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Video Dreams of the 80s

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As a child of the original MTV generation, I can definitely speak to the glory of visuality in the 80s. The 80s gave us new worlds, bright, colorful, technological, cheerful, ironic and attention-getting, assisted by disparate influences including the NYC stocks/art bubble, emerging technologies such as computer assisted graphics, video and synthesized music, and a newfound obsession with capitalism, all at the fingertips of a bursting new pop culture who consumed them eagerly.

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“Plasomospace” by Kenny Scharf, 1982. Oil and spray paint on canvas, 103 x 114 inches. Private collection.'”

Modern Art. The 80s there started out with loads of bright splashy images coming from the Eastern shores. In New York, just as the stock market bubble was rising, coincided with a growing art market in the lower east side of Manhattan. Areas that had formerly been home to all sorts of freaks from ex-Andy Warhol hangers-on to the proverbial drag queens and junkies, became gentrified as street artists like Basquiet or Keith Haring found their way onto canvas, into the gallery and millions of dollars for the artists to spend on heroin or property, depending on how the wind blew. I grew up on California, where, as an eager young gallery goer, emanations from the east were the stuff of dreams. I remember going to a downtown L.A. gallery in 1986, tumbleweeds blowing down the street, and seeing Warhol silkscreens of Mao, or maybe Jackie Kennedy, eating at Gorky’s, imagining myself in Soho. But although the the neo-expressionist art of the 80s was a colorful antidote to all the earthy hippie nature that had come before, it but mostly blobby and cartoonish. still not too much different from the hippies pop culture of the 60s like R. Crum. Still, the colors had been chosen for a bright new era and it dripped down into popular culture for example, these albums by Genesis or Robert Plant.

 

 

 

The new York art scene gave us color and expression, but there was another side to 80s graphic images – technology. When I think of the 80s, more than anything I think of precise, bright computerized shapes, like something Mondrian or Kandinsky envisioned in paint in the 20s and 30s, and which Andy Warhol was approaching with his silkscreen processes in the 60s. Finally, personal computer and printing technologies gave us the engine to generate these shapes as they should be created, via machine, as the medium became the message.

CAD, or computer-assisted design software changed the way our environment looked a lot. CAD enabled the computer user to draw perfect shapes, lines, and pictures with the assistance of perfect computer algorithms, creating a big difference in the visual environment. Like most images from the 80’s, CAD was cheap, bright and effortless. My mothers father had been an architect in the 50s, painstakingly drawing perfect lines with a triangle and a t-square as he designed the plans for his Lutheran church and various other buildings in his community. A few decades later, CAD eliminated all that. Mom often mentioned his projects when he drew with ink and pen, like Mike Brady, or most other architects before the 70s. CAD also eliminated many drafting jobs in architecture (which many people in my family had) and the Detroit auto industry, where anyone drafting cars with a pencil and drafting paper was obsolete.

http://verybradyblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/architect-mike-brady-kept-his-sketch-of.html

MTV! That logo changed everything. IT was bold, painterly, neo-expressionist. But it came to us through technology. It was the high-resolution graphic that grabbed all of us Brady Bunch kids in 1981. Whether it was on a flickering video screen, or a glossy page of Rolling Stone magazine, the MTV logos was meant to be seen via technology. Here it is represented as computer graphic. We are used to that now, but in the early 80s, on the flickering screen of an 80s TV, newly equipped with cable, it was bursting with energy and excitement, the MTV logo was for many, their first “video art”.

 

 

 

Video, more than CAD fine art, or even street art, gave American kids a brave new world of imagery. It brought art and poetry down to us (think Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes video, with its shades of Fellini).

 

 

Like advertising, video promised desire and produced longing. Every week MTV brought us a new band. Duran Duran. ABC. Heaven 17. Culture Club. Haysii Fantaysii. We got to experience their visual fantasies as we immersed themselves in their music. OK they weren’t all great bands with musical integrity, but they had a strong sense of visuality, movement, fashion and they were young and knew the media. The older bands such as Talking Heads, Yes and of course Bowie got into the mix with video technology too.

 

 

 

grace-slaveMusicians used artsy film techniques to make mini dramas, or just post-modernist pastiches of images. Music video brought technology right down to many of us. Back in the 80s computer software was mostly unknown to me. I wasn’t a fan of video games. I didn’t know much about CAD or computer graphics (although I did know about the Cosby sweaters). But I did know abut music, and so video became my door into technology. Most of these videos are iconic to us. I don’t even need to refer to them. You just know. They are your visual foundation and you couldn’t experience the music without them. It would be like trying to experience Stravinkey’s Rites of Spring, without Mickey mouse waving his baton, or dancing hippos.

And what happened after the 80s? The 90s. Recession. Back to real life. Heavy metal. Rap, renouncing of cocaine habits, All the bright poppiness went away and the palette became a lot darker. Quite honestly, the population became darker too, as an Afrocentric, global mentality spread into popular culture with albums such as Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet” and the emerging rap and rave culture movements. Life became more organic, more transcendent, less materialistic.soungarden-badmotorfinger I remember starting to hear about tantra, new tribalism, in the 90s due to my interests in industrial music. It was interesting, sexual and less plastic than the 80s, but also less romantic. Earth colors came back. Just think of the English Patient with it’s military hues and earthy shades of Bedouin dress in the middle east, not to mention Juliette Binoche’s gorgeous 1940s dresses and burgundy lipstick. Black became the new black again.

Graphics started to include tattoo art, dangerous thorny images and barbed wire. It was intense.

 

But what is to come? Now we are seeing a resurgence of the bright 80s graphics,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1dqOjT3fD8&t=7s

vaporwave by Silver Richards, youtube.

especially within the Internet contingent around vaporwave. Vaporwave kids, most born at least after 1990, try to re-imagine the 80s. The music of vaporwave sounds like mall music coming to us from a very old speaker, buried under dusty leaves of artificial potted plants. It’s the nostalgia for something never experienced that Frederik Jamesson talks about in his essays on postmodernism. Just as us 80s kids had nostalgia for a reconstructed 50s, thanks to movies and images, when Kenny Scharf loved to paint the Flintstones and we all started listening to rockabilly (and some people never quit listening to rockabilly. They remain in a perpetual 80-50s time relay).

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The vaporwave kids love youtube shows such as Dan Bell’s amazing Dead Malls series, urban archeology of some of the nations dying malls, and stories of their heydays. Malls were, after all, the culmination of 80s capitalism visualized in architecture, a sort of proto-Internet,which have not surprisingly been all but replaced by it. The Internet is rich with folklore and web sites about the 80s. Apparently it’s the furthest decade on the historical horizon that any millennial kid can make out if they squint hard. Prior to that it’s all just the “nineteen-earlies” as my son would say. Who knows where all this will lead? But for now, dust off your “I Love Lucy” t-shirt, switch to that Human League video, and pretend that irony is something new again.

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Duran Duran’s Decade, 1989

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Written by nattie

April 21, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Posted in music, video

It was just a mood I was in

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Germans and northern Europeans love the American west! I remember being on honeymoon at the grand canyon with a bunch of Danes. As we hiked down into the canyon, we met nothing but other Danes, and some Germans. Why is it so popular? I think it’s just different from anything they have there. I don’t know as much about Germany, and I know they have the alps, but Denmark is really flat. It’s also really moist wth rich soil. Most of the time it’s raining or cloudy. So the US southwest with dry weather and dry everything, and wide open spaces, is the opposite.

Wim Wenders made this great film in 1986. It’s called Paris, Texas. And what it is is this European dream of a trip to Texas. Since Wenders made it, the photography is really amazing. He captures the desert with all the wonder of a traveler who is truly in awe (and doesn’t just see it as a depressing landscape of broken down houses, scrappy yards and druggie drifters). His camera shots continually show us what is special about the American West, whether it is the desert itself, or the small towns with their bleached-out tapestry of buildings and alleys, saturated with sunshine, or the dry hills of Southern California suburbs like Orange County, way back in the 80s before they were developed. To me the rough, weathered, sunworn settings of these western places and the visual language of this film, is its true star. Of course this film features many real stars such as Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell looking like an older James Dean, and Aurore Clement looking beautiful.

Like David Lynch, Wim is a master at arranging music to go with a film. Sometimes, Wim’s soundtracks are better than the films themselves, (well ok, only with “Until the End of the World” because the soundtrack was great and the film dragged on too long). Anyway Ry Cooder’s music is as intergral to Paris, Texas as Angelo Badalementi’s is to Twin Peaks. Every scene opens to the slow twang of Cooder’s guitar, giving you a slow sleepy feeling mixed with a sense of curiosity and intrigue.

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Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders.

What is Paris, Texas about? It’s a Criterion Film! Who cares! Seriously, it’s so hard to talk about “aboutness” with a film this stylish. Let’s see, it’s about Stanton driving, Stockwell driving, Aurore Clement’s shoes, people smoking on airplanes, a cute and very thoughtful kid, everyone in cool color filters, exciting camera angles, gas station ice bins, random roads in Texas, go-go bars, alleys, graffiti, and other cool things. It doesn’t matter what Paris, Texas is about. OK, I’m kidding, because it’s actually got a plot – a really good one! But I won’t spoil it. But anyone who is a Wim Wenders fan, as I am, knows that.

This movie really gets me, mainly for the visuals. I could go on for days about the beauty of Wenders photography. He has the eye of an artist. But also it’s my perfect visualization of the small town dream of the big city. there are streets, with power lines and buildings just like in NJ, the beginnings of civilization, but beyond the streetlights it’s just all open road and long views, something you never see in NJ, or probably not in Arizona or Texas for too much longer.

Paris Texas is the German idealized fantasy of the American West. The cowboy dream. Empty roads with no traffic. Harry Dean Stanton wending his way through a landscape of Dry, mountainous terrain with no atmosphere holding you back from seeing forever. Kind of the opposite of Germany with it’s perpetual clouds. (OK, that’ stereotyping, but it’s my blog so I can stereotype all over the place if I want). And just as Germans love the ideal of rugged Americanism, we all loved Germans in the 80s. Like the billboard proudly proclaiming “I’m at my peak with Evian”, we consumed Northern European products and culture because we associated them with luxury – Lindt Chocolate, James bond, Fruzen Gladje, Haagen Das, Evian “water from the French Alps” and umlauts with everything, ja!

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I’m at my Peak, with Evian water from the French Alps. Her hair’s been doctored up a bit.

Written by nattie

April 6, 2018 at 11:42 pm

Posted in FILMS, Uncategorized

The Lost Energy of a City, 1980

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http://newyorksmash.com/7-places-to-have-a-romantic-moment-in-new-york-based-on-movie-scenes-we-love/

When NYC rooftops felt undiscovered!

There is this time period I like a lot. It’s roughly between 1980-1985. It’s not because it’s “the 80s” and there was big hair and Duran Duran and blah blah. I mean there WAS all that, and I love Duran Duran, but I have specific reasons for feeling nostalgic about this time in the early 80s. It was a time where things were changing. The cities, specifically, were changing. In the late 70s they were run down with crime and deterioration. Everybody hated this and films like “Taxi Driver” and “Klute” were very critical of the world of pimps and street hookers. But among all that danger, as is always the case, there was excitement. And in the 80s cities seemed to promise new possibilities. Maybe it was due to the presence of artists and gentrification. There was a new energy flowing through everything. The old tired look of bell-bottoms and long brown stringy hair was coming to an end. People were beginning to cut their hair short of shave it, and wear brightly colored makeup and clothes.

Just watch the movie Fame. I know you think it’s a silly “High School Musical” type movie, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about a bunch of hopeful young people in burned out NYC in 1980 trying to make it in the arts. “Fame” from 1980 is not a Disneyland, happy, predictable movie. There are really gritty scenes. A girl is forced to do porn. A student sits under a bridge with bums and trash everywhere. There are racial tensions. It’s unbelievable how scummy NYC was then. But there is hope.

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Making art in a Times Square wasteland

In a way it reminds me of my memories of downtown Long Beach, CA and seeing the old beatnik places, Faye’s Bistro on 7th, Acres of Books and lots of old bars that had been “cool” in the 60s but were just run down with old hippies, just before their rediscovery. That is the feeling I get from how the kids in “Fame” are experiencing NYC, going to working class bars and diners and Rocky Horror but experiencing them in a fresh new way, even though the gentrification scene of the early 80s had not quite hit yet. See the 1980 version of Fame. It’s totally worth it.

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Does this scene need another caption?

Annie Hall (1977) is another movie that gives me this sense of downtown NYC. The Ramones and Talking Heads were probably playing down at CBGB’s, but Alvie and Annie are not aware of this. But still there is that great sense that things are about to get “cooler”. The way Diane Keaton dresses in clothes borrowed from a man, pleated pants and hats, but looking every bit feminine and stylish, just breaking the rules. And that great scene where Woody and Diane Keaton are standing on the rooftops of the lower east side. I love that backdrop. It’s every rooftop I wanted to be on in my most exciting memories of L.A. and San Francisco in the early 80s, a time when I really wished to be in NYC and San Francisco was the closest thing. Now NYC rooftops are totally commercial.

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But back then you could still see the rundown apartments where people kept pigeons, the downtown sleazy city, which had seen so many scandals, but still stylish and cool even without every modern convenience. Later in the movie Woody tells Diane she’s got a “great apartment” and she does. In Klute (1971), I dont’ think Jane Fonda thought of her apartment as “great”. I think she just thought of it as a depressing inner city apartment that she had to get out of. It wasn’t until the late 70s that people started to value downtown apartments as romantic settings with historical details.

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Prince, appearing on his motorcycle out of the industrial ruin

Purple rain (1984) also carries this romanization of the blighted 70s city. It’s set in the midwestern city of minneapolis, as depressing as a rust-belt city can be, but that bleak backdrop, more abandoned buildings and water towers than the porn theaters of Times Square, still gives the movie it’s excitement and coolness and anticipation. Yet Purple Rain also has all those scenes in nature. “Purify Yourself in the Waters of Lake Minnetonka”, Prince says to Sheila E. in a scene that could have been a risque version of “On Golden Pond”.

I wish I had more pictures of this period. It’s something I mostly remember in my head, going to parties in downtown Los Angeles warehouses that had been converted with neon and weird murals, or nightclubs converted from tired old bowling alleys or chinese restaurants. In the early 80s, everything had potential and was being “converted”. Converted from some old tired use. There was such a feeling of energy in the air. It came out in so many different ways, punk, new wave, yuppie, downtown art scene, funk, rap. But all of these were just the effects. At the bottom of it all was this energy. Ultimately, that gentrification would lead to the yuppie era, and then to the 90s Generation X era, and probably several eras later to what we have now, the hipster downtowns such as Brooklyn or Portland. I won’t attempt to speak for the kids who live there, but from my point of view the energy has been lost. It is saturated. There is nothing else to discover. Every old US city block has been “rediscovered” and converted and made into a coffee shop or a tattoo parlor. Some of the gentrified use has become obsolete, like record stores. So what will be the next frontier of coolness? We will have to wait and see. I’ll know when the feeling is in the air!

Screenshot from 2018-02-17 20-33-03

Written by nattie

February 18, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Foodywood

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tacos

I dreamed that I was in L.A. with my son Torben. I was driving him in a car and taking him around to see the sites, the old L.A. sites, like Griffith Park, and the studios at Hollywood and Gower, and the old houses that used to belong to people like Marilyn Monroe or Joan Crawford. I was excited to be there and show my son the place that I grew up in and everything that made it special. We had spent the past 13 years (most of his childhood) in New Jersey. I wanted him to experience the feeling of celebrity nearby, that mysterious feeling you got when you drive through Beverly Hills or West Hollywood. Driving past these rich people’s houses you sensed that these were not ordinary rich people. They were famous. They were exciting with beauty and talent. If you saw them on the street, you’d recognize them and you’d be starstruck. In contrast, if you saw a millionaire on the street in New York, you’d never recognize him. Oh, he’d be a little more nicely dressed, but he made his money in a Wall St bank, or at Pepsi, and those, (yawn) are boring ways to get rich. As a child of middle class parents in L.A., I was always very envious of the rich who had things I didn’t have. But I was also a bit proud of them because they were cool too.

Also in my dream I also remember feeling the air, that special L.A. air that is mostly haze, but seems to contain all the memories of every movie that was filmed in an L.A. location. The memories of Lauren Bacall standing with Humprey Bogart in the bedroom in The Long Goodbye, or of Joan Crawford standing on the pier in Mildred Pierce, or Ingrid Bergman in Notorious, surrounded by flowers in Santa Monica, or Faye Dunaway drinking tea with Jack Nicholson. And it brought back memories of my own childhood, the Spanish colonial building where I attended school in 5th and 6th grades. Did the other students love to stand and gaze up at the bell tower with the thick plaster walls as much as I did? I don’t know but I loved it for a reason I didn’t understand yet, because it reminded me of Beverly Hills, because I was sharing the air with every famous person around me. That special, romantic haze, sun and jacarandas. That sounds romantic, but for anyone who has spent the first 27 years of their life growing up in L.A., it’s true.

Anyway we were about to drive around – Fountain to Santa Monica where it jogs over to the Sunset Strip, up Sunset and turn right at Gower and up to Hollywood blvd, and then back down Highland Ave all the way to Olympic and then out to Santa Monica. All the while the haze and the sun are there. But in my dream, Hollywood had been completely transformed. It was now just a normal town, like Denver or Seattle. A normal town in the West. All people were talking about was food and normal things, like paying off a Corolla. But food was what was on everyone’s mind – the fish tacos, the taco stands, the korean tacos, the Banh Mi, Pho. It was a foodie town and that’s all it had ever been. No one was hurrying to a casting call in high heels, no one was on location looking around for the production assistant who should have ordered sandwiches a long time ago, no producers were talking about networking over breakfast or drinks at El Coyote. The were talking about getting lunch but the reason was food. Was the queso good? Was it cheesy enough? Was it creamy? Did it have enough tomato? Did it have jalapeño? Were the taco shells crispy? Did they have some taste of shrimp baked in and or was there a hint of lime or were they shrimp lime crispy? Or shrimp lime crispy with cheese crisps? No one cared the Barbara Payton had once had a $5000/week contract with Warner but spent the last 20 years of her life as a prostitute turning cheap tricks on the Sunset Strip and drinking herself to death at the Pig & Whistle. It was no longer Hollywood, it was a big supermarket.

And then we went to this food court, that was supposed to be the best place in L.A.. They had everything – Mexican, pizza (not just any pizza, the BEST pizza with totally thin crispy crust and vodka sauce), they had craft beer, they had pizza with craft beer sauce, they had frozen yogurt in the flavor of red wine (somehow it was AMAZING with marshmallows), and greek yogurt with the flavor of lime and banana, or key lime cheesecake with the flavor of honey, and frozen yogurt bubble tea in taro or dragonfruit. You wanted to eat everything. You didn’t want to do anything but eat. And then, between bites and all the competing menus I noticed what it had been. It had been a club, about 30 years ago, where movie industry people came and hung out. It had been dark and smokey. You could order a bourbon or a beer or a martini. You sat at the bar and smoked, and talked about casting calls, about tryouts, hoping to be seen by an agent, hoping to keep yourself skinny. They had a menu, but half the stuff wasn’t available and no one ate anyway. They basically lived on nothing but coffee and cigarettes and dreams. The place was hazy, but no one really remembered it in a conscious way. No one could tell you what color the walls were or whether there was a pay phone behind the door or whether they had fried pickles. It wasn’t a concrete place but it symbolized dreams. I was trying to explain this to my son but it was kind of hard to make him understand with all the good smells, so we ate tacos and ice cream and I remember waking up kind of sad.

Mildred-1-500

Mildred Pierce, 1945

Written by nattie

September 30, 2017 at 4:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Goths

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“Goths” by the Mountain Goats (2017) is about growing up goth. Specifically it’s about growing up goth in Southern California in the 1980s. Musically, the album is about as opposite from intense as you can get – just goofy, lighthearted soft rock, a la steely dan, that you can do your work to. It’s a very ironic contrast to the dark, echo-ing music that we once wore as a tribute to our risky lives. As the lyrics to “Stench of the Unburied” go

And outside it’s ninety-two degrees
And KROQ is playing Siouxsie and the Banshees

And in “Wear Black”, an homage to the fashion that gaves us goths such a sense of identity:

Wear black when it’s light outside
Wear black when there’s no light
Wear black following the left hand path
Wear black but I get right

This describes a feeling I know so well, the power and shock-value of simply wearing black clothes, back in 80s California when, when Esprit and Camp Beverly Hills reigned and everything was bright and pastel surfer-preppy, but you dreamed of being in England where everything was dark and grey and there were old castles.

But Darnielle doesn’t just get the fashion of being a goth youth (though he gets it SO well). He describes the feeling of listening to the music – the bands like Bauhaus, the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Mission, and of course the Sisters of Mercy. L.A. goth was not just fashion. We knew our music very well! In “Rain in Soho”, to a Sisters of Mercy beat:

The river goes where the water flows
But no one knows when the Batcave closed
The river goes where the water flows
But no one knows when the Batcave closed

and in true Darnielle fashion, travelling back into the 16 year old goth kid’s mind when he finally spies that black-haired soul mate who he can suffer through life’s torture with (though also sort of ironic, like a joking parent watching the teens at the mall):

There’s a club where you’d like to go
You could meet someone who’s lost like you
Revel in the darkness like a pair of open graves
Fumble through the fog for a season or two

Of course we all have to grow up, don’t we? And this eventually happened to all goth children. Because no matter how talented, or art-damaged, or alienated you are, even if you believe, like when John Cale in Half Past France, that “people always bored me anyway”, you will one day have to wake up to the alarm and go to work:

Crusty boots in the corner of the closet
By the tackle box
Once proud shining silver buckles
Safe behind the normalcy locks

Baubles and bangles
A lost age
Still all aglow with the radiance of the stage

That’s who I was (that’s who I was)
This is who I am (this is who I am)
Work to pay down the interest
On the mortgage
Used to get paid by the gram

And that’s how it is. You used to be on a collision course with death. You were surely going to end up as a prostitute in some sleazy tenement in Times Square, with Harvey Keitel standing outside in a white hat. But maybe instead, you just gradually outgrew the lifestyle and now you have a desk job, sitting in a cube with “Goths” playing on your earbuds. No one understands you. No one ever did, but now it doesn’t even matter.

Instead everyone goes about their own lives, like on the cover of this album. Everyone wears black. Everyone dies their hair funny colors for no reason. But you are still the only one who really feels the music of Sisters of Mercy, and Nick Cave, Bowie in his Berlin period, and you remember Gene Loves Jezebel.

A few more songs that deserve mention are “Unicorn Tolerance”. The lyrics aren’t my favorite. He kind of admits that it was all for show:

And when the clouds do clear away
Get a momentary chance to see
The thing I’ve been trying to beat to death
The soft creature that I used to be
The better animal I used to be

But that’s not how I feel! I still like bats better than unicorns. But the song is just so darn cute that you have to sing along (OK so maybe I’m not that goth either).

Shelved is great too. The last verse is what I really love because the music sounds like New Order but he’s singing about getting a job for a software company:

Maybe dad is right
I’m still young
And I can write C++ just as good as anyone
I know this guy at Lucasarts
He says they’re looking for hands
In fifteen years I’ll be throwing back beers
With my feet in the sand

So life starts out a wild ride, and ends up slowing down, like in Shelved:

The ride’s over
I know
But I’m not ready to go

But with albums like this to listen to, the aftermath does not have to be quite so boring.

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Written by nattie

July 21, 2017 at 1:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Wearing Black – Punk, Mourning, and Victorian Manners

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I started a blog where I could complain about men on dating sites, but now I’m off all dating sites, and besides that seemed negative, so I will go back to posting random thoughts.

The combination of “victorian” and “punk” is well accepted. After all there is steampunk, and there is that Fall song about the Victorian Child. I’ll post the video, but I won’t post a picture of steampunk, because there are a million of those.

Lately I was thinking about punk, and goth, and Victorian culture, and modern culture. For one thing, people started wearing a lot of black in the 1980s thanks to punk. The hippies never wore black, nor did the yuppies. It was the punks, and the goths who started that. But you’d never know that today, because most themed movies, web sites, etc describe the 80s as a time of really bright clothes. But for some of us, it was a decade to start wearing black, perhaps as a contrast to all that Miami Vice brightness. I think the the beatniks did the same thing in the 50s.

So goths of the 80s wore black, and beatniks of the 50s. And then after the grunge era of the 90s everyone started wearing black, and of course we all do now.

But was wearing black really so rare before the last few decades of the 20th century? And if so, why? I think it was. I’ve been reading the 2nd edition of Emily Post’s etiquette book, from 1922, and she has an entire chapter on the subject of wearing black. It’s called “Funerals”. That’s when it hit me. Wearing black had a special place up until the mid 20th century. It was reserved for funerals! And I just thought of it as a good basic color that went with everything. But most people did not see it that way in 1922:

 Among those who come to the house there is sure to be a woman friend of the family whose taste and method of expenditure is similar to theirs. She looks through the clothes they have, to see if there is not a black dress or suit that can be used, and makes a list of only the necessary articles which will have to be procured.

Not that many women even had black clothes. They had to have them specially made for the occasion of mourning. Ms. Post continues:

Or the mourning departments of the big stores and specialty shops are always willing to send a selection on approval, so that a choice can be made by the family in the privacy of their own rooms.

A mourning department in a store! I’d never heard of such a thing. Back in 1922 black was probably a really powerful and rare color to wear. It meant death. It was a color you did not mess with. And it was rarely worn. I guess that is why the greasers and the beatniks adopted it in the 1950s, and the punks  and goths in the 1980s. Black was the color people always stayed away from, and countercultural groups wanted that power.

Black also had sexual appeal. In her chapter, The Very Young Widow, Ms. Post acknowledges the desirability of a young woman in black:

The young widow should wear deep crepe for a year and then lighter mourning for six months and second mourning for six months longer. There is nothing more utterly captivating than a sweet young face under a widow’s veil, and it is not to be wondered at that her own loneliness and need of sympathy, combined with all that is appealing to sympathy in a man, results in the healing of her heart. She should, however, never remain in mourning for her first husband after she has decided she can be consoled by a second.

There is no reason why a woman (or a man) should not find such consolation, but she should keep the intruding attraction away from her thoughts until the year of respect is up, after which she is free to put on colors and make happier plans.

I mean that sounds like something Nick Cave himself would write, or Lydia Lunch in a more innocent mood.

Incidentally, Ms. Post, who always advised against drawing attention to oneself,  did not approve of wearing fancy black clothes:

Fancy clothes in mourning are always offenses against good taste, because as the word implies, a person is in mourning. To have the impression of “fashion” dominant is contrary to the purpose of somber dress; it is a costume for the spirit, a covering for the visible body of one whose soul seeks the background. Nothing can be in worse taste than crepe which is gathered and ruched and puffed and pleated and made into waterfalls, and imitation ostrich feathers as a garnishing for a hat. The more absolutely plain, the more appropriate and dignified is the mourning dress. A “long veil” is a shade pulled down—a protection—it should never be a flaunting arrangement to arrest the amazed attention of the passerby.

“A Shade pulled down”. That sums up the serious of wearing black in past times. It had one meaning only, and that was death. Now black is just a practical color that does not get dirty in snow and always looks sharp. Today, it has been stripped of it’s meaning of death and  mourning.

dark_victorian_goth_stock_002_by_froweminahildstock

But what will the punks and goths, who want to connect with the eternal and the power of death, wear now that everyone is wearing black?

How about wearing white?

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Written by nattie

September 14, 2016 at 1:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Random Post

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Today I will just write a post with no theme. I don’t know why you always need an agenda when you write, so I will write about anything. I have no idea why my 11 year old daughter is picky about lunch snacks. She never likes the chips I buy, whether it’s corn chips, corn chips with a “hint of lime”, potato chips, cheezits, or even pretzels. She just does not want them. And then she complains that I do not pack her a “crunchy snack”. WEll I’M TRYING. So today I popped some microwave popcorn and just gave her some of it. I think she was happy.

A post about nothing should also have a picture, so here is one. This seems like as good a picture as any. Disney girl with Alligator from Haunted Mansion. I may replace it with a picture of something else at any time.

And something I am really angry about. Why do old people have to share a blood supply wtth young people? I mean, old people need to just GET OVER THEMSELVES. Like your time comes, and then your number’s up. Is it really necessary to try to live to 100 or longer and especially by taking some younger person’s blood? Just go out and leave the earth to some younger people without making it totally crowded with your old-ass selves. I guess this upsets me because I live in NJ and it’s the most populated state in the nation, so crowds are part of my daily experience.

I’m going to California tomorrow. I have a lot of plans to see family, like every day. Hopefully we will try some good Mexican food too. Among other things we are going to Disneyland, well that is, if the Haunted Mansion is open. A friend told me that Disney is getting rid of all images of alligators in their theme parks, which means that they are changing (sob) that great picture of the girl with the pink parasol in the haunted mansion, on a tightrope with an alligator at her feet. I can’t believe they are doing this. Seriously, grow some balls Disney. It’s sad that little boy got eaten by an alligator. It really is tragic, but that is totally superstitious and lame. On the other hand I can sort of understand it. I would probably do the same thing in my home if I had a pet alligator and it ate a kid.

Sothis is the end of my post about nothing, which has actually been about several things.

Written by nattie

July 8, 2016 at 5:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized