The Bechdel Test is (was) a hot conversation topic at the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association (MAPACA) conference (last month, which is when I wrote this post I’m only now getting around to editing & posting).

In 1985, a strip from Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For comic titled “The Rule” featured two women talking about going to the movies. One explains her criteria for choosing a movie: it has to have at least 2 female characters, those characters have to talk to one another, and that dialogue has to be about something other than a man.

Recently, four Swedish Theaters announced they’ll be applying the Bechdel Test to the movies they show and giving movies that pass an “A” rating.

Yesterday – on her blog and in interviews with other media outlets – Bechdel expressed discomfort with the dogmatic way her work is being used.

For a very long time, The Rule wasn’t a widespread cultural phenomenon – it was a thing women and gender studies scholars talked about in bars. Over the last decade, the Bechdel Test, as it’s now known, has became something akin to one of those weird conventional wisdom-y popular science phenomenon.

Now everyone thinks it’s a great tool for studying gender film, except most of the people who study gender and film.

To many (most) of the feminist lit and culture scholars I know, the Bechdel Test has gone from a thought-provoking conversation starter to a reductionist tool.

I like the idea of the Bechdel Test. It could be a great tool for opening up conversations about women in film and on television as subjects and not objects, but as a blunt instrument it’s a lousy lens through which to actually analyze the representation of power, discrimination, oppression, or ideology on-screen. Or to discuss gender in ways that aren’t hetero-normative and divided into a strict male-female dichotomy, for that matter.

The test doesn’t take into account semiotics, character development, context, or the very fact that film is a visual medium. That’s hard to quantify.

Stefan Solomon’s post, “What the Bechdel test doesn’t tell us about women on film,” includes several film clips that speak louder than words about these problems.

A few months ago I watched a brutal argument on facebook wherein a group of Bechdel Test devotees shamed a female friend who was defending her fandom of Firefly. I hadn’t realized until then how poorly the show does on the test.

Now, in all this talk of feminist movies and tv shows that fail or misogynistic ones that pass, I don’t mean to suggest that there aren’t plenty of movies that fail for well-deserved reasons.

A few days ago, a Guardian article included some relevant statistics on the movie business in 2013:

Of the top 100 US films in 2011, women accounted for 33% of all characters and only 11% of the protagonists, according to a study by the San Diego-based Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

Another study, by the Annenberg Public Policy Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that the ratio of male to female characters in movies has remained at about two to one for at least six decades. That study, which examined 855 top box-office films from 1950-2006, showed female characters were twice as likely to be seen in explicit sexual scenes as males, while male characters were more likely to be seen as violent.

“Apparently Hollywood thinks that films with male characters will do better at the box office. It is also the case that most of the aspects of movie-making – writing, production, direction, and so on – are dominated by men, and so it is not a surprise that the stories we see are those that tend to revolve around men,” Amy Bleakley, the study’s lead author, said in an email.

I can understand why people who don’t want to spend their time thinking about critical analysis like the Bechdel Test – it’s a checklist.

If. Then. So.

This debate about whether Black Swan passes the test illustrates the multiplicity of ways one can interpret the test itself. As I learned at breakfast this morning, when it was in theaters this was one of those movies people seemed to enjoy railing at film scholars about it to “prove” the worth of the test.

(I don’t have enough conference-coffee coursing through my system yet to recall some of the other fascinating examples that were discussed this morning. Sorry).

As an example of why gaze and context and on-screen action (and wardrobe!) matters, Solomon discusses Alien, the film that has become the gold standard:

Bechdel’s original comic strip ends on an interesting note. For the cartoon character speaking, the last movie that passed the test (circa 1985) was Ridley Scott’s Alien. In that film, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the other female crew-member, Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), discuss the film’s monster (thereby passing the Bechdel test).

But for those of us who know the film, we will also know that it is not dialogue, but the lack of dialogue that makes Alien such a haunting experience. Indeed, who really remembers the words that pass between Ripley and Lambert on board the Nostromo?

Feminist film critics have been far more interested in how we interpret the final scene, in which Ripley – the lead character and sole survivor – is reduced to her underwear.

In these last shots, the camera, which until now has moved in such a fascinating way through the corridors of the ship, seems to revert to old Hollywood habits, embarrassingly ogling Weaver’s body (or does it?)

The TV Tropes entry on the Bechdel Test suggests some ways to apply the test with more nuance.

The Bechdel Test has, strangely, become something that (well-meaning) people use to try to belittle feminist film scholars into believing we don’t know shit about…you know, the things we study, teach, and write about.

I wrote about ways to use the test for a zine years ago and we got a surprising barrage of criticism from readers who questioned my ability to “think scientifically” about film. This was before the test was particularly wide-spread – hence my surprise. I don’t have a copy of the article, but a friend and I continue to discuss the perception that to apply the Test is to “think scientifically.” It was a stunningly aggressive example of mansplaining, although at the time I didn’t have that word for it.

This is not to say that men have a monopoly on dogmatic Bechdel interpretations, but in that case in particular, it was a festival of mansplaining. There are plenty of female-identifying feminists who would argue it’s merits just as dogmatically.

(On a minor tangent: If I were to construct a scientific test for a social process, it would be to measure the inverse proportion between the amount of time someone rants about the value of their own education and authority and the amount of time they spend arguing that everyone else’s field is bullshit).

Media literacy is an important skill that I think anyone can acquire. It doesn’t require years of graduate school and I’m not trying to advance an elitist argument.

I’m mostly trying to explain why I get that pained look on my face every time a well-meaning person launches into, “I know for a fact that [brilliant feminist film X] is sexist because it fails the Bechdel Test. It’s science! I’m a chemist! I know these things!”

Nor am I arguing that only theorists get to interpret popular culture or are even right about their interpretations. They’re interpretations, after all. (You know, the kind of thing that the Bechdel Test can’t account for). Viewers feel deeply invested in popular culture. They have strong opinions and ideas. It’s what makes studying it so interesting.

What I am saying is that perhaps people who are passionate and devoted to the study of such things might just have a little insight now and then. And many of those people – myself included – strongly believe that the Bechdel test is a great place to start a conversation, but it’s just that: a conversation starter.

It’s understandable that questioning the Bechdel Test’s usefulness sends diehard proponents into a rage. Diehard proponents, on the other hand, should be happy – I’m told it passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. Yippee ki-yay, motherfuckers.

NSFW clip:

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I have this insane compulsion to read the Family Filmgoer ratings in the Washington Post weekend section.

Last night I came across this gem of a rating for Paranoia.

The film strongly implies murders and attempted murders, although not in graphic detail. Characters drink and smoke. Someone talks about “getting laid.” There are stylized, nongraphic sexual situations between Adam and Emma, which only imply nudity. The dialogue includes an occasional barnyard epithet and one F-word.

It’s an embarrassment of riches, that review. So many things to mock, so little time on this mortal coil.

Before I could begin to peel that onion of absurdity, I became obsessed with the term “barnyard epithet,” which I will put in quotation marks here in homage to the Family Filmgoer’s use of said punctuation in reference to “getting laid.”

A debate between Husband and I then ensued over the meaning of the phrase. The phrase “barnyard epithet,” that is. We’ve got “getting laid” covered.

Husband insisted it meant “bullshit.” This was disappointing to me because I like believing it means something more colorful.

Goatfucker, perhaps.

We debated this for much longer than I should ever admit. But I will. We debated this for a long time.

While we were debating the wisdom of looking this up on the Internet, I remembered that I have a reference book on the subject sitting right on the coffee table. I’d just checked Melissa Mohr’s Holy Sh*t! A Brief History of Swearing out the library and hadn’t even opened it yet.

Meanwhile, Husband had become obsessed with the hilarity we might find on the Internet and had begun reflexively adding the words, “dot-com” anytime one of us said, “barnyard epithet.”

It’s not as funny in the cold light of day.

Maybe I should add that there may have been some mint julep slushies involved.

There, that makes the story of two adults creating a taxonomy of profanity much more socially acceptable.

Unless you’re the Family Filmgoer.

Sadly, Mohr doesn’t seem to mention the term but by the time I’d spent some quality time reading through the amusing index to the book, something buried deep in my brain was telling me that this was actually something I’d learned years ago as an undergrad and had something to do with Cold War era politics in America.

Which sounds batshit crazy, but turns out to be accurate. And sort of batshit crazy:

When leaders of the anti-war protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention were tried in Chicago two years later, defendant David Dellinger uttered an eight-letter word in court that likened a police officer’s testimony to the waste product of a bull. Dellinger was reprimanded and his bail was revoked. New York Times reporter J. Anthony Lukas called his editor, urging that the Times print the word. The editor suggested that it simply be called an obscenity, but Lukas worried that readers would imagine even worse words than the one that was spoken. “Why don’t we call it a barnyard epithet?” the editor suggested. And so they did.

So there you have it. Simultaneously fascinating and disappointing, but what can you do?

This post originally had this image at the top, but even I had to draw the line at using the image of an innocent goat with filthy hindquarters shooting the camera a come-hither look. But that doesn’t seem to stop me from telling you about it. Or posting the picture, which probably contradicts my claim of self-restraint.

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Goat pictures by MeanLouise

When I was a kid, I found a monkey.

Siamang at the Naples Zoo, photo courtesy of Pete Corradino.


A Siamang, photo courtesy of JunglePete Corradino.

Technically, it wasn’t a monkey, it was an ape called a Siamang, but I wouldn’t learn that detail for many years. 30 years, to be precise(ish).

Back on that day in the late 1970s, dad and I stopped at Wendy’s.

I guess we were there for lunch. We definitely weren’t there for primates.

We chose a table and I sat down. Dad was about to go to the counter to order when I noticed there was a bag behind my chair, presumably left by the recently departed occupants of the next table.

(This isn’t the weird part of the story).

In my memory it was one of those canvas totes like they sell at LL Bean, but I honestly can’t recall much about the bag.

Other than the fact that the bag was moving.

The bag was moving because there was a monkey inside.

Long hairy arms reached up out of the bag and grabbed the back of my chair. A small furry head followed and the two of us had what seemed to me to be pretty meaningful moment.

The events that followed probably unfolded quickly, but in my memory they happened in slow-mo:

My dad matter-of-factly instructed me not to talk to strangers or feed the monkey, since it might have a special diet.

My dad was very practical.

My dad went to call a deputy to come and pick up the monkey, since dad figured mom would kill us both if we took it home. Plus, it’d be wrong to take a lost-and-found monkey home.

While dad was at the counter asking for the manager and I was chatting with my new simian friend, a Wendy’s employee began to wipe down the table, saw the monkey, and freaked the fuck out.

The memory may be slightly murky, but I’m pretty confident in the sequence of events because I thought the employee was screaming because she saw me.

Which was more than a little upsetting. I was wearing my favorite dress! I loved that dress! Why was the woman screaming at me? Didn’t I look adorable in my favorite dress?

A girl came running in from the parking lot, panicked because she’d left her sister in a bag.

I swear that’s what she said.

“I forgot my sister. She was in the bag.”

She grabbed the diaper-clad creature and the bag, and then she ran back out.

I immediately stopped caring about the Wendy’s employee who was still staring in my direction and screaming, for I had just had an epiphany.

Wow! My parents can trade my baby brother in for a monkey! I knew this had to be possible!

My parents didn’t trade in my brother, but I guess in the long run that worked out okay.

(Still not the weird part).

Now that I think about it, this incident probably precipitated both my lifelong love of primates and my lifelong wariness around fast food.

Fast-forward a few years.

I was at a new school and one of my classmates lived on a monkey sanctuary. I was at his birthday party or something. We’ll call him JunglePete, because that’s his name.

(Calling a kid JunglePete would be weird, but at the time he was still just plain “Pete,” so in the final analysis this isn’t the weird part, either).

I was talking to one of his sisters. This, I shit you not, is a pretty accurate approximation of the conversation she and I had:

Her: “My sister left a monkey in a Wendy’s one time!”
Me: “We found a monkey in a Wendy’s one time!”
Her: “No way!”
Me: “For real. A monkey!”
Her: “That’s crazy! I wonder if it happens a lot?”

For smart kids, we weren’t always very smart.

Fast-forward a whole lot more years, to last Saturday, June 15, 2013.

Husband and I were at the Central Florida Zoo with JunglePete, his wife and son, and his father and his father’s wife.

jpsiamang

Our first stop was the Siamangs.

When we made plans to meet at the zoo, I didn’t understand there was a personal nature to our mission. I thought we were just too cheap to go to Sea World during the peak season and had chosen a more off-the-beaten track Father’s Day outing destination.

It turns out that in the 70s, the sanctuary had a rescued Siamang named Bridget. Eventually, Bridget went to live at the Central Florida Zoo, which had better facilities for apes and a mate for Bridget. Bridget had some babies over the years, but she rejected one of them. JunglePete’s parents took in the baby, who they named Topaz.

We were at the Central Park Zoo to visit with relatives of their old friends, Bridget and Topaz.

(We haven’t gotten to the moment of weirdness in the story yet, but we’re getting closer).

After we visited with the Siamangs, we wandered around the zoo for a few more hours.


JunglePete & I at the Central Florida Zoo, photo courtesy of Eric “Husband” Gordon.

(Whatever is happening in this photo may or may not be a little weird, but is otherwise unrelated to this post).

At some point, JunglePete and I ended up back at the Siamangs and I casually mentioned to Pete that my dad and I found a monkey one time in a Wendy’s in Venice, Florida.

JunglePete replied that his family once almost left someone behind in a Wendy’s in Venice, Florida. But they didn’t leave a monkey – they left Topaz! Fortunately, they remembered as soon as they got back to their van and JunglePete’s older sister dashed back into the restaurant to reclaim her.

Being older and a little bit wiser, we understood that we were remembering the same event.

Okay, to be honest, we didn’t realize it immediately.

We didn’t realize it until Husband started laughing at us for being idiots.

Then we realized it was the same incident. What. Ever.

The fact that our childhoods had intersected years before we met was, even to us, pretty weird.

Then I made JunglePete talk to the Siamang. (While I made a video so he couldn’t deny it later).


[embedded video: me forcing JunglePete to speak Siamang]

Then 6 full-grown adults crammed themselves into a 1951 1/5 size replica train operated by a dude in a conductor’s hat who probably didn’t even think it was weird to be wedging himself into a tiny car and driving grownass people around all day in a miniature steam train.

I bet you think I’m making that part up.

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I’m not.

This post is full of hazy memories from the late 1970s and early 80s. JunglePete’s mom and my dad are both deceased, so you’re at the mercy of mine and JunglePete’s memories on some of the details (and may god have mercy on your souls) but we do have witnesses who can corroborate the important points.

While writing this post I realized that I still have a habit of automatically checking behind my chair whenever I sit down in a restaurant, hoping to find another monkey.

I haven’t ever found another one. It’s probably a rare occurrence, but if you ever find one, please let me know!

On Saturday, standing there watching the relatives of the gibbon I met at Wendy’s several decades ago (and a hundred miles away), with the people who left the ape – that was weird. I think the word surreal is overused and often abused, but I’d go so far as to label the moment surreal.

Back in the 70s none of this was newsworthy. Or if it was, it didn’t occur to anyone involved to contact the press. Very few things in Florida are particularly odd to native floridians (except the weird & crazy crap that snowbirds and transplants do, but that’s a subject for another day). While writing this post I did, however, do a bit of googling and turned up a picture of Pete’s mom and Topaz from an unrelated news article about the sanctuary:

janietopaz
JunglePete’s mom, Janie Corradino, with Topaz, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, December 15, 1978.

As for that day way back when? After lunch, dad and I went about our usual errands. We probably went to Lido Beach so I could play on the swings or up to Jungle Gardens to visit with dad’s friends. They’d shoot the breeze while I watched them milk the cobras to make anti-venom.

You know, the usual father-daughter stuff.

—–

editor’s note: I just changed some of the dates because JunglePete informed me I was off by a year or two here and there.

Also:

Full disclosure: obviously, it wasn’t a monkey. It was a lesser ape, but monkeys make better headlines. Plus, from 1978 to 2013 I thought it was a monkey so I use the word monkey a lot in this post even though I am well aware of the difference. Get over it.

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[embedded image: post-smoothie cleanup operation]

This morning I decided to make a green tea fruit smoothie because I had a large quantity of frozen fruit. This is not rocket surgery. You put fruit, green tea, honey and lime juice in a blender. Then you paint the ceiling with the smoothie when you accidentally turn the blender back on after Husband removes the lid.

I make it sound much easier than it is.

In between, there are a few intermediary steps that involve destroying Husband’s kitchen appliances, as well as a significant amount of profanity.

Destruction and profanity. That pretty much sums up my entire cooking style.

To be fair, the death of Husband’s beloved kitchen appliances was not exactly my fault.

Much like the ape uprising wasn’t exactly Caesar’s fault in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but was more precisely the result of what is known in scientific circles as the Ricardo Montalban Effect, an inevitable trajectory begun when Cornelius and Zira travelled back through time in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

I’m not sure Husband sees it that way. Frankly, Husband should have seized operational control of this entire enterprise as soon as he heard me snuffling around in the kitchen, but he didn’t.

So really, who’s to blame here?

Ricardo Montalban, obviously.

First, the blender mysteriously refused to work. Husband joined me in the kitchen as soon as he heard me muttering and swearing at the blender. The indicator lights were on and the outlet worked, but no matter how much button-pushing we tried, the blender was an inert object. Our blender has 3 buttons. It’s not a complicated device.

For a brief moment I thought I’d well and truly lost my ability to function as an adult, so I felt better when it didn’t work for Husband, either.

House elves, we* agreed, are to blame for the death of the blender. I would feel bad if Ricardo Montalban was blamed for killing our blender.

At that point, Husband suggested we use the mixie. He dumped the ingredients from the blender carafe into the mixie carafe and started the mixie, which promptly broke. The little plastic pieces that spin the blades all broke off.

To be fair, the mixie has endured years of steady, almost daily use, and I contend it was time for a new one. I never touched the mixie, so clearly this was in no way my fault. I didn’t even suggest using it.

Clearly, this was Husband’s fault.

Although I may have been the one who failed to warn him that the pineapple chunks were still frozen and that there was a quarter cup of honey in the mix just waiting for an opportunity to ooze to the bottom of the carafe and gum up the blades. So that may have been my fault, but who can say, really?

While Husband was standing over the mixie, possibly administering Last Rites, I plugged the blender back in and hit the start button in what I figured was an act of futility. Of course the bastard roared to life. One of the three buttons didn’t work, so it’s still a bit of a mystery what’s up, but “on” and “off” were in good working order so who needs to the pulse function?

Husband dumped the ingredients back into the blender carafe, at which point we discovered that hard clump of honey and pineapple in the bottom of the mixie carafe.

You don’t need this much detail, and we don’t know for sure this is what killed the mixie, but I like typing the word “mixie.”

We then made smoothies without any further difficulty.

Unless you count the part where Husband removed the lid from the blender and I immediately reached over to make sure the blender was turned completely off so that we wouldn’t have any more accidental disasters. The carafe was still sitting on the blender body, where Husband left it when he removed the lid. Instead of powering down when I hit the button, the blender roared to life and geysered smoothie all over the kitchen counter and everything on that counter.

Obviously, it was his fault for not maintaining situational awareness (read: remembering that I was still in the room) and taking the carafe off the blender body before he removed the lid.

Husband does not agree with my logic.

In closing, making smoothies is serious business. Also, don’t forget to clean out the toaster while you’re wiping smoothie goo off of every other surface in the room.

—————
*We. I. One of those.

Wrath of the Titans is a clunky inept sequel to a clunky inept remake of a clunky inept movie from the 1980s. Young Boomers/older Gen Xers, who thought the original Clash of the Titans was great because they were young and impressionable when it first came out (and were probably stoned when they saw it) are now the people green-lighting the big budget IMAX 3D reboots of movies that they would realize weren’t very good if they weren’t currently working as “Creatives” and consequently making business decisions while smoking pot.

The people who greenlit this movie also know two things. One, that the kids who are willing to shell out weekend box-office don’t comprehend, or care, that the original movie was Not Great. Two, GenXers will Netflix or purchase the reboot in a fit of pique and/or out of misguided nostalgia. What this means is this: lots of people will get paid.

Everybody wins.

Except us, because we’re watching it. Right. Now.

This movie, like all movies, co-stars Liam Neesen.

Seriously. What the hell?

I just watched The Haunting (1963), one of the all-time scariest movies of all time ever. I spotted the 1999 remake on HBOHD and, being too sick to think, decided to see if it was as bad as I remembered.

It was. Got a post about that drafted, you’ll have to wait for it a little longer – the relevant point here is that the remake starred Liam Neesen.

Husband decided to watch all the Star Wars movies. We watched 4, 5 and 6 over the holidays. But we know who’s in the the first 3: Liam Neeson.

Our Tivo, OverLord II, recorded Unknown for us. Never heard of it. Looked at the description. Liam Neeson.

The Netflix fairy sent Battleship. Liam Neeson.

The Dark Knight Rises? Liam Neeson.

Maybe the connection here isn’t “Liam Neeson.” Maybe it’s “our questionable movie selection judgement.”

I’ve been sick for 3 weeks. I don’t know what Husband’s excuse is. I guess that doesn’t explain the last 20some years of our movie watching co-existence, does it?

Moving on.

I guess I have to quit copying IMDB links for Liam Neeson movies and pay attention to the screen if I want to describe Wrath of the Titans to you. There aren’t any spoilers in here. To be fair, I think to have a movie spoiled you probably need to care about the outcome. Trust me, no one should care about the outcome of this movie.

Except Liam Neeson’s agent, who should probably wake up with a horse head in his bed or something. This dude has been in some shitty, shitty movies.

Wrath of the Titans. Wrath of the Titans is about Perseus and Zeus and a bunch of other Gods who lived back in the Ancient Greek Lack of Hygiene World.

Liam Neeson is Zeus. His half-human son, Perseus, has to rescue him from the underworld and

I just realized I’ve been sitting here trying to remember why the guy woke up with the horse head in his bed in the Godfather and I’ve forgotten what came next in that unfinished sentence you see above this paragraph. I fall asleep every time I try to watch the Godfather. I’ve seen the scene but I have no idea what it means. (What? It was before my time. Plus I was afraid of New Jersey as a kid so the Godfather isn’t really my thing. Sorry).

Back to Wrath of the Titans.

Perseus has Poseiden’s pitchfork. It’s a Magical God Pitchfork, which means that it glows orange whenever it’s near manure, I think. That describes the overall quality of the script for this movie, so the pitchfork glows a lot. Husband thinks it might be more complicated than that, but Husband had to get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and work all day and he’s had a few drinks so I don’t know that you should trust him.

Plus, he’s still really bitter about the whole midi-chlorians thing, which he seems to be holding Liam Neeson personally responsible for.

So, Perseus has the pitchfork and he goes off to find his Dad.

Perseus ends up in a cave with Bill Nighy, one of our favorite actors. Nighy performs a monologue from a one-man Off Broadway show. Or outtakes from Love Actually. I’m not really sure, but I think it must be one of those. Then he shows Perseus and Andromeda a shortcut to destroy the Underworld that seems to defeat the whole “I’m on an epic quest” story-arc.

Husband: “There’s a small thermal exhaust port right below the main port!”

Liam Neeson, incidentally, was in Love Actually.

Wait, what’s Andromeda doing there? When did she show up? Perseus rode off alone on his Pegasus. Then he fought a bunch of badly rendered monsters and then I think he flew around some more.

Whatever.

Sometimes the dialogue is hard to understand. The sound mixing is actually pretty good. To be honest, the biggest problem is that we keep yelling lines from other movies, which makes it hard for us to hear the movie we’re watching. Husband hasn’t seen Taken, and neither of us has seen Taken 2 or the forthcoming Taken 3: the Quickening, but all of the trailers look the same so it seems safe to just make up dialogue.

Seriously, how many movies can there be in the Someone Stole Liam Neeson’s Daughter franchise?

It’s possible I made Taken 3 up…but I bet it gets made.

Since Perseus gets around on a fast-flying Pegasus, I’m not really clear on how all the other characters seem to be able to keep up with him. Nevertheless, Pegasus and Perseus go flapping away and everyone they left behind is just somehow with them in the next scene.

Husband: “A small one-man fighter should be able to penetrate the outer defense!”

Hang on a second, there’s some kind of fire-monster warrior guys attacking our band of plucky morons. That’s sort of cool.

Honestly, I have no idea what’s happening.

Husband: “Get this big walking carpet out of my way.”

The tagline for Wrath of the Titans is “Feel the Wrath.” That’s the best they could do?

Anyway, Andromeda and Perseus are on an epic quest. At some point while I was trying to make up a joke about feeling the wrath a bunch of shit happened and now I’m confused about who’s fighting who or what the quest is. It seems to have changed.

I actually thought the movie was over because they’d gotten out of the Underworld and put on deodorant (I think that’s what they were doing. I might be mistaken). But now the people who I thought were mortal enemies are fighting on the same side and I can’t figure out who in the hell they’re fighting.

Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers summed it up when he wrote, “…Clash of the Titans sucketh the mighty big one.”

We aren’t even bothering to recite movie dialogue anymore, we’re just moaning and mumbling to ourselves. Husband just said something about his blast-shield being down, but, having realized that the credits are rolling and our servitude is over, we’re both too busy scrambling for the remote to think clearly.

post-script
After the movie ended I was giving this post a quick edit to remove eighty percent of the profanity while Husband stared at the blank TV screen looking, frankly, happier than he’d looked over the last 92 minutes. That was when our furnace – which is located in the basement – directly below the television – emitted a terrible sound.

Husband has been down there for the last 10 minutes trying to repair it enough that it will limp along until Monday. Mostly, we’d prefer not to pay Double Jeopardy Magical Super-Overtime, or whatever the rate is you have to pay for a furnace repair at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night in February. Honestly, I’m also a little afraid if we call the furnace company they’ll send Liam Neeson over. Or, the more likely scenario will occur: my cough medicine will take control of my mouth and I’ll just blurt out a request that they not to send Liam Neeson.

They probably don’t get a lot of out-of-the-blue requests to not have Liam Neeson dispatched to people’s homes. It actually wouldn’t be the craziest thing I’ve ever called and asked them. Still, cross your fingers that Husband’s repair gets us through. Just in case, we won’t be subjecting the furnace to any more bad movies this weekend. It’s all Downton Abbey from here on out.

Yeah. Right.

Are you here looking for information about DC’s Demon Cat, who was alleged to prowl around the grounds of the White House and U.S. Capitol? You’re in the wrong place, but you might as well stick around because every day is Halloween around here and I have a ghost story for you all the same!

One day, while I was making some afternoon coffee, I looked out our kitchen window and saw the neighbor’s kids giggling and intently watching one of our upstairs windows. One of them waved up at the window. My office window. Since it wasn’t the window I was looking out, and I’m the only one home, I went outside to see what was up.

I looked up at the window and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
That’s when the little girl told me they’d been watching our kitty sun itself in the window.

We don’t have a cat.

GhostCat Reenactment

I asked her if she could still see the kitty. Nope. I asked her where the kitty went. She said the big orange cat got up, stretched, and left the window sill and now she couldn’t see it.

Creepy? Yes. Surprising? Not really.

GhostCat apparently took up residence here in our house last year around Halloween. As one of the few houses in Alexandria, Virginia not claiming a ghost, I guess we were due.

I haven’t seen GhostCat myself and we’ve never owned an orange cat. Husband’s grandmother had a big orange cat, maybe it just took a while for him to find us? If cats can have ghosts and ghosts can sneak in to your house, we figure that’s how GhostCat got here.

You can’t prove it didn’t happen that way!

Our Official Ghost Cat Sightings began when JunglePete visited last Halloween. On the first morning, he mentioned that our cat walked over him a lot before finally settling in to sleep by his pillow.

We laughed at him, chalking it up to lack of sleep.

Since then, 3 little girls and one allegedly sober adult claim to have seen the big orange cat sitting in the window.

There are few things as creepy as watching someone wave and greet someone only they see in a window, especially when you know there’s no one there. And it’s always the same window – the window I have my back to when I work at my desk.

The window I have my back to right now.

Hang on a second, I need to nervously glance over my shoulder a few times.

Okay. I’m back.

I’ve spent a lot of time standing in my yard at all times of the day trying to figure out what they could be seeing but there’s nothing there and nothing reflecting that looks either orange or feline. We just tell little kids our kitty is very shy. My neighbors would kill me if I filled their kids heads with ideas about ghostly pet hauntings.

In light of the fact that one family turned their house into a haunted sanitarium for halloween and another had a guy in a clown costume chasing people with a chainsaw, I don’t know why I’m concerned about inflicting psychological damage on the little ones.

Maybe I should tell them we have a Cheshire Cat.

Recently, a friend and her adorable hound were visiting for the afternoon. Carolyn and I were knitting and watching a movie when the dog hopped up, ran across the room wagging her tail, and started behaving like she was trying to befriend a smaller creature. She then trotted around the house with her new friend for about an hour. We both found the dog’s behavior terribly peculiar. The hound now runs around our house looking for her friend whenever she comes over.

I don’t know why it only just occurred to me that we should make a video of this behavior. I’ll keep you posted on that. I think we should also bring in another dog, one that hasn’t “met” GhostCat.

I’ll work on that.

Now that I think about it, ghostly pet eminences aren’t completely unknown in my family.

My uncle is apparently being haunted by my grandmother’s dog, a mastiff/great dane cross who, I suspect, could do some serious spectral damage. Do you think it’s possible to drown in ectoplasmic drool?

If you’re a blogger, I bet your most popular post is the magical tale of the day you gave birth to your beautiful children. Or the lyrical paragraphs and heart-breakingly beautiful prose about the day that your future spouse sent Placido Domingo to your office to wish you happy birthday. Or maybe it’s the recipe for your great-grandmother’s traditional Arbor Day cake, which you’ve lovingly reconstructed with the help of your ancient relatives, who clung to their deathbeds waiting for that last bite that would determine if you’d finally figured out the right amount of vanilla (but only vanilla harvested by virgins and processed at 3 meters above sea level on the second night of the full moon in May).

Not mine. This is my most popular post of all-time.

I am a Freak Magnet. This means I attract Freaks.

Non-Freak Magnets don’t understand this, and you can’t ever fully explain the depths of wackiness a Freak plumbs when they encounter a Magnet.

Freaks aren’t normal people who engage in small-talk while stuck in an interminable line, or ask you to help them find a contact lens, or ask you for the time while you’re on the Metro. A homeless dude who follows you down the the sidewalk and serenades you with “You Are So Beautiful” after you ignore him is annoying, but he’s not a Freak.

Freaks aren’t merely people who dress differently than the people around them or are clearly from another culture or profession or economic class than you. Those people can also be Freaks, but those states of being or actions alone do not necessarily a Freak make. The label “Freak” isn’t a judgement, per se, it’s more of a category. (A category that might best be defined as “people who have no sense of reality, believe they have a weekend home on Mars, and believe that the two of you inhabited the same physical form in a previous life.”)

For example, one day, long ago, I was on the bus on my way to work. I’m going to guess this was sometime in 2002 or 2003, because I was running into Jesus a lot back then.

Anyway, I was headed to the Pentagon Metro station – approximately a 20 minute ride. I don’t remember much about the day, but I do remember that the bus was really crowded and the weather was awful.

I was sitting on one of the bench seats along the side, wedged between two women.

One woman was sporting the stereotypical matronly 50something professional uniform: no-style haircut, St. John knit jacket, plain pumps with 1.5 inch heels. She was on the bus when I boarded. The other woman got on a few stops after me. She was neatly dressed in a pantsuit, probably navy blue, with a bulging briefcase wedged between her feet and something – probably an unopened book – in her hands.

Neither of these women spoke to me at any time. Neither of them threw glitter on me, wept openly at the beauty of my yellow aura, or attempted to fart the Star-Spangled Banner while insisting we all stand and place our hands over our hearts. (Coworker Who Was Not My Boyfriend and I used to call that guy “Captain Flatulence” – he was a Repeat Freak who one or both of us spotted on multiple occasions).

Both women were tidy. Neither of them smelled bad. Neither of them had marinated in perfume. Neither of them was purposely encroaching on my personal space.

Two boring women, riding the bus.

That sounds okay, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t.

I may have failed to mention that Pantsuit, after she got settled in her seat, then spent the entire ride staring at me. Directly. She was sitting next to me on the bench. Her body squarely faced the people on the bench across the aisle. Her head was turned so that she was staring directly into my ear. She never said a word. She just stared at me. For the whole ride, she stared at me. That could not have been comfortable for her. It certainly wasn’t comfortable for me.

About half-way to our destination, St. John started singing under in her breath in what could only charitably be called a monotone. I’m pretty sure she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. That didn’t stop her.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.

She kept repeating that line. Apparently that was all she knew. She sang that part over and over for 10 minutes.

When we got off the bus one of the Military Dudes who’d been sitting across the aisle watching this in wonderment asked me how I kept my cool for the entire ride. (You don’t really think I’m all jiggy with the zen states from years of meditation, do you? Heavens no, I’ve honed my hyper-focal concentration skills on the battlefields otherwise known as “public transportation.” Also, possibly “staff meetings” and “starbucks.” Plus, there were the Deadheads).

The Other Military Dude chimed in and told him about the woman who used to take the bus with us who decided that Jesus and salmon would save one’s soul and proceeded to pull labels from cans of salmon and a bible out of her laptop case and present them to people she deemed worthy of redemption. I, of course, was one of those people – it was what brought me to his attention in the first place. He was impressed with my equanimity in the face of biblical ichthyology.

I don’t remember it going down that way, but whatever. What I most remember was that she was also carrying a Glock9 and going into the Pentagon and that was all I wanted to know.

Other Military Dude also knew about Captain Flatulence. I suspected Other Military Dude was also a Freak Magnet but I wasn’t in the mood to engage for long, just in case he was less Magnet, more Freak. He knew about Captain Flatulence, who he called Patriotic Farting Man, because he was often on blue line train with him in the evenings. Apparently, Captain Flatulence/Patriotic Farting Man, although far from his dream of mastering the Star-Spangled Banner, had recently performed stirring renditions of America the Beautiful and God Bless America.

It was good to know that Captain Flatulence had moved or changed jobs, which explained his disappearance from the yellow and red lines. It was good to know that other people were running into Jesus around town. It was good to know that my Freak Magnetism served as a form of both edification and entertainment for others. It was also good to know that the Military Dudes had my back on the bus.

Recently, Husband and I viewed a double-feature of two of the greatest horror movies of all time, or at least from 1982/83. I’m speaking, of course, of Poltergeist and Flashdance. Somehow, we then got stuck in the early 80s and decided to watch Tron and the Black Hole.

If you haven’t seen Tron, I don’t think that you should care about spoilers because, let’s be honest, Tron is a dumbass movie.

You might remember it as a good movie, but you’d be wrong.

See, in the 1982 of Tron, when you wrote a computer program a miniature person drove around executing the program in a miniature car.

This reminded me of a creepy dental hygiene video I saw in elementary school. It apparently wasn’t Crest’s Cavity Creeps, but so far my YouTube searching for the video in this traumatic yet hazy memory has only turned up Cavity Creeps, porn, and opossums.

Do you remember the Cavity Creeps? The Cavity Creeps were creepy, but it was this other video that creeped me the fuck out. I still can’t find the other video, but I’m not done looking yet.

I can only assume that the devolution of this post indicates that it’s my destiny to post the 3rd opossum-care video before I get around to posting about the psychic damage inflicted by Tron and the Black Hole.

On a opossum-related sidenote, one night my whole neighborhood was awakened to the horrible scene of opossums ripping a squirrel’s nest apart in our yard.

The carnage was grotesque. There’s no way I’d brush the teeth of an opossum under any circumstances.

If you decide to brush an opossum’s teeth, more power to you.

Just remember the advice from the video and don’t use your own toothbrush.

My brother has spoken approximately 27 words in his entire life. It’s possible he speaks at work, when he’s deep in the bowels of the Pentagon creating the dinosaur-human hybrid super-soldiers that you must pretend to know nothing about, but I can’t vouch for that.

He gets this lack of verbosity from our father.

Among my mother and her legion of siblings, there has not been a documented break in the conversation since 1932. There are rumors that there was a moment of collective silence at a Church service in 1953, but lacking credible eye-witnesses, I choose not to believe it. Conversations in my mother’s family are like the audio recordings NASA pumps into space, they will be floating far out into the Universe long after our sun explodes and our galaxy is snuffed out in a fiery cataclysm.

My father, on the other hand, was a man of few words.

I don’t mention these conversational contrasts because I worry that someday life-forms in a distant galaxy are going to pick up an argument over cheeze-it flavors on their radio telescopes, which will have far-reaching implications for their civilization.

I mention it because my father had an effective method for dealing with busy bodies – those people who won’t take no for an answer and demand to know what else you need to do that could possibly be more important than what they want you to do.

The conversation would go something like this:

“But surely you can stay for a few more hours.”
“No, I’m sorry, I have things to do.”
“What sort of things?”
At this, my father would lean in, repeat simply, ominously, in very hushed tones, “Things.”

And then, he would smile.

It was the unexpected smile that sold it. If you’re curt and rude you just seem socially inept and boorish. If you smile and are polite as you brush them off, it unsettles them a bit and allows for a graceful get-away. I highly recommend it.

It might help if, like my father, you’re very large and heavily armed and otherwise never say a word, Regardless, I say go for it. If nothing else, maybe politeness itself will be enough to confuse them.