Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yes kids, in the '80s everyone was doing so much coke that making Pee Wee Herman do an anti-crack PSA--completely in character--seemed like a swell idea.

I'm sorry, I can't take this seriously.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When I was four years old, The Wizard of Oz was my favorite book. Not the actual L. Frank Baum novel—-this picture book adaptation. I couldn’t read yet, but my parents read to me nightly, mostly Dr. Seuss classics like Hop on Pop and Fox in Socks. In fact, I made my mom, dad, and older sister read me those particular titles so often that they memorized them word for word. But the books that intrigued me most at that age were the ones just out of my reach. Although this version of The Wizard of Oz was condensed and simplified for the kiddies, I was just shy of the target age range (5 to 9, as noted on the cover), so there were a lot of words and phrases that went a bit over my head. I loved the pictures, though. The illustrator’s renderings differed quite a bit from the movie; Dorothy looked to be “big kid” of about seven, depicted as a redhead with long pretty braids, apple cheeks, clad in a very girlie frock with black patent leather shoes. At four years old, I assumed the Cowardly Lion was a girl, what with the ribbon in the mane. (I was quite confused when I saw the movie and found out that she was a he.) Scarecrow and Tin Man looked pretty feminine as well in the pictures (and now that I’ve shed my innocence, downright gay), but it’s all good. It was a great adaptation and the illustrations were amazing.

I don’t have this book anymore. My mom is the opposite of a hoarder; her mindset is “if you haven’t used it in a year, it’s going in the donation/trash pile.” Thus, I own very few of the childhood toys and books that I loved as a kid. It’s the books I miss the most. After a lot of searching, I managed to locate a copy on abebooks. I’m ordering it, dammit. I deserve it.

Childhood is calling.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New post coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy this filler...

More spam! Yay!

The malice is of evanescent nature, born of narrow escape. There are
some shops, respectable if not imposing, and a goodly supply of inns; a
fine church and a notable old Cornish manor-house. But all the time one
has a sense that the real life of the place is the river behind these
houses; even the leisurely little railway station does not seem of much
consequence, though it acts as a feeder of the boats that busily ply
here. Quite obviously this is no resort of mere pleasure, and it is all
the more pleasurable for that; it has set itself to live sturdily, not troubling to attract the idler and the luxurious. Fowey is not altogether content to repose on its
memories, though these are great. Generations of those who laboured on deep waters
have nestled in these riverside homesteads, these nooks and corners and
precipitous byways; they were lusty fighters and dauntless smugglers; they rose for
their old faith, they fought loyally for their king, and they molested
his enemies when he was at peace with them. In general they were a tough
and independent lot, with a considerable scorn of those who
live "in England"--that is to say, beyond the Tamar;
and to this day an Englishman from the shires is very much of a
foreigner with them.

Favorite part: "...they were lusty fighters and dauntless smugglers; they rose for their old faith, they fought loyally for their king, and they molested his enemies when he was at peace with them."

If only I could get someone to molest my enemies.

Not that I have any.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Music videos That Scared the Shit Out of Me

A companion article to the popular feature
Shit That I Didn't Get (1980's Kid Edition)

Greetings, modern 8-year-olds! Does Lady GaGa frighten you? With the whole alien-hooker image, buttloads of space glitter and upsetting shoulder pads, I can see how she may creep out the average second-grader.

Let me tell you something though, kids: I came up in the seventies and eighties. You don't know from creepy.

Take a look at what I had to deal with:

Split Enz
"Dirty Creature"

I love Split Enz. Not as much as I love Crowded House, mind you, but as far as I'm concerned, early-80's quirky new wave kiwi pop doesn't get any better than these guys. They were awesome. "Message To My Girl" is one of my favorite sorta-love songs ever. And when I saw The Finn Brothers for the first time in 2004, Tim's goofy, spastic rendition of "I See Red" gave me a new appreciation for a song that until then was my least favorite of the Enz tunes. And speaking of Tim, I've met him. Yes I have. Twice! In fact, the second time I met him (after the Finn Brothers show at the Vogue, the one I attended with the great Marcus Waye), Tim gave even gave me a once-over and an approving "how you doin'?" smile and nod. Okay, it doesn't sound that impressive on paper. But trust me, we shared a moment. You had to be there.

It's funny now to think that back in 1982, when I was an impressionable 8-year-old watching MTV with my older sister in the basement of our beloved house on Sherman Drive, I wasn't at all charmed by Tim and the boys. Honestly, their video for "Dirty Creature" scared the holy hell out of me. The whole clip is creepy, but the worst part happens around the 2:35 mark, when the titular dirty creature leaps out of the water and beheads Tim with a giant sword. Yep, lops his melon right off. Sure, now it looks like a cheap editing trick in a low-budget music video. But to a sheltered 8-year-old who was severely spooked by the jerky stop-motion special effects in Clash of the Titans, the sight of some poor guy being decapitated by a cloaked figure (and Tim's eyes are still open when his head hits the ground! TIM'S EYES ARE STILL OPEN!), it was the most disturbing thing I'd ever witnessed.

My 8-year-old self would never have guessed that over twenty years later, I would one day flirt with this man. She also would have been surprised to learn that I didn't marry Ricky Schroder and go on to become a world famous horse trainer.

"Stone Cold"

This was another video that conjures memories of hanging with my older sister. I remember parking myself next to her on the basement couch, watching MTV, munching potato chips and drinking Welch's grape juice (no soda in our house!) while she gabbed on the phone to her friends. Then this video by Rainbow--one of Ronnie James Dio's many bands, as it turns out--came on. I remember staring at the chick in the video. Something about her wasn't quite right. I turned to my sister and asked "What's wrong with that lady's face?" My sister looked up, squinted at the TV screen, and replied, "Nothing, she's just ugly." She then went back to her phone conversation, which was probably with her friend Kathy K. from down the street, and was probably about the new Police album or one of the bitchy cheerleaders at her high school.

Luckily this video was on heavy rotation on MTV, so I had another chance to study the ugly girl's face a few days later. That's when I realized that it wasn't her face that was so revolting: she was wearing a clear plastic mask, the kind bad guys in cop shows use to rob banks. The mask was made even more hideous by the make-up artist's decision to paint mascara-ed eyes and pink lips on the mask to crank up the creepiness factor. Ew.

From then on, I hauled ass out of the room any time that video came on. I still find it fairly icky. I mean, what is up with that fucking mask?

Meat Loaf
"You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth"

In fourth grade, I had an insane teacher. Her name was Ms. Beard and she was a neurotic basket case who had no business being anywhere near children. The bitch was nuts.

One time during indoor recess, this girl Shonda got sick and barfed into the trash can. Typical fourth-grade barfing kid chaos ensued: children plugged their noses and made retching sounds, the janitor was called to haul away the trash can and Shonda was quickly ushered down to the nurse's office. When the smoke cleared, Ms. Beard made us sit down at our desks and called the class to order.

She paced in front of the classroom, all pinched-faced and fuming.

"What just happened with Shonda?" she asked us.

We sat in confused silence for a few moments. Then a kid named Kevin raised his hand.

"Um, she puked?" Kevin offered timidly.

Ms. Beard turned the full force of her fury on him.

"NO!" she howled, eyes blazing. "We do NOT use that filthy word." She scanned the rest of the class. "Who knows the right word to use when someone gets sick?"

Another kid raised his hand.

"Uh, is it upchuck?"

Ms. Beard hurled a chalkboard eraser to the floor in disgust.

"NO!" she spat. "That's disgusting, filthy language!"

We cowered in our chairs, hoping she wasn't going to start systematically beating us one by one. You never knew what was going to set her off. The woman was extrordinarily high strung, perpetually angry, and (probably) very sexually frustrated. It was a fucked up class.

Ms. Beard took a deep breath. "When someone is sick," she began, folding her arms, "they do NOT 'throw up.' They do NOT 'puke.' They do NOT 'upchuck.' The word we use," she paused, staring us down, "is regurgitate. That is the only acceptable word. Re-gur-gi-tate."

Really, she actually sounded it out like that.

Then Ms. Beard then launched into a half-hour long rant, raging against TV shows, movies, comic books, video games--pretty much anything that she felt to be filling our heads with perverted, satanic "filth." These included (but were not limited to): Michael Jackson, "Diff'rent Strokes," Casey Kasem's Top 40, break dancing, "moonwalking," parachute pants, "Star Wars," Cyndi Lauper, "The A-Team," the band KISS, Batman, Spiderman, cable TV, MTV, Pac-Man, Centipede, and--for some damn reason--the C.S. Lewis "Narnia" books.

I'm guessing that most of us blew her off. I know I sure as hell did. As scary as Ms. Beard was, she was still just another clueless, deeply uncool authority figure. Plus, I couldn't trust someone hated everything that made being a kid in 1984 enjoyable. I mean, come on, what did she have against Casey Kasem? Sure, he was a bit weird looking, but perverted? And how could MTV be satanic? Was Martha Quinn satanic? Was Alan Hunter satanic? They were about as satanic as Ms. Beard's twisted self-righteousness.

Fuck Ms. Beard, I thought. I was an impressionable kid, but I still knew bullshit when I smelled it. And she was full of it.

A few weeks later I was at home, sick with the flu (probably a bug I caught from that puking, upchucking Shonda kid!). I lie on the couch with a tray of 7-up and Saltines, watching MTV, thankful to have a day off school.

Then this video came on.

I didn't know who the hell Meatloaf was. If I'd known he was just some harmless seventies holdover with a tendency toward campy, overblown love ballads, this wouldn't have fazed me. But I was still just a kid, a kid who frequently endured bizarre rants about satanism from a bi-polar 45-year-old vigin who clearly hated children.

And after watching this weird intro where a guy in sillhouette shrieks at a frightened looking girl: "ON A HOT SUMMER NIGHT WILL YOU OFFER YOUR THROAT TO THE WOLF WITH THE RED ROSES?" I have to admit, it made me re-think the whole MTV = Satanic debate.

But then the next video came on, and it was something completely benign by Phil Collins. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Seriously though, what is up with this intro?