9.4.18

Eating Peanut Butter and Onion Sandwiches and the 1989 American Hollywood Film Little Monsters

In 1989, Richard Greenberg, a Hollywood film director, made a movie for Vestron Pictures called Little Monsters. The movie had a limited run in theaters and did not gross over a million dollars in ticket sales even though the picture cost about seven million dollars to make. I am also certain that the producers and writers of this glitzy Hollywood movie had no intention of including gay subtext - but it is still interesting (to me, at least) to peel back a few layers. So permit me to be a little gay and read this movie as a gay love story. As I point out in the following review, the movie is very heterosexual (as most Hollywood movies are) which perhaps makes it even more interesting to think about with a non-heteronormative reading.
I read Little Monsters as a tween same-sex love story

Fred Savage (Kevin Arnold!)
In the 1990s, the movie gained wider distribution on American cable television which is how I most likely saw it for the first time. The movie stars the boyish actor Fred Savage. He plays Brian, a sixth grader who discovers that there are really monsters under his bed. As a kid, I liked the juxtaposition between a monster world and the real world - and I was transfixed by the way in which the film jumped back and forth between a staid Middle America suburban landscape and the carnivalesque world of the monsters.

About twenty years have elapsed since the movie was released; and I'm interested about what Little Monsters was telegraphing about what it means to be male, to be interested in "adult things," but to also remain a kid. It's obvious now - but movies like Little Monsters were remarkably heterosexual. In the film's preamble, Brian sneaks into the kitchen when everyone is asleep to watch (what looks like the Playboy channel) and makes a peanut butter and onion sandwich to eat in front of the TV. 
Brian sneaks into the kitchen in the middle of the night to eat a peanut butter and onion sandwich.
Brian has a thing for peanut butter and onion sandwiches
I suppose the scene sets up Brian's loneliness as a kid (i.e., eating a snack in the middle of the night all by himself) and to highlight his burgeoning curiosity in women (i.e., ogling a female actress wearing a bra). As writers like Jeffery P. Dennis have pointed out, boys going girl crazy at twelve-years-old is a relatively new feature of Hollywood films. It almost feels necessary in a film today - the boy protagonist has to have some younger (or older) female foil - he has to be interested in girls - or so we are led to believe. Just look at any film targeted to younger audiences, even the most family-oriented films like Goonies (which was made in 1985) and you can see this narrative element play itself out - Sean Astin's character Mikey is mistaken in the dark by his older brother's girlfriend and makes out with her off-screen. It's a gag - and it is meant to make viewers laugh - but it also presents Mikey, who is about the same age as Brian - as primed and ready for girl-craziness.

White Middle-Class America
I'm fixated on race in American movies older than twenty years. If I am not mistaken, the only character of color in Little Monsters is a short cameo by Magbee, a black actor, who plays Brian's school bus driver. Brian's classmates are typically middle class, his school is fairly caucasian, and the film's adult characters seem to inhabit the mostly yuppie world the late 80s and early 90s seemed to project - material wealth and strategic brand placement. For example, don't you want to eat a bag of Doritos after watching this movie?

As an adult, it is unsettling for me to watch a movie like Little Monsters, because when I watched it as a kid I was not looking at the film with a critical view. However, looking at it now, I must have been influenced in the way the film shapes a narrative about masculinity. I think it matters to think critically about movies we watched as children because as adults or nostalgia for the films of our youth can cloud our judgment. I'm amazed by how many of my peers who have children love having their kids watch the same movies we grew up with as kids. It's funny how the passage of time makes a Hollywood sacred. What's so great, for example, about Brian?  I certainly was not the same as Brian. But I knew kids like Brian and privately I wanted to be like the Brians of the world. They were not especially academically minded but the Brians of my youth had a masculine charm that Fred Savage was certainly able to market - which is why he has become a teen star icon. 


1.4.18

Robin the Boy Wonder Celebrates His 78th Year As a Costumed Superhero Sidekick

Robin the Boy Wonder Made His Debut in Action Comics On this Day in 1940
"Later, Gator!"
So, I am a Robin the Boy Wonder fan. Who doesn't like the Boy Wonder? I especially like him in his yellow-cape costume get-up from the 1968 animated television series Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder.

The show aired on CBS and was produced by Filmation Studios. I have no idea which episode from the series this particular GIF originates but maybe one of you knows?

Let me know in the comments section.
Image Source: chuber channel

31.3.18

Listicle: 10 Things I’ll Miss about Brooklyn

So I’m outta Brooklyn.

After packing up the car2go* Smart Fortwo, here is a list of ten things I’ll miss about living in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.

(N.B. The following list is South Brooklyn oriented):

The back cab of a SmartCar stuffed with luggage to move
N.B. You can move out of Brooklyn with the help of a Smart car. #car2go

10. Watching cruise ships arrive in New York Harbor from my bedroom window

9. Getting off at the Atlantic Avenue stop in downtown Brooklyn to do some urban exploring

8. Chatting up Peter at Melody Lanes

7. Talking with the handsome neighborhood guys who promenade Fourth Avenue on a Saturday night

6. Taking the express train at 36th Street - a world of wonder awaits

5. Getting my cheap cinema fix at either Alpine or Cobble Hill Cinemas

4. All the fantastic, smart people (whom I consider friends) I shared an apartment within the last eight years - I’m talking about you, boo.

3. Shopping on Eighth Avenue - they’ve got Louisiana boiled crayfish and hot pot. What more could I want?

2. Picking up my patron hold requests and chatting with Coquille at the Sunset Park branch of the Brooklyn Public Library

1. Hanging out with my squirrel friends at the Wash Depot

So — Sayonara, Brooklyn - you’re the fourth largest city in the United States (if you were your own city) - and damn girl, I’m going to miss your style.

Is my list bougie? Inform me in the comments.
*car2go is an on-demand on-the-hour rental car company.
PDF Copy for Printing

30.3.18

On Knowing Nothing and Why I am Embarrassed that I am a Know-it-All

My worst trait is that I am a know-it-all. I like to know things, and I feel amiss if I am not the one explaining. It’s an embarrassing trait. But I admit it. Awareness is half the battle, right? I like to know things. I am obsessive that way. 
Dicken's Mr. M'Choakumchild in the Age of No Child Left Behind

© 2000 Hearst Newspapers
Because I am a know-it-all, you’d think I’d be a sore loser. But I am not. I do not like to know stuff, so I can somehow feel superior to others. I just wish to know things and I will gladly listen if you have something new to teach me. 

As a teenager, I would get into bitter arguments with my parents about the minutiae of a such-and-such fact. Is a shark a fish? Why does Louisiana have the Napoleonic code? I think my parents thought I was just being a know-it-all. I am pretty sure my mom thought I was arrogant most of the time. I liked to read, and I wanted to find someone to bounce off ideas. When you're a kid, your audience options are limited.


29.3.18

Fish in the Sea (Or, Why I Like Aquariums)

Coney Island Beach back in the day.
I enjoy aquariums. The vast amount of water in large, transparent tanks transfix the eyes. I can watch stingrays all day. I anthropomorphize their bellies — don't you think they look like smiling faces? In New York — at Coney Island  there is a modest aquarium. I was excited when I found the moray eel hanging out behind a fake coral. Aquatic creatures! It's comforting to fantasize about life in water. One of my favorite Disney animations is The Sword in the Stone* the boy Arthur turns into a squiggly little fish  then a squirrel  but it is the fish scene I liked the most. Wouldn't life be so much agiler under the waves? Well, when a garfish isn't chasing you.
Arthur (as a fish) being chased by a garfish 
in Disney's The Sword and the Stone (1963)

28.3.18

Lorelei from Superman III (1983) Reads Kant's Critque of Pure Reason

Superman III (1983)
You can read the above clip from Superman III as a dumb blonde joke writ large or as an insightful riff on philosophy. I am guessing it is the former rather than the latter. 

Playing the supposed ditzy lover of the film's villain, Lorelei reveals she is a fan of Immanuel Kant's transcendental philosophy - the eighteenth-century European thinker's idea that he could bring together two schools of thought - empiricism and rationalism. At least that's the general idea of the book Lorelei's caught reading — The Critique of Pure Reason.
Lorelei: How can he say that pure categories have no objective meaning in transcendental logic? What about synthetic unity? 
It looks like Lorelei has stumbled upon the truth of transcendental idealism — that things in themselves cannot really be known in of themselves. Or did she?

27.3.18

Louisiana Facts and Names of Places

The Louisiana State Seal
The seal lists the motto of the State: Union, Justice, and Confidence
What is the Meaning of the Pelican?
A mother pelican sits in her nest and protects her children. Maybe you learned in third grade and forgot what the symbol of the pelican is and why is it emblazoned on the seal. While it is true that the Brown Pelican is the state bird, the story has a deeper meaning. I posted on Facebook asking my friends what the pelican symbolizes and lo and behold Basil Burns, a Roman Catholic priest, explains: “The pelican was a symbol of Jesus at one time. It was once believed (mistakenly) that the pelican would pierce its breast and feed her young with her blood -- the parallel is obvious, of course. So it's very much about self-sacrifice! I wonder if we couldn't throw a crawfish in there somewhere, maybe, with a bunch of hungry humans gathered around it?” Yeah. That would be cool, Basil. Let's contact the U.S. mint and put a crawfish on the commemorative state quarter. So, next time you are in the great state of Louisiana, take a photograph of the pelicans that fly around Lake Pontchartrain - north of the city of New Orleans. They are visible in the early evening, right as the sun goes down and you can watch them nose dive into the lake searching for their prey.
Louisiana Parishes
Acadia
Claiborne
Jefferson Davis
Rapides
Tangipahoa
Allen
Concordia
Lafayette
Red River
Tensas
Ascension
De Soto
Lafourche
Richland
Terrebonne
Assumption
East Baton Rouge
La Salle
Sabine
Union
Avoyelles
East Carroll
Lincoln
St. Bernard
Vermilion
Beauregard
East Feliciana
Livingston
St. Charles
Vernon
Bienville
Evangeline
Madison
St. Helena
Washington
Bossier
Franklin
Morehouse
St. James
Webster
Caddo
Grant
Natchitoches
St. John the Baptist
West Baton Rouge
Caldwell
Iberia
Orleans
St. Landry
West Carroll
Cameron
Iberville
Ouachita
St. Martin
West Feliciana
Catahoula
Jackson
Plaquemines
St. Mary
Winn

Jefferson
Pointe Coupee
St. Tammany


The following Louisiana places are in more than one county. Given here is the total population for each multi-county place, and the names of the counties it is in.
Arnaudville, pop. 1,444; St. Landry Parish (1,353), St. Martin Parish (91)
Delcambre, pop. 1,978; Vermilion Parish (1,438), Iberia Parish (540)
De Ridder, pop. 9,868; Beauregard Parish (9,511), Vernon Parish (357)
Des Allemands, pop. 2,504; St. Charles Parish (2,095), Lafourche Parish (409)
Downsville, pop. 101; Union Parish (82), Lincoln Parish (19)
Duson, pop. 1,465; Lafayette Parish (1,292), Acadia Parish (173)
Eunice, pop. 11,162; St. Landry Parish (10,930), Acadia Parish (232)
Junction City, pop. 749; Union Parish (644), Claiborne Parish (105)
Shreveport, pop. 198,525; Caddo Parish (198,034), Bossier Parish (491)
Tullos, pop. 427; La Salle Parish (427), Winn Parish (0)

Source: American Places Dictionary: A guide to 45,000 populated places, natural features, and other places in the United States.