Nov 8, 2018

The Heteronormative Creepypasta of "Dream Door"

I was conned into buying Season 4 of Channel Zero, "The Dream Door."  First, it got lots of excellent reviews: a triumph, a visual delight, the best horror tv series of the decade, and so on , and so on. 

It's about secret doors that pop up out of nowhere.  Where do they lead?  Another universe?  The land of the dead?  I was in intrigued.

Turns out that the series is based on creepypastas, a sort of internet urban legend.  This particular storyline comes from "I've Found a Hidden Door in My Cellar."   A husband and wife find a doorway hidden behind the wallpaper in their cellar.  It leads to a stairway and another cellar, where they find a man with strange jerky movements.  They rush out and call the police, who find nothing in the secret room but some dried blood and weird symbols.

Ok, a real secret room, but it still sounds intriguing.  So I bought the season.

Uh-oh.  The writers expanded the briefly mentioned "husband and wife" into Tom and Jillian (Brandon Scott, Maria Sten), a newlywed couple, although they both look like they've passed 40.  They're moving into a new house, so there are bouts of stereotypic playful fixing-up (one puts paint on the other's nose) juxtaposed with bouts in the bedroom.

Gross.  I didn't sign up for all this heteronormative garbage.  Fast forward.

The secret door opens, without a secret room, and a very scary contortionist clown named Pretzel Jack emerges.  Why didn't they name the season "The Contortionist Clown"?  He turns out to be Jillian's childhood imaginary friend (like she would really have someone so scary as a childhood friend!).  Right now his job is to kill people who make her upset or angry.

Like one of their friends, Jillian's therapist, and Tom, who acts like a jerk a lot.

Meanwhile next-door neighbor Ian (Steven Robertson) tells Jillian that she has conjured up the clown, and can control it.

At first I thought that Ian and Jillian would become romantic partners, fighting against the evil Tom. 

Then, when no one even suspects that they have a romantic bond, I thought that Ian know.

He turns out to be the Big Bad of the series, creating the monster out of Jillian's subconscious.  And he has some scary creations of his own, Tall Boy (Stephen R. Hart) and some multicolored boogies, who are pitted against Tom and Pretzel Jack. Why?  I have no idea.

Tom gets a lot of physique shots.  So the show has that.

The contortionist clown is scary, even though most of the contorting is not strictly necessary, but just for effect.  He wasn't CGI;  he was the creation of real-life contortionist performer. "Twisty" Troy James.

But the sinister queer villain trying to thwart True Hetero-Love?  I've seen it all before.

Nov 6, 2018

Teenie Harris and the African-American Physique

Charles "Teenie" Harris (1908-1998) grew up in the Hill District, Pittsburgh's African-American neighborhood, and became a professional basketball and baseball player in the Negro League. 

Later he opened up a photography studio and began publishing in the Pittsburgh Courier, Flash, and elsewhere.  Although he published "glamour portraits" of celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, President Kennedy, and President Eisenhower, his main interest was in documenting everyday life: men and women going to work and school, playing, partying. 

60,000 of his photos have been digitized by the Carnegie Museum of Art, and many offer a rare glimpse of African-American beefcake of the era.

1. Camp Weldon Johnson, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, 1941. 

2. More from Camp Weldon Johnson, 1941.

3. Two men at an interracial pool party in 1946 (quite revolutionary at the time).

4. Centre Avenue YMCA Pool, 1951.

5. Golden Gloves Contenders, 1951

6. East Liberty YMCA, 1953.  Men  teaching lifeguard techniques.

7, Boxer Wendell Turner with boy scouts, 1961.

Welcome to the Family: Beefcake, Not Much Bonding. A-

Benvinguts a la família (Welcome to the Family) is a 2018 Catalan sitcom, which automatically makes it interesting -- who doesn't want to hear people speaking in Catalan?  But it also has some interesting, macabre plot twists.

Single mother Angela (Melani Olivares) and her scheming, get-rich quick brother in law Nando (Van Massague, below), are struggling to raise a family of three mismatched, perhaps adopted kids: flamboyantly feminine fashion plate David, neurotic brain-dead Fran, and preteen drama queen Sarah.

When they are evicted from their apartment, as part of a sinister scheme by her ex-husband, Angela goes to the only person she knows who can help: her wealthy father Eduardo (Simon Andreu), who disowned her years ago when she eloped with the pool boy.

Eduardo hasn't mellowed with age, and he's not interested in helping Angela; she was written out of the will ages ago.  His second wife, former tv star Victoria (Yolanda Ramos), isn't in the will,either; he fake-married her to get her off his back.

In the midst of these revelations, Eduardo drops dead of a heart attack, and both Angela and Victoria are penniless.  What is there to do but hide the body, pretend that Eduardo is still alive, and try to forge a new will?

Easier schemed than done.  There are complications, of course.  Eduardo's publisher wants his new book, his ex-wife has an important document, neighbors and business associates are suspicious, and lawyers and police officers keep snooping around.  Meanwhile the new blended family tries to maintain life as usual.

1. Victoria's sarcastic Alex (Georgina Amoros) dates Didac (Alex Maruny)

2. Nando starts a new get-rich-quick scheme and avoids the amorous attentions of next door neighbor Adela (Betzy Turnez),

3. David (Leiti Sene) makes sarcastic comments, and mostly tries to big-brother Sarah (Nonna Cardoner).

4.Fran (Nao Albert) starts trying to get a social life, with the help of Alex and Didac.

Snoopy cop Miquel (Miquel Fernandez, top photo and left), who becomes an ally, fills out the main cast.

The interactions are pleasantly hectic, the twists and turns are mostly unexpected, and there is a minimum of hetero-romance.  I was hoping that David would eventually get a boyfriend, but you can't have everything.

My grade: A-.

Nov 4, 2018

The Best Week of the Best Month of the Best Year for Music

The best year for music was 1977, the best year March, and the best week March 14th-20th  It's a scientifically proven fact.

I was a junior at Rocky High, 16 years old (but not able to drive yet).  I had learned that gay people exist last November, but I hadn't figured "it" out yet.  I don't remember anything specific from that week, but probably Darry and I worked on our heroic fantasy novel, Verne the Preacher's Son and I double-dated, I ran around the track during free days in gym class, I read poetry at Writers' Club and practiced for the jump quiz.

And dreamed of a world where I didn't have to answer the question "what girl do you like?"every five seconds.  I dreamed of freedom.

And I listened to the radio.

1. "Evergreen" (Barbara Streisand, the theme from A Star is Born.  My brother was obsessed with that movie, and played the sound track over and over.  Whenever I hear it, I think of him, how he was the first person I came out to, and how he was ok with it, in small-town Illinois in 1978

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air

2. "Fly Like an Eagle" (Steve Miller Band)

I want to fly like an eagle, to the sea.
I want to fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me.
Oh, there's a solution.

I wanted to fly like an eagle, out of Rock Island and over the prairie to where the lights were bright and there was joy everywhere.

3. "Dancing Queen" (ABBA)

You are the dancing queen
Young and sweet
Only seventeen.
You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life

I was only sixteen, and Nazarenes thought that dancing was a sin.  Probably jiving, too.  This song offered a glimpse of a seductive, alien world.  Maybe I wanted to be a dancing queen.

4. "Year of the Cat" (Al Stewart)

There's a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat

Many songs of the 1970s were about time passing quickly, your life slipping away into nothngness.  I didn't understand then.  Now I do.

But in 1977 I was more interested in the hidden door.  What secret world did it lead to?  A disco full of dancing queens, perhaps?

5. "Go Your Own Way" (Fleetwood Mac)

You can go your own way,  go your own way
You can call it thunder. 

At least, that's the way I heard it.  I wanted to go my own way, avoid the trap of job-house-wife-kids, find freedom, and call it thunder.

6.  "The Things We Do For Love" (10cc)

Like walking in the rain and the snow
When there's nowhere to go
And you're feelin' like a part of you is dying
And you're looking for the answer in her eyes

Of course I know it's heteronormative now, but in 1977, who cared?  I always was looking for the answer in someone's eyes.  Or someone's bulge.

7. "New Kid in Town" (Eagles)

The Eagles was a group for "real men," an antidote to the glistening feminine disco crowd.  I can't help it that their songs were always so wistful and melancholic.  I wanted to walk away and escape the constant gossip.

There's talk on the street; it's there to remind you
It doesn't really matter which side you're on.
You're walking away and they're talking behind you.
They will never forget you till somebody new comes along.

8. "Hotel California" (Eagles)

"Relax," said the Nightman. "We are programmed to receive.  You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

I was trapped in Rock Island, trapped in a heteronormative prison, and there was no way out.

9. "Carry On, Wayward Son" (Kansas)

Kansas was another group that specialized in sad songs about the futility of life, just what an angst-ridden not-yet-out adolescent wanted to hear.  Except I couldn't figure out how you could "carry on" and "be gone" at the same time.

Carry on my wayward son
For there'll be peace when you are gone
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

I'm starting to get depressed.  Here are some swimmers celebrating a victory.

Uh-oh.  Now I'm thinking of Queen: "We are the champions, my friend..."
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