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love is like a bomb, baby, come and get it on

Dec. 8th, 2017 | 10:28 am
music: "Whatever You Like" - Anya Marina (T.I. Cover)

And while I'm at it, this is the (incomplete and unfinished) real (ok, like 15% conjecture) story of Immigrant Girl, because sometimes I like writing about the moons circling the planet instead of vice versa. It's a story that I think about a lot because of everything it encapsulates about gender roles and sexism and the way systems are built to put women second, even if! Even if there are good guys in the picture. 

----

She emigrates when she's young. Her father's a big fan of Martina Navratilova, and one day he manages to introduce his little daughter - then a wannabe ballerina - to the star; the star says she should give tennis a shot. The little girl takes to the sport, loves it, commits to it. She's got a good backhand and a punishing work ethic. She knows she's not going to be the absolute best, but she'd like to make it to the top 50. Because she's ambitious, but realistic. An Aries. Strong-willed. So strong-willed that she travels through war zones to get to tournaments. And very stubborn. So stubborn, so Miss Independent, that when a rich boyfriend - some member of a Middle Eastern royal family, so they say - insists that she quit tennis to prepare herself for married life, she breaks up with him. Who the hell does he think he is? 

She qualifies for the Sydney Olympics when she's 21. She's on the up-and-up, and she's all discipline all the time. Others on the team tell her she has to come check out this supposed superstar-in-the-making, the one all the girls think is cute. What she sees is an 18-year-old going ballistic in practice. "That guy? Real great," she says, rolling her eyes. But he is cute, and he starts singing Backstreet Boys songs in her direction, trying to talk to her all the time. She doesn't know why. She's just trying to play tennis. Unfortunately, she loses in the first round - singles and doubles. Now she's got little left to do but cheer on the rest of her team. Cute Boy makes it all the way to the bronze medal match, then chokes inexplicably. Afterwards, he's inconsolable. She goes to talk to him. They end up talking a long, long time. On the day of the closing ceremony, he kisses her.

Whatever, she thinks; I'm still just trying to play tennis. The men's and women's tours only occasionally overlap. But Cute Boy, who it turns out has never had a real relationship (that explains a lot), is head-over-heels in love, and soon they're training together, trying to align their schedules as much as possible. She knows he could be extraordinary, if only he would practice more. All she can do is throw out his videogames and set an example. Hours upon hours on the practice court, every day, trying to get her technique right, trying not to envy the way her boyfriend just seems to instinctively "get it." They play mixed doubles at the Hopman Cup in Australia and win one match, lose the second. God, she wishes she could hold up her end of the bargain, be a better partner for him - and her own pride. His friends nudge him that they don't know how his dorky ass got so lucky, but the last thing she wants is to be some tennis babe who can't actually play. She knows what she has to do; she doesn't need a damn coach telling her. One coach actually ends things with her because she's so stubborn. But she's getting there. For the first time, she makes it to the third round of a Grand Slam, and loses to the eventual champion. She's ranked 70-something. She will make it to her goal. She will.

Then she gets injured. Her damn foot. It's always been a problem, and she's aggravated it practicing so much. She gets surgery in a last-ditch, Hail Mary attempt to fix it. It doesn't work. She tries to get back on court, but the pain is overwhelming. The doctors agree: her career is over.

She's devastated. Depressed beyond all measure. She's only 23 and this was her life and that's it, it's over now. While she's in a catatonic state at home, her boyfriend makes a radical suggestion in the hopes of cheering her up: come on tour with him. Doing what? He makes something up: be his press manager. It's ridiculous, but she takes it more seriously than anybody expects, applying the same ruthless discipline to his press engagements and pouring all her fighting spirit into cheering for him from the stands. He soon says he needs her to come to every tournament. He says she keeps him calm; that he loves her. And she loves him, so she agrees. At least he's finally practicing more now. He plays the Hopman Cup with their country's best female player and they win the whole thing; she's sidelined, and it sucks. The next year he wins his first Grand Slam - they rent a house together in London with his coach, and she does the cooking - and then everything starts happening very fast.

She moves in with her boyfriend. His coach isn't sure about her outsized role in his life - he's got limitless potential and has to focus on his career, he says, not a girlfriend. Things get tense and words are said and by the end of the year, her boyfriend has fired his coach. The press blames her for this supposed disaster. One loudmouth former player even calls her a Svengali, suggests that she has torpedoed her boyfriend's career, tells her to get back in bed where she belongs and leave the tennis decisions to the men. She is furious - who the fuck does this fucker think he is? - and when she's asked for comment, rips the asshole a new one, then vows never to speak to the press again. Fuck them all. Her perennially nervous boyfriend - she was always the tougher of the two of them - is too stunned to say anything, even though it was his decision.

So this is her life now. She arranges interviews and manages hotel bookings and keeps the trains running on time for her boyfriend's super-career, and most importantly, she is his rock in the stands. He still doesn't have a coach; she's all he needs, he says. She hears the snide comments - "when is he going to dump her for a hot skinny model?" "he's such a pussy that he can't break up with her" "she just sits on her ass and does nothing but spends his money" "I guess she must give good blowjobs" - and tries to act like they don't matter. He tries to repay her in diamonds - his mother says he spoils her, but she knows the woman understands what she's given up to be her son's emotional stabilizer - but tethered to a man is not exactly how she envisioned her twenties. At least her tennis life continues vicariously through him. After the tennis, they decide, she'll call the shots - but for now, his career has to come first. Except he's so good that his career shows no signs of slowing. Nor does he show any signs of wanting to slow it. As the competition gets tougher, he starts working with coaches again. And he asks her to step back from being his press manager, to let a professional do it. He says he doesn't like that she always has to be the bad guy. She knows it's the right call - that this empire she helped build from scratch in his parents' living room has now outgrown their ability to manage it alone - but now what does she have left except fist-pumping in the player box? She's 30 now. She's a 30-year-old glorified cheerleader.

That year her boyfriend realizes that I-love-you-very-much diamonds aren't enough. "Just wait until after the Olympics," he begs - he's trying for that gold again, for the third time now - "Then we'll do anything you want." Marriage, kids, even his retirement if she's sick of the tour - but she would never ask him to do that. He doesn't win singles gold (sigh) but does win doubles gold, and he keeps his promise. She's decided: she wants a child. She wants their child to be able to watch him play. Pregnancy comes quickly and they find out at the Australian Open that it's twins. She's struck by the terrible thought that there is no way she can stay on tour with him with two babies in tow, and it feels like her career is ending all over again. He insists they'll make it work (somehow?); her not being with him isn't an option for him, either. He loses in the final - another painful loss to his rival - and has a breakdown on the podium, and she's totally helpless to help him.

The pregnancy is difficult, but she stays on tour. She knows he needs her; she knows he's praying her delivery date will come between major tournaments. She watches him win in Paris in the rain, and although she's on the verge of passing out, watches him win in four hours without taking a bathroom break in London in July. The on-court interviewer chastises him for putting her through so much. "I know," he says, with more guilt than she's ever heard in his voice. Almost immediately afterward, they head to the hospital, where it's his turn, finally, to spend two weeks sleeping on a cot, waiting for her. A few weeks after their daughters are born, he's due to play a tournament in Canada. Nothing's changed; he still needs her to be there in the stands. The doctors say it's safe, so they pack up the babies and go. She's so. Fucking. Exhausted.

At least Cute Boy has a private jet now.

Nothing's changed, but everything's changed, too. Sometimes she still comes to watch him practice, to make sure he's practicing, but more often she's with the children, and after she has another set of twins a few years later (seriously? she's thinking), she's got to cut back her time on the court even more. He jokes that she doesn't even know who he's playing next; she rolls her eyes. Of course she knows. At major tournaments, she still commands a small army of nannies, children, and suitcases - sometimes she forces one of his coaches to help, and they always do, because she wears the pants in the family; the press says so, so it must be true. But she and the children stop coming to smaller tournaments - the girls can't be homeschooled forever, and the tour is year-round - and it does make her a bit nervous, after years of never spending a night apart. But she has contingency plans, because of course she does. She immediately befriends every model, actress, Olympian, princess that tries getting too close to him, neutralizing the threat before it even becomes one. She trusts him, but she's realistic. She has been on enough corporate-sponsored awkward double dates with other sports couples that have later divorced to know that she has to be proactive, and she is nothing if not proactive.

Her husband's best friend hires his former coach - the one who thought she was just an over-employed diversion - in a desperate attempt to squeeze the most out of his own potential. Soon his best friend has left his wife and child to focus on his career. She's disgusted - who does he think he is, treating the mother of his child like that? She cheers for her husband extra hard when he plays his best friend in a tight match, and his best friend turns and yells at her to shut up. Like men telling her to shut up has ever worked! She knows that her husband is silently freaking out, but she can't help it - she yells back, "crybaby!" He complains to the umpire; calls her "unbearable." After the match, her husband yells at his best friend in the locker room for going after her, then comes back to the hotel and starts a fight with her. They have to play the Davis Cup together the next week - how could she start this now? Because she's the tough one, damn it, even if she's not the one on court. And because maybe, just maybe, it makes her nervous that his best friend has left his wife for a 19-year-old who can keep up with him on tour. But that fear is ridiculous. He's not his best friend. He made that clear years ago when he fired the coach who dared suggest that his career - his amazing career - was more important than their relationship. "If you tell me to quit, I'll quit tomorrow, no problem," he says, and goes off to win the Davis Cup. Meanwhile, the press pillories her again, this time for being low-class. Whatever, haters. They have no sense of the ugliness being yelled from his opponent's player boxes, and his parents and coaches are all so bloody nice that it's up to her, the hot-blooded immigrant, to stand up for her husband.

She teaches the children her native language, which her husband doesn't understand. He's never even been to the country where she was born, but eh - he isn't missing much. After the boys were born, he didn't do as much to help. As much as they hate to admit it, he has to squeeze the most out of the time he has left too, and he was in such a tizzy after the girls were born: way more focused on diaper changes than on his tournaments. He can't afford to do that now, and she doesn't blame him. He's still as hands-on as he can be. He still lets her bring a sick child into bed with them on the eve of important finals. So hands-on that it's while he's running a bath for the girls after a loss in Australia that he twists his knee and tears his meniscus, requiring surgery. She tries not to think about the surgery that ended her own career what feels like a lifetime ago, to just be strong for him when he worries irrationally that he might not wake up from the anesthesia. He does wake up, but recovery is difficult in all the familiar ways, and after a series of poor false starts, the doctors tell him to take a longer pause if he hopes to actually let it heal. They know, at this point, that a pause might last forever. She tries, as always, to reassure. It's taken her fourteen years, but hey! She can wear heels again. Except he doesn't have fourteen years. On crutches, he asks her seriously: does she think he can ever win another Grand Slam? It's been four and a half years, and now he's on injured reserve. Her answer is unequivocal and immediate, because she is realistic, but ambitious: yes. 

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still giving me hope during these dark times

Mar. 19th, 2017 | 09:22 pm

Part of the reason I keep a livejournal is so I can remember hilarious things, years later. For instance, while listening to Roland Garros radio eight years ago, I discovered a wonderful tennis commentator by the name of Richard Evans, who was commentating a painful women's match on his own, running out of things to talk about, and wondering when dinner was. Years passed, I discovered Robbie Koenig, and I would have forgotten all about him if not for going back through old entries. Richard Evans, I thought. You cantankerous bastard. Whatever happened to you?

Look who showed up on my Twitter feed just now:
Never change, Richard Evans! (Never change, Roger Federer!)

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theme-post

Jun. 6th, 2014 | 08:09 am

"Blindfold" - Curve

Now I remember two days that mean a lot to me
I remember the two days when every hour was a minute
And every minute was a lifetime and the ocean was a sea
And you dragged me into the mountains with a flimsy guarantee
The stronger the man, the stronger the woman
If it ended now, would you be willing?
See how it feels for me - do you believe in me?

"Blinding" - Florence + the Machine

No more dreaming of the dead as if death itself was undone
No more calling like a crow for a boy, for a body in the garden
No more dreaming like a girl so in love, so in love
No more dreaming like a girl so in love with the wrong world

"Blindfold" - Morcheeba

Spring has gone
And summer keeps on coming on
I'm so glad to have you
And it's getting worse
I'm so mad to love you
And your evil curse

"Blind" - Michael Gira

Please don't ask me a question
It'd just be misunderstood
And if you could step inside me you'd feel what hatred brings
And if you saw with my eyes you'd see what self-deception means
I was younger once and I created a lie
And though my body was strong
I was self-deluded, confident and blind

"Blindsided" - Bon Iver

I'm not really like this
I'm probably plightless
Would you really rush out?
Would you really rush out for me now?

"Blindness" - Metric


What it is and where it stops nobody knows
You gave me a battle I never chose
I was the one with the world at my feet
Got us a battle, leave it up to me

-- side note: Can I just be Emily Haines?  Check out her fucking sunglasses in this "Help, I'm Alive" video.  

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a friend in need is a friend indeed (a friend who'll tease is better)

May. 26th, 2014 | 12:49 am
music: "Pure Morning" - Placebo


Dude: Letting people down is my thing, baby - find yourself a new gig, this town ain't big enough for two of us
I don't have the right name, or the right looks, but I have twice the heart
Dudette: If I spilled my guts, the world would never look at you the same way
And now I'm here to give you all my love... so I can watch your face as I take it all away
Both: I know I'm bad news, I saved it all for you.  I want to teach you a lesson in the worst kind of way -- still, I'd trade all my tomorrows for just one yesterday.

I have no idea what's going on in this video, but I've always loved this song.  When I heard it I immediately associated it with my "super-couple," the one I've been writing about since middle school.  For a while I was going to have their first book be my first book - I had worked exhaustively on the outline, written sizable chunks of the story, was living and breathing the characters - and then earlier this year, I decided I couldn't write their story now.

You see, my "super-couple" have always started off as best friends.*  The exact details of their unconscious coupling has changed over the years.  In the first version (the middle school one), the guy had always had feelings for the girl, and she is eventually convinced after some dangerous encounter to give the relationship a shot.  In the second version (written while I was in college), there was mutual unspoken tension that was never acted on because the girl was afraid of intimacy and the guy was afraid of commitment, and when it finally is acted on, it's when the guy has a girlfriend an ocean away.  In the third version (drafted last year), they start a FWB relationship that emotionally destroys the girl and initiates a cycle of jealousy/revenge/sabotage.  Their relationship has gotten progressively darker each time - I almost wondered if I overdid it with this last version, because the guy is such a selfish asshole and the girl is so pathetic.  Her friends stage interventions repeatedly and they never work.  Anyway, the thought of writing about these two right now is just like "NOPE NOPE," - I am just not in the right emotional state.  I know some writers are all about "spin that angst into writing gold!" but I need writing to function at least a little bit as an emotional escape for me.

So I'm writing the story about Americans studying abroad in Indonesia instead.  It's going well so far.

Other songs I've associated with my super-couple over the years (they have a lot of problems):

  1. "Limp" - Fiona Apple: "You feed the beast I have within me/ You fondle my trigger then you blame my gun."

  2. "Suspension Without Suspense" - No Doubt: "Now that I've/ forced you off, do you hate me?  Do you want revenge?"

  3. "Nothing Better" - Postal Service: "Don't you feed me lines about some idealistic future."

  4. "Push It" - Garbage: "I was angry when I met you.  I think I'm angry still.  We can try to talk it over."

  5. "Paradise Circus" - Massive Attack: "It's unfortunate that when we feel a storm we can roll ourselves over cuz we're uncomfortable."

  6. "Slide" - Goo Goo Dolls: "I wanna wake up where you are, I won't say anything at all."

  7. "Closer" - Nine Inch Nails: "I wanna fuck you like an animal."

  8. "Ways & Means" - Snow Patrol: "Maybe I can do it, if I put my back into it.  I can leave you if I wanted, but there's nowhere else that I can go.  Maybe I won't suffer, if I find a way to love her - I'd be lying to myself, but there's no way out that I can see."

  9. "Drowned World / Substitute for Love" - Madonna: "Traveled round the world, looking for a home, I found myself in crowded rooms, feeling so alone/ Should I wait for you, my substitute for love?"

  10. "Sometimes It Hurts" - Stabbing Westward: "God, I hate myself when I try to get over you."

  11. "Filth Noir" - Zeromancer: "Sometimes you just have to risk it all to get what you want."

  12. "Leif Erikson" - Interpol: "You come here to me, we'll collect those lonely parts and set them down."

  13. "Teardrop" - Massive Attack: "Love is a verb, love is a doing word."

* Same first initials too.  Same last initial as well, on his part.

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insert monster roar here

May. 17th, 2014 | 07:10 pm

Oh, and while I'm at it: Godzilla --

-- was not as good as Cloverfield or Pacific Rim.  By a long-shot, in my opinion.  The trailer is a lot better than the movie - there's an apocalyptic solemnity in the trailer that's quite convincing, but lacking in the movie, which feels like a throwback to the 1990s' style of fluffy blockbuster without any of the humor or star power.  I really didn't understand what was going on with the plot, even though I suspect it was very simple - the movie rushed through its clumsily-delivered explanations.

The audience didn't take it too seriously either - everyone could not help laughing when Ken Watanabe ominously intoned, "Gojira," and everyone clapped for Godzilla's power move kill shot at the end.  It was the kind of movie that had L. suggesting that Godzilla should have just gone ahead and done a little salute at the end.  It was corny.

What I love about Pacific Rim is that it's scary, and it builds its world extremely well.  I bought the world of Pacific Rim as a world in which these gigantic monsters keep popping up and destroying cities, for years and years on end, and humanity has more or less altered to live with it.  The indie movie Monsters is the best example of this sort of creativity, but Pacific Rim has a bold, neon, all-in shamelessness in its world-building that I loved.  (Also, Raleigh and Mako ugh I can't)  I mean, for God's sake, the entire Ron Perlman character. Godzilla has none of that. Godzilla is bland - camo-toned and humorless and flat.

And what I love about Cloverfield is its sincere, hysterical emotion.  You hate those stupid yuppies but damn if they don't seem like real people.  Damn if this doesn't seem like what would actually fucking happen if you were living in New York City and a monster attacked.  What struck me about Godzilla was how utterly calm everyone seemed to be.  The military, the civilians - it was almost like people had to be reminded to run, to scream, to act scared.  Bryan Cranston was the only person who seemed to be articulating his emotions, and as a result actually looked a little out-of-place.

In other words, Godzilla didn't seem to believe in itself.  Which is too bad.

I will say, though, I would love to watch a giant monster movie compilation set to Iggy Azalea's "Change Your Life" ("pop out your past life and I'll renovate your future/ yeah I love your hustle baby, just let me add a little bit of muscle, baby").  Seriously, something like this set to "Change Your Life"?  Would be amazing.

iggy muscle

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"you have no idea how badly I was secretly hoping that this was exactly what was going to happen"

May. 10th, 2014 | 11:03 am
music: "Murda Bizness" - Iggy Azalea feat. T.I.

Lessons learned from Season 4 of MTV's "Friendzone":

  • People who have been friends since childhood can't transition into more than that, despite what soft-focus romance novels and black-and-white pictures of children kissing may tell you.

  • The more confident you are that your best friend likes you back, the less likely it is that you are right.

  • Displays of jealousy are not an accurate indicator of the other person's feelings.

  • Do not ever do this in front of a group of people.  Especially if those people are your sorority sisters/fraternity brothers.  No but really.

  • It is uncanny the number of times that the other person responds with "yeah, I've actually... always had a crush on you too."

  • Sometimes, people do change their minds.

  • The worst?  When you tell someone you like them, and they say they have a crush on your best friend.

  • Don't ever try to get out of the Friendzone with someone who is in a relationship.

The "friendzone" is frequently and disparagingly described as such: Person A meets Person B, and instantly is attracted to Person B.  Rather than directly asking out Person B, Person A hangs around them, surreptitiously becoming their friend in the hopes that they will eventually change their minds, out of inertia if nothing else.  Frequently, Person A is described as a guy, and Person B a girl; Person A does good, friendly deeds for Person B with the expectation that Person B should love and fuck them in return.  The xkcd comic is a classic understanding.  The Friend-Zoner vs. the Nice Guy is another.  And I guess that's fair - there are people like that, usually guys who conclude that girls "just don't like nice guys."

But the reality is a lot more complicated, as "Friendzone" the show demonstrates.  Feelings are fluid.  Feelings are multi-faceted.  All of the people on "Friendzone" who are in love with their best friend genuinely and deeply care for both the best friend and their friendship.  They worry about losing the best friend and making the friendship awkward.  In real life, Person A may have approached Person B with interest, Person B declined, and years later, Person B develops feelings for Person A.  In real life, Person B liked Person A all along as well.  In real life, there is not always a hard and fast line between "platonic" and "romantic."  In real life - as long as they did not meet as children - both parties wonder if anything could or should happen with this person they click so well with, but fear is the mind-killer.  Fear that the other person does not feel the same; fear that a prior bad experience with a friends-to-dating transition will repeat itself.  "Friendzone" is more like "Fearzone," really.  And MTV knows all about that.

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when you listen to rap songs just for the refrain

Apr. 10th, 2014 | 10:23 am

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Like Gatsby’s green light, it is the promise of happiness.

Apr. 9th, 2014 | 12:06 pm

From a classic (2011) n+1 essay on "how we chat now":

And who do we Gchat with, when it counts? Friends, past boyfriends, future boyfriends, other people’s boyfriends... Gchat is for friendship, and affairs. It’s for allowing into the home everyone who isn’t supposed to be there, who’s supposed to be at home in their own bedroom... Might this be a model of commitment: truly felt on both sides, mutually desired, without exclusivity? These conversations don’t occur at the exact same time—if we wanted threesomes, we’d be in Group Chat—but the long view is the one to be taken here, and the beginning of one chat does not mean the end of another.

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post-colonial fragrance

Apr. 5th, 2014 | 11:35 pm

la colonia

  • Chantecaille Kalimantan fragrance is inspired by the intoxicating and lush forests of Borneo, available on the market from September 2010. Intense, sexy and exotic, it features the notes of labdanum, incense and patchouli, merged with benzoin, vanilla and cedar, to illustrate the fragrant wild flora of the island of Borneo.

  • Patchouly Indonesiano is a deep, dark and exotic fragrance. Its entire composition consists of Indonesian patchouli (in the top notes, the heart and the perfume base).

  • Rituel de Java by Cinq Mondes is a Woody Spicy fragrance for men. Rituel de Java was launched in 2008. Top note is eucalyptus; middle notes are cinnamon and woodsy notes; base notes are patchouli and virginia cedar.

  • Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens is a Oriental Woody fragrance for women and men. Borneo 1834 was launched in 2005. The fragrance features patchouli, white flowers, cardamom, galbanum, french labdanum and cacao.

  • Colonial Club by Jeanne Arthes is a Woody Floral Musk fragrance for men. Top notes are mint and lemon; middle notes are jasmine and fruity notes; base notes are patchouli, musk and cedar.

  • Poivre Colonial is a new fragrance from the Eaux de Toilette collection from Phaedon. The scent has been described as both "prickly and smooth” woody – spicy one. It opens with an explosion of grapefruit, nutmeg and pepper. The heart includes cedar and vetiver, mixed with warm cacao bean. The base is dominated by notes of oak moss and patchouli with blonde woods.

  • The Italian brand of I Coloniali presents their collection Seductive Elixir of 8 fragrant waters in 2012. The collection is inspired by distant countries and offers intense, long-lasting fragrances with various fragrant compositions.

  • Acqua di Genova, Colonia Classica by Acqua di Genova is a Citrus Aromatic fragrance for women and men. Acqua di Genova, Colonia Classica was launched in 1853. Top notes are bergamot, amalfi lemon, orange, rosemary, neroli and lavender; middle notes are jasmine, rose and orange blossom; base notes are patchouli, sandalwood, amber and musk.

  • Agua de Colonia Concentrada Barberia by Alvarez Gomez is a Citrus Aromatic fragrance for women and men. This is a new fragrance. Top notes are lemon, bitter orange, bergamot and ginger; middle notes are rhubarb, labdanum and coriander; base notes are cedar, sandalwood and white musk.

  • Colonia del Sacramento fragrance by Fueguia 1833 belongs to the Destinos collection. “A mix of European detachment with River Plate indolence, this blend combines a restless fragrance of bergamot, orange blossom and lemon.”

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A Walking Study in Demonology

Mar. 29th, 2014 | 01:56 am
music: "Asking For It" - Hole

I saw two horror movies back to back recently - Contracted and Alyce Kills (both on Netflix).  They're both like Girls episodes gone bloody, which is always interesting to me since we know how much I like the whole women-in-horror thing.  I told a friend who doesn't like horror movies the plot line of The Descent this evening and she came away saying, "I will never watch that because I can't handle gore, but it sounds intriguing."  Which of course it is!  I have come up with a new crazy theory about how watching and writing horror has made me a stronger person, but I think it needs to be fleshed out before I show it to the world.

Contracted is about sexually transmitted diseases. Alyce Kills is about being obsessed with your best friend, I guess.  The main characters of both movies are lesbians in their 20s living in some L.A.-like city, working as a waitress (Samantha from Contracted) or a menial office worker of some kind (Alyce from Alyce Kills).  Both are surrounded by an infuriating cast of realistically - sometimes absurdly - obnoxious characters.

Neither of the two are especially sympathetic, but both are - at least at first - at the mercy of larger forces, both supernatural and societal.  Samantha is a nail-biting bundle of nerves who's recently broken up with too-cool-for-school Nikki and living with her ridiculous mother, whose inability to accept that Samantha is a lesbian is perfectly mirrored by her inability to see that Samantha has contracted some terrible, terrible illness.  Samantha is not over Nikki and wants desperately to get back with her, but meanwhile she's being harassed by dweeb-leech Riley.  She's sleepwalking (nightmaring, really) through life.  Then she goes to a party and has her drink spiked by a dude no one seems to know named B.J., who we previously saw engaging in necrophilia.  B.J. rapes her.  Samantha thinks she's got a bad cold... then a bad stomach bug... then a bad STD.  But come on, people: her eyes are bleeding, her hair and nails are falling out... Samantha's turning dead, and no one seems to be all that alarmed.  The movie is an allegory about a lot of things, but I came away thinking mostly about invisibility, intense helplessness, and apathy.  Samantha definitely has an external locus of control, and unfortunately the world just doesn't give a shit about her - until, of course, she's become a full-on zombie.

Alyce is different, and in some ways a relief after the excruciating passive weakness of Samantha - except that Alyce has murderous, apocalyptic tendencies.  But Alyce, to her credit, gets shit done.  When she pushes her best friend off a roof - accidentally?  again, Alyce, like Samantha, has been drinking when the great Calamity happens and the horror rabbit-hole opens up - she quickly figures out that she's going to lie to the police about having been on the roof too.  She decides she'll have sex with a drug dealer for the drugs she needs to get the ghostly visage of her best friend out of her head.  She decides she needs to kill her paralyzed best friend (who she loves, and hates, and everything in between) before the best friend can point the finger at her.  She decides to cause a terrible scene at the best friend's funeral.  She decides to start killing people who hurt the best friend.  Etc.  Alyce, if nothing else, is a very active agent in her life.  She also makes terrible - evil, really - decisions with very little regard for others.  Both Samantha and Alyce kill people, but Samantha does so out of a combination of her slow-burning frustration with existence and more importantly, the zombie disease inside her.  Alyce, like her best friend before the fall, is hovering over the precipice and cracking up, probably because she's one of those people who doesn't really consider other people to be "real."

Neither of these are much fun to watch, and neither are beautiful in any way.  My favorite scene in Alyce Kills is one where Alyce takes home a douchey stud-muffin who's been hitting on her and can't resist inflicting minor pains on him - he'll punch her off the bed, and she gets right back up, laughing.  It's perfectly uncomfortable and hysterical in a Hole-ish way.  The equivalent scene in Contracted is horrific, grotesque, and involves maggots ("my body the hand grenade," indeed).  I'm not sure I had a favorite scene in Contracted because the whole experience is so uniformly unpleasant and sad and there's not an ounce of mirth or glory in it.  But Contracted stayed with me for longer.  These are both flawed movies that certainly won't speak to everyone, but they're certainly interesting additions to women-in-horror-the-saga-continues.

On that note, one of my favorite horror-Hole songs:

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