Friday, July 31, 2015

Talking Heads’ “Popsicle” Should Be Your Omnisexual Summer Pop Anthem

Hey, did you hear about summer? It’s the thing that is happening now! You’re already standing in the middle of it! For the remaining two months, summer is the most likely cause of dampened creases.

This evening, I’d like to recommend one more thing that should be dampening your creases: “Popsicle” by Talking Heads. Yes, you’ve probably heard it before, but have you heard it today? This hour? What other song can transform something as specific as an airport popsicle into a metaphor for the kind of last-minute deviant sex you engage in before you return home to the milky blandness of your wife and children? Here, just listen to it now and think about what sexual act you’d be performing if you knew no one would ever find out.

Fun topics of conversation: How much of this song do you think is about semen? How many other substances would you describe as both “sweet and sticky, running down my hand” and “coconut delight”? What do you think the lyrics are getting at with this “Tootsie roll, hide-y hole” business? Exactly who is wearing those pantyhose, do you suppose? Do you feel differently now about popsicles?

Have a sweet and sticky summer!


Thursday, July 30, 2015

A List of Words That Can Be Rendered Hilarious With One Errant Keystroke

I’m talking beyond public, whose comedic possibilities have already been thoroughly explored.

And yes, for most of these, I learned the hard way, and yes, the first one just yesterday.
  • faces
  • genial
  • trust
  • tuckered
  • named
  • Scotch tape
  • exotic
  • wore
  • ditties
  • wonton
  • hose
  • curt
  • shot
  • shirt
  • snitty
  • shift
  • trump, as a verb or a proper noun
  • discount, which can be tragically but wonderfully turned into discocunt
  • and of course, superheroes, which becomes the obscure but nonetheless evocative word superherpes when you type just one letter incorrectly

On a related note, the adjectival form of the word pus must be avoided in written form at all costs. Also, true story: Once I typed Josie and the Pussycars in a headline. It wasn’t more obscene, strictly speaking, just more surreal in a way that made me wish pussycars were a thing.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Re: Anyone Who Announces on Facebook That They’re Culling Their Friend List

A: Oh my god, did you hear about Tracy?

B: No, what happened?

A: She posted on Facebook that she was going through her friend list and getting rid of people that weren’t real friends and that you should say something if you still wanted to be friends with her.

B: Oh. My. God.

A: I know.

B: I had no idea her Facebook had gotten so bad. Poor Tracy.

A: And this after that thing on Instagram last month too.

B: What happened on Instagram?

A: She posted a photo of her waving goodbye and saying that she had to unfollow a bunch of people because there was just too much in her feed and she couldn’t keep up.

B: Damn, I feel so bad for Tracy. First those felony fraud charges and now this.

A: She’s just having a rough year.

B: But you have to delete people sometimes. My mom posted something a few weeks ago and I was like, “Mom, everyone already saw that last year. You need to stop.” And she was all, “Well, my friends liked it.” And I had to say “Mom, your friends are idiots.”

A: Your mom’s friends are super dumb.

B: So I deleted her, and so now I had to ask my brother to just tag me if Mom posts anything about her diagnosis and it seems important.

A: That’s really smart.

B: Yeah, I also bought this app that automatically unfollows people on Twitter if they haven’t starred or replied to your tweets in the past week, and then it sends a guy to their house to rough them up.

A: Oh my god, I’ve heard of Smackr!

B: So are you going to send Tracy a Facebook message asking to stay on?

A: No, I actually hate her.

B: Yeah, she’s the worst. Let’s never talk about her again.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why My House Wasn’t in a Movie About Fresno

Here is a phone conversation, re-created some artistic license, that happened about a year ago.

Location scout: Do you want your house to be in a movie?

Me: Not really.

Location scout: We’ll pay you!

Me: How m—

Location scout: Not very much though.

Me: Well, no, then. That sounds like a hassle.

Location scout: We’d need you out of there for, like, two days.

Me: But I just moved in.

Location scout: So you’re not used to it yet!

Me: I need to go.

Location scout: But Hollywood magic!

Me: What’s this movie?

Location scout: It’s called Fresno!

Me: Bye.

Shortly after I moved last year, I got a note tacked to my door from a location scout asking if I’d be interested in allowing a crew to film a movie in my house. This was one of the most Los Angeles things that had ever happened to me, and I was tempted. But when I called for details, I said no, ultimately for two reasons. First, just having newly moved in, I wasn’t eager to get displaced from my home. Second, the film was called Fresno and something about the thought of my home being one that could exist in Fresno didn’t sit well. I like my home. I strive for a non-Fresno aesthetic. Being told “Your home could be a place in Fresno” is kind of like being approached about being the subject of a makeover show — “You’re a ‘before,’ and we want to make you an ‘after,’ you shapeless, sad glob.” Only they weren’t actually promising to “after” my house — just highlight its “before”-ness.

Last weekend, nearly a year later, I watched the Outfest screening of the new movie by Jamie Babbit, who directed But I’m a Cheerleader. The film featured Natasha Lyonne, who also starred in Cheerleader, alongside Judy Greer, who starred in every other movie this summer. (Seriously, she’s been in Tomorrowland, Jurassic World and Ant-Man. Can’t help feeling proud for little ol’ Fern Mayo.) It’s a solid indie comedy, and the title is Addicted to Fresno.

The working title, I learned, was Fresno.

In retrospect, I missed out.

Having watched the film, I’d guess that the location scout was looking for one of two homes featured in it: the one that Lyonne and Greer’s characters share or a second where Greer’s character meets one played my Molly Shannon. Greer and Shannon meet up again on the street, in a spot in Atwater Village that’s literally a five-minute walk from where I live. I cross by it everyday, and consequently I get to think about how I missed my chance to experience Hollywood magic in the form of having my walls repainted, having my furniture rearranged and my floors scratched up, to say nothing of having to camp out at a friend’s while a film crew looked at the art on my walls and saying, “Nah, this sucks. Move it out of the shot.”

Good movie, though.

Of course, that title Fresno can and should only belong to one thing: the 1986 Carol Burnett miniseries that made fun of night-time soaps like Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest, that focused on Fresno’s glamorous-but-cutthroat raisin industry and that hinged around the idea that setting a story about glamorous people in Fresno is inherently ridiculous.

The entire four hours of Fresno, I have learned, are available on YouTube, and I’d like to suggest a Fresno-themed movie night if anyone else is down.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

If Everybody Wants You, Why Isn’t Anybody Calling?

Listening to Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” is like being trapped at lunch with a friend who is so focused on criticizing some extraneous person that you begin to wonder about the nature of the obsession. “You’ve been going on and on about this Gloria person. Are you sure you actually don’t like her?” you ask at long last. “I think you’re in love with her.” Your friend puts down her fork. Your insight was not appreciated.

So that, only you can dance to it.

I’ve actually been wondering what Gloria’s deal was for a while now. It’s been eight years since I posted about the strange lyrics on this blog, and it took me until this week to find out why this song exists.

Here’s the story.

The song was initially released in 1979. Sung in Italian by Umberto Tozzi, this version of “Gloria” is a straightforward love song about a man infatuated with a woman who may be imaginary but whom he nonetheless misses “in the air,” “like salt” and “more than the snow melts the sun,” at least according to this translation .

Jonathan King translated the lyrics into English later that same year. Tozzi later re-recorded this version as well.

Eventually Laura Branigan decided she too should record a version, but simply re-using Jonathan King’s translation proved doubly difficult. Had she just kept the subject of the song as is — this alluring woman named Gloria — it would have skewed too sapphic for mainstream pop in the early ’80s. And simply substituting all the references to Gloria with a man named Mario didn’t have the same impact. Thus, Branigan and a collaborator re-wrote “Gloria” as essentially a hate song, with the narrator calling out the subject for living life bigger than she should.

(Note on the Gloria-Mario business: The Wikipedia page on the matter cites People Weekly as the source of this info, but I can’t find the article, and a search of the archives, if that’s the publication it’s trying to refer to, turns up nothing. However, the search did lead me to a 1983 article that refers to Branigan’s gay following as “the AIDS circuit,” and that is certainly something that helps us see where were are as a society now versus thirty years ago.)

The song broke records on the Billboard Top 100, so clearly these creative decisions helped it connect with American audiences, but isn’t that an odd solution to the problem? “We have this catchy song, and we don’t want to our girl to sound like a lesbo, so let’s just have her be obsessively critical about this Gloria bitch?” Lyrics such as “Feel your innocence slipping away / Don’t believe it’s coming back soon” seem intended more to hurt than help, but I suppose constructive criticism hasn’t ever been a big theme in pop music. Of course, today, Branigan would have just covered the song as is, and no one would have blinked an eye about her singing a love song about a woman.

That’s the explanation. In case you’re ever along for the ride, listening to “Gloria” and someone points out how odd the lyrics are, offer them this background, even if it doesn’t completely explain why Gloria is living under an alias. (Spies? Spies!) Personally, I want someone to write Gloria: The Movie and further flesh out the world of sin and scandal that this woman has descended into, a la the movie adaptation of “Ode to Billy Joe.”

And speaking of that, is it strange to anyone else that there’s not been a movie version of “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”? Doy, there totally was a Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia movie.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

In Which Jada Pinkett Gets an Obscene Phone Call

Sometimes your celebration of America begins with poking around online and finding a German-language poster for Scream 2. For a piece of promotional art that came out in the late ’90s, this poster pings all your old movie nostalgia censors. It reminds you of something that would have come out two decades earlier.

Scream 2 German poster Jada Pinkett

You don’t even mind that during the scant few minutes that Jada Pinkett actually appears in Scream 2, she never uses a phone, to say nothing from using an old-fashioned pay phone receiver. And you wonder what aesthetic debate went into the decision to feature Pinkett’s skin as being brown. Of course, her skin actually is brown, and that’s actually an important aspect to the role she plays in Scream 2, what with the discussion with Omar Epps about African-American representation in the horror genre and the general tendency to kill off the black guy first. 

In the poster for the first movie, Drew Barrymore’s face shows up ghostly white.

The American poster for Scream 2 features Pinkett too, but in the same ghostly white as Neve Campbell. (And yeah, in the first version of this post, I assumed that it was Courteney Cox appearing on the left side of the poster before a commenter pointed out that Cox does not have brown eyes. On second look, that is totally Jada Pinkett. I guess the white skin threw me.)

It’s interesting that this German poster, and only this German poster, puts Pinkett front and center in the way Barrymore appeared on the first poster and doesn’t change her skin tone.