From Temple of Doom to Kubrick’s Haunted Hotel - Levi Rogers
When I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I disobeyed my parents and watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at a neighbor kid’s house down the street. I returned home absolutely terrified. Remember that scene where some type of Shaman reaches into another man’s chest and pulls out his heart? Yeah. That shadowed me in my dreams for the next several weeks/years. Perhaps because of that, I decide I didn’t like scary movies. I tried watching The Ring and some remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Blair Witch Project in high school, but these all further cemented the idea that scary movies were not for me. I hated the slasher and gore films but I also didn’t want to be scared of the woods all due to some movie—the outdoors, after all, were one of my favorite places to be.
One day though, I saw Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. I’m not sure how I came upon it. It might’ve been in a Literature as Film class that failed to disclose the theme: horror, or else I wouldn’t have signed up. Regardless, here was finally a scary movie that shined upon me. It was more than blood and gore and pop-out surprises. It was moody and shocking and the whole film wound it’s way under my skin. It was art. The Shining stood out to me like Twin Peaks would later do (and which I personally still consider one of the strangest and most supernaturally terrifying shows ever made). The Shining the movie is much different than the book and Stephen King hated it, but I loved it: The plot of a novel by Stephen King with the flourishes of director-deity-genius-Stanley Kubrick. I liked The Shining so much it became the first movie my future-wife and I would watch together when we first started dating in October, making out afterward to Zoolander on the couch to distract us from the awesome terror of what we’d just encountered. I now watch The Shining at least once a year around this time, when the leaves turn gold, the air darkening. My house creaking in the winter cold.
If There’s Something Weird and It Don’t Look Good - Alex Simand
Is it normal to find terror in comedy? Is it crazy to go bounding for the confines of a closet, hiding behind your mothers’ furs and shaking uncontrollably, from a scene in Ghostbusters? This is a rhetorical question. Lock me up. Throw away the key. Just don’t bring around Rick Moranis playing the Keymaster of Gozer. That a man might be so thoroughly possessed at the hands of a sizzling Sigourney Weaver Gatekeeper with a simple incantation, a mere mental nerve pinch, was terrifying to me when I saw it at the age of nine. What I’m saying is possession is my greatest fear. I mean this as both the possessor and the possessed. I can’t stand that you can own anything, even social capital. I can’t stand that you can own people. I can’t stand that you can buy tweets and that mosquitos exist and that you can be so helpless as be hurt and that you can wield the power to hurt. I can’t even stand finances. I can’t stand saving up for a nebulous future. The best investment I’ve ever made is still a pair of thick wool socks.
I watch Ghostbusters now and Rick Moranis is just a nice dude who wants to play Boggle and/ or Super Mario Brothers and just, sweet. Ya know? He’s got glasses and is mostly harmless. Bill Murray is trying to trick somebody into having sex with him. Bill Murray is Bill Murray, which is still oddly a thing, which means he’s way too endearing. Books being stacked symmetrically is important for some reason, probably implying that librarians are demons. Dan Akroyd is a responsible human, which is oddly a thing. The EPA are bad guys, which is more of a reflection of politics than anything. Then, there’s just a thing in your fridge. Spores, mold, and fungus, ya know? And then Sigourney Weaver, ya know? Saying crazy things you’re paid to believe. Something about Zuul. Jargon.
The possession. Suddenly you’re a supporting actor. Suddenly you’re yourself but also a plot device. Just trying to fill in someone else’s keyhole, to unlock a door that leads nowhere good. Then Rick Moranis enters that blown out penthouse suite and he starts making out with Sigourney Weaver and it’s like—sexual overtones galore. It’s always the sexual overtones that breed terror, isn’t it? Natasha Henstridge in Species. That’s what got me about all of this. It’s that sex is a matter of lock and key, of power dynamics, of love and hurt and destiny. That it could lead to the army being deployed on the streets of New York City. That it could result in a spandex-wearing monster marching forth and taking the form of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man before trampling pedestrians with its benign capitalism.
Thanks for listening.
Pirates, rats, rattles, tolls, and toils - Jane-Rebecca Cannarella
My favorite frightening narrative isn't really a narrative at all. It's spooky sounds, white noise, hushing that rises off of fog, and the pops from an old record played on an orange Fisher Price record player. My narrative is nostalgic discussions with my older sister, Meghan, and older brother, Richard, about our favorite fear: Walt Disney Studios: New Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.
Upon re-listening, I can’t quite tell which sounds are nostalgic because they are the sounds used for spookiness since time immemorial – reconstituted sounds that ground the listener exactly where they’re supposed to be – or if they’re nostalgic because the jump rope skips of the record are as much a part of the sounds as the actual recording. The thip thip that comes with jumping too quickly from “Creatures: Unearthly Monster,” to the track, “Ghosts and Phantoms: Cackling Witches.” The screech of the witch blended with the scream of the needle scratching from track 1 to track 15. They are both part of the same spooky story.
I can see the record that we had lying around our home – now a ghost – in the lizard part of my brain. The 1979 re-release in an orange sleeve. I can feel the hopscotch sound of fuzz - the shush of dust in between the groove - while wolves howl, and owls hoot, and hounds that weren't totally dissimilar to our family basset hound, Belle, bay in the background. The forever trilling crickets are threaded into my memory. With every string, and sponge, and neuron that makes up my brain, I know that I am kin with the sound of rusty gates, and fog horns, and frights that live on land and sea. Pirates, rats, rattles, tolls, and toils.
The Nightmare of Hocus Pocus In Secret Town - Sam Williams
I don't watch horror movies. I think the only one I've ever seen was the first Scream. Oh wait, and Chucky III when I was six. I got all sorts of nightmares for years. It's probably why I don't horror movies. So my contenders for best Halloween story aren't horror driven at all, but childhood driven.
My final four considerations were: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (movie), Halloween Town (the first Disney Channel Original), Hocus Pocus, and Nightmare Before Christmas. Guys, I cannot begin to explain how hard this was.
I really wanted to put HP in, but I always want to rank HP at the top. The second HP movie captured the spooky feeling of old school wizards, mixed with this thriller suspense of what kept paralyzing everyone (Spoilers it's a giant snake). Plus that spider scene still scares me to this day.
Out of all the Halloween movies as a kid I was most fond of Halloween Town, but honestly, I don't remember much of it.
The real debate came between Hocus Pocus and Nightmare. Hocus Pocus is the right combination of the ridiculous and the campy to make it a cult classic. It's the perfect mix for children and adults. It's the best Witch movie out there.
There is a serious case to be made about whether Nightmare is an Halloween movie, or a Christmas Movie. But since (Spoilers) Jack reverts back to his Halloween ways, I think it classifies more of as a Halloween movie.
The narrative strength in Nightmare is all in the music. The songs are beautiful, and compliment the gorgeous claymation. The whole movie is wrapped in a consistent vision and artistic asthetic, and the romantic interest, Sally, is just as compelling as the Pumpkin King. So, Nightmare wins.
The World of the giant Rabbit - Marie Marandola
While studying abroad in France, Marie Marandola once gave a 20-minute exposé (presentation) analyzing the film Donnie Darko. You thought time travel was complicated? Try explaining to a room full of French-speaking college students that yes, you really did mean to say, il est visité par un lapin géant.
Big Pieces for Daddy, Little Pieces for You & Me - Brodie Foster Hubbard
While most “normal” American families in the U.S. may celebrate Christmas as the most important holiday of the year, I have more vivid memories of Halloween past. From the supermarket bought costumes I wore as kid and “Roseanne” episodes with the Conner family pulling pranks, to watching Misfits cover bands and drinking pumpkin flavored beer as I got older, my embrace of horror and the aesthetics of death only grew tighter. It takes a special something to hit the nerves of someone so desensitized by years of slasher films, Rotten.com photos, and serial killer biographies.
But if I reach into the archives, 35 years back, the terrors of TV movies hold the key. Or in this case, a pizza cutter.
Aaron Spelling produced “Don’t Go To Sleep” for ABC in 1982. It starred Valerie Harper and Dennis Weaver as parents who relocate to a country home after the death of their daughter, bringing along the surviving brother and sister, and their grandmother, played by Ruth Gordon from “Harold and Maude.” The departed girl was the only casualty of a family auto accident, and she couldn’t escape the fiery car because her siblings had tied her shoes together. So what would you do in that situation? You would possess your sister and murder the rest of the family one by one, naturally.
I was living in Evanston, Wyoming when I first saw this movie. My father was working in the oil fields. We only lived there for six months before he saw friends get killed on the job, and he wanted nothing to do with that dangerous line of work anymore. I wasn’t particularly fond of the neighborhood kids, having been beaten in the head with the hard end of a garden hose by one of them. Yet those aren’t the most frightening memories of that year. It’s that creepy girl chasing Valerie Harper with that damn pizza cutter.
Game of Narratives is a monthly feature that pits items in pop-culture against each other.
LEVI ROGERS (CATS) vs SAM WILLIAMS (DOGS)
Cats vs. Dogs (kinda)
Mirror mirror, on, the wall, Whos is the top Dogg of them all?
Pretty sure that sums it up. A mythical mirror come to life in a rap song proclaiming Snoop Dogg the best rapper of them all. So, before we get carried away proclaiming that a band that no one has heard of accompanied by an album that happens to have the word “meow” in it is the best animal-rap album ever, let’s consider an OG, Snoop Dogg, and his album Doggystyle.
Bam, already off to a good start. While Meow the Jewels and Doggystyle are both animal related, Run the Jewels already loses points for an animal-less name. Plus, think of Snoop Dogg’s name recognition. Everyone knows who that is. Everyone can picture him, follows him on Instagram. He’s one of the biggest celebrities we know. And Doggystyle, that’s his best album.
While Snoop Dogg isn’t a band, he exemplifies Meow Meow Pow Pow more. He possesses the ultimate talents of an anti-establishment writer with incredible execution that us folks at MMPP should strive for. No one throws a middle finger to the world order like Snoop Dogg. No one can craft those silky-smooth, filthy lyrics quite like Snoop Dogg. We should work to have the staying power that Snoop D-O-Double-G has.
Doggystyle gave us “Gin and Juice,” arguably Snoop Dogg’s most recognizable tune. “Gin and Juice” got nominated for a Grammy in Best Rap Solo Performance, and wonderfully crafted lyrics:
Later on that Day
Gin and Juice is a timeless classic for the Rap scene. It’s not the social conscious brilliance of Run of the Jewels, but it’s the go-to basement party song for all the ages appropriate for having that type of party. Who hasn’t heard that song? Aren’t we all here at MMPP to have a wildly inappropriate literary basement party?
If you’re wondering if Snoop has the lyrical skills to paint a picture, look no further than the Doggystyle song, Serial Killa:
The cloud becomes black, and the sky becomes blue
Can we also talk about the instrumental backups? They’re old school, jazzy, full; the beats sit back, never too fast, fulfilling the Snoop Dogg aesthetic. Dr. Dre brings those LA backbeats to perfection for the album, informing the world that Rap comes from Jazz, as if he’s saying “Don’t get it twisted.” Take Gz and Hustlas, the most funkalicious backbeat of the whole album. Snoop brings in his classic rounded vowel sound over the top with one of my favorite lyrics:
So bow down to the bow wow, cause bow wow
What Snoop Dogg accomplishes is a narrative of the gangster rap. He encapsulates it. He defines 90s West Coast Gangster Rap, like Biggie defined the East Coast. Snoops career is the dirty, easy, smooth flow of being a real gangster. People have tried to capture this relaxed rap sound, but no one has touched it. Snoop Dogg is a walking brand and the narrative of this album—that Snoop Dogg is the most realist rapper—pushed that brand right into the forefront of pop culture. And he’s never looked back.
Does Meow the Jewels compete? Absolutely, it’s a fantastic album. But let’s be real, the best part of it is when SNOOP DOGG says “MEOW MEOW MEOW!” Plus, though it’s a cat album, they don’t even own the best cat song of this century. That belongs to Deadmau5 and his song 50 something cats. No really, go check it out.
In the end, the crown of best animal-related album belongs to the top Dogg, Snoop Doggy Dogg. Why? Cause it’s a Doggy Dogg World.
Oh, and did I mention that Snoop Dogg became Snoop Lion? That means he’s both top Dogg and top cat. King of ‘em all.
Meow Meow Pow Pow Meoviews Meow The Jewels
There is a lot of good music out right now, but I can currently think of no other band that I like better than Run the Jewels (and, I would argue, no better band that is also a contender for a band that exemplifies Meow Meow Pow Pow). Why is Run The Jewels like Meow Meow Pow Pow? Well, they both got mad flow, a combination of beats and bangers, and, yes, a strange affinity for cats. Which is also a way of saying that they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s that combination of danger, anarchism, whimsy, and appeal to the masses that makes me feel as if their album Meow the Jewels might be the perfect soundtrack to Meow Meow Pow Pow and best contender for best Animal Rap Album ever made. While Snoop might have had it back in the day, this here is the new wave of rap come to conquer all in its path.
Run the Jewels (or RTJ) is made up of the combined talents of black Atlanta rapper Killer Mike (a former collaborator of Outkast’s back in the day, avid supporter of Bernie Sanders, occasional news commentator, and perhaps the best contemporary rapper alive) and El-P, (a white producer, D.J., and rapper from New York, who started the indie-hip hop label Def Jux). RTJ are a smart, sophisticated, and a politically and socially aggressive act. The duo has released three albums so far, each one better than the last.—their third one dropping at the end of 2016, Run the Jewels 3. A frequent collaborator of the band is Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, just to give you a feel. They put the social justice aspect back into rap. The anger. The rage. Whereas a lot of the old school acts (you know who I mean, “Dogg”) got a bit soft. No offense to them, they repped it back in the day. But now we need more groups like RTJ to step up the dialogue and the conversation in these troubled times of ours.
And after all, Killer Mike is arguably the best rapper alive (in some ways, the knife-edge to Snoop’s silky smooth) and perhaps Snoop and Kendrick the only other contemporaries who could vie for the title. His lyrics are full of a combination of anger at the system--“I don’t trust the church or the government, democrat, republicans/the pope or a bishop or them other men,” and hope for the future. He has the swagger of a young man mixed with the wisdom of a generational elder and a killer, articulate flow. One of my favorite lines by him is this:
“Say hello to the masters on behalf of the classless masses/We showed up ski masks, picks and axes to murder asses/Lift our glasses and watch your palaces burn to ashes/You fuckin fascist who the fuck are you to give fifty lashes?”
The lyrics reference and remix the vocabulary of Antebellum Slavery, Marxism, and Gangster rap. As King Kendrick declared to the critics on a song off To Pimp a Butterfly, “You all wanna talk about when hip hop was rappin? Motherfucker, if you did, than Killer Mike would be platinum.” El-P is there for back and forth zingers and lays the beats and musical foundation for each track, along with the occasional absurd, profane, and zero fucks lyrics like, “My dick got a Michelin star,” and “I do pushups nude on the edge of cliffs,” and “I don’t give a fuck about power, pluck the eye out the pyramid.” Or as he says in line “All you rappers are vaginas for the fame,” (yes the line uses a part of the female body derogatorily, I know, but El-P later redeems himself by praising it and flipping the reversal of male/female body parts in another song). RTJ once again asserting their role as true rappers, not just a band who wants the lifestyle and fame or a T.V. show.
In 2015, after the release of Run the Jewels 2, fans raised money through Kickstarter for the band to begin working on Meow the Jewels; basically it was a remix of Run the Jewels 2, but with cat sounds. A promotional idea El-P came up with while smoking weed. An entire album rehashed with cat sounds? You might think. Or if you’re like me, you might think, oh yaass. The album’s creation is entirely goofy, but also provides to be a fun collaboration process with other artists like Just Blaze, Zola Jesus, and Boots, and all the proceeds were donated to charity. Meow the Jewels sounds like a lo-fi version of the original, but the music videos themselves nearly make the entire project worth the effort, along with Snoop Dogg saying “Meow Meow Meow” over and over again on the first track. And if nothing else, Meow the Jewels shows that you can be critically respected, have a large fan following, spit venomous, socially conscious lyrics, and have fun, all at once.
I think it is this potent mixture of fun, anger, and activism, that has made Run the Jewels stand out in an arena where everyone spends their time trying to prove themselves. RTJ needs to prove nothing and they even make fun of other rapper and acts that have gotten caught up in fame or lifestyle and forgot about the essentials—sick beats and fiery lyrics that speak profane truth’s to power, i.e. “Fuck the law they can eat my dick, that’s word to B.I.G.” While on one track Mike may reference MLK, Malcolm X, and the ills of capitalism and greed, on the next track, or even in the same song, he’ll also rap things like “RT and J, we the new PB and J.” Or, my personal favorite, a quick line about kidnapping your mom from jazzercise and giving her Stockholm syndrome. “We're the crooks, we'll run the jux and kidnap mom from jazzercise. Get Stockholm syndrome when she get home, mom's like, "I like those fuckin' guys. "Thanks for the ransom handsome, let Mom know the guys loved her pumpkin pie.”
RTJ might not yet be a top 40 radio band, but they are far from their underground days, their songs popping up on movies and television from The Defenders to Silicon Valley. It may not be for everyone, especially if you’re not into aggressive rap, but I argue that Run the Jewels’s Meow the Jewels kills all competition, including Doggy Style, for best Animal Rap album ever. That there is the solid truth. Meow.
SALT SEAS THAT LIVE INSIDE ME - JANE-REBECCA CANNARELLA
I wear sand on my skin like it’s body paint.
My entire life has been a combination of salt water, and seas that live inside me, and the kind of beachfronts that home little pebbles in lieu of soft sand. When, as a child, I moved to San Diego, CA and discovered beaches made from silk sand and pink rocks I would sleep on the silt—my body damp with the spray of the waters. Rising from my nap, I would be covered with a layer of grain. A prehistoric exoskeleton that coated the shape of a pre-teen.
The sands have always existed within me and outside me.
How many trinkets from my childhood live in the gritty earth—East Coast / West Coast? Barbie dolls I buried too deep. Cried about on the way home. Rocks from the shores of the Long Island Sound marked their anonymous graves. They live in the sand-soil now, the gentle lapping of the Shore their beachfront in perpetuity. And then there were the rings that fell from my fingers slick with the water, lightly dancing their way to the ocean’s floor. And a best friend’s necklace that slipped off my neck while doing cartwheels, the mounds of sand cushioning my fall. These fragments of me all live in the sand. They’re a part of grave of granular erosion that now exists independently of my body, making the beach their forever home.
But when I lay on the fine particles, the seeds of the ocean polishing themselves into my skin, I feel eternal. The sand is a fleece that centers me. I’m connected to the ocean, and the earth, and the segments of myself that I’ve lost or left behind.
SOMETIMES, NEW JERSEY - CASSANDRA PANEK
In high summer, on a precious day off, my friends want to go to the nude beach. The weather is perfect, someone left a sun hat in my trunk, and I’m ready to relax.
Fast forward to me, stark naked, feet blistered from burning sand, chasing our rainbow umbrella parallel to the ocean, praying it doesn’t strike a nudist. I don’t love being naked. I don’t love running. I don’t love running naked. The beach is horrible, insubstantial, littered with sharp shells, and the umbrella—a rainbow cocktail garnish with delusions of olympic javelin grandeur—is faster than I am.
The wind coughs and dies. I return victorious to our blanket, face flaming with exertion and fresh sunburn. My friends are angels and don’t laugh. Seeing me struggle to plant the stubborn thing again, a heavyset man adjacent to our plot takes pity, folds his paperback shut, and offers help. “The trick,” he tells us, “is to take the sleeve the umbrella came in, and tie one end to the spokes and the other to your heaviest bag.” Then he wishes us a pleasant day and returns to his book. Unlike our umbrella, unlike the loose sand creeping and blowing everywhere, unlike the drifting naked opportunists with greedy eyes, this man is steady, permanent.
Crisis averted, I cool my heels in the sea. The sand is nicer here, wet and malleable between my toes, soothing my scorched skin. I wriggle into it like a crab, and bury myself to the shoulders in the grey ocean. My girlfriends laugh from the shore as a man flips wet hair behind his shoulder and tries to flirt. Cloaked in the ocean and rooted in seafloor I don’t feel as vulnerable as I did on land. I make polite until he leaves with an attempt at a showy dive that flashes his ass in my direction and splashes me in the face with salt water.
My friends are angels, but they’re laughing now.
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