Tag Archives: artists

I’m a Delicate Flowah

Many years ago, while walking down the street in Boston, I overheard a woman say loudly, in a distinct Boston accent to her companion in answer to some unheard comment, “I’m a delicate flowah.” It’s been one of my catch phrases ever since. Because, yes, even a chain-smoking, whiskey-drinking, grizzled Bostonian can be delicate sometimes. I don’t know if she was all those those things, but let’s face it, that’s why people like that accent, because it sounds like those things, and that is way more interesting than someone speaking so blandly, you don’t care if they are delicate of not.

So while I like to fancy myself a tough Bostonian, I do have my delicate flowah moments, and a few of them have occurred at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). I do like aht. I like aht a lot, and I learned just enough aht history in college to be obnoxious at the Museum of Fine Ahts (MFA), which is full of all the good oldies. But this contemporary aht stuff is different. Oh, sure, I saw Mapplethorpe back in the late 80s when people had their panties in a twist about his naked photography, but that’s different. Photography has at least something I can relate to in that it was created by a camera. No, I’m talking about my past few visits to the ICA, trying to be a good cultural citizen. But it’s not easy — what with contemporary aht’s lack of reference points and odd materials (is that plastic? Dried blood? Sawdust with metal shavings glued on bricks?). Sometimes an “installation” takes up whole room, and there are random pointy things and sandy things and crap hanging from the ceiling. When I enter such a room, I’m a total delicate flowah: I find it very disorienting and disturbing. I look to the little white card to throw me a bone, to tell me something, anything, grounding about this piece. But it says the installation was created in some studio in New York, or Los Angeles, or New Mexico (art never seems to get made anywhere else) and put together by the museum’s curator. Then I go from delicate flowah to indignant working class girl: What?! The ahtist couldn’t even get his lazy ass down here to put together this scary, weird thing himself? How is that aht? More power to you if you can make a living creating weird-ass installations in a studio and just ship it out around the country, but I sure as hell don’t need to see it.

On another visit, I remember just wandering around in the warren of small rooms with all kinds of visually incomprehensible things, and I was longing for something to ground me — anything — paint, clay, plaster, metal of any kind. I got so agitated that at one point I found a dark room and just curled up and sat on the floor, even though it was showing some random art film. At least I knew there was a video camera involved in its creation, and I breathed into my knees until I wasn’t so delicate. It maybe didn’t help that I was there with my unhappy life in tow — a less-than-delicate mother-in-law, a fraying marriage, and parental overwhelm. But I had all those things in the MFA, and I never had to resort to curling in a ball.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I accepted my friend’s invitation to see the 2016 Oscar nominated short films on Super Bowl Sunday, showing at, yes, the ICA. But I figured, what the heck. My Bostonian citizenship only requires me to care about the Super Bowl if the Patriots are in it, so thankfully I was off the hook this year. I liked the idea of doing something unrelated to football and I’m in a much better place in my life. We’d be seeing films, and I could bypass all the scary aht. I also can be delicate with intense films, but these were short, so I figured how bad could it be?

Let’s just say I wasn’t the only delicate flowah in the group. Don’t get me wrong, they were all quality films. It’s just that three of the five were pretty intense. But it was nothing that two glasses of wine at dinner after and some general discussion about the intensity couldn’t fix.

It still doesn’t really help me understand contemporary aht any better, but at least I know I can go to the ICA without curling up in a ball, so maybe I’m not so delicate after all. But I am a wicked good flowah.

Photo: From 10 bizarre works of art from weirdworm.com, The Physical Impossibility of death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hurst

 

 

Nerd Nirvana at PAX East 2015

This past weekend was our annual visit to dorky cool nirvana, aka PAX East, the Boston gaming convention. This is my fourth year taking my son who is now 16. When I told friends and coworkers how I would be spending my weekend, I got looks running the gamut from sympathetic, to puzzled, to a blank stare: “What’s PAX East?” Indeed, what it is? It’s short for Penny Arcade Expo, and is an explosion of sight, sound, and happiness all focused on video games and whirling around 80,000 people. “It’s THREE days?” is usually the next question. “What on earth do you do?” Mostly, I just follow my son around and enjoy how happy he is. I don’t play video games myself—my hand-eye coordination was formed before gaming was popular, and I don’t work well under pressure, even when it’s supposed to be fun. However I can do credible damage with Ms. Pac Man.

This year we pulled out all the stops, logging in 13 hours on Friday and 12 on Saturday. Most of that was due to the screening of the Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN) movie on Friday night and then waiting two and a half hours to have the filmmaker and You Tuber AVGN James Rolph sign the PAX East badge and the movie poster. It was an Olympic-level test for both me and Lucas: I was making a monumental effort not to clock the only annoying person in the line who would NOT stop talking loudly, and Lucas was battling the leg pain from standing for 12 hours (they are called muscles, he should use them more). We both survived.

This year brought more people dressed up as game characters, although I only recognize Mario and Zelda. Other than people watching, there is a main floor of all the gaming companies, big and small, where you can try out new games and buy games and game-related merchandise. The rest of the convention center is filled with all kinds of events and panel discussions—yes, you heard me—panel discussions. About gaming. Some are about the state of the gaming industry. Others focus on specific games. We saw a couple of panels of well-known You Tubers, that is people who actually make a living by making funny and serious videos about video games on You Tube. You Tubers are stopped in the hall and asked for photos and autographs. They are politely swarmed by fans after the panel discussions to chat and sign. And everyone is soooo patient. They will wait an hour for a signature, two hours to play the hottest new game. And no one gets mad, no one makes a scene. They are happy to be there, they are happy to get deeply involved in a conversation about a video game with the person waiting in line next to them. They are just happy.

Which is why I like to be there. Sure, it’s loud, overstimulating, I don’t get the inside gaming jokes, but being a writer, I do get the creativity—serious gamers care deeply about the story of a game, the quality of the characters, and the originality of the game play. And I recognize that while they are a group of people who are gaining acceptance, they are still outside of the mainstream. Ultimately I go to support my son, because that’s what parenting means to me. Some parents spend many hours over a season watching their kid play sports. I efficiently get all my hours logged in over a two-day period. Seems like a nerdy good deal to me.

Let’s Do Things Without Shoes

A few weeks ago, I was listening to WERS, the independent radio station of Emerson College in Boston and heard this Police classic, “Canary in a Coal Mine.” I immediately was brought back to high school, laughing at my funny sister and her college friends who sang it as “Can Harry have a clothesline?” This became a staple line with my own group of friends. When I looked it up to see what album it came from (Zenyatta Mondatta), I found an online reminiscence of a woman and her friend who thought it was “Canary in coma,” which is also pretty funny.

It made me wonder, what other lyrics have people misheard? Yeah, I know there are a million of these lists out there, but these belong to me and mine. I polled my friends and got a bunch of great responses that can be broken down into sub categories. I also learned some of us seem to thrive on the cheekiness of it more than others, with my sister’s and my friends leading the pack. Hmmm, birds of a feather?

All-Time Most Confusing Lyrics
“Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band has got to the song that wins the “most messed up misheard lyrics” category. The main reason, of course, is the real lyrics are pretty incomprehensible anyway. I mean who among us has heard correctly this stanza:

Blinded by the light.
Revved up like a deuce
Another runner in the night.

I mean, what’s a deuce? Why is it revved up and running in the night? No one knows, which is why we all have our own versions. My friend Kami’s brother, when he was about 6, sang it (rightly to my mind) as:

Blinded by the light
Rackaflackadouchinal
Another roader in the night

She says, ” ‘Rackaflackadouchinal’ is still a word we toss around in the family…even 40 years later.” I can understand why and will start singing it myself that way. She goes on to say that when they tried to correct it, they heard it as “Wrapped up like a douche/Another roader in the night.” I confess I heard “douche” too, but I heard “Wrapped up like a douche/into the roller in the night.”

My friend Becky agreed that these lines have been the subject of “many debates and bifurcated lyrics.” Amen, sistah. She also thought the words were “Wrapped up like a douche.” Her “corrected” version was “Revved up like a goose,” and, really if you’ve seen a pissed off goose, that one actually makes some kind of sense. Her second line is “another roamer in the night.” Roader/roller/roamer—that mad goose really gets around.

Misheard Lyrics from Kids
Kids don’t have a lot of words in the first place, so this is a naturally rich ground for misunderstanding. When my son was in preschool, he came home singing “Queenay, Queenay, eBay Queenay.” His dad and I were puzzled, so we’d ask “Who’s Queenay?” Lucas thought this was hilarious and so added it to the end of his song. It took us about six months to figure out it was from a Barney song (we avoided that show like the plague), “Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up.” I’m sure the preschool staff must have loved it when he sang the “Who’s Queenay” part, as if he were saying, who’s everybody? Not me—I’m not cleaning up anything!

My friend Gloria’s daughter proudly sang when she was 4, “No tellin’ on the mountain that Jesus Price is born.” Apparently no one told, so that’s why this is the first we’re hearing of it.

Classic Misheard Lyrics
I got a number of people who sent in the Jimi Hendrix lyric, “ ‘scuse me while I kiss this guy.” In fact, I would argue that is the true lyric, and that the alternate lyric, “Kiss the sky” was made up by the record label to avoid controversy. As my friend David noted, Jimi was clearly ahead of his time in support of marriage equality.

Bridget sent me the Jimi one and this classic one from Credence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising”: “There’s a bathroom on the right,” which maybe should be “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” but who’s to say?

These Lyrics Kind of Make Sense
Sometimes the words make enough sense that you may not even know they are wrong. Susan offered a line from a song by Zoe Lewis, an indie singer: she thought the song said, “enormouses of pachyderms,” which kind of makes sense in a poetic way—elephants are pretty enormous, and it seems like an indie singer thing to say. The real lyrics are “enormous ears of pachyderms”—kind of a let down, really. Susan also thought the Petula Clark song, “Downtown” was “Down, down,” which is pretty funny because she grew up around New York City, so she would know a downtown better than those of us in the suburbs. But she is kind of right that the first lines of the song make sense with her lyric: “When you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go down, down.” Thankfully the real lyrics are a little more uplifting, unless you hate cities, then you’re really down, down.

Too Cute to Correct
In the 70’s there was a song called “You Can’t Change That,” by Raydio. My beloved grandmother was good about putting the radio on a station we kids would like, and she always sang along to this song, but with the words, “And the cat came back,” while doing this cute little dance. We were about to correct her, but then she told us how it reminded her of this old song about a cat coming back that made her laugh when she was a kid. We started singing it her way with her and doing her little dance, and as far as I’m concerned, that song is about a cat.

Misheard Lyrics That May or May Not Involve Alcohol
Whether the alcohol initially influenced mishearing the lyric or inspired a better wrong lyric, these are pretty funny, submitted by my sister and her college crew:

Pat Benetar’s “Hit me with your best shot” became “Hit me with your lead pipe,” or “Hit me with your kumquat.”

The Go-Gos “Our lips are sealed” became “Our tits are feeled,” which was probably true given how much they drank at her college.

Real Lyrics I Just Learned About as a Result of This Blog, Plus an Overactive Imagination
My sister said my brother-in-law sings the Jimmy Buffet, “Margaritaville” song line, “Blew out my flip flop/stepped on a pop top” as “stepped on a pop tart,” which is pretty funny. But I was like, wait, “pop top”? I always thought it was “pop pop,” which I imagined was a cool island name for those weird black poisonous spiny urchin things you find in the Caribbean waters. Did I mention I am terrified of those things? Of course now that I think about it, why would he sing about a dangerous creature in such a laid back song? But it must be an island thing…yeah, right.

Another overly imaginative, but quite fun misheard lyric is from John, who heard Eric Clapton’s “I Shot the Sheriff” as “Eye shocker Shari.” He wrote “I guess it shows where my 8th grade brain was. It had to be about some sexy girl named Shari. Eye shocker Shari–and how did it fit with the rest of the song? ‘I did not kill the deputy’ Well, I don’t know, maybe the guy was so hot for Shari, he was simply out of his mind. Or maybe I was.” Well, John, I call it writer’s imagination, and clearly some of us may be a little too good at this. Which brings me to the…

Misheard Lyrics All Stars
So back to the birds of a feather thing. This batch is from my ex, who is probably the best at mishearing lyrics, and my girls and their peeps—we’ve known each other from before high school and they still make me laugh.

From my ex: In the Fleetwood Mac song “Dreams,” the end of the chorus is, “When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know,” but the way Stevie Nicks puts the emphasis on the second syllable of “washes” my ex heard it as, “When the rainbow shaves you clean you’ll know.” I’m guessing that’s true—you will definitely know.

The other one of his that is priceless is the B-52s song, “Roam.” He heard the line, “Roam if you want to” as “Row misty watoo,” which makes no sense, but is wicked fun to say.

Sue (via her college friend): In the Police’s song “Every Breath You Take,” the line, “How my poor heart aches with every step you take,” became “I’m a pool hall ace with every step you take.” Who doesn’t want to be a pool hall ace?

Sue’s husband John: Billy Joel’s, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” The line “Brenda and Eddie (were the popular steadies)” he heard as “Brenda Rinetti,” which makes sense because it was an Italian restaurant, get it?

Gloria offered Neil Diamond’s “Forever in Blue Jeans” as “Reverend Blue Jeans.” He’s adored enough for that one to fly.

She also heard Adele’s “Rumor Has It” as “Cooper has it.” And he needs to give it back!

Colleen: From the 70s song by 10cc, “I’m Not in Love,” when they sing/whisper “Big boys don’t cry,” she thought it was “Be questing quiet.” (“Who knows?” she added.) Sounds like a Zen thing to me, Col.

She also heard “It’s too late to apologize” by OneRepublic as “It’s too late to call the judge.” It really does sound like it, and you know, it often is too late to call the judge.

Deb and her peeps had a delicious boatload of them—mishearing seems to run in her family:

The Stones “I’ll never be your beast of burden,” was, “I’ll never be your big suburban.” And hybrid owners will agree.

The Stevie Nicks song, “White winged dove,” was “One winged dove,” and she even took her mishearing to the next level: At the concert, she put one arm up like a wing and flapped it. I like that kind of commitment.

Deb’s sister Donna: Instead of Elton John’s “Oh little Jeannie,” she heard “Oh little G-man.” Well, Elton was looking for a man…

And these two are my favorites: Deb’s uncle Frank thought the Bee Gees “More than a woman,” was “Four letter woman.” I kinda want to be one of those, now.

Deb’s childhood friend thought “Do the Hustle” was “To the hacksaw,” which sums up many a disco hater’s feelings.

Best All-Time Misheard Lyric
As subjectively judged by me and the person who misheard it, the all-time winner is a Police song, “The Bed’s too Big Without You,” from the album Regatta de Blanc. If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s has a reggae beat and Sting sings that line three times. On the third repetition, he pauses in the middle of it for a few beats and then croons Sting-like “Without you!” Jeanette sang it quite seriously as “Let’s do things without shoes, let’s do things without shoes, let’s do things…without shoes!!!” Sting, you can use the lyrics but you gotta pay Jeanette royalties

What are your favorite misheard lyrics? You know you have them—lay ’em on me!

A Nerd by Any Other Name

“You’re not a geek, mom,” said my teen son in the same tone a snooty maître d’ would use to dismiss a commoner. I had made the cardinal mistake of using “geek” and “nerd” interchangeably. “Well, then I’m a nerd,” I countered, ready to flash my Vulcan sign and attest that I had attended a Start Trek convention featuring Gene Roddenberry in the mid-70s. And don’t make me break out my version of the “I walked 20 miles in the snow to school” story:  I belonged to the Math League and my friend and I were the only two kids who ever carried books on our high school bus. We often feared for our lives among the pot and cigarette smokers, which included the bus driver.

My son gazed back at me, unimpressed. It’s bad enough that I struggle to keep up with technology, have to eat better and exercise more just to keep my middle age body the same, but now I couldn’t even keep up with being a nerd? What the hell was happening to the world? And more importantly, how could I lose my nerd status now that it was cool? Back in my day, you just had to dress up like a Star Trek character for Halloween and be smart, and bam, you were a nerd. Granted most people tried to avoid that label, but for those of us who couldn’t, we tried our best to embrace it. Now, according to my son, there are different rules and distinctions to being a nerd vs. a geek. He went on to patiently explain them, but it was my turn to glaze over. At some point there was a whole subsection about his group, being a hard core gamer. Since he was eight or nine he has loved video games—playing them, reading about them, watching videos about them, and following the industry news about the companies that make them. But by then I just nodded my head and smiled: a nerd by any other name is still a dorky cool person outside of the mainstream.

Which brings us to dorky cool nirvana, aka PAX East, the annual gaming convention that was in Boston this past weekend. We started going when he was 13 and it’s his third year. When I told friends and coworkers how I would be spending my weekend, I got looks running the gamut from sympathetic, to puzzled, to a blank stare: “What’s PAX East?” Indeed, what it is? It’s short for Penny Arcade Expo, and is an explosion of sight, sound, and happiness all focused on video games and whirling around 80,000 people. “It’s THREE days?” is usually the next question. “What on earth do you do?” Mostly, I just follow my son around and enjoy how happy he is. I don’t play video games myself—when I was a teen, only the rich kids could afford gaming consoles, and I was not one of those, nor did I especially want one. Occasionally I would mess around with Ms. Pac Man, but I was more into reading books and watching Star Trek. Yeah, that’s how old school nerd is done.

Sadly there were no Star Trek characters at PAX this year, but some people dressed up elaborately as video game characters. Other than people watching, there is a main floor of all the gaming companies, big and small, where you can try out new games and buy games and game-related merchandise. The rest of the convention center is filled with all kinds of events and panel discussions—yes, you heard me—panel discussions. About gaming. Some are about the state of the gaming industry. Others focus on specific games. One cool one we saw was on how to curb hatred in the gaming community—the anonymity of online gaming allows people to say some pretty nasty things. The panel talked about how positive gamers need to step up and set a better example. That panel and others feature well-known You Tubers, that is people who actually make a living by making funny and serious videos about video games on You Tube. I’ll wait a moment while you digest that. Ok, ready to go on? You Tubers are stopped in the hall and asked for photos and autographs. They are politely swarmed by fans after the panel discussions to chat and sign. And everyone is soooo patient. They will wait an hour for a signature, two hours to play the hottest new game. And no one gets mad, no one makes a scene. They are happy to be there, they are happy to get deeply involved in a conversation about a video game with the person waiting in line next to them. They are just happy.

Which is why I like to be there. Sure, it’s loud, overstimulating, I don’t get the inside gaming jokes, and lord knows I can’t play anything, but being a writer, I do get the creativity—serious gamers care deeply about the story of a game, the quality of the characters, and the originality of the game play. And I recognize that while they are a group of people who are gaining acceptance, they are still outside of the mainstream. As one You Tuber commented, “My family still doesn’t understand what I do for a living.” Many artists and writers and other creatives can relate to that. Ultimately I go to support my son, because that’s what parenting means to me. For a few years when he was younger, I hung out on soccer fields and little league bleachers to cheer him on. In the cold spring weekday evenings. The chilly fall Saturday mornings. In the rain. In the wind. During playoffs that always seemed to happen during a scheduled vacation. I definitely prefer supporting the out-of-the-mainstream activities, especially if they are indoors. If that isn’t proof of my nerdiness, then I’ll meet you at the Boston Star Trek convention in June. I know my Spock ears are around here somewhere.