It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

We’ve been on a Joel Schumacher kick, because we watched the 2004 Phantom of the Opera he made and it is INCREDIBLE. It got terrible reviews but critics are fools—I truly have never imagined that a film version could remain so true to the batshit psychedelic hysteria of the original. Seriously, five minutes into it I was feeling nervous because I love Phantom so deeply but in truth it is “a little much,” and I was worried my husband (a brainy film scholar who specializes in experimental cinema) would hate it, but then suddenly he yells THIS FUCKING RULES and he kept yelling it periodically through the whole thing and then at the end he pronounced it “the best filmed musical ever made,” and, later, “the best movie of any genre ever made,” so there you have it. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA IS THERE/INSIDE YOUR MIND. Anyway after processing about our intense feelings once it was over (I cried, just as I did in 7th grade when I saw it live in Denver) we started reading about it in an effort to understand why it was such a flop (still unclear to me, except for the aforementioned reason that most critics are legitimately blithering idiots), and we learned that Andrew Lloyd Webber himself said he would only allow it to be made if Schumacher directed it, which made us be like “??????” like why Joel Schumacher, of all people?? So then we started watching Schumacher’s other films and we realized that his use of music is VERY good and powerful and also he has this sort of Tony Scott-esque melodramatic visual style with like billowing white curtains and artful use of slow-mo and flying doves and it all made sense. Lost Boys, Flatliners. These movies really hold up, and they look great. Like why does Flatliners take place in what looks like an abandoned Renaissance cathedral draped in construction tarps? Super stylized. So it is very funny to imagine Andrew Lloyd Webber watching Lost Boys and being like “I SAY, THERE’S THE CHAP TO DIRECT MY PHANTOM.” Later I googled so many variations of “robe Kevin Bacon wears in Flatliners” but somehow no one on the internet is talking about this even though the robe is truly incredible. Where do you buy your old man a robe like that??

The other night I wanted to get the dog up on the couch with me so I could toast my toes upon his butt while I watched Game of Thrones. He’s only allowed up there if his blanket is on the couch and if he is invited (supposedly). He sleeps at night in my office, in an old armchair that he is allowed to get up into whenever he wants; it’s the only furniture in the house that he can occupy of his own volition. So that’s where his blanket usually is. Okay that is enough background for you to understand this story: I ran into my dark office to grab his blanket and invite him up on the couch. His chair is right by the office door so I didn’t bother turning on the light, simply using sense memory to reach and grab for the blanket. But unbeknownst to me, he was IN the chair!!! He’s a black dog and was just curled up there invisible in the dark, like a creep. I’d thought he was in the living room. So when I reached out my hand into the chair for the blanket, my hand went DIRECTLY INTO HIS MOUTH, the mouth of a dog I didn’t know was there. And I screamed in horror. It was like one of those M.R. James ghost stories. It also made a very funny sound—a wet, lippy sound as my hand jammed in there and as he opened his mouth to get my hand out of there. I stood there, heart pounding, and apologized to him while he looked up at me questioningly. From his perspective, what on earth just happened? “Well I’m sure she had a good reason for doing it”—my dog

The other day in a meeting my colleague looked over at my keyboard, which is all mottled and discolored in these sort of swirls of brown, and he said “it looks like that computer must have a good story to tell” and I said “no it’s just dirty; I literally have never cleaned it one time” and he goes “oh” and kind of shrank back from me.

You know the old saying: “you are what your computer is.”–STEVE JOBS

I been buying a lot of cool-ass pottery. Big heavy tumblers and such. Gimme that good pottery

Tonight is our fake Christmas Eve because for actual Christmas we will be in Phoenix watching TV. I am making mashed potatoes and we are going to listen to a cassette of Patrick Stewart reading A Christmas Carol, which my brother gave us last year. GOD BLESS US EVERY ONE / THE GOOSE AS BIG AS ME????

If you want a creepy book to read, give ol’ Patricia Highsmith a try, specifically Strangers on a Train. It is much more terrifying than the Hitchcock film version. I will say no more about it.

I’m undertaking a personal research project that I’m getting a lot of positive feedback and support concerning: I want to educate myself about heavy metal music and a few of its more prominent subgenres. I’ve taught a day on metal for the past couple of semesters, and it’s always my favorite class; I end up having so much more to talk about than with other genres we listen to, and I assign way too much reading because it’s stuff I want to read. Also, I keep surprising myself by finding some of the music genuinely beautiful, and really thought-provoking and/or disturbing but also sometimes uplifting. RAGING AGAINST GOD HIMSELF is something I relate to.

Anyway, I’m compiling chronological lists of what fans think are the “the best” or “foundational” albums in a bunch of genres, trying to specifically get a feel for how fans think of this music, why they love it, what they love about it—who established these styles, how did they develop over time, when did they get shitty and die (been seeing a lot of comments about the “dark Pantera cloud” that suffocated thrash in the 90s), etc. I’ve been reading these really wonderful and hilarious message board threads about like “WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TEN SICKEST GRINDCORE SHREDS” or “TOP TEN MOST BRUTAL DEATH TRACKS OF THE 2000s” and then lists of band names that sound like Mr. Show jokes. I have some metalhead friends who are helping me, but now also strangers are weighing in because other friends have shared this picture of my compilation list that I posted on instagram. I have been told that Slayer sounds awesome but sucks politically (I already knew both things, based on my powers of observation); that I am forbidden from supporting Dave Mustaine (but what am I to do? honestly all that old Metallica sounds good as hell to me, and so does Megadeth), and then I have also been directed into some avenues that I’m scared to actually listen to and that have made my list look really funny and/or like something a serial killer would keep folded up in a creepy notebook. Like how the guy from Pig Destroyer is also in the current iteration of Agoraphobic Nosebleed, whose most recent three-song EP has the scariest grind vocal my friend has ever heard. There is apparently a band called Cattle Decapitator that my friend says is “fine.” I already on my own had compiled a pretty solid chronology of Stoner, Death, and Doom but apparently there is also Post-Metal, and I read some reviews of these bands online and they have descriptions that you could almost use to describe like early 20th-century avant-garde composers, but with more cuss words and approving use of adjectives like “sick” and “hateful.” I’d also mistakenly thought that Sludge was just another word for Doom but it turns out it’s its own thing (Eyehategod, Primitive Man). The list is expanding and is separated into a bunch of Spotify playlists that I am going to listen to over winter break. “Just in time for the winter solstice” my friend told me their friend said when he saw my list.

The other day Gary accidentally played a song from one of my playlists over the bluetooth speaker in the kitchen and I said “is this Doom metal” and he said “yes how did you know” and I said “he’s singing like Ozzy Osbourne.” My one generic indicator that I have grasped!!!!!

Once I get a handle on it my next step is to understand which subgenres despise which others, and for what reason.

Once I get a handle on THAT, I will start my own metal subgenre, called The New Wave of Death-Adjacent Post-Doom Thrash-Core. We will put out one EP (“SKELETON FUNERAL”) and then break up and/or our drummer will die, but the EP will go on to be called “foundational” and “indispensable” for other future subgenres like The NEW New Wave of Death-Adjacent Post-Doom Thrash-Core” and “The New Wave of Specifically Dutch NEW New Wave of Death-Adjacent Post-Doom Thrash-Core,” a subgenre fans will dub “too brutal to exist”

If metal fans find this blog somehow please don’t call me a poser or threaten to beat me up—I feel I have made it clear that I am a middle-aged lady academic who in this very blog entry passionately discussed Phantom of the Opera (the stage musical, NOT the Iron Maiden song) and who is just trying to learn. Don’t shame me for not knowing that Cattle Decapitator is shit and/or the best.

merry christmas to all the haters and the lovers out there, god bless

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3 Responses to It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

  1. Shannyn says:

    So metal is something I know nothing about but this article might be of interest:

    It’s John Darnielle having thoughts about Church of Misery/the desire to kill people.

  2. erin says:

    Well, sorry to be the one…but it’s Cattle DecapitaTION not DecapitaTOR. I really only know this because I grew up in San Diego. I’m not a metal expert.

  3. MD says:

    When I was 19 and 20, I was deeply into Blind Guardian “Nightfall in Middle Earth,” a power metal album inspired by hobbits.

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