Spooky Stories for Halloween

A few years ago, Miss J. and I went to visit the Divine Ms. B. who has a gig as a historical reenactor in one of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. What was really cool is that she and the other reenactors lived at the mansion for the duration of the gig, so we also got to stay at the mansion while we were visiting.

The way the house was set up was kind of like a lollipop, with the round part of the lollipop being the main house and the stick being a hallway with small rooms off it. We stayed up on the third floor. Miss J. slept in with her sister in one of the rooms in the lollipop part and I slept on a couch in the hallway. Our big plan for the first full day we were there was to get up early and drive up to Salem, Mass. and see the sites, so when I went to bed the night before, I was expecting that someone would wake me up, at some point, so that we could get on the road.

Of course, being the first night in the place and not being sure when I might have to wake up, I was sleeping kind of restlessly. So, at some point, I wake up because someone is saying my name. I sit up on the couch and I look around, and there’s no one there. I try to see if I can see out the window at the end of the hall, to get a guess on what time it is. Is it close to dawn? But it’s dark, so I assume maybe it’s raining. I get up, go to the bathroom, and don’t hear anyone else rustling around, so I decide maybe it’s not that it’s time to get up, but that I’ve been snoring and disturbing someone’s sleep.

So, I go back to the couch and lay down, but I’m really freaked out. So, I’m laying there a while and I realize I can hear someone breathing, regularly, and softly, as if they are asleep. I remember that there’s a door right by the side of the couch, so now I’m feeling relieved. Obviously, someone has their bed right by the door and I was snoring and making it hard for them to sleep. So, now they’ve gone back to sleep and I can go back to sleep.

The next morning, the Divine Ms. B. comes in to wake me up and she asks how I slept. I say something about how I’m sure I slept better than the person I kept up with my snoring. She asks what I meant. I say that whoever was sleeping in the room right next to me must have been woken up by me and so woke me up. Ms. B. gets a weird look on her face and asks what time this was. I say that it must have been around two, because I heard the clock chime.

At this point, she gets an even weirder look on her face. As you’ve probably guessed by now, there is no working, chiming clock in the house. There is nobody staying in the room right by where I was sleeping because it’s not even a room. We opened the door and looked in and the door just provides access to the pipes in the house.

Eminem, genius or idiot?

[As a side note–Am I turning into a 20 year old boy? Worrying about Eminem, making jokes about sexual falafels, trying to pre-buy Grand Theft Auto? What’s next? Keg stands?]

[Also, one should point out that you might not want to take a girl who doesn’t even know the names of the songs she’s critiquing too much to heart.]

As most of you know, Eminem has managed to cause yet another uproar with his latest video, called… something… apparently I’ve not yet managed to bother to pick up that little important bit of information. The song basically goes “boys, I mean, girls, girls, girls, girls. Awh, Awh, Awh.” So, if you’ve heard it, that’s the song I’m talking about.

The outrage has come from the Michael Jackson camp, who is (are) offended because the video spends a great deal of time making fun of Michael Jackson.

The first couple times I saw the video, I thought it was pretty stupid. It doesn’t just make fun of Michael Jackson; it also pokes fun at Madonna and MC Hammer and checks Santa, PeeWee Herman, the phenomenon of streaking, Eminem’s movie 8 Mile, and a bunch of other stuff. But, for the most part, it seems, on it’s surface, to just be making fun of the 80s. And, big deal. They’re over and we already know they’re corny.

But, today I think this video is actually one of his most brilliant meditations on his own fame. Usually, most folks point to that “I am whatever you say I am” song or “Stan” as being his most interesting takes on the perils and stresses of fame. Fair enough. Clearly those are serious songs.

Yet, look at the people he impersonates in the video–Michael Jackson, Madonna, MC Hammer, PeeWee Herman (if we accept that it’s a vocal impersonation, not a physical one, as I think that is actually PeeWee Herman in the video. If it’s not, then all the better for my point.)

What do all these folks have in common? They all were unstoppable, inescapable cultural phenomena. What else do they have in common? They all were brought down because their private conduct couldn’t match up with their public image.

And so, I think, in bringing up 8 Mile and quoting from his other big hits, which were so damn catchy and also seemed to be inescapable cultural phenomena, he’s kind of asking a question. At what point does he become like them? At what point does the private person decay under the weight of the public persona, and, once that rot sets in, how will it express itself? At what point does Eminem stop being the jester and start being the joke?