Day 4. Or 5. Don’t tell me I’ve lost count already…

I am exhausted. I have a horrible cold today and I stayed home sick, but have of course been doing plenty of work, while updating Beauty Dummy’s social media (did you hear about my new blog with Hannah Faulkner?!) and browsing Twitter for the latest fucked up shit Trump and his demons have enacted. Let’s just say I don’t feel powerful. 

I marched on Saturday in New York and while there was an amazing turn out all over the world I couldn’t help but think of the folks the protest largely ignored: women of color, black lives, trans lives… And then I thought about how the whole protest would probably just be ignored by those in power. It’s not enough. 

Lately it’s felt like the whole world is shouting into the void. 

Another thing that’s bothering me is that underneath all my external fears I am still worried, as always, about my own self worth, my own happiness, and my own success. On bad days it can feel like my doubt is ping-ponging, one moment aimed at myself, and the next at everything around me, the world, the future, the powers that be.

At times I honestly feel like getting out of bed in the morning is my one-woman show. Written by me, performed by me, rehearsed for years. Just not that funny.

But I am motivated. I’m overwhelmed by my own ambition. There’s so much I want to do, and there’s so much I am doing, but it isn’t done, and it isn’t moving fast enough, and I’m afraid I’m not working hard enough, or that I’m working too hard.

But then I think, what a luxury to get to be ambitious. What a privilege to have any opportunities at all. I should be grateful to be a runner in this race, and not in the one for survival. 

So what do we do then? How do we come together and fight and still have energy to devote ourselves to ourselves and our dreams? I don’t know. 

Maybe I just need a coffee. And a DayQuil, and a hot bath, and a different president, and some soup, and my mom’s HBO Go password, and for the world to change, and 12 more hours in each day. I’m gonna go get some of these things and think about this, and I’ll be in touch. 

In the meantime if it could fucking stop raining that’d be great. 

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HALLOWEEN HORROR: TRUE CRIME EDITION 

HALLOWEEN HORROR: TRUE CRIME EDITION 

Content warning: this post discusses murder, sexual assault and other violent crimes that may be disturbing or triggering to some. 

Listen up, noobs! While you’re busy watching Night of the Living Nightmare of the Lambs again this Halloween, you’re missing out on the real scary shit. I’m talkin about the stuff that gives me horrible, realistic nightmares about being kidnapped and murdered on an almost nightly basis and the reason I’m paranoid about living alone….say it with me—TRUE CRIME.

That’s right. The subgenre of documentary film and tv dedicated to kidnappings, murders, cults, and all the other fucked up shit that humans are capable of. But wait! If this stuff gives me nightmares, then why do I love it? Well, first of all, the nightmares can’t be blamed on true crime entirely—I’m sure the massive dog piles of food I eat at 11pm every night have something to do with that. Aside from that, I’m not really sure! But I figure it can be attributed to a few factors:

-I love solving mysteries. I dig logic puzzles, riddles and other trickery that require me to put pieces together in a productive way to find a solution. This is also why I make a great leader in an office setting and deserve a raise.

-Violent criminals scare me and I like to see them get caught. I am not a violent person. The only time I’ve ever really hit someone was when I headbutted a friend in the face during a really bad acid trip/drinking binge combo five years ago and I wanted to kill myself afterward. People who hurt other people fucking suck and I like to see that shit handled. 

-Violent criminals fascinate me because they are so wildly irrational and in addition to being an armchair investigator and armchair forensic scientist, I am also an armchair psychiatrist. One of my favorite pastimes is watching crime documentaries and guessing which personality disorders the perp is afflicted by. I have so many skills and I’m fun to hang out with. 

-I find it cathartic to externalize my anxieties about death, injury, loneliness, the dark and other people in general by observing my worst nightmares. It also puts my stupid, nonsense worries in perspective by reminding me that I’m living in an ocean of psychopaths so it might not be the worst thing in the WORLD that no one laughed at my joke earlier. 

-The justice system can’t be trusted either and I want to stay woke. A lot of the time these are stories where initial investigation was handled poorly, tainted or deeply biased in some way. And that’s not even mentioning the docs that surround a case where a specific person was unfairly targeted or even framed with no honor of presumed innocence to begin with.

Yes, true crime is ethically slippery. Some argue that it makes a spectacle of the victim and what happened to them. I can’t completely disagree with that. I do think, for what it’s worth, that most true crime fans watch out of concern, fascination and the desire to be in-the-know, and not as just superficial entertainment. Does that make it ok? I don’t know man I just live here!

For those who do choose to watch, I encourage you to think critically about the biases not only in the storytelling but also in the case itself. I never take a documentary’s conclusion at face value, and I don’t think you should either. No one ever knows for sure what really happened, and no one is qualified to make that decision except the jury. And even they get it wrong sometimes. So I’m just saying, maybe don’t start a Burke Ramsey Did It blog or become BFFs with Amanda Knox just because you saw some TV show. That’s all I’m saying! 

But by all means, watch the hell out of that shit. 

Anyway, without further ado…

ALL THE BEST TRUE CRIME I CAN THINK OF IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER 

Forensic Files


Aka the longest running true crime series of all time! At least they used to say that. I don’t know if it’s still true. I have seen almost every episode of Forensic Files. Peter Thomas the God narrates as experts in ballistics, DNA, blood spatter, and pretty much anything you can think of track down an obviously STUPID person who committed a heinous crime and left evidence behind. Because of the science, I feel confident they usually catch the right person, and that helps me sleep at night. The reenactments can be really fuckin bad but who doesn’t love that?

Making a Murderer


Almost every millennial alive has to have seen this by now, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. The Netflix original series follows the case against Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach, all the holes in the prosecutors’ argument and the fucked up police work of the Manitowoc County cops, and how that may have led to one (or more!) wrongful convictions. This documentary sheds light on the rampant abuse of power in our justice system and how folks of low income and poor education are disadvantaged and manipulated. Side note: What happened to Steven Avery happens to people of color every day so maybe Netflix can make a doc about that next #blacklivesmatter

The Jinx


Robert Durst! Now there’s a character for ya. Basically this series is about a (possible mentally ill) super super rich dude who may have killed his wife and two other people (or was it 3?) in the wild ride that’s been his life. This series is the flip side of Making a Murderer: when you’re rich, no matter how guilty, your lawyers can work all KINDS of magic. This show is riveting as hell and also happens to have one of the greatest television endings of…all time, probably. 

Cropsey


Legend has it a child killer named CROPSEY lived in the woods somewhere in New York and would take kids who were bad….it was essentially just boogeyman lore, but these documentarians wanted to see if it held any truth in its origins. In their investigation, they come across the story of Andre Rand, a convicted kidnapper. There’s a lot of fucked up details in this doc, the worst of which in my opinion is the archival footage of the deplorable mental asylum at which Rand was a patient. You remember in American Horror Story season 2 when Sara Paulson’s character tries to film an exposé of the conditions at Briarcliff? This footage is so much like that I believe they based the AHS storyline on it. I actually recommend fast forwarding through that part.

Killer Legends


When you’re done with Cropsey you can hop on this one by the same director. It tells the true stories that inspired famous urban legends. “The Hookman,” “The Candy Man,” “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs,” and “The Killer Clown.” Recognize any of these? This Halloween, the story of “The Candy Man” is especially relevant since, as you’ll find out, the urban legend of the poisoned Halloween candy went a little different IRL than we were told…

OJ Made in America


This colossal five-part 30 for 30 special has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And that’s because it’s got EVERYTHING. Not only is it chock full of the drama, gore and media frenzy the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman are infamous for, but it goes above and beyond to tell the story of OJ Before The Murders–a man my generation never really knew. It also explores in depth the social climate both nationally and in LA from when OJ was born all the way to the 90s, and how being black shaped, or didn’t shape, his identity as a celebrity. This context for the crimes is essential to put into perspective the divisive national reaction to the tragedies. I’m still in the middle of this one, but I can’t wait to finish it. (Note: This documentary contains disturbing crime scene photos and video footage of police brutality. All the docs on this list contain graphic images to a degree, but I felt the need to mention this one specifically because I was extra affected by it.)

30 for 30: The Price of Gold 


This one isn’t a murder, but it’s one of my favorite stories ever: Tonya Harding vs Nancy Kerrigan. This crime is pretty famous, so I think you know how it goes. But what I love about this documentary is its insight into Tonya’s childhood struggles, her abusive mom, the cycle of abuse that continued into her adult life, and the role it played in the crime itself. Y’all, I just love figure skating. The outfits are so good. And skaters are so god damn graceful. So you can imagine why the world couldn’t help but gawk when an ice princess basically turned into a mob boss before their eyes. Fascinating. Just fascinating. Oh, and just a reminder, this happened TWO WEEKS after the OJ murders. Which I’m pretty sure was the same month I fell and scraped my knee in the parking lot of my family’s town house. And I like, have a scar from that. The summer of ’94 was so crazy!

Team Foxcatcher


You tired of delusional athletes yet? No? Great! This one is about John du Pont, just your average kajillionnaire with a few mental illnesses. He was so obsessed with wrestling and other olympic sports that he decided to open a training center/compound dedicated to athletic training. Was he actually an athlete? Nope not really. He was just a rich guy with delusions of grandeur. Delusions that ended up driving him to…you guessed it…a murder. Of husband, father and actual athlete Dave Shultz. It’s a sad story that serves as a reminder that rich charming people are scary and can’t be trusted. At least that’s what I gathered from it. 

Crimes of the Century


The DC snipers, the Unabomber, Waco, Oklahoma City and more…this miniseries takes you back in time to the crimes that rocked the 20th Century. I was either not alive or in single digits when all of the occurred so it was good to get the details. These don’t follow the typical true crime model of the Sneaky Scary Mystery You’ve Never Heard Of. They’re more the Giant Crisis Covered Ceaselessly by the Media variety. Everyone should know about them, so worth a watch. 

Crazy Love


If you’re considering being in a relationship, this documentary will change your mind! It’s about a woman whose psycho boyfriend hired men to throw lye in her face when she least expected it, causing permanent scarring and blindness. Why would he do such a thing? Well, she didn’t want to be with him anymore. What was he supposed to do, just move on with his life like a normal person and not disfigure this poor woman? C’mon. The twist, of course, is that the two get back together. How, why, and the circumstances of which I will let you find out on your own. 

Amanda Knox


This documentary, released on Netflix last month, is more about the media sensationalism and unfair trial that led to Amanda Knox’s and Raffaele Sollicito’s stints in Italian prison than it is about about the murder of Meredith Kercher. Maybe you remember this case – I was a freshman in college at the time when Amanda and Meredith, also in college, were studying abroad in Perugia, Italy. When Meredith was murdered, all fingers pointed to Amanda as the killer. But why? Well, there were a lot of factors at play. An obsessed DA, shoddy police investigation, and some seriously irresponsible journalism…just to name a few. The documentary lets Amanda tell her story, from the time of the murder through her trial, jail time, acquittal, retrial and appeal, and shows just how terrifying and helpless it feels to be presumed guilty by the entire world. Was she completely innocent of any and all crimes relating to the murder of Meredith Kercher? I mean, who’s to say?! Like Making a Murderer, this documentary seems to be less about proving someone’s total innocence than it is about the fairness of the case, so don’t get too carried away. I will say, it sure is a lot scarier of a story if she didn’t do it. Because then it could happen to any of us.  

The Case of JonBenet Ramsey


The JonBenet case is one of the most famous cold cases certainly of my lifetime, but possibly of ALL time. You must remember her pretty face plastered on the cover of every National Enquirer in the late 90s and beyond, but if you don’t know what happened, 6 year old JonBenet was murdered under some seriously suspicious circumstances on the day after Christmas in 1996, and it really, really looked like the parents were involved. But they were never charged, and the case was never solved. By the end of Part 1 of this two-part CBS documentary, it’s clear who the producers believe is the murderer, and their argument is pretty convincing. Do I believe this documentary is the highest form of journalism? No. While it features no shortage of expert criminologists, it’s so heavily produced and often corny that at times I was embarrassed for the hosts. Aside from the wacky bullshit factor, this is still the best documentary I’ve seen on the case. This is one of the most interesting murders I know of, and I really want it to be solved. But after watching this, that feels like kind of a longshot. 

The Imposter


This is far and away one of my favorite true crime documentaries. The story is so crazy I don’t even want to tell you what happens. Without saying too much, a Texas family’s son goes missing, and years later he returns…but is it really him? This doc will give you chills at what people’s brains are capable of, and leave you speculating HARD on what really happened to poor Nicholas Barclay in 1994. I know I have a theory. Share yours with me when you’re done. 

If you’re not already too freaked out, you should have your Halloween weekend fully planned by now. Just add Chinese food, keep wikipedia open on your phone, and prepare to solve some freakin’ crimes. But beware, the true crime obsession is a slippery slope. And you may never sleep again. 

Shout Out To Resilience —Just Some Thoughts From a Whiny New Yorker

It was a typical September night in New York, chilly-ish and humid as hell, and I was returning home around 11:30. I’d spent my evening making notes on a pilot, practicing improv and eating a large pile of greasy onion rings my body hardly even craved, let alone needed in the slightest. I was tired, and I had to get up in just a few hours for an early meeting at work.

I was already in NO MOOD to take bullshit from anyone. And then, not five feet from my doorway, a figure scurried quickly across my shoes and brushed against my bare ankles. That’s right. A rat. A rat touched my skin. Before I could realize what I was doing, I jumped in the air and yelped like a Looney Tune who’d be stuck with a hot poker. A parody of a Woman In New York.

Perhaps it was my exhaustion or the onion rings flaring up, but as I was washing the possible (likely) plague off my skin, all the drawbacks of the city started getting to me. For most of my time here, though it’s been stressful, I’ve shrugged off things like insane rents, rodent corpses and #commuterproblems as merely a price to pay for living in such an exciting place. I figured soon enough the stress would pay off and it would all be worth it. Typical transplant delusion.

Now I’m in year five, working a day job and several unpaid side hustles, sometimes wondering if the other shoe is ever going to drop. I know it will, I tell myself, if I just keep working hard and don’t quit. Eventually I’ll succeed, and get to be one of those happy New Yorkers (they exist, right?) who don’t have to run into a random man on their block holding a giant pet snake, or worry about getting crickets thrown on them on the D train. Maybe things like this and this will stop happening, and I won’t be so angry at this place and everyone in it. Maybe, in the meantime, I should stop reading Gothamist (but I can’t. I can’t stop.)

I know, I know. I complain about my life as a ~creative in NY~…but I’m aware I don’t have it that bad. I’m a white girl with a job, her own apartment, two cats and a few friends. I eat, like, 4 meals a day. And I have cable, for Christ’s sake! It’s not convenient, but no one is making me live here. I made a choice. Maybe it’ll pay off, maybe it won’t. The grass is always greener, ain’t it?

But I sure do love this place. I love the diversity, the skyline, the opportunity. The feeling that your life could change with the turn of a street corner. The people. Our spirit and resilience when we are targeted by terror and face that risk every day. The people.

I also love North Carolina, where I’m from. I love it in spite of Pat McCrory’s hateful ass and HB2 and the oh-so-many laws against queer rights and black rights and reproductive rights. In spite of the ignorance and anger and violence towards protestors in the wake of the murder of Keith Scott.

I have family there. I have friends there. I grew up there.

But injustice, well, that’s everywhere in this country. Even your so-called “blue state” is full of “blue lives” who will murder someone for being black. It’s really happening. And it’s happening over and over and over again. I count my privileges every day.

I stand in solidarity with black people in my home state and everywhere fighting for their right to live. I stand in solidarity with New York as we continue grinding in the face of the threat of violence toward our city.

I left North Carolina, and I may even leave New York someday. But both places are forever dear to my heart. I even think I love America, as hard as it is to do. It just has so much potential, you know? Like an absent father who keeps promising to show up. And I’ll keep coming out to the doorstep, hoping for things to turn around. It’s why I’m not writing in “Beyoncé” on the presidential ballot. That, and I’m not a fucking idiot.

I admire those who continue to show up, who aren’t just waiting but speaking out, sharing their influence, shouting in the streets and refusing to take shit from this broken system. I admire those who thrive on ambition, who will stop at nothing to achieve their dreams, even when it seems like the world is set up to make them fail. I also admire those who have failed, those who are tired, those who don’t know where they’re going or can’t take anymore. We are only human.

I respect you and I am here for you if you ever need.

To all my friends, everywhere, look out for one another and take care of yourselves.

100 Things White, Straight Men Can Do With Their Time Instead of Starting Ignorant Arguments

Spaghetti Man

Hey there white, straight male. Things are getting pretty crazy for you these days, huh? It seems like everywhere you turn people are mad at your kind for something. Sometimes it’s for raping women and getting away with it, sometimes it’s for killing innocent black people and getting away with it, sometimes it’s for upholding the system that allows for everyone but those like you to have their lives as they know it taken from them. I mean, where will it end?

I get it. You didn’t create the world we live in. Must be tough for you to just sit back and listen to all these people express their outrage at the Straight White Man for killing their black brothers and sisters, for putting guns in the hands of homophobes, for telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies, raping them, and then doing nothing when they come forward. I mean, they’re talking about you, right? And they don’t even know you. That must be why you’re so upset.

Maybe you’re upset because you voted for Bernie and you hate that people don’t see you as “one of the good guys.” Maybe you want to learn more about inequality but instead of educating yourself you see that as the burden of the oppressed. Maybe you’re so blinded by your own privilege that you can’t help but give the benefit of the doubt to a system that is so far beyond it. Or maybe you really are, deep down, so rooted in your own weakness and hatred that you don’t even believe in the right for black people, queer people, women and those that intersect to be as free, as alive as you.

I don’t know. I don’t know what it is exactly that fuels you to be so loud, so indignant, such horrible listeners when shit hits the fan. I imagine one might be a devil’s advocate if they were the child of the devil himself. But I really don’t know. I tend to keep my distance from those of you who refuse to stop talking, refuse to stop inserting your feelings where they don’t belong. I block you from my social media and from my life. But sadly, I see people I care about having to engage with you every day. I feel for them, because we shouldn’t have to shield ourselves from your ignorance, your hatred, your entitlement, your ego that compels you to share your opinion like it’s some heroic act when literally no one even asked you. You should just know when to stop talking.

The thing that baffles me most about all of this is you are the most privileged group of people on the planet. If you don’t want to help our causes, there are so many other things you could do with your day besides clog up our timelines with bullshit. All I can deduce here is that you just can’t think of any. So, I’ve decided to help you.

100 Things White, Straight Men Can Do With Their Time Instead of Starting Ignorant Arguments

  1. Shave your face
  2. Play ultimate frisbee
  3. Watch an action movie! I think a new Independence Day just came out or something but I really…I really don’t know.  
  4. Take yourself out to a nice dinner for one, or bring a date. Or bring a friend. No homo!
  5. Go to a strip club
  6. Work on your physique. For all the time you spend criticizing women’s bodies, you should all be in perfect shape.
  7. Travel to another country. Literally any country. Even North Korea! Just don’t steal a poster.
  8. Sleep for 10 hours a night and show up late to work without getting fired
  9. In fact, go job hunting for any of the thousands of opportunities out there for you to work with other people just like you turning money into more money
  10. Go actual hunting
  11. Smoke marijuana in the comfort of your own home
  12. Smoke marijuana on the street where it isn’t legal and get a slap on the wrist
  13. Adopt a dog
  14. Go to the beach
  15. Enjoy a leisurely bike ride
  16. Enjoy a Coca Cola
  17. Have someone take a picture of you in hiking gear standing in front of a mountain
  18. Binge-watch something. I can recommend so many things. Have you ever seen House of Cards? Have you ever seen The Sopranos? Have you ever seen Mad Men? They’re all wonderfully written shows about white men abusing their power that I think you’d find very relatable.
  19. Get on ancestry.com and find out which European countries your great great grandparents are from!!!!!
  20. Buy a plant
  21. Call your mother
  22. Hydrate
  23. Take your vitamins
  24. Barbecue something
  25. Watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (it actually is a great show)
  26. Get a journal. I find it really helps me when I’m feeling like an anxious entitled baby to write my thoughts somewhere no one will ever see them.
  27. Pumice your calluses
  28. Go condom shopping. There’s no excuse for running out of condoms.
  29. Skiing
  30. Water skiing
  31. Jet skiing
  32. Wakeboarding
  33. Surfing
  34. Fishing
  35. Sailing
  36. Powerboating
  37. Get really drunk and fight another annoying white guy
  38. Attempt to flirt with a girl without harassing her. This is a tough challenge for you but I just know you can do it.
  39. Shop for clothes. J. Crew is having a sale, probably. If that’s not your thing, try REI. Target always has great prices. And you can usually find old “No Fear” t-shirts in the bins at Goodwill.
  40. Walk around your neighborhood at night wearing a hoodie.
  41. Buy cigarettes
  42. Just get a hot tub for like, no reason
  43. Have children!
  44. Adopt children!
  45. Get a vasectomy!
  46. Get tested for STDs
  47. Shoplift something
  48. Stroll confidently down a dark alley
  49. Go to a brewery, or a beer hall, or a gastropub. I don’t know the difference between these things.
  50. Learn a new language
  51. Apply for a loan
  52. Have a house party
  53. Get an adult coloring book. No one has to know.
  54. Have a game night with your girlfriend and her best friend and her boyfriend and play Cards Against Humanity and giggle your hearts out at offensive things that people would otherwise find extremely problematic
  55. Clean out your closet
  56. Clip your fingernails
  57. Get a massage
  58. Enjoy different ethnic foods and over-congratulate yourself when you pronounce a menu item correctly
  59. Gentrify something
  60. Change your hair. The man-bun’s getting kind of old.
  61. Watch a historical film that takes place in an African country but stars people who look like you so you feel more comfortable
  62. Masturbate
  63. Have consensual sex
  64. Have a consensual threesome!
  65. Have a consensual orgy!!!
  66. Try some butt stuff, on your end this time. You know you’ve been wanting to do it and there are plenty of women out there who would love to touch your butthole. Really.
  67. Drive around with a broken taillight
  68. Change lanes without signaling
  69. Get wild and grab a cop’s gun. He’ll safely disarm you and you’ll spend a couple nights in jail but everyone will know you as a badass from then on.
  70. Get really into graffiti
  71. Hitchhike across the country
  72. Play that game where you try to name all the states and their capitals
  73. Hit up the 7/11 for a Coors tallboy and just spend the afternoon playin video games
  74. Golf
  75. Bowling
  76. Watch sports on the tube
  77. Play fantasy sports with your bros
  78. Obsess over male athlete’s physical characteristics without even noticing how homoerotic it is
  79. Learn to skateboard. If you already know how, skateboard.
  80. Swipe on Tinder for hours and hours and hours until you can’t remember what your standards are or why you thought you ever wanted to date in the first place
  81. Call a phone sex line
  82. Monster Truck Rally
  83. Look at old pictures and get really nostalgic for the Good Times aka Undergrad With The Bros
  84. Go be the weird lonely guy at a bar
  85. Get really into your dental hygiene. You really can never be too into dental hygiene.
  86. Hit up the aquarium
  87. Stare at a wall
  88. Check your horoscope
  89. Meditate
  90. If you pray, pray
  91. If you don’t pray, try praying. Hey, it’s worth a shot.
  92. Go for a run
  93. Cook a meal for someone you care about
  94. Sing a song
  95. Learn an instrument
  96. Read. Read the news. Read a novel. Read a memoir. Read a comic book. Read the white privilege knapsack.
  97. Call that one black friend or that gay cousin you keep bringing up and ask them how they’ve been feeling lately. Then just listen.
  98. Look inward. Dare to be critical of your role in the world. Dare to be critical of the hand that feeds.
  99. Be still.
  100. And if and when you’re ready to contribute something productive, speak up.

13 Horror Movies to Watch and Talk Shit About This Halloween

13 Horror Movies to Watch and Talk Shit About This Halloween

Every October it’s tradition that I attempt to watch one horror movie for every night in the month. And every year, this one included, I make it about halfway down the list. I really tried to do better, but like most people I’m limited to after-work hours and weekends, and it turns out it’s pretty hard to watch a movie every single day. I did my best.

Because I was limited what I could stream on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon, find on demand, or purchase using someone else’s itunes account, not every movie I watched had excellent ratings. In my house, we’ve established a general rule is that if the rating on Rotten Tomatoes is over 70%, then the movie is worth watching. If it’s free AND we’ve heard of it, you can’t really ask for much more than that.

Here are the 13 horror movies I watched this month. Some great, some not so great, all fun to talk during.

1. The Babadook, 2014 (Rating 98%) Ok, this one is kind of cheating because technically I watched it in September when James and I were in the Catskills. If you can find one, a log cabin in the woods is the perfect setting to watch this Australian movie about an exhausted single mother and her son who are both struggling emotionally to deal with their shitty lives (and each other) so much that they become haunted by a mysterious children’s book (or is it?) This movie is a nice combo of jump scares, suspense and psychological thrills. The scariest part, though, was after the movie ended, when James woke me up in the middle of the night by saying “Baba…dook…dook…dook” in his sleep. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen to you. The Babadook is currently on Netflix

2. 28 Days Later, 2003 (Rating 87%)I first saw 28 Days Later in ninth grade and proclaimed it “the scariest movie I’d ever seen.” This wasn’t saying much as I was only 14, but it wasn’t saying nothing either as at the time I was  very much horror-obsessed. I’d pretty much been raised on the John Carpenter Halloween films and had seen every installment of the Friday the 13th franchise by the time I was 8 years old. I was even familiar with zombie movies, but they were the slow, dragging Night of the Living Dead variety and not the animalistic, spitting/growling/running faster than humanly possible breed you see in this movie. Watching it now, I’m way more desensitized to the whole zombie thing (thanks, better part of the last decade) so it hardly feels as shocking as it did at the time. But it’s still pretty darn intense. And the whole Cillian Murphy bewitching eyes/luscious lips combo doesn’t hurt either. 28 Days Later is currently on Netflix.

3. Scream, 1996 (Rating 78%)This trilogy is classic as fuck, which is why they make up three of the movies on my list. Again, they were films I hadn’t seen since the days I used to crush Blockbuster VHS. Re-watching them today, I was legitimately confused that something with so many levels of irony could have ever been parodied as much as it was. But what do you expect from the Wayans brothers, I guess? Scream is so meta that of course it’s Wes Craven, although maybe you didn’t know he was the man behind it all (I didn’t either until recently). If you haven’t watched them recently, give them a revisit. At least the first one, if for no other reason than to watch Rose McGowan be perfect, even while being bisected. She should really be on this poster.

4. Scream 2, 1997 (81%)

 A killer is haunting your fav teens again, but this time – they’re in college! AND SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR IS HERE. And a movie called Stab just came out about the murders in the first Scream movie. And maybe that movie is inspiring the current murderer?! What do we do?? I guess we just lol in awe that Portia de Rossi is in this movie and we never knew!

5. Scream 3, 2000 (36%)
This one is shittier than the others, but is still fun and goofy. Plus, my all-time love Parker Posey has a main role as the actress that plays Gale Weathers in the on-screen movie version of the movie. How could I not at least give it a chance? That, and sometimes you just have to watch a movie to remember what the year 2000 looked like. Wow, and we thought we were so advanced.
All three Scream movies are currently on Netflix. 

6. Rob Zombie’s Halloween, 2007 (25%)

Fuck this movie. Obviously since it had terrible reviews anyway I shouldn’t have expected to enjoy it. But I was drinking and Hannah was bleaching Reid’s hair in the kitchen so it’s possible I was affected by the fumes. Rob Zombie’s Halloween is a bastardization of the original that focuses more on grotesque, violent images, and fucked up drama than anything truly scary or even suspenseful. The whole time I was like “I just want everyone in this movie to die,” except during the painfully long, gratuitous rape scene, when I myself wanted to die. I think I watched this on Amazon Prime, but it doesn’t really matter.

7. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare1994 (77%)
If you’ve already seen Scream and the original Nightmare on Elm Street, you know what Wes Craven is about. In the same vein, New Nightmare plays with the blurred lines between reality, fiction, and the world in our dreams. While this movie is hilariously dated and ridiculous, I could see how it may have been somewhat groundbreaking (no pun intended – there’s an earthquake in the film!) in pre-Scream days as a self-referential horror. Heather Langenkamp plays herself, as the actress who starred in the original Nightmare, trying to fight off Freddie Kruger – who’s escaped from the movie world and is haunting her and her son IN REAL LIFE! It’s definitely got some layers to it, and almost enough camp to excuse the melodrama/all the pickled oak in that damn house. New Nightmare is currently on Netflix.

8. It Follows, 2015 (96%)
Widely regarded the best horror movie of the year/in fucking ever, It Follows is the story of a teen who contracts a SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED HAUNTING. It’s a pretty unique story, the actors are great, and it’s beautifully shot. The concept is so thrilling, in fact, that my brother and I stopped the movie halfway through to hypothesize on how the mystery would be solved. Without spoiling anything, the end didn’t exactly meet our expectations. Or the whole third act, really. But plot holes aside, I was legitimately terrified almost the entire time, and very visually stimulated. And that’s pretty much what makes a horror movie great. It Follows is on iTunes, aka you gotta pay. But it’s worth it.

9. The Nightmare, 2015 (71%)This “horror movie” is actually a documentary on night terrors (and the big, faceless monsters that attack you during them). It’s a concept that, even after watching the movie, I don’t really find all that scary. It kinda seemed like most of the people they interviewed were a little out of touch with reality to begin with, some positing that they were observing another dimension in their terrors or being actually visited by aliens – and the director, who suffers from these nightmares himself, validates these concerns. Cue a lot of eye-rolling on my part. One thing I found pretty strange/interesting though is how common these visions are, and how similar they are from person to person. Some of these hallucinations are even thought to have inspired horror movie conventions, like the mysterious scary man in a hat that comes out of the shadows (Freddie Kruger? The Babadook?) or the alien face (you know the one. It’s identical to a 90s temporary tattoo). The Nightmare is available on Netflix

10. Honeymoon, 2014 (70%)

I can’t tell you too much about what this is about without giving anything away. Suffice it to say, two newlyweds go on their honeymoon to a cabin in the woods, and one of them starts acting…real weird. It seems like an intense indie drama until towards the end, when you find yourself yelling “WHAT THE FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK!” I actually really liked this movie, and thought Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) was super captivating and great at being strange as hell. Watch this one, if just for the shock factor. Honeymoon is available on Netflix

11. Oculus, 2013 (73%)

This one is about two siblings seeking revenge on an antique mirror that possess people. The movie begins by unloading the backstory and exposition in a tangled mess, and flips between past and present so much that James and I kept calling it Oculus 2. I get what they were trying to do, and there’s a substantial amount of jump scares with a few solid mindfucks here and there, but they aren’t held together with enough logic for me to call the movie “good.” Still, I recommend watching it because it’s SO fun to make fun of (I mean, what’s up with the main characters’ hair?). Then afterward you can watch a very satisfying youtube video that lists all the things wrong with the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV4MnmOi5KI 

Oculus is available on Netflix

12. Let the Right One In, 2008 (98%)

Finally, something actually worth it’s weight in good reviews. Let the Right One In is a Swedish movie partly about vampires and partly about young love, and somehow manages to handle these both in a non-corny way (can you believe it??) In some ways, it’s more of an indie drama/love story than a “scary” movie, however, it has some pretty badass attack scenes and one spontaneous combustion, so it served up the excitement I craved. Also, it’s just freakin’ gorgeous to look at. Best enjoyed with a bottle of red wine. Let the Right One In is currently on Netflix

13. We Are What We Are, 2013 (85%)

Ugh, gotta love a horror that centers around hyper religious psychos. As a fan of cult stories and talented young actresses, I loved this movie about two sisters trying to escape their family’s…unconventional…tradition of cannibalism. It was tough to watch at times, but I couldn’t wait to see how it ended. And I wasn’t disappointed. Also, Julia Garner and Ambyr Childers are mesmerizing and I want them to be my new best friends. Hooray for human meat! 

~~~

So, tomorrow night after your Halloween party inevitably disappoints, take off your wig, plop down on the couch and queue up one of these spooky movies. Then call me up after so we can make fun of them! 

Happy Halloween!

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY: My Seventh Grade Dressing Room

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Wow. Happy Friday – this was probably the longest most stressful week of 2015 so far, being that it was the only one that didn’t include a major holiday.

Today, we flashback to the year 2002. In seventh grade I was obsessed with teen magazines. YM, Cosmogirl, Teen Beat, Teen Vogue, j14, Seventeen…sometimes even the real Cosmopolitan which I would thumb through, wide-eyed, not understanding a single word.

“What’s a cli-TOR-is? I want one!”

Americans had a much different view of celebrity culture in the pre-social media days. While little girls still worship the stars of Pretty Little Liars or whatever show teens are watching the same way we idolized Hilary Duff back then (yes there was a time she was VERY MUCH relevant and we all cared about her – don’t deny it), I can’t help but feel like celebs have been humanized by the vehicles they now have to communicate with fans. Instagram, Twitter…it used to be that the only way we could learn about our favs was through printed and bound magazine articles that made them seem so disconnected from our normal tween boring-ass lives.

One form of listicle I remembered seeing often was the WHAT “SO-AND-SO” HAS IN HER DRESSING ROOM! variety.  Looking back this was nothing more than a very effective way of slapping a celebrity name on some random products to endorse them to impressionable kids. I still run into these crocks of shit all the time as an adult. “REESE WITHERSPOON SWEARS BY KIEHL’S!!” I mean, I’m a smart, grown, educated girl but if a celebrity told me she dodged highway traffic as her preferred form of exercise I’d probably consider it for at least a second. We’re all pretty much brainwashed, and have been our whole lives.

Since I’ve always wanted to be a writer, I’ve always kept a journal. Since I’ve also always wanted to be a celebrity, some of the things I wrote in my journal looked like this entry from May 11, 2002, written in green gel pen.

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“~What I Would have~in My DRESSING~ROOm!~

-1 case of DASANI water bottles (filled)
-1 case of Lipsmaker sponge on sparkler all flavors
– 3 things of hunny
-flinstons vitamens
-computer w/ AIM
-zyrtec
-Acuvue color contacs
-Secret sheer dry
-Baby oil & powder
-tanning oil
-Dentine Ice gum
-Qutips
-oil absorbant pads
-clean & clear foam face wash
-fruit, hehe
-pringles”

And another consumer was born. At first reading this I couldn’t help but feel sorry for my little 12-year-old self. She’d been duped by magazine ads and bullshit articles. She thought the right skincare products are what make you a woman and she wanted to be famous so she could have as many Pringles and as much lip gloss as she could ever want. It all made me so sad.

But then I remembered how good Pringles are – so I put on some lip gloss, and I went out to buy some.

On Posting Less

9021053-abused-woman-cryingDon’t look at me. But please, don’t stop looking at me.

I’m taking sketch writing classes at Upright Citizens Brigade, and we recently wrote character sketches. The rules when writing a character sketch is you have to identify three big things: What is this character’s pure characteristic? What are they doing? And what is their point of view? As a writer, or even just as a person, it can be very distressing to not know these answers when the character in question is you.

With social media, and especially as a creative person, there’s all this pressure to be constantly presenting yourself, to keep people interested in you or some facet of what you do. A lot of the times when I’m on a sort of hiatus with certain forms of social media, or just not as present, it’s because I’m reexamining what’s important to me. I think this is happening to me now. Every few years I experience a transformation from who I was to who I will be, where I feel very detached from whatever “brand” or persona I’ve cultivated, like I’ve exhausted those ideas and I’m unimpressed with them. I figured out they didn’t work.

Part of what I struggle with during these times is that I feel like my identity is more of a mystery, that my plan is unclear and what makes me uniquely me, or rather how I would “sell myself,” is something that’s in the process of being discovered. This feeling of being unknown to yourself is very frustrating for obvious reasons. There’s a logical side in all – or most – of us that says “these things don’t matter! How you’re perceived in not who you are! If a tree falls in a forest and no one instagrams it, it still makes a sound!” but the fact is, no matter how much we scoff and roll our eyes at it, this is our world. These things do matter because everyone agrees they matter. A social construction, no matter how shallow, is still a construction within which we live. It seems like so much of the stress of dealing with things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., is being ashamed of the fact that we care at all.

When it comes to social media, or life in general, I try not to put too much pressure on myself to participate constantly or curate a specific type of content, and just do what feels right and fun. What could be more “me” than my own unique set of thoughts and aesthetic impulses? This seems in its own way like cultivating a brand or identity, but in a way that is maybe healthier and more organic. The pressure of being well received or meeting some arbitrary standard is eliminated with this approach. If only temporarily.

That’s the other half of the struggle, that this feeling of freedom typically doesn’t last, and one way or another I end up feeling the pressure to contribute, to promote myself as a being. Not necessarily to promote my work, just to create this awareness of my existence and what my life is like. Even though sometimes not participating, not having anything to contribute or desiring to be a part of the conversation may be this perfectly healthy thing I need to experience, I end up feeling like I’m being left out. As though people will forget about me, or there’s some big world I’m not a part of, or the trajectory of my life success is somehow dependent on the traffic I generate from random updates on my daily life. But inevitably, when I am participating, the attention falls into this bottomless pit, and I ultimately feel unsatisfied yet crave more of the same.

I don’t mean to discredit the value of promoting oneself and skills, but for me its important to recognize it as a means to an end. It’s all fine and good if you want to be famous for being famous, get attention for attention’s sake. That concept is such an interesting phenomenon that’s really taken off in our lifetime, and it’s somehow so attractive, even in its lack of depth. But that’s not what I’m interested in attaining. The real work I’m interested in doing is done privately, for the most part, with the intent of creating a finished product. And if that product is not getting created, should it really matter if anyone’s paying attention? The same logic could be applied to finding out who you are, to living your life. Shouldn’t the experience of it all matter more than its presentation? Can the two ever really be simultaneous if every time we’re facing straight ahead we’re looking into our selfie camera?

I’m not nostalgic for the way things used to be. I can barely even remember things being different, and I assume every generation has had their own struggle with image consciousness, remaining in the moment, making choices in how to perform their identity. Who can blame any of us? I guess it comes down to a few things: self-esteem, mortality, the feeling that relevance is somehow correlational to worth, and the idea that “someone saw me, someone heard me, so I was here.” I’d like to learn to appreciate the value of being the only one to experience a moment when it happens. And anyhow, I could always tell a story about it later.

(Copied from my journal. Because I really can’t keep anything to myself, can I?)