Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Tree Bears Deadly Fruit

Things don’t tomorrow travel from my Tumblr to this blog, but I am making an exception for this. Can we talk about the loaded symbolism of this comic book cover for a moment?

On second thought... let’s not.

DC’s Unexpected, May 1972. Cover art by Nick Cardy. Originally posted by Rainy Day Recess.

Also, while on the subject, Unexpected, December 1867. Cover art by Jack Sparling.

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A Scary Horror Movie Scene in Which Nothing Explicitly Scary Happens

If pressed to name the scariest movie scene I’ve ever seen, I’d probably go with one in Lost Highway that introduces Robert Blake’s menacingly grinning character. Lost Highway isn’t technically a horror film, but David Lynch delves into the mystical, otherworldly, soul-shattering stuff often enough that it doesn’t need to be. It’s scary just as a neo-noir art film.

Dario Argento’s 1980 film Inferno features a completely G-rated scene that has always unnerved me and that I would like to offer for your consideration.

Give it a spin. It’s fairly brief.

Some context: Inferno is Argento’s sequel to Suspiria, which pits an American ballerina against a coven of German witches hiding in a dance academy. Much of Inferno concerns American music student Mark Elliot leaving Rome for New York to help his sister, who believes her apartment building may home to a second cluster of witches. The above scene takes place early in the film, before he arrives in New York.

Inferno is not as visually spectacular as Suspiria — and if you don’t know how beautiful the latter movie is, please have a look at this post, which offers a few dozen stills of the movie in all its color-saturated glory — but it has some good scary moments. The classroom scene, however, is the one that has stuck with me most, and for just one reason: It is the movie scene that best re-creates what it’s like to have a dream, at least for the kinds of dreams I have.

I have nightmares every now and then, but more often than not, I have these less outwardly scary dreams in which I’m trapped in a familiar setting where events are unfolding in an unrealistic manner that causes me gradual, increasing concern. The Inferno scene has Mark in an innocuous enough environment, a college lecture hall, but as he listens to the music, it becomes increasingly apparent that something is wrong.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Graveyard Hyperbole

You might suspect a little hyperbole when reading the marker for Mickey Rooney’s resting place in the walls of the new Hollywood Forever mausoleum.

However, just a few slots about Rooney on the mausoleum totem pole-o’-eternal peace is another man, whose chief claim to fame seems to be coin-collecting and whose marker is the ballsiest in the entire graveyard.

It’s hard to read, stretching toward the heavens and above everyone else’s graves, so here’s a close-up look at that text.

Yep, “The Greatest Man the World has been blessed with.” Suck on that, everyone else in Hollywood Forever and also Mickey Rooney. For what it’s worth, it has prompted me to remember this guy... if only for his epitaph.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Appropriate Appositions for Meghan Trainor

Apposition: a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to identify the other in a different way.


Meghan Trainor, that girl you remember from your freshman year English class

Meghan Trainor, your old babysitter

Meghan Trainor, your older brother’s date for junior prom, if you’re remembering correctly

Meghan Trainor, manga enthusiast

Meghan Trainor, someone who subleased from your friend Casey

Meghan Trainor, owner of an excitable dog named Peaches

Meghan Trainor, that girl who did a weird version of “Janie’s Got a Gun” at your middle school talent show

Meghan Trainor, assistant manager

Meghan Trainor, the person from whom you bought a used box spring back in 2006

Meghan Trainor, someone who maybe added the “h” to her first name in a hesitant attempt at a show business name

Meghan Trainor, mother of four

Meghan Trainor, the assistant pastry engineer at that bakery that was opened up a few years back by your mom’s friend, Mrs. Rosen

Meghan Trainor, the one who was trying to start a dace party at the bar last night

Meghan Trainor, fanfictioneer

Meghan Trainor, barrista

Meghan Trainor, barrista

Meghan Trainor, barrista

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Sexy Is Stupid

Maybe you’ve done that exercise where you write or say the same word over and over, around a hundred times or so, until you start to find the word strange. It’s kind of like stumbling over the oddness of words like judicial or comfortable while stoned, only you can do this entirely sober. You’re actually inducing jamais vu, déjà vu’s contrarian stepsister. Whereas déjà vu has you imagining that an unfamiliar thing is familiar, jamais vu tricks you into finding the peculiar in something you’re certain you have experienced before.

I experienced this world recently when I had to complete a writing assignment that had me using and re-using the word sexy. In doing so, I realized two things: for one, I don’t use the word sexy very often, and for another, I hate it.

Not to jump back to getting stoned and talking about words, but have you ever noticed what a weird, stupid word sexy is? It’s just the word sex — you know, doin’ it — plus the adjective suffix -y, meaning “related to” or “associated with” or something thereabouts. So at least etymologically, the word sexy just means sex-ish or sex-related. In practice, this makes the word sound rather odd.

For example:

“Hey, what did you think of Sofia Vergara’s dress at the Golden Globes?”


See how that’s weird? Do you agree with me that it’s odd how this clunky, obvious word won out when English had a wide variety of more poetic words to describe the sexually appealing? (Among them: sultry, fetching, seductive, flashy, dazzling, sensuous, dishy, alluring, beguiling, bewitching, intoxicating, enrapturing, enchanting, charming and foxy. I’m leaving off toothsome no matter what the Merriam-Webster thesaurus says.)

In practice, we use sexy to mean more often “sexually attractive” than “sex-related” or “sex-adjacent,” but even that seems strange to me. In the United States, we have so many hang-ups with sex that we feel awkward saying the word, hence the gradual replacement of sex in the “male or female” sense with the grammatically rooted (and therefore decidedly unsexy) gender. Now we talk about people having gender rather than having sex, just so we don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable by reminding them of the primary process of human reproductive and nighttime-enjoyment. And yet sexy has nonetheless become our go-to for describing visual appeal that it’s even crossed over to a generic sense of “is a thing that is good,” as in “a sexy idea” or “this season’s sexiest new car.” To me, this is baffling.

According to Etymonline, sexy has been in use since 1905 and was first documented as meaning “sexually attractive” in 1923 — in reference to Rudolph Valentino.

For example:

“Well, hey there, Mabel. Did you get an eyeful of Valentino on the beach?”

“I’ll say, Ida. That Rudy’s so swell he makes me think about sex. He’s got it, and by ‘it’ I sure mean sex-relatedness. I could see his sex-parts in those trunks, and I enjoyed that, because of the sex. Peckers!”

Etymonline also notes, however, that in this sense sexy replaced the now-discarded word sexful, which is just the most awful thing ever.

For example:

“I am full of sex. I need to let some out. Interested?”

So yes, there are worse alternatives to sexy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Facial Hair Dysmorphia

My name is Drew, and I feel insecure about my facial hair.

Let me describe for you a cycle that’s been going on for most of my post-pubescent life. Facial hair grows in, and stubble approaches beard status. About a week in, however, I begin to notice imperfections. “Oh, these few hairs don’t lie flat, and it looks patchy over yonder, and hey — have these two sides always been so asymmetrical?” I trim in an attempt to even it out. This maybe lasts a day or so, because when I’m next standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I realize that my attempts to fix the problem only made it worse. Of course, this only prompts me to try again to fix it, and in the end I end up buzzing it all away, back down to stubble, whereupon the cycle begins again.

(And no, clean-shaven is not an option for me. When I shave it off, I think I look like a kid play-acting as a grown-up. It creeps me out.)

Based on that description, you might think I’m critical of facial hair in general, but here’s the thing: I can’t remember the last time I saw some else’s stubble, beard, near-beard or whatever and had anything other than a positive reaction to it. Goatees excepted, I think facial hair better looks better than no facial hair, and I give everyone else a pass that I don’t give myself. At 32 years old, I’m basically good with the way I look and the way my body goes about its processes, but this one in particular I cannot accept. That’s maybe just how most people operate, saving their harshest judgment for themselves, but I’ve gradually become aware of the fact that I focus this harshness specifically on my facial hair.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

With “It” Being Gray Skin and Vision-Obscuring Hair

Gwen Stefani has a new album coming out. This is news that some people will receive enthusiastically, I’d guess. Available data sets lead me to believe it will not significantly affect my life, but I can offer you the following side-by-side.

Am I the only one to see this? It’s the first thing I thought of. And as I keep seeing Stefani’s album cover on social media, it continues to be my only reaction to it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Foul Horror of the Zombie Sandy Duncan

Presented below is the middle third of the Hogan Family episode “Nightmare on Oak Street,” which horrified me and other unknowing youths who had tuned in expecting to see anything other than the zombie Sandy Duncan.

Yes, Jason Bateman also becomes a zombie, but that’s not what lingered with me: It’s the shot of Sandy Duncan’s ghoul face when she lowers the newspaper.

Looking at it now, it’s hardly scarier than any background alien on Star Trek: The Next Generation, or that show that I resented because it meant the end of weekday cartoons and therefore refused to watch. But at the time this episode aired, I was five years old and had never seen anything actually scary. Zombie Sandy Duncan was, at the time, the scariest thing I’d ever seen, and her horrible face became the thing I would absolutely try not to think about when I was in bed, in the dark, all alone. But I would. To this day, I’ve never been able to hear Sandy Duncan’s name without immediately jumping to this mental image.

All this got dredged up for a piece I did for People on the inexplicably scary episodes that classic sitcoms would sometimes do. As an adult, I get it: Writers like to experiment, to meddle in other genres. But I can still remember the stress of being a child, watching Hogan’s Family and wondering why it wasn’t the experience I wanted. I wonder if current family sitcoms are screwing with kids’ heads in a similar fashion.

And then there’s an awkwardness. This episode aired on November 23, 1987. On September 21, 1987, the show introduced Sandy Duncan’s character, who moved in to care for the boys after their mom, Valerie Harper’s character, died in a car accident. That’s what motivated the name change from Valerie to The Hogan Family. Even considering the behind-the-scenes scuffle that prompted Harper to leave a show that was literally named after her, doesn’t it seem odd that they’d follow up the mom’s death so soon after with an episode with walking corpses?

In conclusion and in summary, the theme song to this show is awesome and I never get tired of it and it pops into my head probably once a week, completely unprovoked and I just today found it that it was sung by Roberta Flack.

And to that point, I add only this: the image of “dippity-dooed” serial killer Blair, from the equally confounding slasher movie episode of The Facts of Life.

facts of life slasher movie blair serial killer

Just in case you never revisited it after its original broadcast and need assurance that yes, this is another strange thing that actually happened, and no, you did not make this up.