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once more

First off, I survived. It’s weird, I haven’t exactly been sick all week … that part ended several days ago … but I haven’t really recovered, either, so I didn’t want to go out for any extended periods, for which I apologize again to folks who were affected when I cancelled out of stuff at the last minute. For this, Robin and I took naps, as it’s been a long time since we attended a Midnight Anything.

We got to the Bridge Theater a bit after 11 … there was already a pretty decent-sized line. I checked it out, and if my eyeballs are any indication, and they usually aren’t, we were at the least among the oldest people there. There was a person in a bunny costume … other than that, didn’t see anything odd (and I’m pretty sure the bunny was part of the show rather than just an attendee).

We went in a bit before midnight, got some popcorn, and were given our “goodie bag” (Sara, I got an extra for you!). In the bag was: a kazoo (I forget what it was for), bubbles (for Dawn’s ballet), vampire teeth (no reason, they just thought we should have some), a finger puppet (so we could hold it in the air and move it across the sky, while singing the “Grrrr Arrgh” part), and one of those poppers that shoot streamers and make the air smell like cap pistols have gone off (reason to be explain in a bit). Robin actually got half-a-dozen of the poppers, for no reason we could figure outside of luck.

The show started with a few fan videos … let me see if I can find any of them on YouTube.

Not sure I can remember them all. There was a tribute to Buffy's mom, which was this one with minor changes:

And there was a trivia contest, that started like this:

You get the idea. They also had "Buffy-oke," which was people from the audience acting out scenes from Buffy episodes.

Finally, the show began. The crowd had a great time, although audience participation wasn't as goofy as I'd expected. I think this might have been because there was a group acting out the scenes on stage in front of the screen, Rocky Horror-style, which was entertaining but may have encouraged us to watch more than act out ourselves. The highlight of this came in the notorious "Under Your Spell," the video to which I linked yesterday. This is the song Tara sings about her love for Willow, which concludes with Willow off-screen, apparently performing some juicy acts between Tara's legs. The actresses playing the two onstage had quite a lot of fun showing us what didn't make it to the screen, as "Willow" pulled one piece of undergarment after another from "Tara" to wild screams of delight from the crowd. At the precise moment (can't say "climax," that's kinda the point) when the screen cut away from Tara, as instructed, we all shot off our poppers. Streamers filled the air as we celebrated Tara's sweet release.

The rest of the episode was more of the same, people acting out the parts on stage, us in the audience singing along. Whenever Dawn said anything, we all yelled out "SHUT UP, DAWN!" The highlights from the onstage actors were what you'd expect, the hottest numbers from the "real" version: Anya's heavy-metal "Bunnies" interlude and her dance with Xander in the middle of "I'll Never Tell," Buffy trying to dance herself to self-immolation in "Something to Sing About."

The latter song was in some ways the most interesting of the night. Despite the aggressively campy nature of the sing-a-long, when "Something to Sing About" arrived, I was sucked in as I always am. Sarah Michelle Gellar isn't a singer, not the way Anthony Head is, or Amber Benson or James Marsters or the surprising Emma Caulfield. She can carry a tune, but her flat voice lacks projection, which makes Buffy more hesitant-sounding in this episode than is usual. But for this big number, Gellar uses that flatness to great effect, forcing us to listen carefully to her big revelation, that her friends had pulled her out of heaven when they brought her back to life. I'm just a sucker for that moment, or rather, moments: the way she talk-sings "I think I was in heaven," the looks on the faces of the Scoobies as they realize the import of what she has just stated, the death-wish dance that follows, Spike the vampire stopping her to sing "Life’s not a song, life isn’t bliss, life is just this, it’s living.... You have to go on living, so one of us is living." I always get choked up, which isn't quite the point at 2 in the morning at a goofy sing-a-long.

Well ... we had fun, anyway. I don't know if I'd do it every week, but I'd do it again sometime. We missed Sara, that's what would have made it perfect.

what we're looking forward to

I have barely been out of the house for a week, so tonight's like an awakening or something. Meantime, here's a taste of what we're going to see ... this even has the subtitles on, just like I assume will be the case tonight. This is "Under Your Spell," sung by Amber Benson, one of the cast members who could actually sing (you'll notice that Alison Hannigan doesn't sing a note ... apparently her musical skills were left behind at band camp, because she barely sings the entire episode). This is the imfamous scene that was edited out in some countries for its suggestive nature ... suggestive? When Willow disappears into Tara's nether regions and causes her to float, while Tara sings "you make me COM-plete" ... yeah, that's pretty suggestive, I guess!

once more, at last, with feeling


Two years ago, Robin and Sara and I got tickets to see a local performance of the great Buffy musical, "Once More, With Feeling." The production had the blessing of Joss Whedon, but that wasn't enough ... Fox shut them down before they were able to put on the show.

Now, finally, a legally-approved version has come to San Francisco. Tonight at midnight at the sold-out Bridge Theater in the City, Robin and I (Sara can't make it ... we'll miss you, Sarie!) will join a crowd of Buffy lovers in a screening of the musical, presented "Rocky Horror" style by ... well, I'm not exactly sure, but I think it's a group called the Uncoolkids. This is a touring company, but they've also invited some of the folks from the aborted production of two years ago to make special appearances at the San Francisco shows (there are two, Friday and Saturday). They'll have Buffy Jeopardy, Buffy-oke, and a goody-bag for everyone with all the stuff we'll need to make a ruckus ... along with instructions for what to use when (including party poppers for when Willow puts Tara under her spell) and when to say what (that's easy ... whenever Dawn opens her mouth, we say "Shut up, Dawn!").

Review to appear tomorrow!

friday random ten, 1993 edition

1. PJ Harvey, "Rid of Me." I could fill up this entire Random Ten with music by women if shuffle play got a little wonky, 1993 being a great year for women's music. I'm not sure I could do Harvey justice … she's kinda like Patti Smith, if instead of listening to James Brown and the Stones, she'd listened to Delta blues and, well, Patti Smith. The astonishing video performance is from the Jay Leno show, of all places, and includes Polly Jean being invited over to chat with Jay.

2. Iris DeMent, "My Life." Not the best segue … they're both women, but Harvey and DeMent don't have a lot else in common. Both of them released excellent second albums in 1993 (many sources say this one was 1994, but AMG says 1993, as does the MP3 tag on my hard drive, so here it is). Sadly, DeMent has suffered from writer's block for much of the subsequent years … she recorded a third strong album in 1996, but since then has only offered appearances on the albums of others, and a 2004 album of old gospel tunes. If she never records again, though, she'll be remembered for My Life. The video link is of one of those later duets, this time John Prine being her partner.

3. Liz Phair, "Fuck and Run." This is what should have followed "Rid of Me." Rather like when Madonna and Cyndi Lauper emerged at about the same time, and everyone tried to guess which would have staying power, there were people who preferred Phair and those who liked PJ more. I was in the Liz camp at the time, but time and critics haven't treated her as kindly … they've been unfair, if you ask me, but you didn't, did you? The video link isn't the best quality, but it's how she sounded when I saw her back in the day, and it makes an interesting comparison to the Harvey video … Liz wasn't gonna get invited to sing "Fuck and Run" on the Tonight Show. (Trivia note: the opening act when we saw Liz Phair was an unknown folk-singer whose specialty was yodeling. Her name was Jewel.)

4. Radiohead, "Creep." Radiohead became the symbol of a new era in, if not music, at least music criticism, when the great writer Nick Hornby trashed their album Kid A, convincing most people that Hornby was too old to appreciate new music any longer. I am four years older than Hornby, and I'm afraid I'm even more behind the curve here than my beloved Nick, who at least liked the pre-Kid A recordings. Me, I have nothing against Radiohead, but I'm one of those much-maligned lame-os who thinks "Creep" is their greatest moment … in fact, I can barely remember more than one or two other Radiohead songs as I type this. So call me a geezer, but I think this is a great song, and it remains the best karaoke moment of my life. OK, there aren't many to begin with, since I've only been to karaoke once, but the time I went, the DJ took a turn, chose this song, and we all sang along. I'm the sort of person who gets a tear in his eye when I'm part of a group singing "I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here, I don't belong here." Of course, I find out later that "Creep" is actually a karaoke standard, and I'm not fucking special, I'm a creep.

5. Brand Nubian, "Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down." Shuffle play isn't politically correct. This single was actually released in 1992, and its homophobic lyrics caused controversy. (Wikipedia entries tend to put scare quotes around "homophobic" in this discussion, which is stupid, unless you think "fuck up a faggot, don't understand their ways, I ain't down with gays" is too vague for you.) The album containing the track came out in 1993, and so here it is. Video link is an expurgated version.

6. Salt 'n Pepa, "Shoop." Usually, when you hear someone say this, it means it sucks, but I have to say it, anyway: this is a perfect track for people who think they don't like rap music. P.S. This song doesn't suck.

7. RuPaul, "Supermodel (You Better Work)." Kurt Cobain reportedly loved this track. I don't know what Brand Nubian thought.

8. Snoop Doggy Dogg, "Who Am I (What's My Name?)." Doggystyle was one of the most anticipated albums in many a year. The previous year, Dre's album The Chronic had set new standards for G-funk, and Snoop's skills were a major part of that album's success. This single, with its reworked Funkadelic fuzz-bass line, was omnipresent in the weeks (months? It felt like forever at the time, in a good way) leading up to the release of Doggystyle. I would pick up my wife from work … I forget the deal, we only had one car then, I guess … and this song would come on the radio every damn day, and I would crank up the radio as loud as I could, wishing they would just play it over and over until Robin got in the car. To this day, Snoop retains the ability to charm the pants off of the most unlikely folks, even as he also retains his street thug cred … I mean, the guy did a popular guest spot on The L Word!

9. Counting Crows, "Mr. Jones." This ubiquitous song is a favorite of mine. OK, that doesn't quite get it. At the risk of ruining whatever cool I might have left after being more of a dinosaur than Nick Hornby, I will admit that I identify very much with this song, and have never tired of it:

When I look at the television, I want to see me staring right back at me
We all want to be big stars, but we don't know why and we don't know how
But when everybody loves me, I'm going to be just about as happy as I can be

10. Nirvana, "All Apologies." Shuffle Play's Greatest Seque, Vol. 193. "Everything is my fault, I'll take all the blame."

All in all is all we are.

it ain't just the men going mad

As a corollary to my long and boring post about the sad life of a smartypants in the 50s and 60s, I add the following comments, with picture, regarding the end of last week's Mad Men, mostly spoiler-free I think but not entirely. I wish my mom were alive and watching this show ... my guess is she'd hate it, but it would be very interesting to find out, nonetheless.

Betty is the wife of the primary character in the series, Don Draper. The women on the show mostly fall into one of two categories: unappreciated office workers looking for a husband, or stay-at-home wives. Betty was a model when she met Don ... everyone said she looked like Grace Kelly, and you can see that in January Jones, the actress who plays the part. Betty is vaguely unsatisfied with her life ... she goes to a shrink (who updates Don on the sessions, behind Betty's back) ... all of this moves to the center of last week's plot (Mad Men being more character than plot-driven). At the end of the episode, Betty, at times the most passive character on the show, the one who stifles her potential in such sad ways (while the show, as its title suggests, focuses on men, it also offers a fascinating look at the germination period for the coming new wave of feminism) ... Betty seems for a moment to have had enough. She goes outside ... why she does this isn't particularly important, and I'm being spoilerish enough as it is ... she goes out with a rifle, or BB gun, or air rifle, I'm not sure what, and she starts blasting away at her neighbor's pigeons. It's almost played for laughs ... the way her cigarette hangs out of her mouth is classic ... but it's also quite frightening, in a way, and I have to admit, it made me wonder what my own mom might have looked like with a smoke in her mouth and a rifle in her hand.


more about my miserable life as a smartypants

I got a terrific email from a friend, in response to my brief whine about being smart, and I was inspired to write a bit more about the whole mess, with apologies if I've done this before on this blog, or if, as is likely, you've heard it all before.

My parents were both really smart, and both underachieved in different ways ... my dad directed his intelligence towards embezzlement, got caught, did time, and ended up selling cars, my mom opted for the life of a housewife (not an unusual choice in her day, and in fairness, a choice she always claimed to be happy with) rather than one as ... well, in her case, a pianist, as she had a scholarship to attend Mills College in the music program but got married instead. Then my older brother was a brainiac who never screwed up until he got to college and felt the rush of freedom. I was second, six years younger, and expected to follow in his footsteps. Like him, I skipped first grade, which they did more of in those days, I think. It didn't matter when I was a tyke, but by the time I got to junior high school, the relative immaturity of yours truly was more obvious. 

I had my first problems in school in the fifth grade ... don't remember much about it, although it was my first time with a male teacher, whatever that means. I'd bounce back and forth between doing well and not so well ... in my case, the difference between an A and a B. By junior high, my lack of skills in the sciences made it hard to get straight As, but besides that, if I came home with 4 As and a B, my parents would say "why'd you get a B?" Since I wanted to rebel ... I started junior high about the time my brother went to college and flunked out, so we were rebelling at the same time ... I'd just figure if 4 As and a B was gonna get me in trouble, why bother to get As at all. Thus began a pattern where I'd get As in classes I liked and Cs in classes I didn't like ... this lasted through high school, although there was a D or two in science classes. Even then, when I graduated from high school, my GPA had only fallen just below a B, and combined with my test scores, I had college options that involved someone else footing the bill. Of course, I was only 16 when I graduated from high school, and I decided instead to finally be a hippie (this was the summer of 1970), so I went and lived in Capitola for a year and took lots of psychedelic drugs.

My curse was the bell curve. I don't know if they still use it ... it was a real pain in the ass. I'd get called into the counselor's office, and he'd point at a bell-shaped curve on his wall. He'd point at the little tiny spot at the right-hand side of the curve and sternly say "this is where you're supposed to be." Then he'd point at the big fat part at the top of the curve and say "this is where you are." The implication was that I was underachieving, I knew that, but all I could think of, as a normal kid who might pretend to rebellion but who nonetheless desperately desired to be like everyone else, was that if most of the people were at the top of the curve, why would I want to be down at the bottom all by myself?

Somewhere along the way, I apparently developed a reputation. I have mentioned this occasionally here in the past, but it bears repeating in this context. I know it sounds like hyperbole … for a long time, I, too, thought it was exaggerated, perhaps even romanticized. But I've heard from enough sources over the years … teachers who worked in the system at the time, friends who were given special advisements about that poor Rubio boy … that I've come to realize that this stuff is, as best as can be figured, true. I wasn't just an underachiever, I was the King Hell Underachiever of the Antioch Unified School District. For starters, and again, I have no idea why this would be true, but Antioch was a much smaller town in those days, and there were witnesses … these sentences are too long … even when I was very young, teachers knew about me. Not just the ones in my elementary school, but others in Antioch as well. Maybe this came from substitutes who moved from one school to another, I don't know. Whatever the reason, I've been told that teachers all over town talked about me when I was still in like the second grade. I was a smart kid, I guess. At some point, I became "famous" as well for having, if not emotional problems, then at least a rough family life … the latter is nonsense, I complain about my parents but they did their best and there were plenty of worse parents out there, my childhood was relatively ordinary in that regard. But the emotional problems might have been true, although how parents I didn't know became conversant about my problems remains a mystery to me. I'm not exaggerating … I don't want to suggest I was screwy … but I did take something we called "nerve medicine," whatever that was … I don't know why I took it, but I remember it sitting in a bottle atop a shelf (it was a liquid, easier for a kid to take, I guess).

None of this is v.interesting, except for the part where other people apparently knew all of this about me. Again I note that despite all of the reasons this seems unbelievable, I've heard stories about it over the years, so I don't think I'm exaggerating, although believe me, I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Whatever … the point is, by the time I graduated from high school, I was said to have the biggest discrepancy between my test scores and my grades in the entire graduating class. In other words, I was the #1 underachiever. I wasn't the smartest one … for starters, there was a guy named Ted who put us all to shame in the smarts department, and then there's the part, perhaps worthy of a separate post although I'm sure I've mentioned it before, where the theory has been proposed by a psych professor that I was dropped on my head as a kid, resulting in two parts of my brain on opposite sides from each other being damaged, such that there are areas where my IQ isn't just below 142, it's more like 58. (Anyone who has ever watched me get lost, or seen me try to figure out geometrical patterns on a piece of paper, knows what I'm talking about.) I wasn't the smartest, but I fucked up the best.

And, of course, I was proud of that. Because, quite simply, I didn't see why being smart was a good thing.

This concept is pretty alien to me at this point in my life, but it was very much the case for a long time. What did I do when I got out of high school? I took drugs on a beach for a year … I followed a girl to Indiana for a year … I returned to the Bay Area and played at being a film major for a couple of years … I worked in a factory for a decade … and finally, at the age of 31, I began college in a serious fashion, resulting some thirteen years later in a PhD.

That's fifteen years, from the age of 16 to the age of 31, where I frittered away my best quality, my brain, because I didn't want to be smart.

Blame is pointless. Who knows what this story is all about … it might be something as simple as chemistry (the "nerve medicine" being an early attempt to medicate me into normality), or maybe I really was dropped on my head and it made a difference in more ways than just not being able to do the pattern-recognition parts of an IQ test. But there are a few things I'm pretty certain are true. It's a bad idea to impose expectations of greatness, in any aspect of life, on a child of four or five or six. There is plenty of time to become great. I can speak from experience, watching my two kids grow into such interesting adults, there is nothing as wonderful as seeing greatness emerge in your children. I make no claims to greatness, but however close I come to that level, it has taken me a lot longer to get there than was probably necessary, and I remain to this day mistrustful and afraid of reaching my potential. Which means, of course, that I never will reach that potential. Someday, girl, I don't know when, we're gonna get to that place where we really wanna go, and we'll walk in the sun … BUT 'TIL THEN, tramps like us ... makes me cry everytime I hear it, because I know it will always still be true, and we'll never get past "'til then."

lame, bored, sickly, and proud of all the wrong things

I just took one of those online IQ tests. Yes, I'm bored ... I don't feel good enough yet to do anything useful, even though I'm mostly over being "sick." The test said my IQ was 142. Things like IQ tests were the bane of my existence when I was a kid ... being smart sucked, and I was, according to various counselors, the biggest (is that the word?) underachiever in my graduating class, on the basis of discrepancy between test scores and grades. Yet now I make what passes for a living on the basis of the very smarts that I hated having for so long. And there's nothing I'd hate more at this point in my life than being stupid.

But if there's anything guaranteed to prove how stupid someone is, it's when they're proud of scoring 142 on an online IQ exam.