Friday Family Movie Night usually goes off just fine but our Girl wanted to have no part of How to Train Your Dragon. Disney+ holds a wealth of films, many I truly enjoyed as a kid 1. So we clicked over to the Lion King, the 1994 animated version rather than the creepy, digitally animatronic “live action” version.
Like most middle-aged women, I’m partial to Timon and Pumbaa.
I’m sure I’d be a “republican” if I was otherwise a subject of the Crown. In art as in life, no woman is an island; no person is imbued by an unseen force with the magical power to “Save Us All.” At least in theory, our leaders earn their role, they work toward it, we choose them. Leaders are not marked by the noodle-y appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or a clutch of old men in flowing robes.2
Simba is King because he is the son of the King. When Scar killed Mufasa and Simba Fled, Scar became king. All lions bowed to him.
Simba spent his days lounging with Timon and Pumbaa. They are, as explained in the catchy song, lazy and carefree. What lessons they taught Simba so he could actually lead a people King, we don’t know. We know he grew up, grew a mane, grew powerful. We only know that he was still Mufasa’s son.
The other Lions in the pride – seemingly only female lions – waited for a hero to show himself. When Simba arrived, and roared, everyone cowered. Holy shit! He was King. The power was in him all along! He was the Chosen One who could Save them All!
Leaders learn their craft. And whether they admit it or not, leaders can lead because they work with people who want them to be successful. Leaders tell their “people” a story that they want to hear, about who they want to be. For some that comes naturally. For most it’s a skill that leaders need to develop and nurture.
This story, like too many movies, like nearly all Disney movies, waves that way. Leaders just are!, it says, while waving away all the learning and hard work and coalition building good, successful leaders need to do. It erases the lives and labor of those many who work to make leaders good successful.
Lion King: Keep the songs, lose the film.
I can blame it on my late Dad, but my very seasonal gloom between Thanksgiving and St. Ronnie’s Birthday has been with me for a decade; the Fun Sized version of a deep sadness and lonlieness I’ve lived with since I was 13. I’ve worked very hard – over a very long time and with a load of help that would be snug on a Panamax vessel — to convince this guy that it’s all okay and that fine.
It is work. Like taking 40mg of omeprazole every day to keep your stomach from growing new holes or eating spinach, caring for your mental health is something you get to remember every morning . I watch out for things that might turn the buzz in my head up to 11, but I know what to do to keep the train rolling when life keeps the knob stuck at 7. It is not easy. Keeping the right balance is tricky; push it too hard either way and blood is going to come out of unexpected places.
I am also very lucky to have people – sitting right here — who want me to be well and give me the space and help to get there, with no other agenda.
Still, these months are hard, even in years that weren’t total dumpster fires like 2020/2021. I long for 2019. And a Scorpion Bowl.
In 2018, 48,344 American’s took their lives by suicide, out of 1.4 million attempts. 70% of “successful” suicides were white men, Most, like me, were over the age of 45. Over half were done with a firearm.
Naturally, these numbers don’t include those people who’ve died from opioids or drink while trying to keep their black dogs’ bark to a whimper. These numbers are for intentional suicides.
Suicides have skyrocketed since 2008. Tentative details for 2020 indicate those numbers will hit the moon.
“It’s easy to bash white middled-aged men in America. As a member of that privileged group, I’ll admit that much of the bashing has been warranted: No group in the history of the world has been given and squandered more than the white man. Yet the American white man is responsible for enough suicides annually that Madison Square Garden could not hold all the victims. And no matter how privileged, that’s somebody’s dad, someone’s friend, someone’s brother and someone’s husband.”From Rolling Stone
Each of these deaths is a tragedy.
Still, even in their unbearable grief, none of their family members is going to write a rose-colored eulogy for these men. No review of their herculean work or study ethic, lament for their now-silent piano. No one is going to start a charity to continue the Biblical sacrifices they’ve made to lift up the poor. No one is going to read their bio in primetime on MSNBC. Complete strangers will not dot their RIPs with a single-tear emoji, a big hug emoji. The President-elect is not going to call their wives, children, or parents.1
The death of each of these men is a tragedy. We are living through an an epidemic of despair.
When I do go, it will be worn by age and crippled by extreme hugs from my small family. Still, I’m certainly aware there are other ways to get to the end of the street. No matter how I make it there, I hope that the people who love me get a chance to tell their story about me. And I hope that it is true and uncluttered with hyperbole and honest about the struggles I faced. I hope that they can show the world Rob the man, makeup free and with a lens clean of Vaseline, and not Rob the Demigod. I hope that they can be honest about how I left.
“Rob was so handsome that it was impossible to look directly at him; his reflection was tolerable, but just barely. His writing was clear and accurate and brought joy to the heart and tears to the eyes to those few who read it. He was kind to dogs and babies.
“As so many you know first-hand clarity Rob was nothing if not a gigantic, unrepentant asshole. A genuine prick.
“You wouldn’t know he was dead for his ice cold toes. He was in bed at 9, paperback on his face and headphones turned up to 11, two wool sweaters and a quilt around his shoulders, when his wife of 60 years found him. She kicked over his last cup of tea, thoughtlessly placed at the foot of his nightstand.
“We’ll miss him, but he could be a bitch to live with.”
This is right and true.
- I can’t imagine their pain, but as I read their eulogy for their son, I don’t see depression. The talking cure and a prozac would not fix what ailed him. I see a young man of exceptional talent trying to fill a hole within himself. Not a saint, not a machine, not a prodigy but someone who could never fill that hole and that’s the disease. To identify it as anything else neither honest nor helpful to those who struggle.
In other words: while hitting the ground @ 120 miles per hour is what killed you, it was the aircraft – held together with duct tape and good vibes – falling apart over Newark that caused of your death. Blaming the ground serves no one. ↩
I’m sitting here at my desk, writing this post while ripping a copy Andrew Bird’s recent collection of Christmas and holiday-inspired songs, Hark!, at 320kbs. It’s January 4, 2021. I received the disc in the mail on Saturday.1
Bird had previously released some of these songs on an EP of the same name. I didn’t buy the EP, so I was excited to get the long player. Initially, he released the LP only on Vinyl and Digital Download. I don’t have or want a record player. I listen to MP3s on my phone only because Apple no longer makes iPods. Rather than buy low-rez files from SoundCloud, I prefer to rip a compact disk myself. I buy CDs. I like CDs. I am, after all, a middle aged white man. I’m saddened that another middle-aged white men, like Andrew Bird, no longer see me in the market and didn’t initially released the album on CD.
So it goes.
Rather than get it Amazon Prime-d, I preordered the CD right from the record label. The CD was issued on December 11. It was put in the mail December 11, at a post office just outside of Chicago. It didn’t move from that post office until the 22nd. It didn’t even arrive in the the great state of Maryland until the 28th.
I’m sure it’ll play just as well in 2021.
Speaking of CDs…What seems like decades ago, SHE and I watched the third season of The Crown, following a revisit with the second, as prelude to the fourth. We had abandoned the show after one episode of the second season and only came back to it because either we watched literally everything else or it was the only thing we could agree on.
There’s a scene with Princess Anne, played by actress Erin Doherty. She’s driving in the rain and singing along to David Bowie on the radio. The song is Starman.
Starman waiting in the skyDavid Bowie’s Starman
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
He told me
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie
You see the power is out out all over London, and Buckingham is in total darkness. Anne arrives at the palace and is lead through gets to the palace and Anne is lead through hallways lit by 10000 candles, while humming the la, la, la, la-la, la part over and over
Wait, you can just watch for yourself:
To keep myself from freaking the fuck out every twenty minutes, I let me brain go on walkabouts. During one brief trip, that melody snuck and stuck for days. Sometimes, in quiet moments, I will shout out “Let all the children boo-gay.”
And then I thought: why can’t all the children boo-gay? Right: Pandemic. I guess my kid’s only DJ Krew is on temporary hold: streaming music over the Internet to a room full of dancing 6 year old ravers is still something that record companies and publishers frown upon, even during a global health crisis.
The Google machine brought me to the website for a compilation CD, Let All the Children Boogie. It’s a collection of all-ages-approved David Bowie covers, with proceeds going to the It Gets Better Project. Of course, I bought a physical CD. From Amazon, unfortunately.
And it’s a good comp, and, thankfully the covers aren’t faithful recreations of Bowie songs. Folk-y and/or countrified “alternative,” as it might be programmed on the satellite radio, they’re a good introduction to his songwriting for kids (and their parents) who aren’t quite ready for the real thing. Unlike so much during 2020, the disc was a good surprise.
- Since my days as a secretary I’ve loved the U.S. Post Office. It’s rules and exceptional basic competence. Performing a largely thankless (and often maligned) task well and inexpensively. I hate the damage that Trump and his cult have done to it – explicitly and with purpose – over the last four hears. I hate the Democrats and Republicans who, since the Clinton administration, have taken concrete steps to weaken the Post Office enough that it has shattered under the stress of COVID. ↩
I love candy. It’s a toss up between your classic Peanut M&Ms, Butterfingers, and Sour Patch Kids. Really, any sour gummy type candy will do in a pinch.
During the Pandemic, I’ve been known to go through a Family Party Bag of M&Ms in about a week. We’ve decided it’s best not to keep them in the house or I will get even closer to the size of the house.
My dental hygienist does not share my enthusiasm, although 45 years of this habit have brought about only one cavity, filled 20 odd years ago.
Anyway, as we head into prime candy guzzling season, I dug about the youtube a little bit and found some interesting videos on candy making.
Hammond’s Candy has been around for a 100 years and says they still make candy by hand (although they use some pretty impressive machines to reduce the amount of physical labor involved). They make the ribbon candy in your grandmother’s candy dish, gigantic candy canes, and those swirly lollipops that look good but I’ve never seen anyone eat.
Kammy Stucker, who narrates the first video, says that Hammond’s is the largest hand-made candy manufacturer. Still, they use a number of heavy industrial machines to match their scale.
The next video is a narration-free walk-through of the Hammond’s Candy shop floor. Lots of people and big machines. I find the candy stretcher and the big heated roller that makes candy canes round fun to watch.
In thinks video, workers at a small shop called CandyLabs make hard candy completely by hand. They go into much more detail about the chemistry and workflow of actually making candy than the videos above. And they don’t have one of those neat candy pullers … the workers stretch the stiffening sugar by hand from a hook on the wall. The candy designs are fun and very labor intensive.
Candy No One Buys
A pastry chef in Korea makes chocolate candy I’ve only seen in the refrigerated case at tourist trap diners in New York state. His artistry is fantastic but I wouldn’t eat one.
It is the season for Candy Corn. Did you know it was originally called Chicken Feed?
Candy Corn is, essentially, vanilla flavored fondant. The guy below tries to make Candy Corn on his own, using ingredients he produces himself, including sugar from cane, cornstarch from real corn kernels, and real gelatin from a bone he found in a field (!!?!?!?!?!?). All in all, pretty gross.
The company that originally came up with Candy Corn is now known as Jelly Belly, who also make jelly beans that taste like snot.
Production is incredibly industrial and joyless.
Note: I removed the link to the mixtape. If you want a copy, drop us a line.
I’m sure you’ll agree, 2020 has been it’s own special kind of horror story. I hate horror stories. When the kids say “The call is coming from inside the house!” I roll my eyes so hard they pop out of my damn skull: a) it was funny the first time, 20 years ago, 2) successful movies are a reflection of us. We’re making the call while gripping a hatchet and breathing heavy in a linen closet; we’re the teen girl covered in blood fighting the Big Bad.
Horror movies are not fun. Let’s have some fun.
I spent a lot of time in my early 30s downloading and ripping holiday music, mostly Christmas, but Halloween as well. In 2005 I put together an hour long playlist of Halloween novelty songs recorded throughout the 20th Century, full of screams, chains, and gags that have not aged well at all. And the misogyny. Such horrific, shameless misogyny. A follow-up comprised of more mainstream recordings with a macabre theme came about 10 years later.
This is a slimmed down version of the playlist I put together in 2005. I put the rampant sexism on the chopping block… though it’s still not not entirely family-friendly. But it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it after your little ghouls have gone to sleep in their crypts.
Mixtape #11 – Please Scream Inside Your Heart