Rerun Junkie–All of Your Favorites Are Problematic

One of my favorite episodes of The Monkees is called “Monkees Chow Mein”. The four guys inadvertently intercept a fortune cookie filled with top secret information at a Chinese restaurant. The CIA get involved. BJ Hunnicutt is there. Hijinks ensue.

And Joey Forman plays the head Chinese guy, Dragonman.

If you’re not familiar with Joey Forman let me assure you that he is a very funny man who is definitely not Chinese. His portrayal of Dragonman involved scotch-taped eyes and a stereotyped accent. It’s a somewhat less obnoxious version of yellow face, but there’s no doubt that it’s yellow face.

It’s problematic, to say the very least.

So, how can it be one of my favorite episodes? Two reasons. One, it’s funny and most of the humor in it could have been achieved just as successfully by Joey Forman (and his right hand man, Gene Dynarski) not doing yellow face. The lines and the antics would have been just as funny because it had nothing to do with the stereotype they were portraying.

Yes, I realize there’s a lot of privilege involved that it allows me to approach this episode from that angle.

And two, being a rerun junkie means that I’ve learned to accept that my favorites are going to be problematic.

It’s a simple matter of history, really. These shows are a product of their time, whatever their time is. That’s why you see a lot of racist casting (e.g. white people playing minorities) in the ’50s, ’60s, and even into the ’70s. The stereotypes continued all through the ’80s and beyond.  Misogyny and sexism has run rampant for decades, so it’s always available in reruns. To be fair, the shows can’t help it. And it’s far too late for them to change.

That’s not to say any of it is right, of course. These things might have been common then, but even at the time, folks had problems with it. Pernell Roberts reportedly objected to the racist stereotypes of the minorities on Bonanza. And Van Williams repeatedly tried to get Bruce Lee a bigger role on The Green Hornet, which the producers reportedly refused because they didn’t want to give too much focus to a non-white actor instead of the star.

So, when it comes to reruns, it’s a matter of acknowledging that at the time this was the practice. They’re time capsules of cringe-worthiness, syndicated reminders of our sketchy, shady, seedy TV past.

Even shows that did their best to be socially conscious (for their time) still stumbled. For example, Barney Miller often tackled topical 1970’s issues, some of which are still relevant today. And it largely succeeded in addressing those issues, at least in an illuminating sort of way. But there are some episodes that missed the mark and as a result have aged terribly. The episode “Rape” attempted to address the laws (or lack of laws) pertaining to marital rape. However, done in the confines of a 30-minute comedy…yeah. The tone-deafness only rings clearer as the years go by.

These are the landmines you risk as a rerun junkie. It can make for uncomfortable viewing and in some cases all of the logical rationale can’t save you from the oogy feelings. There are now episodes of my favorite shows that I avoid because I just can’t.

Retaining perspective is the key. It’s a good thing that these issues are noticed and that they cause discomfort. It’s a sign that things have progressed (somewhat) and that the old status quo has long spoiled.

Ideally, I’d like to do in-depth posts about the different issues that crop while rerun-watching.

But for now, I continue to come to terms with my problematic favorites.

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Charity Money

thumbs upIf you’ve been present in my social media world in the past week or so, then you know that I’ve been doing some linking to a few different things that are raising money for a couple of different causes (a teacher friend has a campaign to raise money for some hands-on math supplies for her high-poverty students at DonorsChoose.Org; The Davy Jones Equine Memorial Fund is having an auction; Davy’s Angels are selling t-shirts with the proceeds also benefiting DJEMF). In addition to trying to raise some awareness for these activities, I’ve also donated to my friend’s campaign, bought a t-shirt, and have been getting outbid left, right, and center on the nifty memorabilia at the auction.

I like to put my money where my mouth is when I can. And I try to work it so I always have money for my mouth (thought I will have no trouble running my mouth for various charities and organizations when I can’t afford to donate; that is the very least I can do).

So, I feel I should make a full-disclosure about my charity money, the money I earmark to donate to various causes, charities, organizations, and whatnot because that money might involve you, too.

My charity money is the money I make garage sale-ing my life.

That’s right. If you buy any of my crap on eBay (stuffed animals will be going up in the next month or so, BTW) or any of the stuff I’ve made and put in my Etsy shop (new bracelets should be in the shop in the next few weeks), then the money you pay me will probably go to one of my chosen organizations.

Now, it didn’t always work like this. For the longest time, that money went to pay my bills. And then, when I started making enough money through my various day jobs and a little from writing, I started saving it up. It’s never been a big cash flow. More like a nickel trickle. And last year I came to a point where I decided to put those nickels to some good use.

Why am I telling you this? Because some people like to tell other people how to spend their charity money. Even if they have absolutely no connection to that person’s charity money, they still feel the need to tell them that there are other, more deserving organizations than whatever one they chose to donate to, oh, and by the way, there’s no need to tell people that you donated to any charity because they do it all the time without needing to mention it, you unhumble jerk.

I am telling people this so they don’t make the grave mistake of buying something from me (except my books; that’s bill-paying money and I’m fairly sure folks are cool with me paying my bills) only to then have me take the hard-earned money they gave to me in exchange for goods and give it to some organization that they don’t feel is deserving and would rather I not ever mention.

I am also telling people this so I can tell the people that don’t even buy my stuff, but still have a problem with the organizations I give to, that they can just shut the fuck right up, turn right around, and give to the organizations they think are more deserving. Don’t like me talking about my organizations? Then you talk about yours louder than I talk about mine. Or don’t tell anyone at all and just mute/unfriend/hide me. Whatever trips your trigger, floats your boat, and/or tickles your fancy.

But for the love of all that is unholy, just in general, STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT THEIR GIVING PRACTICES/AWARENESS RAISING IS WRONG. Sweet mercy, you fucking buzzkills. Shaming people because their giving/awarness-ing isn’t to your liking is just a dick move and you’re a terrible person and you should feel bad. No, really. You need to analyze your need to belittle someone trying to do something good. Because that seems like a serious hang-up to me. Major personality flaw. Also, not a good look.

(For clarity’s sake and to cut off an argument before it starts, I’m not talking about valid criticism of an organization because not all of them act on behalf of the greater good. I’m talking about people shitting on a reputable organization and/or fundraising/awareness attempts because of blah blah bullshit bitchcakes. You know what I’m talking about.)

So, in conclusion, if you buy something from me during the garage sale-ing of my life, that money will probably end up going to a organization that I dig. If that offends you, then you should not buy my stuff.

Except my books.

Always buy my books.

Rerun Junkie– My Top Five Theme Songs

Music

I like a good TV show theme song. It sets the tone, you know. There are some fabulous theme songs out there. There are some clear cut classics and everyone has their own preferences. And being a rerun junkie such that I am, you had to know that I would have my own list of the best.

This is a very subjective top 5 and it’s one that’s not in any particular order because I’m wobbly like that. But odds are if you ask me what my favorite theme song is on any given day, it will be one of these.

It’s the harmonica that really makes it.

Come on, who doesn’t love that killer opening?

That opening bass line…and then it just wails.

The military drum beat backing those horns. Perfection.

It tells you everything you need to know about the show. You can sing along AND dance to it. It’s gold.

Let’s Be Brave

“Let’s be brave” is my new motto. It’s advice I received from the most unlikely source.

A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed about Michael Nesmith of the Monkees. He appeared to me in this dream as he looked back in about 1966, with the wool hat and the denim jacket and the young face with great sideburns. And in this dream he suggested to me that we stage a 1950’s fashion show. I don’t know why he wanted to do that, but I loved the idea of it. And I told him so.

He told me that I shouldn’t love the idea, but that I should love that he was brave enough to have the idea and share the idea. Then he looked at me and smiled and said, “Let’s be brave.”

I woke up in love with that sentence. “Let’s be brave.”

Too many times I’ve found myself holding back because I was afraid. Afraid of how I might be judged for having an idea and putting that idea out into the world. I don’t want to be seen as a failure. I don’t want to be seen as stupid. I don’t want my ideas to be judged as stupid.

This fear of being judged is keeping me from being brave. I can’t get anywhere, doing anything, be anything if I don’t make some bold moves and give my ideas the respect they deserve. First of all, no one else will respect my ideas or support them if I don’t put them out there. And if people don’t respect or support my ideas, than I’m getting the same amount of respect and support I’d be getting if I didn’t tell them at all.

The point is to be brave enough to own and accept my ideas for all the world to see.

I’ve made small steps in doing that already. I posted a novel chapter on the blog for people to read. This is something I don’t do because I don’t like anyone to see what I’m working on. I don’t like talking about it. I don’t want anyone to know.

Well, that’s silly. I’m a writer. I write. Here’s what I’m writing. Enough with this chicken shit.

Enough with the yellow-streak down my back that’s effecting more of my life that just my writing. Yellow is a terrible color on me anyway.

Let’s be brave.

Monkees Music

The Best of The Monkees

In the weeks since Davy Jones passed away I’ve been listening to my Monkees albums and reading articles about him. What struck me was the music was typically discussed more than the show. Not to downplay the show at all (it did when an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series and truly is pretty outstanding), but considering how critically derided the band was for being created and not playing the instruments on their first two albums that’s quite an accomplishment.

In listening to the albums I have from start to finish several times, I realized just how much good music The Monkees made, a credit not only to the studio musicians and songwriters they worked with, but also to The Monkees themselves. Remember, after the second album, they took over creative control of their music.

I’m also reminded how much of their music ISN’T played today. My local oldies station did a Monkees music weekend in honor of Davy Jones and they played so many songs that never get airtime. Good songs. It occurred to me that when people think of The Monkees, they think of “Last Train to Clarksville”, “Daydream Believer”, and “I’m a Believer” first. Then maybe they remember “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone”, “Mary, Mary”, and “Valleri”. Maybe.

Not wanting to let good music go to waste, here are the songs (a few from each album) that I don’t think you should miss:

From The Monkees: “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day”, “Take a Giant Step”, “Papa Gene’s Blues”

From More of The Monkees: “Auntie Grizelda”, “Look Out” (Here Comes Tomorrow)”, “Sometime In the Morning”

From Headquarters: “You Told Me”, “Sunny Girlfriend”, “Randy Scouse Git”

From Pieces, Aquarius, Capricorn, Jones LTD: “Daily Nightly”, “Love Is Only Sleeping”, “Star Collector”

From The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees: “Auntie’s Municipal Court”, “PO Box 9847”, “Tapioca Tundra”

From Head Soundtrack: “Circle Sky”, “Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again”, “As We Go Along”

From Instant Replay: “Teardrop City”, “Someday Man”, “I Won’t Be the Same Without Her”

From The Monkees Present: “Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye”, “French Song”, “Listen to the Band”

From Changes: “Oh My My”, “Ticket on a Ferry Ride”, “99 Pounds”

From Pool It: “Heart and Soul”, “She’s Movin’ in with Rico”, “Gettin’ In”

From Justus: “You and I”, “I Believe You”, “Unlucky Stars”

Bonus Tracks: The Rhino re-issue CDs feature some really good bonus tracks. Two of my favorites are the live version of “Circle Sky” on Head and an alternate take (with different lyrics) of “Mommy and Daddy” on The Monkees Present.

My further unsolicited advice: All of their albums deserve a listen (including Live ’67, which has my favorite version of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” ever, and Then and Now…Best of the Monkees, which features three new tracks, “That Was Then, This Is Now”, “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere”, and “Kicks”), but if you’re looking to start somewhere other than the beginning, start with Headquarters and then listen to Pieces, Aquarius,… as those two, I think, are two of their best.

You won’t regret it.

Words to Live By

Quotation marks

I like quotes. Real people, fictional people, doesn’t matter. I like a good, strong quote. I like a quote you can apply to your life. I’ve got my share of those. Here are a few of my favorite ones.

“Simple respect. I expect nothing more and I’ll accept nothing less.” -Margaret Houlihan, M*A*S*H

It’s the baseline for my life. I’m big on respect. I give basic level respect and I expect to get at least that in return. As I get to know you, the respect increases, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I keep in on that basic “You and I are both humans and I was raised with manners” level. And sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I decide you don’t deserve my respect, and I’m not going to give it to you. Period. End of story. I won’t treat you badly or disrespect you (unless I’m forced into that position); I just won’t deal with you at all. If you’re not worth my respect, then you’re not worth my time.

Likewise, I expect basic respect and I won’t take anything less. I won’t let you disrespect me. I won’t settle for it. I won’t stand for it. I got that sort of treatment more often than I should have when I worked in retail and I tell you what, I didn’t get paid enough to pretend it wasn’t a big deal. Customers were corrected, as nicely as possible at first, of course. Because I’m working a job that YOU think is lowly doesn’t mean you get to treat me that way. You will treat me with common courtesy and basic respect. Period. It’s up to me to earn anything more.

“My guts are not here for you to love.” -Margaret Houlihan, M*A*S*H

Another line that I apply to my general existence. You don’t have to like me. I wasn’t born for you to like me. I’m here for my own purpose and I act on my own reasons and I make my own decisions and you don’t have to like any of that. I’m not here to make you happy. I’m here to live my life and do my time and make the most out of what I’ve got and do it in my own way and if that doesn’t satisfy you, Scooter, then I don’t know what to tell you. Get used to disappointment, I suppose.

“I cannot sit here waiting for you to have an epiphany. I am losing the will to live.”Radek Zelenka, Stargate: Atlantis

I use this as a reminder because I have a tendency to do a lot of sitting and thinking and don’t always follow through on the action part. Problems are typically solved through action and granted, it’s good to attempt a solution after thinking one up, but there comes a point when you can only do so much thinking and then the doing has to start. I can’t sit around and wait for a better idea or a better option. I’ve got to run with what I’ve got and risk failure.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” -Samuel Beckett

If there was every a quote for writing, this is it. If there was ever a quote for LIFE, this is it. It does me no good to go through life afraid of failing and as a perfectionist, that’s sometimes difficult for me to grasp. This quote reminds me that failure is part of life and can be the best teacher.

“The power is inside you. Nobody can give it to you. Nobody can take it away. Now go play the harp.” Michael Nesmith, The Monkees

The ultimate self-esteem boost. I don’t need anyone’s permission to be great. I don’t need anyone’s approval to be great. I can be great if I want to be and no one can stop me. In the end, I’m the only one that rules over myself. No one else.

“They can’t yank a novelist like they can a pitcher. A novelist has to go the full nine even if it kills him.” -Ernest Hemingway

A writing reminder that can also be applied to life with a little revision. I’m in it to win it, baby. I’ve to be ready to throw a complete game every time I step on the mound. (And sometimes after a particularly rough writing jag, I feel like I just threw nine innings, too.)

“Hope for the best. Expect the worst. Life’s a play. We’re all unrehearsed.” -Mel Brooks

In the end, we’re all just muddling through the best we can. Might as well make the best of it.

Remembering Davy

Davy Jones of The Monkees passed away on February 29, 2012 and he took with him to the great beyond my love, respect, and a little bit of my heart.

The Monkees are my favorite band. I make no secret of it and I admit it with pride. I love them. I love their TV show. I love their music. I love them individually and together.

I first became acquainted with The Monkees during their 20th anniversary tour. I was six and it was love at first sight and sound. Davy was my first favorite (over the years, they’ve each been my favorite to the point that now I can’t really pick). He was cute, he was small, he had a tambourine…what more could a six year old ask for?

Mom let me watch the show in the afternoons when everyone else had to be outside playing. I’d stay up extra late on the weekends to watch it, sneaking out of my room while Mom slept (Dad worked nights) to watch it on the TV in the living room (we only had one TV).

Then and Now: Best of the Monkees was the first tape I ever asked for. It was the first of ANYTHING I ever asked for, as I was raised by parents that didn’t abide by children asking for things every time we went to the store. But I saw the cassette among the others in the rack at Wal-Mart and I couldn’t stop myself. I asked my mother for it and instead of getting the negative answer and the lecture, Mom ended up getting it for me.

I still have that tape.

The first story I wrote (okay, maybe not the first, but definitely the first one I remember writing) involved The Monkees. Today it’s commonly known as fanfiction, but at six or seven, I had no idea there was a name for it. It was a “book” I wrote, complete with illustrated cover and big words (albeit misspelled). I was very proud of that story.

I still have it, tucked away with the papers I never want to lose.

Ten years later, I was living with Dad in housing and my parents were going through a rather bitter divorce. The typical challenges of being 16 were compounded by the war zone my parents created. Most kids hated going to school, but it was the only place I got to feel like an actual kid. At home, I was expected to be the adult.

As my luck would have it, The Monkees decided to celebrate their 30th anniversary, reminding me of the happy fun-times of my childhood. I dug that old tape out of the few things I had and it became my life raft in the stormy sea of what had become my life. I submerged myself into rediscovering The Monkees. I constructed a happy place out of their music and the show, filling it with news and stories and CDs and solo work and pictures and memorabilia and fandom.

The summer before my senior year, 1997, I worked for my cousin in her daycare. When I found out that The Monkees would be in Chicago in August, she became my partner in crime so that I could go to the concert.  Not only did she help me get the tickets, but she also took me and paid for the hotel room. The entire Monkees Trip Experience deserves to be retold in another post (and probably will be), but suffice it to say, I had an amazing time at the concert, watching three of the four men that I credited with keeping my head above water perform on stage.

My senior year is forever tied to The Monkees. I listened to Justus so much I’m surprised the CD didn’t wear out. Mom enabled my obsession, getting me a cardboard cutout of the group from a music store. Papa got me a few their CDs. My sister helped me decorate my graduation cap with the Monkees logo. I had all four of their names written on it. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have made it through high school with any sort of sanity intact (though, friends might argue the sanity part, since my graduation cap also featured “Loco 4 Life” written on it and my nickname was Skitz, short for skitzo, but I stand by what I mean).

My Monkees Happy Place was built to last and over the years, I’ve only added to it with more music (not just The Monkees, but their solo stuff as well), shows, and memorabilia. Family and friends see Monkees stuff and they think of me. I had a friend bring me a Monkeemobile model car from Canada because he saw it there and thought of me. I’ve grabbed unique items off of eBay and been able to find the not so easy to find music on Amazon. I visit it often; my iPod is full of Monkees music and on shuffle. I don’t go a day without hearing one of their songs. Bummer of a day? Nothing an episode or two can’t fix. I’m working on a collage of their album art. It’ll be really great addition to the happy place when it’s finished.

But first, I need to fix the happy place.

On Leap Day, the Universe kicked down a wall of my happy place. Davy’s death leaves a pretty big hole, one that I will patch up with memories and music and pictures. It won’t be the same, of course. But even though Davy slipped from the mortal coil and crossed the horizon into the next world, he left behind a lifetime that he shared with the world. His smile, his laugh, his voice have all been preserved. It’s not the same, but it’s not that different, in a way. At least for someone like me, a fan that only got to see the star from a distance. It’s the future that’s been compromised, not the past. He can’t do anything more, but he’s already done so much.

And he did more for me than he can ever know. Except maybe now, he’s in a place that he does. I hope he knows how much I appreciate it all.

Catch you on the flip side, Davy Jones.

Rerun Junkie–The Monkees

I know I’ve talked about the music before, but now let’s focus on the show. After all, it’s the reason for the music anyway, right? At least in the beginning.

The premise was simple enough: four band members lived in a kickin’ beach pad and had wacky adventures while playing really catchy tunes that are still played to day. Most episodes got two songs and these were usually set to “romps” in which the boys and the guest starts ran around and acted silly. There were also given an excuse to play at least one number in many episodes.

The second season got a little crazier as the guys were more prone to imporve and more prone to smoking pot. There weren’t so much as script as there were guidelines to an epidsode and even tehn they were quite loose. The episodes, though a little stranger, were still fun.  “The Devil and Peter Tork”, “Fairy Tale”, and “The Monkees Christmas Show” remain to fan favorites.

Peter, Mike, Micky, and Davy. Yes, I know what episode this is from.

The band was comprised of Davy, the cute one; Micky, the crazy one; Mike, the in-charge one; and Peter, the dumb one. Okay, that’s over-simplifying things a bit, but the point was there was a “type” for every girl (though the target girls ended up being 8-12). Davy was the teen idol heartthrob with a British accent bonus. Micky was as charming and funny with a good heart. Mike was the epitome of the strong, sarcastic Texan with a protective air. And Peter was sweet, sensitive, and a little naive, which made you want to protect him. I think every one of these guys has been my favorite at some point or another. I think they planned it that way. Very clever.

The show managed to attract some fun guest starts including Rose Marie, Julie Newmar, Lon Chaney Jr, Monte Landis, Phil Leeds, Butch Patrick, Ron Maask, Rip Taylor, Ruth Buzzi, and Joey Forman.

Sporadic reruns of the show have garnered new generations of fans. I got hooked when I was six during their 20th anniversary tour. Though I listen to the music almost daily (I’ve got all but 2 albums on my iPod and I will have those one day, oh yes), I still love watching the show, particularly when I need a mood boost. Most of the eps I have are on VHS. It’s the only reason I still have a VCR.

I can’t imagine a higher compliment than that.

 

Where I Watch It

Music: Sunny Girlfriend by The Monkees

I am a huge fan of The Monkees, show and music. It’s been announced that three of the four (as usual) will be going out on tour once again for the 45th anniversary.

To celebrate, how about a song that isn’t “Last Train to Clarksville”, “I’m a Believer”, “Daydream Believer”, or “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (not that they aren’t great; just looking for something a little less played).

Obessesions

I will be the first person to admit that I am given to fixations. I find something that interests me and then I make it my mission to learn as much as I can about it. I get waist deep in the subject. It takes up quite a bit of my time and my mind.

I guess you could say I get temporarily obsessed.

I wouldn’t call it a problem (as denial would be fitting for such things) because it doesn’t interfere with my functioning. In some ways, it actually improves my functioning.

My obsessions become something to look forward to, something to get excited about. They improve my mood. They give me something to focus on and give me a place to go to when I need a break from the world. I need a warm fuzzy or a smile or a bit of comfort, it’s my hut on the beach, my winter cabin in the woods.

Naturally, this sort of behavior can be disconcerting. You get too deep into an obsession and extraction takes professional help at $150 an hour and maybe a backwards fitting jacket, if the obsession consumes enough of you. Luckily enough for me, I get bored before that sort of thing happens.

Okay, it’s true. There are some obsessions that I have carried with me for years, but not at a maintained intensity. I fell in love the The Monkees when I was six and twenty-five years later, that hasn’t changed. The obsession peaked my senior year of high school, the intensity fading within a year of graduating. But I still listen to the music, watch the show, and collect the memorabilia. It’s a designated safe place for me to go when I need a boost.

 I acquire my obessions in various ways. Sometimes I stumble into them. Sometimes they come from friends. Some I’ve had so long that I feel like I’ve been born with them. Often times as the intensity of one obession fades, I’ll acquire a new one or the intensity of an old one will rev up.

I’m sure that there’s no coincidence that the intensity of my obessions goes hand and hand with dreary times in my life. When my Monkees obsession hit its peak, I was in the midst of a depression slide following my parents’ divorce. School was where I went to be a normal teenager and the Monkees were my happy place.

Last summer was a dismal one for me. My laptop crashed, my Internet failed, and it was a nightmare trying to put all of the pieces back together. Considering that at the time the bulk of my money was made via the Internet in some form (either selling stories or selling stuff on eBay), I was feeling the pressure and I was feeling pretty low.

With a sudden influx of time on my hands, I turned to watching the Cubs play to stop from chewing myself up. I’ve been a Cubs fan since I was a kid, watching the games and checking the standings. But last summer, it became my obsession. My scheduled revolved around the games. Instead of waiting and stressing about getting a new computer and getting the Internet issue resolved and how I was going to make up for lost time, I transferred that emotion and devotion to my Cubs. It became a safe emotional outlet. And despite the miserable season, it became my happy place.

It’s still my happy place, even in the off-season. There’s still news to be kept up with and there’ll be more than just warm weather to look forward to.

Now I imagine the intensity of this obsession, as with the others, will fade, but my love of baseball and the Cubs will remain. In turn, something else will take its place, a new bit of happy to warm the cockles of my cold, black heart and be my new refuge from the harshness of reality and life.

It might drive my friends and family crazy sometimes, but it sure beats drinking.