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For whatever reason, my childhood is full of memories regarding where I was and what I was doing as historic true-crime events were happening. I remember listening to the radio in the car with my mom one day during the summer before third grade, and my mom exclaiming that O. J. Simpson couldn't have possibly killed his wife. (If I remember correctly, this was somewhere between the murders and the Bronco chase, when it was still possible to have missed hearing about Simpson's history of domestic violence if you hadn't been paying close attention to the news for the last few days.) I remember being in Washington, D. C. a day or two after Andrew Cunanan killed himself in the houseboat and hearing a tour guide point out a government worker who was taking down the FBI's Ten Most Wanted poster with Cunanan on it. I remember being ten years old and seeing magazine covers with JonBenet Ramsey all over the grocery store checkout aisles. I also have clear memories of being in seventh grade, getting home from school, and watching the live news footage from Columbine High school around the time that the SWAT teams were still finding dead bodies.

The aftermath of the Columbine High School shooting was a weird time to be an adolescent. It was a news story you couldn't avoid about kids around your age, centered around, when it came right down to it, social popularity, one of the overriding obsessions of young teenagers. The "unpopular kids" were the bad ones because they'd shot up the school. The "popular kids" were also the bad ones, at least a little bit, because they'd created a "jock culture" and alienated the unpopular kids. (The actual causes behind the shooting turned out to be more complex, but this was how it was portrayed in all the news reports in the months and days following the actual event.) The undisputed good ones of the whole story were the murdered kids, especially Cassie Bernall, who was erroneously believed to have been shot after telling Eric Harris she believed in God. The silently asked question to teenagers across the country was, which group are you the most like?

There were girls in my class whose mothers later bought them the book She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall in hopes that it would provide them with a good example of Christian strength. Newscasters were ominously intoning that Marilyn Manson's music was believed by some to have been an inspiration to the killers, and that they'd targeted "jocks" who wore white baseball caps. So, impressionable American teenagers, which Columbine faction are you? Are you an Abercrombie & Fitch fan who plays sports and owns a white baseball cap? Congratulations, you're only a secondary bad guy, more a product of society than of your own volition. You did not bring guns and badly-made bombs to school and orchestrate the biggest school massacre in American history. This makes you okay. Are you a weird kid who wears black a lot and listens to death metal? You have been elevated in your level of danger - no longer just the isolated doodler of dragons in fifth-period math, you are now a potential school shooter. No one knows when you may snap. (Even though Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris weren't really Goths, there were a lot of articles and news segments involving Goths defending themselves against allegations that A) the shooters were Goths and B) shooting up your school was somehow condoned or encouraged in Goth culture.) Are you a sweet-faced young born-again Christian? (Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott were by far the most publicized victims.) Congratulations, you are the best of all. You are attractive and morally innocent. Should you be tragically murdered, your name will live on in youth group circles for at least another few years and best-selling inspirational books will be written about you.

Part of what was personally a little scary for me, in a way I couldn't quite articulate at the time, was how seriously the Columbine shooting made adults take teenage social groups. For at least around a year, the attitude that it didn't really matter whether or not you were a "popular kid" in high school seemed to dissipate. Yes, it did matter, because it helped adults determine how likely you were to bring a gun to school and murder your classmates. Normal adolescent angst got seen as a "warning sign." It wasn't so much anything that adults said that promulgated this attitude; it was the fact that suddenly adults in the media seemed to take teenage social groups really, really seriously, and adults around me seemed to be absorbed in listening to them. It was the way adults looked a little longer at the "weird kids" going about their daily business. It was the way being picked on was suddenly seen as a warning sign for your own eventual bad deeds, not concrete evidence of someone else's.

Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, and in a cultural atmosphere where every celebrity seems to like to tell stories about how they were made fun of in school for being weird, it seems bizarre to think back on the immediate cultural aftermath of Columbine. It's also bizarre when I think how many of the "facts" turned out to be incorrect. Nobody was targeting jocks in white baseball caps, Cassie Bernall wasn't asked if she believed in God and then shot because she said yes, the shooters weren't Goths, and the social hierarchy of the school was much more complex than "all the popular kids relentlessly picked on Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold until they decided to shoot up the school." If there's anything to be taken away from this, I think it might be that sometimes with a very emotionally-charged news story, it takes a while for the truth to come out.

42 states

The project to donate at least 20 baby hats to crisis pregnancy centers in all 50 states continues! I'm trying to get the whole thing done before Marauder Junior is born, but I'm not entirely sure if I'm going to be able to pull it off. Anyway, here's the updated map and list, with places that are new since the last update in bold:



Minneapolis, Minnesota: 20 hats
Brainerd, Minnesota: 20 hats
Apple Valley, Minnesota: 24 hats
Amherst, Massachusetts: 20 hats
Newport, Oregon: 20 hats
Huntington, West Virginia: 20 hats
Topeka, Kansas: 20 hats
Iron Mountain, Michigan: 20 hats
Chicago, Illinois: 20 hats
Anchorage, Alaska: 20 hats
Burlington, Vermont: 20 hats
Helena, Montana: 20 hats
Cocoa Beach, Florida: 20 hats
Middletown, New York: 20 hats
Boise, Idaho: 20 hats
Racine, Wisconsin: 20 hats
Jackson, Mississippi: 20 hats
Loveland, Colorado: 20 hats
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: 20 hats
Conroe, Texas: 20 hats
Worland, Wyonming: 20 hats
Red Bank, New Jersey: 20 hats
Kokomo, Indiana: 20 hats
Danbury, Connecticut: 20 hats
Salt Lake City, Utah: 20 hats
Ames, Iowa: 20 hats
Seattle, Washington: 20 hats
Kansas City, Missouri: 20 hats
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 20 hats
West Fargo, North Dakota: 20 hats
Memphis, Tennessee: 20 hats
Portsmouth, New Hampshire: 20 hats
Annapolis, Maryland: 20 hats
Fredericksburg, Virginia: 20 hats
Chadron, Nebraska: 20 hats
Charleston, South Carolina: 20 hats
Atlanta, Georgia: 20 hats
Little Rock, Arkansas: 20 hats
Owensboro, Kentucky: 20 hats
Waterville, Maine: 20 hats
Cleveland, Ohio: 20 hats
Flagstaff, Arizona: 20 hats
Tulsa Oklahoma: 20 hats
Wilmington, Delaware: 20 hats

Marauder Junior

Mr. Marauder and I are having a baby in mid-September.

:D :D :D

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Philip Seymour Hoffman

Two weirdnesses about Philip Seymour Hoffman's death:

1. February 2, Groundhog Day, is usually associated with Phil, the little furry guy, seeing or not seeing his shadow, not Phil, the famous actor, being found dead from drugs.

2. Groundhog Day is also the famous movie in which Bill Murray has to repeat the same day again and again, and I'm willing to bet that if Philip Seymour Hoffman could pick a day in his life to do over, February 2, 2014 would be a prime candidate.

Watching famous people die from drug overdoses is like being a judge who keeps watching the same bright and talented defendant show up for sentencing again and again. "Bob, why are you back here again? I was hoping last time was the final time I'd see you in this courtroom." "I know, Your Honor." "What happened, Bob?" "I don't know, Your Honor." "I have to say, Bob, I'm getting pretty sick of this." "I don't blame you, Your Honor." "What do we have to do to end this, Bob?" "I don't know, Your Honor. I'm sorry." Only "Bob" is at least alive to show up and make his sentencing hearing.

When I first heard that PSH had died, I thought I'd heard before that he had kids, but I was also thinking that they were teenagers. I can't imagine how you tell kids ages ten, seven and five that their daddy isn't ever going to see them again because he's dead. I don't want to have to imagine how you possibly tell that to little kids.

I talked a lot about celebrities and drug overdoses back in July when Cory Monteith died, so I'm linking to that entry. I'd like to not feel the need to write any of these entries again for a long, long time.

Saw "Catching Fire"

Some random thoughts...

- I can't think of anyone who's miscast in these movies, but the most scarily perfect casting has to go to Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman.

- In the books it's mentioned that Snow has a granddaughter, but I liked that they actually showed her in the movie. It makes him that much more evil; he's capable of loving a cute little girl, but he's still able to casually destroy people's lives.

- Part of what makes Katniss such a good and believable heroine is that while she's a basically good person, she's not always a "nice" person in the traditional sense.

- If this movie doesn't get an Oscar nomination for costumes, something is wrong with the world.

- Whoever's in charge of designing Finnick's look has to decide whether he's supposed to be a babe or a stud. If he's supposed to be a babe, lose the sideburns. If he's supposed to be a stud, make his hair all one color.

- "Cashmere" and "Gloss" are two of the worst names I've ever heard for human beings. They're particularly bad because I can actually see someone picking them for their children.

- Panem scientists should study Haymitch's brain to figure out how a person can be so sharp and alert and yet so chronically semi-drunk at the same time.

- When Snow is trying to figure out where Plutarch Heavensby went, I leaned over to my husband and whispered, "Plutarch's not here right now, President Snow" in the "Danny's not here right now, Mrs. Torrance" voice from The Shining.

Argh

I'm sick with a lot of mucus crud and there is just way too much stuff I need to do around the house...want to be working on Another Prisoner, Another Professor but that needs a fair-sized chunk of time.

Up to 36 states

So, you know that project I have where I'm trying to donate at least 20 baby hats to crisis pregnancy centers in all 50 states? Here's where it currently stands, with the places that I've done since the last time I've updated here in bold.



Minneapolis, Minnesota: 20 hats
Brainerd, Minnesota: 20 hats
Apple Valley, Minnesota: 24 hats
Amherst, Massachusetts: 20 hats
Newport, Oregon: 20 hats
Huntington, West Virginia: 20 hats
Topeka, Kansas: 20 hats
Iron Mountain, Michigan: 20 hats
Chicago, Illinois: 20 hats
Anchorage, Alaska: 20 hats
Burlington, Vermont: 20 hats
Helena, Montana: 20 hats
Cocoa Beach, Florida: 20 hats
Middletown, New York: 20 hats
Boise, Idaho: 20 hats
Racine, Wisconsin: 20 hats
Jackson, Mississippi: 20 hats
Loveland, Colorado: 20 hats
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: 20 hats
Conroe, Texas: 20 hats
Worland, Wyonming: 20 hats
Red Bank, New Jersey: 20 hats
Kokomo, Indiana: 20 hats
Danbury, Connecticut: 20 hats
Salt Lake City, Utah: 20 hats
Ames, Iowa: 20 hats
Seattle, Washington: 20 hats
Kansas City, Missouri: 20 hats
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 20 hats
West Fargo, North Dakota: 20 hats
Memphis, Tennessee: 20 hats
Portsmouth, New Hampshire: 20 hats
Annapolis, Maryland: 20 hats
Fredericksburg, Virginia: 20 hats
Chadron, Nebraska: 20 hats
Charleston, South Carolina: 20 hats
Atlanta, Georgia: 20 hats
Little Rock, Arkansas: 20 hats


All hats may be seen here. :D

Newt Scamander movie

So apparently JKR's writing a script for a movie about Newt Scamander, of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them fame. I have major issues with her giving out allegedly "canonical" information in interviews, but this I approve of because she's actually writing something new, not expecting us to keep up with every word she says in order to "know" things she didn't bother to write in the HP books. This strikes me as a potentially fun and interesting expansion of the HP universe. The concept of an HP-universe story with someone else as the main character is also kind of cool. So, anyway, best of luck to JKR on this...as long as it doesn't involve the phrase "miraculously unguarded vagina."

"Behind the Candelabra" review

Back in my senior year of high school, I was doing my senior service project at an elementary school in the area, and part of it involved organizing their library. One day, I found a book that was a compilation of letters by kids talking about why they liked Harry Potter. "My grandma and I think Professor Lockhart is very funny," one kid had written. "My grandma says he reminds her of this man who used to be on TV named Liberace."

At the time, I knew that Liberace was a flamboyant piano player in the 1950s and 60s who, despite sequins and too many rings, was somehow not perceived as gay by his fans, even though he was and ended up dying from AIDS. According to the movie Behind the Candelabra, he feared in his last days that he would be remembered as "some old queen who died of AIDS." If even half of this movie is true, he should be remembered as a batshit crazy, but very talented, old queen who thought being famous could get him anything he wanted and found out he was wrong.

I'm reading an old paperback best-seller from the 1980s called Women Who Love Too Much, which is about women who stay with abusive, alcoholic, emotionally unavailable and/or just plain mean men because they think they can fix them and be the ones who will finally make them happy. In Behind the Candelabra, a book called Bisexual Wisconsinite Former Foster Kids Who Love Too Much might be helpful for Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) who, when we first see him, is a nice, fairly naive young guy who works as an animal trainer and wants to be a vet. (It's pretty amazing how young they got Matt Damon to look in the early scenes. You'd guess he was twenty-eight or twenty-nine, easily.) Scott goes with a friend to see Liberace (Michael Douglas) perform in Vegas and ends up meeting the famous pianist himself, who's clearly attracted to Scott's muscly blond good looks.

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but the way to Liberace's heart is through his dog, Baby Boy, a blind poodle. When Scott mentions he can get Baby Boy some eye medicine, Liberace is enormously grateful, and before long he's with Scott in a hot tub surrounded by gold, crystal and glass, oversharing about his current "protege" (read: boy toy) who's frustrating him to no end. Within days, he's asking Scott to move in. Liberace (Lee to his friends) is definitely old enough to be Scott's father, perhaps even his grandfather, but Scott sees the loneliness he's living in. Everyone around him wants to please him because he's a celebrity, but he's not close to anyone. "He needs me," Scott tells his former foster mom/current landlady as he's moving out. "I can take care of him."

And we're off to the crazy races. Scott is technically Lee's secretary/driver, but everyone who works for or with them knows that's a cover story, seeing as Scott spends his time in Lee's bed, the pool, or hanging around the house. At first the going is good - Lee's charming, generous, seductive, and even fires a longtime servant for being rude to Scott. The first signs of trouble, however, come when Scott, due to Lee's cooking, puts on weight. Why eat less and work out when your middle-aged boyfriend's plastic-faced doctor (Rob Lowe) says he can put you on diet pills? The "diet pills," which aren't specified but seem to be speed in some form, get Scott addicted to the point where he's secretly selling the flashy gold rings Lee gives him so he can get more pills. But the weight loss isn't enough - now Lee wants Scott to get plastic surgery so that he'll look like a younger version of Lee. Before long they're wrapped up in a dysfunctional cycle of drug addiction, sex addiction, and some seriously creepy facelifts, all just barely out of view of Lee's guilt-tripping mother (Debbie Reynolds, unrecognizable).

Behind the Candelabra is a better-acted, gayer Mommie Dearest in that it takes a well-known celebrity of the past and gives us the warts-and-all inside scoop from the perspective of one of their loved ones. Instead of beatings and no wire hangers, we've got penile implants and midnight runs to sex shops. But while Mommie Dearest leaves the impression that Joan Crawford was an absolute monster, Behind the Candelabra paints a picture of Liberace as a man whose better nature has been overcome by his egotism and the fact that the people around him let him get away with whatever he wants. He's not a bad person, but in many ways he's a weak person, and he has no incentive to be stronger. He can go in search of gay porn while still wearing the costume from his most recent show and the tabloids won't even bother him, for God's sake. Why change?

Matt Damon gives a very sensitive performance as Scott, though he's too old for the role - the real Scott Thorson met Liberace at the jaw-dropping age of seventeen. From what I understand, the film was proposed years before it was financed and filmed, and the casting choice might have been made several years ago. (As an interesting side note, Scott Thorson, now in his fifties, was just sentenced to five years of probation for using stolen credit cards.) As Liberace, Michael Douglas does a good job of making the character just charming enough that you can't really hate him, yet controlling and demanding to the point where you definitely don't like him, either. I just finished reading Family Values, by Phyllis Burke, which, though it mostly centers around her adoption of her partner's son, also has an interesting section about her role in protesting the filming of Basic Instinct in 1991. At one point she details a heated conversation she had with Michael Douglas: she argued that a movie about a bisexual psychopath and her murderous lesbian lover was detrimental to the GLBT community, he argued it was just a movie. She came away with the impression that he was largely oblivious to the bigger issues at play and not fully listening to her.

Behind the Candelabra moves from trainwrecky to poignant in its final scenes, when Lee is dying and he and Scott know they only have so much time left to make peace. Douglas and Damon do a good job of portraying men who obviously have some genuine feelings for each other, even though they've screamed and shouted and sued. The film was just nominated for 15 Emmys, although Rob Lowe's eerie performance wasn't among them - which is too bad because it might be his most memorable one in years.

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Cory Monteith

River Phoenix's forty-third birthday is on August 23, and the twentieth anniversary of his death is October 31. Now Cory Monteith (of "Finn-from-Glee" fame) was found dead in a hotel room. Seeing as he went to rehab twice, the most recent time a few months ago, I'm going to be shocked if his death isn't drug-related.

I'm angry. I'm angry at whatever causes and influences cause people to use drugs in the first place, and I'm angry that after decades upon decades of famous actors and singers dying from drug overdoses, it just keeps happening over and over again. I'm not angry at Cory Monteith, who realized he had problems and tried to get help. I'm angry that modern society has yet to reach the point where we realize that absolutely nothing good can come from using illegal drugs. Nothing good can come from misusing prescription drugs. Nothing good can come from abusing alcohol. Drugs are why Lea Michele no longer has a boyfriend, Joaquin Phoenix no longer has a big brother, Matilda Ledger no longer has a dad, Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown no longer has a mom, Jett Williams never even met her dad, Mitch and Janis Winehouse no longer have a daughter...I could keep going with this list all day. Illegal or improper drug use will not solve your problems. It will not fix your life. It is not cool or glamorous or "badass." It is not something you can control on your own. It is not a problem you can fix on your own. The delivery of the line might have been funny and meme-worthy, but Mr. Mackey of South Park was right: Drugs are bad. (Mmmkay?)

Anyone who has a problem with drug use needs to get help immediately. It doesn't matter if it's occasional use or if the drugs are legal or if you think you can stop on your own. Quit tempting fate and go get help. I hate sounding like a public service announcement, but there's enough unpreventable tragedy in the world without letting preventable tragedy happen. It is a thousand times better to admit you have a problem and disappoint your family and friends than it is to suddenly die from drugs and shock your family and friends, who had no idea anything was wrong. Go ahead and disappoint the whole world if it means your health and life will be saved. Don't put it off.

I remember the late 90s, when Robert Downey Jr. seemed to be arrested for drugs every other month. I was in my early teens, but I distinctly remember thinking, "This guy is going to die. One of these days, probably sooner than later, he's going to overdose and he's just going to be dead." If I'd had a hundred dollars with which to bet on something, I would have felt safe in betting that he'd be dead before the year 2001. As we all know, he's not dead. He got sober and had a huge career resurgence and got remarried and had a baby and my sister-in-law, who was a baby in the late 90s, didn't even know until a couple of months ago that he ever had a drug problem. It was like a total shock: Robert Downey Jr. had a drug problem? Iron Man? Are you serious?

Everyone's mourning Cory Monteith and everyone makes fun of Linsday Lohan, who has so many drug arrests and rehab stints that I lost count. Well, you know what? It's better to be mocked tabloid fodder and be alive than it is to be tragically dead and "forever young, always in our hearts."

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