly familiar with the school they would just assume it was like every other "good" school in that regard and would focus on the weirdness...um, you would be weird too if you had to read 600 pages a day, but you wouldn't have time to express that weirdness)**. So while a few things, like the Cross Canyon Bridge, make an appearance, for the most part, the college depicted doesn't resemble the one I attended, either physically or intellectually or spiritually.

But those are my thoughts and I freely admit they are based ENTIRELY on 151 seconds of trailer. I could be entirely wrong. What do you think?

*I feel I should note that when I was in high school, I loved The Paper Chase (the movie and the tv show) and I think my sixteen year old self would be geeking out that her college was given such treatment. My sixteen year old self, however, was able to glamorize such things as staying up all night study and talking to people because she hadn't experienced such things for herself. Of course, even then I was a stickler for THE TRUTH (whatever that means) so maybe I would have been shaking my teenage fists at this trailer as well. I doubt it though (because, to be honest, the students in this film look a lot more real and familiar than the sort of college students that graced the films of the eighties).
**So, in this respect, it really was like The Paper Chase. Also, some of us did have our very own Professor Kingsfield, able to inspire terror and awe and intelligence, in the person of Gail Kelly. It never occurred to me before now, but I wonder if she intentionally modeled herself after John Houseman's performance or if that was just a bizarre coincidence.