Monday, July 24, 2017

VHSmas in July

Because nothing should get you into the holiday spirit better than the rapid approach of August, the hottest and least-holiday-filled month of all, here is a Christmas video.



I spent the last two weeks cobbling this together for Drink Special’s Christmas in July event last night at Bar Mattachine in downtown L.A. And while it was cool to see something I’d stitched together projected onto the wall, probably bigger than anything else I’d had a hand in making, I’m also putting the video online, just because a few people have enjoyed my past videos. And who knows? Maybe this will come in handy in a few months, when you’re planning your own holiday party and you want to play some wallpaper video that encourages people to point and say, “Hey, I also remember this thing!”

The Drink Special party had its own soundtrack, so while VHSmas was playing on a loop you couldn’t hear the soundtrack I included with it. That’s okay. The music in the video is really just placeholder music anyway, and I feel like anyone playing this at parties will probably just mute it and put on their own Christmas music instead.

In case you’re wondering, here is a list of the TV shows and movies I included, in order of when each first appears in the montage.

  • The 1964 Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special
  • The Nutcracker Fantasy (read more about this high-octane nightmare fuel here)
  • 1974’s other Rankin/Bass special, The Year Without Santa Claus
  • Gremlins
  • A Muppet Family Christmas
  • Black Christmas (1974 version)
  • A fairly unknown 1984 slasher movie called Don’t Open Till Christmas
  • 1984's Christmas Top of the Pops, featuring Baltimora
  • 1977’s The Carpenters at Christmas
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special
  • The “Tendo Family Christmas Scramble” episode of Ranma 1/2
  • The finale to Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  • Ann-Marget on an unidentified Christmas special from 1981
  • The Joan Collins sequence from the 1972 Tales From the Crypt movie
  • The video for “Christmas in Hollis,” by Run–D.M.C.
  • The video for “Last Christmas” by Wham
  • “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” the show’s original Christmas special
  • “Christmas at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • “The Bird! The Bird!” — the premiere episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • Sailor Moon S: The Movie
  • Scrooged
  • White Christmas
  • An amazing Philip Morris video about marketing cigarettes that I think I passed off as Christmassy well enough
  • The Solid Gold Christmas specials from 1983 and 1985
  • He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Babes in Toyland (1986 version)
  • Batman Returns
  • The video for the original version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
  • Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas (1977)
  • The 1989 Christian Lacroix fall-winter fashion show
  • Profondo Rosso
  • Die Hard
  • The Snowman (1982)
  • This 1951 Russian cartoon that may or may not be an adaptation of The Night Before Christmas
  • Christmas Comes to Pac-Land (1982)
  • “Koopa Klaus,” the Christmas episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super
  • “Miracle at the Teen Club,” the Beverly Hills Teens Christmas special
  • “Christmas Memories,” the holiday special for Heathcliff and the Cadillac Cats
  • A Christmas Story
  • A 1980 clip of Kate Bush performing a Christmas version of “Babooshka”
  • The video for Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love,” which it should be noted was originally written as a Christmas song
  • The Christmas Toy (1986)
  • A Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987)

(Sorry, no ALF.)

I’m not listing all the commercials separately because there are simply too many of them and I found them all in these treasure trove YouTube clips of old broadcast commercials broadcast around the holidays. But ask if there’s something you want identified. And feel free to use this montage as you will.


Previous videos:

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?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

1984’s Best Song About Being Ejaculated Upon

Here, please watch the video for Vanity’s 1984 pop song “Pretty Mess,” which is not just sexual in nature but unusually specific in the type of sex it seems to be celebrating. Have a look and listen for yourself.



“Pretty Mess” is not a good song, exactly, but you have to admit it’s efficient in communicating its message. if there were any doubts about what Vanity is singing about, those would be tidily removed by the video, which manages at least six metaphors for genitalia and the substances that come out of genitalia. These metaphors are as follows:
  • at 1:06, Vanity getting showered in white feathers
  • at 1:26, the female bartender dripping honey all over the counter
  • at 2:04, Vanity getting showered with champagne that’s gushing out of the bottle
  • at 2:37, Vanity attempting to catch a white throw pillow (and notably failing to catch it)
  • at 3:02, Vanity dancing at the rear of a long, arguably flesh-colored hallway while singing “and then he found a hallway that went all the way”
  • at 3:08, Vanity and her male companion getting showered in white confetti
And that list excludes the references made in the lyrics but not accompanied by a visual metaphor: “boiling like a kettle,” “dripping like a hot tea” and the strange line “he pulled a seam and it went all the way,” in which Vanity runs the “and” into the “seam” so it kind of sounds like she’s saying “semen.”

I’d imagine that if you were in your car listening to the radio during the few weeks “Pretty Mess” would have been getting airplay back in 1984 and you were just hearing the lyrics, you might ask yourself, “Wait, is she singing about getting jizzed on?” But if you were watching the video, the message would be clear: Yes, she really is singing about getting jizzed on. I liken it to Grace Jones’ 1981 track “Pull Up to the Bumper,” which seems like it’s about having sex with a guy with a big black dick but which Jones herself insists is not the case. It’s maybe even funnier for Jones to pretend that she just made a song about parking a car, but the video at least keeps it ambiguous: It’s just Grace Jones dancing onstage, superimposed on images of traffic.

Not that there’s anything wrong with writing and performing a song about getting ejaculated upon, I suppose.

People who have been reading this blog for a while might remember that I wrote about “Pretty Mess” before. However, since that posting, the video disappeared from the internet. I’m posting this today because I finally found the video again but also because looking back on the original post, I hate the way I talked about this song. The post title was “‘Pretty Mess’ Is a Filthy Song for Prostitutes,” and I was implying that Vanity shouldn’t have made this song. If I thought this back then, I no longer think so now. I love that she made this song, bad as it is, and I think we can celebrate it in the context of “Wow, can you believe this song got made? Can you believe she got away with this video?” And it’s all the more notable when you consider that “Pretty Mess” was Vanity’s first solo single after dropping out of Vanity 6, the girl group assembled by Prince and the group responsible for the 1982 hit “Nasty Girl.” As Prince was wont to do, he gave Vanity her stage name, though it the context of this song, it’s notable to point out that she told People in 1984 that he initially wanted to dub her “Vagina.” Even considering how forthright sexuality was a part of Vanity’s persona since the beginning of her music career, “Pretty Mess” still seems remarkable in how blatantly it discusses the matter at hand. (Or you know, at other body parts.)

So please, pop singers of the future, if you feel inclined to write further songs about being ejaculated upon, feel free to do so. It doesn’t seem like a tall order to make a jizz-positive song that’s better than this one.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Duckface Revisited

A few years back I wrote a post that I think of as the “Duckface, Drew Mackie” post. Some of you do as well. In fact, more often than you’d expect, I get people arriving at my blog by searching for the term “duckface drew mackie.” It’s funny enough, this original post. The long and short of it was that I accidentally signed an email “Duckface, Drew Mackie” rather than “Thanks, Drew Mackie,” and then I further embarrassed myself in the presence of this person in ways that indicate that I shouldn’t use email anymore. In any case, both posts featured a screengrab of Walter “Duckface” Berman, Stephanie’s nerdy classmate on Full House, because that was the obvious visual aid to use.

Because the internet is weird and unpredictable, that image took off, and a lot of other people have subsequently used it on other platforms and linked back to me or credited me. As a result, I get periodic reminders that yes, that is an image I made and posted. For a few years, it also showed up when you google my name, though I’d like to point out that that is not me. That is the actor Whit Hertford, who would later become the kid that Sam Neill both impresses and terrifies with a raptor claw in Jurassic Park. But as Duckface, as an image that I featured on my blog years ago, he’s just become a persistent part of my internet presence.

Last night, I posted something on Facebook. And it got a reply.





I’m not posting this to brag about a glancing interaction with *the* original Duckface himself, although that totally wasn’t something I had expected would happen yesterday. I’m sharing this little nothing of an anecdote because I want to convey to you how strange it is to be a human being in Los Angeles when you’ve grown up on a steady diet of pop culture, when you primarily interact with the world via the internet and when you realize that you’ve ended up in the same geographic area as most of the bit players from your childhood. It’s strange to encounter an image of a person again and again and maybe disconnect that image from the living, breathing person who appears in it to the point that you forget that he went on to play other roles and also does things independent from an acting career. (You know, like use Facebook in the exact way everyone else does.) And it’s strange to see that person—say, in line at the grocery store or just online on Facebook or maybe Minkus from Boy Meets World gets the last ticket to a show you’re trying to get into, because that is also a thing that happened once—and to have the internal reaction of “Oh! I know you!” only to have that immediately followed by “No, wait. I don’t at all. I’ve just seen you. In fact, I’ve seen you but you haven’t seen me,” and that’s a normal thing because that’s how TV and movies work.

It’s just all weird, when you think about it.



Duckface,
Drew Mackie

Monday, March 27, 2017

I Have Some Questions About Beauty and the Beast

If you are like me, you greeted the trailer for the live action Beauty and the Beast with sentiments along the lines of “Okay, they’re doing this now. This is a thing they are doing.” But then you went and saw it anyway, and its attempt to translate the original story into a kinda-sorta-maybe more realistic world left you with questions you did not have when you saw the animated version. (Never mind that you were nine when you saw the animated version and that your thought processes at the time were more focused on Tiny Toons than anything else.)

Here are those questions, in no particular order.

How many people live in this goddamned castle?

Like, are there just scads of servants-turned-talking furniture laying dormant until it’s time for the “Be Our Guest” number? And are they otherwise allowing most of the talking and moving to be performed by Cogswoth and Lumiere and the other A-list furniture?

Even then, wouldn’t this caste would have to be mostly bedrooms under normal, non-sentiment furniture circumstances?

Doesn’t it seem like someone would have spoken the Beast’s real name at some point?

Like, if I left the theater being fully aware that Belle’s horse was named Philippe, because it’s mentioned several times, shouldn’t I have also heard what the Beast’s name was, pre-curse?

Do you think Belle and the Beast had to go out and buy new housewares after all their stuff reverted back to humans?

Or do you think there was, like, an old set of dishes that the Beast put in storage upon arrival of the sentient dishware?

Would sentient dishes be pleasant to use? Or would that be weird?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to maybe use the old dishes as dishes and not eat food off your friends and coworkers?

Do you think the castle servants developed some really weird fetishes while being used as furniture and housewares and all that?

Do you think that, for example, someone who had been turned into a couch would subsequently feel compelled to make people sit on him for long periods of time?

Why wasn’t there a singing toilet?

If there had been a sentient toilet, do you think Belle would have used him? Or would she have maybe gone to the bathroom outside, just because she felt bad about it?

What if the toilet begged Belle to use him?

What if Belle only found out months into her imprisonment that the toilet was sentient after all, and she was all, “Wait, why didn’t you say anything?”

Why was the singing wardrobe given narcolepsy as a character trait? Is there some connection between wardrobes and sleep disorders that I’m not getting?

What if when the Beast reverted to the human form, Belle broke up with him because it turns out she was only into guys who were covered in hair and had horns?

What if that water buffalo fetish maybe made more sense, seeing how the Beast’s personality is generally terrible?

Wouldn’t Mr. Potts have just gone out and married someone else if he’d forgotten that he had a wife?

Wouldn’t people in town have wondered why they had, for example, clothes and personal effects in their house that didn’t belong to any family member they could remember?

So if the enchantress has crazy magical powers and can distort reality, why is she spending her spare time living like a bag lady?

Not but really—what possible reason could the enchantress have for dressing like she’s homeless and hanging out in a town that is defined by being mundane and provincial? Unless she’s watching the townspeople go about their fake lives and not remembering the loved ones who are trapped in the Beast’s castle and have been transformed into sentient furniture?

Wouldn’t it be a hundred times more interesting to hang out in the castle with all the magical talking furniture?

Wouldn’t it also give her a better perspective on the Beast and how well he’s dealing with the curse that was specifically designed to punish him for his bad behavior?

Wait a fucking minute—if this enchantress is in in the business of punishing people and also hangs out in town, wouldn’t she do something about that asshole Gaston? Like, wouldn’t she use her magic to punish the vain man who treats everyone badly, since doing exactly that is what cursed the Beast and transformed the servants and made the town forget the castle existed and, you know, propelled the whole plot?

Why do you think the writers of this film made the effort to explain away one of the potholes from the first movie—that no one in Belle’s castle seemed to remember that big honkin’ castle that was a day’s horse ride away—but then wrote into the story an enchantress who can control reality but just inexplicably choses to do nothing for almost the entire movie?

And finally (and most importantly), how did this film rob an impressionable young minds of a live-action glimpse at Gaston’s chest hair?


Friday, March 17, 2017

Every Instance of Doubling on Twin Peaks

In mere weeks, we will get new episodes of Twin Peaks. It seems so strange to write that. Like Laura Palmer herself, Twin Peaks burned bright and then died young, and in the twenty-five years since the series finale, the show’s abrupt ending and unsolved cliffhangers have become as much a part of its lore as that backwards-talking little dude and Laura Palmer’s homecoming queen photo.

I recently restarted watching Twin Peaks, and it’s probably the fourth time I’ve watched the whole series in order, pilot episode to Fire Walk With Me. Every time I watch, I am reminded how often David Lynch uses doubling—mirroring, twinning, splitting, repeating or some other sense of turning one thing into two. It’s the most prominent theme on the show, and I thought it might be of interest if I collected every single instance I could think of in one post.

Here, then is that list. (Here, then is that list.)

donna audrey bathroom twin peaks

The title of the show. It’s right there in the name: There are some peaks, and there are two of them. However, the peaks themselves never become a major plot point on the show. Several natural settings do—Owl Cave, Glastonbury Grove and Ghostwood National Forest, to name a few—but no one ever visits the geographical formations that give the town its name. Given that Lynch had initially wanted to call the series Northwest Passage, I’d guess this was his way of saying right from the get-go, “Hey, doubling is going to be a big thing on this show. Pay attention.”

Laura Palmer. She was essentially leading two lives: publicly as the popular good girl and privately as a tortured soul who used sex and drugs to cope with some heinous personal trauma. In that sense, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) was her own evil twin, and this idea gets literalized in the Red Room, where the bad aspect to Laura’s personality manifests as a shrieking demon.

Maddy Ferguson. And then Laura gets twinned again with the arrival of her identical cousin, Maddy, who has dark hair and is older than Laura but nonetheless looks exactly like her, mostly because Sheryl Lee played both roles. Whereas Laura was outgoing and very sexual, Maddy is bookish and a little matronly—or at least until she breaks her glasses and starts acting more like Laura. The relationship comes full circle when Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) murders Maddy, just as he had Laura. It should also be noted that the character’s name is a nod to Scottie Ferguson and Madeleine Elster, the two lead characters in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which was another mystery revolving around doubles and events that repeat.

Cooper and Evil Cooper. In the last episode, Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) flees the Black Lodge, but the person who makes it out is implied to be a possessed, insane version of Cooper. He’s a cackling monster. He is, essentially, an anti-Cooper. One of the “missing pieces” deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me has Annie (Heather Graham) being wheeled into the hospital, where she tells the nurse, “The good Dale is in the Lodge, and he can't leave,” and we’re told one of the main plots of the upcoming series is Dale’s return to Twin Peaks.

Cooper and Windom Earle. In the second season of the show, Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh) is also a sort of anti-Cooper. Earle is Cooper’s former FBI partner, who went mad and who vanished for a period, during which Cooper and Caroline, Earle’s wife, became romantically involved. Earle stabbed them both, killing only Caroline, and then returns to menace Cooper during the show’s second season. Whereas Cooper uses his FBI-honed smarts to help people, Earle uses them to hurt people.

Annie and Caroline. Cooper begins dating Annie shortly after she arrives in town, and she becomes a stand-in for Caroline when Earle kidnaps her at the end of the second season.

Other dueling FBI agents. Yes, there are more than two FBI agents that appear in the series, but Agent Cooper is obviously the most important one. He’s affable and charming, and he quickly embraces all the folksy weirdness of the town of Twin Peaks. Early in the series and shortly after Coop arrives in town, he’s joined by Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), who is prickly and cold. At least initially, Albert rejects everything about the town that Cooper loves. In Fire Walk With Me, Cooper gets a second twin in Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak), a similar-looking FBI agent investigating the death of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley).

Teresa Banks. Essentially a Version 1.0 of Laura Palmer, Teresa is a 17-year-old girl living in Deer Meadow, Oregon. She has a brief sexual relationship with Leland Palmer, who murders her when she attempts to blackmail him. It’s presumable that Leland’s interest in Teresa is sparked at least in part by Teresa’s resemblance to Laura.

ALL THE REVERSE DOPPELGANGERS. I’m unsure if there’s a better term for this sort of relationship, but many of the characters on the show have “weird doubles” that share key elements of their personalities, with other ones significantly tweaked—Bizarro Superman-style but also Bizzaro Seinfeld-style. Often these pairs revolve around a third character with whom they have overlapping ties. I’m grouping them all together in one list.
  • Donna and Audrey. They’re both beautiful brunette high school students who seek to find out who killed Laura. But whereas Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) was Laura’s best friend, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) and Laura were rivals. Donna is a good girl, at least at the outset, and Audrey is a bad girl—again, at least in the beginning of the series. Their respective moral alignments push them down two different paths as they try to find out who killed Laura. Audrey’s path takes her to One Eyed Jack’s, the seedy casino and brothel, while Donna ends up tracing Laura’s Meals on Wheels route. Donna and Audrey’s bond is made even stronger at the end of the second season when it’s revealed that they are actually half-sisters and that Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) is father to both. There’s a Huffington Post article that posits that Donna and Audrey are actually the most prominent of the many doubles: “Onscreen together, they look alike right down to the stage-left flick of their weightless hair-dos; immaculately turned-out, pale as snow, eyes deep and soulful, they are of a type, of a height, and of one appearance.” Also this: “In an early scene, A.H. and D.H. stand side by symmetrical side in a bathroom, discussing Laura’s death—the one who dislikes her, the other her best friend, but both claiming to understand her better than anyone else, and both drawn, mothlike, towards the fiery mystery that is Laura Palmer. Reflected alongside one another in the bathroom mirror, like some human Rorschach test, they are a fourfold image of visual consistency, a doubled doubling that resonates with significance in the eyes of the viewer.” It should be noted that this bathroom is decorated with a red stripe that wraps around the room. At several points, it spikes up into two symmetrical triangles. It’s a representation of the mountains that give the town its name, but in this scene, it’s yet another example of duplication.
  • Laura’s two boyfriends. Yes, Laura was sleeping with half the town, but her two most important relationships are with Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), her public boyfriend, and James (James Marshall), her secret boyfriend. Bobby is brash; James is shy. Bobby is on the football team and seems like an all-American dream but is secretly involved in the town’s drug trade. James wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle but is actually sweet-natured and honest.
  • Bobby’s two girlfriends. Bobby has a secret relationship as well: He was seeing Shelly (Madchen Amick) while he was dating Laura, and this relationship continues after Laura’s death. Laura kept up the pretense of being a good girl high school student while she was doing drugs and associating with criminal elements. Shelly, however, dropped out of high school to marry Leo (Eric Da Re), a criminal, and you could say that she left behind any pretense of her high school life. (We’re led to believe that she would have been in the same class as Bobby, Laura, Donna and the rest, right?) By having an affair with Bobby, who seems to love her, while being married to Leo, who is abusive and does not seem to love her, Shelly also gets her own triangle.
  • James’ two girlfriends. While secretly dating Laura, James falls in love with Donna, though the relationship only progresses once Laura is killed. Later, when Maddy arrives in town, a new love triangle develops around him, Donna and Maddy-as-substitute Laura.
  • Donna’s two boyfriends. At the start of the series, Donna is dating Bobby’s friend Mike (Gary Hershberger), who is a dick but who is also popular. She later starts dating James, who is sweet to her in a way Mike never was.
  • Ed’s two loves. It’s not just the teenagers in this town who have double relationships. Ed (Everett McGill) is married to Nadine (Wendy Robie), for whom he has some affection even though she is a terrible nag and seems mentally unwell. His true love, however, is his high school sweetheart, Norma (Peggy Lipton), who who understands Ed in a way Norma does not. His public relationship with Nadine hinders his private relationship with Norma.
  • Norma’s two loves. Similarly, Norma is married to Hank (Chris Mulkey), an ex-con who lies to Norma about being reformed, but she actually has always loved Ed, who is an honest man. Both Hank and Ed are involved with the unseen elements of Twin Peaks—the former though the Renault brothers’ gang and the latter through the Bookhouse Boys, a secret society that aims to fight for good. In that sense, the Bookhouse Boys are the benevolent version of a criminal gang.
  • Pete, Catheine and Josie. Take your pick about where to start. Pete (Jack Nance) is married to Catherine (Piper Laurie), who doesn’t seem to actually love him, but he has a special fondness for Josie (Joan Chen), who married Catherine’s brother Andrew (Dan O’Herlihy). Catherine hates Josie, both because she suspects her of killing Andrew and because Josie gained control of the Packard family sawmill. The three of them do-si-do until Josie’s death and Andrew’s (real) death.
  • Donna and Ronette. They’re both friends with Laura, but just as Laura had public and private boyfriends, she had Donna for the “good girl” portion of her life and Ronette (Phoebe Augustine) for the “bad girl” portion. In Fire Walk With Me, Laura actively pushes Donna out of the latter part of her life, not wanting her to associate with the elements that she apparently has no problem with Ronette associating with, and as a result it’s Ronette, not Donna, who is with Laura on the night she dies.
  • Lucy’s two boyfriends. Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) loves Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz), who’s a lovable oaf, but she also dates Dick Tremaine (Ian Buchanan), who’s slick and polished but not necessarily nice. Both Andy and Dick are potential fathers to Lucy’s baby, though she eventually decides that Andy should be the father.
  • Donna’s mom and her two men. We never hear the specifics of how and why, but the second season ends with the implication that Eileen Hayward (Mary Jo Deschanel) at one point had a relationship with Ben Horne and that Donna was the result of that union. This is surprising, given that Donna’s mother is essentially a background character beforehand, but also because Donna and Audrey are the same age, seemingly implying that both Mr. Horne and Mrs. Hayward may have been married to their current spouses when Donna was conceived. Nonetheless, Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) seems to have raised Donna as his own, and this makes it easy to contrast the two characters: The doctor is kind and unassuming and dedicated to helping people, while Ben Horne is aggressive and opportunistic and focused on making as much money as possible.


Shelly and Norma. They’re not opposites but parallels; Shelly loves Bobby but is married to Leo, a criminal who doesn’t really love her, while Norma loves Ed but is married to Hank, a criminal who doesn’t love her. They both work at the Double R Diner, and in one episode even discuss how similar their lives are, whereupon they decide to get makeovers that make them look alike as well.

Norma and her mother. Late in the series, Norma’s mother, Vivian (Jane Greer), arrives in town. An undercover food critic critic who writes under a pseudonym, Vivian introduces her new husband Ernie (James Booth), who it turns out is a criminal accomplice of Norma’s husband, Hank. In essence, Norma’s mother also follows in Norma’s footsteps.

Also, it’s called the Double R Diner. We never find out what those Rs stand for.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

We Are Not Young Anymore

Hi. I have an unpleasant speaking voice, but that hasn’t stopped me from taking a single, halting step into the world of podcasts. My friend Chris and I recorded the first episode of We Are Not Young Anymore, a podcast that has us looking at movies we liked during our teens, when we legitimately were young, and seeing how they fare all these years later. The first one up? David Lynch’s Lost Highway, which recently turned twenty years old and which has fared better than I would have expected.

Embed below! The sound quality varies!



Topics discussed include how O.J. Simpson helped influence the film, how it proved prescient regarding co-star Robert Blake, how odd it is that Richard Pryor is the only person of color in the film and how fan’s of Lynch’s work can regard his treatment of Patricia Arquette in this film and of his his female characters in general.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Hey! Help Me Write My Roommate’s IMDb Bio!

There are two things to know. Well, there are three if you didn’t know that I had a roommate. I do. His name is Glen, and he has lived in my spare bedroom for two years now. It’s like The Golden Girls, but we are both Dorothy. Needless to say, it is a platonic partnership. He’s really more of a boarder than anything. Once I paid him in pastries to paint my fence.

Here is a telling photo of what Glen is like.


Regarding the two other things that you need to know, the first thing is that Glen wrote words that are being turned into a movie. Yes, from stupid, lifeless words on a page to a glorious movie with acting and lights and everything. It’s quite magical. The second thing is that Glen’s IMDb page lacks a bio. Because I am a thoughtful and caring person, I have offered to fix this failure by supplying one that is both informative and exciting. This is where you come in. (Yay, you!) I’m not sure which bio is the most exciting and informative, so I want you to read all of them and tell me which one works best.

Here are the bios.

Until age 37, Glen resided in a cabin in the Shadow Hills area of Los Angeles with his identical twin, Ben, rarely communicating with the outside world. Following Ben’s still-unexplained death in 2015, however, Glen emerged with the script to his first feature in hand. Eager to pursue subsequent film efforts, Glen was recently cleared of charges in his brother’s death and is currently awaiting a civil suit filed by his many elderly aunts.

Glen resides in Reseda, California, where he lives with his wife Stefanny and children Mirabella and Miasofia. In addition to screenwriting, he runs a rescue for Christian dogs. One time he saw a blimp. Aged 42.

The inspiration for the movie The Ring, Glen has been writing and drawing since a young age. There have been no survivors so far.

Glen was once bitten by a dog whose owners repeatedly swore that “He never bites people” and “That is SO WEIRD.” Glen later died on a river boat.

Father to Step by Step actress Christine Lakin, Glen has been missing since 1994 and was last seen at a Tastee Freez in Barstow, California. The script for his first produced film was found in his storage unit in a steel case marked “secrets.” His hobbies include/included checkers and Tastee Freez. If you see Glen, please call the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department (909) 387-3545.

Taller than you might expect. Of uncertain origin, possibly toxic.

One time, Glen came over to ride bikes and we rode out to the river and he said I SAW SOMETHING ONCE DO YOU WANT TO SEE??? and so we rode and rode and we went out to this spot by the river and there was this old tree and Glen said one time he was there and there was a dead homeless guy and Marcus dared him to touch the dead homeless guy but he got scared and ran home and anyway the dead homeless guy wasn’t there anymore. Do you think, like the police came and got him? (Hobbies include golf and Netflix.)

Glen is the son of a pioneer researcher in the field of rodent neurology. Glen is a regular human, however, and not the trans-neural equivalent of a human-squirrel homunculus. He was born of a flesh mother, like a regular human would have been, and participates in normal, typical human activities such as driving a car and wearing clothes. Glen’s hobbies include peanuts, walnuts and climbing. Is regular human. Is.

Glen, aged 44, lives in Sylmar, California, and doesn’t know anything about the hikers who went missing, so please don’t ask.

When did I come the closest to capturing Glen? Also how do you submit a bio to IMDb without the permission of the person the bio is about?

EDIT: It should be noted, I suppose, that this is not my first attempt to impose a stronger narrative on my roommate’s life.


I shall not stop. I shall never stop.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

All the Colors of the Night

“No, I don’t know why.”

That’s the response that would probably come first if someone asked me what motivated me to make this new video project. But if I thought about it a little, I might come up with something along the lines of this: “Not that I need a reason, you sniveling jerk, but I feel like a nearly lifelong love of horror movies and weird ’80s music is reason enough.”

That gets pretty much to the point of my second video project, which I’m calling “All the Colors of the Night” and which you can watch in full below.



Heads up: This project contains boobs and butts and some blood, and it’s therefore NSFW, unless your work is cool about typical horror movie fare. If you’re squeamish about violence, know that there’s nothing excessively graphic, but these are horror movies I’m working with, for the most part, so there’s a certain base level of bodily violence that should be expected.

My previous video project came out of nowhere, really, because I’d been pretty much only words up until that point, and while I’m happy I did it, I now feel like it’s mostly a messy and unstructured thing. I felt like I wanted to give it another shot and make something a bit more orderly. You can judge for yourself whether I achieved this. Regardless, I liked wrapping up a bunch of horror movies (and thereabouts) in colorful dressing and setting them to ’80s Euro pop (and thereabouts), and I hope you do too.

A few notes:
  • I tried to make it so it looks good either on a computer monitor or a TV screen. 
  • Please watch the credits.
  • Please watch for patterns.
  • I do acknowledge that the vast majority of characters appearing in this project are white people. I will blame that on the genre as it existed back in the day. I did my best to offer Geretta Geretta prominent placement.
  • I also acknowledge that a disproportionate number of victims of violence in this are female. I will again blame this on the genre as it existed back in the day.
  • I honestly love all of the movies and songs I included in this project, and in case anyone wants to point out that I am essentially using them all without permission, I’d like to clarify that I don’t intend to make a dime off this project and I consider it a remix—just one that blends video and music in a way that doesn’t exist online elsewhere and that does not intend to take the place of the original film or songs.
  • I started this project the day before Halloween and finished it on Valentine’s Day, meaning that the world seems a lot different now than it did beforehand. I will hold back on making any grand metaphors, but I did this because I wanted to try take movies that people might think of as scary or weird or dark and focus on the parts that make them beautiful. You can find nice moments even when things are scary, I guess. 
  • The title comes from a 1972 Edwige Fenech film All the Colors of the Dark, which was released in the U.S. as They’re Coming To Get You and Day of the Maniac. I like my version of the title better.
  • The three through-lines between the first project and the second are, apparently, Dario Argento’s Inferno and Dorine Hollier’s “Tonight! (Crazy Night!)” and the Bollywood version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Regarding that last one, I made a handy ten-minute supercut of it that you can watch here.
  • No, that really is Mia Farrow’s little sister.
  • No, that isn’t actually Shelley Winters.
  • I did actually make a little trailer for this project, and none of it appears in the final project. Watch, if your want, below.



Sunday, February 19, 2017

Thank You for Being a Friend

About a year ago, I interviewed a handful of writers from The Golden Girls about their experiences on the show. The piece did fairly well, mostly because a certain sort of ’80s child will reflexively click on anything Golden Girls-related but also maybe because I got a few good anecdotes out of the writers, including the best Bea Arthur story I’d ever heard. The pieced was published in Frontiers, however, and that magazine has ceased to exist—like, in any form. It’s even gone from the Google cache, weirdly, and the original post now seems to be completely inaccessible.

Because I really liked this piece and because someone recently reached out to me asking if I had a copy of the text, I figure some other people might still like to read it. Here’s the writer’s room oral history piece in its entirety.

St. Olaf and Big Daddy and thereabouts, I guess.

Thank You for Being a Friend — A Golden Girls Oral History

More than 20 years later, the ladies are still sharing cheesecake, still talking life lessons out on the lanai and still making fans laugh. The final episode of The Golden Girls aired May 9, 1992, but thanks to around-the-clock reruns and a devoted fan base, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia have endured in a way other TV characters haven’t. From the show’s first season, The Golden Girls has especially enjoyed popularity among gay audiences. (L.A.’s Golden Girlz Live is perhaps the greatest realization of that popularity—the shining brooch on the Dorothy Zbornak ensemble that is Golden Girls fandom, if you will.)

In honor of the show’s continued success and its unique appeal to gay viewers, Frontiers spoke with some of the show’s writers about what sets the queen of sitcoms apart from the rest. Featured in this interview are Mort Nathan, co-executive producer and writer; Jamie Wooten, producer and writer; Winifred Hervey, co-producer and writer; Stan Zimmerman, writer; and Jeff Duteil, writer of the “Dorothy’s lesbian friend” episode.


Mort Nathan, on starting on the show from day one with writing partner Barry Fanaro: We took the job knowing it would be writing for characters in their 60s, but the actresses were very skeptical. I remember that when we met Bea Arthur, she looked at us and said, “You’ve got to be kidding. How can these children write for us?” I told her, “Bea, give us a month. We’ll figure it out.” She said a month was fair, and then Betty White said, “Not one more day, darling.”

Winifred Hervey: These were ladies who had done Maude and Mary Tyler Moore. Estelle Getty had been on Broadway. These were substantial women, who’d had people like Norman Lear write for them, and they didn’t know that these people who were 25, 26 years old could write for them. But it worked. They got past that and they loved us.

Nathan: These women had a chance at revitalizing their careers, and they wanted to make sure they were in good hands. When my writing partner and I left after four years, though, it was as if we were going off to war. They were very upset. They loved us, and we loved them right back.

Hervey: When it was explained to me in the beginning, I think it was still being called Miami Nice. But the cast — they could have said the show was about anything and I would have signed up just to work with these women. And it was created by Susan Harris, who at the time was one of the brightest comedy writers in Hollywood. She had done Soap and Benson, and to work with Susan and [executive producers] Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, that was a huge honor.

Stan Zimmerman: Casting those four — it was just magic in bottle. I remember back then, we didn’t have computers to look up the ratings. Remember, we didn’t know if it was going to be a hit. We knew it was funny, but you never know. And we wouldn’t know until we got in Monday what the ratings were. And they would say, “We’re No. 15 this week.” And we’d all go crazy. And next week they’d say, “We’re No. 8.” And then it was, “We’re No. 1.” And then it was “We’re No. 1” again.

Nathan: The ladies were happy to be at the top of their craft for a second time. Bea, Betty and Rue McClanahan were all big stars before, but work had gotten sporadic. But Golden Girls made them stars again, and they loved it — not because of their egos but because of the work. Sometimes the shows were three, four, five minutes too long just because the live audience’s laughs were so huge. Those people had such a great time, which means the ladies had such a great time.

Jeffrey Duteil: The show had a huge gay following — and right away, too. I remember getting ready on Saturday nights. We’d go meet friends at the bars or whatever, and while we were getting ready, we’d watch The Golden Girls. A lot of the gay bars back then, even Revolver, would tape the episode and then show it on the screen. A lot of them had viewing parties — even Golden Girls cocktails. And this was back in the first season.

Jamie Wooten, who joined the show with writing partner Marc Cherry in the fifth season: Marc and I watched a lot of television, and Golden Girls was our favorite show. We pitched an idea about Blanche’s dead husband having fathered an illegitimate child. It went well and they asked us to join the staff. It was surreal. We couldn’t believe we got onto our favorite show.

Zimmerman, on joining with writing partner James Berg: We came in and pitched a whole bunch. We were scared to death, and they just said, “No, no, no.” We were literally out the door, and I turned around and said, “What if Rose’s mother comes to visit?” And they were like “And?” I don’t know what I said, but they told us to sit back down. And we wrote it.

Hervey: Writing on the show, I learned a lot about staying true to the characters, leaning the actors’ voices and their strengths. Some people do one-liners really well. Some people do monologues. Like Bea hardly ever did long stories the way Betty, Rue and Estelle did. But I also learned you didn’t always even need to write words; actors like Bea could do a lot with just the lift of an eyebrow and get a laugh with just that.

Zimmerman: If it was [a line for] Bea Arthur, you could just have Rose say something dumb, and then all Dorothy would need to do is give a look. We discovered that all in the first season. We discovered Rose telling her long stories. We just started writing these St. Olaf stories and that became a runner. It was my school in structuring a joke and making sure it comes from the character. You can’t put Rose’s line in Dorothy’s mouth. If you were given lines from the show blind, you could easily say, “That’s Sofia. That’s Rose.” Now so much of TV isn’t written that way, and it’s bland.

Wooten: There was an interesting thing that Witt Thomas did in order to save money. Smaller guest parts were done at the table reads by writers. It was such a thrill. We would sit there and read these parts with the cast, and if you could make one of them laugh? Come on! Who ever gets to do that?

Nathan, on the Emmy-winning script for the “Rose dates a little person” episode: We would come up with ideas that service the character. Rose, for example, was a woman trying to re-establish her life and move forward. We figured that would start with dating. The premise of the show was that people who were 60 or 70 weren’t drastically different from people who were 20 or 30; everyone wants to be happy. We asked what conflict would be interesting for Betty, playing this naïve character, and would put her in an awkward position romantically. And that morphed into Rose going out with a little person, just because that presented her with these additional hurdles.

Duteil: The experiences the characters had, they spoke to people. Everyone says people like it because it reminds them of their own mothers or aunts or whatever, but I think back then, when AIDS was rampant and coming out was still a big deal, the gay community really felt these characters were an extension of their own communities. They were accepting and funny and bitchy. The best fag hags a guy could have. They were accepting.

Hervey: What we would do was we’d put a whole bunch of stuff in there and we’d know we wouldn’t get it all through. We’d put 10 things in, and there’s only one you really want, and in the end you get it. I remember they let us do this joke, and I couldn’t believe it: Blanche was talking about having smuggled a guy into her dormitory at finishing school, and there was a knock at her door and she remembers having politely hello’d with her foot, all up in the air. We thought it was hilarious and it would never get to air, but it did. And it got a huge laugh.

Zimmerman, on the episode where Rose’s mother visits: Bea Arthur’s mother had died two days before we filmed that, and the producers went to her and said they would cancel filming. She said, “Absolutely not.” She came from the theater. The show must go on. But that scene with Estelle, where Sophia thanks Dorothy for treating her like a person and not an old lady — you can see that Bea can’t look her in the eye. And I noticed that, because I knew what was going on. It’s this beautiful moment. I could just feel it between the two of them. It chokes right in her throat, to be there and thinking of your mother. But good actors use what you have, and she was that vulnerable and open.

Hervey: Bea was always my favorite. I left after the third season, and that’s the year she won her Emmy for Best Actress. I was at the ceremony, and after she gave her speech she came over and said, “Winifred, did you hear I mentioned your name, you little twat?” She was mad because I left.

Nathan: TV Guide had done a piece on the show: “The Golden Girls — Is it still as good as it was the first year?” And they asked random people what they thought of the show, and this one housewife said she didn’t think the show was as good and that Bea Arthur’s character wasn’t as interesting. They mentioned her by name — Mrs. Betty Johnson, Sioux Falls, Iowa. So Bea reads this at lunch and then gets on the phone and asks information for this Betty Johnson’s number. And she calls her. And she picks up, this TV Guide woman, and Bea says, “This is Bea Arthur, and I want to talk to you about what you said in TV Guide.” The woman was horrified. She said she was misquoted. “I didn’t mean it. Is it really you? I love the show. I take it back.” And Bea goes, “That’s what I thought. OK, that’s better.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Thurmanniversary

The general consensus among people I talk to on a regular basis was that 2016 felt like one long, drawn-out roller coaster accident that only managed to get louder and more fiery as the months passed by. I agree, and while I think every horrible thing accumulated to overall more stress than I’d experienced in a previous single year, I have to say 2016 also gave me one of the best things to ever happen to me: On February 5, 2016, a seventy-pound bag of hair and grumbles came to live with me. His name is Thurman. His is my dog. And I love him very much.

Behold.



I know it’s trite to say, but as soon as Thurman got here, it seemed like he’d always been here, and it’s hard to imagine life in my house without him, wandering around this place like a little king. That was apparent to me those first few days, when I was supposedly fostering him as opposed to rescuing and adopting him outright. He just quickly and seamlessly folded into the day-to-day, which is all the more remarkable considering how he’s essentially a walking money pit, how he’s irreparably damaged my hardwood floors, and how he’s rendered me a social pariah as a result of unreasonable hostility toward motorcycles, skateboards, strollers, wheelchairs and Caucasian children.

I can, however, make a comparison that illustrates the difference a single year makes. A few days ago, I looked around online to try and find any trace of Thurman’s life with his original owners. The name, after all, came with the dog, and it seems reasonable that they might have posted about him somewhere online before they decided to abandon him. The results gave me three bits of information: 1) Uma Thurman poses with dogs often enough to jack the results; 2) Rachel Bilson also has or had a dog named Thurman; and finally once references to those two actress were eliminated, 3) Thurman’s old adoption profile photo still exists online. Even though it would have been my first glimpse of Thurman, I find this photo hard to look at now, just because he seems sad and underweight and altogether unwell.

For contrast, here below is that photo next to one I took this morning, post-walk.


I think he looks happier, but I’m biased. I’m willing to call it a win, and add to it the reminder that good things can still happen even in times of chaos and strife. This weird animal—Thurman Snowfoot Goldeneyes Snaroo Thurmanski—is one of those.

If you are not yet exhausted by me talking about my dog, hit the jump to see a visual summary of his past year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Saddest Super Mario Fan Art You Will Ever See

Hi.

It’s 2017, and one of the promises I made this new year was to write on my blog more often. It’s more for me than you, because it’s helpful for me to put thoughts into writing and better understand myself, but maybe it’s entertaining for you to gawk at my weird mental processes.

I’ve been going to a therapist for three years now, and more often than not, I end up talking about the way I was—how my childhood shaped the way I operate today. It may not surprise you to find out that I was an introverted kid, to the point that I didn’t have close friendships, and I think I tried to fill that void with TV and books and video games. Often, I’d get more attached to fictional worlds than I was to real ones. I’m still this way to an extent, but until I began talking to my therapist, I’d forgotten how deeply I sunk into all this stuff back in the day.

While I was home for Christmas, I had to clean out boxes of childhood stuff, and this included a lot of drawings I made. Here’s the one that made me want to go back in time and tell seven-year-old me that it was going to be okay.


If you can’t tell, it’s a masterpiece inspired by the first two Super Mario Bros. games. The 34-year-old me has some notes.
  • The scale is all off. Why is the 1-up mushroom so much bigger than everything else?
  • I’m fairly certain that’s Princess Toadstool at the bottom. Why she has a coin on her head and why she’s telling it to leave is beyond me. (I’ll ask my therapist about it.) But the fact that she’s in the foreground—or what would be the foreground, if I understood a damned thing about perspective—is probably telling of a bond that would last long into adulthood.
  • I have no idea why there’s only one Mario brother, why he’s so much smaller than the rest of the characters and why he’s lacking a mustache. Maybe I didn’t like mustaches back then?
  • To the right of Generic Hero Plumber, I appear to have drawn a potion from Super Mario Bros. 2 but have given it a face. Unsure why. Ditto on what would appear to be a hammer and a mushroom block below it.
  • The question mark on the question mark box is backwards. What a fucking idiot I was.
  • I have no idea what the mushroom-like thing in the top-left corner is supposed to be. Because it’s Mario, I’d assume it’s a mushroom, but I think I proved that I could more competently draw those elsewhere in this piece. Anyone?
  • In the center of the piece, I seem to have drawn two Toads—a boy one on the right and girl one on the left, who has long hair and who seems to be taking off her mushroom hat in a vaguely seductive fashion. This is notable because my fanciful she-Toad preceded the introduction of ones in the games by years, though it may be that the Toads could maybe have been intended to be female in the first place.
  • I *think* the small thing immediately below the maybe-mushroom in the top left corner is a female version of the pluckable, chuckable vegetables from Super Mario Bros. 2. And I *think* the thing immediately below it (her?) is a smiling version of the springboards from Super Mario Bros., with a face in the void between the top and bottom halves. Who can say for sure? Again, what an idiot I was.
So that’s the drawing. It’s not all that different from stuff other kids drew out of love of whatever thing they were into, but here’s the part that stung a little bit. There is a piece of lined paper taped to the bottom, and on it I’ve written something strange, albeit in lovely penmanship for a seven-year-old.