Ennui go.

What did the existentially bored fellow say as he was setting out for travel?

It’s a bit brisk out.

These are soup days.

These are days when I am driven nearly daily to saunter into my favorite joint and order a crock of their spiciest soup with a nice cold IPA. My favorite so far was the Spanish Chicken Bean; walking in from the tingling cold to a friendly space for some piping hot nourishment is just one of those things.

What else is winter for if not for being highly motivated to locate your creature comforts?

I mean I’m into winter mostly for the glorious tradeoff of longer springs and falls and more merciful summers. But having the footwear that works. Cozying into a jacket or throwing on a blanket. When the car’s interior finally warms. A hot crock of spicy soup. Winter is for pursuing these comforts.

I’ll try to keep telling myself that when it’s still gut-punching cold in April.


gummy worm trying to escape
Help! Let me out!


What If Purple Rain Was Good?

I’ve given it some thought, and I think it’s possible to give Purple Rain the Belated Media treatment, and it’s not even really that difficult. Just a few broad edits (not sure if pun is intended there or not), and you’ve got not just a showcase for fantastic concert-like footage; you’ve got a movie that doesn’t suck.

Here’s how it’s done.

1. Farewell to Olga Karlatos. The zombie who is the Kid’s mom doesn’t need to exist. In fact, you get a lot more story out of, say, her tragic death of a heroin overdose many years ago. Or a freak bus accident. Whatever. Sorry, but I’m killing the Kid’s mama.

As things stand, there is no reason to like the Kid’s father (Francis L.), and yet the Kid’s relationship with him is offered as the movie’s main dynamic. This can be improved by making his dad less bizarrely monstrous and more sympathetic.

In the current incarnation, what drives Francis’ dysfunction? Seemingly, it is a severe dissatisfaction with his wife. He is possessive of her; he expects her to clean the house, and he does not think she appreciates him; indeed, the only warmth between the two is when they are lasciviously necking on the sofa, to which the Kid refers as a “freak show.” Otherwise, Francis is hitting her, yelling at her, or bitterly regretting his marriage to her. And, meanwhile, the character of the Kid’s mother is so insignificant that she has no name in the script; she is only “Mother.” Why bother with this ghost of a character?

If you’re going to make her a ghost, make her a ghost. Francis would be more sympathetic if his mean treatment of the Kid comes out of loneliness and grieving rather than bitterness and resentment. I want more conversations between Francis and the Kid, and I want to see some warmth between them, too, some talks about, you know, your Mom really was great even though she was X, or, your Mom thought the world of you, that kind of thing. As it stands, Prince’s character is so bizarrely estranged from his father that you feel that the two are meeting for the first time.

Also, Francis’ story is never finished. We last see him in the ICU after his botched suicide. This is not a satisfying story arc for this character who is so vital as a driver to the story. We don’t need all the internal melodrama, what with the Kid imagining the chalk outline and his own suicide attempt and all that nonsense. What we do need is a full story arc for Francis L.

I say in the end, Francis L. shows up at First Avenue, the Kid credits his Dad onstage for the music he wrote, and we see Francis then introduced to a nice lady, and he and she walk off with Clarence Williams III mugging a leering sideways smile. This resolves Francis’ story, allowing us to hope that he will no longer be lonely and grieving. This gives his story a full arc and also lets us hope things will improve between he and his son.

2. Broadway Baby. The only reason to have Appolonia be from out of town is so that she will be completely unfamiliar with the local marine geography.

So, I’m sorry. But I may be about to kill the “Lake Minnetonka” scene.

Because aside from that, Purple Rain would work better recasting Appolonia as a Twin Cities gal born and bred, who is ambitious but more confident in her talent than she ought to be and who is perennially frustrated that she’s not on Broadway by now. In fact it might even be interesting to say that she was called back once for Cats but couldn’t afford to stay in the city long enough and had to return to Minneapolis to save up to go back. Something like that. Let’s expand her background and give her more than her hotness.

After all, a beautiful performer doesn’t just show up in Minneapolis to embark on a career in show biz. That just doesn’t make sense. It’s more believable that she grew up in Minneapolis and has Broadway dreams. Not to mention that this has an added bonus of affecting another weak plot point, too.

I mean, explain to me, please, the feud between the Kid and Morris? You really can’t. First they feud over nothing, and then this broad shows up and they’re feuding over her, even though neither Morris nor the Kid knows anything about her besides the obvious. But if these two have had a past with Appolonia, say, if they once all played in the same band but broke up (as is *kind of* the case with Prince and Morris), their feud has far deeper motivation.

Not to mention, the movie as it stands makes The Kid and Morris appear equally petty and superficial, qualities we want to see more strongly in our antagonist rather than in our protagonist. In the end, we’re made to feel that the Kid was purer of heart after all, but we don’t know why. Give their feud a stronger background and the Kid’s victory at the end resounds more strongly.

3. Composed by… Sorry, Wendy and Lisa, but you did not write “Purple Rain.” Appolonia did.

To a large extent, Purple Rain feels like a game of Wac-a-mole. Wendy and Lisa poke out for a minute, then they’re gone. Hey…Jill Jones just said a thing. Neat. Dr. Fink, look, there’s Dr. Fink. There are a lot of appearances, but they do little to help the story along.

Meanwhile, the conflict between Appolonia and the Kid just isn’t strong enough and only serves to impugn our antagonist with the very unlikeable quality of being a possessive idiot who slaps women with the back of his hand. But there is a different seed in the movie, in Appolonia’s request for career help. We can up the ante on this conflict if she, rather than Wendy and Lisa, authored the eponymous tune.

I don’t want the band to have any speaking parts. Leave them up on the stage, okay? I love Wendy and Lisa, but they are so insubstantial that I’d rather apply a synergy to their story by giving it to the love interest. How about if he refuses to play *her* song, thus driving her to the perceived infidelity of working with Morris?

By the way, I know this probably means you’re going to have to recast the role of Appolonia because, you know, you’re going to need someone who can play guitar. Sorry about that.

4. Jill Jones is Jar-Jar Binks. Let’s face it. She’s nice to look at. But her acting makes Sofia Coppola seem dynamic. We can easily do without the Jill character.

Bonus: Kill The Dumpster Scene. One of the more problematic scenes is when Jerome, at Morris’ direction, throws some broad into a dumpster. I say lose the scene, and not even because of its misogyny. Lose it because it doesn’t help the story, not one bit. We don’t know who the woman is or why she’s being dumped. She is not relevant to the overall story, though it does reveal Morris as an inscrutable prick. However, I want more time for story here, and the dumpster scene is nearly 45 seconds. I say lose it.

Purple Rain Purple Rain

So I watched Purple Rain this weekend. I have thoughts.

I of course watched it having read the book, Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain by Alan Light. It is a breezy read and a fascinating study of probably the most significant pop culture development of my adolescence. And, the Purple Rain is certainly worth considering 30 years later.

It is fortunate that this movie is light on story and heavy on fantastic performance footage, that it can lean on some of the best music of the day, and that the girls look nice. Without that fortunate exception, Purple Rain would be a terrible movie.

You find out in Light’s book that once Prince decided to make a movie and had successfully twisted corporate arms to make it happen, he immediately put his band into acting lessons. I suspect the camera performances came before these folks ever learned about the importance of motivation.

Why does Appolonia go to Minneapolis? Why are the Kid’s parents so utterly dysfunctional? Are they tweakers? What is the cause of the rivalry between the Revolution and the Time? It seems so utterly personal, but we’re never offered that story. Why is the Kid so controlling over his own band? What’s with the puppet? Is the Kid a worthy antagonist? Sure, he’s cute and a snappy dresser, but he’s also prone to weird tantrums and misogynistic episodes, including a fondness for the “bitch slap.” And why, after beating the living crap out of his family’s collection of jams and preserves and then making a complete mess of all of that sheet music, does the Kid then relent and start listening to the chord changes that will become “Purple Rain?” And why are people so rabid about the band Appolonia 6 that they’re somehow a threat to the Kid’s employment prospects? What did I miss there?

I do not understand why anyone in this movie does anything, with the possible exception that everyone wants to bang Appolonia. Aside from that, I do not know what is motivating anyone in this film to do anything, sans some sort of mass psychosis breaking out in the Twin Cities circa 1984. (If it is, I think its epicenter is the house where the Kid and his parents live.)

Fortunately, Purple Rain has Morris and Jerome, and it has that wonderful concert footage, and, oddly enough, the performance of “Purple Rain” does manage to redeem the antagonist, Prince as the Kid, though at its end he stomps off and has another weird sputtering tantrum before Jill Jones helps him realize there are encore calls happening. (She’s carrying a puppeh. For some reason the Kid gave Jill Jones a puppeh but the scene got cut.)

So, yes, if you’re up for some nostalgia, it’s certainly worth giving Purple Rain another look. Do not expect a good movie, however.

Leelah Alcorn

There was the day that my transgender friend blew my straight little mind.

The guy had had top surgery and had a nicer beard than mine, and a lower voice. He was a bit taller than me, too. Then there was the conversation one day in the car when he said he still thought boys were cute.

Mind blown.

I mean, if he was bisexual, wouldn’t it have been easier or better to have remained female and lived as a straight broad?

I sat with this for a long time before I came to understand it. My blown mind, I’ve concluded, was the result of the false causality that straight people experience personally.

Three things I knew about myself really early on: I was in possession of boy parts. I was a boy. And, I liked girls. For straight people, we assume that one of these things leads to the other leads to the other.

Except that it doesn’t. Now, I don’t have the science on this, mind you. But my own anecdotal experience convinces me that these three areas of human development are independent; that just because I identify as a fella doesn’t mean I’m gonna seek out the company of broads, and vice versa. More important, it means a guy like my friend there, he didn’t take the T shots and get his top done specifically to better get to know women.

He did it because he was a guy and wanted his body to match. It’s really that simple.

And more and more people are growing to understand this. The year 2014 was a heck of a year for transgender people. It began with Laverne Cox on the cover of Time and ended with reports that Brad and Angelina honor their transgender son’s wishes and with President Obama challenging traditional gender roles when he was sorting Christmas toys.

So it’s heartbreaking to have ended it with the story of Leelah Alcorn.

Alcorn was a transgender girl, a fact that was lost on her parents. She was offered “counseling,” which from the story seems probably more along the lines of the “pray away the gay” variety. Leelah left a heartbreaking note on Tumblr, then went out and jumped in front of a truck.

What she wanted to do was to receive treatment to stop the inevitable onslaught of testosterone, as there is no medical method to reverse a man’s changed voice and other characteristics. And you can say hey, this person was only 16, no way “he” could have known for sure. I don’t think so. People know.

I mean, my cis brothers and sisters, let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine that your parents perceived the incorrect gender of you when you were growing up, say if with me they kept trying to put me in dresses and bought me Barbies and such. How infuriating would that life be?

That is how Leelah Alcorn grew up. Even posthumously, Leelah’s mother couldn’t bring herself to respect the pronouns.

I know it’s difficult. It really is. It’s a brain-building experience. But, like it or not, it is happening. People who do not feel that they have been gendered correctly are choosing to stop living the lie. And one day, someone you love and have known your whole entire life is going to start coming out to you as transgender, just as my then-Aunt Janet did with me many years ago in a shiny diner in Cary, N.C. He didn’t come out and say it then, but Jay was certainly planting the seeds.

And you’re going to have to either commit to growing those extra brain folds or you’re going to have to lose that person forever.

Leelah’s folks just couldn’t do the first part.

What a shame.

Also: Your Sympathies Are Misplaced