Friday Five (time for an exorcism edition)

You can't have it both ways...We have reached the fifth and final Friday of October.

Usually I would be loading this post with lots of Halloween links, but there’s just too much serious, frightening, and potentially deadly stuff going on in the world (don’t worry, Halloween does appear a few times!). I’m not just talking about the ongoing problem of people testing positive for COCID at my husband’s workplace (his first test came back negative; keep your fingers crossed for us, if you will).

So, let’s jump to this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that deserved its own topic, the top five stories of the week, five stories about haters and deplorables, five stories about the moronic thug occupying the Oval Office, five stories about those trying to suppress the vote and those fighting the suppression, five topical videos, and five music videos (plus some things I wrote).

Science Visualization You Must See of the Week:

A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air – The risk of contagion is highest in indoor spaces but can be reduced by applying all available measures to combat infection via aerosols. Here is an overview of the likelihood of infection in three everyday scenarios, based on the safety measures used and the length of exposure.

Stories of the Week:

Historical photos of men in love: They were born 120 years too early.

Billy Porter: America Is Not ‘Better Than This.’ But It Can Be.

Death Rates Have Dropped for Seriously Ill Covid Patients – Survival rates have improved with medical advances and less crowded hospitals, studies say. But the latest record-breaking surge in infections could reverse the gains.

Two ‘murder hornet’ queens captured from tree in Blaine.

Bruce Springsteen calls on fans to vote against President Trump – “It’s Time For An Exorcism” In DC.

This Week in Haters and Other Deplorable People:

Dueling protests in Pittsboro feature fisticuffs, taunts.

FBI Collars Two More Alleged Neo-Nazis In Michigan.

Burkman, Wohl ordered to send corrective message to victims of US voter-intimidation robocall – Jack Burkman, Jacob Wohl face felony charges in Michigan for alleged voter-intimidation scheme. I’ve seen other people think that this is all the punishment they are getting. This is still pre-trial stuff. I mean, it indicates that the judge thinks the evidence is so overwhelming that they will not prevail. If they don’t do this, they will be guilty of contempt of court while still facing charges in at least two states and federal court.

‘We Merely Need to Dampen Turnout’: Leaked Docs Show Top Trump Allies’ 2016 Plan to Suppress Black Voters.

Jerry Falwell Jr. Sues Liberty University: You Damaged My Reputation And The Lincoln Project Is Behind It All.

This Week in the Fight Over Democracy:

Duval County judge resigns from vote-counting board after Trump donations uncovered.

Report Warns that 5 States At High Risk For Election Violence By Militias.

Democrats in Pennsylvania, North Carolina claim key wins at Supreme Court ahead of election.

Brett Kavanaugh’s defense of voter suppression is riddled with errors.

The White Extremist Group Patriot Front Is Preparing For A World After Donald Trump.

This Week in the Moronavirus Occupying the White House:

Trump supporters hospitalized after being stranded in freezing cold at late-night rally.

White House science office falsely claims Trump ended COVID-19 pandemic as US hits record cases.

‘Helping the president’: HHS official sought to rebrand coronavirus campaign – Documents reveal how political considerations shaped planning for a taxpayer-funded ad blitz to ‘defeat despair’ over Covid-19.

Trump is averaging more than 50 false or misleading claims a day.

Trump makes unhinged threats against Miles Taylor at Florida rally: ‘Bad things are going to happen to him’.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 10/24/2019: Invasive problems.

Being kind is too much to ask—or, yet more confessions of a queer ex-evangelical.

I put a spell on you! Or, more of why I love spooky sf/f.

Topical Videos!

Would You Still Hookup With Someone After They Said This?:

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Kamala Harris – Coronavirus, Police Reform, And Unifying America | The Daily Social Distancing Show:

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Weekend Update: The Village People on Donald Trump Using Their Music – SNL:

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Cher – Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe (Live at the 2020 I Will Vote Concert):

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Tenacious D – Rocky Horror the Vote – “Time Warp” (with special guest appearances by Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete, and more):

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Music Videos!

Dolly Parton’s Mom Used To Sing Songs That Told Great Stories:

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Vinnie Vincent Invasion – “Love Kills” From A Nightmare On Elm Street 4 movie:

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I Put A Spell On You – Bette Midler – Hocus Pocus 1993 – HD edited:

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I can make you a man (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show):

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Panic! At The Disco: Emperor’s New Clothes [OFFICIAL VIDEO]:

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I put a spell on you! Or, more of why I love spooky sf/f

Hocus Pocus!

I don’t remember when I first saw Hocus Pocus. While preparing this post, I was surprised to learn the movie came out in the summer of 1993. I was quite certain I had seen it long before that. Given when it came out, it is a toss-up whether it was a movie that my late husband (Ray) and I saw it in a theatre, or whether we didn’t see it until later when it was on cable or out of video. I know that since sometime in the mid-nineties that it has been broadcast during every October on ABC- and Disney-owned channels. It always gets high ratings, and the DVD/Blue ray sales have been a reliable strong seller every year. Which might make one wonder why I need to write about it at all, because it seems to be one of the most popular spooky movies, ever.

I love the movie. Spoiler warning: I can’t talk about why I think this movie is worthwhile without giving away a key part of the ending, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, go stream the movie now!

In case you aren’t familiar: the movie begins on October 31, 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts, where the notorious (and elderly) Sanderson sisters, widely believed to be witches, have lured a young girl into their cottage. They brew a magic potion which they force the child to drink, and proceed to leech her life away, making themselves young again.

The girl’s older brother, Thackery Binx, tries to interrupt the ritual and save his sister, but he fails. He is transformed into a black cat by the sisters and cursed to live forever with his guilt.

The townspeople of Salem storm the cottage and find the dead body of the girl. The witches refuse to say what has happened to her brother. The witch sisters are sentenced to be hanged, but before they are executed, the eldest with, Winifred, casts a spell which she claims will allow them to rise from the grave again—one an All Hallow’s Eve with a full moon, if a virgin lights the Black Flame Candle.

Jump forward 300 years, and Max (who will be our protagonist) is a teen-ager unhappy that his parents have moved the family to Salem. Max has an encounter with a pair of local bullies, which doesn’t make him like the new home any better. He is also not fond of the town’s local folklore about the Sanderson sisters and witches in general. He is really unhappy when his parents saddle him with the job of taking his younger sister, Dani, trick-or-treating. But early in the evening they meet a classmate Max has a crush on, Allison.

Because Allison thinks that Max’s skepticism is a bit too cynical, and because Max is anxious to impress Allison, they wind up in the old Sanderson Cottage (which has been preserved as a museum). When Max announces he is going to light the so-called Black Flame Candle and prove that witches are myths, a black cat attempts to stop him. Max manages to light the candle, anyway and the witches rise from the dead.

What follows is horror-comedy romp with some elements of musical theatre thrown in. The black cat is the cursed Thackery (who answers to Binx for the rest of the movie), who has lurked around the cottage for 300 years trying to prevent anyone lighting that candle. He can speak to the three kids, though know one else apparently can understand him. The kids flee, unsuccessfully try to warn the adults that the witches are back. The witches, meanwhile, have perform their life-stealing ritual on some children before sunrise or they go back to being dead, so there is a bit of a race.

At several points the witches capture one or more of the kids. At at least two points the kids appear to defeat the witches. Along the one a long dead lover of two of the sisters is raised as a kind of zombie/revenant who assists the witches in chasing the kids.

Eventually there is a dramatic stand-off in a cemetery, and with a bit of cleverness, bravery, and self-sacrifice, evil is thwarted.

The three witches are played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Midler steals the show, because all of the show’s comedy and menace are built around her character. The director, Kenny Ortega, said in later interviews that he told the three of them to play it as over the top and campy as if they were drag queens, and it certainly worked.

I’ve seen reviews that Max doesn’t really have a character arc, and I don’t understand how people can be that blind. In the early part of the film, the bullies are absolutely correct that Max looks down his nose at what he sees as the provinciality of the Salem natives. And when Allison scoffs at his scoffing, it’s clear that she sees his skepticism as performative. He doesn’t believe because it isn’t cool to be credulous. Just as he pretends not to care about his younger sister because, again, it would be uncool to feel warmth or affection for his kid sister. By the end of the film, that pretense is gone, and he doesn’t just take a risk to save his little sister, but he gulps down the potion and forces the witches to kill him in her stead.

It’s not bravado or a clever trick. He doesn’t reveal afterward that he only pretended to swallow it. He swallows it, the witches perform the next part of the ritual. We see his life force literally being taken from him.

Once the witches are defeated, we also get a nice pair of parallel scenes, one in which Max and Dani share a moment, and then because Binx fulfilled his mission, we see a similar scene between his ghost and the spirt of his little sister, who has been waiting for him to join her in the afterlife for 300 years.

Unlike the last campy & spooky two movies I’ve written about, this one came out after I was well and truly out of the closet. So I felt freer to revel in the camp vibe and all it implied. A few times when I’ve found myself in conversation with other queer fans of the show discussing it, I’ve found out that a lot of them like to ask the question: so which Sanderson sister are you? For the record, Ray was definitely and enthusiastically a Sarah. I had to admit that I want to be Winifred, but I’m really a Mary.

The film is funny. It has many nice spooky moments. If you haven’t seen it, give it a try. Maybe it will cast a spell on you, too.

Being kind is too much to ask—or, yet more confessions of a queer ex-evangelical

Dan Adler tweeted: “So many people running around claiming they'll do anything for America. Carry guns, live in bunkers, fight in the hills. What they're actually asked to so is wear simple protective measures, keep their distance, show patience and courtesy. And they break like fucking glass.” John Scalzi replied: “The difference is that in the fantasy they are asked to kill, and in the reality they are asked to be kind.”

Events in the months since have continued to validate this. (Click to embiggen)

The twitter exchange (pictured right) between Dan Adler and John Scalzi sums up a situation we have been living with for a long time. It sums it up so well, that even though I’ve been outraged by various manifestations of it over the last few months, I keep telling myself, “What’s the point? It’s already been said so well!” But since it keeps manifesting again and again—and since every time it does I see a lot of people online reacting in utter shock at it happening again—it’s clear that pithy summations such as Mr. Scalzi’s aren’t reaching enough people. Not unlike the headline I talked about in the most recent Weekend Update where a professional critical thinker doesn’t understand just how far into whackyland a bunch of our fellow citizens have wandered. I don’t know if my explanation will be any better, but I think it is incumbent upon me to at least try.

In the aforementioned Weekend Update I compared some of my conversations with trump supporters as feeling as if I am banging my head against a brick will. I did not specify that most of the trump supporters in questions are family members or people I have otherwise known since I was in high school. They are people that I love. Many are people who I once admired. Which is why, no matter how many times my attempts to talk to them haven’t gotten anywhere, I can’t seem to make myself completely abandon hope of reaching them.

And since I used the word “confessions” in the title of this post, I must also admit that I know there was a time when I was the brick wall that others were banging their heads against. Since I was able to change my perspective, I keep hoping they can, too.

One of the reasons, I believe, that everyone from the pundits to mainstream journalists to ordinary non-rightwing citizens are always flabbergasted because they don’t understand the culture of what I often call christianists: people who claim to be Christian (many evangelical, but not all) who instead of embracing the peace and tolerance messages, use them as a negative weapon against groups who adhere to different political and/or moral beliefs.

The person who doesn’t understand the christianist viewpoint might advance an argument that our current policies regarding health care and employment forces thousands of people into homelessness each year, leading to unnecessary illness, suffering, and death. They would expect that argument to have some sway with the christianists, but it doesn’t. Why? Because among other things christianists believe that suffering in this lifetime is nothing compared to the fate of one’s eternal soul. If a person suffers in this world, it’s either because they are being punished by god, or because they are being tested. If a good and faithful person dies, no matter what the circumstances, they will get a reward in heaven. The other people, well, it’s their own fault for not getting right with god while they had their chance.

And such thinking seems completely irrational to people outside that subculture. Rational people when presented with an opportunity to reduce suffering and avoidable deaths would try to do something about it, right? This leads some observers to refer to this branch of christianity as a Death Cult. A better description, I think, would be an After Death Cult. Because an eternity of rewards in heaven is the goal, while toil, tribulation, torment, and death are all small prices to pay in comparison.

That isn’t the only difficulty in reasoning with them. That other bit is implied in that part about how troubles in life are punishments from god. Once you accept that notion, it’s small logical hop to rationalizing that if you are the one causing trauma, you’re just doing god’s will. Which is how you justify calling yourself a servant of the Prince of Peace while you are stockpiling assault rifles and fantasizing about the day you get to kill all the unbelievers you want. And that how you get books/movies such as the Left Behind series (which is essentially snuff porn) being bestsellers to the evangelical and related groups.

I mentioned my own experience being on the other side of this mental divide. There was a period in my pre-teens/early teens where I became obsessed with the Biblical book of Revelations and its description of how the world would end. I found books and articles on it. I re-read Revelations itself making extensive notes and charts—connecting news stories and such that I found to specific parts. If the Left Behind books had existed at the time, I would have been all over them. One day, my paternal grandfather stopped me while I was in the middle of explaining some parallel I saw between some news article and some item in Revelations. Grandpa said, “That book isn’t in the Bible to give us a mystery to solve. Jesus himself told us that no one would know it was happening before it does. I believe it’s in there to motivate us to love our neighbors, even when we don’t like them.”

I don’t remember exactly what I said in reply. I didn’t think he was completely wrong, but I thought there was some value to studying the end times.

He turned my Bible back to the gospels, specifically the sermon on the mount. “We are suppose to live our lives so that we are so full of kindness and love, that other people will want to be like us. Armageddon isn’t going to be a victory parade. All wars are tragedies.”

And that got through to me.

“What was it he said that got them so upset?” “'Be kind to each other.'” "Oh, yeah. That'll do it."

Exactly!

Which brings me to another example of the cognitive dissonance between the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible, and the ways that christianists don’t follow or even sometimes understand it. When Neil Gaiman adapted the book Good Omens, originally written by he and Terry Pratchett, into a miniseries, Neil added a lot of scenes showing the relationship between the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale over the millennia. The book had made a few allusions to these encounters, and Neil realized that in a visual medium, he needed to show them. One of the scenes in that section was Aziraphale and Crowley witnessing the Crucifixion. I follow Gaiman on several social media platforms, so I saw the incredibly large number of Christians (including a lot of pastors), who absolutely loved the adaptation. And the many expressions of gratitude he got from making the Crucifixion scene so respectful.

It got a completely different reaction from the christianists I know. They considered it, especially that scene, blasphemy. Why? Because of those three lines of dialogue in that meme: “What was it he said that got them so upset?” “’Be kind to each other.’” “Oh, yeah. That’ll do it.” Boiling it down to that absolutely incensed some people!

Which is really peculiar since these are the same people who say that every single word of the Bible is literally true. Because that part I mentioned above, the Sermon on the Mount. It’s the centerpiece of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible. It is the longest single bit of his teachings we get. It takes all the ideas he had told before and extends them. And what does he preach that day? That people should be kind to each other, even to those who don’t deserve it. Nay! Even more to those that don’t deserve it than to those that do. That’s all of his teachings in a nutshell.

It’s not blasphemy at all, it’s a distillation of the rest of the story.

And the fact that they don’t understand that is really all you need to know about why they twist the teachings of love and peace and tolerance into cudgels to rationalize cruelty and injustice in society.

Weekend Update 10/24/2019: Invasive problems

“It appears we have some breaking news.” “Good lord, what the fuck now?”

“It appears we have some breaking news.” “Good lord, what the fuck now?”

My weekends have been crazy lately, so I seldom manage to finish one of these Weekend Update posts. The idea for these is that if there is news to broke (or came to my attention) after I finished compiled the Friday Five, or if I become aware of updates or new developments in a news story that I have previously linked to, and especially if I want to make a bit more commentary on it that what happens in a Friday Five, I put them in a Weekend Update to share on a Saturday or Sunday. So, jump right in!

Let’s start with some good news: First U.S. Asian giant hornet nest found in east Blaine. These are the so-called murder hornets, and the danger is that if they get established, they can wipe out native honey bees, which has a scary impact on agriculture. All the signs have so far indicated that there is probably only one next in Washington state. So, this one (and its hornets) will be destroyed and we can all breathe a little easier.

In other news: NC Man Arrested In Terror Plot To Kill Biden, Vehicle Found With Explosives, Assault Rifle, $509,000 In Cash. He’s a 19-year-old originally from Seattle who last fall came into a large inheritance which apparently he’s been carrying around all in cash. He was initially arrested because when someone reported what they thought was an abandoned van in a bank parking long in North Carolina, the responding officers could see the stash of ammo, guns, and explosives through the windows. And when the kid came back to his van, he had concealed weapons on him for which he doesn’t have permits. He’s currently being held of child pornography charges, while a joint terrorism task force is continuing to build the case from messages he posted on white supremacist web sites and journals.

He was arrested back in May, and police have since shown that he was near the former Vice Presidents home in April, which is when he was posting online about killing Biden. I want to point out that his plot to kill Biden was not motivated by a desire to help Trump. His aim was to “save” Bernie Sanders. Again demonstrating the fact I’ve pointed out several times since 2016 that a significant fraction of Bernie Bros have ties to the same white supremacist communities that support Trump.

But this is a weekend update, not a blog post where I explain the origins of certain political factions. So let’s move on to Rightwing Agitator Shot Up Minneapolis Police Precinct In May, And He Is Under Arrest. Yet another example of a white supremacist guy hoping to start a race war by causing violence that he can hope to pin on the Black Lives Matters folks. What’s more scary than his actions are some of the others who he was coordinating with who actually succeeding in killing some cops elsewhere. And like the story above, this was some young guy traveling out of the state where he lives to go stir up the trouble.

Let’s move on…

I did not watch the debate. I urged people I knew not to watch it. Fortunately, we have a great (and more than slightly sarcastic) sum o of the debate by Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke. I’ll just quote my favorite bit:

“Demonstrating a striking change in tone from the first presidential debate, Trump did not come across as a writhing, angry body inhabited by the spirit of Charles Manson. Instead, he took on the more affable demeanor of a writhing, angry body inhabited by the spirit of Charles Manson on a day when Manson didn’t interrupt people quite so much.”

AOC Rips Trump For Disrespecting Her During Final Debate. Of course, Donald disrespects everyone. I don’t think he knows how to respect someone, just as I don’t believe he has one iota of empathy in his being. But that is a bit of her point: just because he does it all the time doesn’t make it right. And just because the Republicans in general disrespect anyone they disagree with doesn’t mean we should let it pass without some pushback.

Trump’s Strangest Lie: A Plague of Suicides Under His Watch – Social distancing hasn’t led to an increase in suicide rates, despite the president’s claims. But a prolonged pandemic might. I’m not sure I agree this is his strangest lie, because he tenaciously retells a lot of lies about extremely trivial stuff.

I suspect the author hasn’t had enough experience beating his head against a brick wall talking with Trump supporters. And the thing you have to remember is that Trump is always talking to his supporters. He doesn’t believe anyone else matters. He isn’t trying to appeal to voters outside his base. Trump’s base firmly believe that the quarantines are unnecessary and are a liberal plot being forced on them in order to undermine Trump. They sincerely believe that. And therefore, if the lockdowns were causing suicides to increase (which they aren’t), but if they were, those suicides wouldn’t be happening on Trump’s watch. Those suicides would all be the fault of the evil libruhls

The author of the article expects Trump and his supporters to think like normal people. In a normal election, people tend to blame bad things happening right now on the incumbent President. But trumpkins don’t think like that. They live in the world of all those conspiracy theories. Bad things are always the fault of those other guys.

It is a lie: quarantining and lockdowns are no causing suicides. But if you understand Trump and his supporters, it isn’t that strange at all.

I’m going to let Stephen Colbert take us out:

Trump Trashes New York, Joe Unveils ‘Bidencare’ At Final Debate – Stephen Colbert’s LIVE Monologue What’s got Steven Colbert feeling optimistic after last night’s debate? The fact that we’ll (hopefully) never have to watch Donald Trump debate ever again:

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Friday Five (whiny baby edition)

And here we are at the fourth Friday of October.

Not quite Halloween, just yet. I’m trying to remain calm after my husband found out that his supervisor at his workplace has tested positive for COVID-19. And I just don’t have anything to say beyond that about anything right now.

So, let’s jump to this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about the moronic thug occupying the Oval Office, and five videos (plus some things I wrote and notable obituaries).

Stories of the Week:

Billy Porter Says To ‘Get Your Little Asses to The Polls!’.

‘Hocus Pocus’ Cast Reuniting for Halloween Special Hosted by Elvira; See the Trio Back in Their Costumes!

This House’s Halloween Decorations That Have People Calling 911.

First NASA Osiris-Rex images show incredible touchdown on asteroid Bennu.

Five more states voting this fall on legalizing marijuana – Dire budget conditions of many states increasingly aid arguments in favor of legalization.

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

Dear SCOTUS: LGBTQ+ People Are Religious and Also Deserve Liberty.

Political candidates face uptick in anti-LGBTQ attack ads – The “homophobic and transphobic attacks” are “more frequent and more direct than we have seen in at least a decade,” LGBTQ Victory Fund CEO Annise Parker said.

One Million Moms Threatens Oreo Boycott Over LGBTQ+ Ad.

Joe Biden makes a pledge to trans people: “I believe that Trans Lives Matter” – The death of Sara Blackwood, in part, spurred former Vice President Joe Biden to speak on the “unacceptable” epidemic of violence facing transgender & gender non-conforming people.

United States to team with countries who persecute LGBTQ people for ‘pro-family’ manifesto, including ‘Kill the Gays’ bill sponsor Uganda.

This Week in the Moronavirus Occupying the White House:

Reality Check: Trump’s Accusations Are Always Projections About Himself.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused nearly 300,000 more deaths than expected in a typical year.

Can We Hope This Era Of Paranoia Is Burning Itself Out?

Trump’s 60 Minutes Interview Reveals Him To Be A Whiny Brat. My favorite sum-up of the full, unedited video that Donald released thinking it made him look good: “He keeps spouting nonsense, and she calmly explains that it’s nonsense and he just keeps getting more whiny.”

‘This guy is a dog whistle’: Biden lights Trump up after he claims to be ‘least racist’ person at debate.

In Memoriam:

Famed Magician and Skeptic James Randi Dies at 92: ‘A Crusader Against Fakes, Flimflam and Frauds’.

‘Amazing’ Escape Artist, Magician, And Skeptic James Randi Dead At 92.

Things I wrote:

Tuesday Tidbits 10/18/2020: Tornadoes, voting, scrub jays, and more.

Words and Images: Is it really only Wednesday? Because it feels so, so much later.

You’re So Cool, Brewster! — more of why I love spooky sf/f.

Videos!

OREO Proud Parent:

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Cruelty Was The Plan: Chilling News About The Human Toll Of Trump’s Child Separation Policy:

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Trump Leaks Embarrassing 60 Minutes Interview Before Second Debate: A Closer Look:

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Ariana Grande – positions (official video):

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Lauv & Conan Gray – Fake [Official Music Video]:

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You’re So Cool, Brewster! — more of why I love spooky sf/f

Movie poster for 1985's Fright NightåWhen the original Fright Night came out in August of 1985, I was in my mid-twenties and preparing to move to Seattle to finish my college degree. It was a time when I had virtually no disposable income, so I very seldom saw movies in the theatre. Combine that with the fact that horror movies often give me nightmares (and I’m a sleepwalker, so I would get up in a panic during the dream and find whoever I can in the house, shake them awake and frantically try to convince them there is a killer in the house), I did not see Fright Night that summer. One of my friends did go see it, and his description just convinced me even more that I shouldn’t see it.

Over a year later, I and some friends in Seattle were going to have a movie night. Which at that time involved us pooling some money to go to a video store and rent a both a video player and one or more movies, which we would take back (usually to Club Chaos, which was an apartment share by two of those friends that had an enormous living room) and watch while eating a bunch of junk food. It was often the case that only a subset of the gang would go get the movie, so you were never quite certain what we might be watching.

One of those nights Fright Night was in the mix. At least one of my friends who had seen it before assured me that it was more of a comedy like Ghostbusters than a scary slasher film like Nightmare on Elm Street, so I figured it would be fun.

In the opening minutes, it does indeed seem to be more of a cheesy romp than a serious horror picture… but that’s because the movie begins with a movie within the movie. A cheesy vampire film which are main character is watching on television. The protagonist of the film is Charley Brewster, a teen-ager who loves horror movies, and faithfully watching a weekly show hosted by an actor named Peter Vincent who used to star in a series of vampire hunter movies himself.

Charley lives with his mom in what seems to be a typical 80s movie suburb. And someone has recently moved into the empty house next door. Charley hears strange noises and even a scream coming from the old house, and becomes convinced that the new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge, is a vampire who is luring women to his home before feasting on their blood.

Charley’s best friend is “Evil Ed” who loves those horror movies even more than Charley does. But he doesn’t believe the neighbor is a vampire. Charley’s girlfriend, Amy, breaks up with him because of his obsession with the neighbor. And, of course, Charley’s mom and the police also all fail to believe him.

So Charley tracks down the actor, Peter Vincent (who hosts the aforementioned weekly horror show at one of the local stations, so lives in the same city), and tries to get him to help prove that the neighbor is a vampire. The actor doesn’t believe him either, and points out that he’s just an actor—the vampire hunter he played was fictitious.

Amy, meanwhile, has become concerned about Charley’s mental health, and she hires Vincent to pretend to test the neighbor and then prove to Charley that the neighbor isn’t a vampire. And so the actor (who thinks this is some easy money) puts on his costume and grabs his character’s equipment bag and visits the neighbor. In the course of the discussion, just as he’s leaving, Vincent pulls out his pocket mirror while getting something else out of the pocket, and realizes that Dandridge, standing behind him, has no reflection.

Movie still: (l to r) "Evil Ed", Charley, and Amy, as portrayed by Stephen Geoffreys, William Ragsdale, and Amanda Bearse.

(l to r) “Evil Ed”, Charley, and Amy, as portrayed by Stephen Geoffreys, William Ragsdale, and Amanda Bearse.

While there had been a lot of humor in the movie at this point, and not much in the way of gore, the tone was paranoid rather than a laughfest. And that tension ramps up from this point, as the vampire starts stalking Charley, Charley’s mom, and Amy threatening to do terrible things if Charley keeps telling people about him.

This is also where we start getting more of the transformations and start seeing more of the death scenes explicitly.

Dandridge kills and turns Evil Ed and sends Ed to kill Peter Vincent and then Charley. The scene where Dandridge stalks and corners Evil Ed in what has to be the most labyrinthine alleys to ever appear in a movie, is remarkably chilling, even though we never see a hint of blood.

Ed doesn’t succeed in killing Vincent, who burns him with a cross and forces him to flee by leaping out of the apartment’s window. Ed beats Vincent to Charley’s house (Vincent is on his way to warn Charley), and they have a fight during which Evil Ed transforms into a wolf, but he still winds up impaled through the chest with a broken table leg.

Dandridge has, meanwhile, lured Amy to his house and has started the process of turning her into a vampire, trapping Charley in a room with her slumbering body so that she can feed on Charley when she rises. Vincent manages to help Charley escape, and then the two of them have a protracted fight with Dandridge, before eventually killing him and, since Dandridge died before Amy ever drank the blood of another, she reverts to human and all is well (or as well as it can be, given that a number of people have died on screen by this point).

The special effects are all practical effects, this is before the era of CGI, and some of them haven’t aged quite as well as others. Some of the creature effects looked cheesy even in 1986. I don’t think the effects are the reason this movie never gave me serious nightmares.

No, I think that’s because I spent a lot of the movie trying to decide if all the gay subtext was going to come out in the open. And also not feeling free to comment on any of said subtext because, while it is true that two of the people in that friend group were part of a very tiny number of friends who I had come out to only a few months before (though come out is a strong word, since it began with, “I think I’m gay” and quickly morphed into, “Or I’m bi—yeah, that’s it. Not completely gay after all!” which was so not true).

It was clear to me that Charley wasn’t into Amy or even the idea of making out with her as Amy was interested in him. There’s even a moment before Amy breaks up with him where she is angrily trying to get him to stop looking through the binoculars at the neighbor and come have sex with her, for goodness sake.

It was also clear that Evil Ed had the hots for Charley. I’m sorry, totally straight teen-age boys don’t joke about giving their male best friend hickeys and so forth as often as Evil Ed did.

The scene where Dandridge corners Ed in the alley and talks him into giving in without a fight is very much written and acted as a seduction. They never make it completely clear what the difference is, but just being killed by a vampire isn’t enough to make the corpse rise later as undead. The vampire has to choose to do it, and given how he talks Ed into surrendering, it seemed to imply that the other person’s consent was part of the situation. Though the later seduction of Amy seems to involve some sort of vampiric mesmerism, so maybe consent isn’t exactly the right word.

The movie ended with Charley and Amy back together, in Charley’s bedroom, where he looks out the window at the once again deserted house next door. He turns to Amy just as we see a pair of glowing red eyes appear in one of the windows of the house. And as the movie fades to black, the last line of dialogue is spoken in Evil Ed’s voice: “You’re so cool, Brewster!”

Vampires often are metaphors for sex, so it isn’t surprising that scenes where a male vampire is stalking a male victim will be homoerotic. But some of the earlier stuff between Evil Ed and Charley are a bit different.

Most of Fright Night isn’t played for laughs. My friend’s assurance that it wouldn’t be nightmare inducing wasn’t completely wrong… though I personally think that on a scale of Ghostbusters to Nightmare on Elm Street that Fright Night lands smack dab in the middle. It is one of the spooky movies that fairly regularly figures in my Halloween movie marathons, and I have to admit in no small part because I keep thinking how much better things would have gone if Ed had simply declared his love for Charley early on.

Just as I’m sure that the sequel wouldn’t have been the awful mess it was if Evil Ed had been the villain, as been planned. Alas, Stephen Geoffreys, who played Evil Ed, turned down the chance to be in the second movie in order to play the lead in another horror movie that flopped even worse than Fright Night part 2 did. Geoffreys appeared in a couple more movies that didn’t do well, then he spent the next dozen years or so appearing in gay porn films under a couple stage names. Since 2007 he’s been getting work in various horror and action films.

Anyway, with its 80s hair styles, sometimes cheesy effects, and the unresolved gay sub-text, Fright Night makes for a good popcorn movie, and not just at Halloween.

Words and Images: Is it really only Wednesday? Because it feels so, so much later

I frequently save memes, cartoons, and the like to use as an illustration for a blog post or Friday Five. I always gather a lot more than I can actually use, so every now and then I share some the I didn’t use.

“Democrats AREN'T coming for your guns. But Republicans ARE coming for your Social Security and Medicare”

“Democrats AREN’T coming for your guns. But Republicans ARE coming for your Social Security and Medicare”

“The GOP insists All Lives Matter then they refuse to wear masks to protect everyone.The GOP claims there will be voter fraud, then they install illegal ballot drop boxes in CA.  The GOP says no new justices during an election year, then they push one through.  See the pattern?”

See the pattern?

“During my research I interviewed a guy who said he was a libertarian until he did MDMA and realized that other people have feelings. And that was pretty much the best summary of libertarianism I've ever heard.”

The main libertarian failing is that they don’t believe other people are actually people, IMHO…

“Whenever Pence talks he sounds like a serial killer calmly explaining why he has to do the to you.”

“Whenever Pence talks he sounds like a serial killer calmly explaining why he has to do the to you.”

Tuesday Tidbits 10/18/2020: Tornadoes, voting, scrub jays, and more

I originally started this post as a Weekend Update on Sunday morning. And various things conspired to interrupt me and get me working on other things, which is fine. So then I figured on Monday I could finish it up and queue it as a Tuesday Tidbits… and between a very stressful work day where I didn’t stop for a real lunch and I worked late, and then I just didn’t want to put words in sentences… and then Tuesday I woke up with a horrific sinus headache. Wound up having to take a couple breaks from work that involved naps, and didn’t finish until late and here we are.

So, not a usual Weekend Update nor Tuesday Tidbits, but a weird bit of this and that. Note that I’m going to list news that should not cause anxiety or outrage first, and give a warning so you can stop reading once I get to the outrage-inducing stuff.

First, some local stuff: WEST SEATTLE BIRDS: 8 views. The blog that link to this collection of photos of birds people have taken in Seattle mentioned that the most exotic bird the blogger has seen out the window of his Seattle apartment were scrub jays. And I was certain that scrub jays weren’t found this far north, but a quick search of the web turned up an article from two years ago about how the California Scrub Jay’s range used to only extend into Oregon, but thanks to climate change they are now living as far north as here.

Two days later, I saw a Scrub Jay on my own bird feeder. The only jays I’d ever seen here before were Stellar’s Jays.

Lightning knocks Washington state ferry out of service.

EF-1 tornado knocks down trees in Grays Harbor County, NWS confirm.

I grew up in tornado country, which also meant lots and lots of thunderstorms. One of the things I loved about living in the Pacific Northwest is that we used to almost never get thunderstorms and certainly not tornadoes. Thank you climate change?

We’re 9 days past National Coming Out Day, but I like this story. ABC News’ James Longman on coming out: ‘I could never imagine then the life I have now’.

Denver is sending mental health experts instead of cops in response to nonviolent calls. This is what we mean by defunding the police: taking tasks which should never have been given to police in the first place and instead sending people trained to deal with it.

Billy Porter Says To ‘Get Your Little Asses to The Polls!’. Vote like your life depends on it! (Because a lot of lived do depend on it!)

If you don’t want to be outraged, stop reading now!

Here’s a cut picture of a kitten with a pumpkin. Don’t scroll past it and you’ll be fine.

Black kitten with white paws plays on a hay bale near a jack o lantern for Halloween

So, about the other kinds of news…

As Virus Spread, Reports of Trump Administration’s Private Briefings Fueled Sell-Off – A hedge fund consultant’s summary of private presentations by White House economic advisers fanned investor worries. We all suspected this, but now we have the proof. While they were lying to us, they were warning their rich friends so that could cut their losses.

Calls intensify for resignation of Michigan sheriff who shared stage with militia. I bet if we looked hard enough we could even find some things to prosecute him for related to this…

Trump Has Previously Unknown Bank Account In China. You don’t say…

Tiffany Trump holds trainwreck LGBTQ event for dad’s reelection: ‘Prior to politics, he supported gays’. Best description of the speech: “She’s like a drunk, malfunctioning robot.” Also, this big supposedly pro-gay event? Had only a dozen attendees…

‘Proud Boys’ Send Threatening Emails To FL Dems – Emails sent from the “Proud Boys” to Florida Democrats, telling them to vote for Trump “or we will come after you,” are being investigated by the FBI and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. Yeah, that’s really something to be proud of…

Friday Five (voting is patriotic edition)

And here we are at the third Friday of October.

This has been a weird week. Work hasn’t been more stressful than usual, but I’ve had more than a few symptoms and indications that I may have something more serious the autumn hay fever going on. I’ve gotten some writing done this week, and started reading the next book in my virtual pile, but haven’t gotten as far as I had hoped on either.

So, let’s jump to this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about the moronic thug occupying the Oval Office, and five videos (plus some things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Patriotic Voter Preps for Long Poll Lines with Chair and Snacks – 2020 ELECTION I’M READY TO VOTE NO MATTER WHAT … ‘Ain’t S*** Gon’ Stop Me!!!’.

Restaurant bans entry to people with symptoms of “COVID-19, racism, homophobia & transphobia” – “This is something we stand for and we figured our customers would agree with it, and as the sign says if not we are not particularly keen to have them in here.”.

We Watched A Star Get ‘Spaghettified’ By A Monster Black Hole, Say Scientists.

Why Are Nearly All of the Penises Appearing in TV and Film Prosthetic?

This Utah Man Recorded A Terrifying Encounter With An Angry Mama Cougar – Kyle Burgess was followed by the cougar for more than six very scary minutes.

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

Amy Coney Barrett Won’t Say if SCOTUS Marriage Equality Case Was Correctly Decided.

574 LGBTQ Candidates on General Election Ballots This Year, Up 33 Percent: Victory Fund Report.

This small town’s battle over gay Pride flags is helping fuel a national debate – Heber City, Utah, is one of a growing number of municipalities across the U.S. that has seen controversy ignited by the public display of LGBTQ pride flags.

Lifelong Republican, 94, pledges to vote Biden to protect the LGBT+ community after gay grandson’s emotional appeal.

Nico Tortorella Wants You to Know Your Queer History.

This Week in the Moronavirus Occupying the White House:

GOP Sen. Sasse In Audio: Trump Sold Out Allies, Flirted With White Supremacists, And Cozied Up To Dictators.

NBC Staffers Seethe as Trump Gleefully Uses the Network Against Biden.

How can 42 percent of Americans still support the worst president in our history?

Twitter Zaps Bot Army Of Fake Black Trump Supporters.

The Time Nixon’s Cronies Tried to Overturn a Presidential Election.

Things I wrote:

Come out of hiding and stand proudly in the light!

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

Tuesday Tidbits 10/13/2020: Endangering health and democracy.

Spoons, coping mechanisms, and coffee.

If I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you — more of why I love spooky sf/f.

Videos!

The What/Why/How of the Columbus Day Debate | The Daily Social Distancing Show:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

A Message from Your Friendly Local Mail Carrier:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Pelosi Rages At CNN’s Wolf Blitzer After He Suggests Accepting GOP’s $1.8 Trillion Stimulus Package:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

[OFFICIAL VIDEO] Happy Now – Pentatonix:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

“Don’t Cancel Halloween” (2020) – Elvira Music Video:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

If I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you — more of why I love spooky sf/f

Cover of the DVD release of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, showing Elvira tied to a stake, while city councilwoman Chastiity Pariah strikes a match.

“The charge, my fellow council members, is witchcraft.” (Click to embiggen>

I’ve written more than once about the fact that actual scary movies give me nightmares. And I’m the kind of sleepwalker who, when having a nightmare, I will go around the house waking up everyone I can find and tell them very emphatically that we are in danger and need to come up with a plan to defeat the killer/monster/demon/alien that is trying to break into the house. So generally speaking (with some big exceptions) I avoid a lot of horror movies. On the other hand, I love Halloween, and I love spooky movies, particularly funny spooky movies. So this next confession will not surprise some of you: when the cheesy parody horror movie, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark came out in theatres very breifly in 1988… I actually went to a theatre and paid full price and saw it. My (now ex-)wife, and a couple of our friends accompanied me, and we all paid for the experience. One of those friends is a mostly-straight friend who said upfront that 75% of the reason he was willing to go was because he had lusted after the horror host Elvira (played by amazing Cassandra Peterson) since high school.

A few years later, one of the few disputes that I had with (at the time my soon-to-be-ex-wife) Julie while we were splitting assets was who would get to keep the VHS of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Of all the things to argue over it was one of the dumbest, I admit… I’m just happy that we got through all that and now, 29 years later, we’re good friends and can laugh together about such things.

As it happened, my first husband, Ray, loved the movie, and we owned it on VHS and upgraded to DVD before he died. And my husband Michael thinks the movie is funny and is more than willing to watch it with me about every other Halloween, so, yay!

But, let’s get to the actual movie. Outside of the movie, Elvira is a horror host (played by Peterson) who had a syndicated sci fi/fantasy/horror movie show on various cables for years. The movie proceeds on the conceit that Elvira is a real person, not just a character which Peterson plays, and when the local California station she appears on gets a new owner who sexually harasses her, she gets fired. But she isn’t upset because she’s about to open a show in Las Vegas… except her agent informs her that the show in Vegas will only go forward if she can put up $50,000 of the production cost.

Right after she says she doesn’t have that kind of money, a studio intern knocks on her dressing room door to tell her she has a telegram. According to the telegram, her Great-Aunt Morgana Talbot, has died and that Elvira is a named as a beneficiary in the will (“I didn’t know I had a good aunt, let alone a great one.”). So Elvira drives across country to the quaint town of Falwell, Massachusetts for the reading of the will.

“Listen sister, if I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you.” Elvira's fist confrontation with Chastity Pariah

“Listen sister, if I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you.” Elvira’s fist confrontation with Chastity Pariah (Click to embiggen)

What follows is a parody of several old horror movies (and a few Lovecraft stories), but even more a parody of all those movies about small minded small town people being against outsiders, et cetera. While there is one scene that is a direct take-off on Flashdance, the majority of the movie is a retelling of Footloose with Elvira in the Kevin Bacon role.

And the movie is funny. I mean, Edie McClurg should have gotten an award for her hilarious turn as Chastity Pariah, hypocritical council member.

Elvira’s great-aunt doesn’t leave her any money, just her house, her book of “recipes”, and her pet poodle named Algonquin.

The kicker is that Morgana was a powerful witch, the book is actually a very old and potent grimoire, and the poodle is actually a familiar. Elvira spends much of the rest of the movie figuring this out, and slowly learning the Morgana’s brother, Vincent, is the evil warlock who killed Elvira’s mother, Divana, and that possession of the book is going to decide the balance of supernatural powers for the next century.

In between, Elvira tries to iniiate a romance with the very hunky but virginal owner of the local movie theatre, becomes a hero for the town’s teen-agers who wish the town was less backwards, and has various misadventures trying to use the mystical book. I know the movie is set in Massachusetts, but some of the more jokes in the sequence where she mistakes a potion to conjure a demon for a casserole recipe resonated extremely deeply with my southern Missouri/Oklahoma soul, okay?

Part of the meta of the movie is that Elvira, despite being played by a cisgendered woman, is essentially a drag queen. And while what little other queer subtext is very, very sub, that 80s drag queen/queer camp vibe is extremely strong in the movie. All of the villains are either defenders of the old Traditional Family Values notions or the even more ancient Toxic Masculinity tropes, while Elvira and her supporters are champions of Everyone Is Valid, and Being True To Your Self is More Important Than Pleasing Societal Expectations.

Which is very queer. So even though the vast majority of the sex and innuendo in the film is quite hetero, there is simultaneously an extremely strong non-hetero message being promulgated throughout.

At the time when the movie came out, I was still trying to pretend I was bisexual, which I very dysfunctionally saw as being half-heterosexual. I was trying to walk an extremely difficult tightrope. And this movie seemed to walk a similar tightrope… but when I re-watched it, I began seeing that the tightrope was as false as Chastity Pariah’s moral superiority.

Eventually, the camp sensibilities and the sex-positive subtext of this movie was one of the many examples that helped convince me to stop trying to compromise my true self.

And years later, it’s just an extremely funny movie to watch during Halloween season. And what more could you ask for?

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