Category Archives: Pop culture

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

Munchkin Tuesday: Tiffany

So today I’m running an errand for work, minding my own business, when I walk into a store and hear a spectacularly wretched cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” come over the speakers.

I don’t know who was responsible for this monstrosity, but as a child of the ’80s, I cringed.

I know it was originally recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells, but if you ain’t Tiffany, I don’t wanna hear you sing “I Think We’re Alone Now,” because I spent most of seventh grade belting that into a hairbrush and trying to decide whether to be awestruck, inspired, or just wildly jealous that she had a record contract when she wasn’t even out of high school. (I think I mostly opted for awestruck. I harbored no delusions about how my own pipes compared to hers, and even at age 12, I recognized how frickin’ brilliant that mall tour really was. Talk about marketing to your target audience — a teen pop act playing shopping malls in 1987? Holy crap. That’s genius.)

There wasn’t much I liked about junior high, but dammit, Tiffany makes the short list. If you’re anywhere close to my age, I bet you can’t even listen to her voice without remembering the scent of Salon Selectives hairspray, the taste of raspberry New York Seltzer, and the sound of an Apple IIe powering up. (You just heard it, didn’t you?)

Here she is a couple of years ago. Stay with her through “Could’ve Been.”

Girlfriend’s still got it … and how great is it to hear her sing it like she knows what she’s talking about this time? ‘Course, y’all know I’m a sucker for that sort of thing anyway.

Emily

Pinned

People kept bugging me about it, so I finally joined Pinterest last summer. I don’t really get the appeal. Seems like an awful lot of effort just to bookmark a page. But people keep telling me how great it is, so I get on there every now and then to appease them.

Last month, I pinned a replacement part for my honey extractor.

A couple of weeks ago, I pinned a chainsaw.

Tonight, I pinned Jackie Robinson, Andre DawsonPudge Rodriguez, Old Hoss Radbourn, and the entire starting lineup for the ’84 Cubs.

Judging from all the shoes, sandy beaches, and low-carb dessert recipes I keep seeing on everybody else’s boards, I am pretty sure I am doing it wrong….

Emily

Daybook for July 4

For today…

Outside my window… neighbors popping fireworks.
I am thinking… about the novel I should be editing.
I am thankful for… the rain we got yesterday in midtown.
From the kitchen… vegan pasta salad.
I am wearing… jeans from Drysdales, Birkenstocks, and a Drillers tank top.
I am reading… Naked Lunch.
I am hoping… to shake free for a visit to Illinois in the not-too-distant future.
I am creating… a very special painting, the details of which I will reveal only after it is finished.
I am praying… to maintain a sense of harmony.
Around the house… a lot of clutter.
One of my favorite things… Oreos. Which, as it turns out, are entirely vegan. I consider this proof that God loves me and approves of my diet.
few plans for the rest of the week… work on novel, finish painting, catch up on church Twitter and Facebook accounts, indulge creative outburst that seems to be brewing quietly in the background.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…

Instagram of a fireworks stand on Route 66 just east of Bristow.

I love driving along Route 66 and seeing little fireworks stands illuminated by strings of lightbulbs.

Emily

Roadside Oklahoma

As part of my ongoing quest to visit every attraction listed for Oklahoma on roadsideamerica.com, I talked Ron into taking a little field trip to Pauls Valley yesterday to see the Toy and Action Figure Museum.

On the way to the museum, I got out the iPad and discovered a new addition to the Oklahoma listings: Edmond’s “Wigwam Church,” which was designed by world-renowned architect Bruce Goff and constructed by church members in 1951.

The church, closed for many years, has fallen into disrepair, but efforts are afoot to restore the mid-century structure.

Taking U.S. 77 south to Pauls Valley, we found another bit of RA-recommended roadside kitsch in Lexington:

The primary goal of this trip, however, was to visit the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley. We’d heard good things about the museum, and we were not disappointed.

A vast collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles confronted us from shelves and display cases, brandishing weaponry of all types:

I especially liked the Lego variant above. Note the Smurf in the lower left-hand corner of the photo and the superhero flying dangerously close to Raphael’s blade.

G.I. Joe was there …

… along with the usual comic-book heroes. I particularly liked the creativity of the displays. In this tableau, a piece of cheesecloth serves as a makeshift web for Spider-Man and three companions …

… while Batman and Robin scale a wall in another display case:

The museum has an extensive collection of Batman memorabilia, including some incredibly shameless merchandising:

There’s an outsized Balrog prototype …

… but the most fun display of all was the enormous replica of an adult toy collector’s bedroom, where we found the Wild Things starting a wild rumpus with a couple of Thundercats and the members of Spinal Tap …

… two variations on the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man …

… the gang from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse …

… an assortment of characters flying from the ceiling with the aid of monofilament …

… and a frightening horde of superheroes, villains, rock stars, and childhood companions of all stripes:

Here’s the hilarious placard that appears in front of the elaborate display:

Before heading back to Tulsa, we visited two more roadside attractions: a muffler man near Wynnewood …

… and this strangely pretty sculpture outside a welding shop near Stratford:

By the time we found the butterfly sculpture, we were running out of daylight, so we called it a night and headed back to Tulsa by way of Shawnee, where we stopped for dinner at Van’s Pig Stand.

Hope your weekend was full of kitschy goodness.

Emily

 

KISS it, calculus.

Normally, you’d look at something like this and think, “OK … somebody has way too much free time.”

In reality, I have absolutely no free time. This is what I was doing while I was supposed to be doing my calculus homework. I will almost certainly regret that decision tomorrow morning, when I am crawling out of bed at the butt-crack of dawn to try to finish all my assignments before we leave for Tucumcari … but for now, let’s just enjoy the moment and contemplate what sort of mind would produce something like this. 🙂

Emily