Thursday, October 31, 2013

Movie Night: Mystery Science Theater 3000

Last year, I shared some of my favorite classic horror movies for Halloween. This year, I thought I would share some of my fun favorites, and you can't get anymore fun than Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3K if you're one of the cool kids or a lazy typer. If you aren't familiar with MST3K, then Whoa Nelly, you are in for a treat. Or a trick. Halloween jokes, y'all. 

The premise behind this now canceled, yet still beloved series, is a lowly janitor has been kidnapped by a mad scientist,  shot into space, and forced to watch bad movies, all in the names of SCIENCE and experiments and stuff. The janitor, Joel or Mike--depending on the episode/season, builds robot friends out of random parts found on his spaceship and together they add snarky and hilarious commentary to the movies, make up little skits, and of course, general merriment ensues.  And before you ask, no it's not based on true events, NASA would never spurge on a countdown door.  And again, no, it is not based on my life, even if my snarky commentary is legendary. And by legendary, I mean, some people refuse to sit by me during movies because I can be "chatty." And by chatty, I can only assume they mean "adds great insight and wisdom to the movie."

When I was in grad school and after a lot of hard work and determination, I finally got myself embedded in a group of friends that loved MST3K. It didn't matter how late at night it was, or if it was a school night, or well, nothing else matter when one of us got the MST3K bug.  Ridiculous movie is definitely a group activity/sport, it can be a tie that binds, in an endearing way, not creepy tied up in the basement way. 

The Movies:
I have listed a handful of my favorite episodes below. There are 25 MST3k episodes streaming on Hulu, and a load more available for rent on Netflix. Most of the Netflix offerings are on DVD and not streaming, but they are worth the wait. 

MST3k: Manos:  The Hands of Fate (1966/1993)
Plot: A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground cult led by the fearsome Master and his servant Torgo.
Force yourself to keep your eye on Torgo, it can be like watching a trainwreck, be he is totally the star of the show.  He even has his own theme song. 
Available on Netflix (DVD)
MST3k: Eegah! (1962/1993)
Plot: Teenagers stumble across a prehistoric caveman, who then goes on a rampage.
And then there is a dune buggy, WEEEEEE!
Available on Hulu (streaming) and Netflix (DVD)
MST3k: Teenagers From Outer Space (1959/1992)
Plot: A young alien falls for a pretty teenage Earth girl and they team up to try to stop the plans of his invading cohorts, who intend to use Earth as a food-breeding ground for giant lobsters from their planet.
I always associate Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker with the movie. . . .and my fear of lobsters. 
Available on Netflix (DVD)
MST3k: The Final Sacrifice (1990/1998)
After finding a map that belonged to his murdered father, a teen searches for the truth behind the crime and discovers that Zap Rowsdower, a man helping him escape members of an ancient cult may be connected to the killing.
In case you missed that, let me repeat, there is a character named Zap Rowsdower. And of course, of course, he has a mullet. 
Available on Netflix streaming

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Song of the Week: Lou Reed

For so many people his work provided some of the earliest glimpses of another world that existed beyond the safe and colorless margins in which they felt trapped and penned and the opportunity of escape they revealed offered hope to both those who needed it most and to those who didn't need it at all but felt a little better knowing that it was out there. (The Awl)

Monday, October 28, 2013

10 Things

1. You know how when you are at a Halloween-ish event and everyone keeps asking what you are dressed up as, but you aren't dressed up as anything? So, with a shrug and after making sure that your clothes and shoes do indeed match, you just start saying you're a hipster librarian, because well, you just came from a very librarian job and honest to gravy, there is a mason jar (a small one for portable snacks) and an Arcade Fire CD in your bag. You know? 

2. Speaking of Halloween, I am never clever enough to come up with a costume, obviously--see above, and I don't have children, but these literature inspired children's costumes are so equally awesome and adorable that they got me to break my ban on Buzzfeed (I'm so over 25 things for everything). 

3. Still thinking of Halloween/Fall events; can we somehow get Chinese food into the "Fall Foods" category? This eating, or pretending to eat, chili at every single gathering lately is getting a little lame. Who makes and presides over seasonal foods? Is there a petition I can sign?

4. I know that it shouldn't annoy me as much as it does, but none of the grocery stores in my area have self-check lanes. Not all lanes should be self-check, but c'mon give us a few 10 items or under express lines. In and out, and chitchat free. 

5. I have a new name for my imaginary rock and roll band: BARN  GYPSIES. Thank you very random sign along the side of road in middle of nowhere Missouri.  You are truly an inspiration. 

6. About once a month, for one of my jobs, I go out on what is basically a mobile computer lab:  a converted school bus with computers. We go out to schools, lower income apartment complexes and other places around the community, to give folk, especially children, access to computers and the internet. One of the educational computer games that I like to play with the kids is a castle game. The castle has been invaded by barbarians and to defeat the barbarians and retrieve the king's shield, the player must answer questions about the different parts of speech. Obviously, proper grammar is mightier than the sword, and even the evilest of foes shake at the power of conjunctions. I get pretty competitive with this game, I try to be patient with the kids and help them figure out those crazy tenses and what not, and but my insides are all-- come on, come on, WE HAVE TO SAVE THE CASTLE!

7. In other, how I am molding future leaders of the world, news, with my activity girls last week we had an international night:  we made little passports and talked about different countries (did you know that Canadians are the world's number one consumers of mac and cheese?) and I tried to convince them to become wanders and travelers when they grow up. Half way through, one of the little girls sighed and declared, "I feel like I'm in school." But at the end of the activity we ate croissants and strawberries (with chopsticks!), and the same little girl declared, "THIS IS BEST DAY EVER!" Moral of the story: croissants can turn any day around.

8. Time for Walking Dead talk! For the first couple episodes of this new season, I was like, WHERE IS CARL'S HAT? It was making me really nervous. Then on Sunday, we, I mean he, got his hat back, and I was, oh no, I'm glad its back and all, but it also probably means baaaaad things are coming.  None of my friends are really into the Walking Dead, and I can only hold in my commentary for so long, before it leaks into the blog. So messy. I actually really miss having running commentary about TV shows with roommates. Anybody watching Castle? Kate's hair is looking good this season.

9.  The newest phrase I am trying to make happen: Stay Frosty, Solider. It's kind of like a little pep talk. Say it. Share it. Know it.

10. Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson gave a rare interview recently to Mental Floss magazine. Eeeks! were heard throughout the land. One my favorite quotes from the released excerpt of the interview: "Personally, I like paper and ink better than glowing pixels, but to each his own." 

And as always: Good night/day and if the apocalypse comes, good luck.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Missouri: Hannibal, MO

I'm sure that Hannibal, Missouri has plenty of other fine qualities and historical strengths. In fact, charming curators at a little historical museum located in the equaly charming downtown will love to tell you all about the interesting and colorful past of this little town along the Mississippi River. Did you know that it is named after THE Hannibal, like the general that crossed over the Alps with elephants hundreds of years ago. Many of the little rivers and streams in this part of Missouri are named after ancient generals. Hooray for classical history! Says the girl that got a minor in classical civilizations and doesn't mind at all using that education to reenact scenes from long ago toga wearing times at random times and places. This is true fact, I got witnesses.  Did you also know that THE Unsinkable Molly Brown was born and raised in Hannibal? I didn't know this, but upon learning it, I beamed with Missouri pride and might of declared to my fellow museum goers: WE ARE UNSINKABLE. Ohh, that would look good on t-shirts, no? 

But, really. Really. Over the years, Hannibal has almost become synonymous with one other particular hometown hero; a Mr. Mark Twain. Or if you are being technical, a Mr. Samuel Langhorne Clemens. I love saying his full name and drawing out the Langhorne with a slight twang, Samuel Lannnng-horne Clemens. That just sounds so right, and if you got a middle name like Langhorne, it just gots to sound right.

Although, not born in Hannibal, Twain lived out most of his boyhood years in the small town, and was heavily inspired by not only the town itself, but also it's people. The motto of The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum is, The Stories Started Here, and truth is truth. I am very strong in my opinion that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the greatest American novel, it a beautiful story of human worth and discovering your own identity and beliefs amid, and in some cases despite of, social and cultural norms. The part where Huck tries to pray, is one of my favorite in all of the written word. But I won't quote it all in full, so you will feel some sort of curiosity, which well hopefully get you to go and read the whole book, but somewhere in the midst of it, Huck declares "All right, then, I'll GO to hell."  I am sure that there are some that question Huck Finn's place in the American cannon, but I am also sure that they have their own blogs to lobby those points.

 Huck Finn was based on, or at least largely drawn from, a childhood friend of Twain's named Tom Blankenship. In his autobiography, Twain wrote: "In Huckleberry Finn, I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had a good a heart as ever any boy had."  And also true to Huck, Tom was the son of the abusive town drunk. The Blankenship house has been rebuilt closely behind the Twain home (there is debate on whether that is exactly where the original Blankenship house stood, but for tourists it is super convenient), and it is so small and cramped, that life out on the river and whatever freedom that may bring seems to be a very reasonable alternative. 

Becky Thatcher, of Tom Sawyer's swooning heart fame, was also based on a real person, the girl next door, or well, across the street, Laura Hawkins. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum are in the final stages of restoring the Hawkins home, which is often referred to as just, "The Becky." 

Also restored are the Twain/Clemens home, the jail where the senior Clemens served as a justice of the peace, and a drug store with the family lived briefly. And of course, for your picture taking pleasure, a white washed fence.

But even if you are just passing through and can't spare the time for the full tour of a piece of American Literature fame, at least, take a moment to stop at the Tom and Huck statute and maybe, if you can allow me to bossy,  think of one of my favorite Mark Twain, the man from Missouri,  quotables:
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”  

Downtown Hannibal:

Mark Twain keeping a watch over his mighty Mississippi River:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Song of the Week: Elliott Smith

10 years gone and the remarkable soul wrenching genius and talent of Elliott Smith has not diminished one bit. Not one bit. Pitseleh is my absolute favorite song of his, a testament that music can break your heart and heal it back up again, all at the same time.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mandatory Fall Post

My favorite joke right now is: Say pumpkin spice latte three times, and a white woman in yoga pants will appear and tell  you her favorite things about Fall.

I find this hilarious and so so true, if truth is based on the all the blogs that I read. 

It's been a little hard for me to celebrate the seasons this year. It's nothing against the seasons themselves, I like them all about equally. Well, except Winter. I don't like Winter. I'm sorry/not sorry.  I didn't see this magical thing falling from the sky that the townspeople call "snow" until I was 12 and for the most part, past the "fun in the snow" stage of life. I've never built a snowman, never pranced in the snow, or went sledding or any other fun snow stuff. So while I agree that fresh untouched snow can be a beautiful sight, winter in my head means shoveling snow, hazardous driving, always being cold,  super dry skin, my car doors frozen shut, and weeks and weeks and weeks of no sun. Winter also finds me shuffling through dark cold days muttering, "Now is the winter of our discontent," 'cause nothing emphasises "woe is me" like quoting Shakespeare.  

But enough of all that, let's talk about the other other 3 seasons. I don't know if I fully celebrated the seasons until I moved to the East Coast. Now, I am not talking all hippie dancing at the equinox type celebrating. But for the almost 7 years I lived there, I built fun traditions based on the seasons: Spring meant waking up early to see the cherry blossoms at sunrise (before the swarms of tourists), Summer meant beach trips, lots o' beach trips and Fall meant going to the Shenandoah Valley to see the leaves change and The National Book Festival and Pie Day.  And ok, I'll even throw Winter a bone, Winter meant waiting in line for Messiah Sing-a-long tickets at the Kennedy Center, then eating breakfast at that hole in the wall place in Georgetown, and then, I guess, actually going to the sing-a-long, which I don't think is even free anymore. Apparently, Winter also means run on sentences. But I tied the seasons to these geographical specific traditions so tightly, that now that I am no longer living there,  I'm a little lost on what to do. 

This is when you would smack me the head and tell me that I can make new traditions and stop being one of those people who are constantly being the grass is always greener somewhere else. And to that I would say, "Ouch, don't smack me in the head, and I'm trying." I admittedly let Spring and Summer slip away pretty unnoticed, but Fall, I am trying, for realz.

Here is proof:

Pretty Leaves
This dogwood tree in the my backyard changed so much earlier then any other tree, that I thought it was a burning bush ala Moses, which made me close up my ears, because I can't deal with talking shrubbery right now. 

Fresh Apple Cider
I went to a cider mill and saw apple cider being made, and partook of some fresh apple cider and there were pumpkins, bales of hay, and mini blackberry pies. So, that is 90% of Fall right there, right?

More Apples!
Speaking of apples, pretty soon I won't have to go waaaay out to Kansas for fresh cider, due to some shinny red apples appearing on the trees here at the Homestead. I am hoping we can keep the apples away from the pesky little deer family that has become frequent visitors in the orchard. And if you are wondering, the deer are named, Johan, Elisa, Liesl, and Wolfgang, those names just felt right. 

All that is left of these pumpkins is this jar full of roasted seeds. Don't ask. Also, pumpkin flavored anything is pretty much off the menu for the rest of the year. 

The Kakfa postcard is from my friend Miranda. She always sends the best postcards from her adventures. I have such global trotting friends.

Old Barns.
I went into this old barn but then decided that this is how a horror movie would likely start, and that is not the kind of Fall tradition that I would like to start, so I walked away. 

Lovely Luna
I found this picture of the moon while going through the pictures on computer for this post. I have no idea how to fit  it into a Fall tradition, but it sure is pretty.

There is still two months left of Fall, so I guess I still have time to try out some more things to see if I can get Fall in the Midwest to feel right and to help brace myself . . .Winter is coming.*

  *GoT reference intended. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Song of the Week: The Head and The Heart

Let's be honest, when you have a blog, it--meaning everything--really is all about you. So, let's talk about me.

I am a December baby. My birthday is just close enough to Christmas and the whole holiday season, that the remembrance of my entrance into this world  usually gets lost in the all the holy and not so holy celebrations. It is also nearly impossible to get people together for dinner, a party, and/or cupcake fight. People usually already have holiday plans, or are traveling for the holidays, or its snowing or icing, etc. For many years I would pull out my calendar and try to rearrange my schedule and my birthday, so people could come and you know, honor me, but then after awhile, it got to be all too much and not fun.  Hey, it's my birthday, I am going to do what I want, when I want!  And honestly, I've gotten to the point in my  life, where 9 times out of 10 I really don't remember how I old I am, I know I am in my thirties, but anything more specific than that requires me to do math, and what is this, school? And then when I do figure out how old I am, which tends to happen on a day that kinda is all about  knowing how old you are,  there is this heavy recollection, of OMG, What Have I Done With My Life?, which leads me to stuffing my face with red velvet cupcakes and going to bed early.

So. . .  thanks Mom and Dad.

But this year, the Universe has decreed that I deserve a whole weekend of happy celebrations and what not, and has went ahead and planned it for me. If the Universe can get on planning other events in my life, that would be super duper. My birthday is on a Sunday this year, but on the Friday before, the next installment of The Hobbit comes out (I'm going on an adventure!), and the day before my birthday, one of my bands de jour, The Head and The Heart, comes to town.  On Sunday, I will probably still stuff red velvet cake into my face, because you know, tradition.

I have played The Head and The Heart's 2011 self titled album too many times to count;  it was a favorite commuting soundtrack when I lived in our nation's capital city. I can remember listening to the song, "River and Roads" as I changed trains at Metro Center and thinking, "Wow, this song is about my life."  And  "Down in the Valley" will always be attached to the walk to my office on Capitol Hill from Union Station. Lord have mercy on my rough and rowdy ways. These songs and others from the album also found their way onto many mixed cds slipped to and traded with friends, knowing that these songs are exactly what those friends need in their lives. The band's rich harmonies and delicately poetic lyrics are some of the things that help make the mundaneness of life, like changing trains and walking to work, a little easier.

Yesterday, The Head and The Heart released their new album, Let's Be Still. High fives all around. 

It's going to be a good birthday.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sights & Sounds: The National @Starlight Theatre, Kansas City, MO

The National's music catalog is filled with emotionally raw songs;  mostly about relationships--broken relationships, imperfect relationships, and broken and imperfect life.  Let me tell you, their concert on Friday was like a therapy session, a therapy session under the stars.

Matt Berninger completely embodies the genius of the songs as he sings them. He doesn't play any instruments, so when he isn't singing, he paces the stage, building up a not so much as nervous energy, but more of being so filled with emotions of both the songs themselves and the roots of all those songs and words, that standing still is impossible. At times his baritone is rich and clear, other times it is strained under those words that were not easily earned or penned.  Seeing bands such as The National makes you realize the music can be much, much more than just something to listen to as you run errands in your car. It can be art. It can be cathartic; a purification and purging of emotions both for the creator and the admirer. 

Also, thank you Starlight Theater for being a better venue than Sandstone in every single possible way.

Set List: The National, Starlight Theatre, Kansas City, MO, October 11, 2013
I Should Live in Salt
Don't Swallow the Cap
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Sea of Love
Afraid of Everyone
Conversation 16
Squalor Victoria
I Need My Girl
This Is the Last Time
Slow Show
Pink Rabbits
About Today
Fake Empire

Mr. November
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks (acoustic)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Song of the Week: The National

I've been listening to The National pretty heavy the last couple days to get myself ready and excited to see them this coming Friday. Good gravy of heaven, their newest album, "Trouble Will Find Me, " is so, so good, like record of the year good, like sink into the floor good.  Why did I wait so long to get myself lost in it?

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Missouri: The 18th & Vine Jazz District

If you were a jazz musician or fan or a curator of cool, in the 1930s and 1940s, and were lucky enough to be in the Kansas City area, you mostly likely were hanging out at the crossroads of 18th and Vine, it was definitely the place to be.  These downtown streets housed not only row after row of jazz clubs, but also hosted some the most influential and talented musicians of the day. 

Kansas City Jazz is historical known as the blues brimmed bridge between the more structured big band orchestra music, like, say, Count Bessie joining with Bennie Morton's Kansas City Orchestra and the play what your hearts tells you, more free forming style of Bebop, championed by Kansas City's own Charlie "Bird" Parker. If you take a look at a map of the USA, Kansas City is almost dead center, and being the geographic heart of the country made it a very common stop while transversing this fine nation, no matter what form of transportation. This constant coming and going of people also meant the constant coming and going of the culture, and lifestyles of those people. This time, the early to mid 20th century, was also the time of the political boss Tom Pendergast in Kansas City. Under his control of the city, liquor and nightly curfew laws were largely ignored allowing the clubs to financially prosper but also for jam sessions to frequently last until sunrise, birthing the age of amazing, extended, improvised and competitive solos from the musicians. All this was the perfect storm for some glory days, some jazz filled beautiful glory days. 

But glory days never last forever. In 1940, Pendergast was jailed for tax evasion, and a crack down on the clubs began.  With nowhere to go, musicians stopped coming, adding in WWII and social and cultural issues of the days . . .  the music eventually stopped.  There were attempts to revitalize this historical area of the city, but by large, 18th and Vine became a ghost town, full of empty clubs and urban decay.  It always made me ridiciously sad to visit the Jazz District. You just knew that there was so many stories in those walls and streets.  So much music and life still imprinted there, if only you could just hear it. But true music lovers, never give up on the music that never gave up on them,  in 1997 the American Jazz Museum opened and the area seemed to be alive once more. 

I visited the Jazz Museum, which is in the same building as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, with a visiting music loving friend. The museum is pretty small, but filled my heart. From a fantastic intro video (I love, love, intro video at historical sites), to swoon worthy artifacts, including one of Louis Armstrong's trumpets and signs from some of the original jazz clubs, to a whole room dedicated to jazz on film, to so many listening stations, it is all just perfect and easy to take in without feeling overwhelmed. I believe that jazz, as well as most music, is to be felt, and walking around the museum and all around the Jazz District, I felt jazz, and like the Bible says, it was good.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

True Conversations

A true text conversation between me and The General:

The conversation started out with me pleading her to come with me to an event this coming weekend that I really I didn't want to go to by myself, but wanted to support a mutual friend who is hosting the event.

The General: So is this your way of sending out the bat signal? Well, I guess it would be the opposite of the bat signal because I refuse to fight any crazy clowns.

Me:  What are your feelings about deranged penguins?

The General: Deranged penguins are target practice. I mean seriously what are they going to do, waddle after me?

The General is not really a general. Although, I know that she %100 supports the troops and all those that fight for good and against coconuts. I really don't remember how the nickname begun over a decade ago, but I think it had to do with a misspelling on her blood donor card. There is a part of me that really wants to be that person who gives people clever nicknames. As much as I try, almost none of them ever stick, except for The General, so I will never, ever let it go. 

Noticed that I said deranged penguins as in demented followers of the Batman villain The Penguin. I would never advocate violence against regular happy feet penguins who would never ever think about blowing up Gotham. Birds. Shivers

And it is always good to know where friendship lines are drawn. If I ever have to fight crazy clowns, it looks like I am on my own.  Please let there not be any crazy clowns at the event.

Why do most social events turn into a good vs evil battle royale?