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Notes

Glastonbury 2014

A visual Glastonbury recipe, for those in America:

Stuff both Coachella weekends inside a fucked up Disneyland, substitute the pretty hipsters with crazy Welsh people, and add water. Decorate the top with flags that portray national symbols or pop culture characters or demands to hear Radiohead songs or promises of an orgy. Let those wave in the air while you stare out at the rolling landscape of a dairy farm being camped on by 200,000 people.

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Besides the 14 primary stages featuring bands, there are dozens of smaller pop-up venues showcasing a wide variety of weird stuff for you stumble upon, and we stumbled upon many. It would be impossible for me to recount each one, so I’ll just review a few highlights, all things that I liked, in chronological order.

Lloyd Grossman and The New Forbidden, Thursday night, Avalon Cafe
We hadn’t even checked the program. Festival Buddy and I were out for a stroll and passed a tent playing something that sounded kinda heavy, so we walked inside. A melodic, 80s style, mid-tempo punk band was ripping it up. His voice was great, the lyrics were fun, and it was a perfect way to start the festival. They play in London quite a bit so I’ll definitely check them out again.

Jungle, Friday 1pm, John Peel Tent
Electronic modern soul music. Beautiful vocals. Super atmospheric but without being “background music.” Really fun to dance to, and a very diverse demographic in the audience. It would be great music to play at a party. Here’s a clip: http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/errnc8/acts/ahf4wh#p021j4t1

Vintage Trouble, Friday 5:30pm, West Holts Stage
Ok, this was a mini-set so here’s a mini-review: I was super excited to see this band from California, my friend Kristen and I were both blown away by them at Coachella 2013. They played two good numbers, and a fairly large crowd had gathered (and they knew the songs!) Then an electrical storm forced the stage to shut down the show. Boo! Then the rain came. John and I frowned at the edge of the stage, drinking our rainy ciders. Finally, the band came out and greeted fans, then sang one more song acapella, the crowd demanding it. But that’s all we got. Very disappointing, but they made the most of it. Here’s a cute video someone grabbed of the band singing while the electricity was still out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsTrdJgsyGc

The Selecter, Friday 11:30pm, Avalon Tent
If I go to a music festival in the UK and I don’t hear some old skool British ska, I’ll have felt like a failure. The English appreciate ska better than anyone, and dancing around with a bunch of drunk old dudes who you can tell have never stopped listening to this stuff was really fun. The band sounded fantastic, and Pauline Black, the lead singer, looked beautiful.

Warpaint, Saturday 3pm, The Other Stage
Oh my god. An ex-boyfriend had sent me some videos of this all-girl rock group about a year ago. I liked it, they seemed super talented, but it didn’t blow my hair back. For a moment on Saturday I wondered if I still had hair, and if I did that I must die it bass-player pink. This wasn’t a drug-induced paranoia. I just loved these chicks. I don’t know how to describe it… sort of a Fleetwood Mac meets Radiohead. Really layered but really rock-y. A guy in our camping group saw the band twice on Saturday because they did a secret show at another tent and he’s obsessed with them.

Skinny Lister, Saturday 5:15pm, Avalon Tent
We ran into the Avalon tent for cover when the afternoon rain began to pour. This time it was Biblical. But there are worse places one could end up during a rain storm than listening to a stompy English folk band with a carnivalesque appeal. Very traditional. Fiddles and accordions and even a jug. Next time I hear them I hope to be dancing on a bar table rather than sinking into the mud.

Jack White, Saturday 7:30pm, Pyramid Stage
I adore him. Festival buddy and I were unanimous in our vote between his set or The Manic Street Preachers. He did a mix of Stripes and Raconteurs songs, most of them rearranged. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m so attached to the first way that I heard these tunes or if they really are better served in their original formats, but I didn’t like it as much as I liked those early White Stripes performances. What made the sound so impressive early on was that it was just Jack and Meg filling the room with a huge sound. Now he’s got a full band and, sure, they sound great. It’s just not as special. That said, he’s hard to walk away from. Festival Buddy and I started to split so we could grab a good spot for the next show, but just as we were about to exit, we looked at each other and smiled. He was like “Ok just a few more songs” and I’m like “yeah let’s hear a few more.” And of course they were great. Jack White’s never going to be bad. I just prefer him more stripped down.

Pixies, Saturday 9pm, The Other Stage
They are one of my top 5 favorite bands ever. I was feeling pretty sad about Kim being replaced, but there’s no way I’m not going to see them. They were fantastic, like always. The new Kim isn’t Kim, but she plays the licks and sings the tunes just fine. Frank Black and David Lovering were on top form. I got a little weepy during “La La Love You.” Then the entire audience sang along to “Where Is My Mind” with the same amount of sarcasm. That is what the Brits do best.

Mogwai, Saturday 11pm, The Park
Festival Buddy and I were having a hard time feeling our feet at this point. Before the band started we sat on a bench and drank a tea. I even put sugar in it, I was so out of sorts. A very civilized way to spend a Saturday evening. I had never heard Mogwai before but Festival Buddy insisted I’d love it and that it was a better choice over MGMT. After regaining our strength, we went up right in front of the speakers, because John said you have to hear them loud. He was right, about everything. Soooo gooood. Crunchy instrumental rock that you thrash and dance to. Funniest musical moment of the fest was during a soft, slow part of the song, Festival Buddy and I turned to each other to embrace. Just as my heart started to swell, the guitar BLARED out a loud note, almost knocking us over. So romantic. Then the old man tripping balls in front of us showcased some of the greatest dance moves I’ve ever seen. Will extract video soon.

Dolly Parton, Sunday 4:20pm, Pyramid Stage
Duh. Of course this was the best part of the festival. The rhinestone-studded corniness wove beautifully into the fabric of Glastonbury as everyone sang along to the array of hits she belted out. She was cute, she sounded great, her guitar playing was excellent, her jokes were silly but everyone loved them. I know there’s been some controversy about her maybe lip-synching, but the vocals sounded authentic to me. Plenty of waver in the voice, seemed very real.

Anti-Flag, Sunday 9pm, Left Field Tent
All I have to say about this is “FUCK YEAH!” Ah man, it’s so difficult to see authentic punk rock live these days. I honestly can’t remember the last mosh pit I was in. And it ain’t because I’m old! I’ll run around the circle pit in my wheelchair in 40 years from now if I have to! We are just in a musical phase where my favorite genre seems to be out of fashion. Festival Buddy and I learned that we’re both on the same page here as we ran around, dancing in our silly wigs. BRAG ALERT: I may have found my musical soul-mate. The band’s sound is very first-wave and raw. They lay on the politics without being heavy-handed. The set ended with some Clash tunes. That you can walk about a quarter of a mile on a farm and go from hearing traditional country music to hard-core punk rock and both sets are amazing is the true testament of Glastonbury.

Other fun moments included: The Wailers, a dance party at Arcadia that included a brass-band cover of “Sexual Healing”, and a 3 foot tall midget in the Heaven tent pretending to be Jesus.

See ya next year, Glastonbury. I probably won’t wear shorts next time.
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2 Notes

Sorting out some thoughts on #YesAllWomen

Like many others, I’ve been glued to the screen reading #YesAllWomen stories, for it gives validity to the daily fear we all experience. The aim of the hashtag was to let our male counterparts understand the culture of harassment, so they can do their part to stop it. I hope that is happening.

We, as women, can do our part as well. But more on that in a moment. Here are two of my #YesAllWomen stories:

  • As I stood up on the semi-crowded subway a few moments before we entered the station where I was to make a transfer, a man cornered me. He stood just inches away, trapping me between himself and the door. For the longest minute and half of my life, he went into graphic detail about the fantasy he was going to have about me when he went home, rolled a joint, and jerked off. He leaned his head forward as he whispered how he was going to be looking into my green eyes while he rubbed his dick. I looked away and realized no one on the train even noticed it was happening. The doors finally opened and I ran to the other train. Not even the one I needed, just the first one with open doors. I quickly ran down three other cars to be as far away as I could. I didn’t hear him exit behind me, but when I looked out the window of the new train car I was on, HIS FACE WAS RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WINDOW, smirking at me. It was like a fucking horror film.

  • I went on a few dates with a guy. I enjoyed his company but I could tell by date 3 that I didn’t want an intimate relationship with him. After a couple drinks one night I told him this. I was very kind, informing him that though he is very attractive I just don’t think we had that kind of chemistry, and I hoped we’d continue a good platonic friendship. He kept touching me the whole time, which was weird but I let it go. When I was finished, he sighed “Ok, fine. We can be friends. But will you do 2 things for me?” “Ok, sure.” “First, set me up with your hot actress girlsfriends.” I just stared at him and groaned on the inside. “I’ll see what I can do.” “Second thing, so I’ve got this fantasy. We’re moving to a new office and our current office has this room that only I have the key to and I really wanna have sex in there. Will you fuck me there one night after everyone else has left?” Beat. “WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST TELL YOU? I don’t want to have sex with you.” “C’mon, just one time! Not even ONE TIME?” I’ve never felt combination of rage and confusion I was experiencing in this moment. He grabbed his drink and sneered, angry. I still don’t not know if he’s an asshole or an idiot. A blend of both, perhaps. I felt so insulted, I handed my drink back to the bartender, stormed out, then kicked over my nightstand when I got home. I called my friends, some male friends, asking “Do I give the impression I’m some kind of woman for hire? That I give sex as favors? I don’t understand what just happened to me.” They all insisted I cannot blame myself for this. And it took awhile before I believed them.

So those are two very different expressions of male entitlement. Both spring from the culture of men believing that if they want us, they get to have us. Sometimes it’s just uncomfortable, sometimes it’s dangerous, and last week it became deadly.

Even though women have done nothing to deserve the kind of treatment we’ve all been posting about, and to put a stop to it men must stand in our corner and tell their friends and brothers and sons that this behavior is not ok, there is also something women need to do as well: we need to talk about female entitlement.

The type of male entitlement seen in American culture stems from our storytelling. In films, tv, literature and video games. That the boy will one day get his princess. I see a non-abusive expression of this mindset in several of my male artist friends: adult men who’ve never been in a real relationship because they believe that Amy Adams is going come pirouetting through their window with sparklers on her tits and tray full of brownies, give him a blowjob, and live happily ever after. I’ll admit this immaturity at times makes me angry and frustrated. But, for every one of these men, there is a female who believes Michael Fassbender is going to leap through her door with an erection and a sword, kill a spider, build her some shelves, listen to her talk about feelings for 4 hours and live happily ever after. Because storytelling has made women feel entitled as well: that if we just do x, y, and z, “that guy” will appear. And he’ll be perfect. Obviously, it’s not going to happen like that.

Both the men and women who walk around with this mindset, navigating the dating world with an iron-clad armor of entitlement are causing resentment and anger from the other side, creating a war-like atmosphere that has given rise to “seduction websites” and books like “the game.” I don’t want to sound like I’m throwing my gender under the bus, but ladies, I think we have played a part in this. Only because some of us have bought into the Prince Charming narrative, and will stand for nothing less than a story-book romance no man can live up to.

I hope I don’t get lambasted for this. Again, I’m not suggesting that women have deserved harassment, or that we are at fault for last weeks murder spree. I’m only positing that perhaps we take a look at our own, fairly complex, entitlement issues. It could make everyone a bit more real, a bit more human, and give way to a bit less anger. Assholes like the ones I described above are not created by us women, but by a culture we may be inadvertently supporting.

(I’m fully aware I may be talking out of my ass here. I’m just trying, like everyone else, to make sense of it all.)

9 Notes

Los Angeles

I’m leaving LA for London. Not forever, but for a little while.

Why? Because cold air is better for your brain, fashion and fucking. (That’s not really why, but the reasons are a bit complex.)

People love to hate on Hell-A. Sure, I could write a 6 volume set of tragic novels about everything loathsome in Los Angeles titled “SORRY, I FLAKED”, but no one wants to read that shit. And no one likes a hater. So I’ll use this little plot of the blogosphere to talk about the wonderful parts of Los Angeles. The things I’m going to miss:

1. The gigantic painting of Edward James Olmos on the side of a building in Echo Park where the missing bricks represent his pockmarks. It’s unreal.

2. Cemetery Screenings. Every Saturday from May through September they project movies on the side of a building at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. You bring sandwiches or a pizza and some wine and maybe some pot then watch a movie with the ghosts. (Sometimes they show a film that stars an actor buried at the cemetery. I’m pretty sure the dead film star’s egomaniacal spirit lurks in the back to make sure they “still got it.” ) The programming is stellar; a diverse array of acclaimed classics and hipster nostalgia pieces. Why is it fun to watch a movie you’ve seen 25 times with 300 other people, mostly stoned? It just is. 90 percent of the crowd are cinefiles, so you never have to be embarrassed about how “into it” you are. Go ahead, scream out your favorite line of “The Princess Bride” (“Does anybody want a peanut”) as loud as you want. The guy next to you is dressed as Inigo Montoya. And that’s emblematic of something that’s truly lovely about LA: there is never, ever any shame in being a fangirl/boy. Fandom is the lifeblood of this town, and every Saturday in the summer it coagulates around a cemetery. That rules.

3. Earth’s Power Yoga. Don’t fight it. Don’t get annoyed by the purple and teal sea of yoga mats flooding Southern California. Go with the flow and become one of them. Earth’s Power Yoga in Weho does everything right. There are two poles of yoga: manorexic workout freaks who’ve found a trendy way to make you do 200 pushups VS  smelly hippies beating drums and telling you there is light coming out of your perineum. Earth’s is perfectly positioned between those two extremes and I’ve been doing this long enough to know I won’t find that anywhere else. Steven, the owner, is incredibly athletic so you get a real workout, but there’s just enough kookiness in the room to make it fun. The weeknight teacher, Mark Giubarelli, is a crazy Scottish yoga guru who straddles your hips while rubbing your back muscles and lecturing about how to mix yoga with your drinking habit. It’s pretty much perfect. Don’t take this class if you have personal space issues, I’m pretty sure I lost my virginity a second time here. Namaste. 

4. Farmers Markets. Yes, a predictable entry. But seriously, there are vegetables that grow in Southern California so good you can taste the fusion of the sun and the earth. It’s a goddamn desert so I know this isn’t natural, but I don’t care. Year round fresh produce is something I am sadly leaving behind. I may try to tattoo the taste of a mango on my tongue before boarding my flight to Heathrow.

That’s it. Four things. I’m sitting here in a coffee shop near the beach staring at a ducklipped woman in a terry-cloth tracksuit trying to think of something else I’ll miss…. My dear, dear friends, of course. It took me a long time to make some out here. This is a very lonely city of 4 million. But after a bit of effort I did, I met people I really love. My political volunteer organizations, my writers groups, my classes. You have to become a part of communities. LA is a city of joiners, it always has been. (The sad side effect is that it’s also America’s cult capital.) But again, don’t fight that. If you move here, seek out comedy theaters or burlesque troupes or cycling clubs or some group that dedicates itself to celebrating whatever weird shit you like. Then you’ll start having a really good time out here.

Ok, I’m off to have a final night out in Hollywood with a varied collection of the pals I’ve made in this town. Then off to another city to collect new things and new people to love and to miss later on.

4 Notes

"...THE FOREMAN, THE WOMAN, THE WIDOW, THE BEAST!"

This story makes my heart race. Matt Champagne, the author, is a good friend of mine. And I’ve worshipped KITH since I was 11 years old. Matt, if there’s video of this handshake that happened on stage WE HAVE TO SEE IT.

remainchampagne:

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My favorite sketch by The Kids In The Hall was always “The Bass Player.” Bruce McCulloch plays a bass (I wanna say a Rickenbacker) and Kevin McDonald, whilst dancing around him, recites a tone poem-like speech about how no one likes the bass player. It’s highly amusing and wonderful, until…

9 Notes

Glas…GO!

I just traveled to Scotland for the Glasgow Comedy Festival. My observations:

1. The men are cute as fuck. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s not that they’re hard lookin, though they are, nor is it that they each resemble Ewan MacGregor, though they do. There’s just something in the eye shape that, if bent to a further extreme, would make them look mildly retarded. I don’t know why that’s so sexy BUT IT IS. From the suits walking out of the bank to the punks playing in the basement of the local dive, they’ve all got this shared distinctive trait that makes me feel funny. I fell in love about 327 times.

2. They are vulgar in a way I have never quite experienced. I took a bus trip through the Highlands, and the tour guide, Aly, between singing Belle and Sebastion songs to himself, told stories about who shagged who and gave advice on the best places to take a poo. This went on from 9am to 7pm. Oh, and when passing a romantic castle, Aly gave a detailed account about how he lost his virginity at age 16 to a 40 year old woman. I’m a comic, so I loved these tales with every morsel of my soul. But the other tourists on the bus? A Japanese man and a Saudi Arabian family dressed in conservative Muslim attire. When Aly recited poems from the 19th century comparing women’s breasts to particular Scottish stones? I glanced at the Saudi families faces, but they never winced. We all learned around 2pm that the Muslim parents didn’t understand English (much less, Scottish.) I felt more at ease from this point on. (PS If Aly wasn’t married none of you would ever see me again.)

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3. The “friendly” thing? It’s real. People just stop and ask you nice things like “are you lost?” or “need a whiskey?” I wasn’t performing this trip, I just wanted to come up and watch other comics. But the first night I arrived, an old man sat across from me at the chip shop. After he found out I was a comic he made me tell him my jokes (I hate when people do that but in this situation it somehow seemed perfectly wonderful.) He spit up his chips on my opener and laughed so loud I was shocked. Then he spent half an hour giving me advice on telling jokes in Glasgow and informed me of a Scottish sketch comedy character named “Iam Jolly.” As I parted ways with my new BFF, I found out he used to be a local politician. Truly, everyone here is awesome. (And yeah, there’s a humble brag in there about how I killed it at the chip shop to an audience of one.)

4. Scotland is beautiful (DUH of the decade, I know.) But really. Glasgow has gorgeous architecture, and the highlands make you wanna cry just a little. There’s nothing more to say about it, here are some pics:

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5. These people are funny. Right, the comedy festival I came here for! Learned a lot about how to grab a Glaswegian audience, how to transform your set from divey club to a large theater to make it work in both venues, as I saw Mark Nelson do two nights, and what not to do when you’re bombing. (Holy shit I won’t reveal the name but someone tried a political rant in exactly the wrong way and I’m still squirming.) My favorites of the fest were: Des Clarke, Susan Calman, and Janey Godley. I don’t feel like writing reviews, so I’ll just say they’re all wonderful.

But in addition to the professional and aspiring comedians, just the general population is funny as hell. Here’s the deal about Glasgow: motherfuckers heckle. They’re known for it. When people told me that I was all “ok, so they’re all just professional assholes.” I got zero tolerance for hecklers, no one came out to listen to your drunk ass, EVER. But after 4 days here, I get it. The relationship between the performer and the audience is just different in these ailes, England included, and it’s expected that you involve the audience. Talk to yourself on stage and your fucked. No one likes that here. You have to look at them and speak to them and let them speak back a little. But in Glasgow that’s taken to a further extreme. At EVERY show an insult will be lodged at the performer, lovingly. It’s part of the ritual of comedy. You gotta handle it. Again, at first I thought this was awful. But now I get it. The general population you are performing for are FUNNY FUCKING PEOPLE. All of them. So if you DON’T include them you aren’t using all funny things at your disposal. And if these drunk assholes are in fact funnier than you, you don’t deserve the stage. The flipside to this harsh reality is that, if you are in fact funnier than these assholes, they WILL LOVE YOU LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN LOVED. They laugh loud and cheer heartily and if you succeed you will have the gig of your life. Next year, I’m gonna try it.

6. Music. It’s famous for it. A country of roughly 6 million has consistently put out amazing music acts. So I took a break from the ha-ha’s one night and saw bands at a dive. While Aly the tour guide sang to himself, I contemplated how interesting it is that such a hard city became the birthplace of twee, Belle & Seb being twee music’s Adam & Eve. I figured this must be an anomoly. Two androgenous kids who stepped out. But no, the music here… is chill. It’s groovy and peaceful, even the punk rock. The night I checked out headlined a ska band and two punky supporters. They had heavy tunes, but it all sounded so peaceful and melodic. I loved it, really. The ska group was called The Buddhist Punks and they were awesome.


That’s it, Tumblr. Go to Glasgow.

1 Notes

Newest comedy short! Revenge fantasies come to life!

3 Notes

A Hug from Philip Seymour Hoffman

While Phillip Seymour Hoffman was doing “True West” on Broadway, I was at a bar in midtown, drinking with fellow actors after our far-less-glamorous production. PSH showed up with a group of people and sat one table away. I’d been in NYC long enough to not get star struck, but here was the actor of our time. I was getting gushy. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. After two pints of liquid courage, I saw PSH get up as he was going to leave. He went down the long table hugging every one of his friends, so I stood at the end of the row and just after he hugged his last friend I held my arms out and smiled. He hugged me too. My table of friends laughed, as did he. I sat down and sighed and didn’t ever want to wash my arms.

Notes

Presentism

I’ve always rejected the idea of avoiding “presentism” in regards to gauging the morals of historical events. It’s the claim that you should not use a present day set of values to judge people or events of the past. And that’s bullshit. It’s what makes people say: “Well of course Uncle Clem was racist and tried to kill a few black people, it was 1939! Everybody was like that!”

When arguing the matter, I’ve sometimes pointed to de Las Casas, a priest who traveled to the Americas with the Spanish Conquistadors. The Conquistadors were bad motherfuckers who slaughtered any indigenous person they felt like, because they didn’t see them as human. One dude chopped off an indian teenager’s head because the kid had a parrot on his shoulder and the Spanish jackass wanted the parrot. Those who claim you can’t judge these guys because you are placing present day ideas of humanity on those who had not yet been exposed to other races ARE FULL OF CRAP. Because de Las Casas traveled with these assholes, and was appalled. He wrote about how “un-Christian” and brutal his countrymen had become. They they, the Spanish, were actually the savages, and that they needed to reach out to these other cultures with peace and in the spirit of co-operation. De Las Casas came from the same time period and was raised by the same moral standard as the monsters he traveled with. But he wasn’t a racist dickhead. He didn’t deem those different from himself as subhuman. Because he was smart.

Here’s the deal: all throughout history, no matter when you born or what you were taught, you are either someone who hates everyone who’s unlike you, or you see other humans as equals. You either feel the need to hurt people, or you feel the need to help them. From the Conquistadors to the slave owners to the segregationists to the online bullies, there have always been both kinds of people.

And for those of you still not on board with my point of view, I’d like to present Exhibit B: My Grandmother. Hanging out with her over Christmas is what brought this whole issue to mind. My Grandmother is feminist, anti-racist, accepting of gay people and has participated in many different religious traditions. My grandmother was born in 1925. IN TEXAS. Never has she prescribed to any of the mid-century socially conservative notions of gender roles and separation of race. Because she’s, yknow, smart.

Some of you are gonna say that Grandma is some kind of anomaly. I don’t agree. I think many people from that era, even ones from the south, thought and felt they way she does. But they were under-represented by a media that wanted to broadcast the hateful yet far more entertaining segregationist assholes. The loud minority made for better television. Which is why we now wrongfully define entire eras by the rantings of extremist lunatics.

I think most of us are aware enough to realize that on any given news day, the crazy people populating news feeds with their marginal ideas don’t represent the whole of modern day society. And I’d like to suggest that we use that present day perspective when thinking of the past. That those who behaved and thought awfully were just that same portion of a minority.

So yes, you can judge an old person who’s an asshole. He isn’t that way because of his upbringing. He that way because he’s an idiot.

Notes

Happy NFL Season! Here’s our spoof, “The Broadcasters: Football for Girls Who Like Football”

2 Notes

Writers Book Of Days: September 4, 2013

writersbookofdays:

There’s a screaming baby in the next room.
I am sitting here in Dr. Attanasio’s office imagining the screeching child has Dixon’s face.
His beer bloated face.
Dixon wouldn’t come with me for the diagnosis.

For some people, this would be the breaking point.

Dixon’s done worse.
He took my…

Hoooo! A dark and awesome bit of micro-fiction from a writer in my group blog. Love it.

Notes

METAAAALLLLLL!

An article I wrote for “The Lazy Muses” about Death Metal and Danzig. \m/ \m/

3 Notes

Writers Book Of Days: August 29, 2013 "Katie and Pancackle"

writersbookofdays:

K: He called you by your real name.

P: I know.

K: When did you tell him?

P: Last night. Drunk.

K: You’ve got an alcohol problem. You’re going to end up looking like your grandmother.

P: Don’t talk about that.

K: Sorry, I won’t mention alcohol.

P: No, my grandma.

K: Why do you let your past…

Another freewrite from my group blog. (Anyone can join, fyi…)

3 Notes

Beyond “Breaking Bad”

Yes, “Breaking Bad” is a brilliant work of storytelling and Bryan Cranston has given the greatest performance in the history of television.

But it took me awhile to jump onto the Breaking Bad train because I’ve lost several childhood friends to the drug. I couldn’t bring myself to watch a show that glamorized meth. Well, it doesn’t glamorize. It proves in every episode that this was the worst decision Walter could have possibly made. Gilligan has been applauded for how realistically they portray the creation and trafficking of the drug. But one aspect of meth that the show kinda glosses over is it’s effect on the everyday users, which is darker and grosser than what we’ve seen on tv. While the stories are realistic, it’s still tv, and we’re watching two incredibly sexy lead actors be badasses. Walter White has become a monster, but part of the genius of the show is that we are still, inexplicably, rooting for him. Anti-heroism perfected.

Cooking and distributing methamphetamines is the worst contribution you can make to society, and I don’t think the show has truly dived into that. Yeah, the plane crash story served that purpose, but it was so fantastical. The “ATM” episode with the little boy that couldn’t speak, who Jesse covered his eyes so he wouldn’t see his dead parents then left him outside for child services to find… that showed the consequences of DOING meth. I think I stood up and clapped at the end of that episode.

I wanna take a moment to tell some stories of the users of meth, moments that the show has me remembering:

1. The first time I saw meth was in 10th grade when my friend “Kurt” rolled up a dollar bill and snorted some in our friends basement. Everyone loved Kurt. His coolness didn’t come from his drug use or any sort of macho nonchalance, Kurt’s popularity stemmed from the fact he such a wonderful person. Very loving, nonjudgemental (think about what a rare trait that is in a teenager), and incredibly talented. Kurt is still one of the best actors I’ve ever known. We did theater together, and he had this natural ability to immerse himself in a character that almost made me angry, because he never had to work very hard. Yet it was impossible to harbor jealousy against Kurt, because he’d get off stage, give you a giant hug, and then you’d feel great.

Kurt is now dead. He didn’t die in some Tuco-like shoot-out ala Breaking Bad… he was found in a parking lot, overdosed. The last time I heard Kurt’s voice was when I came home from college and he left an incoherent message on my mom’s answering machine. She told me I wasn’t allowed to talk to him. I hate that this is my last memory of Kurt, so I try not to think about it.

2. Now let’s tell a funny story, because meth is darkly hilarious. A friend of the family is currently doing time in a women’s prison, for a crime unrelated to drugs. But she wrote me a letter a couple months ago about a woman she’s in with:

Two meth heads arrived at the house of a female dealer, about 8 miles from where they lived. The dudes tweaked, came down, then asked for more. But they didn’t have any money, so they sold their car nearby, walked back to the dealers house and spent the car money on more meth. But now they couldn’t get home because they had no car. The dealer said she’d give them more drugs if they painted her house. So they painted the house, tweaked again, and for the next 2 days BECAME INDENTURED SERVANTS as the dealer kept giving them chores to do in exchange for meth. She was busted when family members of the dudes sent police out on a search, and found them strung out polishing her floors. This woman is now locked up with my friend. And I’m now conjuring up a legal way to lure in dudes to fix shit around my apartment. (Oh right… sex.)

3. Now for the really ugly stuff. There has been a spike in weird, macabre murders in rural and low-income parts of the country, and most of these stories get linked to meth. Anytime you read a headline like “Woman axes her two toddlers” or “Man butchers 13 year old girl with a knife” or “Man attempts to rape a young girl, stops himself thens drowns her”, there is always meth use embedded in the story. Last year there was a case near my hometown of a 15 year old girl murdering a 9 year old friend. The killer was a “meth-baby.” Both her parents were junkies: her dad is in prison and her mom is who-the-fuck-knows-where. She’s been living with her grandma since she was 11, tried to kill herself at 13 and then was put on Prozac. She confessed to murdering the little girl, stating she “just wanted to know what it felt like.” And that’s what the drug does. On the short term it makes you violent and crazy, but on the long term, it kills empathy. It makes you feel nothing.

One major problem was authorities had no idea where to put the murderer. Her attorney said she would not survive adult prison, but there were no high-security facilities for teenage girls, as most incarcerated female teens are in for suicide attempts, theft or petty crimes. Missouri had not seen a case like this. It seems to me we are now seeing events like this occur because the first generation of “meth babies” are becoming teenagers. Children born without empathy. And I fear there will be more.

I cried when I read the story because there were all of these conservatives in Missouri calling for her to get the death penalty. She is certainly a danger to society and needs to be locked up, but I can’t bear the thought of an execution. Not because I have sympathy for the horrible hand she was dealt, though I certainly have sympathy for that, but because I think we can learn something by figuring out what made this girl the way she is. This sounds insanely optimistic, but I believe we can find a cure for sociopathy by investigating what causes it. And if we can’t, well fuck, we owe to ourselves to TRY. The long term effects of meth on the brain could be a clue into why some people become monsters. And maybe a clue to how to turn them back.

So this is the kind of shit “Breaking Bad” has me thinking about. I imagine the show has been a deterrent to some who think of trying it. I hope so, because as bad as the situation is for Walter White and everyone around him, in reality, it can be even worse.