#MusicMonday Betterman — Pearl Jam (and memories)

I was driving around the other day listening to the radio (which I don’t usually do, I usually have my iPod plugged in because ever since I worked in radio for a year and I can’t really stand listening to it…but I was nice and lent my iPod to my boyfriend for his 12 hour drive to Wisconsin) and this song came on.

And as soon as I heard the opening strums of the guitar, I was hit by a wave of memories.

Peal Jam and Nirvana were super big when I was in middle school. I wasn’t into them at all. My musical tastes were still mostly focused on Disney soundtracks and whatever my Mom was listening to at the time (so, ya know, Phil Collins and Sting). Hearing the term “grunge”, I assumed that the music would be loud and screamy and not my thing. So I kind of avoided them somehow.

But there was this really nice kid in my class, his name was Alec Miller. He *loved* these bands. He sensed my resistance and after we sat and discussed music for awhile (yeah, I’m sorta shocked that we were able to have an intelligent discussion about what we liked and disliked in music when we were only 13…). Anyway, Alec was a good listener and he returned the next week with a mix tape of hand-picked Pearl Jam songs that he thought I would like. Betterman was on that tape, I think it might have been the first song actually.

It’s weird how the mind works because this song triggered this memory which lead to another memory of Alec, a memory that changed my young adult life. I can’t really remember all the details, all I know is that Alec was being bullied by some other kids in the school. I think they decided that since he wore grunge style clothes, he was some kind of punk. One day, it escalated to the point where they flat out told him they were going to beat him up that day. I have a memory of Alec being a total wreck, his eyes bloodshot from crying and we convinced him to tell a teacher, that the thing you were supposed to do was tell and adult and they would fix it.

Unfortunately, the adults had the same biases based on Alec’s look – he told them he had been threatened and they said nothing would happen and told him to go to class.

And then he got jumped by three guys on his way to class.

I’m not even sure I ever saw him after that. His mother yanked him out of our school and transferred him to another school. But I remember that day as the day I realized that you can just trust people in authority to do the right thing. If those teachers had taken him seriously, it could have been avoided.

So these are the things that go through my head when any of the low-key Pearl Jam songs come on the radio…

Do you have any songs with powerful memories attached to them? Write your own post or share in the comments!

Movie Thoughts: Elysium (2013)

Well, that was a mess.

Elysium is the writer/director Neil Blomkamp’s follow up to District 9. It is a prime example of what happens when you have someone who before was used to scraping by to create his movies and give him all the funding in the world. There was a good story there, another story similar to District 9‘s about inequality and how humans needs to learn to work together instead of constantly separating ourselves. But, alas, Elysium is full of special effects and a lot of missteps.

Plot Summary Time! Max (Matt Damon) was a street rat who grew up in the ghettos of Future!LA. Now he’s trying to stay straight and do his (shitty) job and stay on the right side of the law. Ever since he was a child, he dreamed of going to Elysium, the orbiting space station where all the rich white French speaking people went after the Earth got too dirty for them. But the world has worn him down and he has forgotten that dream. And he hates everything, just trying to get by. Then shit happens and he only has days to live and he must go back to his ghetto ways to try to save his own life…by getting to Elysium!!!!

One of the big problems with the movie is that it takes waaaaaaaaay too long to get going. There’s a lot of world building that needs to be done, but it could have been done with more finesse in half the time. But it was probably a lot more fun to find two kids that kinda looked like Matt Damon and the other girl and have them be all “we are BFFs and some day we will run away together”. I’d say at least 30 minutes of the movie was spent in creating an unnecessary backstory for our main character.

Except the backstory that needed to happen was HOW DID ANYONE LET ELYSIUM HAPPEN!? How did the entire world decide this was okay? I was sort of hoping the twist would be an underground group on Elysium was trying to help out the people on Earth. Is part of the screening process to become a citizen on Elysium that you’re a selfish asshole? Also, wouldn’t that limit the gene pool?? These are the things that would have been better explored. Instead we focus on Max, who is just this guy, you know? He’s not particularly interesting. He’s the cookie cutter ex-con trying to do good but oh we know he’s only this far from being bad again.

Accents are a problem in this movie, to the point that I wish they had just thrown them out completely. Actually, I think the biggest problem was Damon’s LACK of an accent. Jodie Foster flips between French and British accents. Her crony has a thick South African accent. Most of the people in L.A. have Spanish accents. Damon, who grew up with all these people…he just talks like Matt Damon. He should have done his thick Southie accent, at least. I know it wouldn’t have fit in L.A. but this is the FUTURE and at leas the would have sounded more ghetto than he did. Slapping fake tattoos on Matt Damon does not make me believe he is an ex-con. Sorry.

Yeah, what a mess of a movie. There is nothing new here and it’s kind of disappointing. District 9 had so much more going on with it, even though the themes were the same. But in that movie, we really got to see Wikus grow. Max is pretty much the same until the very end.

Disappointing all around. If you’re curious, it’s worth a rental or wait until it pops up on a streaming service. But I think you could spend your time better.

tv thoughts: Hannibal, Season 1

Hannibal Season 1 DVDs

For those of you that don’t know, I have a three person rule for new tv shows. I generally ignore them until three different people that I respect say something positive about them. Two of my livejournal friends had been raving about this show for ages and I had put the DVD on request at the library. When it arrived on my desk, my co-worker commented how awesome and messed up the show is. So that was it, three people, I had to watch.

I’m only familiar with Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs. I had passed on all the other movies and I have not read any of the other books. The series is loosely based on the prequel novel Red Dragon (which writer/director Bryan Fuller has tweeted is where the series will be by Season 4).

The series takes place long before Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal was just a psychiatrist (he is still a cannibal, obviously, but he hasn’t been caught yet). But even though the show bears his name, the main character is actually Will Graham. His mental state, somewhere along the Asperger’s spectrum, let’s him get into the mind of serial killers and, in the first episode, he helps the FBI capture a wanted man. Hannibal “helps” by providing psychiatric feedback to prove that Graham is capable of taking on these cases without losing his mind.

Bryan Fuller is the show runner. I loved Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls. The thing I enjoy about Fuller’s shows is that he usually has a theme that ties the series together. DLM spent a lot of time discussing death and how we all process it. Pushing Daisies also focused on loss, but also on love as the Ned the pie maker had to live with a requited love that could never be…well, requited. Wonderfalls had a very cynical main character being pulled into a weird “fate” story (I always said it was like Joan of Arcadia but without all the God stuff…just oddness). (and I was thrilled to see Caroline Dhavernas’s name in the opening credits). Hannibal, so far, has an underlying theme of identity – who are we? How do we see ourselves? How do we present ourselves to others? What do we hide underneath?

There have been some great first season guest stars that you’ll recognize from other Fuller shows. And the wonderful Gillian Anderson also appears in a good portion of the season. (And I’m pretty sure they using the same font that was used in Silence of the Lambs (and X-Files) when showing us the locations, which tickled my homage geek funny bone.)

I didn’t pay any attention to the show at first because I was concerned that they would try to make me root for Hannibal. But by the end of the first episode, you realize this is not the goal of the show. Hannibal is already a psychopath. The tension in the show is that YOU the audience knows this. Yet we watch him slowly manipulate those around him. And he’s very good at it. And then you wonder if you would fall for it and you realize, yes, you would. He is educated and refined (the way Mads Mikkelsen slowly waves the wine glass under his nose before each sip hypnotizes me every time). He comes highly recommended.

I will warn you that the show is VERY graphic. I’ve already experience a few moments that made my stomach flip and a few scenes that managed to haunt me when I went to bed that night. Especially if you get the DVD, which has “producer’s edits” which may contain some extra gruesome stuff. But the stuff that aired on TV is pretty gruesome on it’s own. Will usually has to look at a murder and then they re-enact it on the screen, which I now watch through my fingers so I can quickly save myself from the splurts of blood and up-close shots of mutilated bodies. Oh, and don’t forget, Hannibal is a CANNIBAL and he does a lot of cooking.

I don’t want to say much else. This is not a police procedural. Crimes happen and they attempt to solve them, but the show is about Hannibal and Will and their relationship, which is what makes it so hard to stop watching.

If you can stomach it, I highly recommend Season 1 of Hannibal.

#MusicMonday Live Your Life – Mika

OMG Mika had a new song out last year and no one TOLD me???

I love Mika’s music. It’s just fun and bouncy. Even when his songs are in French, I still dance around. We saw him in concert a year ago in Philadelphia. I was exhausted after walking the city all day (bad idea!) but when he came on stage, I couldn’t help by dance. He’s a great performer. I really want to see him again.

Spotify alerted me to his newest tune in French and I saw this one listed below that. It sorta sounds like George Michael’s “Faith” at the beginning but quickly turns into classic “dance like no one’s watching” Mika music. Enjoy!

#MusicMonday :: Grouplove — Let Me In

I find the best new music via random soundtracks. I have no interest in Fault in Our Stars, but I knew I should give the soundtrack a spin on Spotify. Found this gem right off the bat and it has already become my summer anthem. It feels like the kind of song you put the top down to and then drive around, feeling the warm sun and breeze on your face…**sigh**

(I wouldn’t bother watching the video, just push play and go back to browsing)

against “against YA”

Well, here I am posting about how I have spent time examining my likes and dislikes when it comes to entertainment and now an article on Slate pops up and tells me that I should be ashamed for enjoying these kinds of stories.

This article has a LOT of issues. It sounds like that the author has only read two children’s novels in the 1990s (YA Lit wasn’t even a genre then), and A Fault in Our Stars and a few other Hot Titles…and this is the breadth of her YA reading list. Other than that, she seems to only read books that she has been told are “classics”. And then proceeds to tell us how we shouldn’t enjoy reading, and that she doesn’t want to tell us what to read but, we are morons for enjoying “books written for children.”

The label of Young Adult is a marketing tool, not a genre. It usually just means the characters are teenagers and the content is appropriate for that age group (i.e. deeper than Children’s literature but perhaps not as graphic as adult). It has nothing to do with quality. Or reading level. It’s just a shelf in the book store or library. And that shelf is open to everyone, of all ages.

Mark Shrayber of Jezebl has a nice rebuttal piece

And we all know the label of “adult literary fiction” has it’s own issues.

But anyway, that is not the point. Instead of judging other people and what they read, perhaps Graham needs to look inward and talk about why she doesn’t enjoy books labeled as “Young Adult”.

I can tell you why I do not enjoy “Adult Literary Fiction”. It’s the same reasons I talked about in my previous post – many of them offer little to no hope for the characters. On page 1 of the book, the character is miserable. On page 700, the story ends and the characters are usually still miserable. This isn’t always the case, of course. I love reading the comedies of Christopher Moore. Or Steve Martin’s novels. I even liked Herman Koch’s “The Dinner” which was pretty twisted. But for me, if the ending leaves me unsatisfied, I feel like I have wasted my time.

Now, for other people, perhaps reading these stories is cathartic. Maybe they have lives that mirror the lives of the characters. Or perhaps they enjoy reading about people with this kind of tragic existence because it makes them feel better about their own lives. I am not going to tell them what they can and cannot read (and believe me, I have the power. I’m a librarian and people ask me for book suggestions. I don’t scoff or tut at their choices. I rejoice in their love of stories.)

Graham says that life is too short and there are many GOOD books to read. But I say that life is too short and if you are reading something you should enjoy it on some level. Far be it from me to understand why YOU enjoy a book. You are your own unique person, raised in a unique location by unique people…your life experiences will change the way you internalize the stories you read. How could I ever know how you will react to a story?

TL;DR – Read what you want. Love what you read. Embrace whatever genre you are a fan of and just revel in the power of a good story.

And if you’re stuck for your next book, ask your Librarian. We promise to find you something YOU will enjoy.