Monday Muse: 9 to 5

The Schmoo, my musical theatre obsessed NB-Teen has been taking lessons at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. One of the numbers that they will be doing a solo in at the end of the session will be from the Broadway adaptation of 9 to 5.  This tickles me pink because I love the original Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlion and Jane Fonda film, the movie that kicked off the 80’s workplace comedy boom, as well as the album of the same title. So I get to share both with them!

Fiction Friday: SF/F Movies We Need More than Another Dune Movie

Musical accompaniment to this post by Tom Smith

It’s too late to stop Blade Runner 2049  director  Denis Villeneuve’s  adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. The project already has Dave Bautista, James Brolin, Jason Mamoa and many other big sweaty Hollywood stars attached. Considering the Canadian’s resume it will probably even be really good, I’ll definitely go see it. But to be completely honest, I’m not looking forward to it.

This will be the third screen adaption of Dune, the fifth if you count Arthur P. Jacobs and Alejandro Jodorowski’s aborted attempts in the 1970’s. David Lynch’s 1984 Dune, did a great job capturing the visuals while butchering the sci-fi, while SyFy’s Dune and Children of Dune told the story better but with a lot lower special FX budget. So why Dune again? Why is this particular sci-fi epic getting another bite at the apple ahead of so many other candidates in the canon?

Part of it is of course familiarity and the risk averse nature of big studios. Getting a famous property on the big screen is a lot easier than an obscure one, especially if you want big stars and big budgets and the big profits that hopefully follow. Dune has also developed a cache over the years as the classic sci-fi book most people are familiar with, especially since Frank’s son Brian has continued churning out new books with regularity in the years since his father’s death. The Dune section at your Barnes & Noble is a pretty enticing lure to anyone thinking about the next big movie franchise. And there is definitely a whiff of directorial machismo behind attempts to get Dune right, especially in the eyes of hardcore fans who have lambasted the previous attempts.

I don’t buy it though. We live in an era where an obscure band of Marvel misfits led by Chris Pratt and a talking raccoon of all people are getting at least one more big budget blockbuster. Luc Besson got a French comic book turned into Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I really think we can do better than yet another visit to Arrakis. Off the top of my geek head I could name at least 10 old dead white dude sf/f books that deserve a chance. Heck, there are Frank Herbert books that would be a better choice for a feature film. Let alone the amazing number of women, people of color or sexual minorities whose speculative visions deserve a big screen treatment.

So that’s the new Friday feature. Starting next week we’ll start diving into some overlooked sci-fi and fantasy works out there and make a pitch for them to at least show up in your Netflix queue. If you have any suggestions, drop them in the comments or share them on Facebook. Everyone can play.

Virginia is for WTF?

“Hmmm …” Lou Doench is seeing if this class is more interesting SIDEWAYS.

The above is the most embarrassing picture of me in the St Xavier HS Class of 1987 yearbook. It’s not even really that embarrassing, my wife (who has seen very few pics of me from this era,) thought it was kind of cute. I was just really tired that day.

At least I’m not doing anything racist… as opposed to Virginia Governor Ralph Northham, who was recently discovered to be at least one of the people on the right in this picture from his 1984 medical school yearbook.

Which is more racist? White people don’t get to decide…

Good old Ralph is the 73rd Governor of the Old Dominion, having beaten by nine points veteran GOP flunky Ed Gillespie in one of the most contentious and racially charged campaigns of the last election cycle. The image was uncovered by a right wing website and quickly confirmed as authentic by the mainstream media, evidently provoked by the Governors clumsy response to a reporters question on a bill being debated to change the states late term abortion restrictions. Ralph’s questionable media savvy is going to be a recurring theme here.

In a whiplash series of apologies and retractions, Northam seems to have settled on a claim that he is neither of the people depicted in the yearbook photo. Why a future pediatric neurologist with the nickname “Coonman” would have two other people dressed in blackface and KKK cosplay on his yearbook page is a mystery. In his press conference in support of this strange claim he managed to fit his foot even further into his mouth by admitting that he had worn blackface in college in order to impersonate Micheal Jackson for a dance contest. Oh, and he referred to the first Africans in Virginia as “indentured servants,” for some strange reason.

Pretty much everyone in the Virginia and national Democratic Party have called on Northam to resign, which would be fine except for the fact that the next two people in line have their own scandals.  Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax  has been credibly accused of at least two sexual assaults. And Attorney General Mark Herring got out ahead of his own blackface history by admitting that he and his friends had put on blackface to go to a party as Run DMC.

Jesus Christ on a Pogo Stick Virginia…

I’d like to believe that such shenanigans are a thing of the past or confined to the more “yokel” adjacent parts of the nation. Sadly that would be misguided. Blackface has a long history in the good old USA, and it’s always been an act of white supremacy. From the above 2014 Vox article…

Blackface is much more than just dark makeup used to enhance a costume.
Its American origins can be traced to minstrel shows. In the mid to late nineteenth century, white actors would routinely use black grease paint on their faces when depicting plantation slaves and free blacks on stage.
To be clear, these weren’t flattering representations. At all. Taking place against the backdrop of a society that systematically mistreated and dehumanized black people, they were mocking portrayals that reinforced the idea that African-Americans were inferior in every way.
The blackface caricatures that were staples of Minstrelsy (think: Mammy, Uncle Tom, Buck, and Jezebel) took a firm hold in the American imagination, and carried over into other mediums of entertainment.
Blackface has also been seen in Vaudeville Shows and on Broadway. Yes, black actors sometimes wore blackface, too, because white audiences didn’t want to see them on the stage without it.
We have blackface performances to thank for some of the cartoonish, dehumanizing tropes that still manage to make their way into American culture.
Beyond that, blackface and systematic social and political repression are so inextricably linked that, according to C. Vann Woodward’s history The Strange Career of Jim Crow, the very term “Jim Crow” — usually used as shorthand for rigid anti-black segregation laws in force between the end of Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement — derives from an 1832 blackface minstrel number by Thomas D. Rice.
There’s no way around it: this particular costume choice has a terrible track record.

Yet we white folks still keep sticking our hands into this particular Gom Jabbar. Like we’re convinced that THIS TIME it will be OK. Just last year Megyn Kelley’s attempt to craft a career outside the Fox News Bad Take Factory exploded spectacularly on contact with her defense of blackface Halloween Costumes. A week later a BYU student walked right into that shitstorm with his shoe polish proudly applied, while the lily white campus was “hosting a symposium(in collaboration with historically black Morgan State University) on the 50th anniversary of the report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.” And that’s just tip of the Jolson Iceberg when it comes to blackface (and yellow face, and sexy Natives, etc) on our colleges.

I just don’t get it. I feel like I missed class on the day they taught “White Supremacy 101” in school. It would never have occurred to me that it was OK to go all Amos and Andy at ANY POINT of what I feel was an adequately misspent youth. I feel certain that the Jesuits at ST X who taugth me to be a “man for others,” would have kicked my ass up and down North Bend road for pulling that shit.

As it stands today it looks like Twerk-it Ralph is gonna hold on to his job for now. As a Democrat I would prefer he step down, but considering the scandals brewing beneath him and the short attention span of the media in the age of Trump he’ll probably be able to ride this out. Which is too bad. We gained a lot of credibility when Al Franken was pushed into stepping down because he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. When we let our own get away with shit like this we feed into the conservative propaganda that anti-racism is just a mask we put on when we want to chastise conservatives, one we gleefully discard when the camera’s turn off, proving that we’re the “real racists.”

We should be better than that.

Monday Muse: Minstrel in the Gallery

If I had to pick one Jethro Tull album for my desert island this would be it. So I thought I’d throw it up there to celebrate almost a month of the new blog. And yes I know it’s late.

Things are actually proceeding pretty much as I planned. After an initial burst of enthusiasm I’ve managed to miss a few dailies, but that’s OK. Getting this thing up and running was always going to be a process, an experiment in getting me writing with more regularity and confidence. I’m not a natural writer, typing is slow and hard for me and unless I’m in one of the unpredictable hyper-focus periods of my ADHD it’s exhausting to concentrate on one task for too long. But I’m gonna keep plugging along.

I really wish I’d been able to see them live in this era…

Throwback Thursday: Let me do my Job

Today’s Throwback is back to the long ago year 2014. And the anecdote it refers to is from 2011! It’s all about how being a Stay at Home Dad was made extra stressful by the insistence on treating caregiving Moms more respect than caregiving Dad’s. Just let me do my job people…

Let me set the stage. Each year the kindergartners through 3rd graders put on elaborate (for little kids) performances. With singing and dancing, the kids get a chance to really show off the “performing” part of their education. It is a scrumptiously cute production every year and only slightly painful to sit through. As the Schmoo’s first year of big kid school approached its end, she grew more and more excited. She practiced her one line over and over. She sang her little songs ad nauseum. She was adorable.
When the fateful date arrived, we ran into one little hitch. The Girl had a work-related obligation (details are hazy as to whether she was busy at the office or on a business trip to India . . . it was 3 years ago), which meant I had to fly solo to the big shindig. No problem, said the utterly confident SAHD. Get the Grommet (still under factory warranty at this point) in the stroller. Bribe the Peanut with fruit snacks to settle down. Make sure the Schmoo is in the right clothes. Arrange to meet the Nana at the school. Get there early. Check, check, check and check! Everything appears to be going according to plan. Thirty minutes to showtime as I and the rest of the family wait in the hallway outside the dance classroom, checking the iPhone to make sure Nana isn’t lost, I hear a familiar crying. It’s not the Grommet (who is asleep) or the Peanut (who is running around in circles). It is definitely the Schmoo. Parent reflexes kicking in, I grab the Peanut, tell her to watch her little brother for a moment, and go to check on my big kid. And at the door I am rebuffed. A volunteer, not even a teacher, informs me that only mothers are allowed in the “dressing room.”
“But I can hear my kid crying. She’s obviously scared, probably just stage fright,” I respond reasonably.
“I’m sorry, but moms only in the dressing room”
“It’s not even a dressing room, it’s the Dance Classroom, I’ve been in there before. . . . C’mon, she just needs a hug. It’ll take a minute.”
“Tell me your child’s name and I’ll send her out.”
At this point I was beginning to become a bit upset. I gave her the Schmoo’s name and waited at the door, craning my neck to see if I could catch the kid’s eye. I heard the crying get worse, not surprising me at all because if there’s anything that I can depend on, it is for the #1 kid to get incredibly anxious if she feels like she has done something wrong. And having a stranger talking to her at that point was the worst thing we could do. Finally, with the other two kids losing patience/gaining consciousness I was able to flag down her actual teacher, who while sympathetic to my plight once again insisted on the Moms Only rule. She was able to coax the upset five-year-old out into the hallway, where a hug and some reassurance from Dad was all she needed to brighten up. Crisis averted just as my mom arrived. We trundled into the auditorium, and the rest of the show went off without a hitch. All’s well that ends well, . . . right?


The other explanation is a bit more troubling. Sex crimes against children are nothing to take lightly. Child molester, child pornographer, these are amongst the worst crimes in our national imagination. We have a National Sex Offender registry at the FBI. And politicians eager to look tough on crime have no problem crafting draconian laws that make those on such a registry’s lives a living hell. I’ll go into this phenomenon in more depth at a later date, but for now I’d like to propose that in the frenzy to protect our kids from lurking predators, we have created a paranoid climate of mistrust. Combined with a zeal for zero tolerance, we put our schools and other child-oriented institutions in the position of being suspicious of all men. In just my own experience I have twice been approached by park staff and questioned as to why I was taking pictures of kids at the playground. My kids! Which I had to prove by showing the concerned park ranger all the pix I had taken of them at other playgrounds. (To be fair, this isn’t just on my iPhone; as a fairly serious enthusiast, I have a camera getup that can look a little intimidating.)

Check it out over at Grounded Parents, every click gets us closer to getting this dog an all expense paid trip to Amsterdam!

Monday Muse: Pancho and Lefty

Sometimes it’s lonely being the only country music listener at the table. During a lull in last nights D&D game we indulged in a philosophical digression whilst the DM scanned the module we were battling, like you do. We were discussing religion, specifically the more toxic forms of Christianity and their doctrine of Hell. And I pointed out that my favorite liberal Christian blogger Fred Clarke had a great blog post about how he doesn’t believe in that kind of hell, and explained it using the classic tune Pancho and Lefty,  the signature song of late but legendary songwriter Townes Van Zandt.

But still there was a stretch of several hours there where, willingly or not, I found myself thinking about the lyrics of “Pancho and Lefty” and especially about the lyrics of the final verse, the only one I remembered well:
The poets tell how Pancho fell

Lefty’s livin’ in a cheap hotel

The desert’s quiet and Cleveland’s cold

So the story ends we’re told

Pancho needs your prayers it’s true,

But save a few for Lefty too

He just did what he had to do

Now he’s growing old

This verse suggests something of the scandal of grace. The singer is willing to extend that grace to Lefty, to forgive him his greed, cowardice and betrayal. But what gives the singer the right to do this? It was Pancho who was betrayed, after all, so it seems that only Pancho should have the right to forgive that betrayal. By usurping that right, the singer seems to be claiming something like the divine prerogative.
This is, after all, what God is like. God is willing to forgive our enemies for wrongs they have committed against us, to extend mercy where we are unwilling or unable to grant it. That hardly seems fair. Not only that, but God is always going on about how we have to be willing to join in this prodigal grace, to join in the party for our prodigal brothers, to join the Ninevites in celebrating that the capital of Babylon itself can be spared. And if we insist on simple justice and responsibly refuse to join in this wanton confetti-showering of forgiveness, God has the nerve to suggest that we’re cutting ourselves off from that very same grace.
Some people, of course, don’t think that this is an accurate picture of what God is like. They believe that God is not as merciful as Townes Van Zandt. That seems to me to be a theologically precarious proposition, which is, I guess, my point here: If there is a God, then God must be, by definition, bigger and more merciful than Townes Van Zandt.

When I got to the end of the anecdote I was surrounded by quizzical faces looking at me as if I had begun speaking in tongues. They’d never heard one of my favorite songs. We do this a lot, my friends and I. Despite having so many crossover’s in our various cultural tastes, there are acres of territory where we are still strangers in the other’s landscape.

I do think Fred makes a very good point. As an ex-Catholic it’s a take on God that is too generous by far. In Dante’s Inferno betrayal is the worst of sins. The wretched souls condemned to the 9th circle of Hell are trapped in the frozen lake Cocytus, forever bound as far from Gods love as can be. One can certainly see the appeal of a God who welcomes even Lefty into his grace in the end.

Ah well, The song’s been recorded by some of the greats, Emmylou Harris, Willie and Waylon, or Willie and Dylan. I’m partial Steve Earle’s take on the tune, from his album Townes, a tribute to his old friend and mentor. Enjoy…

Throwback Thursday: “My Parents Spanked Me As a Child Edition

Besides vaccination, I don’t think there was a single issue we considered more settled than the question of corporal punishment. This was one of the first IMDD’s I did on the subject, and I’m pleased to report that the overwhelming majority of our readers were supportive of our ant-spanking stance. This is also where I reveal one of the inspirations for the Derby, the second most famous Happy Days episode ever…

I find it interesting that, in the USA at least, I can use the term “Demolition Derby” and be incredibly confident that my audience will know exactly what I’m talking about. And I can credit Garry Marshall, creator of Happy Days. Despite completely whitewashing anything remotely controversial about the ’50s and contributing to the slang lexicon the phrase “Jumping the Shark”, Happy Days was one of the most popular situation comedies of our childhoods. And thanks to the seminal 2 part episode “Fonzie Loves Pinkie” in which the Fonz and love interest
Pinkie Tuscadero compete in the big demolition derby against the hated Malachi Brothers (I finally learned how to spell that), and their dreaded “Malachi Crunch” double team maneuver, most of us are familiar with the basic idea, even if we grew up far away from the flyover country fairgrounds where the sport is practiced.

Well this edition’s meme is the Malachi Brothers of the Internet Meme world. It is scary, violent and quite possibly after poor Pinky. It is literally all over the place, as some form of this meme has been popping up on my Facebook feed on a monthly basis.

It was a very popular meme!

Don’t even get me started on how disrespectful this meme is to people whose actual and serious psychological conditions are mocked and minimized to form the punchline for your shitty joke. As one of those people, let me just add a personal “Fuck you and the horse you Rode in on,” to the creators and purveyors of this meme.
Respect for others is a complicated thing to learn. Some of us still have a lot to learn, despite the fact that we are legally adults. And some of the people that we need to have more respect for are CHILDREN. The idea that we can “beat some sense” into kids has been thoroughly debunked. Try something else folks. Look on the internet, there’s lots of good advice.

I finish by sharing a meme featuring a famous comedian who is now famous for whipping it out in front of co-workers. Click on over and read the rest, every click gets us closer to getting this dog personalized snow booties.

Tuesday Theater: In the Heights

When you live in flyover country, far from the footlights on Broadway, it’s hard to keep a musical theatre obsessed teen happy. But we managed it last night. We visited one of the treasures of the Ohio Valley, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, to take in some Lin Manuel Miranda magic in the form of In the Heights.

Bringing a Broadway size musical to a modest sized regional theatre, one of the oldest in the nation in fact, is an ambitious task. But director May Adrales pulled it off with style. The music was wonderful, the dancing was superb, and the cast was fantastic. Ryan Alvarado as Usnavi de la Vega is the fulcrum on which the rest of the cast pivots as they come and go from his corner bodega in Washington Heights. Yassmin Allers is heartbreakingly sweet as the neighborhood matriarch Abuela Claudia.

Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography

It was a refreshing tonic in the age of Trump to see a story about immigrants living, loving and thriving in what is really America’s capitol city. It’s a story about “the barrio,” and it’s changes. But also what doesn’t change. Some folks need to leave to grow, some all the way to Stanford, others just a train ride away. And some need to stay to grow, to put down the kind of roots that make a place a home for others as well as themselves.

The Schmoo cried… although the Schmoo cried at the end of Black Panther so…

It was really freaking fun. The show runs through February 17th. Catch it if you can.

Monday Muse: First Aid Kit sing to Emmylou

I don’t remember where I first heard sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, better known as the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit. It may have been on NPR’s All Songs Considered, way back in 2011. But I know that this song from their 2012 album Lion’s Roar is the one that cemented their place in my collection.

Making Emmylou cry…

But wait there’s more… here they are singing my favorite Emmylou Harris song, the title track to 2001’s Red Dirt Girl…

Making Emmylou cry more…

Their new album Ruins is pretty yummy too… Enjoy.