Monday, March 30, 2015

Found *NSYNC Fan Fiction #7 (A Ray of Blight Mini-Episode) now available

http://rayofblight.podbean.com/e/nsync-fan-fiction-7-a-ray-of-blight-mini-episode/


My most recent offering is the next episode of the podcast I do with my friend Sacha at rayofblight.podbean.com. We chronologically read aloud pages of one author's NSYNC fan fiction, from a binder found at a thrift store in Chicago. We have not read ahead, so you're experiencing each page with us IN REAL TIME.

In the most recent episode, the narrator Kelly goes with the band to a meet and greet (where she is seated next to Britney Spears), followed by a tearful call home. We experiment with using a variety of accents while drinking from a bottle of questionable ten year old Caravella Orangecello found at my house.

Listen to it here, as well as find a link there to listening/subscribing on i-tunes.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Meditations on Goth Benedictions

Call the curtain! Raise the roof! Spirits on tonight!
Boy, I'm glad I didn't own a record store in the 80s, because when Bauhaus went on tour, David J Haskins said in his memoir Who Killed Mister Moonlight?: Bauhaus, Black Magick, and Benediction that he'd shoplift at lots of the records stores they went into. There's some compelling stuff in the book about his time in Bauhaus and Love and Rockets. I enjoyed his occult adventures and a tasteful amount of juice about band members (a Bauhaus reunion almost ended in tears over an argument about pants. Yes, pants.).

Reading about his days in Bauhaus appealed to the fourteen year old goth in me wearing a Bela Lugosi's Dead t-shirt. I liked learning about how things like reggae dub influenced them (which I never really noticed but listening back now I can totally hear it) and how certain songs came to be. My co-workers at the bookstore were subjected to an eight-hour Bauhaus/L&R jag every day for weeks after I finished this book as I reaquainted myself with all the music he writes about, but listening to it with a different ear and certainly a different mindset.

I liked hearing about his black magick adventures with everyone's favorite occulty magician Alan Moore, and weird shit about phases he went through. He got obsessed with animal skulls, and he'd have visions about where to find a buried animal skull, and then he'd go digging where his dreams told him to go and then he'd actually find one. NOT CREEPY OR ANYTHING. That kind of stuff always pulls me in.

Also, I enjoyed the fact that he actually addressed the whole thing about the required goth uniform being the color black, in a nice "It makes sense because I lived through it"-art-school kind of a way that I can appreciate:
"Black was of course the only way to go: the colour of night and death, and always the distinguishing mark of those who wished to stand outside the norm, from existentialists to beatniks to goths. It is the flag of morbidity under which the anarchic troops of apolitical revolt rally before storming the barricades of convention. The nineteenth-century decadents believed that it required a highly refined sensibility to truly appreciate and savour the delights of sensual sadness and the beautiful phosphorescence of decay. The goths would no doubt agree. In their disdain for the vulgar and their celebration of all that is wan, delicate, and slowly dying, they were and still are the true descendants of those poets of exquisite unease." 
If only I had this quote on a card to hand to my parents when I was fourteen to explain my wardrobe choices. Hilariously, my wiseass husband told me he once went to a Bauhaus reunion show with his friend, both of them dressed in Hawaiian flower shirts just to be ridiculous. He said that some guy standing next to them said, "Funny! I thought of doing the same thing but decided not to." They had a good laugh with whoever this guy was and said, "What? Are the goths gonna beat us up? Hahahaha."

In no way related to the quote above, and in fact, on quite a different topic altogether in the book, David J writes a really excellent description of why a lot of popular music in the 80s was so high in treble, namely, because of all the cocaine everybody was consuming. This following quote is perfect in talking about 80s dance music but it also serves as a good description of the experience of doing coke:

When I hear a lot of popular music from the 80s now, 2 things often strike me:

1. How super high the treble is.
2. How fucking long top 40 songs were. They're upwards of 5, or 6 or 7 or 8 minutes long, and half of that is the outro. Is Everyone Wants to Rule the World a 27,000 minute song? And how much of it is that long boring ass fade-out that no one cares about? Oh you care about it?  Well fuck you, you're boring, you were born in a barn.

Anyway, David J. talking about 80s music reads like some distant cousin of the Patrick Bateman American Psycho monologue about Huey Lewis. I find this ticklingly humorous in a meta-kind of a way, since the music of Huey Lewis has always seemed extra treble-y to me, with so little bass emphasized in the mix that it was like the music had no soul. (In this case I'm thinking of bass as being equated with soul in various meanings of the word: soul as in the music genre of soul but also soul as in that which we associate with the vivacity of life.) Huey Lewis and the News are a sort of appropriated "soul without any soul" band in the vein of Hall and Oates, or as Ian Svenonius writes in a more articulate way in Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock'n'Roll Group regarding Huey Lewis and the News, he says that they are "a succinct manifestation of the breezy middle-class post-collegiate jock archetype of the 1980s." You know, like, all conformed white person high treble/low bass music with no soul.
http://rebloggy.com/post/gif-film-mine-american-psycho-christian-bale-patrick-bateman-mary-harron-yeaaah/29731452312

I know, I know, I'm not covering new territory when I say the music of Huey Lewis is boring; I'm coming off like a "Fuck you jocks, punk rock! Goth! Down with THE MAN!" and I sound like I'm still fourteen. I'm not so unaware that the immature ridiculousness of doing that hasn't dawned on me, but I can't say I really care.

The irony of the whole thing is that actually, I'm not really big on music where the bass is high in the mix. Honestly, I tend to hear stuff better when the treble is a little higher, and when the bass is too high it sounds like someone taking a dump, which is why I think that the term "bass drop" that's popular right now is extra hilarious, and makes me giggle. Probably I imagine most people would agree with me that it's just a matter of equaling out all the sounds in the mix in a way where one of them isn't favored over the other. Or when I say "most people" I mean "people who have exactly my sensibilities and interest in music and very specific set of qualifications for enjoyment."

The real interesting stuff in Who Killed Mister Moonlight? isn't David J talking about treble and bass. Somehow that got me on a real tangent. What I'd really wanted to talk about was the real News-of-the-Weird-section-of-the-alternative-weekly-newspaper vibe to the book, but somehow it wasn't what I ended up meditating on. I mean, how much can you say about enjoying someone else's spiritual experiences, other than "that's really cool dude"? Well, I guess maybe I'll go dress in black and dig up animal skulls. Then I'll go relax with some absinthe and find some artists with which to play exquisite corpse.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

You Had Me at "Wormhole"

How it really went: book first, then the movie.
In spite of this mass market paperback movie-tie in.

After I saw Interstellar, which I loved, it made me want to reread Contact. (Clearly, Matthew McConaughey was brought in to Interstellar to reprise a similar type of "ruggedly thoughtful" type of character that he played in Contact.) A lot of the things I loved about Interstellar were in Contact: wormholes, black holes, communication, wormholes, time weirdness, connection, wormholes...Clearly, Contact was a major influence on Interstellar. Obviously the filmmakers loved Contact as much as I did, and I was glad I went to see Interstellar in the theater as opposed to waiting until it was available for viewing on a smaller screen. I was heartened when I recently heard an episode of the Cracked.com podcast mentioning Interstellar and Contact together in one sentence, and it was nice to hear someone else musing on this aloud.

What I have NOT done is gone to see what the internet has to say about the relationship between Contact and Interstellar. Without even having to open another window on my Chrome browser to prove this, I'm sure I don't need to. I'm sure I would enjoy reading about this Nolan vehicle being inspired by Contact, but there are only so many hours in the day. Just because I'm inspired to research something in the moment doesn't mean I'm actually going to follow through on it. The laundry needs to get folded.

Before I go any further, I feel it necessary to give a short summary of Contact: extraterrestrials contact earth via radio waves and gives them blueprints for building a spaceship. I don't want to say much more than that for fear of spoilers.

I saw the movie Contact first when it came out, and I read the book afterwards.  I did it in the reverse order of how it came out, although I think Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan imagined it as a screenplay first, before the book was published and before there was a movie made.

I remember when the movie came out, not long after Carl Sagan passed. I was watching Jeopardy and during the final "win a ton of money"  round, the entry was "FOR CARL: name the movie where this appeared at the end." I remember thinking: If only I was on Jeopardy right now, I would TOTALLY win this round because I remember that from that on the screen at the end of Contact. And interestingly, none of the contestants got it. That is the one and only time in my life I can actually say "I know more than the contestants on Jeopardy." It was only that one answer, but still.

I remember reading Contact in the waiting area while my mom had surgery on her lungs while she was dying of cancer. I was up late into the night trying to keep my mind on the book but having a hard time following it. Partially it was because of what was going on with my mom, partially it was because it was the middle of the night, but mostly, I think it was because I don't think I was smart enough at the time to really understand what was going on in the book. The science and math stuff weren't so difficult in the book; it was written to be understood by people with even a rudimentary understanding of astronomy.

My difficulty in understanding it was that I was just out of college, and I didn't have enough maturity to understand the finer themes of the novel, and to really be thoughtful about the social/political/interpersonal material of the book. That being said, I do remember enjoying it very much. But it was probably helpful for my understanding of the book, that I had seen the movie before reading it. My mom passed less than 36 hours after I started reading the book, so the poetic parallel of parental loss that is common with the book was not lost on me, which made the journey of reading this magical book a comfort. You would think that someone would not want to revisit the book they were reading at the time of a parental loss, but this is not the case for me, mostly because of the ways it plays into the both the book and the movie.

The lyrical descriptions of different types of contact in the book are amazing, not just potentially with another race of beings in another galaxy, but also the different types of contact we have with each other, the way we communicate with different types of people in our lives. Get it, like the name of the book is Contact? Why did it take me like 20 years to figure out that the book/movie are not just about contact with other races? Duh. And like contact with each other is important too? Like before we understand aliens from other planets we have to understand each other? Double duh. That's what I'm saying, that I think I had a lesser understanding of things when I read the book the first time.

I love this quote, about being with someone who accepts all parts of another person:



If you're lucky enough to have someone in your life that allows all the parts of yourself out, including the parts of you that are you at different ages and at different stages of development, it can be an amazing experience. I love this part: "Perhaps the depth of love can be calibrated by the number of different selves that are actively involved in a given relationship." YES YES YES YES. I feel like I have different friends I do different activities with (this friend we always do beauty stuff, this friend we always do food stuff, this friend we talk about media and so on), and there are definitely different people that bring out different sides of me. But the people I like the most are the people I can be all things, all times, all my ages, all my emotions, all my selves. I mean, it's not like I'm not my self with the different people in my life; it's just that there are few people who I am all of my selves, the beautiful and the not so beautiful selves of myself. My husband is probably the only one who willingly tolerates all of those parts of me. Sometimes I think we should aim to be better behaved with our significant others, the way we are with friends. It's almost like we expect our significant others to give us a free pass to let even our most entitled/selfish/not so likable parts of ourselves. When we talk about getting in touch with our inner child I know we usually talk about that in reference to an innocent wonder etc etc etc, but I think we sometimes forget that children can also be not so well behaved too. I know that's not quite what this quote is getting at; the idea is hinting at how we can be ourselves at different ages with someone who truly loves us etc etc. But still. I can't help but think of this. I love the part in this quote where being with someone who truly loves you allows you to let the baby talk come out --the only time, with only a particular person with a special kind of intimacy, where that's socially acceptable. Well, I suppose it also comes out when I talk to the cat. The fatter an animal is the more baby talk comes out of my mouth. What the hell is wrong with me?


I love this business about the pamphlets, and The Protocols of the Elders of Ozone. That's a zine waiting to happen.



How can explanations using science not be as awe inspiring? So many people think they can only get numinous experiences through religion. I think it would help people to have numinous experiences through science if science teachers were trained to in art and poetry so they can convey that awe. Wouldn't that make people be more interested in learning about science? For some reason it reminds me of the beginning of Breaking Bad when Walter gets jazzed about explaining chemistry, when they're setting it up so that viewers know he has this sort of awe for the process, so that when he gets into the drug-making stuff later it's sort of a "finding himself" experience.

And yet somehow,  I've taken classes from so many science teachers that are so boring, because they weren't communicating any sense of wonder about the way things work. A good science teacher needs to have the same ability to use language in a way that good literature and writing teachers do. As a student I've encountered so few science and math teachers that actually exist in the mid-brain. It's as if the math-science teachers I've had lack the inherent talkiness that the writing and literature teachers have. So much of teaching is communication, and so many of math-science teachers I've had are not communicators. I know, I know, I sound like an asshole.

I guess that's why Cosmos, both the Sagan-Druyan and the deGrasse Tyson/Druyan versions were so good -- I feel like they both really captured a sense of bewildering awesomeness and numinosity about the universe that make religion almost irrelevant.

OK, OK, I couldn't resist, I just Googled "Contact Interstallar" and there's all sorts of articles. In fact, I didn't even have to finish typing it because the hive mind Google search function filled it in for me: Contact is the proto-Instellar, film face off on IMDB, all that shit. I could easily fall into a WORMHOLE on this one.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Reflections On Reflections: Show Within a Show, Private Firestorm of Madness, and No! The Log Is Not For Sale.


written for Twin Peaks Freaks fan community

Oral histories are fun reads. I recently enjoyed Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks by Brad Dukes. It has interviews with folks that had something to do with the show: cast, crew, writers, producers -- the author interviewed a whole lotta folks involved in the Twin Peaks. Featuring first-hand accounts from series co-creator Mark Frost and cast members including Kyle MacLachlan, Joan Chen, Sherilyn Fenn, Piper Laurie, Michael Ontkean, Ray Wise, Billy Zane and more.

I'm wondering with how awesome this book is, knowing that the author pretty much published it himself, if some publisher will scoop it up to reprint it. I saw that he was pretty much really only selling it on Amazon, and I wanted to make sure we had it at Quimby's, so I tracked the author down on Facebook and convinced him to consign it with us. He was very receptive and sweet about consigning it, and I was thrilled to provide a brick and mortar venue for him to sell it in Chicago. Also, I love sharing a good book with folks that I know would appreciate it, especially if it's independently published.

Stuff That Sticks With Me From this Book & Thoughts:
-Mark Frost, co-creator of the show, said that when they could, they'd add little asides in the show. It might have been references to old movies or other peoples work, even right down to the casting. For example, Peggy Lipton who played Norma Jennings on the show, was on Mod Squad, and they had her run into a co-star from Mod Squad in the diner that her Twin Peaks character worked in. Frost said, "Nobody was using this word then, I don't think I'd ever heard it, but this is a meta-level of conception, that in the show became a 'show within a show.' It became organic to our process. We knew we were making fictional narrative entertainment and we were also paying homage to things that tread similar thematic ground in the past." (p. 193) Oooooooo mashy-uppy goodness. I love this. This method of working in real life meta-ness adds to the mystique of the show, giving extra meat to conspiracy theories about Twin Peaks. Yes yes yes.

-Catherine Coulson who played Margaret "Log Lady" Lanterman said that some Japanese company wanted to buy the log because Twin Peaks was really popular in Japan. She told them, "No, the log is not for sale." She lamented that her daughter had just graduated from college, and she thought they really could have used the money but she could never bring herself to sell it. (p. 149)

-Phoebe Augustine who played Ronette Pulaski said that when she was filming the scene in the pilot where she was found walking down the railroad tracks in a torn up nighty, that she was really cold and that she had to walk across the railroad ties without looking down. There was a guy on the crew who looked really scary even though he wasn't doing anything. She told David Lynch that this guy was frightening her, and Lynch said "Don't tell anyone, but he's the bad guy." It turned out it was Frank Silva who played BOB, the scariest part of the show. (p. 176)

-Grace Zabriskie who played Mrs. Palmer (Laura Palmer's mom) said about Sheryl Lee, who played Laura Palmer: "She gave everything she had, she gave more, she gave more than she could afford to give, and she spent years coming back. I can't separate 'what her performance says to me,' from what I know it both gave to her and took from her. The performance itself tells this story. No one walks away unscathed from work like that." (p. 205)

-Sort of along the lines as the above quote from Ms. Zabriskie, Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer) said, "Playing Laura was a painful place to live for a long time. It's hard, in acting school they teach you how to develop a character but they don't teach you how to let a character go." (p. 205) It reminded me of this amazing poem Ms. Lee wrote about it, a sort of letter to Laura. I was inspired to revisit the poem on-line, and upon rereading it, one of the stanzas really jumps out at me:

I offered my whole self
In honor of your life
And in exchange
Was tricked quite well
When you rewrote my rights

Soooooo haunting. The notion of being so emotionally and permanently affected by something you had a creative hand in, as well as being typecast because of it, it's the logical and poetic extension of being haunted by something.

-Wendy Robie who played Nadine Hurley on the show said of her character: "Nadine looms large in my career. I was just a small part of the series, but if you put it all together over that amount of time it was a huge role that I was allowed to create. She loomed large, just to be playing a character for that long, but I do know that especially for the first season it had to carry underneath it - that pain of Nadine. I had to carry that to do her justice. I've never played a character that hurt as much as she does. She lived in her own private firestorm of madness." (p. 250) I love the term "private firestorm of madness." I MUST USE THIS IN ALL CONVERSATIONS EVER.

-Another quote from Wendy Robie (Nadine Hurley), also talked about Owl Cave and said, "There are areas where the membrane is very thin and those are portals where you can see captive spirits down in there." (p. 254) Oooooooooo I love this. This idea of a membrane between our known reality and the mystical realm, it being thinner in one place more than another is very intriguing. Add "thin membranes" to the list of things that intrigue me that also explain paranormal occurrences, including but not limited to: portals, vortexes, black holes, singularities, hellmouths and ancient burial grounds.

-Co-creator Mark Frost said that the reason Josie Packard's fate ended up the way it did was because him and David Lynch decided to make her be imprisoned in another realm in a way that it shouldn't be physical as much as metaphysical, mythological without being melodramatic. (p. 256) It must be difficult to get metaphysical and mythological without being melodramatic, but somehow they managed it.

-Sherilyn Fenn who played Audrey Horne on the show didn't actually do the trick with the cherry stem in a knot with her mouth. That didn't stop Letterman from asking her three times in one year to demonstrate it.

-Leslie Linka Glatter (director episodes 5, 10, 13, 23): "What I loved about the reality of Twin Peaks is that it examined human behavior in microscopic detail so you saw the humor of it, the absurdity and also the truth." (p.25) So true, so true. I feel like in so many of my daily interactions with people all of those things come forward -- how my favorite art can sometimes shine an illuminating light on the humor and absurdity of human behavior.

Oooooo! Perhaps once the new Twin Peaks airs in 2016 there will be cause for another volume of a Twin Peaks oral history! I hope Brad Dukes does another one!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

104 Of My Favorite Twin Peaks Theme Covers With My Own Commentary On Each One

There's so much love for Angelo Badalamenti's classic, and for Julee Cruise vocal version entitled "Falling." And there are so many versions out there. There are tutorials on how to play it on every instrument ever. And so many different style interpretations. A bluegrass cover! A death metal cover! Several punk covers! People singing it in different languages! People performing it on stages! In their messy rooms! There's at least three dance remixes, two chill-wave versions, and one "Urban Jungle" mix! There are midi files! People playing it on flutes! Lutes! Cellos! Pianos! Varieties of guitars! Varieties of guitars to test out their new amps! At least three people busking with accordions! A number of video game-influenced versions with their respective video-game influenced videos! Some versions are mashup-y, others sound like they should be demo settings on casio keyboards. My favorites tend to be ones where they really do something new with it, really taking it to a whole new level, or interpreting it in some way that I hadn't thought could be done. There is a variety of stuff along the spectrum of professional to  amateur, especially in terms of video production. Sometimes the more amateur it is, the more it amuses me -- like someone will have an otherwise messy room but have the framed picture of Laura Palmer displayed nonchalantly. Or maybe a band is really going to town but there are like four people in the audience. But they're gonna SELL IT, if you know what I'm saying. Sometimes the comments section alone is what sends me into chuckles. All of these bring me immense amounts of joy. -Liz



I curated this for the fan group Twin Peaks Freaks, which you should totally check out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Answers! Or Maybe No Answers!

I enjoyed Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted by Eric Nuzum. I don't think I purchased this book; it may have fallen into my life either via a sample copy sent to the bookstore where I work from the publisher, or maybe it came into my life via the proverbial back-of-a-truck-book-distributor method. By that I mean, if you receive your book damaged from the distributor, you call them up and tell them. They either issue a call tag (pre-paid postage via UPS or FedEx where they pick it up an give you a sticker to slap on it to send it back free of charge to the distributor) or they say you can "donate or destroy" the book. This translates to "Take it home and read it"; I figure they're donating it to my home library. Book distributors often only want damaged books back if they're above a certain dollar value, so often they tell you just to keep it. I joke that the best way to get me to read a book short of sending me a free copy is sending me a damaged copy that the distributor doesn't want back. Sometimes I end up reading stuff that I wouldn't normally have bought but ended up in my life because of the donate or destroy method. I should get a Henry Rollins-style back tattoo that says "Donate or Destroy." However, the past few years I've been pickier about what to take from the donate or destroy pile because I've amassed more than I can really ever reasonably get to.

Anyway, Giving Up the Ghost is about this guy's preoccupation with this dead friend in his life that he had a crush on when she was alive, a friend who helped him through this paranoia about some ghost in his house that was haunting him. At some point he goes on sort of a semi-spiritual voyage bordering on the edge of ghost hunting, and goes to all these haunted places to sort of, figure it out.

I love this quote from page 53!


It wasn't until I read this that I realized that I think, in the back of my mind, I might have always thought all this too, or maybe I wanted to believe all of these things. Or at the very least, I wondered all this were true. When my mom died, I think I might have gotten ever so slightly paranoid that somehow she was suddenly able to see everything I was doing, even at embarrassing personal moments. You know how when someone dies people are always like, "They're watching over you"? That might initially be comforting but the more I thought about it, the more bothersome it became, for reasons of privacy invasion. Who wants to be watched when they're wiping their ass? Who wants to be watched by their mother while strangers hold their hair back in the American legion hall toilet as they vomit from too many vodka and diet sodas on new year's eve (thank you, whoever you angelic strangers were, I will always love you, my dear cherubs)?

Also, if our souls do live on after we die, does it necessarily mean all the secrets are illuminated? I have no idea but there is that part of me that I think has always assumed this is true but another part of me that theorizes that just because we're dead, it doesn't mean everything becomes illuminated. Maybe the truth of the universe is in a different department that is nowhere near souls accounts receivable department. It reminds me of some novel I read, though I can't remember what book it was, but it was some novel where some dead person's soul enters the afterlife and is saddened to learn that they don't get all the answers they seek. Some angel says something to the soul to the effect of "Oh you humans, you're so stuck in that primordial Christian theology with such a sense of entitlement about getting answers when you die. Just because you're dead it doesn't mean you learn anything." I wish I could remember what scene in what novel that was. I want to say it was a Kevin Brockmeier book maybe? Anyway, it always stuck out in my mind as being one interesting take on considering the sort of enlightening answers we might get or not get after the curtains close on our mortal coil.

Do the dead have some way of effecting our life besides just spooking us? Are they spooking us? Is that them?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Creating a Life-Affirming Love of Life With Art That Reminds Us How Shitty the World Is


One of the best pieces in Greil Marcus' The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs (Yale University Press) was Transmission: 2007/1979/2010, about the song Transmission by Joy Division.

I loved this quote because even though it's in reference to some other quote, what I really like about it is the italics part, in reference to what Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis must have felt:

He said that life was terrible. I wanted to get up and tell people life was terrible, too.

It gets to the essence of what a lot of music I like is about, which is basically, telling the world how shitty life is, sometimes in some big social or political way, but also on a personal level, like maybe having a broken heart, a mental illness, physical pain or whatever it is that's causing you grief.

And isn't that pretty much a lot of art? We make art because we're inspired by someone else's art, and we're thinking in our head I'm inspired by your art telling the world how shitty the world is! Now I'm going to create art continuing to remind the world how shitty it is! Maybe I will inspire somebody else to remind everyone how shitty the world is! and so on. Sure, I do realize that some folks can't make it past the shittiness and they don't stick around (exhibit a: the lead singer of Joy Division), but maybe for those moments where they're experiencing the art they love they find a release. For many others, I wonder if maybe we communicate a life-affirming love of life with our art that reminds us how shitty the world is. And I am totally fine with that.