Everyone else is listening to Total Eclipse of the Heart today, but I’ve got another one for you. What about some amazingly anachronistic synth-driven ballad-hybridized music from Alan Parsons for a movie about a medieval knight & his lady & their true love?
That’s right, the soundtrack to the one & only LadyHawke! Enjoy it & wonder why you haven’t watched this crazy thing yet!
I will only admit to this once & since I’m posting this on the Internet, I guess that makes it a permanent statement. I finally got around to reading Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in all it’s weird, quasi-New-Age-y, yet surprisingly practical glory. (I hate admitting to reading popular stuff; it’s a bad snobby habit from working at Borders.) And I’ve also been using some of the suggestions to a degree, organizing & disposing of whatever doesn’t “spark joy.” (I cringe at typing that out loud.) But methodically facing down each item in every single drawer can be an interesting exercise in not only housekeeping, but memory. Which brings me to what I’d left in the very bottom drawer of my bureau, hidden under workout clothes & long heavy scarves: the abandoned sexy clothes of my 20s.
I finally got around to reading this classic this year, after realizing that some of the school kids at my public library were reading it for class. Why not? I figured & picked up a copy myself. Watership Down follows a plucky group of rabbits who leave when Fiver, a more mystical rabbit, receives a presentiment that their burrow is under threat. With his brother Hazel, the group sets off on a trek to find a peaceful home & have many adventures learning about the wide world & how other warrens have survived.
I’m glad to have finally read this & I do wish I had come across it when I was younger. I think it would have made a much more emotional impact. As an adult, I was more interested in the world-building Adams undertakes: the myths of the first rabbit El-ahrairah, the Lapine language. The scenes with Cowslip’s warren are tense & entrancing. But, as a detached reader, I soon picked up that nothing too terrible would happen to any of the named main characters. They might get wounded or change their perspectives but none of them would actually die–and this suspicion was borne out. With the resulting low stakes, reading Down remained more of an intellectual exercise than an absorbing read.
Dr. James Mega has a problem: he’s been invited to a sci-fi con to promote his new book Bimbos of the Death Sun. The problem is that other than his own story, he doesn’t really know a lot about the genre, or the publishing business, or about the types of people who show up to cons or what they do for entertainment. He just wants to sell a few more copies of his book before his students & co-workers find out his secret pen name. Unfortunately, Mega finds himself plunged into the heart of the con world when popular author & embittered object of fandom Appin Dungannon turns up murdered & the fen lose their collective minds.
Originally lent to me by someone in my writing group, I enjoyed laying around on my couch & just absorbing the story. First, it was curiously pleasing to read about an event that was still very regional & struggling to figure out how to get through an entire weekend of programming. In 2016, many cons (Comic-con, DragonCon, the PAXs) have become mainstream, huge-ticket, hype machines that attract insane crowds. It was nice for once to read about a con tucked away in the mountains of my home state with people coming from Annandale, Reston, & Richmond. And while certain specific technological elements have not aged well, McCrumb’s book tries to place much of the focus on the characters & their specific hierarchies & rituals. Having attended a con myself, there was still a lot that rang true about people whose status as Big Name Fans are almost jobs unto themselves, filksingers (equal to general geek-culture musicians nowadays), & room parties. There were also a number of moments that made me curious about what McCrumb thinks of the current con scene & other related niche activities. At one point, Mega’s girlfriend (& dueteragonist) Marion laments that the time, effort, & needlework that goes into some of the costumes that are only worn for a few times. (Compared to today, where many cosplay artists are venerated for their work & where patterns & fabrics can be bought just as easily at the fabric store.) At another point, Marion comforts a girl traumatized during a D&D session because her character in-game was deceived into marrying someone wearing the guise of her true love even though she-the-player knew what was going on. (Um, avatarrape anyone?) As for filksinging, come on–I think you can draw a pretty direct line from there to Jonathan Coulton & chiptune.
That’s not to say that Bimbos is a perfect package. There are some really mean depictions of the fen & I can see that perhaps the author is making the point that even unpopular groups have their jerks & undesirables. But, Marion, who sometimes seems to be a stand-in for the author herself, gives a conflicted perspective. Sometimes she navigates the groups like a pro & corrects any accidental cruelty on James’s part; other times she bites her tongue from telling the other con-goers, “Oh grow up. Really children. . .” And, yes, all of the technology mentioned in the novel is old, outdated, & seemingly silly but since I was already enjoying the story more than being frustrated by it, I was willing to do a mental search-and-replace while reading, substituting an obstinate hard drive with a locked smartphone. (The replacement actually works, especially considering the main police investigator is an older cranky man who curses the vagaries of electronics.)
Overall, a fun read & still somewhat relevant for explaining the intense societies of geeky subcultures. Recommended for those who like to laugh at their own adopted scene.
There is one obvious clue that admits daily my redneck background–the curve of the brims on my caps. A tight arch that narrows one’s vision & draws direct attention to one’s eyes when they’re looking in your direction. That narrow curve is the only way to wear caps, as far as I’m still concerned, & whenever I see someone wearing it differently, I have to bite my lip to keep from saying, “Hey hon, can I break that in for ya?”
Flashback to high school biology class, where boys seemed to outnumber the girls. I sat in the very back with other slacker kids who didn’t want to be there. (I was a fake, a girl who typically got good grades slumming with “the bad kids”.) One knot of five guys near the front were all rednecks who were polite to the teacher but occasionally did chew in class & never ever took off their hats. Big guys that sometimes were on sports teams but more often than not went off to the vocational wing after lunch & who did not seem to give a shit about a single thing–grades, their life past school, underage drinking, bringing a knife to school.
If I had been born a boy, I probably would have actually tried to fit in with these guys, my dreams of genderbending artistic androgyny aside. (But then again, Perry Farrell once said that that part of what he was doing was trying to get guys like rednecks interested in looking past gender norms so maybe this is an easy internal conflict to understand? It’s easy to say what could have been when you look back at an imagined life.)
But there was one guy in my class who was kind of in-between cliques just like me, except he sat a little higher on the popularity scale because he was actually good-looking. He knew the redneck guys by name, somehow wore black cowboy boots in my woodsy Virginia town without looking tacky, &, later admitted, watched the same sci-fi/fantasy TV shows as me. How did he do this? I did not know but I became obsessed with the curve of his hat. Because he could essentially put on a camouflaged cap with the mandatory fish hook tietack slid on the right side of the brim & just be that guy, the guy with the loud drawl & the cigarettes in his shirt pocket who was gonna be rowdy & say what he wanted & did not care–unless someone in charge was around.
And so, one day before class began, after a few weeks of preparatory small talk & flirting, I asked him the secret–how to get the perfect bend to a capbill. I had tried unsuccessfully on hats of my own & they often just looked beat up or crooked. “Are you serious?” he asked, “You’re really curious about my hat?” I don’t even know what lame answer I came up with but, yes, yes, I admitted, tell me about your hat.
What followed was like some secret male recipe of cool: fold the bill up & down in half symmetrically until it breaks, shove the folded bill into the band in the back as far as it will go, then stick it in the freezer for a day or two. After you take it out & thaw it, you can either wear as is or sleep with it under your mattress until you’re satisfied with the curve.
I felt like I had gotten some glimpse into a world that I would never really traverse & perhaps this is why I still wear my hats this way. The sensation is a familiar one, something I think I’ve written about often–a girl on the outside looking into the boys’ world & trying to decode its’ symbols. I come across one & uncover some small meaning & take it away to wear as an accessory of triumph. No wonder the trappings of femininity are still alien to me–I’ve rarely applied the same interest to other girls.