Category Archives: Pop culture

Well, I’ll be damned.

“So let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car.” — Bob Dylan

OK. Let me make sure I’m following this line of reasoning:

Germany is known for great beer, so we should let Germany brew our beer.
Switzerland is known for great watches, so we should let Switzerland make our watches.
Asia is known for great electronics, so we should let Asia assemble our phones.
And Bob Dylan is known for writing brilliant, incisive lyrics that are sharply critical of the Establishment, so we should let him …

sell us a car?

Dubya.
Tee.
EFF?

And that heckler in Manchester thought it was bad when he went electric.

Either Bob Dylan has lost his damn mind, or he’s just trolling the hell out of us for giggles, like Johnny Rotten did a few years ago:

Or maybe this is just a sort of belated answer song to “Diamonds and Rust.” After all, on some recordings of her song about her failed relationship with Dylan, instead of ending with, “I’ve already paid,” Joan Baez ends with, “I’ll take the diamonds.”

Maybe advertising Chrysler products is just Dylan’s little way of saying, 40 years later, that he’s content with the rust. </snark>

Emily

Well, that was surreal.

Look at these pictures:

merida2 merida1

Now, look at this post from 2006 that I stumbled across tonight while I was looking for my thermophilic compost recipe.

I told y’all Pixar wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of a rough-and-tumble redhead with Scottish blood doing unladylike things while dressed like a refugee from a Renn fair.

Too bad I gave that outfit to Goodwill before the movie came out. I’d look pretty cool wandering around the Secret Garden in Makanda in that getup.

Emily

Allons-y!

tardissign

I realize I’m outrageously late to the party, but while I was busy ignoring my blog for extended periods of time, we bought a TV, whereupon Ron kindly downloaded several seasons of Dr. Who for me.

If you are a woman, and you can look at David Tennant without thinking, “Yeah, I’d swap life as I know it and face down an army of Daleks to go joyriding around the universe with that,” I’m gonna have to ask you to surrender your nerd card. I mean, dunno if I’d trade the Phillies’ new manager for him, but I’d probably consider it. I don’t think the Doctor ever hit two home runs off the best closer in baseball, but as far as I know, Ryne Sandberg isn’t a Time Lord, either. Which is a shame, because he’d look good wielding a sonic screwdriver and battling Slitheens and stuff.

Aaaaaanyway …

We all know I have never been disinclined to drive all over creation looking for ridiculous things to photograph, but my newfound fondness for the good Doctor gave me added motivation to make a mad dash over to Metropolis, Ill., a couple of weeks ago to visit a comic-book store whose owner, a devout Whovian, has constructed a replica of the TARDIS under a giant fiberglass ice-cream cone in his parking lot:

tardis2

tardis1

The TARDIS is still a work in progress, as evidenced by the fact that it’s pretty much the same size on the inside. Its owner assures me it will be more convincing when it’s finished. In the meantime, it’s certainly suitable for photo ops.

While I was in town, I had to take a picture of Metropolis’ other alien resident, who probably ought to buy the Doctor a beer and have a chat about what it’s like to be the only surviving member of an alien species with a penchant for rescuing humanity from extinction on a regular basis:

super

I wonder how the Man of Steel would fare against an army of Cybermen?

There’s more geekery in Metropolis, but I was running out of daylight, so I didn’t have time to go looking for it. I’ll have to make another trip over there when I have more time on my hands.

Emily

Squatters’ rights don’t apply here.

<rant>

About four or five years ago, I started seeing teenage girls change their marital status to “married” on their Facebook profiles. I rolled my eyes. Married. Right. Whatever, kid. You’re 15. Here’s a cardboard box; go cut some windows in it and pretend it’s the tract house that you share somewhere that’s green.

Shortly after that, some of my then-students started posting status updates: “Who wants to get Facebook married? LMS.” It became something of a game, with kids coming up with various criteria or creating contests to be “Facebook married” for a day.

Ridiculous, but kids do all sorts of ridiculous things. Again, I say: whatever.

Unfortunately, being “Facebook married” has led to an insufferable little trend in which women in their late teens or early 20s (frequently drama queens who are incapable of maintaining a relationship for more than an hour and a half) refer to their boyfriend du jour as their “husband” and then deliver (often obscenity-laced) tirades expressing moral outrage if other young women try to break up their Facebook marriages by flirting with their Facebook husbands.

I’m all for daydreaming, and if you want to play house, it’s no skin off my arse, but understand: This practice of referring to your boyfriend as “my hubby” has precisely the same legal standing and commands approximately the same level of respect as my rat terrier demarcating his personal territory by urinating on objects he encounters. Feel free to do it if it makes you happy, but please don’t expect anybody to take you seriously or treat you like a grownup when you’re just peeing on fire hydrants and yipping at people in a futile effort to make them respect your authoritah.

</rant>

Emily

Friends in strange places

Marlene Dietrich once said, “It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”

I would add, “But it’s the friends you can take out chasing ghosts and photographing houses of ill repute while listening to ’60s folk revival CDs and discussing sci-fi-themed pranks at 1 a.m. that ensure life is truly a Rare Entertainment.”

I learned this when my friend Greg and I found ourselves sitting on a curb next to Route 66 in Galena, Kansas, late last night, discussing the pros and cons of vandalizing enhancing the exterior of a bright blue porta-potti to make it look like the TARDIS.

We ultimately decided such a prank was likely to be more trouble than it was worth, given the venue, so I suggested a Spooklight-hunting excursion instead.

A search for the Spooklight basically entails chasing a mysterious (and notoriously fickle) will-o’-the-wisp down poorly lit backroads all over one little corner of southwestern missouri, southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. This is obviously a brilliant thing to be doing after midnight when you’re due to have breakfast with about 200 of your closest friends a few hours later before driving 350 miles to get back home in time for work.

An ordinary person would have said, “Hell, no. You’re a lunatic. Go to bed.”

Greg’s response: “Do you think I’ll need my tripod?”

We didn’t see the Spooklight, mostly because we started to run out of steam by the time we got out to the spot where the light supposedly shows up.

We did, however, see a creepy-looking deer staring at us. We also had a good conversation about miscellaneous geekery; saw a few groups of people sitting along the backroads, waiting for the Spooklight to appear; listened to “Diamonds and Rust”; and stopped to look at the slightly risque stained-glass window in a 19th-century bordello.

I had a good weekend, obviously. Hope you did, too, wherever you are.

Emily

Debunking the Beauty Myth

I’m sure by now you’re aware of the latest and most egregious attack on teenage girls’ already fragile self-esteem, but just in case you’re not, click here to find out why you’ll be boycotting Abercrombie & Fitch and its affiliates from now until the Cubs win the Series.

As much as I’d love to believe that the inevitable demise of Mike Jeffries’ career will solve the problem, the sad fact is that it probably won’t; all this hypocritical P.R.-nightmare-in-flip-flops has done for us is put a comically clueless face on a much larger issue.

Jeffries’ tone-deaf misogyny harmonizes perfectly with the other sour notes I’ve heard lately: Disney’s gratuitous attempt to sexualize Merida from Brave; InTouch’s apparent ignorance of biology; the frequent attacks on Hillary Clinton’s appearance; and the ridicule a young friend of mine endures on a daily basis because she is albino and thus has a porcelain complexion, green eyes, and gorgeous golden-red dreadlocks to go with her African-American features.

Jeffries may have articulated it the most brazenly, but his message is no different than the others’: If you are female, your value depends entirely on the extent to which your physical appearance adheres to a narrow set of standards engineered by ad executives for the specific purpose of making the largest possible number of women feel insecure enough about their appearance to want to spend money to change it.

This kind of manipulative marketing is detrimental to women because it seeks to profit at the expense of our self-worth. It’s detrimental to all of us — men and women alike — because it seeks to remove variables such as individual taste and force us to evaluate beauty exclusively on Madison Avenue’s flawed, self-serving rubric.

I remember a comment someone once made about my favorite singer: “Judy Collins isn’t pretty, but she’s striking.”

I disagree with the first half of that assessment, but I think it illustrates the difficulty we have in wrapping our heads around the sort of beauty that doesn’t fit the rubric. If a woman is not conventionally pretty, we don’t know what to do with her. We can’t resist looking at her, but why?

You probably don’t fit the rubric, either. And you’re in awesome company, because you know who else doesn’t fit the rubric? Adele. Queen Latifah. Emmylou Harris. Bonnie Raitt. Jamie Lee Curtis. Helen Mirren. Tina Turner. My albino friend with the stunning African-American features and Irish coloring. Me. Not one of us fits the rubric. We’re all either too old, too heavy, too unconventional, or too all of the above to meet the standards A&F is promoting.

To hell with the rubric. I’d sooner die than swap my tangled curls, gray streak, hips, boobs, laugh lines, bifocals, or self-respect for some manipulative retailer’s approval.

To quote Bette Midler (who doesn’t fit the rubric, either): “Cherish forever what makes you unique, ’cause you’re really a yawn if it goes.”

Emily

Measuring

“Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

I don’t pay attention to birthdays or discuss my age much, because I’m generally inclined to take Mrs. Eddy’s advice and maintain my “vigor, freshness, and promise” without regard to dates on a calendar.

Last night, I ran across one of those Facebook memes where you click “Like” on somebody’s post, and they give you a number, and you have to answer a series of questions about where you were at that age, then answer the same questions as they apply to you at your current age. I don’t usually click on age-based memes, but this one appealed to me as an opportunity to reflect on growth and experience.

I have always understood age in strictly experiential terms. I’m only interested in people’s age to the extent that it helps me extrapolate whether they were around for a particular historical event. If you’re a Baby Boomer, I want to know your thoughts on Vietnam, Watergate, and Dylan’s decision to go electric. If you’re older than the Boomers, I want you to tell me what it was like to watch Jackie Robinson on the basepaths. I need to know these things.

Left to my own devices, I’d establish a new system for expressing age. Instead of basing it on the amount of time that has elapsed since someone’s birth — which has a tendency to “measure and limit” — I’d base it on cultural experience, which prompts conversations about shared experiences.

How old am I?

I have a near-Pavlovian response to the Cheers theme song.
I conjure up images of British ice skaters when I hear Ravel’s “Bolero.”
I watched the Sandberg Game.
I think Sesame Street was better before Elmo moved in.
I feel warm and fuzzy inside when I hear the sound of an Apple IIe computer firing up.

Try measuring your age in terms of pop culture rather than years. How does your pop-culture age influence who you are today?

Emily