Tuesday, March 31, 2009
When it comes to Movies of a Certain Age, Gaslight will always top my list of favorites. I'll never forget the first time I saw it; I was twelve or so, and my mother insisted that I take a break from my usual weekend activities (namely, sulking around and hating everyone for no particular reason) to sit down to watch it with her.
Needless to say, my twelve year-old self was enthralled. It was all unlike anything I'd seen before. The mystery! The mayhem! The impossibly small size of Ingrid Bergman's waist! The mother-effing gaslights! And then, of course, there was the plot, which at the time seemed like what would happen if My Fair Lady had produced a love child with Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. (Every time Joseph Cotten walks past the front door of the townhouse, I still can't escape the feeling that he's about to break into the opening strains of "On the Street Where You Live". On the other hand, that would make Charles Boyer a stand-in for Henry Higgins, which... well... no.)
Anyway, the thing that makes Gaslight so compelling -- apart from the fact that Ingrid Bergman, between this movie and Notorious, seems to have a real penchant for roles in which she becomes imprisoned by her maniac husband in the upstairs of a really great house -- is the unbelievable manipulation that it depicts.
As a teenager, it was harder for me to grasp. "How can she be so dumb?!" I kept thinking to myself. "Come on, he is OBVIOUSLY EVIL. I mean, look at his FACE! Ingrid, why can't you see him for what he is, you weak woman?! Get out of the house before he kills you!" And so on.
But now, fifteen years later, it has become all too clear to me just what a brilliant mindfuck gaslighting actually is. Because, when you live with someone day in and day out, you do begin to rely on him to be your failsafe. Your double-check. The guardian of your quotidian life. All those moments -- the "Baby, where'd I put my keys?", the "Hey, do we have any milk?", the "Has the dog eaten today?" -- they add up to what is, in many ways, a sort of shared consciousness.
This is, I think, one of the nice things about being married -- that sense that somebody else is there with you, is on your team, has got your back.
On the other hand, it is also what makes Charles Boyer-type insidiousness so easy.
See, a couple weeks ago, I noticed that I was getting low on body wash. Not wanting to find myself suddenly sans wash during a future shower, I went out and bought a new bottle, which I then placed on the shower shelf -- unopened -- for such a time as its use became necessary.
Last week, I went to use the new body wash and noticed that its cap had already been cracked open.
"Hey baby," I said to Brad. "Did you use my body wash?"
"No," said Brad.
"Oh, okay," I said, assuming that I had simply failed to close the bottle completely after giving it an in-store sniff test.
A few days later, I went to use the body wash and noticed that its cap was open again.
"Hey baby?" I said to Brad. "Are you sure you didn't use my body wash?"
"Nope," said Brad. "Definitely didn't use your body wash."
"Oh, okay," I said, assuming that I had simply forgotten to close the bottle after last using it.
The next day, I went to use the body wash and found that the bottle was... lighter.
At this point, I was sure that I was losing my mind.
And then, I carefully closed the body wash and replaced it on the shower shelf.
There, I said to myself. I have closed the body wash and put it on the shelf. It is on the shelf. It is closed. I closed the body wash. The body wash is closed.
The next day, the body wash was open.
"Brad!" I yelled from the other room.
"STOP USING MY BODY WASH!"
"I didn't!" he shouted back.
"Oh, oka--" I began, and then I realized.
The motherfucker was gaslighting me.
Not only that, but he already has his own goddamn body wash. It's a specially formulated man-wash that comes in a very masculine, royal blue bottle and smells like sanitized testosterone, and I know this, because I bought him the man-wash. I bought him the man-wash, specifically, because prior to my having purchased the man-wash, he was using my body wash and it PISSED ME OFF.
"You fucker!" I shrieked, charging into the bedroom with the opened body wash held aloft like a sabre. "I know you used it!"
"It wasn't me!" Brad said.
"Yes it was!"
"DON'T LIE TO ME!" I yelled. "You are a LIAR! And not only that, you have your own MAN-WASH!" The bedroom windows rattled as I finished shrieking and stared at him.
Brad gazed blithely back at me and then shrugged.
"This is a marriage," he said. "There is no such thing as 'your body wash' and 'my body wash'. There is only OUR body wash."
This is where I would go on to detail my horrible realization there is, in fact, something even beyond Gaslight in the realm of spousal mindfuckery... but I have to go look for my keys.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
They have anthropomorphized fruit.
First came the Bananas in Pajamas – remember them? Honestly, I don’t know if these guys even fit the “non-threatening, kid-friendly” model. Look at them; they’re terrifying.
Also, there’s always been something deeply disturbing to me about the beginning of the show, in which the Bananas emerge from a dark room and flail their way down the stairs like a pair of surprised home invaders. You know that classic urban legend, where the babysitter keeps getting a series of creepy phone calls and finally discovers that they’re coming from inside the house? How much do you want to bet that somewhere off-camera, a phone is dangling off the hook and a terrified teenager is screaming from a basement window?
And then – not as sinister, but no less disturbing – we have the Veggie Tales.
This is where I confess that I have been moderately curious about these talking vegetables ever since they released a movie last year called “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”. I mean, loquacious pickle (or is he a cucumber?) aside, that is one intriguing title. And the vegetables don’t look like serial killers.
However, being as I was not about to go see the do-nothing pirate movie in theaters, I had to just remain curious… until the other night, when the movie suddenly showed up on HBO Family.
I watched it for fifteen minutes, and I can now say without hesitation that the entire franchise is MADNESS. By way of proof, I offer the following: The movie contains a scene in which a cucumber, a gourd, and a grape are all aboard a pirate ship, a reggae song is playing, and they are hoisting the sails and waving swords around despite the fact that none of them have hands. Eyes, noses, mouths, and facial hair, yes – but no hands. Which means that the ropes and swords and such simply float alongside their bodies as though by magic.
What the hell, animators? What, were hands just too weird? Was there a point at which one of you stood up and said, “Look, I was fine with giving the cucumber buck-teeth and putting a beard on that grape, but hands? Come on, you guys! That’s just CRAZY!”
After a lot of hysterical screeching in the direction of the television, I went on Wikipedia to get some answers – at the very least, I thought, there would be some explanation as to why this motley crew of foodstuffs was spending so much time together and why none of them ever get overripe, even in the sun. But instead, what I found there nearly made my head explode.
Rationally, I can surmise that this show’s concept stemmed from the desire to make children more… I don’t know, amenable to vegetables? Because watching an animated tomato singing reggaeton in a pirate outfit is an essential cornerstone of proper nutrition! But despite this, it has to be said: the entire thing reeks of somebody’s acid flashback fantasy. The vegetables have backstories. Let me say that again: The VEGETABLES. Have BACKSTORIES.
The following gems are but a taste of the rich mythology which apparently surrounds the Veggie Tales:
- Mr. Lunt is a decorative Spanish Gourd who grew up in New Jersey and speaks with a Mexican-Spanish accent. A notable feature is his lack of eyes.
- Frankencelery (as he is generally referred to) is a mild-mannered, high-voiced celery stalk (although in The Yodeling Veterinarian of the Alps Frankencelery sings the low bass part in a quartet with the rapscallions).
- Art Bigotti is an African-American broccoli bowling champion.
An African-American broccoli, you guys. Who bowls. Who bowls really well, in fact, which is quite an accomplishment considering that he does not have any hands.
I’ll just leave it at that, okay? I am off to watch my tired VHS of "The Last Unicorn" and pray that television’s anthropomorphic fruit trend dies out before I have children, because I do not relish the idea of explaining the dangers of psychotropic drugs to a three year-old.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Though I would never, ever begrudge you the right to develop your own personal, particular sexual proclivities, I fear that your selection in this case is just a tad too… what is the word I seek? ...Niche-y.
Yes, that’s it.
For just as the woman looking to marry a man who is handsome AND wealthy AND intellectual AND sensitive AND a good cook AND a cat-lover AND capable of running a 6-minute mile will ultimately be disappointed, so too will the man whose carnal appetites are focused solely on one specific piece of furniture. Please, for your own sake, do consider expanding your horizons just a tad. Perhaps an ottoman?
And then, of course, there’s this.
As already stated, it is not in Dear Googly’s nature to criticize anyone’s preferred method of getting his or her rocks off… and yet… well, YES. Yes, it is bad, sir. It is, if you will forgive me for saying so, pretty freaking horrendous. How could you? More to the point, how could you enjoy it? What do you do, exactly, to combat the disturbing reality that your dog is licking peanut butter off your junk??? – Do you close your eyes against the sight? Drown out the sound with rap music? Tell yourself that it isn’t really a dog down there, but just a very, very ugly woman?
And how would you like it if your dog took advantage of you this way? What? “How?”, you say? Nevermind how! The point is, it could happen, and it would be bloody terrible! Your dog is undoubtedly not yet aware that you are using his love of peanut butter against him, but mark my words, one day he will realize what you’re doing. And heaven help you then, sir, because I will not.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
But, given that Monday was my real birthday, Brad and I still wanted to have a somewhat subdued, just-the-two-of-us celebration – a quiet dinner, a quick drink, and then an early bedtime. That was the plan.
Here I am, getting ready to go out, sporting a new haircut and lovely birthday necklace from Brad. At this point, the plan was going swimmingly.
And here I am, wearing my birthday dress. (I don't like this picture, because I think it makes me look extremely self-conscious and awkward and also sort of fat, but I am posting it anyway because I want you to see the dress.) At this point, too, the plan was still intact.
Unfortunately, shortly after this picture was taken, something happened to the plan.
Alas, I cannot really answer that question – I left my camera at home, and in the absence of photographic evidence of what went down, I can only surmise that there was bourbon involved.
However, I do have the answer to another, equally important question – the question of what happens when you come home shitfaced on a Monday night, and you really want to take a whole bunch of Last Night’s Party-style pictures of the awesome time you’re having, but there’s nobody around but your husband and your dog.
Namely, you check your digital camera the next morning and discover this:
Oh, and this. At this point, I believe that Brad grew weary of my shutterbugging...
... but the dog was still game.
Golden retriever, vogue. VOGUE!
Hurley plays the drunken frat boy to my sloppy lady-lush SO well.
And of course, there are many, many more photos like this -- the vast majority of which I do not remember taking and which I will not post here due to redundancy. But the last one (which, gratefully, came before I started losing articles of clothing) has to be my favorite.
Me: Passed out on my chin.*
Dog: Deeply troubled.
*I didn't even know this was possible, because my chin is pointy, and I distinctly recall that, at the end of the night, my head weighed approximately five hundred pounds. And yet, it happened! I know, because I woke up in that same exact position about 3 hours later! And then I threw up.
I have no good closing to this, except to say that the real birthday party is happening on Saturday, at which point I hope to share several photos that do not include dogs.
And also, that scientists say one's mental capacity begins to decline at age 27. So if this sucked, it's not my fault. It's BIOLOGY.
Monday, March 16, 2009
My response, even at the age of 7, was invariably something like, “Yeah? And what the hell is wrong with that?”
Fact is, I am absolutely terrible at waiting for things – for ANYTHING. I have an incredibly overdeveloped sense of anticipation, which, depending upon whether the upcoming event is good or bad, transforms me into either a) a distracted, day-dreaming, hyper-excitable nutcase, or b) an immobilized lump of dread. And so, in the interest of not having my ability to function compromised for weeks at a time just because something is going to happen, the obvious solution is to make whatever it is happen as soon as possible.
Over the years, I’ve done my best to tone down the more obnoxious aspects of my impatience, usually by tricking my brain into believing that the Anticipated Thing is Not Really Real. (In the months leading up to my wedding, people were always remarking on what a laid-back bride I was, never realizing that inside, my anticipation-happy brain was shrieking, “Wedding? What wedding? OMFG are we getting married?!!!” while my other, anticipation-hampering brain shouted, “No! Nothing is happening! Go back to sleep!” and then whacked brain #1 in the face with a shovel.) But despite my best efforts, I still have some… well, issues. I am that person who flees from the subway and walks 20 extra blocks because she can’t stand to wait on the delayed train. I’ll leave a store without making any of my intended purchases if the line is too long. And God help you if you are one of those people who takes a long time with food preparation, because if you are cutting an onion in my presence, I will make a noise like a strangled cat and then snatch it from you and dice it up in 5 seconds like a woman possessed.
For all my best efforts, I simply cannot abide a slow onion-chopper.
Unfortunately, there are some times when the stars align just so and I find myself in one of those places where endless waiting is a certainty – and so it was that I ended up buying groceries in our local supermarket on Sunday morning.
Sunday mornings at the supermarket are bad. Sunday mornings are rife with neighborhood matriarchs, tooling around the aisles post-church, filling their shopping carts to the brim with family-sized packs of chicken cutlets, clogging the checkout lines while they sift through their envelopes full of coupons. Sunday mornings require a PLAN.
See, some checkout lines move faster than others. And as the world’s most impatient person, I have long since discovered that the following elements in any combination will expedite the checkout process:
Element #1: Baskets, not carts.
People who carry baskets in the grocery store want nothing more than to grab their items and go, before their bicep muscles give out. They do not linger.
Element #2: Grizzled old men.
These guys are not at the grocery store to socialize. They are not here for chit-chat with the clerk or idle browsing in the aisles. They want only to buy their marmite and toilet paper with the least possible amount of human interaction, and they zoom through the checkout with little more than a series of grunts and the brief flash of a wallet.
Element #3: Young male checkout clerks (YMCCs).
Much like the grizzled old men, the YMCC is not about the chit-chat. He does not offer commentary on the items coming down the conveyor. He will not ask you questions about your preferred brand of tuna or tell you which sort of food his cat likes best. AND, his nimble young hands are quick at bagging groceries.
So on Sunday morning, as I scanned the overflowing checkout lines, I was delighted to spot the following in Line 5: A line consisting of 4 old men, 3 of them holding baskets, and with a 15 year-old boy running the register.
Yes! I thought, as I zoomed into the line and deposited my few items on the counter.
Yes! I thought again, as two gentlemen in front of me flew through the line without so much as a whisper.
YES! I nearly shouted as the man directly ahead of me paid in cash and speed-walked out of the store.
And it was only as my own groceries started to trundle down the belt that I took another look at what I was buying and thought, Oh no.
Because while my impatience makes waiting in line at the grocery store extremely irritating, watching a hapless teenager’s face get progressively redder as he scans a bag of chips, a bar of chocolate, a pint of ice cream, a box of Hostess cupcakes, and – finally – a box of tampons?
Well, that’s just painful.
Especially when I got home and realized that in addition to having publicly purchased a collection of items which could be sold all together in a gift pack with a title like “The Menstruating Woman’s Basket O’ Fun”, AND embarrassing the crap out of a 15 year-old boy, I had also unwittingly bought scented tampons. Thus presenting the impression that not only does having one’s period cause uncontrollable snack food cravings, but a smelly vagina as well.
I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned here about the virtues of patience, but all I can think is that if that checkout clerk turns out to be gay, it will probably be at least 40% my fault.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Which is why, lately, I keep thinking about the Jew’s harp.
Last year, I was having a throwaway conversation with one of my friends about the Jew’s harp – also occasionally known as a jaw harp – when he suddenly said, “Oh, but we shouldn’t call it a Jew’s harp”.
“What?” I said. “Why?”
“It could be offensive,” he said.
“It could be offensive?”
“Well,” he said, “it could have come from ‘jaw harp’, in which case it would be fine. But it could also be called that because it has some sort of connotation with Jewish people. And then," he finished with a flourish, "it’s offensive.”
At which point I founded myself staring at him in total dumbfounded confusion, because however you feel about ethnic stereotypes and anti-Semitism and whatever else, that is the instrument’s name. And my friend, despite having just admitted to not even knowing from whence said name originated, was jacked up and ready to Ban Those Words on behalf of Jews Everywhere. (Incidentally, a group to which he does not belong.)
Obviously, this is just one anecdotal example – and a fringe-y one at that – of an issue that crops up more often in the form of a public official saying something like, “I regret my comments of last Wednesday and apologize for any offense caused to the American people”. But since reading this exchange between a few Tumblr-ing 20-somethings, my memory seems to have set this conversation on permanent repeat. Because even though it was generally no big deal and happened quite awhile ago, the principle at work in both instances just frustrates the hell out of me.
Here, we have some people arguing over the use of the term “Mentally Challenged” to describe those diagnosed with mental retardation. Within the past ten years or so, the same advocacy groups who designated this as the preferred term have now deemed it insulting. And while the guy who takes the “Har har, but aren’t they too stupid to even know what it means?” approach deserves to be lambasted – his argument is idiotic – I’m still troubled by what seems like a general rush to scorn people for using the Wrong Words while totally ignoring their context.
To me, to label the words themselves as “offensive” is to completely miss the point. As George Carlin once said, the words are blameless. Even the ugliest of them – the ones we refer to by their first letter only – are still only words. And the people who want to censor them – who channel so much energy into designing the perfect, politically-correct, non-degrading term by which to call a group – will find only disappointment in store.
Because for all their efforts, changing the way people speak is not the same as changing the way people think.
The people who care enough, and are sensitive enough to these issues, that they seek out, learn, and use the preferred/PC term – whether it’s describing someone with a mental disability or someone with a certain skin color – are people in whose mouths no term would be pejorative in the first place. And for the people who don’t care – who see ethnic minorities or women or the differently-abled or any other group as worthy of scorn – not even the most politically correct words can temper the ugliness of their context.
The tormentor who sneers, “What are you, developmentally disabled?” at his victim is not inflicting less harm than the one who calls him “retarded”.
The guy who thinks that a “Jew harp” offers some referendum on the character of the Jewish people has issues that won’t be resolved just by changing the instrument’s name.
And meanwhile, with every word that gets banished from the lexicon for being offensive to one group or another, our language loses some the elasticity and nuance and history-shaped meaning that makes it rich and interesting and unique.
On the other hand, I see all this through the eyes of someone who a) writes for a living, and b) is not personally affected by the issue at hand. How do you see it?
Monday, March 09, 2009
In case you're not familiar with this venerable institution of time-sucking programming, we're talking about HP Movies 1 through 4 -- Sorcerer's Stone to Goblet of Fire -- which, all told, equals about 12 hours of immersion in the wizarding world.
And it is AWESOME.
This weekend, at least, we've both been stricken with some sort of horrible flu-like bug which includes symptoms such as Sneezing, Sniffling, and Mucus-Leaking Head Which Weighs Approximately Nine Hundred Pounds. So the fact that we both spent a full 48 hours lying around and staring glassy-eyed at the television whilst blowing little snot-bubbles out of our noses is at least somewhat forgivable. (70-degree weather or not, I'd like to see you try playing frisbee in the park when your only choice is to become a mouth-breather or risk suffocation.)
Anyway, what I'm saying is, we do a lot of Harry Potter in this house. We've watched the movies, we've read the books, and we own multiple copies of each -- which makes it possible for us to enjoy such novelties as, say, a permanently installed copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which, btw, is the best of the series) in our bathroom.
And this is how we -- as a couple -- came to discern a serious problem with Harry Potter (and the Whatever with the What-have-you) as realized on film.
Note: Anyone who is unfamiliar with or disinterested in Harry Potter mythology should probably clear out now.
Okay, are all the uber-nerds still here? Great. Here's my problem, with numerical organization:
1. In the HP Chronology, Harry's parents met whilst attending school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry -- which, as we all know, graduates its students at the age of 17.
2. Furthermore, many of the main characters in the series, including Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew and Severus Snape, are understood to have been at Hogwarts at that same time.
3. The rise and fall of the uber-evil Lord Voldemort occurred within a couple years of all these various characters' graduation from Hogwarts.
4. Therefore, Harry Potter's parents -- at the time of their murders by Voldemort, when Harry was an infant -- could not have been more than, say, 21 years old (assuming they married at 18 and, y'know, took a couple years to enjoy each others' company before reproducing)...
5. ...and the friends left alive (Lupin, Pettigrew, Black, et al) would all be in their early-to-mid thirties as the story continues 10 years later.
Why, then, do Harry Potter's dead-at-21-years-old parents look like this?
Either Lily and James Potter were some seriously hard-livin' teenagers, or somebody in the casting department failed to do their research.
Also -- since when do these guys, who are all supposed to have been at school at the same time, pass for thirty-somethings?
Seriously? Seriously?!! Alan Rickman is like 70 years old. He could be in AARP!
I can't decide what's worse: The fact that the director cast a bunch of old people in roles meant to be played by virile youngish adults... or the fact that I am dorky enough to notice.