Posts Tagged ‘Catholicism is for lovers’

Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: A plug for Catholicism

October 2, 2011

60% of the time, it works 100% of the time.

Movie Millisecond: the Sandlot

July 22, 2011


The Sandlot (David M. Evans, 1993).

Since you won’t stop asking*, here are the rules for the Sandlot drinking game.

  • Take a drink whenever the narrator says, “Pickle.”
  • Take a drink every time Ham says “You’re killing me, Smalls.”
  • Take a drink any time the boys speak in unison.
  • Take a drink whenever Squints and Wendy Peffercorn look at each other.
  • Take a drink whenever Tommy Timmons echoes Timmy.
  • Take a drink whenever Babe Ruth is mentioned, by name or by nickname.
  • Take a drink any time someone spits.

  • Wendy Peffercorn will take you down to Cougar Town.

    I’m not even going to bother listing some of the others we’ve come up with over the years. There is even a version I designed where you pick a character and have character-specific instructions (e.g., drink on “Yeah-yeah,” or, for beginners, drink whenever Bertram actually has a line). But really, I can’t in good conscience even keep going. Those rules are sufficient. Drink lots of water out there, dudes.

    Conversely, I also have a long explanation of why this is an excellent model for Christian values and highly suited for use in a parochial school classroom. I’m a complex mirror maze of a woman. Not a “hot mess.” Complex mirror maze.



    *completely untrue. it has never come up.

    Heinlein Month — Do not let the past be a straitjacket

    July 16, 2011



    Whatever you do, do not let the past be a straitjacket.

    (Robert A. Heinlein. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, 1966.)


    via.

    Hey. The pre-scheduled entries caught up with real time, and then I was too lazy and depressed to write more. But I’m fixing that now. Even got a Girl of Summer in the pipeline, because, hey, man, life goes on, and my dead friend liked boobies. (Hath not a short joyful EMT eyes?) So. The rest is personal. Dip out whenever you’re done.


    “Jo Champa, Hotel Chealsea.” Helmut Newton, 1988.

    Yesterday were the services. Sweet fucking Christ. I have been to some rough funerals in my life. I really have. But I’ve never been through any shit like that. That was some fucking shit. My lord. And now the most recent two entries in my journal have giant cusses right at their start, when I’ve been trying really valiantly this year to cut back (first for my daughter, as an example, and also because vulgarity is so often a refuge of a weak writer attempting cheap authenticity).


    Photographed by Dara Scully.

    Big Ben and I agreed to attend together. He got to my place an hour earlier than planned and announced he’d left his wallet in Fresno — a town I notoriously hate, like it’s a joke among my friends how much I make fun of it. I had an idea we’d end up making the longish drive to get it back later in the day, but I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure what the was going to hold: what if I wanted to go back to a reception and stay for a long while? What if friends had an impropmtu wake? We didn’t know what to expect. We slid down to C-town and got to the church about twenty minutes before Mass was scheduled to start, thinking that was prudently early enough.


    via.

    Besides being friends with one another in our own right, B-dubs and I moved in a lot of similar circles. It’s not a big area when you get right down to it. Even if you only joined The Party in the last 15 to 20 years, you’ve pretty much met everyone your age by now, at least with whom you’d have a dime in common, in one way or another. There wasn’t time enough or, in some cases, inclination (willingness to engage in a lot of catch-up and mutual depression) to say words to everyone I knew, even just as we walked through the parking lot and up to the church. In the very, very long line to sign the guestbook before entering, there was this crowd of EMTs and firefighters in front of us in uniform, and I started tearing up. I’m not an overemotional person, and it caught me off guard.


    Art by TheSweetMachine on the tumblr.

    It was a harbinger of things to come. A bossy aunt came out not long after and told the crowd that we’d all better grab a seat inside and sign the book later, because it was getting very full in there, and we entered the church. I’d never been to St. Jude’s. It’s not by any means the smallest church in which I’ve ever heard Mass, but it wasn’t large. But it was not at all equipped, I’m proud to say, to handle the number of people at my friend’s funeral. It was literally SRO. People could’ve probably crowded the pews a little more, but a lot of the EMTs had to stay in the back near the doors because they were still on call.


    “Losing My Religion” by Mrs. Colbert on the da.

    Right away, on entering the church, I was up against old, old friends, serving as B-dubs’ pallbearers. So we started crying. I think, in the back of your mind, or perhaps only in mine and some of my friends’, maybe more macabre than others? or just realistic?, there is the knowledge that you will pass from this earth and enter in to whatever, if anything — I believe and hope a very real something — comes next. Sometimes you discuss it loosely with friends, like your burial/cremation wishes, songs you want involved in your memorial, etc. But you don’t take it terribly seriously. To see our old friends standing at the back of the church with white gloves and red carnation boutonnières, guiding the elderly and close relatives to seats was a profound jolt, following on the heels of the uniformed contingent reminding me of what a life of service my friend left … I basically cried for the next hour. Standing for the casket’s entry made me cry. My strong, broad-shouldered, stalwart old male friends crying as they walked that casket toward the altar made me cry. The readings made me cry. The priest’s homily made me cry. The only thing that didn’t leave me shredded was the Eucharistic prayer, maybe because I’ve had it memorized since time out of mind and it gave me time to catch my breath.


    via.

    But then my friends gave their eulogies and it was all over. It was pointed out what a remarkably, not just bullshitting like people do at funerals, but a remarkably live wire and loving spirit he was, how he literally lit up rooms and took care to take care of everyone he met. It grew as a theme that B-dubs lived his whole life, essentially, to protect and make at ease everyone else, and that we could only honor him by trying to keep taking care of each other. That’s how it ended. Everyone in the church was just in pieces. So we exited on that, this horribly emotional note. Like I said, I have been to some rough funerals, but I’ve never heard free, open weeping from so many people at a service. It was some shit, honestly, I’m not describing it well enough. God. Harrowing. Big Ben agreed it was the worst thing he’d been to so far, too. I think the priest put it best when, during his homily, after speaking about Brandon’s faith and dedication to serving others, he simply spread his hands and said, “He was too young.”


    Photographed by Logan White.

    After stunned chat outside the church, we caravanned to the cemetery for the graveside service. The priest said the very familiar words about dust to dust, and the valley of darkness, etc, that have always held a ritualistic comfort to me. One by one, the pallbearers came forward and placed their gloves and their boutonnières on the casket. But then — then — B-dubs’ cousin began to speak. I have very few friends, and dear they are, as specifically faithful as I am, and I am 1000000% okay with that. I’d say a majority of my friends do not believe in any god nor afterlife, and I’m truly all right with that. If they got questions about how I roll, I answer them, but I really don’t try to suggest religion to them unless I am asked. It’s been the source of debates between me and many of the people who were in attendance at these services, the idea of the co-existence of intellect and faith (hey, college).


    via my pandaeraser.

    This cousin began by saying that Brandon’s completion of the sacraments of the Catholic faith did not qualify him for salvation, but rather his loving relationship with God did. I was fine with that. Then, he moved forward in praise of a relationship with God and Jesus, with a format very familiar to me, that of his personal testimony about his journey to salvation. Okay. Cool. I’ve heard that lots of times and, though I sort of cringed at first, thinking, “Normally I’d be more receptive, but, come on: is this the right place — like, what has this to do with today?” I was still tentatively on board, willing to see where it lead. I’m sorry and angry still to say that it lead only to more of the same. He spoke for some easily fifteen minutes, asking everyone to read the Word (okay) and pray about it (okay), but also to repeat a personal prayer he wrote, out loud along with him. Afterward, he had us close our eyes and then said, “Raise your hand if you really repeated the prayer.”


    Photograph by William Gedney, via the collection at Duke’s online library.

    The uncomfortable, growing dissatisfaction I had pretty much burgeoned to full-blown dislike at that moment. At one point he threw down the Bible, but I’m not sure he noticed. He’d complained in his opening statements about not having a podium, so I’m sure that played a role, and I guess the important thing to him was what he was saying, not the source of the quotes he was citing in his very targeted proselytizing once he’d finished with them. I just know I wasn’t the only one to inadvertently have a sharp intake of breath on that one. But there was a general all-over shifting of feet and nervous sighs throughout, to be honest. This was not an issue of religious tolerance: it was an issue of inappropriateness.


    via.

    Like, dude, we are graveside. It is not an appropriate setting for a) your story; b) talking about Jesus actually very well, but relating it back to yourself again and again rather than to your cousin; and c) evangelizing to these bereaved friends of your cousin, when with a prayer for discernment it might be easily seen that now is hella not the time. Not to mention, just personally, I felt that if his argument that justification for salvation was by faith alone and not works nor acts, then why did we need to repeat his prayer and raise our hand, or not, over the issue of repeating his prayer, like guilty five-year-olds who were being asked who ate the green crayon? It all sat very, very poorly with me.


    Photographed by Giasco Bertoli.

    I’m Catholic, dudes. Do you just kind of always expect me to unload at some point about how you all should be, too? And how properly to do so? Because I was offended as all-git-out and I couldn’t believe how blasé some of my most atheist friends were about what to me was this needless and selfish diversion, as if they’d anticipated uncomfortable evangelistic pressure from the beginning. When Big Ben asked me in the car whether I was up to going to the family’s smaller reception after the other gauntlet points of brutal funeral and heart wrenching graveside service we’d passed, I said, “I don’t want to go anywhere that douche is going to be.” He replied immediately, “That was pretty bad. But everyone grieves differently. Would Brandon have been okay with it, since it was his cousin? Probably. He’d want his cousin to have that time.”

    I wiped away my tears, started the car, and said emphatically, “Fuck that guy. If that’s how he grieves, he sucks.” We did not go to the reception.

    A little under three hours later, we were in Fresno, retrieving Ben’s wallet. That joke which I am famous for is, “No one should go to Fresno. Not on purpose.” But it’s really a diverse town, like any. Anyway, after we got the wallet from his friend, the friend asked for a cigarette because his girlfriend had asked him to quit smoking and he knew we’d have one. As we stood outside, at our friend’s insistence safely behind his apartment building in case his girlfriend came home unexpectedly — yes, we ribbed him without mercy both for his dishonesty and for his paranoia — Ben described the scene at the graveside with the cousin. The friend, who’d said plainly that he did not believe in an afterlife but felt that funerals were important for the living, which I liked, asked questions about the mourners’ reaction to the cousin’s unnecessarily aggressive come-to-Jesus sidebar. I’d stayed silent about that part of the services, still steaming. Ben jerked his thumb at me and said, “She was pissed.”


    “Don’t see the sorrow,” photographed by meninalua on the da.

    The friend clucked his tongue but then said, “Maybe that’s how he needed to grieve.”

    What the what, man? Am I the only one whose sense of outrage is not overshadowed by sorrow? Or am I the only one who is blindly seeking refuge in outrage instead of sorrow? Maybe? And not to mention, I found comfort in aspects of the funeral that were Catholic and so culturally and familially familiar to me, but what of my friends raised outside that tradition? Did not my “stand up, sit down, kneel, repeat after me, say this when I say that” comforts probably confound and alienate those friends who were not accustomed to it? What right have I got to judge which are off-putting and which welcoming religious behaviors? I was sooo mad. You should have seen me. Wet hen-style. Fairly? Not, most likely. Oh, angry, mixed-up me.


    via.

    But what I really want to say is good on those friends who gently chastised or tried to guide me back to zen-ness, for being yards more tolerant than I the alleged Christian witness of the bunch was evincing with my bitterness: they displayed a genuinely universal forgiveness for which I think many who recognize the love that bonds all things in this world without necessarily having an origin story for that love are seldom credited. I, on the other hand, wanted literally to point-blank fire a nail gun in to the eyeballs of my dead friend’s cousin’s head. Which is not at all loving. I know.

    Now I’ve talked a great deal about one aspect of the day which was really not as big as I’ve made it out to be in this entry, and it’s not some hint of how repressed or larger it looms in my psyche than I knew by my writing it. It’s just that in a day so filled with grief, it was the thing I could describe with a more familiar emotion — outrage. The grief I will take a long time to get to know. The events of the day made me cry right away, as they happened, a big enough pain that I didn’t have time to push it down, it spilled over with me fully aware that I was unhappy. Most feelings don’t get that far in my cognitive process. So I know it’s going to be a journey to get cool with this dreadful shit.

    Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: Vintage girl’s French prayer card

    July 2, 2011


    via.

    Catholicism is for lovers.

    Winter of my discontent: Winter afternoons like the heft of oppressive cathedral tunes

    January 20, 2011


    Notre Dame, December 8, 2010. Photographed by Remy De La Mauviniere.

    There’s a certain Slant of light,
    Winter Afternoons —
    That oppresses, like the Heft
    Of Cathedral Tunes —

    Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
    We can find no scar,
    But internal difference,
    Where the Meanings, are.

    (Emily Dickinson. Poem No. 258.)

    When everything is gloomy and all the grass and crops buried under the snow, and Christmas has gone and it’s a new year, and there is nothing to look at or on which to work but your soul: this I find oppressive.

    Like cathedral tunes calling me to examination of conscience before reconciliation, my least favorite sacrament. (And I’ve had more than most people. What’s got two thumbs and survived Last Rites? This guy.) In this world one of the things I particularly don’t like is taking stock and looking back, and that’s all a human can really do in the winter, traditionally. But that’s what I try to force myself to do with this journal, and is also the purpose for this Winter of my discontent theme to begin with. So I should stop looking for quotes or cute pictures with which to avoid being serious about it, and start actually fulfilling the task I set out for myself.

    I feel like this is unrelated, but I had this revelation about tooth whitening the other day that turned my stomach — it is bleaching your bones. I know that we have many grooming rituals which are ridiculous when one takes the long view of humankind, rituals in which I readily participate such as make-up and hair teasing. But to bleach one’s teeth suddenly struck me as wrong on a deeper level.

    Teeth are bones, and people bleach them so they will be more attractive. They want pretty bones. That is macabre and horrific and insane. What the fuck is the matter with people?

    On the other hand, I would be a hypocrite not to admit that I guess I’d do it if I had the spare change. I want pretty bones as much as the next guy. I’m not a complicated conundrum, I’m just a shallow, uncertain mess.

    69 Days of Wonder Woman, Day 3: Clothes make the (wo)man

    October 27, 2010

    The original Wonder Woman costume must surely rank high in the list of all-time great, iconic comic hero get-ups. Is this part of what puts me off?


    Costumed (or semicostumed) heroes such as Wonder Woman and Superman, rather than the villains they fought or the outlaws rampant in crime comics, were the main objects of the Catholic Church’s early [1938] criticism of comic books, censure that began to take the form of a serious campaign against comics.

    Bishop Noll explained that the NODL [National Organization for Decent Literature]* objected only to Wonder Woman’s costume. “There is no reason why Wonder Woman should not be better covered, and there is less reason why women who fall under her influence should be running around in bathingsuits,” Noll wrote.

    (Hajdu, David. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008. Print. 75-78.)


    I did not save a lick of info related to this pic, but from the moment I saw it, I thought she was about to turn in a circle and transform in to Wonder Woman. If you can help with credit, please do!

    I guess it’s true that I never liked her costume much, but I’ve never found it any more all-that-scandalous than those of usual dat-ass suspects such as Power Girl, Emma Frost, or Huntress. (God, I hate Huntress, and there is nothing mysterious about it. She sucks. You will not be seeing a “__ Days of Huntress” around here, ever.) I don’t think I ever gave Wonder Woman’s outfit much thought in print … but I did contemplate it onscreen, watching the Lynda Carter television series. The TV Diana had so many great wardrobe changes, not only with that wonderful spinning-into-Wonder Woman sequence, but with gear tailored to her various missions: remember that slick diving suit?

    Separate from my later feelings about Wonder Woman as a comic hero, as an early television role model I had nothing but full esteem for the character, in particular her outfit. I can remember sitting on the tacky rose-patterned velour daveneau on which I’d been conceived and on which I took my afternoon naps — and, depending on where we were living, sometimes slept at night on the hide-a-bed as well (very strange experience, since my parents were extremely up front with me about the couch-conception thing and seemed to find it heartwarming; I had more mixed feelings) — in the early afternoons before I even started school, watching syndicated re-runs of the program and being wowed. If I picture Lynda Carter in a blouse and blazer speaking confidently to a male coworker, I can still vividly feel kid-sweat from playing after lunch melting the sofa’s scratchy, worn fabric in to faint little clumps under my legs. She was so glamorous that she wore earrings everywhere. Everywhere. I loved that shit.

    This is definitely a non-issue. The outfit has nothing to do with me shying away from Wonder Woman for the last mumble-muffleth years. Asked and answered!

    In any case, Wonder Woman’s costume recently underwent a redesign. That’s her new look up there. I don’t really care one way or the other. I guess I’m a little wary and disappointed, as always, by tampering with classics, even ones of which I’m not a fan — and, in the same way that I was slightly rankled by the initial reinvention of Kate Kane as a Jewish lesbian in the Batwoman comic (Why not make her deaf and HIV-positive, to boot? How unforgivably uninclusive of you, Non-PC D.C.!), I feel not-just-vaguely pandered to. Then again, I like the new Batwoman line now and I am hunky-dory with the matchup of Renee Montoya with Kate. So maybe the costume redesign of Wonder Woman will be another in-my-face situation. Tough to gauge since I don’t know if I’ll come out of this project wanting to read her or not.

    Longtime fans, what do you think of the change?







    *more on those guys soon.

    Movie Moment: Bonnie and Clyde

    September 30, 2010

    Promised a Movie Moment yesterday on Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967), and here it is. The night that I first saw this film is one of those instances that really stands, clear, head and shoulders above others in my mind. I was a sophomore in high school and my father and I had got takeout Chinese food and rented Bonnie and Clyde some weekend when my mother was doing some church lady thing (now I’m a church lady, too … time marches on). As an already solid gold Daddy’s Girl, when my father told me it was “a very important movie,” and that “you will love it,” I was set with anticipation. Also, I really like Chinese food.


    I had already read, a few years earlier, a good-sized, detailed book about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker that I’d picked up at a thrift store. Lots of pictures, reprints of Bonnie’s poems, the whole nine. But what I saw was not what I remembered reading. I was surprised at the many deviations in the screenplay from the true accounts of their partnership and crimes that I’d read, yet I found the movie so absorbing and excellent, such a blend of glamour and grit, that I didn’t mind the liberties at all. I was totally taken with it — especially Faye Dunaway and her costumes and styling. Dad warned me to look away at the end, but of course I didn’t, and I gaped at the dancing corpses. This, I knew, was accurate, but to see it on the screen brought the unbelievably vivid violence of it to a shocking level that my imagination had not reached when I only read about their deaths. I thought then, and think now, that it’s one of the best movies ever made.

    But not everyone shares my view. Especially initially, some critics outspokenly hated Bonnie and Clyde:

    It is a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cutups in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

    (“Movie Review: Bonnie and Clyde.” Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times. 14 April 1967.)



    Such ridiculous, camp-tinctured travesties of the kind of people these desperados were and of the way people lived in the dusty Southwest back in those barren years might be passed off as candidly commercial movie comedy, nothing more, if the film weren’t reddened with blotches of violence of the most grisly sort.

    (Ibid.)

    Oh, noes. Violence. That has no place in a movie.


    Arthur Penn, the aggressive director, has evidently gone out of his way to splash the comedy holdups with smears of vivid blood as astonished people are machine-gunned. And he has staged the terminal scene of the ambuscading and killing of Barrow and Bonnie by a posse of policemen with as much noise and gore as is in the climax of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

    This blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary upon the already travestied truth.

    (Ibid.)


    “As pointless as it is lacking in taste because it makes no valid commentary on the already travestied truth.” Let’s explore that criticism, shall we?

    According to statements made by [posse members] Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn:
    “Each of us six officers had a shotgun and an automatic rifle and pistols. We opened fire with the automatic rifles. They were emptied before the car got even with us. Then we used shotguns … There was smoke coming from the car, and it looked like it was on fire. After shooting the shotguns, we emptied the pistols at the car, which had passed us and ran into a ditch about 50 yards on down the road. It almost turned over. We kept shooting at the car even after it stopped. We weren’t taking any chances.”

    (the wiki.)




    The lawmen then opened fire, killing Barrow and Parker while shooting a combined total of approximately 130 rounds. Barrow was killed instantly by [an] initial head shot, but Parker had a moment to reflect; Hinton reported hearing her scream as she realized Barrow was dead before the shooting at her began in earnest. The officers emptied the specially ordered automatic rifles, as well as other rifles, shotguns and pistols at the car, and any one of many wounds would have been fatal to either of the fugitives.

    (Ibid.)



    Officially, the tally in Parish coroner Dr. J. L. Wade’s 1934 report listed seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow’s body and twenty-six on Parker’s, including several headshots on each, and one that had snapped Barrow’s spinal column. So numerous were the bullet holes that undertaker C. F. “Boots” Bailey would have difficulty embalming the bodies because they wouldn’t contain the embalming fluid.

    (Ibid.)

    So … maybe that outburst of unthinkable retributive violence on the side of the law had a little something to do with the film’s objectionably grisly ending? Just a very, very belated thought for the late Mr. Crowther, who I must add with real respect was an esteemed and important critic in his time — pretty much until this review. All the cool kids stopped listening to him and assumed he was part of the stuffy establishment, and his reputation suffered. I think he really was not ready for this picture, is all.

    Contrary to how he comes off in the review owing to our modern hindsight, Bosley Crowther had a very open mind, wrote against HUAC as curtailing art and freethinking, a brave and dangerous thing to do in the 1950s, and praised films with strong social content while disdaining jingoism and oversimplification of political ideas. Mr. Crowther insisted on the relevancy of foreign film to English-speaking audiences and did great things for the careers of some of my favorite overseas directors, including Fellini, Bergman, and Roberto Rossellini. That — to me — pitch-perfect mix of braggadocio and embellishment, expositorily satirical idealism, and vérité in Bonnie and Clyde, together with the innovative cinematic discourse which has been cited as ushering in a new era in Hollywood, just seems to have put him over the edge.




    In any case, Bosley Crowther was not the only reviewer who found himself initially less than thrilled by Bonnie and Clyde.

    Beatty, playing the lead, does a capable job, within the limits of his familiar, insolent, couldn’t-care-less manner, of making Barrow the amiable varmint he thought himself to be. Barrow fancied himself something of a latterday Robin Hood, robbing only banks that were foreclosing on poor farmers and eventually turning into a kind of folk hero. But Faye Dunaway’s Sunday-social prettiness is at variance with any known information about Bonnie Parker.

    (“Cinema: Low-Down Hoedown.” Time. 25 August 1967.)


    Variety disagreed with Time‘s slight of Faye Dunaway, saying

    Like the film itself, the performances are mostly erratic. Beatty is believable at times, but his characterization lacks any consistency. Miss Dunaway is a knockout as Bonnie Parker, registers with deep sensitivity in the love scenes, and conveys believability to her role.

    (“Film: Bonnie and Clyde.” Kaufman, David. Variety. 9 Aug 1967.)


    Overall, however, Mr. Kaufman pans the film, saying,

    Warren Beatty’s initial effort as a producer incongruously couples comedy with crime … Conceptually, the film leaves much to be desired, because killings and the backdrop of the Depression are scarcely material for a bundle of laughs. … This inconsistency of direction is the most obvious fault of Bonnie and Clyde, which has some good ingredients, although they are not meshed together well. … Arthur Penn’s direction is uneven, at times catching a brooding, arresting quality, but often changing pace at a tempo that is jarring.

    (Ibid.)

    Fortunately, not everyone agreed, and more and more people began to “get” the picture. By the time Oscar season rolled around, Bonnie and Clyde received an impressive ten Academy Award nominations and secured two wins. Burnett Guffey received the Oscar for Best Cinematography and Estelle Parsons won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche, Clyde’s sister-in-law. The other nominations included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Actor (Beatty), Best Supprting Actor (both Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard), Best Original Story and Screenplay, and Best Costume Design.


    1967 was a banner year for films — some of the movies to which Bonnie and Clyde lost the Oscar were Coolhand Luke, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, The Graduate, and In the Heat of the Night. I said goddamn; what a year.

    Modern critical reception of Bonnie and Clyde places it in the category of top films in Hollywood history, a landmark picture not only in the business and art of making movies, but also in the career of director Arthur Penn, whose death yesterday prompted this Movie Moment.



    Bonnie and Clyde developed the aesthetic that marked Penn’s high-visibility period: slyly accented, harmonica-hootin’, harvest-gold-patchwork Americana; ever-poised violence; and an open invitation to apply the story as a flexible allegory for the issues of the day.

    (“Anthology takes a tour of the Bonnie and Clyde director’s America.” Pinkerton, Nick. The Village Voice. 12 Nov 2008.)


    Going back to my own reflections at the beginning of this entry, when I saw the film again in college (after which I regularly re-watch it now), I was able to crystallize exactly why the changes in the screenplay from how the real-life story played out so imperturbed me.

    The accuracy of the facts being related is not as important as the yarn being spun, and that yarn needs to be by turns a little soft-focus with family, a little jump the crick in a jalopy while banjos play, a little sexy and simultaneously innocent, teeming with tinfoil chicken and mishaps and stolen laughs besides stolen money, in order for the juxtaposition with the sharp reality of the consequences of that story’s heroes’ actions. Not just at the end, but throughout the film there are these jarring standoffs and murders that shoot the child’s balloon of the idea of what’s happening right out of the sky and back in to the reality of what is happening — and its inevitable conclusion.


    Besides that most of the changes between the real story and the script make the tale tighter and better solidify characterization, the embellishments and inflated sense of ego in the main characters and in the cinematic discourse with which we are presented are important to the overall type of story being told. The grand Depression-era myth of the infamous lovers, robbers, and murderers Bonnie and Clyde, as Beatty and Penn have conceived and shot it, is more like the story that Clyde Barrow would have told to cellmates in prison. This is Bonnie and Clyde, so far as we can tell, as they saw themselves, something like folk heroes flying by the seat of their pants, living a ruthless dream and getting real scars from it. This version is a compelling and archetypal campfire story, like the epic outlaw poem that Bonnie Parker wrote about them while they were on the road, “The Trail’s End” (later renamed “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” by the press), excerpts from which I’d like to use to end this very long — but I think justly so — entry.



    They don’t think they’re too smart or desperate,
    They know that the law always wins;
    They’ve been shot at before,
    But they do not ignore
    That death is the wages of sin.



    Some day they'll go down together;
    They'll bury them side by side;
    To few it'll be grief —
    To the law a relief —
    But it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.

    (“The Trail’s End.” Parker, Bonnie. April 1933.)

    R.I.P. again to Arthur Penn, who had the courage to make this fantastic piece of cinema his way and received just due for it within his lifetime. May we all be so brave, visionary, and fortunate.

    All screencaps via the wonderful screenmusings collection.

    Girls of Summer: Yvette Vickers, Miss July 1959

    September 28, 2010

    edit 5/3/11: Welcome, Yvette Vickers fans! For those unfamiliar with the site who are just swinging by to take a gander at Ms. Vickers’ Playboy spread, a quick heads-up — clicking on any picture enlarges it. Have fun!


    Photographed by the one and only Russ Meyer.

    I know it isn’t technically seasonally appropriate anymore, but as it’s going to hit 99, Fahrenheit, where I am today, and as I did not get around to all my saved up Girls of Summer, and as I promised to cover Ms. Vickers when discussing Fifty Foot Woman, I figured you wouldn’t mind if I made the summer a little more endless around here.

    Ms. Vickers’ spread appeared after her part as Honey Parker in Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman and some other delightful B-flicks, but the Playboy write-up does not report this and focuses instead on her early love of coffeehouses and the bohemian lifestyle. It’s an interesting glimpse at her life outside of stardom, especially given that she was sort of stuck in these roles as a sexy blonde starlet which belied her active intellect and charming, offbeat personal interests. Of course, there was a lot of that going around back then: ask Ms. Monroe and Ms. Tate, right?


    When [Playboy] spied Yvette Vickers at a small table in Hollywood’s Cosmo Alley, that question became an affirmative, exclamatory statement. Yvette — though possibly a mite more attractive than most — is representative of the girls who inhabit the beat coffee houses of Hollywood.

    (“Beat Playmate.” Playboy, July 1959.)


    She’s interested in serious acting, ballet, the poetry of Dylan Thomas, classical music (“Prokofiev drives me out of my skull!”). She has strong opinions and is more than a bit of a rebel, frowning prettily on conformity. She is also reckless and uninhibited enough to race a Jag in the desert for kicks.

    (Ibid.)

    Right on! Big ups to Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf, “The March of the Three Oranges”) and dragging Jags! And of course, mad props to going ungently into the night with Dylan Thomas.


    She confesses to being “somewhat of a nut” about health food: she’s often to be seen stowing away vitamins and minerals at an “organic food restaurant” called The Aware Inn.

    (Ibid.)

    So for 1959, she was well ahead of the health food curve. Don’t you love how “organic food restaurant” is in scare quotes? It’s cute. This write-up just tickles me. I think it is really cool and neat that Yvette Vickers was a beatnik.

    It’s not a total surprise — Ms. Vickers was raised by two jazz musicians, Charlie and Iola Vedder (she went by Maria), with whom Yvette traveled the country and also recorded. They later settled in Los Angeles, where Ms. Vickers attended Catholic high school. (You know we Catholic girls start much too late!) Before catching the acting bug, she took classes at UCLA to become a writer. She then earned her B.A. in Theater Arts.

    Films in which Ms. Vickers appeared include Reform School Girl, Shortcut to Hell, Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman, Attack of the Giant Leeches, and Beach Party (she played “Blonde Yoga Girl — recall our previous discussion of the AIP beach flicks?). She also had small roles in Sunset Blvd and Hud, but you know I’m far more in love with the wonderful B-credits.

    Ms. Vickers was also featured in a slew of television parts, with roles on highly popular shows like Mike Hammer, Bat Masterson, the Rough Riders, The Texan, Northwest Passage, and Dragnet. In his book Stephen King: On Writing, Stephen King listed Yvette Vickers as one of his “matinee idols.”

    The photographer of this spread, Russ Meyer, has had a long and (in my book) illustrious career which must really deserve its own entry one of these days. As this is Ms. Vickers’ entry, I will wind down by saying that the lovely and talented singer, model, and actress has continued to work in the arts and keeps on rocking in the free world. You can hear Yvette on the audio commentary track of the 2007 DVD release of Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman and pick up her CD “Tribute to Charlie and Maria,” a jazz album she dedicated to her parents in the late 90’s — and keep your eyes peeled for her forthcoming autobiography.

    Girls of Summer: Delores Wells, Miss June 1960

    August 31, 2010


    Photographed by Don Bronstein.

    Delores Wells, Playboy’s Miss June 1960, shares her October 17th birthday with the anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, which stopped the World Series and collapsed the Cypress Structure on the Nimitz Freeway and part of the Bay Bridge, and with the birthday of my dearest old friendoh Big Ben, who I’ve gotten to see twice this month and am super glad of it (a much more cheery connection).

    At the time of her Playboy appearance, Ms. Wells was living in Chicago, like a lot of the early centerfolds. She worked as a bunny in the Chicago club. Sources suggest that Ms. Wells made $1,000 per week working at the club, but that her payment for this pictorial was only $500.

    The above picture did not make it in to the original spread because Ms. Wells’ pubic hair was slightly visible, which god forbid — until the Pubic Wars of the 70’s.

    Ms. Wells eventually wung her way west and appeared in several of the surf-rock propelled, beach party movies that were popular in this era: Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, and Bikini Beach.

    Beach party movies came up for us recently in the context of Sharon Tate’s Actual Life Awareness Month, but I had not taken the time to discuss them because I was trying to stick to my self-imposed edict of keeping the spotlight on Ms. Tate. In this post I am beholden to no such stringency and will tell you all about it.

    American International Pictures produced the first “beach party” movie, titled, go figure, Beach Party in 1963. I do not count the Gidget movies. Wikipedia does, but I do not. In my opinion the AIP beach movies were too different to give Gidget inspiration credit, and had a totally different market and theme in mind. Also I have been a huge Connie Francis guy since birth, and even though I know it is stupid and pointless, I bear a grudge against Sandra Dee for being the one who got to marry Bobby Darin. Yes, I know: stupid and pointless.

    Following the success of Beach Party, AIP cooked up more films featuring beachy monkey shines, about seven in all, which mainly served as frontispieces for selling the motion picture soundtracks with appearances from popular musicians of the era. (You know — like Shrek movies.)

    Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon starred in the majority of the AIP beach party flicks, and players like Ms. Wells appeared regularly as the same “Type” of person, though sometimes with different character names from film to film. The important thing was their recognizable persona. You know, the giggly flirts, the schoolbookish types, the buffed dimwits, etc … and, of course, the ne’er do wells. In the AIP beach party movies, the ne’er do wells were the comically inept Rats & Mice.


    Oh, the decorative sex*. Hands-down my favorite shot.

    The villains of the story were usually biker Eric Von Zipper (played by comic actor Harvey Lembeck as a parody of Marlon Brando in The Wild One) and his inept gang the Rat Pack, or “Rats & Mice”.

    (the wiki)


    The most popular running gag of the beach party series is “The Himalayan Suspender” technique, originated by Professor Sutwell in Beach Party, in which the forefinger is pressed against a certain part of the skull, rendering the victim paralyzed. The victim of this move (aka “The finger”) was always [Rats & Mice leader] Eric Von Zipper, who learned it from Sutwell and threatened people with it in subsequent films, calling it “The Rats’ Revenge.”

    (Ibid.)


    However, Von Zipper’s finger never worked on others, only himself. Once Von Zipper became paralyzed (usually with a big open-mouthed smile on his face), the Rats & Mice would carry him out and declare “Eric Von Zipper will return!”

    (Ibid.)

    I am pretty sure one of my girlfriends in high school lay “the finger” on our other friend as he knelt between us in Math class trying to coax my friend to share more of her large water bottle full of vodka mixed with orange juice, from which we’d been healthily improving our outlook on the late morning for at least a half hour. We told him to go away before he made it obvious what was going on, but he was having none of it.

    I was particularly concerned about “maintaining” because I was not the kind of student who got in trouble, living a very weird double life in which I outwardly exemplified a golden student and banner citizen and genuinely cared about service to others and studying for tests, yet I also secretly ditched school, drank, and smoked. I was too young at that time to reconcile those behaviors with one another. I was also worried because I was better friends with his sister than with this guy, though he too was a friend, and I looked up to her as a role model, and my opinion at that time was that the less he knew about my bad behavior, the better.


    A close contender for favorite shot of the spread.

    Exasperated and sympathetic to my worries, my girlfriend made hoo-doo signs in the air over our annoying friend’s head and elaborately pressed her index finger to the middle of his forehead, and he did a method face plant from his knees in to the carpet of the classroom.

    We thought this was hysterical.

    I have no idea how any of this was going on while a teacher was in the room, but that shit would never fly with me. My covertly misspent youth is a mixed blessing for my students: I am empathetic to their desire to break the mold and be bad, and party down and word up and whathaveyou in the process of living their life, man, but I am simultaneously wise to their shenanigans. The hell you are flashing a pack of Marlboros in here, young lady — if the girls’ bathroom during passing period was good enough for me, it’s good enough for you; and you may save your joints for behind the tennis court like everyone else since time out of mind, mister.

    Coda about the three characters in this anecdote, as we stand fifteen years later. My girlfriend in this story’s son and my daughter were baptized together five years ago. She works as a physician’s assistant. The guy on whom we lay the finger and I got high a few years later on the state seal the night before he went to join the Marines, or maybe the Air Force. I’d gotten over my hang-up about fearing too greatly the judgment of people I cared about. We stumbled to the Hard Rock Cafe and ate our weight in onion rings, and he told them it was my birthday even though it wasn’t, so we scored free dessert. Later he worked as the music teacher at our Catholic high school in town and is now pursuing a full-time career in Los Angeles as a musician.

    I am now substitute teaching at the very church at which we all met, and drive every day past the high school in the story. All that time I wanted to drink and smoke away the trapped feeling of the pressure of living in this town, which shrinks the longer you live here and the more people you know, so that a town of 215k or so can start to feel quite small indeedy, and now I like it just fine. Did I mellow out, or did I sell out? I think the former.

    One of the above pictures has made an appearance here before, in the inaugural “Showdown!” edition. I’ve totally dropped the ball on “Showdown!”s. Those were fun. All apologies: will remedy it soon, promise.

    Coda to Ms. Wells’ story: the very lovely and talented Ms. Wells continued to work in film and television in Los Angeles. Later, she worked for a while as personal secretary to the late Linda Lovelace, controversial star of Deep Throat. They met at a party at the Mansion in Holmby Hills. I assume her time with Ms. Lovelace ended before Ms. Lovelace’s denunciation of the pornography industry.

    Ms. Wells is still alive and kicking and will celebrate her 73rd birthday this coming October 17th, which brings us full circle to the beginning of an entry that it’s taken me four days to write. Again, all apologies — had a lot of dogs in the fire, Stanimal. No reflection on marvelous Ms. Wells or the AIP beach flicks. This post has now reminded me that I need a movie moment on both Deep Throat and the magnificent camp parody Psycho Beach Party. I’ll try to get to that, I swar to gar! All y’all keep on rockin’ in the free world and please forgive me my absences.





    *Phrase borrowed with amused admiration from chainedandperfumed right here on the wordpress, then googled and found to be of even more apt camp and vintage. Thanks for the loan, c&p. Truly you are the O.G. of this biz.

    E.E. Cummings month: “My sweet old etcetera”

    August 27, 2010


    via

    my sweet old etcetera
    aunt lucy during the recent
    war could and what
    is more did tell you just
    what everybody was fighting

    for,
    my sister


    via

    isabel created hundreds
    (and
    hundreds) of socks not to
    mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers
    etcetera wristers etcetera, my


    via

    mother hoped that

    i would die etcetera
    bravely of course my father used
    to become hoarse talking about how it was
    a privilege and if only he
    could meanwhile my


    via

    self etcetera lay quietly
    in the deep mud et

    cetera
    (dreaming,
    et
         cetera, of
    Your smile
    eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

    (E.E. Cummings. “My sweet old etcetera.” is 5. New York: Liveright, 1926.)

    is 5 was a collection of satirical and anti-war poems which Cummings wrote during his time as an ambulance driver in France during the Great War. That’s when he also began working on his novel The Enormous Room.


    via

    The above letter of August 15, 1918, is transcribed:

    “My Darling little sweetheart,

    Just a few lines hoping that my letter finds you in the best of health, I’m very well at present and my family the same, Well loving, you see I’m faithfully thinking of you,

    You know I love you very well my little heart, I am never loving anyone else,

    If you are killed I will stay with you all the time and with my little baby if you give me one, I hope to see you very soon,

    So will leave you now with my best remembrances from all my family,

    Best love, from your loving little sweetheart, wife very soon.”

    The beautiful and painstakingly artistic letter has recently become part of the Love and War exhibit at the Australian War Memorial, who are asking anyone who recognizes the couple, a Martha Gybert of Saint Sulpice, France, and the Australian soldier to whom she writes, to notify them as to what became of the two. They believe the letter may have made its way to Australia because it had either come over from France with the bride, or was returned with the soldier’s body and other effects. Obviously, the hope is that it is the former explanation. More info here.

    Yesterday, in lieu of my previous service plan for the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa, I was called in to substitute for my ill colleague again. So, during the time the children write in their journals, I had them instead follow a basic form letter and write thank you notes, with drawings, to soldiers who will be serving in Afghanistan. The Cappy (he has been promoted now but calling him the Commie seems … “off”) is hooking it up because he knows the unit and the chaplain to whom I’ll be sending the letters, for which I’m so thankful. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea that ended up working out much better than I could have imagined; I initially thought it was hackneyed but I hadn’t counted on the children’s reaction to the letter-writing. The kids were genuinely fascinated by the project, and we traced over the world map in the classroom to demonstrate the countries their letters would cross before they arrived in their recipients’ hands.

    I was surprised by how engrossed they were in the idea and how the details of why there are U.N. forces in Afghanistan at all seemed so revelatory to them. (I stuck mainly with the line that there are bad people there who are keeping the good people in the country from having the resources they need to succeed, so we and other forces are trying to help the good people get their country back from the bad; like, how do you explain the complexities of involvement in Afghanistan to fourth graders? Even explaining it to ourselves is problematic.)

    When a girl told me, “My grandfather is a vet. He lives with us now,” and I said, “Oh, was he in World War II, or Korea?” and she replied, with a look at me like I was deranged, “Vietnam. My uncle was in the first war in Iraq,” I realized that these nine-year-old American children have grown up with the Towers down and all manner of skirmishes and action in the Middle East as a matter of course. They were so “in to” the project because the idea of a military presence in the Middle East, with attendant nightly television news reports of suicide bombers and attacks on bases, is so completely de rigeur to them as to be almost meaningless; unless someone in their life has been personally touched by the violence, it is just another part of the buzzing adult world that surrounds them.

    For most, this was the first time it occurred to them to put a physically human face on stories that are a regular — and regularly ignored — part of their daily lives. This was a first time of actual connection, emphathetic thought and prayer for people serving around the globe in wartorn places that are just names on television for the kids.

    For my part, I’d been concerned, because it is a parochial school, about taking care not to conflate patriotism with a love of God because that can lead down such dangerous behavioral and judgemental alleyways, as well as being always wary of the wavering line between informed support and general jingoism. But I was surprised that, beyond drawing war planes and helicopters or crosses and flags, the kids wanted to know more about the actual lives of the people who would be receiving their letters: I learned something, too, from this project, and that was that I can be as guilty of stereotyping an abundantly adamant yellow-ribbon-sporting, SUV-driving fellow citizen as I suppose they might be of me, who approaches an understanding of conflicts in what I thought was a less black-and-white way. I don’t know it all and neither do they. These kids drew their symbols and wrote out their dutifully trite declarations of support, but it was from a place of real love, and curiosity, and empathy. They are the next generation who will decide how to successfully negotiate international conflicts, and they are not a lost nor entirely manipulable cause. It was a very sobering and educational experience for us all. Probably more so for me than them, but I am glad that they seemed to have derived a real pleasure from the project.

    Girls of Summer: Dolores Donlon, Miss August 1957

    August 10, 2010


    Photographed by super-great Peter Gowland.

    Direct from the convent, it’s the lovely and talented Dolores Donlon, Miss August 1957! Ms. Donlon (née Patricia Vaniver) hailed from Tarrytown, NY by way of Philadelphia and, according to sources, graduated from “a French convent” before embarking on her career as a model and actress.

    My guess is she attended the Marymount Secondary School in Tarrytown, a school which was run by the order of RHSM. The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary were founded in 1849 in Murviel-les-Béziers, France. They are called RHSM in English-speaking countries and RSCM in French, Spanish, and Portugese. (The “c” stands for couer, corazon, and coração, respectively.)

    Marymount Secondary School in Tarrytown is still a standing convent of the RHSM, but is now used as a Provincial Center and retirement home for elderly sisters of the order. The nearby Sacred Heart school in Yonkers has RHSM on staff; their order’s devotion to teaching has of course not been forgotten.

    The crypt of the famous Marymount College foundress Mother Marie Joseph Butler, General Superior of the order from the tumultuous years of 1926-1940 and a major figure in the order’s history as well as parochial education in America, is at the Tarrytown convent, “down by the banks of the Hudson.”

    Mother Butler, born Johanna Butler in 1860, came from County Kilkenny, Ireland. She took her vows at 16 in the RHSM order’s original center in France, then ministered in schools in Portugal until 1903, when she was sent to the United States.

    During her tenure as General Superior of RHSM, Mother Butler not only extended the order to new countries and divided the order in to provinces to improve organization, she also founded the Marymount School and College at Tarrytown, and expanded establishment of RHSM schools around the country. This was very important during the Great Depression because the sisters in the new schools were called to take on, gratis, children as boarders who might otherwise have gone uneducated or spent their days at factories or in fields. This way, their parents had one less mouth to feed and could rest easily knowing the children were being taken care of with love, and, for their part, the children were given a foundation for future, more profitable careers, as well as given the chance to just be kids a little longer.

    When I was growing up, there had been a Mother Butler school in San Jose and all we Catholic kids, even those like me who went to public school, called it “Ma Butts.” I think the whole city called it “Ma Butts,” really. It was an all-girls’ school and shared classes with the nearby once-all-boys-I-think-but-eventually-co-ed school Archbishop Mitty. Or maybe I’m thinking of St. Lawrence. I’ve no idea if any still exists now, nor if they have gone co-ed, but I can only imagine the shenanigans that were got up to back then. Ah. Catholicism is for lovers.

    After leaving Marymount at Tarrytown, Ms. Donlon swung back through P-A, picking up the crown for “Miss Philadelphia” on the way. (An achievement that was nothing to sneeze at; between 1921 and 1940, three Miss Philadelphias were crowned Miss America. Then the Miss PA contest got off the ground a little better and Miss Phillies were no longer eligible to represent the whole state. But dang — three Miss Americas in 20 years? Philly in the house.)

    Dolores became a Walter Thornton model in 1945 and moved to Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Center City (downtown Philadelphia) from which two highly noteable Funny Girls hail: SNL alumni Tina Fey and Cheri Oteri. She packed up a few months later and moved to New York City, where she modeled under the name Patricia Van Iver. In this name, she received the award of “Queen of the New York Press Photographers’ Ball.” But the accolades did not stop rolling in.

    Super cool fact alert: In December of 1945, 300,000 GI’s voted Dolores’s pinup their Picture of the Year. Get it, girl! Way to keep those boys smiling. The only bummer is that I cannot track this picture down. If anyone has a scan — the name will likely be Patricia Vaniver or Patricia Van Iver, not Dolores Donlon — I’d love to be able to add it to this post. Thanks!

    The late 40’s and early 50’s found Ms. Donlon migrating back and forth between NYC and Hollywood. She continued to be a successful model, winning awards and earning the title of the “Ideal Bride” of 1946 in a wedding fashion show. Her ultimate bridal role came in 1949, when she married Hollywood agent and producer Vic Orsatti. Mr. Orsatti’s first wife was the fairly popular actress Marie McDonald, and he quickly set about securing roles for Dolores: the name change was likely his idea. She was only cast in one film as Pat Van Iver, but by the time the post-production was done, she was re-listed as Dolores Donlon.

    Some of the pictures in which Ms. Donlon was featured during this time include The Long Wait, Security Risk, Flight to Hong Kong, and Nude Odyssey. She also appeared on countless television shows. Standouts are Maverick, I Love Lucy, 77 Sunset Strip, and the Walter Winchell Files. Ms. Donlon also continued to model — and therein started some trouble.

    In 1954, the Walter Thornton Agency brought a lawsuit of $120,000 to Dolores’s door, citing breach of contract. Ms. Donlon had signed a contract with them as Pat Van Iver (remember? back in her NYC modeling days?) and had not properly nor formally severed her contract with the agency before beginning to earn money elsewere. Under the terms of the contract, she was technically negligent in paying them owed portions of her income. Kind of a shady thing to do on both sides: for her part, she knew very well that she ought sever the contract or else pay up, ideally both; from the agency’s perspective why sneakily wait ’til your model/actress gets famous and then bring it up that she is still under contract? very unprofessional and predatory. So I can go either way on that one.

    The Walter Thornton Agency was second only to John Roberts Powers in size of modeling agencies in this country during its heyday. But please consider that size of an agency is in no way indicative of quality. The titular Walter Thornton retired around the time of the lawsuit and died in 1990 of a stroke, neither of which, I’m sure, was related to the suit against Ms. Donlon, who I believe finally paid out about $20k to get them off her back. And I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty close to positive that she made damned sure the contract was over, that time.

    In 1954, a picture of Ms. Donlon taken by photographer Stew Sawyer was named Best Cheesecake Photo of the year by the United Press. Ms. Donlon and Mr. Orsatti separated in 1957 and divorced contentiously in 1958 (from what I know of Vic Orsatti’s marital histories, this was sadly par for the course). Ms. Donlon continued to act throughout the late 50’s and early 60’s. She married Robert de Pasquale, a concert violinist for the NY Philharmonic, in 1963 and retired from acting and modeling to raise her family.

    Special thanks to Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen for the timeline of events in Ms. Donlon’s life from which a semi-biography could be culled. Super-great site!

    edit: Ma Butts is now called the Harker School and is co-ed. Archbishop Mitty is still alive and kickin’ and is co-ed. St. Lawrence Girls’ High School consolidated with Mitty at some point and is history. That’s a shame. I am a strong proponent of the unpopular idea of all-girls’ secondary schools. Girls perform better when their competition is only other girls; they speak out better and more often about their opinions; they score more highly on tests and participate more actively in class discussion than a girl of comparable age and skill-set who performs in a class of mixed-gender peers. Facts are facts. Sure, there will be gossiping and bullying and catfights — but they would have done that in co-ed school, too. I say get those girls alone with just each other in a classroom and stand back while they kick Math’s ass. I think a young woman can really come in to her own during the critical years of adolescence and form with confidence a strong, true character to her best advantage in an environment made up of predominantly females.

    In a perfect world we all see and treat one another as equals, but is high school even a remotely perfect world?? Of course not. I think young women often compromise themselves, both their intellectual growth and formation of morals, for young males. I think they’re better off separated so they can form their own personality rather than learning to cave and conceal their intellect. But I know and understand that my opinion is not a popular one.

    The Voice of the Internet Judges Good Ol’ E.

    July 7, 2010

    “The Voice of the Internet judges Good Ol’ E”

    Voice of the Internet: Hello, E. I am the Voice of the Internet and I am here to judge your journal.

    Good Ol’ E: Fuck a bunch of Voice of the Internet. You’re not going to make me apologize for anything.

    VOI: We’ll see. Let’s start: Your blog lacks a strong male figure.

    GO’E: Your mom lacks a strong male figure.


    Look out: Jessica Rabbit will hit you with a purse, next three miles.

    VOI: Yes, and I have often wondered if this is part of what lead her to abandon me and be a drug-shooting hooker who is not one of the ones with a heart of gold at all. So thanks for reminding me, Miss Apology-Not McInsensitivepants.

    GO’E: Shit. Okay, well, still I must say that is a totally forced insult name, even with allowances for being made up on the fly and under duress.

    VOI: I have difficulty making up insult names, on the fly or otherwise, because I have short-term memory loss as a result of a head injury from being dropped as a baby.

    GO’E: That explains a lot.


    Ir♥sh boy Gabriel Byrne for the priest picture because why not?

    VOI: Oh? It happened when my grandmother dropped me upon hearing the news of my underground-decommissioned-firetruck-racing father’s accidental decapitation when he was saying Mass because he was also a priest on top of racing. Though I was only a few weeks old, my grandmother was holding me since, as I have just mentioned, my mother is a drug-addicted hooker who abandoned me. Does that “explain a lot”?

    GO’E: Okay, actually no, because what the mothership was a bedamned underground-decommissioned-firetruck-racing priest even doing with a drug-addicted hooker? And how do you race a firetruck?

    VOI: He accompanied a negotiator to a police standoff with my mother in a motel room, a standoff which was over of course drugs and hooking, and my father succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome and I was conceived. I don’t know how you race a firetruck* because my father it seems was the only one and the knowledge died with him that awful day in Mass when he was decapitated by accident.

    GO’E: If he was the only one, then was it like a beat-your-own-best-time thing or else who did he firetruck-race against?

    VOI: We don’t know. They have never come forward despite the reward.

    GO’E: I am getting straight up interested despite my own damned self. What reward?


    Just pretend Gabriel Byrne is behind the wheel in the cab.

    VOI: My grandmother has posted the offer of a reward to anyone with information about my father’s firetruck-racing, as we did not know about the secret racing life he led until after his death, when we discovered an embroidered “Four-time Underground-decommissioned-firetruck-race Winner” robe** in his effects. When she passes on, which will be soon because she has recently been diagnosed with cataracts —

    GO’E: Not typically fatal.

    VOI: — plus liver, stomach, and ovarian cancer —

    GO’E: Shit. Sorry.

    VOI: — then in accordance with her wishes, I will add to the reward fund with any leftover money after we settle up the estate. I anticipate that the reward will go as high as about $3500.

    GO’E: Huh. I need to say: for being the Voice of the Internet, you are awfully fucking pretty specific.

    VOI: You really say cusses a lot.

    GO’E: What the what? After all this shit, you’re going to try to bring me down with some motherfucking ridiculous chump change criticism like that? “You really say cusses a lot.” Like, dude, how even old are you?

    VOI: I am ten and I can’t say I am appreciating your king-size cusses.

    GO’E: Oh, effing cheezits. This is going all kinds of not well. Heck. Know what? I’m sorry.

    VOI: So the Voice of the Internet wins? Against you?

    GO’E: Dude. The Voice of the Internet wins the whole dad-blessed thing against Good Ol’ E for alwaystimes, okay?

    And……..scene.



    *for the record you underground race decommissioned firetrucks the way you race regular cars ‘cept you do it a-way out in the country at this quarry behind my friend’s stepfather’s ranch and you better believe you run the sirens THE WHOLE TIME it is the fucking shit sorry kid but only a king-size cuss will do for how much of the fucking shit firetruck-racing is: all of the fucking shit okay so pass it on but try to keep it underground.



    **He actually won five times but they don’t know it because he left that robe in a truck stop in Tulsa. Total bummer cause he loved that thing.

    Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: Jesus saw you steal my cactus

    July 6, 2010


    Photographed by me on Floyd Ave, Modesto, CA.

    Matt 18:18-20.

    Forgiveness of one another is the most important thing.

    Daily Batman: Girl Talk

    July 6, 2010


    via

    I think there was a board game called “Girl Talk” when I was young but if it was ever played at a party I was either not invited or in some other room reading Bunnicula. Probably both. I think there was a game called that, at least … shoot. Now that’s bugging me … I’m giving it a googly-moogly.


    Girl Talk was one of a rash of “teenage girl-themed games” that appeared on the market in the 80s and 90s based around boys, talking on the phone, dancing, having parties and sleepovers, and other “girl-ish” themes.

    Like, omgz! Gag me with a spoon! Math is hard!


    via

    It was similar to Truth-or-Dare. … Each action (or question) is worth a certain amount of points. If you did not perform the action or answer the question, you had to wear a zit sticker. Some people actually thought the zit stickers were fun as well.[citation needed]

    “Citation needed.” I should fucking well say so! None of that sounds fun even at all: it just sounds like junior high gym class.


    Guess who likes you in this talking telephone game. I’m guessing that boy who threw the music stand at me and keeps riding his bike by my house wearing black socks with teva sandals. I always attract the sanest, winningest dudes on the planet.

    All that is missing from that game description being my eighth grade P.E. period is me trying to grab my clothes and get them on as quickly as possible before Jamie Sawyer [not her actual name but in case she has turned her life around I do not want her to feel persecuted] gets done in the bathroom (having no need to change clothes, as she refused to dress for gym class, she would merely use the changing time to reapply her layers upon layers of black under-eye liner) and starts roaming the locker room looking for things to steal and people to punch.


    This is strikingly close to Jamie’s middle school “look,” including the hickey from specious older sources, only she also teased her hair up very high in the front.

    The first several weeks that my old friendoh Tweaky Lawn was at our school, she had transferred from Texas as a pre-established rather badass bully and all-around riot grrl and needed to establish herself in the ladies’-prison-yard-style pecking order of the middle school ne’er-do-wells, so she had winning scuffles with some scattered pretenders to the crown of All Time Baddestass Girl.

    I heard a rumor one Friday morning on the bus that Tweaks was going to fight aforementioned thief, boxer and brigand Jamie Sawyer (basically a girl pirate in Doc Martens) but found that too incredible to be true. She had only just got here, and who would invite flannel-fist enclosed, painful death by pummeling like that? To voluntarily choose for that half-inch of eyeliner and, I shit you not, nearly-foot-high mound of teased bangs to be the last thing I ever saw?


    Like this only shitty and too much so that you look tired and cheap.

    No, thank you. I told the person who told me they’d heard from reliable sources about Tweaky Lawn’s intention to fight Jamie that Tweaks was smarter than that and it couldn’t be so. Jamie was more than a bully or tough girl, she was heading toward being a full on junior psychopath who regularly terrorized people she considered weaker than she with more than normal relish, like, picking on the special kids and working herself in to a froth cussing out teachers who were like 100 years old. She also liked to set fires. (I know, right? Aileen Wuornos much??) I figured Tweaky wouldn’t get herself tangled up with that, even if she had mentioned that “that bitch” needed “her attitude adjusted.”

    Shortly after lunch the news came down through gossip channels that both girls had been suspended, and I wondered over the weekend what the outcome had been. I really liked Tweaky by then and I hoped she hadn’t been hurt too badly and wouldn’t be embarassed.


    via

    I found out those fears were in vain when Jamie came in to our first period gym class that following Monday. She haughtily refused to look at anyone but actually went to her locker and pulled out sweatpants and a properly labeled “‘J. Sawyer,’ S__ Tigers” shirt that I did not even know she had and started putting them on like it was something she always intended to do. Two of her fingers were taped together with a splint. For once she wore no makeup, because not only was one eye black, but the other was nearly so and was also entirely red from the outer corner to her pupil — Tweaky had broken the blood vessels. I’ve always viewed her as a kind of lady Hercules since then.


    The story has to do with this.

    The story of how Tweaky and I met, when I gave her a bloody nose and shockingly lived to tell the tale, I will save for another day. I told it to my eighth graders when subbing last February and it apparently made the rounds of the small private Catholic school at which I substitute teach — where you have a conference with your teacher and the principal if you have below a B in a subject — and was such a popularly horrific tale of the gritty public school world that when I subbed in the seventh grade a few weeks later, I was scarcely done with attendance before they demanded to hear the story firsthand.

    Wow. All donesies. This has been your Girl Talk edition of the Daily Batman.

    Goethe Month: the Eternal Feminine, or, “Heaven is a hell of a party.”

    July 6, 2010


    Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis;
    Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan.

    All that is perishable is but an allegory;
    The Eternal Feminine draws us on.


    (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, Act 5, “Heaven.” Final lines of the play.)

    I interpret that to mean this: The things of men’s making that fade and grow dusty and entropically fall into disuse and destroy themselves in time are not to be worried over in their passing because they were never intended as anything but pictures to make us understand the continually Creative beyond that awaits, endlessly pouring out life, when we follow our dead objects to the grave.


    Photograph by Michael Demeo.

    I have contemplated it for about thirty seconds and I think I really dig this dynamic vision of Heaven suggested in the final lines of Faust. It is more exotic and vibrant than the tired old “flights of angels/peaceful rest” saw, yes? Like you are expecting to alight on some pastel cloud and hear harp-arrangments of soothing Bach chorales while you kick back with a lemonade, and instead someone shoves crazily-bubbling champagne at you, a tall fancy neverending flute for each hand, and the invisible stereo plays only ODE TO JOY, the good part, OVER AND OVER, forever and instead of the pastel cloud you are instantly transported to the front row of an endless big bang!, watching the universe eternally fling fire and stars at itself! for all time.

    Turns out heaven is a hell of a party and all your friends are there and your dead pets are live again and in their prime waiting to play whenever you like only they don’t shed anymore and your family all get along great and you can finally tell all the people you liked in your life but never told about your true feelings for fear you’d look like an idiot that you always liked them so much and they are all great with that and like you back and no one is bothered about sharing. And you are holding a sparkler. On a rearing t-rex.

    “Fuck, yeah, Heaven!”

    William Blake Month: Binding with briars my joys and desires

    June 19, 2010


    via

    I went to the Garden of Love,
    And saw what I never had seen:
    A Chapel was built in the midst,
    Where I used to play on the green.


    In the ruins of St. Ebba’s Lunatic Asylum. Epsom, Surrey, England.

    And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
    And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
    So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
    That so many sweet flowers bore,


    Photographed by Ellen von Unwerth for her book Revenge.

    And I saw it was filled with graves,
    And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
    And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
    And binding with briars my joys and desires.

    (William Blake, “The Garden of Love.”)

    Binding with briars my joys and desires.

    Who will take your dreams away?

    William Blake Month: Fathers and Friends; Mothers & Infants; Kings & Warriors

    June 16, 2010


    Photographed by Giasco Bertoli. Ladies’ Gun Club. The term is “Firearms enthusiast.” Never “Gun Nut.”

    Forth from the dead dust rattling bones to bones
    Join: shaking convuls’d the shivering clay breathes
    And all flesh naked stands; Fathers and Friends;
    Mothers & Infants; Kings & Warriors;


    The Grave is a woman in Blake’s vision. cf: Kali, Shiva, Sekhmet, feral cats who eat their kittens, bathtub ladies from Texas making little angels to be the stars in their hellbound crowns — the Mother/Destroyer, yes? Just like Earth. Just like life.

    The Grave shrieks with delight, & shakes
    Her hollow womb, & clasps the solid stem;
    Her bosom swells with wild desire;
    And milk & blood & glandous wine,
    In rivers rush & shout & dance,
    On mountain, dale and plain.
    The SONG of LOS is Ended

    (William Blake, excerpt from “The Song of Los.”)

    “The Song of Los” is the last of Blake’s so-called Continental Prophesies, where he shared his visions of the future for America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The excerpt just quoted concludes his prophecy for Asia and Africa.

    Golly, good thing Blake was wrong, am I right. Agony and apocalypse, with naked children and flames and howls and shivering clay? In Africa and Asia? What a nut. How off base.

    Ugh. Sorry, but as much as I enjoyed putting together DeDe Lind’s post, her comments about the Vietnam War and my subsequent reflections on those words with the ramifications of her centerfold’s popularity has resulted in a chain of thought about the twentieth century and where we’ll go next that has put me in kind of a foul mood. I will try to improve.




    Catholic Charities donations for aid to orphans in Asia, wherein if you click through you can specifically target children in Vietnam. (It is very difficult to provide accounted-for aid there due to the corruption of many alleged non-profits run-roughshod-over by the government in their headquarters of what is now called Ho Chi Minh City — formerly Saigon — but I know from long interactions that this branch of this particular outfit is trustworthy.)

    The International Red Cross/Red Crescent, click through to see about making donations to help efforts to feed the starving children in the Sudan.

    Is your guilt assuaged? Mine’s not. Not just yet.

    William Blake Month: Alas! the Female Martyr

    June 15, 2010


    For a Tear is an Intellectual thing;
    And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King
    And the bitter groan of a Martyr’s woe
    Is an Arrow from the Almighty’s Bow.

    (William Blake, excerpt from “To the Deists,” in Jerusalem: The Emanation of The Giant Albion.)


    Alas! the Female Martyr
    Is She also the Divine Image?

    (William Blake, For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise.)

    Mean Girls Monday: “Look, Ma, no gag reflex!” Karen edition

    June 14, 2010

    So my daughter is completely obsessed by Amanda Seyfriend due to her being in Mean Girls and Mamma Mia!, and she made me buy her this month’s issue of In Style magazine because Amanda Seyfried is on the cover. She is six and has never read a ladies’ make-up and hairstyle magazine, and, as she is the girliest-girl on the planet (I assume that’s some sort of rebellion against me), it has blown her little mind.


    During Mass as we took our seats after the gospel in preparation for the homily, kidlet leaned over and said, “I think Father Khoi is a heart-shape like me.” I whispered, “What?” And she said, “His face. Like me. Heart-shapes. We are not supposed to have bangs on our foreheads because it will make our chins look sharp.” I shushed her and assured her that I doubted Father Khoi is considering cutting bangs, but if I heard of it, I’d let him know.


    Continuing on the topic of bangs, she told me very seriously later that day, as we sat by the pool in the evening, that I needed to cut bangs again. She looked at me critically and said, “You are an oval but your face is too long. It will look smaller with bangs.” Thanks for the tip.

    Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: Qui è dove dormo

    June 10, 2010


    Florence, Italy.

    You can see that the homeless person who wrote this had written on this spot in the past, and the building’s owners have painted over several times. The most recent repaint is just beneath this message, and instead of saying it is where he or she sleeps, it says “Qui è dove vivo.” What happened to make his or her “living”-place identity more fluid, so that he or she only associates this clearly well-liked spot with sleep now? I suspect it came as a result of being driven away during the day by whomever keeps painting over the writer’s small and painfully human attempt at address-establishment, some workaday person concerned with appearances and light, complaining to friends at a dinner at a restaurant about how he feels badly for the homeless people outside his building, but they drive away customers or reduce the value of the property so what can you do? and everyone clucks sympathetically; some mouthpiece of empty it-sounds-good-to-say-so pandering about the importance of charity who gives to collection at church and feels kind of good about it but is still secretly freaked out by the different and eager to shunt everything “ugly” off into the night where they don’t have to look at it and contemplate such ugly things’ place in their own life and God’s plan; some brainwashed apologetic dick who buys in to the system and has completely fucking forgotten that the whole world is half night.

    That got away from me. Sorry. Carità è veleno. Except when it’s not, because I know that’s not true, and not everyone is false or a liar or hypocrite, they’re just struggling with problems so big that even Eleanor Roosevelt’s small group of thoughtful, committed citizens cannot change this thing. It has to come from the top, who would never choose it for themselves, so must be rushed by barbarians at the gate, as has always happened throughout history to the elite (who get conquered by the rough who then form over time their own elite whose own rough rise against them in turn and on and on, so what’s the point of any of it?). Now I sound like an anarchist. Which I’m not. Mainly. Blargh.