Thursday, July 06, 2017

Singing Mountain

It’s not that I’m neglecting this blog; it’s that I’m more often engaged in creative ways that are not writing, and I’m simply using the shell of this blog as a platform to promote these other things.

I started Singing Mountain, a podcast about video game music a few weeks ago. It’s an experiment, and I’m not sure exactly what form it will take. It may change episode to episode, based on my whims and availability, but I can tell you at least that it will always be about why the background music from whatever game you barely remember is actually more important than you might have realized.

I posted the fourth episode of Singing Mountain yesterday. It’s actually a remake, of sorts, of a post that went up here back in 2012. Once I started this thing, I realized that a podcast actually was the better medium through which to tell the story, just because you can exert a little more control over your audience than you can with just text. Topics discussed in this fourth episode include Earthbound, the closet where my mom would hide Christmas presents, The Cars, Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” the actual persistence of memory, the litigiousness of Beatles and, finally, Janet Jackson. It will likely prove to be the exception more than the rule, as far as future episodes go, as this one is also about me. I was interested if I could use this sort of podcast as a means to make creative nonfiction, I guess, and I’m eager to hear what you think of the result.



If you’re interested, you can subscribe to Singing Mountain both on SoundCloud and on iTunes. And if you’re curious, you can also listen to my previous three episodes, which cover Super Mario RPG, the Mega Man series and the work of German composer Chris Huelsbeck.

In case you’re wondering, the logo art uses a slightly re-colored version of the Dragon’s Hole dungeon background art from Seiken Densetsu 3. And please — if you’re so inclined, write me a review on iTunes. As a podcast person, I’m required to ask you that.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

This Used to Be My Carnival of Horrors

It’s America’s birthday today, and what’s more American than baseball?

(This post is only tangentially about baseball.)

The newest episode of We Are Not Young Anymore has Chris and I — plus special guest Michelle! — talking about A League of Their Own, the 1992 baseball movie that asks the question “What if with girls this time?” Listen to the episode at your leisure.



I’m writing this post to tell you about something that got cut out of the final version of the episode, however. You may have noticed that we open and close each episode with MIDI renditions of popular songs. In making the League of Their Own episode, the obvious choice was Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground.” And that’s what I used, in the end, but it took a little bit of searching to find a usable version. It turns out that the most popular MIDI version of this particular song sounds… wrong.

Because this is something the world needs to hear, I’ve made it listenable in video form. Here, take it in.



Around the 13-second mark, it starts sounding like the soundtrack to a horror movie. I’m not sure what’s happening here, exactly. It could just be that this composition was made a long time ago, and the program I’m using to read it today isn’t doing so correctly — or is maybe selecting the wrong instrument to play. However, what I’d prefer to imagine to be the case is that whoever created this rendition really did choose a thudding piano in the style of every old slasher movie where the killer is approaching a victim and death is imminent. They listened to the final version and said, “Yes, this is right. This is good enough to share.” And it’s been kicking around online ever since, making anyone who has reason to download a MIDI version of “This Used to Be My Playground” to get 13 seconds in and then say, “Wait, what the fuck?”

And I like that.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Here, I Fixed the Woodsman from Twin Peaks

Eight episodes into the new season of Twin Peaks, we’ve seen some scary stuff. However, the single most lingering image, for me, nightmare-wise, appeared back in the second installment. It was our first glimpse of the horrifying, soot-covered woodsmen. The camera pans from Matthew Lillard’s character, grief-stricken as he waits in his jail cell, to another one a few doors down, where there’s this man who is painted black, sitting motionless and contorted. Then he vanishes. Then his head floats away like a balloon. No explanation given.

I made a video in case you need a refresher.



Even though the woodsman has appeared again — and done more horrifying things than just vanish — it’s this one that has stuck with me, and I wanted to take the piss out of it. That’s why I acted on the suggestion that it could be greatly improved by the addition of a slide whistle.



It was, in fact.

That’s why I asked Tony (Tony!) to further improve the sequence with voices.

Here is that.



See? Not scary anymore. I fixed it. I think you will agree. You’re welcome.


Not even scary in the slightest.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gayer Than Batman’s Rubber Nipples

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the gay themes in the original Batman movies begin and end with close-ups of nipples and codpieces in Batman & Robin.

You’d be wrong, but I’m forgiving you now.


I decided early on that every time I post a new episode of my podcast, We Are Not Young Anymore, I wouldn’t necessarily post it to this blog, but in the past week, WANYA did a back-to-back twofer of Batman movies and why they’re pretty damn gay. That wasn’t necessarily the goal that Co-host Chris and I had in mind when we decided to talk about them, but that is where the conversation veered. I suppose we should have seen this coming.

First, there’s Batman Returns, which opened in theaters on June 19, 1992 — twenty-five years ago this Monday. In this episode of WANYA, Chris and I talk about how Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters gave Batman Returns the highest snappy comeback-to-dialogue ratio of any of Batman’s cinematic outings. The Penguin works as a gay analogue (as well as a Donald Trump analogue, and yes, I’m as surprised as anyone that it could be both), and then in a WANYA first, my roommate Glen makes a cameo in which he explains how Michelle Pfeiffer’s transformation in the film works as an extended metaphor for coming out, owning your sexuality and using it to defend yourself.



Tuesday marked the twentieth anniversary of the final film in the original series, Batman & Robin. Now, this is a movie that has been talked about a lot, especially since it changed the direction of comic book movies in general but also because it was released around the dawn of internet nerd culture. People really hated Batman & Robin, and I think that dismissal is largely justified because it’s simply not a good film, though I was happy to find that I loved Uma Thurman’s performance as Poison Ivy every bit as much as I did when I was a dopey fifteen-year-old who was still figuring stuff out.

However, a lot of the criticism of Batman & Robin smacks of homophobia, particularly when it’s being discussed by straight nerds who are angry that Joel Schumacher injected homoeroticism into a universe they saw as a sort of hetero safe space. In this episode, we talk about how Schumacher did not, in fact, pull those gay (and gayish) elements out of thin air, and how Thurman was correct in choosing to play Poison Ivy like a drag queen.



If you’ve been listening to our podcast so far, thank you very much for giving us your time and tolerating our dumb voices. I feel like seven episodes in, we’re getting the hang of this whole process, and I’m excited to burn through the 1992 and 1997 summer blockbuster seasons for the next few months. If you use iTunes to listen to podcasts, you can subscribe to We Are Not Young Anymore there. And if you’re really interested in our creative output, please give us a review. It’s helpful for us, and it also give you a chance to point out the ways we might be sucking.

In closing, I suppose I should apologize for not giving the infamous Bat-nipples much discussion at all. I guess we felt like more than enough had been said about them at this point, but it occurs to me now that Schumacher’s explanation about them being inspired by anatomical studies and classical statues seems disingenuous, because shouldn’t have Batgirl have had nipples too?

Friday, June 02, 2017

David Lynch Explains David Lynch (Sorta)

David Lynch doesn’t want me to write this. He didn’t say so, exactly, and I have no personal relationship with the guy. But over the years, he’s made it clear that he does not want to explain his work — and he’d rather you and I didn’t attempt a single, encompassing explanation for it either.

“When something is abstract, the abstraction is hard to put into words, unless you’re a poet,” he told an audience during a 2007 Q&A that might mark David Lynch at his most self-explanatory. “But these [are] ideas you somehow know, and cinema is a language that can say abstractions. I love stories, but I love stories that hold abstractions. And cinema can say these difficult-to-say-in-words things.” Lynch goes on to say that he often doesn’t understand the meaning of his ideas, and he didn’t even understand the meaning of Eraserhead, perhaps his most abstract work, when he was making it. But it doesn’t matter, because he’d rather you found an “inner knowingness” — a sort of idiosyncratic translation of his own idiosyncratic system of symbols.

All that said, I think Lynch lets on more than some people might guess. Perhaps as a result of him opening up his unconscious mind and letting all that mind goop flow out uninhibited, he’s revealing more substantial, meaty bits than even he may realize. Now, I’m aware of the arrogance involved in taking an artist’s work and claiming to perceive his or her true intent, especially when you haven’t asked about it directly, so I’m simply going to leave this here with the following note: “Hey, isn’t this a neat way to look at David Lynch’s work?”

My thesis is this: In several works, David Lynch would seem to be suggesting a critique on interpretation, and in each of them he does this using the metaphor of a performance or other such viewed entertainment.

Lil the Dancing Girl

My first example of this is a brief scene from Fire Walk With Me, in which regional FBI director Gordon Dole (Lynch himself) greets Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak). Rather than explain the specifics of the case for which Desmond has flown to Oregon to investigate, Lynch introduces Lil (Kimberly Ann Cole), his “mother’s sister’s girl,” who performs a bizarre dance.



Later, Desmond and Agent Stanley (Keifer Sutherland) are driving away, and Stanley asks what was up with Lil. Without hesitation, Desmond explains away each unusual facet of Lil’s appearance and dance as meaning something important to the case.
  • Lil’s sour face = problems with local authorities
  • Lil’s blinking eyes = “trouble higher up”
  • Lil keeping one hand in her pocket = authorities hiding something
  • Lil’s other hand being clenched = authorities would be belligerent
  • Lil walking in place = legwork
  • Cole’s reference to Lil being his “mother’s sister’s girl” and placing four fingers over his face = the sheriff’s uncle is in federal prison
  • Lil’s dress being tailored = a code for drugs
  • Lil wearing a blue rose pinned to her dress = “I can’t tell you about that” (and indeed, in the new series, we are still left wondering exactly what the blue rose might signify)
Even in the world of Twin Peaks, it seems improbable that Desmond was able to interpret all these things so quickly and clearly. I suppose it’s possible that Cole might have instructed him in his own personal language of signs, but I think it’s maybe also true that Lynch is having some fun with the viewer, especially the type of viewer who watched and re-watched the original series and attempted to read meaning into every loose end, every abstract detail. In the absurd world of the show, every aspect of Lil’s dance does mean something — and, in the end, most of what Desmond deduces from the dance turns out to be correct, it should be noted. And while this moves the plot along, I also think Lynch is perhaps making a joke about the way some people might scrutinize every little detail as opposed to taking in the whole of a given work, more like you’d take in a painting, less like you’d take in a traditional narrative.

No Hay Banda

I feel like Lynch could be making a similar comment with the Club Silencio scene in Mulholland Drive. Whereas Lil’s dance comprises only a small part of Fire Walk With Me, the Club Silencio sequence may be the most pivotal in all of Mulholland Drive. And whereas I think the Lil scene is mostly meant as a joke, I think Lynch is talking the idea a bit further and saying, “No, don’t do this. Instead, do this.”



A quick and dirty recap: Betty (Naomi Watts) and Rita (Laura Elena Harring) attend a late-night show at jazz club where they are repeatedly made to watch performances then are reminded that the thing they think they’re seeing is not actually happening. The host (Richard Green, credited as “The Magician”) keeps introducing different instruments and then telling the audience that there is no such instrument, no actual band, no orchestra. Betty and everyone else is only hearing a recording, no matter how real it may seem. Eventually the host vanishes, and Rebekeh Del Rio (credited as herself) steps onstage to sing a Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” Midway through the song, she collapses, yet the song continues. It’s implied that she was only lip-syncing.

Again, I’ve always interpreted this as David Lynch’s way of telling the audience not to get hung up on the details. Just as it’s absurdist comedy for Agent Desmond to read such specific details into Lil’s dance, the Club Silencio sequence discourages you from thinking that the bare components of the performance — the one Betty is watching onstage, the movie you are watching in real life — should be taken at anything more than face value. Betty and Rita don’t follow this advice, however; they are both moved to tears by “Llorando,” and at one point Betty starts shaking violently, maybe as a result of intense emotion she’s feeling. In fact, when they arrive back home after the show, both cease to exist, and the movie enters its bizarre, plot-bending final third.

There’s a lot more to consider in this scene. Perhaps most notably is one of the film’s final images: the blue-haired woman watching from the opera box speaking the word “silencio” one last time. It’s been theorized in various analyses that this could either represent “Quiet in the theater,” because you’re about to begin the “real” performance of piecing together your own interpretation of Mulholland Drive, or “Quiet on the set,” because you’re about to begin making the “real” movie of living your life. We don’t know, even all these years later. It’s worth mentioning, I feel, that the DVD printing of Mulholland Drive includes ten clues to unlock the film’s mystery, but I’m not sure they would lead anyone to any singular, concrete understanding. I think Lynch wants us to sit with it, think about it, consider and then re-consider it. This should not be a thing that is quickly processed.

Tracey Has Two Lattes

tracey sam twin peaks glass box scene

And then we have the new Twin Peaks. Probably the most talked-about scene from the four episodes occurred in the first episode. It features two characters, Tracey Barbarato (Madeline Zima) and Sam Colby (Benjamin Rosenfield) in New York, in a strange, living room-like setup situated around a mysterious glass box.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Any Workout Video Can Be Pornography, I Guess

I just this week realized that I neglected to post and share a video I made late last year. It’s nothing major—just a silly thing I cranked out while at home for the holidays. I strung together a bunch of vintage workout clips and then paired them with the theme to the Dario Argento slasher movie Tenebre.



The song may be more familiar to you as “Phantom,” a remake by Justice.

I’d intended to use this footage as part of my horror movie video project, but in the end that veered in a different direction, and I didn’t have a place for this. In any case, I think the idea came to me while working out at the gym and watching one of the TVs play an episode of Bones in which this poor guy was reduced down to the smallest possible human fragments. Something about exercising my own body while being confronted by the inevitable conclusion of all human bodies seemed funny, so here you go: slasher music + workout videos.

In scouring YouTube for any usable footage from the right era and in a high enough resolution, however, I realize I may have included some segments that aren’t actually design to instruct you how to exercise. I think they may actually be gay softcore. You can see the segments at 0:59, 1:30, 1:51 and a lot of other places.

Am I crazy? Or am I revealing more about myself in how I don’t see any eroticism in this and not in any of the footage of women bending and flexing in their leotards? (Guys, I think I might be gay…?)

Here are the original clips in full.



Like, this is basically porn, right? It lacks frontal nudity or actual sex, but it’s designed to titillate more than it is to get the viewer into any kind of physical shape. Right? Aside form erect. Right? Also is it gay, necessarily, or is it just the style of the time, which reads as gay today? I am totally unable to tell.

In trying to identify what these videos might have been called, I did find one more that I hadn’t seen before. It’s exactly as ambiguously gay and porny as the others.



Your input is welcome.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Marion / Marion

I’ll blame Twin Peaks for this. I’ve had doubles on my brain for months now, but at least I’ve managed to make something of it.



Also, I have a bold declaration: I actually like the 1998 remake of Psycho. I don’t think it was necessary, exactly, because the original was no less great in 1998 than it was in 1960, but the Gus Van Sant version makes sense, thematically speaking.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Businesswoman Special

I promise not to use my blog as a means to trick you into listening to my podcast, but I will point out that Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion was released in theaters twenty years ago today, and that a handy way to celebrate this occasion might be to listen to Episode Three of We Are Not Young Anymore.



The process of recording and producing a podcast has been fun, and I think on this third time around, my co-host and I managed to iron out some of the technical kinks from our first two episodes. Also something to think about: Barring Wizard of Oz-style “it was all a dream” twist endings, is Romy & Michele the movie with the longest dream sequence ever?