Category Archives: Popular

There are topical issues not covered in other categories that may also venture into the banal.

Celebrating the mundane

For the most part, I don’t attach more importance to what “celebrities” say than I do to anyone else’s words. I put that word in quotes, because it is a label that has always perturbed me. Any entertainer on television or the big screen earns that dubious honor. It invariable puts that person on a pedestal to be celebrated for being known by the masses. This would be regardless of their actual level of talent—anyone can become a celebrity these days. With the accessibility of the Internet to waste bandwidth in the endless pursuit of the proverbial fifteen minutes, as well as the plethora of reality shows that seem to glorify and even encourage stupidity, the whole concept is becoming over-saturated and possibly obsolete. Pity. 

That all said, there is someone recently who went beyond the usual sound bite that passes for wisdom, at least in the context of my own situation. It wasn’t particularly profound, but it certainly struck a resonant chord for me. Brad Pitt realized that he was spending so much time sitting on the couch, waiting for an interesting movie to do as opposed to living an interesting life. Basically, he admitted that his life was dull, and he laid blame on his marriage for a lot of that. He took some flak for implying that Jennifer Anniston was boring, but that is beside the point.

I struggle to suspend disbelief and accept this as an honest admission. Really, isn’t one of the prevailing reasons for celebrity worship due to the assumption that their lives are more interesting than those outside of that world? They have more money, exposure, and freedom to indulge in just about anything, or even engage in bad behavior. How could life be boring? Well, it depends on what one considers interesting.

This year, my father died, along with two of my animals. In addition, I spent a holiday at the emergency vet after my dog was attacked by a pit bull. She has recovered, thankfully. The credit card is almost maxed out from medical bills, and incurring interest fees as I write this. We are battling a large organization that is looking for every loophole imaginable to avoid reimbursing us for those costs. I could go on, but wouldn’t want to bore you with my problems.

Puh, what am I talking about? This is fascinating stuff. My professional life is vying for the limits of my tolerance, as well. Our annual raises have all but ceased, our pension and retirement plans have been chopped to bits, and the business is going through a re-structuring—my department being the latest victim. Re-structuring is a tidy euphemism for a re-organization that could result in the termination of employees. This has already occurred in three departments with seven jobs eliminated, so my colleagues are a touch on edge. It is happening while we are going through two audits. Since the powers-that-be deemed us high risk and misrepresenting the financial position of the company, one of those audits is so extensive that it smacks of a forensic witch-hunt. Exciting!

And that’s not all. There is a snake-tongued, reptilian outside consultant in my division who has a nasty habit of covering his ass at the peril of others, all while looking innocent and even magnanimous in the process. He tried to throw me under the bus twice, as well as get my staff in trouble. I had the choice of either modifying his behavior, or allowing him to toy with my livelihood. I opted for the former. My responses to him were equally calculating and manipulative. I am confident that I made it painful for him to try that crap with me again. Perhaps it is the wide berth he now gives me as he passes me in the office corridors. Riveting!

I believe I hit the thesaurus up enough with different words to emphasize how interesting my life is. In addition to my writing, artistic, and musical pursuits that I must squeeze in, quite often unsuccessfully I must add, life is never dull. Then, why do I feel like Brad Pitt allegedly did?

There are different degrees of interest, you see. Many thrive on controversy and negative stress. I am not one of those people. Therefore, while I do have enough to keep me on my toes, the energy it leeches from me leaves me having to tap into my reserves for any positive feelings. When your existence becomes a series of reactions to situations that make it more difficult to drive on the path of your own choosing, it can fall short of expectations. Mr. Pitt has the resources, i.e., oodles of money, to pull himself off the couch and find ways to liven things up in a good way. Due to my aforementioned financial problems, as well as being stuck in a stifling career, it appears I have additional barriers of contention.

George Carlin said that he wasn’t a glass half-empty person; sometimes the glass just isn’t big enough. I like that rationalization, and there are times that it is the case. I can’t use that as an excuse, though. I look back on the times when life was less vexing, albeit more mundane. Retrospectives can be a bit hazy, especially when viewed with a jaundiced eye. I strongly suspect that I was filled with ennui from lack of stimuli. Perhaps I am one who craves drama after all. However, as I mentioned above, that drags me down, as well. I am left with expending those energy reserves by griping about my situation, yet not putting forth the effort to actually change it. I can easily blame my lack of funds, and if I didn’t have debt, was independently wealthy, etc., I would be much happier. Yet, I must be realistic and admit that paying down one set of problems can leave me open to new and possibly more complex ones.

Cripes, will I ever be satisfied?

Aha! Maybe that is it. Satisfaction, contentment. I’ve got neither. Most definitely, the issues I laid out have a lot to do with that, and they should be managed appropriately. I am not experiencing a unique predicament; sadly, a large majority of the population is dissatisfied with their lot in life. I can’t speak for anyone else, nor can I often change what happens around me, at least when it doesn’t affect me directly. What I do have the power to do is alter my view of the world and how I respond to it. I am bored and discontent in large part because I let myself feel that way. I don’t need a large balance in my checkbook to transform how I feel. Perception is a free and unlimited resource. 

Besides, it doesn’t cost any money to get off the couch. Isn’t that half the battle?

A Sprinklage of Dinklage Makes Cinema *Sparkle*!

Props must be given to the spouse for that title. If it isn’t obvious whom this is about, I am referring to the recent (and richly deserved) Emmy winner, Peter Dinklage. I had a rant mentally scripted if he didn’t win that award. It involved a fantasy of him storming the stage à la Kanye West, grabbing the statue from the undeserving winner, and whacking him in the knees à la Tanya Harding with it. What am I talking about? Bah! He wouldn’t à la anything, he’s above aping those cretins. A feral, baritone roar would make the arena quake as he came out swinging a mace in a circle of death above his head, barreling towards the idiot judges who deemed him unworthy of such accolades. If you diss the Dink, you enter a world of pain. 

I have seen him in only a half-dozen performances, but every one has been terrific and completely engaging. His intense gaze, strong features, and mellifluous voice, command attention. Unless it is a prominent feature of the character, it is easy to forget that he is actually a dwarf. Just as I don’t focus on the fact that John Lithgow (another favorite), as an example, is a very tall man; I am riveted solely by his acting. Warwick Davis is a fine actor, but I always am aware of his stature. As for the Dinkster, it is no Napoleon Complex; this man is a strong actor with a powerful presence. Without further ado, allow me to bestow upon you a sprinklage of Dinklage:

Look at those penetrating blue eyes. Hmm.

He, um . . . wow. He works out.

Excuse me for a moment. . . . 

*   *   *

 All right! I’m back! Sorry about that momentary interruption. Those hypothetical deserted islands don’t populate themselves. Ahem. Onward.

 Back to my main point: Every show or movie I have seen him in is exponentially more entertaining because of his presence. Ergo, Peter Dinklage makes cinema better. Allow me to present examples to support my claim. 

The Station Agent 

This was the first time I experienced Dinktstacy. It was a subtle movie in ways, and in a lesser actor, the spirit and comedy of it would have been lost on the audience. He didn’t play an immediately likable character; he wanted to be left alone with his thoughts and his trains. Eventually, he became a person with whom the audience could identify. Perhaps it was when he leapt into a ditch to avoid an oncoming vehicle. That scene garnered the biggest laugh, yet, it showed a more fragile side to his stoicism in a very humorous way, and that exterior slowly dissolved as he allowed outsiders into his world. It was completely believable that women were attracted to him. Not only is he handsome, he is also a person we can understand. It took Peter Dinklage to make this movie work as well as it did. Sorry, Warwick. You must stay on your side of the pond. 


I had absolutely no idea that the disembodied, menacing voice on the phone was Peter Dinklage. This character was all about his dwarfism and over-compensation, i.e., Napoleon Complex, by being a royal dick. The main character mistaking him for an elf was the ultimate insult that had to be punished with physical violence. This was a very funny movie, but the image of him running with bloodlust vengeance across the conference room table to attack Will Ferrell makes me giggle every time I think about it. That scene pushed the movie to a higher plane for me. 

Game of Thrones 

Really, what needs to be said about this? The series is excellent, but for me, I found myself hoping a Tyrion-less scene would end so that one with him could begin. What better way to introduce such a complex character than showing a close-up of him slovenly swilling wine as he is getting a blowjob from a prostitute? That was a rhetorical question. He upset expectations by revealing the man as the most complex and ethical of the Lannisters. Oh yeah, and his British accent was pitch-perfect. Sorry again, Warwick. You just wouldn’t have been able to pull this one off. 

The Last Rites of Ransom Pride 

I saw this movie on my DVR queue, and was ready to ask the hubby why he recorded that. Then, I saw that Peter Dinklage was in it. No further explanation was needed. It had an interesting supporting cast, but as I got close to halfway into it, I started to wonder why I was watching it. There was nary a Dinker to be found. This movie was a real chin-scratcher, and I felt myself reaching the same level of frustration that I did while I watched Eraserhead. Not even the presence of the two biggest living bad-asses of country music in Dwight Yoakam and Kris Kristofferson could raise me to an acceptable level of enjoyment. I really was ready to hit stop and delete the recording. Then, this appeared:

Okay, we were getting somewhere. He was only in a few scenes, but again, he was my main focus. What a bizarre character he created. I still wasn’t crazy about the movie, but Peter Dinklage did make it worth watching for me. 

Death at a Funeral (American version) 

I haven’t seen the original, British version. I hear it is far better than this one. There really was some funny stuff in it, especially some of the punch lines Chris Rock delivered. However, I see this as a skillful throwaway for Fair Dinkums. His homosexual was not over-the-top. He was very calm as he delivered his blackmail ultimatum. As ridiculous as the premise was, I found myself believing that he would follow through on his threat, albeit in the most genteel fashion. I actually was disappointed when I thought his character croaked. His response as he resurrected while in the coffin made me double over in hysterics. I have to see the original to find out if he played the character the same way. I doubt it; British humor has a different flavor to it. 

I just looked at his IMDB; he has been in a lot of stuff. I want to see everything to further my assertion, thus proving my theory that: A Sprinklage of Dinklage Makes Cinema *Sparkle*. I long for the days of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. I could walk to the nearest location, whip out my membership and credit cards, and go on a Dinklagian film fest. Sadly, Redbox does not fully appreciate his sublime Dinktacity. I can’t bring myself to order Netflix. Despite his extensive resume, I won’t commit to ordering at least three items every month. Eventually, I will run out of Dinktation. That would be a Dinktastrophe of epic proportions. 

There is a movie currently in production called Knights of Badassdom. Mr. Dinklage’s character is named Hung. Can you think of three more compelling reasons to see that movie? Great title, great character name, and of course, the Dink-o-matic is starring in it. I am so there when it comes to the theaters.


No, there was not a typo in the title. I meant to do that. This series is atrociously ridiculous and hackneyed. Usually, derivative works tend to lose some quality in the translation. In the case of the Twilight series, I give the movies just a nudge—a mere vampire weekend, if you will—above the books. Yes, in this humble writer’s opinion, Stephenie Meyer is just that bad at what she is getting paid gazillions to spit out. She is suckling, like her monsters of inspiration, on the lowest common denominator’s teet. 

While I have yet to conceive the next great American novel, much less write and [attempt to] publish it, I am fully confident that when I do, it will be a much higher quality work. I believe my blog writings and short fiction attest to that claim. What will it matter, anyway? It never ceases to amaze me what the seemingly literate public desires to consume. While Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Meyer’s Twilight are both novels under the strictly technical definition, one is clearly more objectively palatable than the other. Obviously, fortification for the brain is not the same as banal entertainment. It is the same reason that McDonald’s is a more popular venue for sustenance than your average health food store. It is quick and easy to digest. It also leaves you full of hot, putrid gas to compensate for lack of actual nourishment. 

Let me do a quick comparison of some of the variances between Ms. Meyer’s vampires and the ones of lore: 

Lore: Vampires can only come out at night.
Twitlight: Vampires go wherever they damn-well please. Inexplicably, it is high school. 

Lore: Vampires burst into flames when exposed to the sun.
Twitlight: Vampires sparkle in the sun. I guess they don’t have to dive into the nearest plot-hole for cover.  

Lore: Vampires have fangs.
Twitlight: Vampires must have an awesome dental plan. 

Lore: Vampires fear religious relics, as well as garlic.
Twitlight: Vampires have some seriously powerful magic underwear. That’s the only explanation. 

With fictional characters, there is a little poetic license allowed. I grant writers that, and have done it myself just recently with my own vampire tale, as well. So, parking the plot wagon for a moment, let’s focus on the quality of the writing. The premise is rather simple and unoriginal. Girl moves to new town, girl falls in love, girl almost dies, boy saves her. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, that could be fully realized in less than 250 pages. At almost 500, it is too long for so little to happen. Egads did my mind drift as I waited for something remotely interesting to happen. It’s like the vampires glamoured me into a stupor. 

There are two reasons I give the movies a notch above the books. First, the quality of the acting is good. Actually, it is sad to see such talent wasted on terrible material. Seeing the two stars—Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart—in better projects, just leaves me shaking my head. Second, I confess to having a grand old time as hubby, friends, and I conduct running commentary à la MST3000. Good times, good times. 

There is a tendency for women to breathe life into their fantasies through their writings, and some of them are paid for it. Unfortunately. A common one is to make the female protagonist the objet d’lust for many characters. I’ll get to the point; apparently, it is thrilling to imagine powerful and sexy beasts willing to fight to the death in order to be with you. I don’t know why, but it is a rampant theme. See my previous post about it: Creatures of the Trite

Despite my aforementioned kudos to the acting, I am not any closer to suspending disbelief with Ms. Stewart’s Bella Swan (is there a more contrived name, by the way?). While pretty, her character is so bland. The undead have more zest for life than she does, and the most mundane circumstance can make her so tense. She is stuffed to the gills with angst. She does play that convincingly, I will say that. But, I don’t get why vampires and werewolves (of course!) are so willing to lay their difficult-to-kill, if not immortal, asses on the line for her. I just don’t see it. Sorry. 

Here is a lesson in writing: The plot must be consistent within its own internal logic, thus allowing suspension of disbelief. As an example, while on the surface, their lightning-fast baseball game seems clever and cute, albeit a lame attempt at achieving the same level of awe as Harry Potter’s Quidditch. Fail! Unfortunately, a ball traveling that fast and hit that hard would be structurally unable to withstand the extreme forces thus applied to it. Since these are fictional creatures in the real world, laws of physics still apply. It is difficult enough to swallow such a bastardization of vampire legend, but defying scientific logic where it should exist is inexcusable. 

I noticed a lot of writers fall into what I call “murmuritus.” There are at least thirty synonyms for that word, but many default to that one. I don’t know what the hang-up is with that particular verb. Ms. Meyer is definitely no exception. Just to drive the point home, I downloaded all the books for the sole purpose of doing a search on murmur, et al. The “find” function is a wondrous tool for empirical research. Here are my results: 

Book 1:  46
Book 2:  30
Book 3:  95
Book 4: 111 

As you see, it gets worse as the saga thickens. I know emopires are so bothered that they are reduced to a mere whisper, but really, perhaps they should just learn to enunciate through their non-fangs. If that weren’t enough, Stephenie felt it important to demonstrate her characters’ blasé annoyance by having them roll their eyes. Inordinately. While I had the PDFs, I figured I might as well confirm that. If you don’t believe me, read it and weep blood: 

Book 1:  12
Book 2:  18
Book 3:  21
Book 4:  25

 I just decided to start rolling my eyes to see how many creatures, great and small, cock-fight to the death for my affection. Apathy is hot!  

Now admittedly, I only read the first novel. I strongly suspect that it is a representative sample, albeit possibly misleadingly in favor of Ms. Meyer. From what I’ve heard, they get worse. Perhaps it is due to a few ridiculous key plot points in subsequent books, such as being turned [into a vampire] used as a metaphor for (eep!) going all the way—which must not happen until marriage, dagnabbit. I’ve also been informed that Edward is forced to turn his beloved Bella as she is giving birth to their vampire hatchling, because that bugger is being a recalcitrant monster imp. Edward must then commit an unspeakable act: Use his teeth to tear his offspring out of mommy’s stomach to save them both! Now that’s just nasty. I suspect Meyer took Vonnegut’s rule to be cruel to her characters just a wee bit too far. Be that as it may, there’s no Father’s Day Hallmark card for that creepy level of devotion. 

To say nothing of the fact that the werewolf Jacob imprints romantically on the baby who miraculously matures fully by age seven. He is, in fact, lusting after a seven-year-old, ergo, making him a Native American Mormon werewolf pedophile. Ms. Meyers just squicked me.

In the second or third book (does it matter?) Edward spurned Bella’s advances because he is old-fashioned and wants to wait until they are married, blah blah blah. So, does this mean that he has gone over one hundred years without sex? Really, come on! Let’s put him in a taxicab for some dashboard confession here. He may rip out the cabbie’s carotid before allowing his chaste image to be sullied. All right all right, let’s assume he is a virgin for a moment. It must also be pointed out that he doesn’t feed off humans—just wild animals. Hmm. Not that I know personally, but every vampire tale speaks of the thrill of the kill and savoring the sanguine life force flowing from its human victim into his gullet. Assuming he is completely genuine (and all Mormons are, of course), what the HELL is the point of existing? So little pleasure and all this wasted energy expended on resisting tempta . . . oh wait, that sounds eerily accurate. Pfft! 

Gotta love proselytizing pulp.

Mondegreen mania

I get such a kick out of misheard song lyrics, otherwise known as mondegreens. I remember years ago when I picked up Gavin Edwards Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy when I was out of town on business. I went back to my hotel room and laughed until tears streamed down my face while the misinterpretations became more ridiculous, but still plausible, as I turned the pages. The accompanying illustrations only added to my mirth. It is the hardest I have ever laughed without someone else present in the room. I couldn’t wait for the next book to come out, which there were three others. Occasionally, I check the humor section of bookstores, hoping to find a fifth installment in the series. Sadly, Mr. Edwards either tired of the concept, or ran out of material. Nonsense, I say! 

In lieu of that, I will reminisce on a few of my own, as well as ones Mr. Pedant accumulated over the years. I displayed them in the same format as in the books: misheard lyric; performer; song title; correct lyric. 

The wreck of Ella Fitzgerald
Gordon Lightfoot “The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald”
The wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald 

What can I say? The queen of scat was the only E. Fitzgerald I knew of when I was a teen. I even had the piano sheet music of the classic folk tune, but for whatever reason, my mind chose to interpret and remember it within the context of its existing knowledge, and stay that way well into adulthood. Good excuse, eh? Years later, I saw part of a documentary about the famous freighter, and the twenty-nine lives that were taken down with it. Hmm, I guess that makes more sense. At least, more than a wrecking ball swinging toward Ella as she breaks glass when she hits her high note. Ah, the warped logic of youth. 

Hey old lady you’re gonna die!
Patty LaBelle “Creole Lady Marmalade”
Creole lady marmalade! 

Really, what is a more logical exclamation, I ask ye? 

I scream my balls off
No Doubt “Spider Webs”
I screen my phone calls 

I actually developed a dislike of this song because I thought it was stupid that a woman would say that she screams her balls off. Women don’t have balls! Anyway, I still can’t shake my disdain. 

I’m a speed travelin’ hombre
Lynyrd Skynyrd “Freebird”
I must be travelin’ on now 

This was my brother-in-law’s creation, and it makes me giggle every time. Oddly, it could fit. 

I wanna be, your clamdigger
Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer”
I wanna be, your sledgehammer 

“What the hell is a clamdigger?” At the time, I didn’t know it was a real profession. I guess my friend thought clams were an appropriate token of love. I suppose it is just as useful as a gaggle of swans a’simmin, or a bunch of maids a’milking. 

Hail to the flutter kick, same old chicken washed my brain. So I ate a pigeon steak, try to sneeze your blood my way.
Alice in Chains “Would”
Into the flood again, same old trip it was back then. So I made a big mistake, try to see it once my way. 

This was heard in the back of a Bradley armored personnel carrier, in the middle of combat during Desert Storm. The gunner started singing this at the top of his lungs, with a Brooklyn accent, no less. Mr. Pedant, I’ve got nothing to add.   

Turn your feet around
Vickie Sue Robinson “Turn the Beat Around”
Turn the beat around

 A sensible, albeit pointless, request.

 Why do we, cutsie-pie ourselves?
Tori Amos “Crucify”
Why do we, crucify ourselves?

 This was just too funny to omit. Oddly, the misinterpretation is the polar opposite of what Tori asked. The real lyric is more poignant, but the other really gets my imagination brewing. I picture a bunch of furry kittens tied with lilac ribbons to pink crosses, as they mew in harmony to this song. Oh yeah, and bunnies are hopping around them. Why? Because cute spectacles must contain at least one bunny. All together, now. AWWWWW!!! 

A-chin bubbly-bubbly Top Dog
Kula Shaker “Tattva”
Acintya bheda bheda Tattva 

What else is there to say about carbonated dogs with chins that hasn’t already been said? 

You don’t have to sell your potty to the night
The Police “Roxanne”
You don’t have to sell your body to the night 

When you think about it, both lyrics are essentially saying the same thing, one less eloquently than the other. 

Do you need a Wal-Mart to look after you?
Tori Amos “God”
Do you need a woman to look after you? 

Sorry, Tori. I’ll stop picking on you. 

Jesus is just a rat-wheeled freak
Doobie Brothers “Jesus is Just Alright”
Jesus is just alright with me 

It is amazing the things that run through the brain during the descent into the fiery pits of Hell. 

I don’t know, but I’ve been told, a peg leg woman ain’t got to sew
Led Zepplin “Black Dog”
I don’t know, but I’ve been told, a big legged woman ain’t got no soul 

Personally, I’d be too busy trying to move around with a peg-leg to make time for sewing. 

Now I pooh hard eggs
The Police “Every Breath You Take”
How my poor heart aches 

This lyric was misheard and published as “I’m a pool hall ace.” But really, who wouldn’t wail like Sting if he crapped stony eggs, if you let yourself contemplate such an unfortunate ignominy?  

Barefoot ghouls, dancin’ in the moonlight
Credence Clearwater Revival “Green River”
Barefoot girls, dancin’ in the moonlight

One is sexy, the other frightening. I’m good with it. 

The beagle flies with the duck
Crosby, Stills, and Nash “Love the One You’re With”
The eagle flies with the dove 

Mr. Stills, I love you, but you’re a mumble-ass. 

Oh, there’s more. But, in an effort to keep this post from getting too long, I must split this up. Tune in later for the second installment.

Being Kurt Vonnegut

Of all the writers this bibliophile has read and continues to discover, I rank Kurt Vonnegut in the upper echelon of literary geniuses. No one wrote caustic satire quite like him. While I don’t emulate him in my own work, or any author for that matter, a favorable comparison would be much welcomed, to say the least. Alas, if Dmitry Chestnykh is the arbiter of writing analysis, the probability of that happening is slim to none. 

Mr. Chestnykh is a Russian computer programmer who created the site I Write Like. I don’t know if it is viable for academic study, or was created for just giggles. Perhaps when some established authors were tested and came up with others than themselves, the latter seemed to be the likely purpose. As an example, Moby Dick was more reminiscent of Stephen King than of, well, Herman Melville. I wonder if Mr. Melville looked more like King’s brother than . . . regardless, the algorithm could use some tweaking. 

Here is the link, in case you want to participate in the same frustrating exercise I did—twenty-one times, to be precise. I just couldn’t resist the compulsion. 

I took excerpts of my blog postings, short stories, and even a couple of e-mails. I was on a quest to identify my wordsmith doppelgänger and hoped for some affirmation of my writing skills, to boot. Yes, I was shooting for at least one Kurt Vonnegut comparison. Did Dmitry throw me that bone? Of course not. Hell, I would have been happy with Kilgore Trout, even. Here is a list of what I did get and how many times, ranked from extremely flattering to suicide-inducing: 

  •  Vladimir Nabokov—1
  •  Stephen King—2
  •  David Foster Wallace—5
  •  H.P. Lovecraft—3
  •  Isaac Asimov—1
  •  Arthur Clark—1
  •  Ian Fleming—1
  •  Chuck Palahniuk—1
  •  Cory Doctorow—2
  •  Dan Brown—4 

Take a guess when I considered going the route of one of those authors. What, too soon? Seriously though, how can I write like one of the most successful hacks in recent memory, but have yet to crack the “Code” of making even one red cent from my writings? ‘Tain’t fair! By the way, who the Hell is Cory Doctorow? (Admittedly, as a sci-fi fan, I should have known who he was.) I felt like I stumbled into the Malkovichian portal to my own mind, to find all the authors above at a Halloween party where I was the only costume left on the rack for them to buy. It was not a pretty visual, let me tell you. In the words of one of my alleged brothers-in-words, “oh, the unspeakable horror!” 

At least I don’t write like Stephenie Meyer, with her damned eye-rolling, mumbling emo-pires (that’s another post entirely!). There’s that small blessing. To ensure that she was in the database or whatever the blazes is in that program, I put in an excerpt of her first book, Twilight, and there she was. Whew, I won’t fold up my laptop just yet. 

As I mentioned earlier, I got no Vonnegut hits, even though I have read more works from him than any other author. You’d think he would rub off, even a little. Just to make sure he was on the site’s radar, I put in a sample text from his famous Slaughterhouse-Five

“The Americans across the way told the guards again about the dead man on their car. The guards got a stretcher out of their own cozy car, opened the dead man’s car and went inside. The dead man’s car wasn’t crowded at all. There were just six live colonels in there—one dead one.  

The Germans carried the corpse out. The corpse was Wild Bob. So it goes.” 

There he was. I made it easy for myself and substituted key words and phrases in it to change the spirit while preserving the grammatical structure: 

“The Canadians across the way told the penguins again about the dead seal on their igloo. The penguins got a glacier out of their own comfortable igloo, opened the dead seal’s igloo and went inside. The dead seal’s igloo wasn’t crowded at all. There were just six live bears in there—one dead one. 

The Americans carried the corpse out. The corpse was Wild Bob. So it snows.” 

David Foster Wallace! What the. . . ? This should have been a slam-dunk. If I can’t write like Kurt Vonnegut, at least he should be able to write like himself! Before I went all Dwayne Hoover from Breakfast of Champions on my computer, I had to apply a healthy dose of perspective along with the grain of salt. Really, how intuitive are these programs, or anything that claims to sum up one’s personality based on a few bytes of information? According to one of the plethora of Facebook surveys I was suckered into taking, my aura was orange. Orange? Puh! Mine is clearly purple. I dismiss that on principle. In this case, I separate the wheat from the chaff and paraphrase Bruce Lee: I extract what strokes my ego and discard what bitch-slaps it. 

In conclusion, I am as masterful a writer as Vladimir Nabokov was. Woot woot! 

Did I mention I haven’t read anything from Wallace, yet? He is on my list, but blast it, he is a laborious read. Apparently, I’m actually so brilliant, even I find it hard to understand myself.

The greatest songs of all time (in my world, at least)

I wish there was an objective standard to measuring the quality of art. There is not, so we are left with subjective opinions, and popular music is no exception. While I acknowledge what I call the Citizen Kanes of contemporary music, such as Stairway to Heaven, Imagine, Purple Haze, etc., they don’t stick with me quite like some other lesser-known, but equally as relevant, works. In compiling my best of list, I focused on what incites passion and other intense feelings in me, as well as containing technical brilliance. This is what I found.

Top Ten

  1. Ballad of Casey Deiss, Shawn Phillips He may be one of the most accomplished songwriters whom very few know exist. He had his heyday in the 70’s when he penned this masterpiece, and faded into semi-anonymity recognized only by a small, devoted following. His work was never radio-friendly, nor did he aspire to that. His arrogance in floating somewhat sanctimoniously above the fray was a double-edged sword: His songs are brilliant and timeless, but he never achieved success in the traditional sense. This song is considered amongst his fans to be his opus, and rightly so. It was inspired by the true story of a man who was struck by lightening, but Phillips wove it into an epic fantasy tale. The music accompanying this allegory on the surface sounds complex; I was surprised to discover that the lead guitar is a simple rolling Am-C-G-Am progression. It was how he layered it with other instruments and his multi-octave vocalizations that keeps this listener coming back for more. I never tire of it. I saw him perform it in a small tavern years ago with only his acoustic guitar. At age 60+, he still reached the highest notes as if 30 years passed for all but him. He got a standing ovation, and I was moved to tears.
  2. Breakthrough, Shawn Phillips This sycophant can’t help herself—this guy was that good. This song is achingly gorgeous with arpeggiated guitar, orchestral accompaniment, and heart-felt lyrics sung so wonderfully and passionately, a surge of cool energy travels up my arms every time I hear it. He ended the song with soft, ascending notes that he sustained for an eternity. The soaring orchestra beautifully compliments his gentle falsetto.
  3. Children’s Crusade, Sting He is my top songwriting influence, and this song is a perfect example why that is the case. While the Children’s Crusades historically marked the march for Christianity back in the 13th Century, Sting poetically drew parallels to other wars: We send our children to fight for a cause they are too young to understand. He grabs the listener instantly after a spare musical introduction: Young men, soldiers, nineteen fourteen. Marching through countries they’ve never seen . . . Then reels them in as the music crescendos passionately to belie his resigned disgust: The flower of England face down in the mud, and stained in the blood of a whole generation. Gah! Here come the goosebumps.
  4. The Priest, Joni Mitchell Why does no one refer to this song when reminiscing about Joni? The artist herself didn’t even include it in her Hits and Misses album. Hell, I’d be satisfied if she considered it a miss. Just acknowledge it, for cripe’s sake. It is from her masterful Ladies of the Canyon, and like the other tunes on that album, it is just her and one instrument. Her quick finger-style guitar playing is the perfect backdrop for the setting of a Priest who is having a lapse of faith. He is resigned to the loneliness of an airport bar to contemplate the Father to whom he devoted his life. He took his contradictions out and splashed them on my brow. That line is beautiful in its simplicity. There are no complex words or references, but the symbolism speaks volumes. Her lovely soprano is the cherry on top; it makes the hair on my forearms stand at attention.
  5. Carry On/Questions, CSN&Y I must dance in glee every time this song comes on. Stephen Still’s song about moving on after his relationship with Judy Collins ended, is one of most uplifting tunes I have heard, ironically enough. His acoustic guitar starts the song full-throttle, with a forceful and frenetic strumming. The alternate tuning is ambitious with four strings at E and two at B. I’ve tuned my guitar to that at the risk of busting a couple strings, and did what I could to mimic his playing style. I turn to the quote in the liner notes of their boxed set: “Anyone who says Clapton is god has not heard Stephen Stills play acoustic guitar.” Carry On is the first part of the song; it seques to the second part—Questions—speculating on the how and why of their parting ways and if it was a wise decision. Both sides of the song could stand alone, as they are different musically, but still compliment each other as a natural transition to different phases of heartache.   
  6. Scarborough Fair/Canticle, Simon and Garfunkle Paul Simon is a brilliant storyteller and narrative songwriter. He took a traditional folk song and made it his own. Truth-be-told, I never completely understood the original lyrics, but when he wove his own words into it, it shed light on an interesting interpretation. Canticle seems to speak an anti-war message—And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotton—made me scratch beneath the surface. Is a soldier lamenting the loss of his love as he had to leave her to go to battle? With Simon’s one guitar, a soft, chiming bell, and Art Garfunkle’s beautiful harmonies, this song speaks passionately but elegantly. Are they singing for the voices that can not be heard? 
  7. Soul Cages, Sting Another masterful storyteller, Sting fashioned a mythical tale out of the hardship of the fishing industry. At least, that is the way I interpreted it. A boy challenges a fisherman to set one of the souls free that are locked in a cage. Are we imprisoned in our trades to eventually die soulless with only a shell of what we once were? Sting sang the song with a rasp, as if he was a hardened sailor, himself. Personally, this song would have been a far superior and apt theme for The Deadliest Catch, as opposed to the godawful tune that the producers of the show chose.
  8. Needle and the Damage Done, Neil Young I don’t get any arguments when I state this is Neil Young’s most accomplished piece. It just is. Besides his signature rhythmic guitar work with the descending bass notes, the lyrics brilliantly depict the pervasiveness of drug abuse. An underrated singer, he made the disgusting practice of milking blood to clean out the syringe sound touchingly poetic.
  9. Dog’s a Best Friend’s Dog, Tears for Fears I can bet my next paycheck the majority of readers have never heard of this song. It is Roland Orzabal sans his usual mate Curt Smith, in his album Elemental, and collaborated instead with Alan Griffiths. I read the lyrics as suggesting that many of us prefer to live life with the path of least resistance. It is alluring but does not accomplish much. What can feel like more of a pointless exercise than walking the dog around the block? Round and round we go without purpose, to just go to bed to prepare to do it all over again the next day. Tell Mr. Godot I’m walking the dog. Godot is thought to represent the Apocalypse. The life we live is boring, but strangely, we don’t want to leave it. Orzabal demonstrated here what a terrific singer and guitar player he is. He ends up screaming the title at the end to his fast-paced strumming on muted strings. He is defending his best friend—ignorance—as he is backed against the wall.
  10. A Christmas Song, Jethro Tull Ian Anderson is know for his caustic views on society (think of Sossity You’re a Woman). This song is a bonus track on This Was, and the gentle flute introducing the gorgeous mandolins is deliberate in misleading the listener. We think we are getting a folk Christmas carol, even with the biblical references in the first two lines. But then, the cynicism is revealed. We stuff ourselves at parties and celebrate the Christmas spirit by getting plastered. The song is short, but packs a wallop. It almost seems like the singer was sanctimonious, then caved to the social pressure to embrace the commercialism of the holiday. Hey! Santa! Pass us that bottle, will you?

Honorable mentions (in no particular order):

  • I’ve Been Waiting for You, Neil Young This is another really short tune that packs a punch. The lyrics are spare to not detract from the hypnotic and compelling music, juxtaposing a distorted, fuzzy guitar with a beautifully chiming one. David Bowie’s cover is arguably just as good, albeit more complex. 
  • Woodstock, Joni Mitchell This one is iconic. Enough said.
  • Daylight Again/Find the Cost of Freedom, CSN Stephen Stills did it again, and added Art Garfunkle as a guest singer, and threw in a banjo, to boot. Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground. Can the Republicans come up with as compelling poetry to speak in support of the war?
  • Woman King, Iron and Wine Sam Beam has a high regard for women in his lyrics. Women are often relegated to thankless tasks, and are not rightfully praised for their work. I always picture a black country woman in her backyard, beating the clothing dry that hangs on a line. She is utterly fatigued, but guided by obligation and duty. Even if the words don’t move you, the music is transfixing.  
  • The One I Love, REM This selection is based purely on raw emotion. The song had heavy radio play during a painful time where my own mortality became aware to me when an 18-year-old coworker/friend was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Every time I hear it, I am pulled back to that intense period of reflection.
  • God, Tori Amos While musically she hits the nail on the head 99% of the time, her lyrics tend to fall short. This song was an exception. Voicing her dissatisfaction with her god along with the discordant electric guitar created the perfect marriage to convey her message that perhaps, we shouldn’t blindly put faith in a deity.  
  • When the Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin I can’t think of any band that combined blues with rock better than Zeppelin.
  • Tomorrow Never Knows, The Beatles Yeah, this song is trippy, but I can’t picture a better way to deliver it. Although, Genesis and Our Lady Piece did kick-ass covers of this tune.
  • Black Queen, Stephen Stills See #5 above. He is one of the best rock/blues acoustic guitarists alive.
  • Badge, Cream The lyrics make little sense, and the title came from Clapton misreading George Harrison’s note indicating “bridge”. I don’t care; Clapton’s solo is pitch-perfect.
  • Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles The anxious strings and lamenting background vocals contrast a story of an old woman who is waiting it out as she is destined to die alone. This clearly is their most accomplished piece. Who would have thought something with such classical influences would be radio-friendly?
  • The Mummer’s Dance, Loreena McKennitt This Canadian singer continues to write timeless songs that are perfectly performed with traditional folk instruments, such as harp and violin. I don’t know what a Mummer’s dance is, but I have a clear vision of the choreography when I listen to this song, and am compelled to move to that rhythm.
  • Temples of Syrinx, Rush This is why they are one of the best progressive rock bands of their era.
  • Fanfare, Eric Matthews He is not well-known, and his lack of inclination to perform live does not help. However, this song grabbed me right away when I first heard it, and I could not wait to acquire the CD. He plays his own fanfare horn to his spine-tingling electric guitars as he sings his characteristically enigmatic lyrics.
  • Optimistic, Radiohead This is classic Radiohead, with the ironic title and Thom Yorke’s bitterness showing through in what is, to me, their most engaging song.
  • Possession, Sarah McLachlan  The synthesizer, distorted guitar, and her lilting soprano, combine into one of the most compelling songs I’ve heard. She is in rapture over the object of her obsession. This song does indeed, take my breath away. 
  • Jeremy, Pearl Jam Eddie Vedder’s intense lyrics, brilliantly setting the stage by describing an angry child’s drawing using the all-familiar Crayola names, e.g., lemon-yellow sun, are perfectly matched by Jeff Ament’s music. As it crescendos to the climax, Vedder emulates the child’s journey down the bottomless well with frantic “oohs”. What can he do but thrash around like a bug on its back? Plenty. He breaks into a growling wail as he executes his final solution.

I wonder if ten years from now, this list will at all change. Not from the current state of music, unfortunately. These songs take me back to the times before Auto-Tune. Those days are gone. Alas.

The Ploy of Painting

Who doesn’t know Bob Ross—the inordinately hirsute art instructor and television personality? His half-hour program, The Joy of Painting, aired from 1983 to 1994, and brought the creation of decorative art into millions of homes around the world.

Don’t get me wrong by my sarcastic pun of the title—Bob Ross had a significant influence on the art world. He discovered and shared a way to make painting accessible and inviting to those normally daunted by the idea of picking up a brush and applying it to canvas. He made it fun and leisurely, and sparked creativity in children who happened to catch his program on public television, including yours truly. He was also philanthropic; he donated his programs and paintings to public stations, and made his living only from the sale of his books and instructional videos. He can’t be faulted for that, right? Of course he can!

First off, I must point out the obvious: What was UP with that frizzy ‘fro, and why so much of it? To top it off, it was a perfect sphere around his skull, like a halo in a medieval painting. How was hair that unruly cut in such a way that every last coiling strand was tucked into a pristine bubble? It was like Mr. Miyagi went all bonsai tree on him every time before the cameras started rolling. Was that beard a continuation of the mop growing from his scalp? It was like he bought it by the yard and wrapped his head and face in it like a keffiyeh.    

Bleh. I just got bitch-slapped by an annoying thing called my conscience. I logged in fully intending on ripping this poor guy to shreds until only a pile of viscera and fringe was left in my wake. I just can’t do it, for the simple reason that this guy was just too darn nice. Besides the aforementioned generosity, he clearly made a career out of doing something that he loved. Plus, he worked up until the year before his untimely death—of cancer, no less. Why did it have to be cancer? Bah! Grabbing onto his nappy coif and dragging him through the mud just would not be sporting. I might as well kick a terminally ill child’s puppy while I’m at it. Dammit. Blast you, Bob!

So, I am left with going gentler on his legacy. I’ll try to still make it fun.

Even as a kid, I noticed the preponderance of pine trees in his paintings. It seemed like everything had a pine tree. If you don’t believe me, here are a few examples:

See? There they are on the left.

They moved to the right. Those sneaky bastards.

And they mated and multiplied. Horny rascals.

There is more evidence, but frankly, I was getting annoyed uploading these photos and positioning them. They aren’t in every painting, but they are in a lot of them. A lot. Plus, he painted them the same way. He scooped up paint with his palette knife, made a line on the canvas to suggest the trunk, then took a dark green mixture (probably ivory black and phthalo green) on his brush and whoosh whoosh whoosh, painted the foliage by smashing the brush in alternating angles down said trunk. It was difficult for this method to not be singed into the viewer’s memory, because he did it so often. What does this mountainous landscape need? A pine tree! How can I make this river scene idealic? A pine tree, of course! What shall I do to round out this galactic tableau? Whoosh whoosh whoo . . . okay, that probably didn’t happen. I think I’ve made my point with this one and can conclude that the dude really dug pine trees. I’m partial to painting skulls, knives, and droplets of blood in my pieces, but as Bob would always say, “It is your world.”

While an art student, I posed the following question to some of the faculty: Would Bob Ross do well in their class? Every time, I got a resounding “no”. It turns out that Mr. Ross’s mane got tangled in the craw of many professional artists, and was apparently keeping Thomas Kinkade company (that’s a different post and I refuse to pull punches). Why the animosity? Because, he made it too easy. Basically, he took the art out of art, or more to the point, he removed the mystery. How can artists who devote their lives to their craft have it be reduced to such simplicity? They spend months on each piece, laying their emotions bare on the canvas, to only have it trivialized by one man, albeit a well-intentioned one. I admit, as an artist myself, I find the argument compelling. Painting is an extremely difficult undertaking, and takes years to master, if at all. The greatest artists don’t necessarily rest on their laurels; even Rembrandt felt like he still had much to learn. I, along with many others, have spent years and thousands of dollars on an education to achieve the goal of creating lasting works. Truth-be-told, I don’t care to have my passion rendered inconsequential by some hack. There, I said it.

Excuse me while I spit out the sour grapes. PLORK! Okay, I’m over myself. While it is uncomfortable to dilute contempt that positions our egos on a high horse, it is the magnanimous thing to do. While the quality of his art is questionable, I must credit him for starting me on the artistic journey I will be on until the end of my days.

Thomas Kinkade is a whole different story. He’ll reap the whirlwind once I decide to critique him.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (As celebrated by Dexter)

I’ve had an interesting conversation with someone who has been forced to listen to holiday music all day at work. He swore that he’d become murderous if he listened to The Twelve Days of Christmas one more time. The inspiration to combine it with America’s favorite serial killer was a natural one, in my opinion.

The quantity of some of these items does not make a whole lot of sense, but really, neither does the original song. What the Hell does one do with maids a milking, and why eight of them? Anyway, ‘tis the season to be stabby!

On the first day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
A drop of blood on a slide.

On the second day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the third day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Four severed limbs, 
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Five body bags.
Four severed limbs,
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Six cheeks a-slicing,
Five body bags.
Four severed limbs,
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Seven rolls of duct tape,
Six cheeks a-slicing,
Five body bags.
Four severed limbs,
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Eight vivisections,
Seven rolls of duct tape,
Six cheeks a-slicing,
Five body bags.
Four severed limbs,
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Nine knives a-stabbing,
Eight vivisections,
Seven rolls of duct tape,
Six cheeks a-slicing,
Five body bags.
Four severed limbs,
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Ten yards of plastic,
Nine knives a-stabbing,
Eight vivisections,
Seven rolls of duct tape,
Six cheeks a-slicing,
Five body bags.
Four severed limbs,
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Eleven neck injections,
Ten yards of plastic,
Nine knives a-stabbing,
Eight vivisections,
Seven rolls of duct tape,
Six cheeks a-slicing,
Five body bags.
Four severed limbs,
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,
And a drop of blood on a slide.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Dexter Morgan gave to me
Twelve worthy victims,
Eleven neck injections,
Ten yards of plastic,
Nine knives a-stabbing,
Eight vivisections,
Seven rolls of duct tape,
Six cheeks a-slicing,
Five body bags.
Four severed limbs,
Three bone saws,
Two pairs of gloves,

And a drop of blood on a slide.

Joaquin is still in the building

So there it is. It was all a hoax, and an elaborate one at that. Arguably, it trumps whatever Andy Kaufman pulled, and anything Sasha Baron Cohen could ever accomplish.

For those who don’t know, Joaquin Phoenix appeared on David Letterman February 11, 2009. His visage was puzzling, to say the least. With a full, unkempt beard, dirty hair, and recent weight gain covered by a careworn, black suit, he gave the impression of one who was not in touch with reality. This was after he announced that he gave up acting and was pursuing a hip-hop career. Subsequent performances of his “music” were ignominious, to say the least.

The audience and fans alike were left scratching their heads as they witnessed this brilliant actor go completely off the rails. His soul shuffled off its mortal coil to leave the shell of the man he once was. It was tragic. In our effort to cope, we held onto the slim hope that maybe, just maybe, there was more to the story.

His brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, released a film a year-and-a-half later documenting Joaquin’s downward spiral, and within a week, the world was let in on the joke—one with many players, it turns out. The collective’s conscience breathed a sigh of relief as the ego was left perturbed. We were duped.

While there is comfort in the reality that there was not another talent needlessly destroyed in his prime, it does leave many unanswered questions. The first and foremost is: Why? What was the motivation?

Was it a social experiment? If so, I am at a loss to explain what it was. How important is it to risk one’s career to make a socio-political statement? Perhaps he was turning the mirror on society and its fixation on celebrity. That is a bit of a stretch, but one must admit, we certainly invested a lot of energy and bandwidth into focusing on this spectacle.

Did he get a sadistic pleasure out of raking his fans across the coals? His brother was snuffed out so early in life, and we got to see in Joaquin the actor that River could have become. He was taking that away from us. What a meanie.   

He could have been resentful for not winning the Oscar for his stellar work in Walk the Line. That makes a strong assumption that he cares about the accolades. If anything, he reiterated what a tremendous actor he is.  His performance on Letterman was realistic, but left enough speculation to keep us guessing. Was he on drugs? Was he succumbing to mental illness? I was going with the latter, as he showed the hallmarks of a schizoaffective disorder. I noticed his delayed response to jokes, his nervous tics and fidgeting, as well as the subtly paranoid look he’d shoot the audience as if to say “what are you laughing at?” And how did he keep in character while faced with Letterman’s rapier humor?  Bravo.

That said, Sir Occam’s Razor is feeling pretty sharp with this one. Maybe he just wanted to see if he could do it. And, he did.

Creatures of the trite

Women have the potential for very active and intricate sexual fantasies; I readily argue that they are more inventive than most men are inclined to entertain. They can be so complex to the point where they are near impossible to choreograph in reality. Making love in a rainstorm is easy to replicate. But, can you plan the clap of thunder to be in synchrony with the rip of your negligee as it is torn in half and pulled from your drenched but flawless skin in the throes of passion? Oh yes, and, the lightning should illuminate the sky and cast the perfectly pulchritudinous lovers in a chiarascuro of sensual artistic display. While a beautiful, poetic symphony of primal lust, chances are good: it ain’t gonna happen just like that. Being female, I admit that I have stopped mid-daydream and wondered outloud “What the hell am I thinking?” before I continue with my elaborately scripted internal drama. Why? Because it is fun and takes me away to a better place than Calgon ever can. We need that stress-relieving escape on occasion. Plus, it is the cheapest form of entertainment. It costs nothing to let one’s mind wander for a spell. Not to be guilty of solopsism, but I am quite confident that no other woman with a pulse can cook up what I have going in my prurient little mind.

Then, there are more base fantasies that are appealing to many. Okay, I will just come out and say it: the rape fantasy. Admit it ladies, you’ve considered it and chances are good that you have asked for it.  How many have actually enjoyed it, though? I suspect that for the majority it has gone anywhere from disappointment to a traumatic experience. Losing control is good to explore, to a point. The fantasy allows us to forgive ourselves for enjoying it like the little whores we are. We have no choice because we are forced to do so. But, “rape lite”  isn’t all fun and games, even when consensual. “I don’t care that I said you shouldn’t take no for an answer, when I say no I mean NO!” Objectively, I can picture myself crying my way out of that bag. So, I am content just imagining that there are men out there who want me so badly they will take me by force if need be. Preferably, on a beach with the backdrop of a gibbous moon.     

But, this isn’t about me. Because, the fantasy I am honing in on for this post is not one shared by yours truly. Try as I might, I have no desire to be saddled with the burden of being the object of obsession of not one mythical monster, but two of them. Not only that, a war to the death is waged in my honor. Yes, I am talking about a vampire and a werewolf. In the unlikely event that this would happen to me, I’d torch the first with the cross he made me bear with his creepy, undead love, and impale the other with that same cross—silver, of course. Hey, it’s my world and I can MacGuffin it as I damn well please.

There are a host of contemporary female authors I suspect fancy the idea that deadly monsters would lust after them. They fulfill that wish via the characters they create in their books. Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse, Stephanie Meyer’s Bella Swan (you can look, but don’t touch), and the lesser known Richelle Mead’s Eugenie Markham of her Dark Swan series. In all fairness to the last one, the mythical men who are insane with lust for the heroine are not monsters, per se. They are a faerie king and a supernatural dude who can turn into a fox at will.

What stands out about all these characters is that none of them are particularly remarkable. While they all have a supernatural power, it does not extend to their attractiveness and desirability to justify such insane desires from creatures that don’t exist in the first place. Anita Blake dresses down in black jeans and Nike sneakers, and she sleeps with stuffed penguins. Sookie is a virginal waitress from a small town in Louisiana. Okay, Bella Swan has no power outside of apparently having scrumptuous blood and a great rockstar name. As for Eugenie, she is on the path towards obesity and heart disease with her daily breakfast of Poptarts.

Only two of the book series mentioned have been brought to film. This gives the viewer (meaning me) the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about with these characters. Alas, I am left more confused than before. While both Kirsten Stewart of the Twilight movies and Anna Paquin of Sookie’s True Blood are very good actresses and were cast well according to the authors’ descriptions, I fail to see the mind-scrambling allure. Yes, they both are cute. There are a lot of cute girls in this world, thus, there are plenty in the pool of potential conquests from which vampires and werewolves may choose. Why them? I’m just not feeling it. I am having to work hard enough to suspend disbelief that monsters exist and want to copulate with us mere mortals; don’t make my job more difficult by making said mortal of choice the naïve girl next door.

If I were a vampire, while recognizing time is on my side, I wouldn’t be wasting it with a wide-eyed country boy or an angst-filled teenager with a droning inner dialogue and a maddening tendency towards dramatic, ellipses-filled pauses; I would be glamouring the glamorous. If I had the power, I’d use it to full advantage. Jude Law would be my pet, and I am pretty confident I’d grow tired of him fairly quickly (relatively speaking considering we are talking about vampire years). I can think of an extensive list of hot bodies that I could plow through. I can imagine that your average red-blooded male, given the opportunity to become a sexy monster, would be hitting it with Jessica Biel. I’m just saying.

This is not me being shallow, it is reality (again, relatively speaking) and just plain objectivity. After years on this earth spanning centuries, I do believe there would be a “been there, done that” attitude. What stopped a journey of two lifetimes in its tracks to focus on these inexperienced girls? I suppose it could be argued that they opened themselves up to otherwise ostracized characters and accepted them for who they are. Maybe monsters crave some normalcy. Should we have to think that hard about it, though?

As for the other two book series, if they are brought to film, I cannot fathom any actress filling those shoes. It would be impossible to pull off. Laurell K. Hamilton’s writing has gotten spectacularly bad, and her character is reduced to an impulsively murderous nymphomaniac. Yeah, that’s hot. While I enjoy Richelle Mead’s writing for what it is, and the Dark Swan series is a page-turner, I hit a speedbump every time Eugenie takes a break from her artery-clogging diet and fighting otherwordly demons to have wildly passionate sex with one of the many creatures obsessed with her.

As for why the subject matter involves mythical monsters, it is simply because that is what sells. We never get enough of that stuff. They are sexy, and apparently these women find them very sexy.  

All kidding aside, this is what could happen when the female psyche collides face-first with reality. Another way to put it is that a woman’s desire to be viewed as a sexual being is marred by society’s standards of what is attractive.  I do admit that I suggested that a woman would have to be a 10 in order to attract the attentions of Dracula and Wolfman. That said, I do not think that society is right in putting the burden on women to be sexy. I am attacking the ludicrous level that some women will go to in order to cope with the low self esteem that can result. Writers are at an advantage. They are given a convenient and marketable means for that wish-fulfillment.  As I implied in the beginning of this post, fantasy is healthy for everyone and can enhance creativity. It should not be damaging personally or professionally. It can get in the way of the quality of life or what comes out of it. In these cases, the work suffers. I cannot speak to their personal life, but I suspect it is a challenge for these authors to compartmentalize and not get carried away with the fantasy.   

With Stephanie Meyer’s work, this is what happens when one uses her “art” to preach the benefits of abstinence. Her vampires sparkle beautifully when exposed to the sun, and the wolves go shirtless to make it easier to change form. Yeah, right. But what about those tight jeans? Where did they go? At least the Hulk kept his on, albeit torn to shreds and disproportionately shorter. It just makes no sense.

But oh, how romantic. This small town girl living in a lonely world is embraced whole-heartedly by men who must resist the urge to literally eat her alive.