Saturday, October 25, 2014

Songs from "The Stranger," 1977

I was only 12 when this came out, but I listened and listened and spent time thinking about what being an adult might be like...  One of the first 3 singles that I bought as a kid with my own money was "Only the Good Die Young." It was catchy and--to my 12-year-old self--sexy, and I loved the smart, rebellious lyrics. To this day, I can quote the whole song.

"She's Always a Woman" was a song that appeared on almost every one of my mix tapes created for crushes in the late-80s to mid-90s.

"Scenes from" was such an interesting song, both musically and lyrically...

Bad-ass. Joan Crawford, 1969, on the set of her last film, "Trog."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Movies

Last Saturday, I woke up not particularly hung over but still feeling quite lazy, not wanting/not having to get out of bed.

Most of the time in years past, when I've channel-surfed basic cable on a Saturday, I haven't found anything interesting at all --- sports, home improvement shows. But this time while I was lying about, I came across on the FX station first "I, Robot," and then "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

I came across 2004's "I, Robot" in the middle of the film, and forget now what first caught my attention... It wasn't Will Smith, whom I automatically associate with generic action pictures; I almost changed the channel when I saw that he was in it. Oh, I know --- a robot was frantically trying to escape from something and was initially bouncing off walls and later bouncing off the outside of buildings. I wondered, "What the hell?" And had to keep watching to find out what in the world was going on. (And "the pretty girl" in the picture, Bridget Moynahan, was actually a good actress.) And I really was wondering what the deal was with the Rebel Robot! As soon unravelled, there were issues of what exactly constitutes a "soul" and a "free will" going on, along with at what point a created, supposedly mechanical being becomes sentient... and at what point rebellion and violence against an irrational creator becomes a moral decision...

As I found out at the end, the film was based on an Isaac Asimov series of stories, "I, Robot," which explains why the film was so psychologically interesting.

While I was still pondering the psychological implications of THIS film, I dozed off again. And woke up an hour or so later to the same station's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Again, in my doziness, I was immediately put off by seeing James Franco, whom I automatically associate with pretentiousness. I'd of course heard of this 2011 movie, but hadn't made any effort to see it, thinking it would just be a high-tech, soulless attempt at cashing in on the profundity of the original "Planet of the Apes."  But I got immediately sucked in by "Caesar," the speechless chimp that was being medically experimented upon/tortured --- I remembered the name of the scientist from the earlier "Planet of the Apes" movie, and I started to be curious: "How DID Caesar go from being an experimental chimp to his later position? And what happened to all of the humans?" And the 2011 movie played out intelligently, to my relief. As with "I, Robot," I'd been sleeping during the first half or so, but I was immediately drawn in to what was going on, in this case, the plight of all of the beasts kept in their cages. Caesar's first spoken work--"Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!" in reponse to an abusive human keeper about to hit him--gave me goosebumps.

There was the obligatory special-effects "battle" between humans/apes on the Golden Gate Bridge. And then Caesar and his cohorts regrouped in the woods. Caesar rejects his former human keeper James Franco, and the apes are then seen silhouetted in the tops of trees as the movie closes.

"Great," I thought, "but HOW in the world did apes TAKE OVER THE WORLD (as in the original "Planet of the Apes" movie)??"  A-ha... Something I'd been asleep for during the beginning of the movie... Simian Flu. In the closing credits, we see a human airline pilot suddenly dripping blood from his nose. The screen then goes to graphics of the paths of global airline flights... (A little too creepily close to the current Ebola scare.)

I was knocked out by both of these films. (1) I can't remember the last time that any film made me think. (2) When I was little, films that I saw by chance on TV, on a Saturday afternoon, often made me think...

I felt like I was 11, DISCOVERING STUFF for the first time.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Joan Crawford, 1946 and 1955.

Children Learn What They Live

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
       I was constantly criticized as a child. I grew up to be extremely judgmental of others. And to be an editor. Which I suppose might be a semi-healthy way to channel that critical impulse in a professional way. (As opposed to, say, being a powerless bitchy housewife, or a powerless bitchy father "editing" when his daughter could put up posters on her walls, when she could watch TV and write at the same time, etc.)
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
      Good lord, the constant hostility and tension in my various childhood households! My family didn't allow for any "intellectual discussions"-- if I attempted to disagree with either of my parents in any mild way, it was seen as a threat to their fragile psyches, resulting in overt anger/aggression from my father, passive silent treatment from my mother. I was, though, able to engage in some intellectual discussions later, both in high school and college. Yet my first impulse today as an adult is not to feel that I can calmly state a difference in opinion with the assumed result an equally rational response -- instead, I tend to lash out first, assuming beforehand that I will be attacked and so attacking first. Of course, I've had shitty personal relations as an adult.

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
      I constantly lived with psychological fear as a child. (When was my father going to go off? Ranging from pouting to dumping mashed potatoes on my mother's head to shooting at her. When was my mother going to sneer and not speak to me?) I am constantly apprehensive today, constantly hyper-alert to what could possibly go wrong in any situation, and assuming that something IS going to go wrong.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
      I grew up with zero pity.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
      I was constantly mocked at home every time I expressed an opinion. I learned to keep my mouth shut at home, only "daring" to express opinions in class at high school. At college, I felt awkward about making intellectual arguments in class for years, often freezing up when called upon by a professor. This sense of inferiority didn't dissipate until grad school, at which time I'd forced myself to LEARN how to speak in class, the same way I'd learned how to order in a restaurant and how to insert a tampon.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

     My parents both professed to be "superior" to others, not jealous. As a kid, I believed them. I envied the popularity and self-ease of the "rich kids" I saw in high school, but I didn't really envy them in whole...

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
      I felt extreme shame at how my parents behaved in front of others. For instance, one time when my father dragged me down the hallway by my hair because I'd been watching TV and writing in my diary at the same time, the doorbell rang and a neighbor kid happened to be standing at the front door at the same time as my father was dragging me past it. I was more embarrassed at the fact that the kid could hear what was going on than by what my father was doing. My mother was overtly nasty to me in front of my friends: At a couple of slumber parties as a kid, she took me out of the room to sleep separately because we girls were being too loud; she denigrated me in front of my friends on my 16th-birthday sleepover; she wanted me to come home directly after my high school graduation ceremony; she refused, for no reason, to speak to two of my closest friends when they were at our house. I felt constantly ashamed of my parents' behavior, constantly guilty that they didn't even attempt to hide their ugliness from my friends! (My mother, also, belittled me in front of her two sisters in Germany; she's also, in this day, attempted to create unpleasant scenes with me in front of my nephews.)

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
     I had no encouragement whatsoever at home. However, I was smart and successful in high school and got encouragement there, learned some intellectual confidence there.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

     I had no tolerance whatsoever at home, learned no patience whatsoever. My father was constantly going on about blacks and women and "ivory tower intellectuals."

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
     I lived with no praise at home whatsoever. However, I did get praise in school for being bright and talented.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love. 

     I had no acceptance or love whatsoever at home. Both of my parents made me feel like shit.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
      Ha! I had no approval at home. Both of my parents made me feel like shit. So, no, I didn't learn to like myself. But some teachers at school seemed to like my brightness and eagerness to do well. I learned to like my success at school.

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
      I was recognized only at school. I did learn there to have academic goals. Neither of my parents got a college degree. My dad constantly mocked "ivory-tower intellectuals." When he joined the Air Force as a young man, he tested as qualifying to become an officer -- however, he was too lazy to complete the coursework. While I was in college, my mom sent me $100 a month. 90% of my college expenses, I'm now paying off and will be paying off until the day I die. Funny from a household that claimed to be "superior" yet didn't plan for their kids' college education.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
      Not applicable at all to my growing up. I didn't turn out to be a selfish person, though.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
      I learned truthfulness only after turning to art and literature and music to escape from my parents' insanity. I certainly didn't "live with it" while growing up. But it's a tenet of my life, thanks to outer sources that I discovered for myself around age 15.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
      I grew up with such irrationality and unfairness. Certainly, I saw no personal justice. But, as with the above entry, I learned to turn to outer sources for proof that the concepts of "fairness" and "justice" did indeed exist in the world.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
      Ha! "Kindness" and "consideration" were not ever a "thing." No "respect" for anyone or anything has ever been a given for me after witnessing the irrationality of my parents. I question everything to this day. (Won't be fooled again.)

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
     After my parents' divorce when I was 12, I credit my mother with providing a roof over our heads and food. (Texas ain't a female-friendly state --- there's no alimony; my father's sole contribution to the household after the divorce was $300 per month in child support---$150 per kid.) My mother, a German, was stable -- hard-working and no drugs or drink -- and didn't have men over. I did have that faith in the stability of the home. Perhaps this gave me "faith in myself" in that I wouldn't put up with chaos in the home in my later relations... and so I've, in my 49 years, only lived with one person... for 3 months.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
     Ha! Dear god, how far from "friendliness"! :) I'm so envious of those who grew up with "friendliness"! I can't actually imagine a "friendly" home environment. I've had to learn how not to automatically be hostile.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I'll never ever be a dancer

Somewhere apart
Somewhere you must be dreamin'
Somewhere the world is screaming
Somewhere apart
A space between is not a final answer
I'll never ever be a dancer
So get me fish eggs and a violin

I'm gonna burn your bongos tonight
And let Graham have a chance
'Cause no one ever lets him dance
And all them see-through things are crawling
From the sea

Somewhere apart
A whistle summons up the lava
We must be somewhere East of Java
"O shed your bags, here comes a mule!"

The phantoms of the dispossessed
Wander through the wilderness
Crying out in mortal stress
Never ever come to rest
Somewhere apart
You know they're always
Somewhere apart

Somewhere apart
With flowers and a Geiger counter stumblin'
And for his distant keys he's fumblin'
Mule-headed man
Somewhere apart

$100 worth of Lizzie Borden

I'm not at all a particular fan of the "true crime" genre -- I get bad vibes that I take seriously -- but the psychology of some criminals interests me.

Manson, for instance: I own Bugliosi's "Helter Skelter" and "Manson In His Own Words" and the cheesier "Taming the Beast." Manson is interesting to me for his mind control. He didn't actually DO anything. Yet his "philosophy" (and he had one) ultimately encouraged others to kill... because there was, according to him (and according to many at the time), no difference in the states between life and death...

Gary Gilmore -- I own Mailer's "The Executioner's Song" and the subsequent psychologically profound, extremely sad book by Gary's brother Mikal.

And I have Capote's "In Cold Blood." (Profound because of Capote's ability to make you feel the exact psychological environment of both the Clutter family AND the killers. Nancy's horse at the very end, after every horrible thing, made me cry.)

Plus a not-that-profound book I bought a few months ago about the Kitty Genovese murder on the anniversary of her death. (I did learn something factually -- that it was a random murder by a psychopath rather than a guy killing his girlfriend while neighbors looked on, as I'd always assumed from reading about the case in college.)

So that's the crime stuff I own. Jack the Ripper material, for instance, is both way too graphic and way too simple for me. (In my mind, it's a simple case of a guy hating women and taking it out in extreme fashion on the only readily available victims --- whores; I don't see anything interesting psychologically about that.) A paperback about Ted Bundy, I remember reading in the late '80s and just feeling creepy about --- a failed law student attacking sorority girls seemed kind of blatantly sexually simplistic: violence just for the sake of violence.

RE Lizzie Borden: 30 years ago in the mid-80s, I read the Evan Hunter (Ed McBain) novel, where the author posited that Lizzie had been having sex with the maid and got busted... leading to the ax murders of her father and step-mother. I remember liking the book as a read at the time, understanding that the "lesbian angle" was cheesy, and then not thinking anything more about the case as a whole.

A couple of weeks ago on the utterly cheesy show "Ghost Adventures," though, the host interviewed a psychic who had worked in the Lizzie Borden home in Massachusetts and who claimed to have been "attacked" by the ghost of Lizzie Borden's father since she was claiming that the father had sexually abused Lizzie Borden since she was a kid... I didn't particularly believe the claims of the featured psychic about being attacked by a ghost, but the mention of a theory of sexual abuse suddenly made sense: You don't SNAP like that without some deep underlying reason. I highly doubt that some STRANGER secretly burst into the Borden's (always locked) home and suddenly starting whacking away with an ax without either Lizzie or the maid Bridget (the only other people home at the time aside from the victims) being aware of it.

Maid Bridget went back to Ireland. Lizzie went off to live a rather grand lifestyle (with her dead father's money) in the better part of town, at one point living with an actress (Nance O'Neil), which caused her sister to move out and never speak to her again. (!) (Lizzie, by the way, asked to be, and was, buried next to her father.)

So, yeah, I just ordered $100 worth of Lizzie Borden books. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dream Job (Revised)

(1) You like what you're doing.
(2) The work is intellectually challenging -- real WRITING and EDITING, not just dumb-ass letter-typing, filing, and/or educational-publishing copy editing.
(3) You make enough to afford to live in a bigger-than-one-room apartment in an area where you want to live.
(4) You can wear whatever you want to work (i.e., no 275-lb dumb-ass executive assistant telling you that you need to "dress better" because your linen shirt that you put on that morning has become wrinkled a couple of hours later).
(5) You can go to lunch whenever you want (i.e., no dumb-ass admin assistant insisting you go precisely at noon for no reason).
(6) You come home from work tired in a GOOD WAY, because you've been WORKING and THINKING, not because you're just mentally drained from all of the phony idiots you've had to deal with all day.

I like my job. I like the work, and I like the people I'm around every day. This is the best job, and the best-paying job, I've EVER had.

I landed on my feet after the 7-year free-fall. And I ultimately landed a step UPWARD from where I left off back in 2007 when I moved to New York and embarked on my odyssey. I'm fucking lucky.

For instance, two women where I work now are in long-time secretarial positions --- one has a Master's in Physics (!), one has a Master's in Biology and has actually published work in her field. But they're secretaries. And I would have been a secretary had either of the two jobs in 2012 and 2013 that I was so upset at the time about losing "worked out" for me. I mean, I WEPT PROFUSELY when I found out I didn't get either of those... Had I gotten either, though, I'd today be someone with a bio on a company website reading how I had a Master's in English... but was an Admin Assistant.

Did I mention how extremely lucky and grateful I feel right now? I am FULLY aware of how differently things could have turned out.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

All Apologies

Kurt Cobain's body was discovered and announced on April 8, 1994. I was 28. My 54-year-old married boss came over to see me that Friday evening (parking his car several blocks away, as usual), and wondered why I wouldn't tear myself away from MTV coverage and have sex with him.

What else should I be
All apologies
What else should I say
Everyone is gay
What else should I write
I don't have the right
What else should I be
All apologies
In the sun
In the sun I feel as one
In the sun
In the sun
I'm married
I wish I was like you
Easily amused
Find my nest of salt
Everything is my fault
I'll take all the blame
Aqua sea foam shame
Sunburn with freezer burn
Choking on the ashes of her enemy
In the sun
In the sun I feel as one
In the sun
In the sun
Married, buried
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah...

I'm all out of faith, this is how I feel

I liked this song a lot when I first heard it on US radio in 1997.
Didn't think about it much again until 2009 or so, when I was wandering—after being up all night drinking after receiving a hurtful e-mail from Sandra—down Bergenline in Union City, New Jersey, and heard it coming out of a shop. It mirrored my utterly hopeless feeling at that moment, yet... it was such a powerful song, I felt GREAT after hearing it, and somewhat hopeful about life, whereas earlier I'd only felt like shit.

The psychological complication of the song was that I related it both to me and my feelings for Sandra at that moment PLUS my knowledge of Sandra's past relations with Jim and how she'd relate this to him... (This overanalyzing is how I live my life, folks. It ain't voluntary and it ain't particularly fun.)
I think I've posted this song on this blog at least twice before in the past 7 years at various stages of my life. Tonight was feeling it very strongly again.

I thought I saw a man brought to life
He was warm, he came around and he was dignified
He showed me what it was to cry

Well, you couldn't be that man I adored
You don't seem to know
Seem to care what your heart is for
But I don't know him anymore

There's nothing where he used to lie
The conversation has run dry
That's what's going on
Nothing's fine, I'm torn

I'm all out of faith
This is how I feel
I'm cold and I am shamed
Lying naked on the floor

Illusion never changed
Into something real
I'm wide awake and I can see
The perfect sky is torn
You're a little late, I'm already torn

So I guess the fortune teller's right
Should have seen just what was there
And not some holy light

It crawled beneath my veins
And now I don't care, I had no luck
I don't miss it all that much
There's just so many things
That I can touch, I'm torn

I'm all out of faith
This is how I feel
I'm cold and I am shamed
Lying naked on the floor

Illusion never changed
Into something real
I'm wide awake and I can see
The perfect sky is torn
You're a little late, I'm already torn, torn

There's nothing where he used to lie
My inspiration has run dry
That's what's going on
Nothing's right, I'm torn

I'm all out of faith
This is how I feel
I'm cold and I am shamed
Lying naked on this floor

Illusion never changed
Into something real
I'm wide awake and I can see
The perfect sky is torn

I'm all out of faith
This is how I feel
I'm cold and I'm ashamed
Bound and broken on the floor
You're a little late, I'm already torn, torn

Friday, October 10, 2014


Thursday, on John Lennon's birthday, I heard "Woman" blaring out of a STUDENT BAR on Guadalupe (the strip bordering Austin's University of Texas)! Nice of the managers to remember! (I don't like the insipid song, and I don't particularly admire John-n-Yoko's for-public-consumption forced relationship, but... I liked the surprise of the song coming out of a bar on Lennon's birthday in 2014. Respect for the man's work and being.)

A p.s.: I'm a reasonably open, intelligent person... Born in '65, and so not emotionally tied to the immediate drama of the Beatles split in '69, with all of the associated Yoko shenanigans (i.e., John bringing her into the studio, etc.). I like Yoko's "Walking on Thin Ice" CD compilation. And yet... I've never seen any video clip of John and Yoko interacting together on a basic level. I've seen their "performance art." I've heard their usually half-assed musical "collaborations." But every time they appeared on a talk show in the '70s, or were interviewed in the '60s-thru-1980, it was always John-the-mouthpiece. Perhaps proclaiming the greatness of both Yoko's art AND their relationship, but... Yoko never had anything to say other than a few coy, meaningless proclamations, i.e., NOTHING. I've never seen anything of the two together that indicated that they were the "Great Love" that John proclaimed them to be, or that Yoko was the "Great Artist" that he proclaimed her to be. (Perhaps to elevate his own love choice? More likely, to tie in to his own psychological desire to fall in love with a female-artist version of himself... like Stuart Sutcliffe and Astrid Kirchner, who made such an impression on him as a young man?)

Stepford Hipsters

If I see another guy in Austin that looks EXACTLY LIKE THIS, I'll shriek. I'm serious -- I can't walk out the door without seeing these clones!

What I find most creepy is that these hipsters think they're so "original"... And yet, in my 30 years of experience being around these people in various university/urban settings, I've found that they're almost always more sheeplike (in both dress and opinions) than the "unfashionable" Walmart shoppers that they constantly mock. There's nothing worse than hypocrisy.