Happy Halloween!

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I’m the first one to admit that Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays.  I enjoy giving candy to the little monsters and superheroes and princesses that show up at my front door, but that’s about it.  I don’t dress up anymore (ghost socks don’t really count).  But I like scary things.  Our family went to the Universal Halloween Horror Nights a couple of years ago, and while it was kind of fun (we got to walk right next to the house from Psycho), people dressed up as “creepy” monsters jump at you from behind things just gets old after a while.  That’s not genuinely scary; that’s just getting startled.  A lot.  It’s a little bit like having my cat drop down on my head from the shelves that sit behind my computer chair.  Repeatedly.  Not so much fun.

But really, genuinely scary things–movies, books, songs–can be fun in the right doses.  As a kid, I read the books about haunted houses and ghosts. There’s some Stephen King novels that still make me a little nervous.  And Edgar Allen Poe’s stories freak me out.  I slept with the lights on for a solid week after I saw Blair Witch Project.  The Exorcist and Paranormal Activity are good spooky fun.  And I’ll never forget the feeling I got after I watched The Ring on cable and the phone rang.  (It was my dad, I think.)  That’s fun.  You know it’s not real, but you still can’t help looking over your shoulder, just in case.  I’m still spooked by the classic creepy household things: dark corners and unexpected noises . . . mirrors at night . . . rocking chairs.  Closets must be kept closed at all times (that’s practical, too; keeps the cats out).  Curtains and blinds stay shut after sunset.  Just in case, you know.

I love a good ghost story.  One of my personal favorites is the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.  It’s not scary (although when I was a kid, there were these screaming heads that jumped out from behind everything; I hated them), but it is fun.  Some of the best F/X in the park.  It’s hard to find good video of it, though, because it’s so dark (this was pretty much the best one I found, because it uses a track from an album about the ride as narration).  But it’s one of the best rides in the park, full of fun and music.  So hop in a Doom Buggy and enjoy the ride.

“Bonnie and Clyde ’97”

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This might seem like a strange song to post in response to Meizac’s posts here, here, and here.  But bear with me a moment.  Meizac, who is strong and smart and has two of the most beautiful children ever, got me thinking today.  About how quickly a woman can go from being safe and happy to in danger.

I’ve never been the victim of domestic or sexual violence.  But I know how lucky I am to be in that category.  I know just how many women are.  And I know that there are people out there think that there’s no such thing as rape or abuse against women.  A lot of them seem to be Republicans running for office in this country.  They probably think it would be great if we went back to the good old days when women just took care of the house and the kids and their obviously superior men.  There’s plenty of people out there who seem to believe that a woman’s duty is to shut up and do whatever any man tells her to do.  That it’s god’s will that women are inferior to men.  That a man who beats a woman is just doing what he has to do to put her in her place.

Those people are wrong.  And those kinds of attitudes allow criminals to go free.  It’s said that 1 out of every 4 women will be the victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes, but virtually everyone seems to think those numbers should be higher.  So many of these crimes go unreported because of the shame and stigma and the dark ages attitude that says she must have been asking for it.  Don’t even get me started on this case here in California.  I am aghast at the things being said about and done to women.  With all the attempted and successful legislative assaults on women in the United States today, I am starting to feel a little freaked out.

That’s where Tori Amos’ cover of Eminiem’s “Bonnie and Clyde ’97” comes in.

This is the scariest song I’ve ever heard.  Amos takes all of the hate and misogyny that Eminiem thinks it’s okay to spew and turns it around.  She doesn’t scream or add ominous bass and guitar.  She very, very quietly exposes this song for what it is: a small-minded angry man advocating the murder of women.  You don’t like that she’s leaving you for another man?  That’s okay.  You were probably justified.  I am terrified every time I hear this, which is why I don’t listen to it a whole lot.

For the record, Eminiem has never killed a woman, or anyone else for that matter.  He might be a misogynistic freak, but he’s never gone that far.  But the fact that this song exists, and that somewhere out there some kid is going to hear it and think that this is an appropriate response, is something that makes my blood run cold.  It doesn’t take much to make a woman afraid.  A crowd of men laughing too loudly and staring too pointedly.  A dark parking lot.  A drunken boyfriend with a bad temper.  A song.

Read Meizac’s wonderful posts.  Her anger is so much more eloquent than mine.

“Que Sera Sera”

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I’m feeling philosophical today.  I’m trying for a different job at the community college I got laid off from a year and a half ago, and I’m going to put out another application or two in the next couple of days.  I like my current gig of online tutoring, but it pays bupkus, and frankly, working from home is weirder than I thought it would be.  It’s starting to eat into my leisure computer time.

But a job is a job, so I can’t complain too hard.  And if I get another job, maybe I’ll keep this online tutoring but do only a few hours a week.  I don’t know.  There’s always so much uncertainty in the world, so much uncertainty in one life.  When I was in school studying Literature, I found myself most drawn to the Modernists of the early 20th century, writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf and John Dos Passos.  The world changed so much during the first 30 years of the 20th century.  Between wars and economic meltdowns, no one knew what to make of anything anymore; so many authors turned to within, trying to find a way to articulate the minds’ “stream of consciousness.”  Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was turning the scientific community on its head.  Art was taking a turn for the Cubist and Surreal.  And folks were beginning to accept that maybe that crazy Freud guy was right about the conscious and subconscious, and the fact that maybe we didn’t always have complete control of our actions.  (The conscious and subconscious was just about the only thing Freud got right, as far as I’m concerned.)

Needless to say, I have a pretty high tolerance for ambiguity.  Sure, I like my routines and ruts, but that’s probably just my mild OCD talking.  But my life of the mind has always been willing to see everything in shades of gray (way more than fifty, too).  I’m learning to apply that tolerance to my physical life, but it’s not easy.  It’s hard to roll with the punches when you’re not sure you have a paycheck coming in.  It isn’t easy to shrug your shoulders and say, “That’s the way it goes” when your family is in pain.  I’m pretty damn lucky in that I have a roof and food and medical care if I need it, but that doesn’t mean life is always easy.

I became familiar with “Que Sera Sera” through Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.  But Sly and the Family Stone’s version is grittier.  (BTW, thanks for the suggestion, Sandee.)  They turn it into a slow blues burner, filled with the resignation that “whatever will be, will be” probably isn’t going to turn out too well.

But there’s hope here, too.  Things might be bad, but it just might turn around.  That’s what makes the best Blues so good.  Life isn’t written in stone, and thank goodness for that.  Tomorrow, you might find $20 dollars on the sidewalk.  Tomorrow, you might get a call or an email from a friend you haven’t seen for too long.  Tomorrow, you might learn that you got that job.  Or you might lose your favorite hat, forget your umbrella and get soaked on the way to work.  Whatever will be, will be.

“Kickstart My Heart”

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Special Announcement!  The winners of my format change poll are: 1st–Freaky Fridays and 2nd–Live/Concerts/Documentary and Gone to the Movies/As Seen on TV (tie).  I’ll start with Freaky Fridays this week, and incorporate the other two as a rotating feature, either on Wednesdays or Thursdays, this week or the week after.  Thanks to everyone who voted, and remember I’m always open to suggestion.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Motley Crue (sorry, still haven’t figured out accents and umlauts) got their start in L.A./Hollywood, so I imagine having them play at The Whiskey again was a real treat for their fans.  They were at the forefront of the hair metal scene in the early 80s–complete with spandex, eyeliner, and Aquanet.  (Before CFCs got banned, aerosol Aquanet was the hairspray of choice for the teased, big hair that gave this little sub-genre its name.)  As they got older, they wore less make-up and more forgiving clothes.  But they still rocked pretty hard.

“Kickstart My Heart” was off their 1989 Dr. Feelgood album, which was really their last big commercial success.  Between their addictions and personal dramas, the Crue has been through a lot.  Even before they temporarily splintered, their success was hard-won.  They toured in the back of a van, played the rinky-dink clubs and bars, and drank their way around the world.  When they got big, they had to contend with a world that catered to their every whim, and frankly, they lost.  Heroin, booze, sex tapes, vehicular manslaughter, and goodness knows what else.  But they’ve dragged themselves out of every hole they dug (and a few that were dug for them).  They are all still alive in spite of their best efforts.  And they put aside any ego problems to get back together again because they knew they’d never be as good separately.  This song was recorded long before a lot of their worst problems, so it’s prophecy as much as it is remembrance.

“And to think we did all of this to rock.”

“I’ll Be You”

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I read in Rolling Stone this morning that Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson of The Replacements have reunited to record a couple of new songs for an EP.  Former ‘Mats drummer Chris Mars has also contributed a track.  All proceeds will go to help guitarist Slim Dunlap, who suffered a  debilitating stroke earlier this year.  (The EP isn’t out yet, but I’ll post a shout out when it is.)  I love The Replacements, and I’m sorry this is what brought two of them back together; I’m also sorry that Chris and Paul couldn’t pull their heads out of their asses long enough to work together again.  (I’m making an assumption about their relationship here; they could have just realized that they were both better off not working together, and have repaired their friendship, kind of like McCartney and Lennon.)

Slim Dunlap was the guitarist who replaced Bob Stinson in the ‘Mats lineup after Stinson got booted for drinking too much.  (This would’ve been quite an accomplishment since the ‘Mats were well-known for their drunken appearances on stage–and pretty much everywhere else.)  He meshed pretty well, and didn’t challenge Westerberg for leadership of the band.  He played with them during their commercial and, arguably, creative peak.  Pleased to Meet Me and Don’t Tell a Soul were both released during Dunlap’s tenure.

Westerberg, at least, had sobered up by the time they recorded Don’t Tell a Soul, but the first single still reeks with the alienation and ennui that always marked the best Replacements songs.  “I’ll Be You” is alienation cheerfully sung, an attitude of, “Well, we can’t change it, so we might as well have a good time.”  No one seems to know what “it” is.  “A dream too tired to come true, left a rebel without a clue, and I’m searching for something to do.”  That’s kind of what made Paul Westerberg and The Replacements the true voice of my generation.  They were angry and lonely and alienated, and they didn’t know why.  They had decent homes in the suburbs, cable TV, and shopping malls.  Their parents were either divorced or too busy working.  They played video games and dreamed of doing something interesting with their lives, dreams that were as vague and non-specific as their anger.  Nothing seemed to have any shape or definition.  Ambiguity was the name of the game, but there weren’t any rules.

I know there were other experiences of adolescence in the 1980s.  I know there were people in my generation with genuine ambition, or with something to really be angry about.  But that was my experience, and the experience of pretty much everyone I knew.  A lot of it could be chalked up to being young; teenagers are chronically disaffected.  There’s always been something else beneath the surface, though.  Something dark and unpleasant.  My generation is the first one in a long time whose standard of living does not exceed that of their parents.  We are the generation of lowered expectations.

“And if it’s just a game, then we’ll break down just in case.  Then again, I’ll tell you what we could do.  You be me for a while, and I’ll be you.”

And Now for a Word from Our Sponsors. . .

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Not really.  I don’t have any sponsors.  But I might take this thing commercial someday.  Blogging is fun; it would be okay to get paid for it.  For now, I’ll settle for playing around with someone else’s hard-earned advertising dollars.

Generally speaking, I’m against using rock/pop/country/classical/whatever music to sell stuff, unless the artist who created it is the same person who licensed it.  I’m all for making an extra buck or two off your own work.  That’s kind of what America is all about (that, and going as deeply into debt as quickly as possible).  It’s hard to know who’s responsible for what, though.  U2 helped make “Vertigo” off of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb a hit by letting Apple use it to sell iPods.  But I still won’t buy Nike products because they used “Revolution” to sell sneakers back in the 80s.  (FYI: Nike was really the first to use a popular song in their commercials, so we have them to blame for all of this.)

Volkswagen has long been the master of pop music in commercials.  They’ve managed to make some songs hits long after their initial release.  Remember this one?  (I sort of love that someone went out of their way to record a commercial on VHS.)

Or how about the utterly ethereal and enchanting ad that featured Nick Drake’s ethereal and enchanting “Pink Moon”?

We had a VW Bug when I was a kid.  It was dark green with black vinyl seats.  I named it Motor because of how it sounded when we drove in it.  So I’m probably a little biased in favor of this company.  I think VW does make pretty good cars to go with their really good commercials.  I’m not saying anyone should go out and buy themselves new Volkswagens right this minute, but you could probably do worse next time you’re in the market for a car.

Right now, VW is showing this really awesome commercial with Rush’s “Fly By Night.”  I dislike Rush (they’re good, but not my thing), but I get such a kick out of this guy with the air drums.  I wonder if they put out a casting call for Rush fans when they decided to make this one.

Of course, my current Favorite Commercial of All Time is also a VW ad, but it doesn’t feature a song at all.  It doesn’t even feature a car.  It’s just some people and a wonderful piece of advice.

“Goody Two Shoes”

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Seems I’ve gone a bit silly.  I really hope a British man in an army uniform doesn’t come out of nowhere and interrupt my skit.  Or that a big animated foot doesn’t squash me.

There’s nothing serious about this song or video.  It’s silly and sexy, and I love every second of it.  I don’t even care that Adam Ant is wearing more make-up than the women.  He looks good in it.

That’s really about it.  I promise I’ll be more serious tomorrow.

 

Or not.