An Observation

Whilst reading Andrew Sullivan I stumbled across something fascinating. A common enough occurrence on The Dish, and one of the reasons why I read it everyday. Today I found a poem by Nabokov. Beautiful and significant enough in and of itself, but even more beautiful and significant, a recording of Nabokov reading aloud said poem.

I read the poem, and pondered its meaning. I listened to the recording, and marveled at it. There are few things that captivate me more than voices from the past, captured like a lightning bug in the hand, forever glowing. The intonation, the accent, the cadence. These voices are foreign and yet familiar, ghosts lingering in our living memory.

In this particular instance, you have Nabokov sounding ever so British, and it is stunning the degree to which his Russian past is hidden in the arch English accent he has learnt to speak in. You get a feeling for the man through his voice. For example, when I read the poem, I saw pity and compassion for the disconnect between youth and age. But to me there’s something a little scolding in Nabokov’s tone.

And so I sat, thinking these thoughts about identity and voice, thinking that this long past recording and the sound of the present were echoed by the poem itself, when all of a sudden an entirely different thought occurred to me. Which was:

Holy crap, that dude sounds exactly like the Catepillar from Alice in Wonderland.

Especially in his recital of the crocodile poem.

Seriously. Go to the 1:11 mark in the Nabokov poem and listen to him say, “You are a mere outline, the subject of any first chapter.”

Now go to the 2:32 mark in the Alice in Wonderland clip and listen to him say, “How cheerfully he seems to grin, how neatly spreads his claws, and welcomes little fishes in, with gently smiling jaws.”

Freaky, right?

And we have yet to even jump down into the rabbit hole! I do a little research and find Richard Hadyn, a London-born actor, voiced the Catepillar in Alice in Wonderland.

This is Richard Haydn:

Richard Haydn

This is Nabokov:

Nabokov

So, there you have it. Proof positive that while I can do quiet contemplation for some time, it’s only so long before I veer off into conspiracy theories involving the Catepillar from Alice in Wonderland and one of the Russian masters.

Why Horse People Are Crazy

It should also be noted that rational people don't do things like this.

I found myself on Behind the Bit today, and discovered this post. I was reminded of the fact that horse people are crazy, and I decided to share with all y’all my three point theory as to why this is.

1.) Horse people weigh, on average, somewhere between 100 and 200 pounds. And yet when they look upon a four-legged, 1,200 lb. beast, they say to themselves, “I should be in charge of this creature. I should get onto its back and steer it about with nothing but my legs and seat and two flopsy bits of leather. This makes perfect sense to me. If this beast becomes aggressive with me, I will not back down, but instead make the beast back up vigorously, whilst yelling, HEY! or NO! or DON’T YOU DARE! The 1,200 lb beast will respond to this by actually backing down. This also will make perfect sense to me, because I know I should be in charge of this creature.”

2.) Horse people prefer the company of horses to the company of people. This can be quite instructive, if we simply examine the nature of the horse. Horses, unlike cats and especially dogs, are mostly silent creatures. They do not meow or purr or bark or growl. Yes, they do communicate vocally, but their stock in trade is the world of silent gestures, of body language. The pinned ear, the snaking neck, the raised hind hoof, the chewing gesture of a two-year-old. Horse people know this language intuitively. When outsiders say horses aren’t expressive, they can’t believe it. Horses never stop expressing themselves, and horse people never stop listening. Horse people get in trouble not when communicating with their horses, but when they have to open their mouths, speak, and try to communicate with other humans. It tends to not go so well. Horse people are blunt, rude, coarse, frank, assertive, and generally unbearable. It goes beyond a lack of social graces, and really runs into something like Aspergers. Quite possibly all horse people are actually on the autism spectrum, going about undiagnosed and unknowing.

3.) Every single individual horse person knows the way it should be done. Every single individual horse person does it a different way. Barns are collaborative environments. And chaos ensues. This fact actually ties back into points one and two. Horse people believe they should be in charge. They are lone wolves. They have come up with a wide variety of opinions based on personal experience, and like the natural leaders that they are, they know they are right.

Now, of course there are horse people who are gregarious and easy going. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule, and dare I say that the crazier the horse person is, the more horsey they actually are.

The Boys of Summer

A photo of the keg stand in question.

I don’t spend a lot of time talking about my personal life here at Fanfreakingtastic. There are two reasons for this. 1.) I’m pretty private. 2.) My personal life is exceedingly boring. Don’t get me wrong. I deeply, deeply appreciate just how boring my life is. I can’t abide drama. I like things still and quiet and serene.

Anyway, back to the point. If you haven’t already figured it out, this is going to be a more personal story than usual. Also, I am going to say some nice things about some friends of mine. I don’t want them to let this go to their head, or think I am going to make a habit of it. After this, it’s back to business as usual.

This last weekend was the 8th Annual FlowerFest. What is this FlowerFest, you may be asking yourself. Well, once upon a time, when Evan was 18, his parents went away for nine days. Evan and his friends therefore had a nine day party. This was the original FlowerFest. It is important to note that this group of friends had been tight for a very long time upon the occasion of the original FlowerFest, and they remain tight to this day.

Growing up, I didn’t have a tight group of friends. I did have some wonderful friends, both at school and in horses, and I am grateful for all of them. But let me put it to you this way – I lived in the same house from age 3 to age 18. I changed schools four times. The first change was foisted upon me by the school district, the rest were voluntary. Here’s the thing. I have a pretty big personality. Over the years, I’ve gotten much, much better at managing myself, but I still tend to be a person who garners strong reactions. People love me or hate me. When I was in school, this quality was magnified about eleventy billion times. I would change schools, and there’d be love at first, followed pretty quickly by the hate. And then I’d leave. As my dear friend Eminem put it, I’ve been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage. But, like Em, I couldn’t stop rhyming or writing the next cypher, and so the cycle would begin all over again.

These were not pleasant times for yours truly. I have two vivid memories of my final days at Auburn Senior High School (the second high school I’d attended). I remember walking down the hallway and thinking, “Is this really it? This is all high school is going to be? Where’s my Ferrari ride with Ferris Bueller? Why all the lies, John Hughes?” The other memory is of graduation. You may be surprised to hear that when you’re 5’1″ with broad shoulders and big boobs a graduation gown pretty much turns you into a giant bowling ball. And when you’re essentially dressed in a Halloween costume of a giant bowling ball, you’re already not feeling too frisky. So, there I am, feeling like a fat, fat bowling ball, on the football field, with 650 people, the vast majority of them I didn’t know at all, just wanting to get the hell out of there. (Actually, I just had a memory – I was in this Commercial Arts class, and we were charged with the task of making the senior t-shirts. I desperately wanted the slogan to be, “Like Bats Out of Hell.” For some reason, the principal felt this was too negative.)

Anyway, the good news was – in three short months I was off to inner city Los Angeles and USC. Right away I met my future husband, Evan. He was from Clemson, SC, and over the year I met some of his friends, talked to others on the phone, and heard millions of stories about the group of guys Evan had grown up with. They were really, really good stories.

Summer was coming up, and back in Auburn, WA, my parents had taken in my sister, her daughter, as well as my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. There was literally no room at the inn. My dad was supporting four generations on one small income, and I was going to a very expensive private school. I’d mentioned to my mom that in the South, one could acquire a factory job and earn a lot of money. My mom isn’t stupid. Some time later, she said, “So, are you going to spend the summer in South Carolina with Evan and work at a factory?” And I was like, “Uhhh….” But inside my head I thought, “SHE’S SO SMART. IT’S CREEPY.”

And so, at nineteen, I moved 3,000 miles away to spend my summer with a bunch people I’d never met before while working swing shifts at a textile mill. (?!?) That first summer wasn’t easy. There was one point where I called my friend Kate, crying. Never in all our years of friendship had I ever called Kate, crying. But there were also plenty of good times, too, and my parents visited, fell in love with nearby Greenville, and moved there the next year. (This isn’t as weird as it sounds – my dad is from the South and they’d been looking to move to Atlanta for a long time. In Greenville, they found a much better version of what they’d been looking for.)

By the next summer, Clemson had started to feel like home. Over the next few years, I spent my summers there, and Evan’s friends became my friends. It was easy to see why Evan had so many really, really good stories. His group of friends are good people. They’re funny, they’re smart, and they’re loyal to the bone. Eventually, in 2003, we moved to Clemson and got married. Shortly thereafter, Evan’s best friend had a brilliant idea – a FlowerFest Revival. The original crew came together for a two-day regression therapy session.

FlowerFest has become an annual rite of summer. It has changed over time. A lot of the boys got married, to women I love like sisters. Some of the boys now have kids, leading to a new schedule of FlowerFest Days and FlowerFest Nights. Some of them have remained unmarried and childless, which is nice for Evan and I, who remain happily locked in at a mental age of around 24. Every year new people come to FlowerFest, and the boys welcome them with open arms. FlowerFest is the most inclusive gathering of people I’ve ever known. As long as you’re not a jerk and you’re up for a good time, you’re welcome to join in the merriment.

And so it was this past weekend, while I watched grown men launch complicated strategies to pants one another, and I watched people with PhD’s repeatedly, and violently, throw one another off a dock and into Lake Hartwell at 2 in the morning, it dawned on me how much I love these people.

During my L.A. years I always thought of myself as homeless. People would ask me where I was from, and I never knew how to answer. I could say Seattle, which was true – I went to high school there, and the city had a big impact on me. I could say rural Kent/Auburn, which was true, too. That’s where my house was. I could say L.A. I did live there for eight years. Or I could say South Carolina, because I spent my summers there. But really, I didn’t have an answer. And so that word stuck with me – homeless. I felt homeless.

But last Saturday, while I watched ten men chase my husband down, tackle him, drag him several yards and force him to do a keg stand against his will, I realized I didn’t feel homeless anymore.

A Shortcut to Rage

It's a good thing Diana Ross wasn't included. She had a very short career that didn't influence anyone.

Everybody has their triggers. Bad drivers. Poor grammar. This commercial.

For me, there is no quicker shortcut to a rage high than a Rolling Stone 100 Best Whatever List. This is because Rolling Stone is, in my opinion, the single most chauvinistic institution on the face of the earth. Bar none.

Growing up, Sam Cooke was my favorite singer. I loved “Wonderful World,” “Cupid,” and “Twistin’ the Night Away.” Just a little bit older and I found “You Send Me,” and “Stand By Me,” and then “Another Saturday Night,” and “Bring It On Home To Me.” Much later, I found, “A Change is Gonna Come,” and I know I’m not original in calling that one my favorite. These songs are just the tip of the giant canon of work that is the Sam Cooke oeuvre.

So, I’ve spent a good bit of time the last few days listening to Sam Cooke, and I decided he was the greatest vocalist of all time. A day after that, I started to wonder if the man was receiving enough respect these days, so I googled him. And there, at the top of my search results, was a Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Singers, compiled in 2008. I knew – I KNEW – I shouldn’t open it. But I saw Sam Cooke was number 4, and I was curious who they’d put ahead of him. I opened the link. The answer to my question was right there in front of me – Elvis, Ray, and Aretha. For pure vocal talents, I still put Sam first (and yes, I know his range wasn’t tremendous, but the purity of his tenor and the quality of his pitch takes him to number one in my book), but you can definitely argue for Elvis, Ray and Aretha.

And then, I was curious about something else – how many women were on this list of the Top 100 Greatest Singers of All Time?

I knew – I KNEW – I shouldn’t look. I knew what the answer would be. I knew that Rolling Stone lists do not matter in any way, shape, or form. It’s a stupid list! Who cares! And yet, I couldn’t stop myself.

I looked.

And felt the rage-ohol hit my bloodstream like an adrenaline shot.

Debbie Harry. What a loser. She did nothing to popularize the new wave/punk movement.

So, having read the list, I have some questions. Like, where’s Debbie Harry? Where’s Diana Ross? You’re going to put MARY J. BLIGE at number 100, but Beyonce isn’t present at all? That makes perfect sense to me. Where’s Grace Slick? For the record, here are the women who did make the list:

100 РMary J. Blige, 98 РStevie Nicks, 95 РPatti LaBelle, 94 РKaren Carpenter, 93 РAnnie Lennox, 84 РDarlene Love, 83 РPatti Smith, 79 РMariah Carey, 73 РDolly Parton, 60 РBjörk, 58 РChristina Aguilera, 51 РGladys Knight, 50 РBonnie Raitt, 46 РPatsy Cline, 42 РJoni Mitchell, 35 РDusty Sprinfield, 34 РWhitney Houston, 29 -Nina Simone, 28 РJanis Joplin, 22 РEtta James, 17 РTina Turner, 1 РAretha Franklin

In other words, women constitute 22% of the list. TWENTY-TWO. With only 2 women in the top 20, and 11 in the top 50.

And I’m just so confused, because I thought Jagged Little Pill was the number one selling album of the 90’s, and you’d think that would be worth something, but apparently not. This fact may or may not be ironic. (Don’t ask Alanis Morrisette.)

I also thought that Madonna had the most Top Ten hits of all time, with 37, and love her or hate her, I thought she’d had a pretty enormous impact on pop culture and the music industry, founded her own record label, Maverick, that didn’t exactly suck (See above, Jagged Little Pill) and generally was a generational touchstone. But, she doesn’t have much of a voice, so maybe that’s why she wasn’t in there.

Cyndi Lauper. A completely talentless and totally unoriginal human being. Also, sucks at songwriting.

This must also explain the absence of Emmylou Harris. Oh, wait, that’s right. Emmylou Harris sings like an angel sent down from heaven.

Maybe those women don’t have enough true grit rock. So what about Courtney Love? Rolling Stone couldn’t get enough of her in the 90’s, and Live Through This remains a seminal work. Sure, she’s a rider of the crazy train, but plenty of the people on the list are.

And what about Cyndi Lauper? And Melissa Etheridge? Joan Jett? Donna Summer? Joan Baez and Ani Di Franco? Or Pat Benatar and Linda Ronstadt? PJ Harvey and Liz Phair? Celine Dion and Carole King? Lauryn Hill and Sade? Brenda Lee and Martha Reeves?

Also – Dolly Parton at 73? SEVENTY-THREE??? Have those soulless bastards at Rolling Stone ever even listened to Little Sparrow?

And see, this is why I shouldn’t even open a link that says, Rolling Stone Top 100 Whatever on it. It always winds up with a lot of question marks and all caps.

Change

Found this image of a banner for a Victorian flea circus, and I had to redo Fanfreakingtastic in its image.

Fanfreakingtastic! It’s had a makeover. I’ll never forget, when Fanfreakingtastic first debuted, more than a year ago, and my beloved BOTASTIC said, “Really? Pink? Orange? Little stars?” I replied, “Yeah! Little stars!” Botastic said, “Huh.” So I was like, “What’s wrong with little stars?!?” And Botastic was all, “I just figured you go with, you know, autumn colors or something.”

Botastic had a point. I’d put together the original Fanfreakintastic whilst in a particularly happy mood, whilst particularly enraptured with a pair of pink and orange sandles I’d bought. True story.

So, I present to you something reflective of the Victorian dark grunge freak show that is more reflective of my usual mindset? Question mark because, not sure if it’s ACTUALLY more reflective of my normative state, but it’s definitely a state I visit at least somewhat frequently. Rather like Georgia or North Carolina.

Also new to the Fanfreakingtastic site – the Equus category, where one can find all horse-related links. A friend recently made the point that there was no one place to go for all horsiness. Now there is.

Hope you like the new look! If you don’t, I’m sorry. I’m done fighting with WordPress for the time being. I’m sure I’ll get back in the ring again eventually. Change is good for soul, after all.