controversies, music, nostalgia

Someone left my cake out in the rain…

The featured photo is of a cake I baked in 1993 for my boss at the time. I was the cook at a Presbyterian church camp and there was a nasty stomach bug that came through and made a lot of us sick, including the camp director, whose birthday it happened to be. I decided to bake the cake in honor of the virus– it says “Hurling into #33”. And yes, it was a huge hit! Presbyterians, mostly being very Scottish in origin, usually do not lack an appreciation for ribald humor.

For some reason, this morning I found myself singing “MacArthur Park”, a song that was written by the great songwriter Jimmy Webb. I am most familiar with Donna Summer’s version of that song, since I was a youngster when it was popular. But, in the course of reading up on “MacArthur Park”, I learned that it was actually written in the late 1960s and has been covered by a lot of different artists… including Waylon Jennings, of all people!

I am a big fan of Jimmy Webb’s music. He’s written some really beautiful songs. I didn’t know anything about his personal life before this morning, when I read about his first wife, Patsy Sullivan, whom he met when she was twelve and he was 22 years old. They appeared together on a cover of ‘Teen magazine. The next year, they started a relationship and married in 1974, when their son, Christaan, was 17 months old. Patsy was just 16 years old when she had him. She had five more children with Webb before they split in 1996. When he published his memoir in 2017, he left Patsy out of it and reportedly didn’t mention their son, Christaan. I’m not sure why he did that, since it’s not like it wasn’t known that they were married and had children. Anyway, Webb is remarried as of 2004, having wed his wife, Laura Savini.

Sometimes I think it’s better not to know too much about the people you admire. I’m not sure I approve of Webb’s relationship with the very young Patsy in the 1970s… but I guess it was considered a different time. Webb was also using a lot of substances– drugs and alcohol– and has since given them up. I still think it’s shitty that he’s denied his first marriage in his memoir. Seems pretty fucked up to me.

I have funny memories of “MacArthur Park.” Although I had heard it many times when I was growing up, I never paid much attention to the lyrics. It wasn’t until I went to college that I heard the line about the cake in the rain. My old friend– brother from another mother, Chris Jones– was going around singing it badly. “Someone left my CAKE out in the RAIN…” Chris can’t sing under the best of circumstances, but he’s also a natural comedian, so his version of that song was hilarious. I remember saying to him, though… “are you sure those are the right words?” Or maybe I just thought he’d made them up, as we were both likely to do in those days (and in my case, today).

Chris assured me that the song, as ridiculous as it was, was actually written with those lyrics.

Today, I read that the lyrics by Jimmy Webb were based on actual things that he saw as he and his friend/girlfriend were breaking up in view of MacArthur Park in California. Someone actually HAD left a cake out in the rain. The mind boggles at the backstory potential. What happened? Was someone’s birthday party rained out? Did a romantic date go badly? Did some people run off and leave the cake because they’d rather stay dry than save their sweet treat? Who knows… but what a weird visual. I guess the truth really is stranger than fiction.

I still like Jimmy Webb’s music and respect his immense talents. I suspect he didn’t want to address his first wife’s age because he’s a “different person” now. Actually, I’d say that if you aren’t willing to own up to the past, maybe you haven’t changed that much, after all… I’m sure his life story is still interesting, even though he omitted a big, major chunk of it from his memoir. I haven’t read the book, but I can see from Amazon reviews that a lot of people didn’t think it was very good. They claim he name drops a lot and is apparently a “moral midget” who has affairs with married women. I dunno… Maybe I’ll read it so I can decide what I think of it. If I do read it, it won’t be for awhile. I have a bunch of books to read right now and only so many conscious hours.

The version of “MacArthur Park” I know best.
Waylon’s version…

And there are many, many other versions of this song, as well as other songs Jimmy wrote that are fantastic. I’ll just try to focus on those.

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movies, music, nostalgia, YouTube

A movie that still haunts me after 44 years…

It’s Friday, and I’m sitting here listening to Anne Murray, of all people. As a child of the 70s, I can’t help but have some guilty pleasures. Anne Murray had a lot of hits in the 70s, so her music is a big part of my personal soundtrack. Listening to her sing takes me to a comforting place.

What a Wonderful World (14 Inspirational Classics), the album I’m listening to right now, is one of Anne’s more recent ones. Or, it’s relatively recent, anyway, having been released in 1999. When you consider that Anne Murray has been around since before I was born, it’s kind of recent. It consists of fourteen cover songs, all of which are either pop songs made famous in a previous era by other artists, or old fashioned hymns. It’s an album my father would have enjoyed. My mom would probably like it, too, although her tastes in music were decidedly peppier than his were.

I think I like Anne’s 70s hits better than this album, although her versions of these songs are certainly pleasant enough. It sounds like she enjoyed making this record, even if the songs lack the emotional punch of her earlier stuff. It’s not a bad thing to wake up to, I guess.

I think I bought this album because I heard Anne singing with her daughter, Dawn Langstroth, on another album, and I liked Dawn’s voice a whole lot. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Dawn has a really beautiful voice that compliments her mother’s voice very nicely. I like to support artists when I like what they do– especially if they aren’t super famous. Dawn Langstroth has a couple of albums with music that isn’t like her mom’s, but is equally appealing (I have eclectic tastes).

At least I’m not listening to anything with profanity in it. God knows, I’ve been known to do that, too. I usually do that when I need a laugh.

Bill is in Bavaria again, so I’m on my own for the next week, trying to stay out of trouble. When Bill goes away, I try to occupy myself with “wholesome” activities and maintain sobriety. I don’t always succeed in not drinking beer when he’s gone, as it helps me pass the time. However, I do make an effort, because it’s good for me, and because there may be a need for me to drive somewhere. This was more of a concern when Arran was still with us, but suffering from cancer. Now that he’s gone, it’s less of an issue. But we do still have Noyzi, and he could get into trouble.

Also, I like to reassure myself that drinking is always a choice. For the most part, I don’t really miss drinking when I abstain from it, especially if I am engaged in something. I don’t necessarily want to walk all the way to the basement for a beer. 😉

Last night, I decided I wanted to watch an old made for TV movie from 1979. I remember watching this movie on CBS when I was about 6 or 7 years old. The film, titled And Your Name is Jonah, was about a deaf child who was misdiagnosed as “retarded” (the term used in the movie– today, we would use a more politically correct term). It starred Sally Struthers, James Woods, Jeremy Licht, and introduced nine year old Jeffrey Bravin, who is deaf in “real life”.

The film is pretty dated, since it was made in 1979. Watching it last night reminded me of how old I am, especially as I heard the actors speaking of “retardation” (which was a valid diagnostic term when I was a child), watched Jonah riding on his mother’s lap in the front seat of the car (with no one wearing seatbelts, no less), and saw Jonah, at nine years old, running around New York City alone.

It’s hard to believe that was how things kind of were at that time. I can remember being allowed to go places alone from a very young age, riding in the car unrestrained (even in the front seat), and hearing all manner of words now deemed egregiously offensive being thrown around on television and in “polite” conversation. You wouldn’t hear the word “shit” on primetime television, but the r bomb and n bomb were dropped all over the place. And yet, there were some really intelligent and thought provoking movies and TV shows made in those days. Some “Movies of the Week”, as And Your Name is Jonah was, were genuinely excellent.

I was a bit traumatized by And Your Name is Jonah back in 1979. If you’ve seen this movie, you might know which scene was especially haunting to a small child. One thing that comes across in this movie is that Jonah, who was “institutionalized” for three years with children who were intellectually disabled, is terrified of the new world outside of the hospital where he’d been living.

Jonah does not have an intellectual disability, but he is profoundly deaf, and he’s never been taught to communicate. He wears uncomfortable hearing aids that don’t really help him hear better. The film presents Jonah’s perspective– first not being able to hear at all, and then only hearing unpleasant and unintelligible noise when he wears hearing aids. So, even though his cognitive function is normal, he is constantly frustrated, trying to communicate and understand what’s happening. Most of the time, he seems very stressed as he tries to have his needs met, and things like his little brother’s Spiderman doll, scare him. However, there are some bright spots, such as when he meets his mother’s grandpa, a friendly Greek man who loves to dance and is very kind to Jonah.

Jonah meets Grandpa and learns how to dance to vibrations…

Jonah’s father Danny, played by James Woods, has a short temper and little patience for Jonah. He tells his wife, Jenny (Struthers), that he wants to put Jonah back in the hospital. Jenny refuses to consider sending Jonah back to the institution. Danny ends up leaving when he can’t take dealing with Jonah, leaving Jenny to deal with their son alone. He does send her a paltry sum of cash in the mail and a note.

Grandpa runs a vegetable stand. Jonah visits him often with his mother and brother. One day, Jonah is having a ball with Grandpa, and the old man collapses from a heart attack. He dies. Jonah doesn’t understand what has happened to his beloved grandfather. Then there’s a funeral scene, and the family files by the open casket, kissing Grandpa on the forehead. Jonah is the last to see him as the lid is closed forever. Danny shows up after the funeral, hanging around outside of the church to offer his condolences to his wife. Jenny is devastated, trying to talk to him about their son… and Danny, predictably, can’t handle it and leaves again. There’s so much profound loss in Jonah’s life, and he has no way to process it with other people.

So very sad… Grandpa was Jonah’s best friend.

After Jonah’s dad, Danny, leaves, Jonah has even more trouble adjusting to his circumstances. One day, he sneaks out of the house, gets on the bus by himself, and goes to Grandpa’s vegetable stand, which is not open. Confused, Jonah wanders around looking for his Grandpa, then sees a lady who knows him. He panics, and tries to get back on the bus, but he’s too late to catch it. It leaves without him. Now, Jonah is left without transportation, wandering alone in the city.

One of New York City’s finest sees Jonah wandering around alone. Not understanding that Jonah is deaf, the cop assumes the boy is “crazy”. He picks up Jonah and takes him to a hospital. Jonah knows about hospitals, and he freaks out when he goes inside the building. Everyone is dressed in white– and the nurses all wear scary caps, just like they did back in the day. It probably smells medicinal, too, which would likely be pretty powerful for someone who doesn’t hear.

Yikes! Can you blame him for being terrified?

Once again, panic overwhelms Jonah, and he tries to run away. The cop and an intern (in an old fashioned white smock) grab the boy, who winds up in restraints. It’s a very short but extremely powerful scene. As a small child, I remember being scared when I saw it on television. Especially when I saw Jonah’s terrified face at the end of the scene (see the featured photo).

Although this film is about two-thirds emotionally wrenching and sad, it does have a very happy ending when Jonah has a breakthrough. Jenny meets deaf people in speech therapy. They introduce Jenny to more deaf people, all of whom use American Sign Language to communicate. Jenny has been told that signing is bad– Jonah’s been in a school where signing is expressly forbidden. But it turns out that sign language is Jonah’s key to the world. And once he realizes he can sign to be understood, things finally get better.

Jenny’s new deaf friend explains what it’s been like for her in a hearing world.
Jenny confronts Jonah’s clueless teacher…
Jonah catches on…

Billy Seago, the young man who helps get through to Jonah, is just amazing in the breakthrough scene. Look at his facial expressions. They are amazing. I should also give a shout out to the late Fred Karlin, the composer who provided the moving soundtrack for this film. It sets just the right tone… and in fact, the main theme is stuck in my head as I type this.

Jonah has a breakthrough.

This movie can be watched for free on YouTube, but I decided to download it from Apple TV. I figure even though it was a Movie of the Week from 1979, the fact that I still think about it is a sign that it belongs in my library. I was legitimately traumatized by this movie when I saw it aired on CBS in 1979, but today, I just think it’s a really touching and beautifully done film.

Jeff Bravin, who played Jonah, was on 3-2-1 Contact (a children’s science show that aired on PBS back in the early 80s), but other than that, he’s left acting in the past. Although he’s obviously found a different vocation, I have to say that I am very impressed by his acting skills in this movie. His facial expressions are amazing. He was such a cute child, too… I read in an interview he did that the “restraint scene” was a point of pride for him, as he actually broke some of the straps!

Jeff Bravin is now highly educated and works as a school administrator in deaf education. I read that he never really learned how to speak clearly, because he is so profoundly deaf. Both of his parents and all four of his grandparents were deaf, as is his wife. He has three hearing daughters and grandchildren now, but clearly there are both genetic and cultural components to Bravin’s experience as a deaf person. If you search for him, Bravin is easily found on YouTube– bright, confident, and signing away very fluently.

In a weird way… this movie reminds me a bit of how it was when we brought Noyzi home. Granted, Noyzi is a dog, but he was absolutely terrified for a good long while, especially of Bill. He’s morphed into a wonderful dog, but it’s taken time, love, patience, and understanding. And there have been a few times when Noyzi’s eyes have looked a bit like Jonah’s in the hospital restraint scene. He still reacts automatically to a lot of stimuli, like sudden noises or movements. However, overall, he has adapted very well… and we continue to see progress with him, as he is introduced to new experiences. It’s very rewarding to watch him evolve into the sweet, gentle, loving giant he is…

Which reminds me, it’s time to get dressed and take him for a walk, now that we finally have good weather. I hope this post has entertained and informed… and I hope if I’ve piqued your interest in this movie, you might seek it out on YouTube or even on Apple TV, if you’re so inclined. I’m glad I watched it again, even though it’s very dated, not very politically correct, and reminds me of just how old I am. 😉 I think it’s very well done, even in 2023.

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memories, nostalgia, social media

Sometimes beer takes me places I never expected to go…

If you attempt to read this, please do me a favor and try to make it to the end before passing judgment.

A couple of days ago, I did a search of my own posts on Facebook. I don’t even remember what I was hoping to find. Maybe it’s because I drink a lot of beer. 😉 In any case, when I did that search, I unexpectedly found today’s featured photo. I got a kick out of it for many nostalgic reasons.

That photo was taken 30 years ago, during my junior year at what was then known as Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia. It’s a pretty special picture for many nostalgic reasons… including some I’ve just realized so many years later. I’ll get to why in a few paragraphs, if you’ll just indulge me a bit.

My junior year roommate was a year older than me, and the one I got along with best during my college years. She was a very serious student– extremely hard working and high achieving. I don’t know if this is still true, but at the time, she was said to be the very last organ performance major at Longwood. Her goal was to be a music teacher. I hung out with a lot of music majors. They were some of the hardest working people I’ve ever known.

This roommate and I got along very well, which is an amazing thing. We lived on the third floor of South Cunningham, which has since been demolished. In fact, the room I had during my sophomore year is no longer used as a dormitory. It’s now an administration building. Those of us who went to Longwood College, as opposed to Longwood University, have very different memories of the campus. It really has changed that much. I guess it leads to bonding on Facebook.

I’m always a little dismayed when I realize that I went through SEVEN Longwood roommates, and that was even with two semesters during which I had my own room. Sometimes I feel like I’m just not a very likeable person who isn’t compatible with most others, even though Bill and I are ridiculously compatible.

Then, when I think about it, I realize that my roommate situation is not as bad as it sounds. One year, I temporarily had a second roommate who eventually got kicked out of school. One year, my roommate joined a sorority and moved in with her new “sisters”. I had the room to myself in the spring. Another year, I had a roommate for a few weeks, until she left to student teach. Then I got a new roommate during the spring semester before my graduation, and we got along fine.

Then there’s my very first roommate, “Margaret” (not her real name) with whom I only spent a week before she basically kicked me out of the room so her slutty friend across the hall could move in. I’ve already blogged about her, though…

Before anyone comes at me, let me just say that I know it’s not nice to call someone a slut, but that was basically what Margaret’s friend and future roommate was like. We had been at college for a mere week, and she just wanted to skank around with fraternity guys. My former roommate delusionally thought the frat guys would like her, too, so she tagged along with her friend of one week. I understand from my former suitemates that their living arrangement didn’t work out very well.

If I hadn’t been in the middle of that mess during my first week of college, I might have felt sorry for my former roommate. The chick from across the hall– who openly and unabashedly spoke of her “twat” itching (yes, she literally said this– and I was confused because, at the time, I don’t even think I knew what a twat was)– was probably just using ex roommate for her money.

Margaret had a lot of money, but to be blunt, she was definitely not a looker. But she and fraternity skank showed me nothing but contempt, so I don’t have a lot of regard for either of them. Besides, it all worked out for the best. Both of those women left Longwood after our freshman year, and this article isn’t about them, anyway. So, I’ll move on. 😉

Junior year was a pretty good year for me. That was the one year I finally had a good friend as a roommate. Because I was 20 years old, I couldn’t buy my own booze… except at a couple of places that never carded people. My friend, who wasn’t a drinker, helped me buy a case of Bud Dry at what was then a Harris Teeter supermarket (I think it’s now a Kroger). Bud Dry was highfalutin’ beer in those days. I usually drank Natural Light or something of that caliber. There was a Canadian beer called Arctic Bay that I used to get all the time. I don’t think they make it anymore. I know Bud Dry is now defunct, as of 2010.

Being 20 years old and not very experienced in the ways of the world, I honestly thought Bud Dry was good stuff. So I packed it into my dented and RENTED dorm fridge and took a picture for posterity. At some point, I shared the photo on Facebook, where a lot of laughs and discussion ensued. As I mentioned up post, South Cunningham was demolished, but it was a much loved home at Longwood for a lot of students. So that photo of Bud Dry was definitely prime sharing material. First, I shared it on my personal page; then I shared it in a group for Longwood College alums (as opposed to Longwood University alums).

At this writing, about 250 people in the group have liked the photo, and there have been a lot of lively comments about it. Most of the comments have been about what “expensive” tastes I had, since I wasn’t drinking Milwaukee’s Best (Beast) or its ilk. Again, the reason there was a photo was because I was “proud” of drinking Bud Dry. I thought I was living large. I was, but only in terms of my clothing size. 😀

I was enjoying the Facebook commentary about the photo when I noticed someone with a familiar, yet unusual, last name had “liked” it. Suddenly, I remembered a woman I knew of because of my second Longwood roommate, the woman who had joined Kappa Delta sorority and moved in with her “sisters” during the spring of my freshman year.

Though I never joined a sorority myself, I eventually learned that most of them had nicknames based on their campus reputations. I also found out that a sorority chapter on one campus might be totally different than they’d be on another. For instance, I have some cousins who were Sigma Kappas at the University of Georgia. The Sigma Kappas at Longwood when I was a student there were known as really “smart” and kind of nerdy. But my cousins, if they had gone to Longwood, were probably more like Kappa Deltas or maybe Zeta Tau Alphas, both of which were founded at Longwood. Actually, if they had gone to Longwood, my cousins would have probably pledged ZTA, because their grandmother, my Aunt Jeanne, was a ZTA at Longwood.

My roommate after “Margaret” was a woman who happened to have the same first and last name as Margaret did. However, she spelled her first name differently and went by a nickname. I’ll call her “Maggy”. She was the opposite of Margaret. While Margaret was a narcissistic asshole who wore braces, and was morbidly obese, Maggy was slim, cool, and pretty. She was a natural for the “KD ladies”, as she told me they were known as at Longwood.

Maggy and I weren’t destined to be long term friends, but she was a much better fit than Margaret was. At least she didn’t come in during the middle of the night and turn on the overhead light while I was sleeping, right? In fact, a lot of nights, she slept with her boyfriend. That was cool for me!

Anyway, Maggy was very busy during the semester she pledged her sorority. She had a composite photo of all of the “sisters”. I remember seeing that photo every day during my first semester at Longwood. I remember most of the women in that photo were really conventionally pretty, like Maggy was. However, there was one woman who stood out in the composite photo. She was very attractive, but not in the super pretty way the others were. She had what seemed like a rare kind of charisma. I found her interesting and was curious about her.

I remember taking notice of the woman’s name, mainly because she had kind of an unusual moniker. I also noticed her because she had a dazzling smile that was very genuine, like someone everyone would want to meet and know. Again, she was not gorgeous in the typical popular sorority girl way, but she had an inner radiance about her. I could tell that she was someone who made friends very easily.

Maggy’s new sorority sister had a rare kind of true inner beauty. Her magnetism was obvious and memorable to me, even though I didn’t even know her. In fact, I never even met her when I was at Longwood. As an 18 year old, I just noticed and remembered her name and her face… and as time marched on, I eventually forgot about her… until last night.

I noticed someone with the same unusual last name liking my beer fridge post. I hadn’t thought of Maggy’s “dazzling smiled” sorority sister in well over 30 years. She was two years ahead of me, and we didn’t run in the same circles. At first, I thought the person who had liked the photo was the same woman with the dazzling smile. She hadn’t spelled out her first name on Facebook, but she had the same first initial as Maggy’s sorority sister did, plus the same surname.

I was curious, so I took a look at the person’s profile. After a minute or two, I realized that the person who had liked my post wasn’t the woman with the dazzling smile. Instead, she appeared to be a family member– perhaps a sister or a cousin.

There was a picture of the woman with the smile on her public Facebook page, and based on the comments, it appeared that she had died. I followed another link to Maggy’s sorority sister’s profile, and saw more comments from people who missed her. They commented on her spirit and her laugh. I could relate to that, since my laugh is very distinctive, too. When I die, I’m sure if anyone still knows me offline, they’ll comment on my laugh, too.

A few more minutes of investigation revealed that the woman with the smile had died of breast cancer. I soon found many pictures of her before and after treatment. There were pictures of her that recalled how she’d looked in her Kappa Delta composite photo. And there were pictures of her smiling bravely, with very short hair, and then finally completely bald. In every single one of those photos, there was that radiant smile that defied the circumstances and revealed what appeared to be an indomitable spirit. I don’t even know her story, but the smile told me a lot about her.

Soon, I found myself looking closer at the people she’d left behind. This was a woman who was obviously much beloved by a lot of folks, especially her family, but also friends and colleagues. She had clearly made an impression on many, and had left a very positive and indelible mark on their hearts. I suddenly felt kind of sad, because I wished I’d had a chance to meet her. Behind her sparkling, lively eyes, and bright, brave, dazzling smile, even when she was completely bald, there was a remarkable woman who had really made a difference to so many.

Of course, if I had met her, there’s every chance that we wouldn’t have meshed. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. I tend to be the kind of person people love or hate. But now that I think about it, looking at pictures of Maggy’s sorority sister reminds me of an experience I had on a road trip years ago, when I happened to run into a Buddhist monk. I wrote about that experience here, but the short story is, that guy had a countenance that immediately put me at ease and calmed me down when I had been hangry and wound up tighter than a spring. I was awestruck and moved by simply being in the peaceful monk’s presence, looking at him from across a crowded room.

When I did a similar search for old photos last night, I happened across one about one of my relatives… She happened to live on a farm called Longwood, and she died a couple of years ago. I wasn’t very close to this relative. Although we were family, we didn’t agree on religion or politics. However, when she died, many people were genuinely devastated.

I noticed that along with the post her sister– another relative of mine– had written about missing her, there was a photo of them. And I noticed that they both had dazzling, warm, and genuine smiles, too. Even though we’re family, but not close friends, I can see that they obviously have left indelible marks on people. If I didn’t already know them due to our family connection, I’d probably be struck and ultimately touched by their beautiful smiles, too.

Isn’t it funny how a photo of a rented dorm fridge full of Bud Dry posted on Facebook can lead me to these places? Anyway… if anyone related to this woman figures out who she is and that I’ve written about her, I just want to say I’m very sorry for your loss. I can tell by the photos showcasing her smile that she was a very special person. Either that, or her dentists are worth their weight in platinum. 😉 (I’m kidding, of course…)

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movies, nostalgia

Repost: My review of the 80s gymnastics film, American Anthem…

Here’s another repost. I originally wrote this movie review for Epinions.com on May 21, 2007. I am reposting it here for the sake of nostalgia. It appears here as/is.

American Anthem… What’s reality got to do with Hollywood?

Pros: Music video quality. Decent soundtrack. Nice shots of Gaylord in shorts. Mindless fun.

Cons: Incredibly stupid plot. Bad acting. May be hard to find.

Twenty years ago, I was a devoted cable TV fan who had just discovered gymnastics. No, I’ve never been one to turn a cartwheel myself (having big jugs makes acrobatics difficult), but I do enjoy watching the sport. In 1986, the U.S. men’s gymnastics team was still basking in the glory of their team gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Hunky Olympic gymnast Mitch Gaylord apparently wanted to cash in on his new found fame and good looks. Perhaps he also wanted to get out of the gym.

I don’t know the real reasons behind his decision to make the 1986 flop American Anthem and try his hand at acting, but the regrettable fact remains that Gaylord does have American Anthem on his resume. Yesterday, I had the chance to view it again, courtesy of Amazon.com’s new Unbox service.

Let me be frank. When I was a teenager, I loved this movie. It used to come on HBO all the time and I never got tired of watching it. Now that I’m in my 30s (um… 50), this movie is not as enchanting. In fact, I’m pretty embarrassed to even count this flick as a guilty pleasure.

Anyway, Mitch Gaylord plays Steve Tevere, a former high school football star turned gymnast turned sports burnout. Steve Tevere lives with his parents, played by Michelle Phillips and John Aprea, and his little brother, Mikey, played by R.J. Williams, and works at the local motorcycle factory. Although at the beginning of the film, ol’ Steve has given up his dreams of gymnastics glory, he still hangs out with his athlete buddies and sneaks into the gym to watch them work out. And that’s when he catches sight of the babelicious newcomer to the gym, Julie Lloyd, played by dancer, Janet Jones (future wife of hockey star, Wayne Gretzky).

Julie Lloyd moved to the gym against her parents’ will to train with the demanding Coach Soranhoff, played by Michael Pataki. She quickly makes friends with a hardworking but less sexy gymnast named Becky Cameron, played by former University of Florida gymnast Maria Anz. When Julie and Becky go out for some good times at the local bar, they run into Steve, who immediately hits on Julie. Julie and Steve predictably hook up, which leads Steve to consider going back to gymnastics. After getting a lecture from his friend, Kirk Baker, played by Stacy Maloney, Steve decides to go back to the gym. His father is against his decision, leading them to fight.

There’s a third plot in this story. Julie’s disabled cousin Arthur, played by Andrea Bianchi, also happens to live in the same town as the gym. Arthur lost his parents in a car crash and was left with a leg brace. He spends his time holed up in a house, composing music on his synthesizer. Julie pays him a visit and establishes his role in the film.

Both Julie and Steve are headstrong athletes dealing with personal conflicts. Steve struggles with a fear of not living up to his past successes. He’s unhappy as a clearly mature man, living with his parents and working at a dead end job. And Julie doesn’t like her floor exercise music. If I could, I’d insert an eyeroll smiley right here. Since I don’t have access to smilies, I will just repeat myself in italics. Julie’s conflict is that she doesn’t like her coach’s choice in music for her floor exercise routine. After listening to and watching Julie’s routine, I can’t say I blame her. The flatulent sounding piece sounds like it was an early inspiration for the Who Framed Roger Rabbit soundtrack.

Anyway, Julie would rather use a dynamic, snazzy piece composed by her disabled cousin, Arthur. The coach won’t hear of it, so Julie gets an attitude at a regional meet, which upsets her teammate, Becky Cameron. The movie plods on with Steve on the outs with his parents– especially his father– and Julie on the outs with the coach and her high achieving teammate. Arthur hangs out on the sidelines, pressuring Julie to use his music instead of the beastly number the coach has chosen.

At this point, I’ll just say that naturally, Steve and Julie work through their issues to become triumphant at the movie’s splashy gymnastics meet finale. They also make progress in healing their personal rifts with family. Incidentally, I always get a kick out of the final gymnastics meet, meant to choose the U.S. gymnastics team. I read that the scene was filmed in the gym of an abandoned high school. The overall lighting is kept low, with dramatic colored lights very obviously displayed. It looks more like the Ice Capades than an actual gymnastics meet. Watch gymnastics on ESPN someday and you’ll see that the lighting in real meets is kept very bright. But then again, these are the movies. What’s reality got to do with Hollywood?

American Anthem is a pretty stupid movie. For one thing, Janet Jones and Mitch Gaylord were way too old for their parts. Most serious female gymnasts are in their early to late teens with a few managing to hang on in their 20s. In 1986, Janet Jones was 25 years old. Although she was thin and had a beautiful dancer’s body, she certainly didn’t have a gymnast’s body. Successful gymnasts tend to be very small, flat-chested, and childlike. Make no mistake, Janet Jones did not look like a child in this movie. Male gymnasts tend to be a bit older, but the way this story is presented, it looks like Steve Tevere is supposed to be several years younger than the 25 year old man Mitch Gaylord was at the time.

For another thing, Julie and Steve are shown spending a lot of time having fun. Steve, in particular, seems to spend all his spare time smoking Marlboros and drinking beer. Julie hangs out with her disabled cousin, coming up with a new floor exercise routine with the music he composed for her. Again, it’s unrealistic. Serious gymnasts spend most of their time at the gym. They don’t have time for fooling around. There’s only one realistic looking gymnast in this film and that’s 12 year old Jenny Ester, who played Tracy Prescott. Jenny Ester was an actual top level gymnast in the 1980s.

The acting is laughable, too. The only character in this film whose acting really impressed me was R.J. Williams’, who was eight years old when this flick was made. I thought he did a fantastic job considering the material he had to work with. Everybody else delivered their lines with all the personality of an empty pizza box.

The one thing that does stick out about this film is that it looks like a music video. Famed Hollywood composer Alan Silvestri scored the film and several rock stars, including John Parr, Graham Nash, Andy Taylor (of Duran Duran), and Mr. Mister all contribute tracks. The music is non-stop throughout this film, along with plenty of cinematic photography. It shouldn’t be surprising that this movie looks like a music video, since it was directed by Albert Magnoli, who also directed Prince’s film debut, Purple RainPurple Rain is another 80s guilty pleasure for me, but like American Anthem, it’s not long on great acting.

Filthy language is at a bare minimum in American Anthem. The flick is rated PG-13 and I only heard the F-bomb dropped once. But this movie runs for an hour and 40 minutes and unfortunately, the time is mostly filled with boring dialog, 80s music, and sexy guys and girls in leotards. The gymnastics are kind of fun to watch, but they look pretty dated nowadays. It’s also pretty obvious that whoever did Janet Jones’ gymnastics stunts was quite a bit shorter than Jones.

Watching American Anthem is probably not the greatest use of your time. In fact, it amazes me that this movie actually had a short run in movie theaters. I recall that it was on video in record time. However, people must have liked it since it seems that a DVD release may be coming in the near future. Of course, you can download it off Amazon.com for $9.99 or buy the videocassette for an arm and a leg. Unless you really love gymnastics or have a unique fondness for movies that are so bad they’re good, I’d recommend skipping American Anthem.

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controversies, nostalgia, slut shamers, social media

Partial repost: Let’s keep ’em closed (and covered up), people…

Today’s entry is a partial repost, some of which I originally composed on September 5, 2015. I am reposting part of my blog today, because I feel like being kind of funny, and I’m not in the mood to write about Kevin McCarthy’s ridiculous Speaker of the House vote. I also don’t follow football, so I can’t opine about Dahmer Hamlin. And I’m not quite done with Jamie Lynn’s book… so here goes.

Before I repost what I wrote in 2015, here’s a brief briefing. The repost was based on a 2013 era viral blog post that was written by an Austin, Texas based mom, Kim Hall, who complained about teenaged girls posting pictures of themselves in various stages of undress. It went viral, with many people sharing it, and quite a few people writing snarky rebuttals, about what they considered “slut shaming”. This morning, I’m struck by how innocent we were in 2013, when so many of us were up in arms about pictures of scantily clad girls on Facebook and Instagram. Kim Hall wanted teenaged girls to cover up their bodies if they were going to share photos and videos on social media that her sons might see. Little did she know that a few years later, people would want them to cover up their faces, too. She had no way of knowing about the challenges that teens would face when a novel virus came to town. It’s almost comical…

Anyway, below is my 2015 post. It’s relatively brief by my standards, and most of the links still work.

***Two years ago (in 2013), a woman’s blog post about “slutty” looking teenagers went viral.  The post was called “FYI– If you’re a teenage girl…”  Why am I remembering this?  Because I checked Facebook’s “On this day” app and noticed that I had posted a link to a blogger’s funny rebuttal (I highly recommend reading the snarky rebuttal, which is still up. It’s hilarious!).  The post that had spawned the rebuttal was removed, but not before it was viewed millions of times and shared all over the place.  Indeed, I even responded to the post myself– but my rebuttal is on the old blog… maybe I’ll repost my rebuttal. Why not? 

A couple of days ago, another blogger wrote a post about an entirely different teen related topic.  Her post obliquely referenced the FYI post that has now been deleted but still exists all over the Internet.  Christine Organ writes:

Don’t worry; this isn’t going to be one of those letters. You know the kind. Some well-intentioned and wise adult writes with a just-trying-to-be-helpful shrug about how you should stop doing this or change that. Usually it has something to do with your clothing choices or selfie-taking habits or flirting protocols. Believe me, I’m just as sick of those “letters” as you are.  

Two years later, I’m remembering that post and how it caused such a stir.  An Austin, Texas mom named Kim Hall wrote somewhat eloquently about how she was going to block girls who post inappropriate photos and YouTube videos from her sons’ Facebook pages, because she didn’t want her boys seeing girls in their pajamas without bras, or wrapped in just a towel.  She didn’t want her boys to be unable to “unsee” the sexy teens in their midst, and think of them in a sexual way.  I’ve never been a teenaged boy, but my guess is that it matters little how girls are dressed when boys are at a certain age.  A good stiff breeze can make them think of sex. (I remember Mrs. Hall got in some hot water, too, because her post was originally littered with pictures of her shirtless sons, flexing their muscles in their swimming trunks. People thought that was very hypocritical, and it was! She later reposted it with the boys in street clothes, did some creative editing and rephrasing, and then took the post down altogether.)    

For the record, I don’t necessarily disagree with all of Mrs. Hall’s points.  I don’t like looking at scantily clad girls, either.  However, I think it’s pretty hard (heh heh… I wrote “hard”) to prevent people from seeing those images.  Humans are naturally curious beings and they like to see the forbidden.  So even if Mom scours her sons’ Facebook pages every day, they will probably still see some stuff she doesn’t want them to see.  They may end up with hardened dicks, too.  Perish the thought.

What amazes me is that I had totally forgotten about this incident and was suddenly reminded of it due to another blogger’s oblique mention of it.  I don’t know if she wrote her post about teenaged girls at the swimming pool almost exactly two years later on purpose, but it does seem kind of strange.  

I also wonder if Kim Hall knew that her blog post would take off like it did.  I mean, when she wrote her “open letter” to girls two years ago, did she know that it would be the subject of so many blog rebuttals, Facebook arguments, videos, and online magazine articles?  I wonder why she took it down, too.  It made her kind of famous.  Her blog is still up and was recently updated.  My guess is that she got tired of the attention.  Taking the post down was kind of like closing the barn door after the horse has already gone… but hell, it probably made her feel better.

The overwhelming message I got was that people should keep their legs closed… and their minds closed.  Because sex is bad.  Thinking about sex is bad.  And teenagers in towels are bad.  Especially on Facebook and Instagram.

My thoughts are a little scattered this morning.***

Now, on to my fresh post…

This morning, I noticed that someone in Alabama hit a post I wrote in late June 2020. It was about face masks and the totally nuts– over-the-top– reaction a lot of people on social media were having to COVID-19. At the time I wrote that post, I was feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and hopeless about the future. I was giving serious thought to getting rid of Facebook… a notion I’ve had a bunch of times over the years. It was mainly because I felt inundated with the prospect of a bleak, dystopian world, post COVID. I was tired of all of the annoying, sanctimonious preaching being done by all of the Google experts on social media. In 2020, COVID was very scary, but so was the public’s polarized reaction to it. I was genuinely feeling a bit crazed by it. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

In the post someone hit today, I noted that I expected face masks to be a temporary measure. Fortunately, my predictions and expectations regarding the pandemic have mostly come to pass. Even here in uptight, but stoic, Germany, people have calmed down a lot about COVID. I was afraid that we would all be forced back into masks this winter, but that hasn’t come to pass. Masks are still required on most buses and trains, although Bavaria– which had the strictest regulations for a long time– recently dispensed with them on local trains. The masks are no longer needed on flights. They are still required in any medical office, including veterinary offices. But, I suspect, they will eventually be phased out, even though COVID is still a problem and there are new mutations. Life has mostly gotten back to normal, and that is a really good thing. Thank GOD.

I guess the one message I take from reading my post about face masks, before reading about a mom who was concerned about her sons seeing girls in towels and braless in pajamas on social media, is that our battles have a way of changing. There was a time, not so long ago, that people were all upset about a woman admonishing girls about being too “sexy” online and asking them to cover their bodies. That was what a whole lot of people were thinking and talking about, blissfully unaware that they would soon be angry about people not wanting to cover their faces. And there was a time, not so long ago, when the topic of the day was face masks, and how we not only needed to cover our bodies, but we also needed to cover our faces… forever. How very depressing. I’m glad most of us have moved on from that idea, at least for now.

In 2015, Donald Trump was still just a very rich and famous guy talking about running for office. No one had ever heard of COVID-19. The idea of wearing a face mask in public was just for germ avoidant freaks. In 2023, we’re all older, wiser, and wearier. I’d say most of us lost some innocence.

Just for shits and giggles, I went to see if Kim Hall is still blogging. It looks like she still is. Her blog was updated within the past few months, anyway. It appears that she’s a dedicated conservative Christian, and lately, her posts seem to be about the evils of allowing transgender teenagers to access treatment that would allow them to transition. She writes about how devastating it is when some of these folks wind up “de-transitioning”. To be honest, I don’t know much about how many people decide to de-transition. It’s not a subject I spend a lot of time researching. Apparently, Kim Hall is upset about it. I see in the summer of 2020, she posted about the “hysteria” over COVID, and how God has “lovingly” numbered our days. So we all might as well simmer down… those were not her actual words, but I think it was kind of the attitude she imparted. I don’t think we were in disagreement about that, based on what I wrote in 2020, although my reasoning has a lot less to do with God’s plan and more to do with how extreme reactions often do more harm than good.

Anyway… Kim Hall is probably better at blogging than I am. She has a Facebook following of about 11,000, while I recently took down my Facebook page for this blog. So what do I know? 😉 Looks like her kids are pretty much grown now, too, so that means she doesn’t have to concern herself with what they see on Facebook anymore. See? Battles change all the time!

And, what the hell… I think I’ll repost my 2013 commentary about Kim Hall’s post. Stay tuned.

 

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