Pop Culture Blind Spot: Teen Witch

It’s October, and I am continuing to tackle my Halloween movie pop culture blind spots. As a person who loves Halloween but hates to be scared, it’s a chore. A neat trick I learned with Teen Wolf is that if a movie has the word “teen” in the title, it’s probably not that scary … and with that, I delve into Teen Witch.

What I Think It’s About: An ’80s teen learns that she’s a witch, like in Halloweentown or Twitches or Worst Witch or Harry Potter. She raps at a mean boy. That part, I HAVE seen.

Hulu short description: A high school student who is a descendant of bona fide Salem witches uses her magic to snag a football star as a boyfriend.

Okay, I’ve mentioned before how far down the Salem Witch documentary/podcast/google hole I’ve fallen, so this sounds pretty cool. Except for the second half, anyway – even a dopey teen has better uses for magic powers than “snagging a football star as a boyfriend.”

The movie opens with 80s sexy smooth jazz saxophone, which I hate. Two teens hang out in blue lighting on a rooftop. The first FOUR minutes look like any generic music video of 1989. It’s just a dream, we learn as Teen Witch wakes up in her Laura Ashley bedroom.

Also my bedroom style c. 1989 – 1999.

The family all sits around the breakfast table at the same time, being formal at each other.

Teen Witch’s best friend has dark hair and is 100% the person I thought was the Teen Witch based on the rap clip I’ve seen.

Anyway, Teen Witch (Louise) and Best Friend (Polly) wear those oversized, menswear, Annie Hall-type 80s clothes, which I find really underrepresented in the 80s-inspired fashion universe.

Cute look!

Teens just rap in the hallways. White boys. They’re dressed like the Uptown Funk video, or more accurately, the Uptown Funk video is dressed like them.

The cheerleaders sing and dance ‘I Like Boys’ in the locker room. THIS IS A MUSICAL?! This is a musical! I didn’t know.

I have so many things to say about the I Like Boys sequence, none of them probably search engine-friendly. You don’t strictly see anyone singing it, they just sort of prance in the locker room, having antics. As gals do, while telling you over and over that they like boys.

I probably don’t have to say this, but the ’80s teen hunk Louise is obsessed with is named Brad.

Louise goes to a creepy unpainted Victorian house to see someone named Madame Serena. The Victorian House trope is always interesting to me. By, say, the 1950s an 1890s Queen Ann Victorian was already known as a creepy witch/ ghost house. But in 2017, a house the same amount old (built in the 1950s) isn’t considered creepy. Our scary movies don’t involve a foreboding ranch house.

Madame Serena is a small psychic woman with a high voice, like in Poltergeist. She refers to Louise’s “cute little Punky Brewster face.” Ha.

Is Louise’s little brother going to turn into a rat ever? I feel like that happens in a lot of these kinds of movies.

Casting breakdown: Twerpy Younger Brother Who Gets Turned Into A Rat

An elderly health teacher has the kids chant ‘condom,’ which probably doesn’t happen in public schools? Or does it??

I think the only thing in the school’s soda machine is regular Coke.

Louise’s vest from her mom is “dorky” but with 28 years’ perspective, it doesn’t look any worse than anyone else’s outfits. Her dad has a big poinsettia sweater.

Wait but the nerd assuming Louise wears glasses, when she does not, is my whole life. Does this happen to everybody?

The nerd boy just looks like a hipster.

He’d be the hot friend on a CW series today.

“You think you’re hot stuff because you went to a dance. Nobody wants to date you because you’re a dog.. a dog… a dog!” That’s what kid brother says in that wavery scary voice before he TURNS INTO A DOG. I know I said rat before but I feel like I was close.

There’s a witch yearbook – “new faces of 1632” – and I choose to find it unrealistic that (1) they’re photographs and (2) not in 1600s-style clothing. The witch part is fine. Louise and Madame Serena are both in there. Does that mean all witches are reincarnated? Or they’re both 400 years old but went dormant and lost their memories for a while? I have questions.

Surely you all realized this already, but Madame Serena IS the actress from Poltergeist! I haven’t seen it since I was 7, but I was so certain it was her I had to IMDB it. What a very specific role to be typecast in.

It’s been almost an hour but I just realized that the character breakdown for Louise was absolutely “Molly Ringwald type.”

Louise has gone full witch, with love spells and a poppet.

Anyway, Louise voodoo poppets her awful English (?) teacher, a man whose classroom includes some weird stage with a desk and bookshelves on it, and who openly torments Louise every class. She makes him strip. ‘S funny.

Mean Teacher gets poppetted through a carwash on foot while the song “All Washed Up” plays, but the beginning of it sounds so much like Bad Romance. So much!

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for:

I thought there would be more context but, no. Also how I said it was a musical earlier? There was really just the locker room I Like Boys scene, then this. It’s like if I dreamed a kind-of musical about a Teen Witch, and an hour into the dream I realized I forgot to do songs.

Polly’s my favorite. It didn’t sound like the guy’s voice was coming from him?

Louise gets an ’80s perm, AKA she looks exactly like me if I air dry my hair, and a tapestry vest and a flouncy skirt. Hot stuff, indeed. She’s like Tiffany now. There’s a montage and all her outfits are super cute now.

It’s just Grease with witches, isn’t it?

The Sexy Sexy Saxophones are back, but this time Louise isn’t dreaming. She kisses Football Brad near a plaster-and-lathe wall.

Louise accidentally (?) magics the lead of the school play into breaking her leg, thus getting the lead role. I just thought witches had more control over their magic? Like with spells and wands. Louise is running this operation on poppets and hormones.

I’ve been checking how long there is left every 15 minutes or so.

Never have I ever seen a school dance scene that felt like it was the appropriate length. Like real school dances, it just goes on and on and on with very little happening.

In 1989, the bigger your hair was, the lovelier you were. Must have been nice to have such a clear formula.

I thought we’d get more clarification on the popularity-doesn’t-matter thing, but like Grease the messaging is not all that great.

To that end: the closing theme is “I’m gonna be the most popular girl. Gonna change my hair and makeup, soon you’re gonna see…”. There was nothing spooky in this whole movie – it was way too un-scary, actually – but this theme song would be PERFECT playing at the end of a dark, Black Mirror-y study of popularity at all costs.

Takeaway: I really like a lot of kiddie ‘scary’ movies, and I think witches are the coolest thing ever, but this didn’t 100% do it for me. Judging by my love for Hocus Pocus, I probably WOULD have liked this if I watched it first as a kid, though. It’s almost like it needed to be more witchy, or at least for the witch to have a more interesting objective than Football Brad.

 

EDIT: It’s been like 3/4 of a day since I watched Teen Witch and I find myself liking it more and more. Maybe it’s magic after all.

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Pop Culture Blind Spot: Teen Wolf (1985)

Welcome back to the spookiest month of pop culture blind spots! (October. The spookiest month is October). I started us off with The Shining, one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, so I don’t feel bad for dialing it way, way back this time and watching Teen Wolf.

What I think Teen Wolf is about: Michael J. Fox plays a teenage basketball player who discovers that he is a werewolf; he has to hide it from his friends and from the requisite 80s movie cute blonde girl; in the end she’s fine with it or maybe is a werewolf herself.

Hulu short description: A teenage boy’s incredible werewolf powers improve the quality of his life in dramatic and hilarious ways.

Look, if the grossest thing we see this whole movie is the sweaty teen face close-up we open on, it will be gross enough.

Michael J. Fox (Scott) goes into his coach’s office, mentions that he is “changing,” coach apologizes for not noticing but says he hasn’t been in the locker room much. A few things:

  1. APOLOGIZES FOR NOT NOTICING BUT HASN’T BEEN IN THE LOCKER ROOM MUCH
  2. I think it’s fine and actually v good if adults don’t notice teens’ puberty stuff
  3. In locker room situations, didn’t you always assume that nobody was really looking at you? Well you were wrong.

Everything is exactly as it should be in ’80s teen movie land: Scott has a Brunette Platonic Friend(TM) and a Blonde Crush. He works at a folksy, cluttered hardware store. The school’s theater director wears a turtleneck and a tweed blazer. Blonde Crush Pamela has a tough-guy boyfriend in double denim.

Honestly this is the whole thing in one photo.

Scott demands a keg at the liquor store, his eyes glowing red which is an early werewolf thing.

The one thing most 2010s depictions of the 80s are lacking: the intensely feathered and permed bangs that are all over the place in this teen party scene.

Peep the young Andy Samberg lookalike.

Does Scott have a mom? Single-parent households were the thing in 80s movies.

Importantly, Scott grows fangs and nasty thick nails before morphing into a full fur-face; more importantly, the green tiled bathroom was out of style for so long that it’s in again. I’d love that bathroom.

Scott is the only person, other than me, who says “jeez Louise” in moments of stress and panic.

There was a D.P. who was REALLY feeling this downward ceiling-shot in the bathroom.

Post-werewolf Dad (Dad’s also a werewolf BTW) looks so much like Jim-Bob Duggar.

Not sure if it’s the sound mix on Hulu or the sound cues in general, but the background music is so jerky and loud, bad and jarring. No shade to the music supervisor: it was the style of the time.

There is some very extra-casual use of f*g and I thank my lucky stars that it is 2017, not 1985. I only hope that 32 years from now, people are horrified by the things we say in movies today, too.

Everyone in the school is very cool about wolf-Scott. (SCOTT WOLF! Would have been a relevant thing to say 15 years ago.) Scott’s dad understands. There is basically zero conflict at this point in the film, except for a vice principal. Come to think of it, Scott’s friend Stiles was significantly nastier when he thought Scott was maybe-gay than when he thought he was definitely-wolf.

Platonic Brunette gives Blonde Crush a t-shirt, which is “too big for me.” Shade.

Season 1 Joey Potter-level sass.

The theater director is now in a cowl-neck with seemingly no shirt underneath, which is itchy and sweaty.

Pam & Scooter hang out backstage, where she is just in a bra and underwear, but it’s 1985 so like, white granny panties and a plain white bra. They hook up. She seems to really, really want him to turn into a wolf, which I mean, if that’s what you’re into it’s fine.

Scott calls his teammate “chubby” and “chubaroo,” and you’d think a wolf-teen would be more cool about other people’s body situations.

Scott thinks he’s hot stuff because he goes to a school dance in wolf mode.

I don’t know if I’m more confused as to why vice principal and Blonde Crush’s boyfriend hate werewolves so much, or why literally everybody else is so nonchalant about werewolves.

The only time I like a sports montage is when the movie description includes the phrase “rag-tag misfits.”

The twinkly, inspirational song that ends the basketball game! Oh my goodness. It’s like the same song that plays at the end of every 1980s to early ’90s teen movie. The entire ending sequence is all b-ball, no wolves, BTW.

That’s the end of it – they win a ball game.

One thing I forgot to mention is that Platonic Brunette’s name is Boof. I kept thinking it was a nickname for something that I missed (Lisa, per the internet), but the end credits confirm. Boof.

Pop Culture Blind Spot: The Shining

To begin with our standard Pop Culture Blind Spot apology/non-apology: yes, The Shining is a classic and no, I haven’t seen it. As a little kid I would challenge myself to watch scary movies, only to find myself haunted by them for months after. [Poltergeist, I’m looking at you.] At some point I questioned why I was doing that to myself and massively slashed back on my horror viewing. As a result, I’ve never seen some cult favorites: like The Shining, or Stephen King’s The Shining if you’re nasty. Between now and Halloween, I plan to dive into some of these spooky favorites – so watch this space.

What I think The Shining about: Jack Nicholson plays a writer who takes his family to a remote, haunted hotel until he snaps because of hotel-ghosts and tries to kill them all. Also, twins.

Netflix short description: A distant father roams an empty, maze-like hotel thick with dread. Something awful awaits in room 237.

First thing I notice: The Shining is shot, preserved, and/or remastered beautifully for a 1980 film. You know how a lot of movies from that era look sort of orange and grainy? In the scene with Jack’s son and wife (Shelly Duvall) it truly feels like I could walk into through the screen and into their apartment. As I said, Poltergeist did some things to my brain. But really, it’s like early 80s time travel, with all these nicely layered set details.

It’s so weird to hear the distinctive Jack Nicholson voice coming out of such a young face.

Jack agrees to the hotel deal and learns another guy who did the same thing went crazy and killed his family with an axe. Cool cool cool cool.

My first reason I don’t really trust Jack is that they have stack and stacks of paperbacks piled around their TV. Get another bookshelf.

Little Danny converses with himself in a mirror, which I hate. Then a flood of blood pours out of elevators, which I also hate. Then you see the scary twins, who I sort of thought would show up way later?

Backstory: Jack drank too much, got angry at Little Danny, and injured his arm 5 months ago. Since then he has stopped drinking… OR HAS HE?! OR WILL HE?! I don’t know, just trying to drum up some horror-appropriate suspense here.

Danny stands the eff up in the backseat of the car, and that is the most 1980 thing I have seen in the first 20 minutes of this film.

Oh, so those twins are just gonna keep showing up, huh.

There’s a hedge maze, but I’m going to stop them because nobody does hedge mazes better than My Dad Wrote A Porno.

Danny befriends Dick Hallorann, a chef who knows far too much and thus is surely a ghost or ghost-whisperer. Also Danny will not shut up about Tony, the ghost who live in his mouth.

The worst part of watching an iconic horror film is that your tension during dramatic moments starts way too early because you know too much. When Danny rides his trike around the hotel, I know from the first second that it’s definitely A Thing.

We watch part of a scene through a mirror, so Jack’s T-shirt writing is backwards. It’s so hard to tell what’s foreshadowing and what’s A Choice, because as a rule when I watch horror movies I assume everything’s foreshadowing.

Jack starts to act like a REAL DICK when Shelley Duvall stops in to say hey, so he’s already full of hotel ghosts.

Oh no, the twins.

To expand: the twins talk like a child Queen Elizabeth, or possibly like that old-time movie accent people used to have. Then Danny’s vision cuts to the girls dismembered.

Wait, shouldn’t Danny be going to school …? He spends 100% of his time riding a tricycle and getting haunted.

That damn mirror is back, along with Jack staring blankly into it before being creepy at his child for a while. Are we double-sure the overall problem isn’t actually that Jack’s a POS?

Oh, Danny has a great sweater:

And Wendy has a great overalls dress:

Danny has a bruised neck and Wendy deduces that a blank-faced Jack did it. Wait, is this whole thing an allegory for abuse?

A tuxedoed bartender shows up at the hotel bar just when Jack needs him most. Again, this dirtbag was supposed to quit drinking months ago. I still can’t decide if all the hotel people are ghost or if ghosts just live there alongside the people.

Shoutout to this film’s rug artist, and all the rug artists inspired by this film:

Jack gets chased by a decaying ghost-woman, which is honestly his comeuppance for being all “hehe, boobs” when he sees her in the bath instead of wondering what she was doing in the hotel.

Jack temporarily redeems himself by not being the person who choked Danny, then un-redeems himself by saying Danny did it himself. Also maybe I’m projecting, but it feels a lot like Danny has undiagnosed epilepsy that his parents should deal with.

There’s a ghost ’20s party going on in the house and Jack invites himself. You know what? Usually in horror movies I get annoyed with the people who go straight into clear peril, but I’d invite myself to a ghastly Gatsby party too.

[I do realize that Jack’s non-reaction to this scenario means his brain’s broke and we shouldn’t be holding him accountable for being a dirtbag, but isn’t it possible that Jack’s haunted/possessed AND a dirtbag?]

Anyone else find the blindingly red bathroom almost as creepy as the fact that Jack’s hanging out there with Mr. Grady, a deceased man who obliterated his family?

Danny starts using the funny creaky voice my littlest niece and I like to talk to each other in, and I can’t stop laughing. It’s supposed to be scary, I guess.

Dick Halloran hangs out in an airplane that, in true ’70s fashion, has seats that are about 3 feet wide.

There’s a lot of snow, and maybe this is just me being from a super-snowy city, but we’ve seen their stocked pantry and know the family doesn’t have anywhere to go (ahem, school). So I feel like it shouldn’t be a big deal?

I just googled Danny Lloyd (Danny) and found out they filmed the whole movie without him ever realizing it was a horror film. I love that so much! Stanley Kubric, ladies and gents. Legend for a reason.

We’ve now ticked off the following classic scenes: twins, redrum and All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It’s been fun seeing them come up, but nothing has really shaken me yet because I knew more about this movie than I realized.

Shout-out to Jack Nicholson: the scene after Jack finds Wendy reading the manuscript is some of the best creepy-movie, sinister acting I’ve seen, ever. There’s no gore or jump scares or anything, yet it’s the most harrowing moment of the whole thing.

Danny says redrum (AKA murder backwards) near that mirror. Good work, Stephen King’s The Shining. I like your foreshadowing.

Mhmm, so everything from when Jack gets an ax through the end is edge-of-your-seat chilling. I love how the first maybe 2/3 of the movie are only slightly spooky, only to get full-scale terrifying at the end.

Did I or did I not see Mr. Grady doing it with a furry?? Why is this not a thing anyone has brought up when I’ve heard them talk about The Shining?

Dick Halloran, RIP, you were my favorite one of all these shit people.

When Wendy finds the ballroom full of spiderweb skeleton-people, I can’t help it – I start grinning. It’s not funny, I’m just so delighted by the Psycho/Miss Havisham-ness of it all. In this moment I understand how people who are braver than me get a kick out of horror movies.

I love frozen popsicle eyeroll Jack so much. More than I’ve loved Jack this whole movie.

The ending – where you see the photo of the ballroom from July 4th 1921 and Jack’s there in an old-school tuxedo? That right there has to be the best ending of a horror movie I’ve ever seen.

BTW, almost all pics in this post link to great related posts about people who are clearly a lot more savvy than I am re: this movie.

 

I made it! That wasn’t so bad, but I have a feeling horror movies where most of the scenes aren’t a part of our cultural shorthand already will spook me out way more.

 

Baseball Movies, A Late 80s/Early 90s Micro-Trend Remembered

Baseball and film go together like, well, peanuts and cracker jacks. The oldest baseball comedy I could track down, Baseball Madness, was released in 1917, so the genre is almost 100 years old. As recently as 2014, Million Dollar Arm and 42 proved that the baseball film isn’t going anywhere. Still, I’d argue that the baseball movie was especially hot during the late 80s and early 90s. Some of these films recycled plot points and key scenes, but they’re still the best way to begin the most wonderful time of the year: MLB season.

Bull Durham

Year: 1998

Catch Phrase: This speech that I hate:

(I forgot how much I hated this speech but I do. I hate it.)

Key points: One of the only baseball rom-coms on this list (or in film, to be honest). Kevin Costner (Crash) mentors pitcher Tim Robbins (Nuke). Susan Sarandon (Annie) loves them both. Basically Annie and Crash both “coach” Nuke and in the process they form this weird enmeshed relationship. Who will she choose? (Spoiler: Crash, after Nuke makes it to the majors.) Also this is where I learned that baseball groupies exist.

Fun facts:

  • Sports Illustrated has named Bull Durham the best sports movie ever made.
  • Writer/director Ron Shelton was a minor leaguer himself, playing for the Rochester Red Wings (incidentally, our hometown team).
  •  Susan Sarandon, at 41, was thought to be too old to play the love interest of Tim Robbins (29) and Kevin Costner (32).
  • Sarandon and Robbins, who were together for over 20 years, met during filming.
  • The wedding extras came from a nearby Pink Floyd concert.

Is Costner In It: Yes

Field Of Dreamszone27s-5-web

Year: 1989

Catch Phrase:

Key points: Kevin Costner again plays a baseball guy (Ray Kinsella) with a significant other named Annie (Amy Madigan). His dead father shows up and tells him to plow a baseball diamond into his cornfield, which he and his wife both think is a reasonable request. Then all these basbeball ghosts from 1919 keep showing up, which again leaves everybody more or less nonplussed. Okay, then it’s time for a road trip, and Ray meets an author and they see ghost stats from the 1920s on a Fenway scoreboard. Spooooky. Except not, because again, nobody is really disturbed by any of this. Right. Well, they meet more baseball ghosts, and then they go back to the farm, and Ray’s dead father comes to play catch. Ray’s daughter Karin chokes on a hotdog, because this is baseball, and a baseball ghost named Moonlight saves her, then walks off into the corn. They all play baseball and people come to the games. This summary has been provided by me watching this movie on cable a lot when I was under the age of 8, and then not seeing it for the past two decades.

Fun facts:

Gaby Hoffman (Now and Then and – more recently – Transparent, Girls and Obvious Child) plays little Karin.

It sounds made up but it isn’t: a young Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were extras at Fenway.

James Stewart was offered the role of Moonlight Graham.

A lot of the baseball ghosts were from the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

Is Costner In It: Yes

Major League

Year: 1989

Catch Phrase:

Key points: A showgirl inherits the Cleveland Indians, and tries to trigger an escape clause to move the team to Miami. To do that she needs low attendance, so she hires a ragtag team of really old or really bad baseball players. I think if you’ve ever seen a movie you know where this is going: they pull it together and win. Plus, they beat the Yankees, which as a Mets/ Red Sox blog we really enjoyed.

Fun facts:

  • Charlie Sheen (Ricky Vaughn) almost landed a role in another late 80s/early 90s baseball movie: Bull Durham.
  • Sheen took steroids to prep for the role, even though by now we all realize he isn’t really a person who needed to get hyped up by ‘roid rage.
  • In the original ending, showgirl owner Rachel Phelps actually never planned to move the team to Miami, she just wanted to give the team some motivation. But why did she field such an (on paper) terrible team, then?
  • Pete Vuckovich (Clu) was a real MLB player, and when told to say something to the catcher that a real ball player would say, he asked “how’s your wife and kids.” The sport of gentlemen, my friends.

Is Costner In It: No

A League Of Their Ownleage-own

Year: 1992

Catch Phrase:

Key points: During WWII, with baseball-aged men fighting the war oversees, the All-American Girls League is formed. Among the players: sisters Kit and Dottie, dancer Mae, Southern Belle Ellen Sue, and poor frumpy Marla Hooch. Manager Jimmy Dugan is a total jerk and he’s really mean, but the players are all fantastic and Jimmy can STFU. Kit and Dottie have a Venus and Serena-style sibling faceoff. Then it’s 1988 and the players are all old ladies, and they sing their baseball song, and I cry every single time.

Fun facts:

  • If you think this isn’t one of the best sports movies ever, you’re wrong.
  • If a group of elderly ladies reunited to reminisce about the baseball team of their youth today, they’d be looking back at 1976 (which, by my estimates, means that the “old ladies” at the hall of fame actually aren’t really old; this just came out when I was really young).
  • The director’s cut is four hours long and I want it.
  • The actresses attended baseball training camp before filming. Madonna was not great.
  • Truth > fiction and the real players in the AAGPL were pretty much amazing.

The Sandlotthe-sandlot-moviejpg-e0cddbb30033fc8a

Year: 1993

Catch Phrase: So many! Just a few:

  • You’re killin’ me, Smalls.
  • For-ev-er.
  • Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die, follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong.

Key points: If you grew up in the 90s, there’s an excellent chance you watched this dozens of times and still know when to turn away during the carnival scene. It’s a classic “gravelly voiced adult man narrates his nostalgic, sun-tinged childhood” story. Scotty Smalls moves to a new town and starts playing pickup baseball with the neighborhood kids. The sandlot where they play backs up to an old man’s house, which is guarded by a ferocious dog (the beast), so every time they hit a ball over it’s gone forever. Smalls hits his stepfather’s Babe Ruth ball over the fence, so he has to face up to The Beast. In the process he meets Mr. Myrtle, a Negro League player who gives Smalls a ball signed by all of the Yankees as a replacement.

Fun facts:

  • If The Sandlot came out today, the carefree, old-fashioned childhood would have taken place in roughly 1986. Gulp.
  • It was only 56 degrees the day they shot the Wendy Pfeffercorn pool scene.
  • The Beast was a puppet (some of the time, anyway).
  • The Sandlot’s birthday is this week, and Where Are They Nows are popping up all over the place.

Is Costner In It: No

Rookie Of The Year101215rookieoftheyear

Year: 1993

Catch Phrase: The three Rs:

Key points: Henry, a little boy, breaks his arm and it is reset in such a way that he becomes a baseball phenom. He is recruited to the Chicago Cubs. Henry’s mom has a garbage boyfriend who tries to trade Henry to the Yankees, but it doesn’t pan out. Then Henry loses his magical broken arm pitch, and it’s back to Little League – but the Cubs did the World Series thanks to him.

Fun facts:

  • Thomas Ian Nicholas (Henry) has a Cubs jersey with his character’s name on it, which he recently wore to a Cubs game, which is adorable.
  • The official MLB minimum signing age: 16.

Is Costner In It: No

Angels In The Outfield39f87a27-1e5a-476a-ba0d-dc5cc3544862

Year: 1994

Catch Phrase:

Key points: It’s really hard to tell this, Rookie of the Year, and Little Big League apart if you haven’t seen them for 20 years. But this one stars baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Roger, a foster kid whose dad tells him they’ll be a family again “when the Angels win the pennant.” So Roger starts praying about it, and THEN Roger and his boy J.P. watch a game and see… well, it’s in the title. They see angels. In the outfield. Roger becomes a kind of good luck charm/consultant since he knows what the angels want. The Angels make it to the championship but I guess angels aren’t allowed in the, ahem, outfield during the postseason, so they have to win it on their own. Which they do. Then Roger and his boy JP get adopted by  the team manager, George, who unlike Roger’s dad isn’t the worst.

Fun facts:

  • Received the college humor treatment, parodying sports doc series 30 for 30:

  • All-star cast: in addition to JGL, the film featured Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody, Tony Danza, Danny Glover, Christopher Lloyd and Dermot Mulroney.
  • Angels In The Outfield was a remake of a 1951 film of the same name.

Little Big League

Year: 1994

Catch Phrase: I feel like there weren’t any?

Key points: Rounding out the 1993-1994 “baseball would be even greater if run by little boys” series, Little Big League is about a boy named Billy who has a single mom (so many single moms in baseball movies?). Billy’s grandpa dies and Billy inherits the Minnesota Twins. So Billy has some run-ins with the grownups in the franchise who are just trying to do their jobs, and names himself manager, since he’s a 12 year old white boy (aka the living, breathing heart and soul of baseball according to early 90s films). As it turns out, little boys are bad at running baseball teams so Billy steps down after ruining things. But he’s one of those people who can ruin things and still be totally beloved, like Tim Riggins.

Fun facts:

  • IRL, owners can’t also manage their teams.
  • The early 90s baseball movie boom means there was an early 2010s “where are the people in those early 90s baseball movies now” boom, and Little Big League wasn’t left out.

It’s 1988: Let’s All Decorate For Halloween!

Welcome to another edition of Let’s All Decorate! This month, we’re taking a look back at a creepy, garish, zany time, a time when people decorate their homes in the loudest, wackiest fashion imaginable … oh, and also Halloween.

It’s true- the 80s were a rough era, design-wise. So you’d think that incorporating the second-tackiest holiday of the year (after Valentine’s Day) would make things even crazier. However, that discounts one major development of the 2000s: the Halloween-industrial complex.

When we were growing up, the slate of Halloween activities was fairly limited. There were pumpkin patches, which were seriously just places where pumpkins were grown and sold. I thought I remembered a witch at the one we frequented in my childhood, but no: it was just a cauldron. Haunted houses and haunted hayrides existed. You’d have your classroom party, and you’d trick or treat. That sounds like a full month of fun to me, but as someone who’s recently taken kids to a “pumpkin patch” that features pumpkin catapults, a zip line, and go-carts, I can vouch that times have changed.

The simpler Halloween celebrations extended to home decor. My mom was notably Halloween-obsessed, and we had Halloween candles throughout the house, molded to look like ghosts and Frankensteins. We had a windsock that wailed whenever there was a loud noise, which meant that every family argument in October was punctuated by plaintive moans of  “ooo-OOOO-ooo.” There were stretchy cobwebs, plastic graves, and probably some fuzzy spiders. We hung a string of pumpkin-shaped lights in the window.

And that’s it. That was extreme in the late 80s and early 90s. It was before every family had a bin of fall decor that came out after Labor Day. Trick-or-treaters weren’t greeted by animatronic witches, and googley, glowing eyes didn’t peak out from the attic windows of half the houses on the block.

Wall hangings were pretty popular at the time. My mom was a teacher, and those bulletin-board shapes from Teacher’s World were tacked up around our downstairs. I think some non-teacher-kid friends had them too, though. By the way, Teacher’s World smelled like cold coffee breath, exactly like you’d expect.

Just like this. In fact, I’m positive we had the cat one – I was a 6-year-old cat lady, and I loved it the best.

Then there were the candles. In one of my earliest Halloween memories, my brothers were bickering over candy. As things escalated, my mother erupted at them – and just as she started yelling, all of the candles in the room flared spectacularly.

We lost our best vampire candle that day.

The survivors are in my house now, nestled among succulents which I imagine are the spookiest members of the plant kingdom, fly traps notwithstanding.

The survivors are in my house now, nestled among succulents – which I imagine are the spookiest members of the plant kingdom, fly traps notwithstanding.

If you were the kind of family who had an elaborate Christmas village with glittery cotton snow and tiny Victorian people, then you probably had a Halloween village, too:

In a lot of houses, Halloween treat buckets were sort of decor unto themselves. As I said, the options were more limited. Before so many parents proudly declared that their kids NEVER have McDonald’s, the Happy Meal bucket was the gold standard:

In another instance of combining form and function, we gathered our leaves in plastic bags that looked like pumpkins. Now more and more municipalities have moved to collecting loose leaves – which makes sense, because they can decompose a lot better when they’re not in bags – and these are becoming a thing of the past:

I’m sure they existed long before the late 80s, but crafty moms were especially into tissue ghosts:

The tissue-paper honeycomb industry was red-hot in the 80s, and there were standup decorations for every holiday, Halloween included:

The suction cup market was doing okay, too, as evidenced by these spider webs that were in my home and classrooms every October:

All of the coolest characters got into the Halloween spirit, and in a time when people weren’t as into integrating holiday decorations with their grown-up decor themes, these seemed like a legit thing to hang in your kitchen:But clearest in my memory – nay, in the memory of everyone growing up in a pack of argumentative siblings – was the dancing, wailing ghost windsock, which I’m now realizing my parents probably hung in our living room to mock us during our October fights.

It’s 1995: Let’s All Decorate With Pastel Southwestern Stuff

Welcome to another edition of Let’s All Decorate!, where we explore the baffling interior design trends of days past! Today we look into a craze that swept the nation in the 1980s and 1990s, when pastels reigned supreme and appropriation was king. Long before we were all wearing “tribal print” shorts and flats, our parents were decorating in “Southwestern” style. Today, my friends, our walk down memory lane is lined with cacti.

It’s 1995. You’re a mom shopping out of the J.C. Penney catalogue, and you’re looking to revamp your home’s current look. All of those geese in bonnets and powder blue gingham are so 1890 1990. It’s 1995, Clinton is in office, TLC is on the radio, and “Navajo” motifs are all over page 178 of the fall Sears catalogue. You are modern, you are edgy, you are worldly, and now you own peach and seafoam lamps based on Native American vases. You are my mother. Hi, mom.

I think there were a few months when ducks in bonnets and “Southwestern” lamps lived in harmony in my childhood home. That’s before the Southwestern lamps killed themselves. One day one of my brothers knocked over one of the lamps. It was made of powdery terra cotta, and it shattered. The lamp was quickly replaced. Months later, we broke another one. My mom declared that the next person to break one of those lamps was going to pay for it themselves. Not a week later, she knocked one over dusting. Elizabeth Bishop had it right: “so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.” Those lamps were freaking ugly, and eventually, they lost the will to exist.

It wasn’t just my family: plenty of middle-class Americans – some from the Southwest, but just as many from the Northeast like us – wanted to paint our living rooms with all the Colors of the Wind. Possibly in Benjamin Moore’s Blue Corn Moon.

This living room from Ugly House Photos is peak Department Store Southwest. Note the pastel teal, the Native American porcelain doll, and what appears to be a Horn Of Plenty on the side table:

And how about this bedroom? America: where we will take your sacred land and build a strip mall on it, then fill the strip mall with a Pottery Barn that sells knockoffs of your art and furniture. I do really appreciate how they incorporated both a canopy bed and tiny rodent pelts.

 

Faux painting was a 90s decorating trend I’d rather forget. We all remember sponge painting and marbling, but this home, featuring faux primitive cave etchings, really takes the cake.

Is this a set from the smash tv hit Hey Dude? No, it’s a house with dehydrated cow skulls. If it looks like clip art scenery from Oregon Trail, maybe it doesn’t belong in your house. Or maybe it does.

 

I believe the following look combines the 90s penchant for Southwestern motifs with our brief love affair with Magic Eye paintings:

 

Falling under the category of “well, at least it’s less bad than the trail of tears, but then again so is just about everything:”

 

You don’t see Southwestern interior decorating much anymore, at least not outside of the bona fide Southwest or actual Native American homes. In those cases, it’s great! But I like to think that in white, northeastern homes, all of these teal and peach monstrosities made like my mom’s J.C. Penney lamps and offed themselves while they could.

It’s 1990: Let’s All Decorate With Geese In Bonnets

Welcome to Let’s All Decorate, an occasional series celebrating the wacky, tasteless, and all-out amazing home decorating fads of days gone by!


In the late ’80s and early ’90s, my mom loved ducks and geese. Actually, let me rephrase that. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, my mom hated ducks and geese. When a favorite walking trail was infiltrated with Canadian Geese and their human-sized poop, she was livid. We raised baby chickens every year – she was a fourth-grade science teacher – but when a colleague hatched ducks, she didn’t understand (“too dirty”). But like so many middle-class women, my mother loved pictures of ducks and geese, as well as ceramic statutes, cookie jars, and wallpaper borders. It is as though at some point around 1988, all of the moms of the world got together, probably over Snackwells cakes and an episode of Oprah, and decided hey, let’s all decorate with ducks in bonnets.

When I really think about it, the bonnets were the weird part. The “put a bird on it” trend is still going strong, so obviously people like surrounding themselves with the ephemera of avian life. Fine. But those birds are living wild and free, you know, like birds do. The ducks and geese of the late ’80s and early ’90s were adorned like women from yesteryear. I have so many questions about this. Did the birds put the bonnets on themselves – too much sun on the beak, perhaps? And how would a goose make a bonnet? Did a human dress them in clothes, and if so, why? And who was the first person who thought “hey, ducks are kind of cute, but you know what would be way cuter? If they dressed like a lady from the 1800s!”

Look at this goose, dressed like she’s Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Duck Aunt:

And this freaking bird, gussied up like she’s about to go a-courtin’ with Gilbert Blythe:

Or how about this bird, wearing an apron so she doesn’t muss her feathers while feeding the chickens or whatever:

I’m almost positive my mom had these wall-geese:

This one goose has a shawl, because she’s chilly:And no kitchen was complete without this cross-stitched goose stuff, so all your goose friends would know that you welcomed them:

In 1990, it’s always Goose O’Clock (alternate slogan: “It’s Duck O’clock Somewhere?):It’s 1992. You’re thirsty. Best pour yourself an ice-cold glass of Goose Juice:

So, what social factors caused the Goose In A Bonnet fad? The trend has an almost perfect overlap with the Bush I presidency (1989 – 1993). Coming down from the go-go, Trump-and-taffeta Reagan era, were we all looking for something a little more homey, a little more rustic, a little more “waterfowl in sungear”? If so, it makes perfect sense that our interest in birds dressed like reenactors at a living history museum died just as the cynical mid-90s sprang to life; that when Gen X came into their own, they brought with them a sense of irony that had no room for geese that look like Hollie Hobbie.

Or was it the international tumult of the time –  Tiananman Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Iran-Contra, the Gulf War —  that had us all grappling for stability in the form of ducks outfitted like Strega Nona?
Friends, I think it was none of those things. I think it was pure, all-American bad taste. We talk a lot about all of the neon, day-glo nonsense that was going on 25 years ago, but let’s not forget about pastels. Bathrooms were outfitted with pastel peach and seafoam, with shadowboxes displaying shells and sand dollars. Living rooms had wallpaper borders with pictures of old-timey quilts. While most of the geese are in pale blue – a popular color during the pastel craze – you also see a bit of “dusty rose,” a dirty version of pink that people thought was a good idea.

I wonder if all of our chevron and naked birds and coral-and-teal is going to look as dumb as these Country Geese in 25 years (“Country Geese” is what they were called, and yes, it did take a long time on Google to learn this). I think the answer is maybe. But doesn’t it feel so refreshing to look back and remember a more innocent time, a time when we all said “hey, it’s 1990. The future is now. Let’s all decorate with geese in bonnets?”

Just Say YES: 80s & 90s Kids’ Shows That Made Drugs Look Fun

First things first: we would never tell children to do drugs. Children’s programs do it for us. Or did, anyway. Back when the front line of the War On Drugs was manned by a white lady named Nancy, kids’ shows told the youth of the nation to “just say no.” The problem: the drugs looked awesome. Was it because the show runners didn’t know what drugs looked like? Or were they just trying to show kids how hard it could be to resist peer pressure? Because I guarantee if these cartoons showed gross needles, or weed being smoked out of a dank Coke can, fewer kids would have wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Instead, the drugs looked awesome:

Punky Brewster

Punky’s got lessons. Don’t go all the way inside of a refrigerator. Your family is who loves you, not who abandons you in a supermarket. Someday, you’ll get a bra. And don’t do drugs, even though drugs look like the best candy in the world.

A group of girls invite Punky and Cherie into their clique, but only if they do drugs. I repeat: the girls invited Punky and Cherie to hang out in an amazing technicolor dream fort, and offered them free drugs. I’m not surprised that Punks did the right thing, I’m just confused why those girls wanted to be friends with her that hard.

Cartoon All Stars To The Rescue

This was an all-out failure of concept. When a young boy starts drinking beer and smoking dope ( I think they say “dope,” and I’m never 100% clear on what drug that’s supposed to be), his kid sis and a team of Cartoon All Stars gang up to teach him that there’s a better way.

That’s right, kids. If you do drugs, all your favorite cartoon characters will come over to hang.

In a way, though, this was the harshest punishment of all, because can you imagine being on drugs and then trying to deal with the fact that you were rolling with Alf, the Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Garfield, the Muppet Babies – the freaking Muppet Babies – and the Ninja Turtles? While we’re at it, Ninja Turtles: the CONSTANT PIZZA? The slow, drawled out speech? Sitting around all day in a basement with your bros? Oh, come on.

Dinosaurs

I’ve seen episodes of Weeds that were less pro-drug than this. Earl and Robbie, the boy dinosaur who’s Dinosaurs’ answer to Eddie Winslow, find a plant that makes them all chill and happy, but then the next day all they can find is seeds and stems. So I guess the lesson here is that they should have had more drugs on hand. Anyway, the whole family turns amotivational and at the end, Robbie delivers an anti-drug speech. Or is it an anti-anti drug episode speech? “When one show does an anti-drug episode, other shows feel pressured to do one, too. […] [P]ut a stop to preachy sitcom endings like this one.” In sum, the writers room of Dinosaurs probably smelled like that one kid in your nighttime sociology class who always wore a Central American poncho.

Saved By The Bell

We all know and love the “I’m so excited.. I’m so scared!” scene, but it’s easy to forget how appealing that episode made drugs look to all those Type A kids out there. Like, if I do “caffeine pills,” I too can get tons of shit done? That sounds amazing. I think we can all assume that “caffeine pills” is a Saturday morning T.V. euphemism for speed or a less depressing version of meth.

Then, there was Johnny Dakota. He was a teen star who showed up to make an anti-drug P.S.A. with the kids of Bayside. The gang goes to a party at his place and learns that he does drugs himself. So, Johnny Dakota went back to his lifestyle of drug-fueled house parties and the Bayside kids went back to hanging out with their principal. Real good job there, Saved By The Bell.

Fresh Prince

Was speed really THAT big an issue for highly-motivated teenagers in the 90s? Like Spano, Carlton is a clean-cut honor roll type who falls prey to amphetamines. He gets the pills from Will, who is using them to keep up with his go-go lifestyle, and Carlton takes them thinking that they’re vitamins. I am now realizing that I took Sudafed to pull an all-nighter in law school a few times, and that I probably learned that little trick from 90s kids’ shows. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and I owe it all to what I know realize were drugs. These were either some hardcore amphetamines or Carlton had a pre-existing condition, because he got hospitalized HARD.

Captain Planet

This episode features something that I was led to believe would happen a lot more than it does: a stranger forcing me to take drugs for no real reason. Do you remember that? They’d teach you how to “just say no” if someone offers you drugs, and then your whole DARE class would get sidetracked talking about “well, what if someone MAKES you take drugs?” And not for any reason other than that they want you to be a person who is on drugs. I remember when Traci and I were in Greece, we met this weird girl on the train who told us to be careful in Athens because people would put drugs in our food. “Oh, like… for reasons?” we wondered. Nah. She said just like weed or mild hallucinogens, and I don’t know why they would waste their hard-earned drugs on people who didn’t even want them.

But I digress. Some dude puts drugs in Lenkas food not to do anything to her, but just so that she becomes a person who is on drugs. She’s pretty miserable when she’s off drugs, but when she’s on them it looks like a blast!

Now, as someone who’s blessed to share her name with a popular club drug, I’m in a unique position to critique drug names. The one in Captain Planet is called Bliss. That’s a stupid drug name.

Jem

A girl we’ve never seen before is offered drugs, and before you know it her guitar skills are through the roof! Eventually she starts experiencing side effects or something, but this will go down as the anti-drug episode that taught us kids that if you hate practicing clarinet for band, there’s probably a drug for that.

 

Your Childhood Cartoons All Look Freaking Weird Now

This week, the world has been mourning the end of Saturday Morning Cartoons (well, by “the world” I mean people on the internet with a fondness for the 90s and complaining about things: so, most of tumblr, much of twitter). But really, what has been lost? Saturday morning cartoons were so special for millennials, Gen-Xers and boomers because they were all we had. They were a treat! Nowadays, kids with cable can watch cartoons on several channels 24/7 – 365. Even kids without cable pick up several over-the-air channels that play cartoons – PBS has the best kids lineup there is! Plus if you have internet access there’s YouTube for free, and Netflix for cheap.

While they aren’t aired at eye-wateringly early times on the weekend anymore – a win for parents everywhere! – most of your favorite childhood cartoons are still out there. See, energy cannot be created or destroyed: it can only change form. And cartoons are seldom destroyed, either. They just get rebooted and start to look freaking weird. If there’s a cartoon you loved as a child, it probably now looks like it was CGI-animated in this bizarre 3d-but-not-3d format.

My Little Pony

Then:

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

Pretty freaking weird. It’s my little pony, not my little weird humanoid. However, the first My Little Pony reboot does not involve bipedal ponies – this is a spinoff of that, I guess.

I can’t speak to these creepy people-ponies, but the regular new My Little Pony is well-written and surprisingly cute, although as someone who’s named after a My Little Pony character who was a human girl, it’s a bit weird that there are no people around anymore.

Sidebar: Parents, that’s why you shouldn’t let your eight-year-old name your baby. I’m just lucky I didn’t end up being called Rainbow Sparkle or Dewdrop.

Pound Puppies

Then:

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

First, a story. Did you know that Pound Puppies had cat friends in the 80s and 90s? They did. They were called Pound Purries. As a 4 or 5-year-old, I thought that was the stupidest name ever. What sort of idiot called a cat a “purry?” And as a kid who read lots of children’s books from 50+ years ago, I KNEW that there was a better alliterative name for these cats. So, I could not figure out why my parents reacted with swift horror when I said that I was going to call the characters “Pound Pussies.”

There was no way to know it yet – the internet was still in its infancy, after all – but guys, I’m pretty sure I invented the first online pornography search term.

Anyway, do these look weird? Well they look more like real animals, but they’re a lot less whimsical. And I can’t help but notice that there’s an absence of pounded pussies, which really has always said whimsy to me.

Strawberry Shortcake

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

It gets weirder the longer you look at it. Original Strawberry Shortcake was this girl in a pinafore and a bonnet and pantaloons, Middle Strawberry Shortcake was some sort of messy kid wearing Birkenstocks with socks and a hoodie tied around her waist, and Final Strawberry Shortcake is wearing a puffy, billed cap that belongs in an early 2000s J-Lo video. However, I’m most sketched out that the whites of her eyes appear to be green. Also, the character has either slimmed down considerably or been photoshopped – or maybe it’s like they say, the pinafore adds 10 pounds.

Holly Hobbie

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

It’s like seeing Abraham Lincoln dressed as a child in a Disney Channel Original Series. That’s how weird it looks. The whole point of Holly Hobbie is that she was a mostly-mute girl from some vague time in the days of yore who had to wear a quilt as an apron. She fit right into the Little House On The Prairie, 19th century thing that kids were into at the time. But these new girls look like they came from season one of the new Degrassi. As with Strawberry Shortcake, they look like the early 2000s, which I guess is olden times to today’s youths. Flared jeans, gaucho capris, and another one of those puffy billed caps – these gals look like extras in That’s So Raven. I half-expect a trucker hat or Return To Tiffany bracelet.

Arthur

Then:

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

It just looks… I don’t know, cheap? Now don’t worry, you can still catch regular Arthur episodes. It’s still one of the least annoying kids’ cartoons there is, although my 4-year-old nephew keeps singing the theme song and let me tell you, it is a major earworm. These CGI movies look like an Arthur CD-ROM game, though.

Rainbow Brite

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

Man. I miss those giant bangs that started on the midpoint of your scalp then continued to your eyebrows. And what ever happened to boys in bowlcuts? New Rainbow Brite is a bit more sleek and well-groomed, but the only freaking weird part is that the characters are older. It seems like all of kids’ shows today have protagonists in their teens, maybe a preemptive strike to convince kids that they have a lot to look forward to in the future? Psst – kiddos. Being a teenager isn’t that cool. Sorry.

Care Bears

Then:

 

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

You know what? Not that bad, actually! Like Arthur, it feels a little cheap looking, but when you’re dealing with plush-looking cheerful animals, there’s only so far you can go.

Of course, that’s what I would have said about My Little Pony, and we see how that went.

Maybe it’s my age showing, but I just don’t know how you could look at the colorful, hand-drawn frames of the old Care Bears and find this fake-3D computer game-looking stuff more appealing.

Smurfs

Then:Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

I don’t know if they’re weirder or just scarier. A colony of blue critters in KKK hats living on mushrooms is creepy enough, but somehow when you add muscle definition things get a lot sketchier

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Then:

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

The plus here is you can still tell who every character is supposed to be. But when you can clearly see their hair and claw-hands, you really remember that these are rodents, and rodents are disgusting. I sort of miss the giant nightgown-shirts, though.

A note: you may notice you didn’t see any superhero shows on here. It’s not because they don’t look freaking weird now – of course they do! It’s just that the very nature of those characters is that they’re constantly being repurposed. There have always been different incarnations of Batman or Spiderman, so remaking them for this era isn’t really a surprise.

Dance Hall Daze: 10 Days Of ‘Dance Hall Days’ by Wang Chung

Day 1

For the past 7 days, Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung — or as I now call it, Dance Hall Freaking Days by Wang Goddamn Chung, has been running through my head. It started when I heard it on my way to work last week. I was tapping on my steering wheel, jamming in the driver’s seat, and singing along to the roughly 10% of the lyrics that I actually knew.

Those were simpler times.

I was an effing idiot last week.

By now, knowing roughly 10% of the lyrics – and making up the rest – isn’t whimsical and charming. My Dance Hall Daze has been so long, so awful, so grueling that I think the only thing that will help is listening to it. Since it’s been in my head for over 150 hours now, minus the time that I’ve been sleeping or listening to other music, I figure my sanity may as well go out with a bang.

Starting right now I will be listening to Dance Hall Days every day for 10 days, like a toddler with a favorite Little Einstein DVD.

So take your baby by the wrist (because otherwise she might cut them): it’s going to be a long 10 days.

Day 2

You know what this song is to me? It’s like the auditory version of those slideshows of decrepit malls. What was once full of the poppy, peppy optimism of the 80s is now just a deserted shell of horror.

Also, I still don’t know why we let a band of like 5-ish white men call themselves Wang Chung. But I do know that I can now respond to “Everybody have fun tonight/ Everybody Wang Chung Tonight” with a definitive OH HELL NO I WOULD PREFER NOT TO.

Day 3

Despite my steadfast refusal to look up the lyrics, I’m figuring out that they’re the worst ever. Let’s talk about the third verse, for instance:

And take your baby by the ears

Pulling someone by the ear – in addition to being equal parts kind of violent and pretty much a weird thing to do – is just not an effective way to lead somebody somewhere.

and play upon her darkest fears

NOPE. I wasn’t alive in 1984. Is this how dating used to work?

We were so in phase in our dance hall days/ We were cool on craze. . . .

Just so we’re on the same page: craze is a drug? Right?

Take your baby by the wrist and in her mouth an amethyst

Okay. Did anyone else read that creeptastic fairy tale where that girl has diamonds and gems fall from her mouth when she speaks, then her sister has slugs and toads fall from her mouth? I don’t even know what the moral of that story is, but maybe Wang Chung is making an allusion.

Or maybe these lyrics are just weird and make no sense.

Probably the latter.

Day 4

Why can’t your baby just go where she wants? Jesus.

Day 5

When I was a kid, I thought they were singing “dance all day” or “dance so dance” instead of “dance hall days.” Which brings me to more lyrical analysis (I know them now):

Take your baby by the heels/ and do the next thing that you feel

I’m going to say that if you already have your baby by the heels (whether the “baby” is an actual infant or that’s an affectionate term for your significant other), your next impulse is not going to be so good, either.

Take your baby by the hair

Guys I’m really starting to think that Wang Goddamn Chung is a killer.

And pull her close and there there there

There… is where you hid the body? Because there’s no way this is ending in anything but murder.

Day 6

So, the guy from Wang Chung looks like Brian Krakow meets Barney Stimson with a touch of the essence of Logan Echolls, right?

+

=

 

Day 7

It’s time to dissect the music video – here, if you don’t want to scroll up:

Get to 0:10. Is his smile for REAL? It looks like the best thing that has happened to this guy – EVER – is appearing in this horrible music video for the song that is, now and presumably forever, the soundtrack to my nightmares.

Several seconds later, he illustrates “take your baby by the hand” by bending his own hand toward himself.

He is wearing a cozy Aran sweater tucked into high-waisted ivory pants. Winter whites. Fitting, for this is the winter of my discontent.

The lead singer is so over-dramatic, and so vaguely resembles an alternate-universe Neil Patrick Harris, that this whole video is like the Barney Stimson version of Let’s Go To The Mall.
I haven’t seen anyone so menacingly violin at me in a music video EVER. Remember when Celine Dion had, essentially, a sidekick who was a young Asian woman who played the violin? Ah, the late 90s.

0:40 Look closely. In the background there is a witch dancing, and what appears to be a furry. So, now I’m thinking that in “everybody wang chung tonight”, the phrase “wang chung” means “have a nightmare.”

0: 45 There are also, inexplicably, home videos from yesteryear clipped in intermittently. I imagine that Wang Chung stole them from the house of the woman he’s murdering in this song.

0:50 I think the lead singer and one of the violinists (there are two, WHY?) might be twins. They are like three terrifying Joey Gladstones.

gladstone

1:33 The lead singer is so emphatic and dramatic and awful that if you haven’t watched the video up until this point, I’m going to need you to do it. He really means this. I have never meant anything as earnestly in my whole life as Wang Chung means that he is going to drag a woman out of a dance hall by her feet and scare her while they’re both on drugs.

2:14 The Wang Chungs appear to be performing in front of a school portrait backdrop. Also their chunky sweaters are tucked into their high-waisted khakis, which seems awfully bulky and uncomfy.

Also uncomfy: listening to this.

2:25 The one guy air violins at us. But he has a real violin.

2:34: The main Wang Chung has his arms crossed over his chest with his hands on his shoulders, like you’d comfort yourself after finding a dead body. Which, judging by how this dance hall day is going, he then realizes that he killed himself while “cool on craze.”

3:15 Three men dressed as the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and The Lion are playing saxophone. Of course, at this point.

3:24 OH SHIT IT’S THEM

3:37 Now it’s like a Wizard Of Oz dance party, but way less cool than you’d think a Wizard Of Oz dance party would be.

3:54 The video closes on a still photo of two naked children in the ocean, just as a reminder that the past 4 minutes were creepy.

Day 8

During my daily listen, I forgot that I had unplugged my headphones after a web-ex. I was at work, in my own office with the door closed, but I still can’t look my nearest colleagues in the face just in case.

Odd side effect of all this Wang Chung: an increased desire to listen to British music from the 80s. It’s almost as though I need  The Raincoats and The Smiths and The Police to wash this musical abomination from my memory.

Day 9

I did some research (I went to Wikipedia, OK?) and Wang Chung began its tenure as Huang Chung, which is supposed to mean “perfect pitch” in Mandarin. But they changed it because people kept calling them “Hung Chung.”

Okay, boys. Okay. I think this is like my third-grade “about me” worksheet when I said that my nickname was “The Human Encyclopedia” even though, to my knowledge, nobody has ever called me that. Just because you want it to be true doesn’t mean it is.

I mean shit. I think I even spelled encyclopedia wrong.

Day 10

I have nothing left to say about this. Thank God it’s over.