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In previous meta installments, I've been reading, or in some cases re-reading, works produced by fairly established writers. Today, in considering the work of author Benjamin Font, I'm venturing into the murkier waters of modern literary fiction. Or . . . kind of literary fiction, and I mean that qualifier for both the "literary" and the "fiction", because Font's genre, if you want to call it that, is fictional autobiography mixed with some . . . magical realism, maybe? I'm a little bit at a loss as to how to describe it, though "vaguely hallucinogenic" comes to mind.

"Fictional autobiography" probably deserves some unpacking. )

Which is not to say his writing is bad. I began deeply skeptical - you wrote a book which is essentially a transcription of you talking to yourself in the car, by which I mean, you having quasi-apostrophaic conversations with a girlfriend and/or a dog? Really? - and ended feeling a kind of grudging, amused, irritated affection. The works I sampled were at times and by turns fascinating, pretentious, whiny, finely wrought observations, kind of affected and deeply ridiculous, but yet . . . I would read more. He has, somehow, successfully gotten me invested in his self-created soap opera of his own life, which, it is worth noting, may bear only a passing resemblance to his ACTUAL life.

On the subject of his works: his current project is an audiobook [kickstarter; deadline is Jan.1, 2011] which purports to be about a (fictional) cult, The Sons and Daughters of the Earth, though they also seem to exist as a real group, or as a mostly-real group, though under a slightly different name - Children of the Earth. They have a blog , at any rate, which is run by a real person. (Font also has a blog.) I have largely come to the conclusion that it's probably all elaborate performance art. But more on that later. But more on that later. )
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The Like - He's Not A Boy from Downtown Music on Vimeo.


Or: here is the doubtless unpopular fannish opinion that has been gnawing at my brainmeats for some time now. In this opinion, I will be discussing past things that have happened to me that may be triggery for assault for others.

this video gives me the howling fantods like nothing else. )
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- ETA2 1/7: Brendon has changed his icon from a Twitter default-bird to a Family Guy/Star Wars one.

- jon walker has changed his icon to megaman. (noting in case he changes it again before Saturday) ETA 1/6: Well, that was quick. He's back to a picture of his actual face now, undistorted (or not very distorted, anyway), complete with beard.

- Primary source heap: I finally got around to watching Amadeus again. I'm pretty sure I saw it when it came out, too, but that was a long time ago. Anyway: the plot of the film is more of the "inspired by the life of . . ." than "faithful biography" but the costumes were beautiful and the acting was good. The movie won 8 academy awards and has been around for 25 years (!), so I'm not going to dwell too long on it. My observations were, basically:

1) Tom Hulce and Elizabeth Berridge were SO CUTE, oh my god. Their precious little faces! I have to say I did like that Berridge got to be steely and practical about money (and Mozart getting paid for his work) as opposed to shrewish.

2) In one of the early scenes, Hulce appears wearing the 18th c. equivalent of a lilac hoodie and tight jeans (his outfit is literally lilac) and I was amused.

3) The emporer and his distress at "too many notes":: modern studio suits who Don't Get It. Some things are universal/never change.

4) old!Salieri looked uncannily like decrepit!Dracula from Bram Stoker's Dracula, which was kind of distracting.
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I finally finished it late yesterday. I'm going to put most of my thoughts beneath a cut so those of y'all who haven't read it (& plan to, and don't want to be spoiled) can skip, but as a summary, I'll say this:

It's the literary equivalent of a hangover, it really is. It left me feeling sort of swimmy-headed and exhausted, loosely haunted with the desire for either a drink to nurse, or to never touch alcohol again. And possibly also for a big solid plate of breakfast and a strong cup of tea. Or Irn Bru. Actually, definitely the Irn Bru. Something sweet, sharp and fizzy to chase away the lingering malaise.

but now on to the nitty-gritty. Spoilerific for both Lie Down in Darkness AND The Ginger Man. Discussion of themes that may be triggery including domestic abuse, incest and suicide. )
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A few more from the primary source heap:

1. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley: I probably went through it a little fast; it's not a big book, but the language is dense, and evidently I've lost my tolerance for that heavy kind of prose. Also, you guys, for all of the jacket and preface fluttering about "mounting horror" and whatever, I really just thought it was kind of full of LULZ. I mean, the doctor makes this Terrible Monster (out of corpse parts, lets us not mess around, that's what he's doing) and then brings it to life and it is SCARY and then he runs away and has a fit, and when he comes back, the monster is magically gone! His response: *\o/*. He doesn't seem to grasp that he has any kind of responsibility towards the monster at all, or that having a reanimated corpse on the loose might be a PROBLEM of any kind. Which I guess is the point of the story, but the more I read, the more I was like, WTF is WRONG with you, dumbass? Also, what is this with all of the crying? Seriously, tears gushing everywhere. (See also: my reduced tolerance for that kind of gothic novel.) If anything I wanted more of the ship's captain's story. Less weeping, more sailing adventures!

Aside from all of that, though, it was interesting in the context of larger themes, namely monsters and monstrousness and the making of monsters, which, if I were in a paper-writing mood, might be interesting to try and map onto pop-cultural concepts like Lady Gaga's "Fame Monster". Is fame, and the act of being famous, akin to the creation of Frankenstein's monster? Something that will chase you forever and/or kill all of your friends and relationships?

But of course there is more than one kind of monster, which brings me to:

2. Lie Down in Darkness, William Styron: I'm actually not finished with this one yet. Styron's prose is also dense and heavy, but differently so than Shelley's; I find it restful, in a way, somehow soothing. I guess Southern Gothic I can deal with, Original Gothic, not so much. Here we're back to stories about alcoholic philanderers (a theme found also in The Ginger Man; these books are close together in the timeline, both towards the beginning) but there's an element of monstrousness and monster-creation here, as well. Mainly to do with Peyton, a deceased character who dominates the narrative with her absence. She's repeatedly referred to as being spoiled, and I found myself wondering if she qualified as a monster, created, carelessly, by her father. I'll let you know what I think when I finish.
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I came up with a theory a few months back, just before he made the "it's about blowjobs!" comment, and then after that comment, I let it go. Or at least I tried to. But really every time the song came up in rotation on my iPod, I kind of had the same reaction: This song is a mess. It makes no goddamn narrative sense whatsoever. What the fuck, Brendon Urie?

I'm going to discuss my theory in a minute, but first, the text, taken directly from their website:

the official lyrics )

My theory, which I will be the first to admit is possibly a little (or a lot) cracktastic, is that "go down on me" was not about blowjobs at all, but rather, an echo of Ryan's "Hey moon, please forget to fall down/Hey moon, don't you go down" from Northern Downpour, where "going down" = "screwing up", falling, failing, etc. I based this theory on the way Brendon had previously echoed Ryan's metaphors, specifically the concept of "summer" migrating between Folking Around ("summer lasted longer, longer than we two") and When the Day Met the Night ("When the sun found the moon/She was drinking tea in a garden/Under the green umbrella trees/In the middle of summer").

I also thought there were two implied/unstated "you"s in the song - the one that fell down, AND the one that had to bear a heavy load unexpectedly. And the second one appeared apparently randomly in a conversation withe first one, as an aside inserted literally mid-verse.

Tangentially, I didn't (and don't) think it's too much of a stretch to read the first implied "you" in the song as Ryan (and the "going down" as his various extracurricular transgressions); the second "you" I had taken to be Spencer, having to contend with the band split and associated fall out.

Then this weekend I was discussing "fuck you" songs in general and this song in particular with someone I shall call the First Mate, and she had a TOTALLY DIFFERENT explanation which made a whole lot more sense than mine. She agreed that there were two "yous", but in a different way; she saw two speakers within the song, like so:

neatly arranged dialogue )

In this interpretation, "go down on me" would be about blowjobs, though whether they are literal, metaphorical or both, is, of course, open to question. We did, however, conclude that the "I'm done sucking your dick, Ryan Ross" message was pretty clear and unambiguous.

I did play "Change" for her as well. She was most unimpressed and had no interpretive thoughts, on the grounds that she couldn't understand half the lyrics, it sounded like it had been recorded in bar/at the bottom of a well, and also what she could understand was something about cats? Maybe? It did not rate very high on the "fuck you" song scale, that is for sure.
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in case he's changed it again by next week: Jon Walker's Twitter icon is a picture of himself done Andy Warhol style - 4 images in four different color washes. It's a new(ish) picture as well; I don't recognize it from anything else.

also, tangent on the subject of band dynamics: Panic (2.0) was 3BFFs from Vegas + Jon. The new TYV dudes seem to know each other (inferred from "Gruesome Twosome" tweet) and to possibly be part of Jon's extended Chicago posse, which makes TYV 1.5 as 3 friends from Chicago + Ryan. Kind of. I realize that ignores Ryan + Jon's shared Panic history, in a way, but even with that considered, I think there's a shift in the dynamics, even if it might be a tiny one.
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Occasionally, when time permits or the mood strikes, I check out one of the cultural objects (resources?) from the lists. (The songs I actually listen to as I'm compiling, and sometimes I read the lyrics, to consider context.) Anyway, here's a brief accounting of recent forays:

1. Spinal Tap: I watched this one for the first time really rather a long time ago, so my concept of it was really a bunch of familiar punchlines strung together. I was kind of startled by how grim and shrill I found it, particularly the deleted scenes. Not that I didn't laugh at "But these go up to 11" or the Stonehenge bit or the part where they explain how they lost their first drummer, or for that matter the part where their current drummer schools a radio caller about baseball. And I kind of about died at the whole black album thing, too. But on the whole it left me feeling sort of worn out.

2. Californication: I had a promo disk laying around with two episodes on it, so I thought, well, why not? OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS. I seriously had to watch half of it through my fingers. David Duchovny is super-hot, and all, and he plays an immature jerk with flair and style, but, wow. One character actually refers to Hank Moody as a "retarded man-child." Like that was the exact line of dialogue.

3. Dexter: There was one episode on the same promo disk as Californication. I got as far as the credits and the "previously on . . ." before I decided I was totally bored and turned it off.

4. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story: I totally bought this one in the 7-11 because it was a) there and b) cheap. It's mostly a parody of Walk the Line, though they mix elements of Jerry Lee Lewis and Merle Haggard (and probably others) in with Johnny Cash. The biggest prank the filmmakers play is probably that a) the songs, when not flagrantly ridiculous, are actually excellent and b) whoever is doing the singing (John C. Reilly? I don't know) has a beautiful country/rockabilly voice. The movie around the songs is periodically entertaining and periodically really painfully unfunny and every once in a while actually hilarious. (Especially the scenes with the "Beatles".)
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ETA: Thank you for the snowflake cookie, Mme. Anonymous!

My neighbors are having a wild dance party, so I'm staying up to talk about magic.

Basically I was reflecting on the idea this week, in the context of the creative endeavors of Ryan (Mr. Halloween) and Jon (Mr. Christmas). Both of the holidays, or, rather, the secular celebrations of the holidays, are glossed with at least the idea of magic.

Halloween magic is (or can be) a darker, more menacing sort of thing, the echoes of the Wild Hunt rolling down through the years. It can be charming and sweet, too, tiny babies and dogs in costumes are adorable, but the electric charge of the thing, the beating heart, if you will, is in the vaguely hallucinatory swirl of the collective adult masquerade. Where people can be what they want, or who they really are, under the guise of a costume.

Christmas, on the other hand, is more about wish fulfillment and million-to-one chances and happy endings, sprinkled with snow. (Unless you are Terry Pratchett; I was also reminded that I need to re-read Hogfather for his far more bracing take on the tale of Father Christmas.) Christmas is bright lights, shiny wrappers, and romance.

Actually, all things considered, I suppose they are both about romance, just different kinds. Dramatic, stormy, Heathcliff-on-the-moors Romance vs. kitschy, ugly sweaters, embarassing relatives and stolen-kisses-under-the-mistletoe romance. Heavy cloaks and carriages rattling over wet, gaslit, cobblestoned streets vs. apple-cheeked skating on frozen ponds followed by hot cocoa and sugar cookies.

I don't actually have much of a conclusion; I was mainly thinking about how different those kinds of magic are, and how that might (in the abstract) shape the music they make together. Panic's NRWTC stage show is, from what I've seen in pictures and on YouTube (I never saw it live), very much in the vein of Halloween magic. The PO tour, as best I can tell, was mostly a big hippie festival, which may have been dreamy but wasn't exactly magical, per se. And current!Panic! seems to be aiming for Rat Pack-style glamor, which is a different kind of magic altogether.


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