American Rants

An American of London attempts New Year’s resolutions

I’m not big on resolutions. For the last four years I’ve only had one: buy a pair of jeans. Never happened. The problem with resolutions isn’t necessarily keeping them, but remembering that they exist. But not this year. This year these bad boys are going in a blog post! You can’t fail if it’s in writing, right? Right!

I’ve wanted to make American of London a bit better in 2018. It’s my baby, and I love it. And like a good mother, I think my child could always be improved. Also, bonus reading goals because I can.

Hope everyone has a great New Year and may 2018 be better than this one.

Blog Goals:

1. Focus/Improve my writing

Let’s be honest, my writing here is not great. Often when I see my published posts I wonder, “Would anyone really want to read all this sludge?” Well, no. No they wouldn’t. I don’t ever edit posts (because I know ya’ll enjoy spelling errors). This year, I’m going to at least try to read things through.

2. Incorporate writing about more things I enjoy

American of London started off as a music blog four years ago. That all changed three years ago when I branched out and wrote about horror movies. Best thing I ever did. Same goes with sharing my love for Archie comics and Riverdale. Writing here has always been about enjoying myself, but it’s time to exercise creative muscle.

3. Watch more British films (or try to)

British films are boring. Well, maybe not all but I’ve been stuck sitting through so many that never seem to end. But you know, adopted country and all. Be a good immigrant.

Reading Goals:

1. Have less than five unread books on my shelves by the end of 2018

There is an embarrassing number of unread books on my shelves post-Christmas and Christmas sales. But come December 31st, 2018, there will be less than five. No one likes a greedy bastard.

2. Finish the Farseer Trilogy

Fitz is one of my favourite protagonists in any series I have ever read. This year, I want to finish the first of Robin Hobb’s trilogies in the Realm of the Elderings this year. And, if I’m particularly ambitious, start the Liveship Traders trilogy as well in 2018.

3. Read one of the books my husband doesn’t stop talking about (and read one Science Fiction novel)

My husband loves massive fantasy books and sci fi. I’ve always been to daunted to try. But not this year! Patrick Rothfuss: I’m coming for you.

4. Join a library

Because I’m not made of money.

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Searching for a bright side

There was no Wicked Wednesday this week, and there probably won’t be much here until Monday. After seeing the election results on Wednesday morning (Tuesday night in the States), I couldn’t stomach doing business as usual. I didn’t feel like business as usual. I’m taking some time to come to grasps with what has happened.

I’ve spent much of the past couple days feeling… well, feeling a lot. Grateful that I live in a country that will never take my publicly-funded health care away even though I’m in immigrant, but sad that I have friends at home who are truly terrified that theirs will be.

I feel jaded with the political system, but still immensely privileged that I can have a say in my government – no matter how small that say is. We have a misogynist as our president elect, but we almost had our first woman president. She even won the popular vote. Our real first woman president? She’s out there, and I can’t wait.

But most of all, I feel so much love. And with wounds that run as deep as the ones in this country, love and empathy are the only things that can get us out of this mess. I love the women and girls back home who are fighting for their rights, the protesters at the pipeline in North Dakota, I even love the people that voted for him – I’m so sorry that you felt so alone and unheard.

I look forward to the future, America. We can only get things done if we work together – let’s aim for something better.

Horror Block July: a throw right in the bin unboxing 


I received my Horror Block in the mail this week and it is literally so shit I am not even willing to waste my time writing about. 

Like, what the fuck is this hat? 

I’m over this block. It fooled me once with the excellence it had in May and has thus decided to go back to the consistent shit it was. I received a three-month subscription as a gift, and thankfully the subscription has reached its end. 

If anyone knows of a better version of a horror-related mystery box that ships to the UK – please share.

Horror Block March 2016 unboxed

As a reward for paying off my credit card this month, I thought I would treat myself to a subscription box. It was a choice between Owl Crate (who caters to a YA crowd) and returning back to Horror Block. Considering how much cheaper Horror Block was and the fact that I really don’t need anymore books, I happily let my subscription renew.

And what a mistake it was! Whoo hoo!

This month’s Horror Block is a literal piece of shit. So much for treating myself, as this box was about as fun as receiving a gift bag of party favours from the Dollar Tree (though I somehow think that even that would be an improvement).

I just want to get one thing off my chest: I am so, so tired of The Walking Dead. I don’t watch it. I never really got into it. But Jesus Christ Almighty, please let the world understand that just because there are horror fans, doesn’t mean every horror fan wants a shit ton of Walking Dead gear all the bloody time. Anyway, I’m so annoyed at myself for paying for this. Anyway. Here is this months Horror Block:

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1. Zombie oven mitt

This was definitely the best part of the box. The oven mitt is cute and funny. My husband and I already own several oven mitts (including a baseball glove one that is both excellent and crap), but we’re poor so home stuff is always welcome.

2. “Bonus” Zombie hunter dog tags

Regifting an item from a different subscription block (in this case, the October Classic Block) is tacky and stupid. I hated it the first time and I hate it even more now.

3. The Ring t-shirt from ShirtPunch.com

I hate The Ring. I hate Ringu. I hate this shirt.

4. The Walking Dead building blind bag

This fucking show.

5. Rue Morge April 2016

Once again, a beacon of light in a rather abysmal box. The shop where I would buy my horror magazines in Central London has closed down. Being able to get this issue brought a single tear to my eye. Plus this issue includes an excellent article about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, definitely one of the strangest choices for a Cannon Film production.

6. Zombie door stop

This is cute, but not at all practical for our flat. We have the rare problem of not being able to get any of our doors shut. So alas, my husband is stealing it to keep the door open in the server room at his work. But at least something will be useful.

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7. Zombie squeeze

Literally the most useless piece of junk ever.

8. Zombie hand back scratcher

One of the weirdest side-effects I have from my anxiety is really annoying shoulder and back pain. I force my husband to give me back scratches all the time, and while he doesn’t moan about it, no one enjoys giving a back scratch. So I guess this back scratcher and I are now friends. only it’s a bit crap as I couldn’t really feel it. But this also could have been because I was testing it through my Brewers jersey.


 

This month’s block was literally the pits. I’ll definitely not be returning ever again. But on an more important note: opening day for the Brewers was yesterday, so there’s officially better things to deal with in my life. Like watching the Brewers tank this season… on purpose. I’ll save my money for a new jersey this year. I think you need to move on when you’ve had the same one for ten years… and it’s a child’s medium.

The Witch review or – I defend modern horror

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A poor combination of being on holiday followed by being very ill for the last two weeks means it took until last night for me to finally see The Witch, the debut film from director and writer Robert Eggers. I was stunned by how wonderful this film was: it’s so dark, so starkly beautiful and really, really well-acted. It’s a gem of a film and one of my favourites I’ve watched in a long time.

The Witch follows a family of Puritans that have emigrated from England to a plantation in New England in the 17th century. The father William (played by Ralph Ineson) is excommunicated from the plantation, along with his family.

They make a life for themselves outside the edge of a wood. One day the eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), loses her baby brother Sam while joyfully playing with him outside the woods. Unbeknownst to Thomasin and her parents, Sam has been taken by a witch who lives in those woods.

The family hardly catch a break from that point as things go from horrible to truly heart-wrenching to down-right demonic. The family struggle with their own demons, relying on their religion to help them through their pain. But some things can’t beat magic, and we certainly are not always strong enough to fight our own wills (if we even want to).

But I really don’t want to talk about the specifics of this film. As the credits rolled, I started to ponder what this fantastic piece meant for the horror genre. Despite the title above saying “review”, I found myself not wanting to write a review. Chances are, if you wanted to see this film you already have, and you know what you think of it. While there’s certainly a lot to talk about with the movie’s deep symbolism, there’s something more to suss out here.

Certainly there will be no The Witch 2: She’s Bewitchin’! or any nonsense like that. Or, at least I hope so. There were hardly any jump scares here or any amount of excessive gore, and yet it doesn’t fail to haunt you as you leave the theater. That is, if you got the film, as The Witch brings a lot more complexity to the table than most studio pictures will.

The success of The Witch proves several things: First and most importantly, great horror films are still being made.

I really loath when people say “no good horror movies are made anymore.” It just proves that they are either lazy or stupid, but probably both. Within the last several years there have been horror movies that I believe are set to become modern classics. The Witch aside, movies like It Follows, House of the Devil and The Babadook prove that this success is not a one-off, but a genuine trend.

I suppose these films can be seen as exceptions instead of rules, but when was there ever a consistent number of good horror movies being produced? Never, would be the answer. But it is certainly easy to look back in the past and pick out films that were great, but many are only appreciated in retrospect.

 

Certainly there are a lot of awful horror films being made, I don’t think anyone can disput that, but people keep referring to The Witch‘s success like this is something new. There have always been bad movies (trust me, I’ve had to watch my fair share), but isn’t that true of most movie genres?

Great movies are made every year, but how many from each generation become true classics? How many films can still fill you with suspense like Rear Window? How many Breakfast Clubs were made before or after the 80s? None because there was only one Alfred Hitchcock and one John Hughes. There was also only one Orson Welles and is only one Dario Argento.

Why do we expect one genre to always be hitting its stride? Horror has always been savagely over-looked and thus underfunded. Many horror classics such as Night of the Living Dead and Halloween are actually independent films. Horror has always struggled to be made because at its best, it’s subversive and thought-provoking and shouldn’t be pleasing to the general masses. The reason horror thrived so well in the 70s (the director era) and in the 80s (the producer era) is because there was just different markets.

Today’s films are all made with the international market in mind, which makes taking chances on scripts a lot more risky. Why fund an unknown independent movie when you can remake something that people already know any will see. 2015’s remake of Poltergeist is a prime example of a film that will never eclipse the spirit of the original, but still grossed over $95 million worldwide.

I would like to think that the success of The Witch also means that studios will stop being afraid to fund original horror ideas. I’m not holding my breath, though. The Witch is distributed by A24, a company that is only a fraction of the size of Paramount Pictures, who released Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension in 2015. Paranormal Activity was also an independent film, that took off so suddenly that it’s now ended up as a joke franchise after being decimated by the franchise-loving studios.

The Witch is truly a magic of film making. The performances were superb and I really hope that this is more of a diving board for people’s renewed interest in horror. There are many good (and bad) things out there, but a gamble on an original idea can really pay off. It certainly has here.

Just an old fashioned novelty song

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I love novelty songs. I love them with a great passion that makes me want to gather them all into my arms and tell them they’re all special.

My adoration started in university when I was writing a lot of papers on Tin Pan Alley, and I’ve never looked back since. The novelty songs coming out in the late 19th, early 20th century from Tin Pan Alley were some of the best examples of these strange, often nonsensical songs. There were songs to help people through horrible wars, songs that helped create iconic characters, but there was plenty of music that just embraced the silliness that novelty songs were meant to be.

There was, unfortunately, plenty of racism involved as well. That horrible strain ran through several popular novelty songs of the 50s and early 60s as well.

Thankfully, though, the more lasting songs have been those a little more tasteful. And there are some that have become a part of the American fabric like “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)”, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini”, and even The Coasters’ “Charlie Brown”.

Why bother rambling about novelty songs? Well, because I think it’s high time that we have a bit of a musical renaissance here. It’s time to put the weird and strange back into music. The more I indulge in my novelty song loving ways, the more I feel a bit sad that modern culture doesn’t seem to want to embrace the kookiness that helped create songs like “Disco Duck”.

That’s not to say that there aren’t still novelty songs around. In 2013, “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say)” by the Norwegian comedy group Ylvis became a hit after their YouTube video went viral. I hate including that as an example since it’s from a comedy group, not necessarily a musician, but I just check Wikipedia and they agree.

But just the fact that Wikipedia and I came up with the same sole example says a few things: First, I clearly am losing my touch. Two, there are just not enough good novelty songs anymore. Three, most popular novelty songs are enjoyed out of pure attempts to be ironic instead of being genuinely enjoyed.

Novelty songs often use humour (though I’m not really sure anything Ylvis does can actually be considered funny), whether through off-the-wall lyrics or parody. “El Pizza” by Dudley (the pseudonym of pianist and producer H. B. Barnum) is a wonderful example of the later, parodying Marty Robbins’ “El Paso“. But I can’t imagine any artist making something like “El Pizza” today that isn’t Weird Al.

Perhaps I’m just being sour because I simply don’t enjoy what’s being produced. There’s something to be said, though, about the success of hits in the past. I don’t think anything currently produced will ever be as classic as something like Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash” ever was. It’s a song that is over five decades old and still gets regular play every Halloween (or if it’s my house, all the bloody time). But then again, I don’t think anything made today ever intends to last.

It’s almost as if our society, full on cat videos and memes, has almost forgotten how to let go in any sort of genuine way. We are a culture so saturated with parody and silly songs, perhaps all we need is to openly embrace full-on silliness in a mainstream way.

So songwriters, I plead to you: please write more novelty songs. I’d really like one about Mentos because I truly, truly believe that Mentos jingle really deserves a come back.

 

I don’t want to work or “5 songs to help you deal with your job”

Work is the worst. It really is. I’m currently going through that awful transition of being a student to going into my first real-adult job. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had all sorts of jobs since I was 15, almost all of them were awful (besides that one summer where I worked as an “engineer” and drive around listening to CCR all day). But everyone hates their jobs. If you like yours, well, God bless you.

Okay, I don’t hate my job by any means, but I’m currently in a position where following my dream doesn’t pay me enough to live, eat or breath in London. It’s a trap that a lot of people fall into. While many of us don’t need a lot of money to be happy, we need a paycheck large enough to keep the lights on and feed the mouths. Most jobs that allow great enjoyment honestly don’t pay as much as we’d like. I thought moving to London would give me journalism options. Instead it financially crippled me into an office job.

Let me tell you, working in an office all day is not my thing. I’ve never worked in one full-time before and it’s an awe-inspiring soap opera every day. Long-gone are my days of factory work and sandwich-making. And I’m a far cry from those jobs. Unfortunately, no job exists where I get to go where I want and eat chocolate cake all day while watching old Soul Train episodes. So reality it is.

If you hate your job – no fear, because we definitely aren’t alone. There are plenty of musicians throughout the years who have also felt the struggle of being under the thumb of the man (well, until they started making loads of money off getting drunk and singing every night). These are songs for when singing “It was just another manic Monday” to yourself just isn’t enough to sooth your soul.

1. Todd Rundgren “Bang Your Drum All Day” (1983)

In this Rundgren classic, the narrator of the song talks about how he’d doesn’t want to do anything but bang the drum all day. I guess that was probably the most literal explanation of a song I could give, but that’s why a classic is a classic. It pretty much speaks for itself. Each day I have a work day that is particularly bad or anxiety-filled, I literally listen to this song and begin to feel an old sense of jubilation again.

2. Dolly Parton “9 to 5” (1980)

I love Dolly Parton. Absolutely love her. I hope that one day she spots me on the street and demands I be her best friend because I would gladly agree. This song, which is also the title of the film it comes from, is the only reason you need to adore the crap out of her. “9 to 5” is a song still so very prevalent today as women still fight for work equality. It might be a thirty-year-old single, but it doesn’t sound the least bit dated to me because of that empowering message.

But one of the best parts goes, “They let you dream just to watch ’em shatter / You’re just a step on the boss-man’s ladder / But you got dreams he’ll never take away”. Even though Dolly is literally living everyone’s dream of wearing sparkly jumpsuits and playing a tiny saxophone, she gives a sweet little reminder that you’re never too old or too far gone to get exactly what you want out of life. And there’s no way any job could stop us.

3. Ramones “The Job That Ate My Brain” (1992)

This is the song that 17-year-old me would have loved working my two crappy jobs in high school. As far as punk picks go, there are plenty of angry children who sang about their frustrations with their work choices. I think many people would choose The Clash’s “Work Opportunities” as their pick, but this Ramones song pretty much says everything there is about the constant mental-drive it takes to pull your ass into the office every day. “Out of bed at 6:15 In a rush and you can’t think / Gotta catch the bus and train / I’m in a rush and feelin’ insane / I can’t take this crazy pace / I’ve become a mental case / Yeah, this is the job that ate my brain.”

This track, penned by Marky Ramone and Garrett “Skinny Bones” Uhlenbrock, completely encapsulates the manic rush and strain of a city commute. It was released in 1992 on the band’s 12 studio album, Mondo Bizarro. The velocity is typical Ramones, and only has to mirror the sort of constant struggle the band had already been dealing with for years.

4.  Loverboy “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” (1982)

This song. If you live anywhere in America, this song will be playing either Monday morning or on a Friday afternoon on any given radio station. Is the song utterly ridiculous? Yes. Entirely. It’s soaked in 80’s-ness, but the best part of pop music is when they sing exactly what everyone is already thinking: is it the weekend yet? It’s the ultimate in cliche, but not too many songs really say it more plainly than Loverboy does here.

The rest of the lyrics outside of the chorus don’t really have much to day. It’s about waiting for an ever-popular love interest showing up and going out at the weekend. Pretty simple. But who really cares about the content of a verse? Not me!

I can’t actually find a shortened version of this video. So enjoy a confusingly long version below! For those who just want to get right to the juicy 80’s action, skip right on up to 2:24.

5. Bachman-Turner Overdrive “Takin’ Care of Business”

Like “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend”, this BTO classic is synonymous with the working week. And there are few songs with a more memorable riff than “Takin’ Care of Business”. But really, this song is essentially about a man rubbing it in the working-man’s face. You have to go to the office every day? Well, I’m in self-employed! I’m a musician!

“You get up every morning / From your ‘larm clock’s warning / Take the 8:15 into the city / There’s a whistle up above / And people pushin’, people shovin’ / And the girls who try to look pretty / And if your train’s on time / You can get to work by nine / And start your slaving job to get your pay / If you ever get annoyed / Look at me I’m self-employed / I love to work at nothing all day / And I’ll be / Taking care of business”

Does it make you green with envy? Well it should. I’m already drooling.


This was going to be a top 10 list, then started to grow wildly out of control. I had a conversation with my flatmates last night over a pint where they both reminded me that I’m still only in my first job. You don’t reach where you want to be right away. The message is uplifting and all, but until I finally get to where I want to be, there are the tunes that are just going to have to hold me over until I finally escape those florescent lights.