how i wrote in 1987
fifteen albums

what i watched last week

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012). I’m enough out of the loop that I had never heard of the 1999 novel on which this film is based, despite it being a bestseller and touchstone for a generation of teenagers. So I knew nothing going in, other than my most-trusted AI system said I’d like it. I’m not usually a fan of movies about rich kids, although these kids were more upper-middle class. But since it was about outsiders, I didn’t spend all my time thinking they should quit whining. There are several winning performances, and the film felt true to the feelings of anguished youth. It didn’t come close to what Anna Paquin gave us in Margaret … on the other hand, that movie was a mess, while Wallflower knows what it is doing and gets it done. The insights aren’t much more than what you’d get from a good episode of My So-Called Life, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I’d like to say that someone asked me to see this and I was pleasantly surprised, except it was me who suggested it, so I take the credit or blame. Since our entire group liked it, I guess they’ll let me pick again sometime. 7/10.



Pretty much my own sentiments exactly (ditto for the rating). Some of the music ("Pretend We're Dead," a few other things) I liked. Minor point I found quite improbable: teenagers who would know Nick Drake and the Shaggs but not David Bowie's "Heroes." Took a turn towards the end I wasn't expecting. Emma Watson is...slightly more than one-third my age.

Steven Rubio

I'm glad you mentioned that about "Heroes". I thought the same thing, and was going to comment on it, but someone (I think Andrew O'Hehir) convinced me that perhaps it was presumptuous to assume they'd know Bowie. Except, as you say, they knew the Shaggs, who I listen to about once a month, just because.


Yeah, it was the disconnect. A teenager in the early '90s not knowing "Heroes" in and of itself wouldn't have struck me as unusual at all, but the combination was as improbable as the entire student body being duped by Jessie Eisenberg's Pink Floyd plagiarism in The Squid and the Whale.

Steven Rubio

To be honest, I was surprised they knew the Shaggs. Actually, I think I laughed out loud.

Charlie Bertsch

I really liked the movie. It's not quite about my generation -- they're about 6-8 years younger than me -- but it did resonate for me, in part through identification with my sister, who was born in 1972.

I do have to disagree with you about "Heroes." It's not that song in the book -- there was a rights issue, I believe -- but I think you guys underestimate the degree to which teenage knowledge back then, even in well-heeled circles, could be incredibly spotty. I knew the Beatles catalogue backwards and forwards by age 14 and somehow had a very precise knowledge of the New Wave-ish songs that charted in 1979, yet had huge gaps in both my collection and my experience for almost all of high school.

David Bowie is a great example. I played his Changes One greatest hits collection to death as a junior and senior and probably knew half the songs on it by tenth grade. But I actually didn't get to know "Heroes" until I was in college, because it wasn't on that album.

Here's what I wrote about my ignorance for the piece -- -- I posted today at Souciant:

"Despite that fact that the music industry was supposedly doing well back then, I remember the 1980s as a time of scarcity. Over and over, I would search for a record I’d read a lot about, only to find that it was out of print or only available as a high-priced import I didn’t understand how to order. I’m not just talking about the music of the one-hit-wonders who appear on Nuggets, either. I knew that bands like Big Star and The Velvet Underground were considered extremely influential, but had no clear sense of what they sounded like, because I never heard them on the radio.

Even when Lou Reed’s infamous Honda commercial pushed “Walk on the Wild Side” back into the spotlight, his work with Mo Tucker, Sterling Morrison, and John Cale remained decidedly underground, especially for those people, like me, who didn’t live within range of a good college radio station. Remarkably, it was not until my freshman year at UC Berkeley that I listened to The Velvet Underground for the first time, when a friend was playing their debut in her room at the notorious Barrington Co-op and I found myself transfixed by the slow build-up of “Heroin.”

Charlie Bertsch

Oh, and I'd hear of The Shaggs, but not actually heard them. I knew all of Elvis Costello's hits, but hadn't heard a single Cure song (though The Cure would eventually become one of my favorite bands).

Steven Rubio

Way back in the early 70s, when I was a film major, there was this one guy who just loved Preston Sturges. He'd go on and on about how great he was. Sullivan's Travels was the only one I'd seen, and one day I asked him if he had a favorite. Oh, he said, I haven't actually seen any of his movies, they just sound great when I read about them.

When I play that SongPop game on Facebook and a Cure song comes up, I think of you ... every single time!

And, as you know, I have a bit of history in writing about the Shaggs :-).

Charlie Bertsch

I'm glad you think of me, Steven!

Seriously, I think you may be underestimating the differences in access that young people used to experience. There was one guy in my school who volunteered nights at the local alternative station. His junior year, when I was a senior, he wrote reviews for our school news magazine about bands no one else in the school had ever heard of. This was 1985-1986. I distinctly remember reading his review of Hüsker Dü's Candy Apple Gray and thinking that I wanted to learn about the band. But they were totally off my radar.


Obviously, I can't dispute anyone's personal timeline; if you experienced something similar, then it must be more plausible than I imagined. In terms of the film's specifics--no on "Heroes," yes on the Shaggs and Nick Drake--the one thing I'd say is that I'm pretty sure Drake's albums would have been completely out of print stateside for a long stretch of time--basically, until that car commercial used "Pink Moon" about 10 years ago. So I do find that a bit of a stretch (doubly so because he's a British cult artist, rather than American). I know the Shaggs LP was reissued by Red Rooster in 1980 (when I bought it), so I guess it's more than possible that they'd be familiar with them.

I'm nitpicking about nothing.

Steven Rubio

I love nitpicking! And I assure you, I spent a lot of time at the post-movie dinner jabbering away about "Heroes". For some reason I didn't even notice Nick Drake, much as I didn't notice him until the commercial, so you raise a good point, there.

I'm just guessing "Heroes" worked well as a soundtrack for the two points in the movie when it was played, so they chose it. And The Shaggs were a good way to say the kids were hip in an offbeat way. Plus, let's face it, the only people who actually know who the Shaggs are is people like us ... I don't think many people watching that movie would have picked up on it. Well, my wife, since I've forced her to listen to "My Pal Foot Foot" a billion times over the years.

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