Pure Moods' Greatest Hits

Pure Moods lives next door to me. I have no idea what his name is. I only know him by the music he plays.

I’ve lived through all kinds of loud next-door neighbors. I had one my second year of college who played the same piano riff on her keyboard, day and night, until I finally asked her to stop playing it at two in the morning, and she did. Then I had the neighbor who did lounge covers of “Poker Face” and the The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” and had a lot of loud sex with her shitty, shitty boyfriend, who treated her terribly. Last year I stayed in a hotel in New York where a loud woman screamed at her boyfriend for three hours that he’d “ruined her career” because he told people her real age. I woke up a few hours later to their headboard crashing against my wall as they made up. Once I was the loud neighbor: a French man who lived below me in Queens came to knock on my door a couple of times to tell me he and his wife couldn’t sleep because I “walked too loudly.” I put felt on the bottom of my chairs and walked on my tiptoes from then on, even though I privately thought he should invest in a white-noise machine.

But Pure Moods is different, and not just because of the music he plays.

If you did not grow up in the United States in the late ‘90s, you may have missed his namesake entirely. Pure Moods was a compilation album that went hard in a very soft way. It was supposed to be New Age and “World Music,” and panflutes and chanting were everywhere. It’s how most Americans learned about Enya. It had that Gregorian Chant song by Enigma that I always thought was called “Sadness” (“sad” is definitely a “mood”) but is actually called “Sadeness,” alluding to the Marquis De Sade. (I guess they thought that made it sexy. Having read the Marquis De Sade in college, I’ve got to say, his work is reeeeeally not actually sexy. It’s satirical, but the sex acts in it range from “Well, that’s definitely not legal” to “Well, that’s just not physically possible.”) Pure Moods also had “Tubular Bells” from The Exorcist (which I always got mixed up with the Halloween theme) and a techno remix of the X-Files theme, for some reason. I don’t know how many people actually bought the album, but the infomercial ran on Nickelodeon constantly, which makes me think they didn’t really know their target audience. (I listened to calming music a lot as a kid, but I also had severe anxiety. I don’t think many kids needed Enya as much as did.)

I don’t know when Pure Moods, my neighbor, first moved in. I’ve seen him only once, briefly walking into his apartment with a friend. Or maybe he was the friend. He’s about my age, almost definitely gay. I don’t know his name or anything else about him. I don’t even know when he started playing the music. I feel like it started pre-quarantine, but has gotten louder in the past six months. It started with the kind of music that gave him his nickname. Lots of earthy, New Age in a ‘90s way music, with panflutes and chanting, and always played at full blast.

None of it was bad, it just wasn’t what I expected someone to be blasting out of their speakers. Anna and I were kind of amazed at this. Back in April, we had been half-listening along to his playlist when the music stopped for a minute and I heard a voice speaking. Anna burst out laughing.

“Do you hear that?” she said. “It’s an ad! He doesn’t have Premium.” It takes a lot of guts to not only play your music at full blast, but also play the ads that go along with it.

Usually when I listen to music, I listen to it quietly. I have memories of sitting in my room at age nine, listening to No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom on my CD player at minimal volume, trying to make sure my brothers wouldn’t hear (even though they had that same No Doubt album themselves.) I think it’s simply because I don’t want to be judged. The thing is, I don’t have the best taste in music. I know this about myself. This is despite me knowing some truly wonderful musicians — and no, this is not a humblebrag, just a straight-up brag. I’m friends with John Darnielle and Rhett Miller, and I’ve met Lizzo, Aimee Mann, Jean Grae, Ted Leo. Questlove, Janelle Monae, and Liz Phair follow me on Twitter. I know good musicians, I know what good music is, I just don’t always listen to them. Or I do listen to them, but also listen to a lot of pure shit.

My issue is that I just am not into sad music. I really only like sad songs is if they’re in musicals, if they’re funny-sad like Belle and Sebastian, or if they’re sexy-sad, à la Prince. Otherwise, I can feel sad all by myself; I don’t need Adele or Sam Smith, talented as they both are, to help me with that. There are some exceptions, but if somebody only makes sad music, I’m probably not interested in them. And I think most people think that “good” or “deep” music needs to be sad. I don’t know if that’s true, but I often feel shallow for my taste in music.

Pure Moods definitely loves sad music. At first I was worried about this. But more and more, I’ve found that I like the sad music he likes. It’s often a bit over the top. There are a lot of very emotional Spanish love songs. There’s a lot of The Cure, lots of disco torch songs. Probably nothing encapsulates his whole thing more than the day he played a cover of Kansas’s “Dust in the Wind” performed by Sarah Fucking Brightman.

And yes, there are times when he’s playing music that vibrates through the wall when I’m taking a meeting or doing an interview over Zoom, and that can be annoying. But I feel that we have grown closer together during quarantine, Pure Moods and I. I sang along when he played Sinead O’Connor’s version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” and Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time”. Three days ago, I woke up and Pure Moods was playing a remix of Madonna’s Vogue. The next day he was playing some great New Wave music, though it was all in French. (You can’t really call it French New Wave, because that’s something else.) Yesterday he was blaring Tina Turner and Donna Summer. Today he was playing U2 and ABBA. I’ve been ashamed of my love for ABBA, Madonna, and disco for years. I still love “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Mysterious Ways” even though I know how cheesy they are and how obnoxious Bono is. But Pure Moods understands.

Is it just because he’s moved on to music I like that I find him endearing? Do I admire his freeness? Could we ever be friends in real life, if it were possible to make friends at all during this time? Things have changed so much in the past year, and his music has been a constant. What would I do if he moved?

I guess I’ll always have his playlist. Even if I have to make it myself.

Stuff I Did This Week: I did an interview with Jewish Currents, one of my favorite outlets, about my relationship to Judaism and politics!

Fake BBC Show of the Week: Urban75 Is Still Online (It is! The site I went to when I was twelve to pop imaginary bubble wrap and be SCANDALIZED that people enjoyed doing drugs is still up!)

I Couldn't Help But Wonder

If you don’t follow my Twitter, then you probably don’t know that I’ve been doing something I never thought I would do. I’ve been watching Sex and the City. I don’t know why, either, something possessed me, and I have not been able to stop. I think somebody tweeted about it and made me curious, and as I wasn’t going anywhere for a while and the new Perry Mason was making me sad, I started watching.

I remember being a teenager and thinking that my mind would be blown if I watched this show. That I wouldn’t remain the innocent that I was, that I’d get cynical about sex, or grossed out by something I saw on it (I remember some right-wing pundits in the 2000s saying there was an episode about someone’s boyfriend having sex with a dog?! Maybe I skipped that episode.) But it turns out there is absolutely nothing on this show that I couldn’t have heard anywhere else. By seventeen, I’d already read Erica Jong and (ugh) Chuck Palahniuk, and had logged way too much time on the weirder corners of the internet. I was already pretty jaded.

Besides, the SATC characters themselves are strangely backward and sex-negative: Carrie is a sex columnist who doesn’t even talk dirty and is afraid of bisexuals. Miranda goes on this weird tangent about Catholic men and how they think sex is gross, while at the same time, she famously won’t kiss a guy after he goes down on her and doesn’t even know how to talk to him about it. Samantha has sex with everyone but is freaked out by the tiniest amount of kink, refuses to get an AIDS test until forced, and CALLS THE COPS on a group of trans sex workers. What the hell?

Still, I keep watching it. I don’t know why. There are definitely some entertaining parts, and it’s mostly well-acted. Sometimes actors I really like appear on it. There are times when it does feel groundbreaking. But the fashion is baffling, most of the men are unattractive, I don’t identify with any of the main characters: Carrie is horrifically self-absorbed, dramatic, and a terrible writer, Samantha is more a caricature than a character, and Charlotte is a WASP who lives on the Upper East Side. I figured I’d like Miranda the most, because back in high school and college girls always used to tell me, “You’re such a Miranda.” Usually they meant that I “seemed smart,” so I took it as a compliment, the same as when people would mistakenly assume I’m an introvert. (I’m not. I like having some time to myself, but I’m annoying social.) Miranda has her funny and insightful moments, and Cynthia Nixon is a fantastic actor (and would have been a great governor of New York, in my opinion), but she is not my favorite.

The thing is, Miranda is mean. Really mean! She’s mean to Steve and every other guy she dates, mean to her neighbors, mean to her coworkers, mean to random people around New York, even mean to her friends. I mean, yes, she calls out Carrie when Carrie is being the worst, which is often. But I don’t care much for snarky, sarcastic characters; I knew myself at ages 11 through 21, I’ve had enough snark and sarcasm to last a lifetime.

No, my favorite of the four is definitely Charlotte. Yes, the Park Avenue Pollyanna.

I don’t LOVE Charlotte. Pretty much everything she says is tinged (at the very least) with classism, and she’s way too ignorant to have gone to Smith — most Smith alumni I know are the type to make piercing eye contact and crush your hand with their handshakes. I have nothing in common with Charlotte (other than being good with babies and finding Kyle McLachlan sexy). But I like Charlotte the most out of the four, because she’s consistent yet still able to change, she’s good to her friends and mostly good to her partners, she actually seems to respect the Jewish religion and culture, and most importantly, because she’s funny. She doesn’t make stupid puns like Carrie and Samantha, or snarky comments like Miranda, but there’s nothing funnier than anyone who takes themself very seriously, especially when they’re also incredibly naive. Charlotte doesn’t think she’s funny, and that’s what makes her the funniest.

It’s part of a pattern, one I should have seen coming. My favorite comedy characters are always the earnest ones. Always. I don’t know what it is about them. At the risk of sounding like one of Carrie’s columns, I can’t help but wonder what is it about earnest characters that I love so much. Why do I relate to Dorothy Zbornak but love Rose Nylund? Why do I love Alexis Rose so much more than Stevie, who is basically me if I lived in a small Canadian city? Why do I laugh hysterically just thinking about Dr. Zoidberg? Maybe it’s because I’ve been jaded since middle school, and I have to fight off cynicism in myself, so being able to see the world in an open, unpretentious way seems novel to me. But I don’t think that explains all of it. I’m starting to think this calls for a longer series on here, one I will probably have to call “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

I’m opening up the comments here, so feel free to mention which earnest characters you like, and what, exactly, it is you love about them. We’ll figure this out. We can be each other’s soulmates.

Stuff I Did This Week: I did two interviews about Showbiz Kids! The first one was for Today Australia (I’ll be posting video on my social media), and the other was for Ireland AM, which you can watch here! Morning shows are always so fun, even if doing them for other countries can mean recording in the middle of the night!

Fake BBC Show of the Week: Sex and the City Centre (it was supposed to be “Sex and the Town” but it turns out the kids who studied abroad there lied to me and no one actually calls London “The Town” like they said)

Great Moments in Public School Health Education, #2

A Tale of Two Condoms

I used to love proving my teachers wrong. What can I say? I was a bit of an insufferable kid. And I wasn’t always successful, some of my teachers just refused to accept that I was right. (I’m still bitter that my ogre of a third grade teacher yelled at me for suggesting a book could have more than one main character. I wish I’d brought something like A Tale of Two Cities or Romeo and Juliet the next day, and asked her who the main character was.) But I never expected it would happen in sex ed.

Ninth grade health class, as I’ve discussed before, was not my favorite. It was an abstinence-only class in the beginning of the George W. Bush era, only a few years after Dr. Joycelyn Elders had been fired for daring to suggest teaching kids that masturbation won’t hurt them. Abstinence-only was the only way, even if, by ninth grade, we all knew it was bullshit. I spent most of the time flipping through my textbook, wondering why I’d never heard of barbiturates (probably because it wasn’t the ‘70s anymore) and feeling bad for the pretty woman in the stock photo they used alongside an essay about genital herpes. She seemed to be the only person in the book who admitted to having sex. The fact that most adults were sexually active, and that herpes was extremely common, went completely unmentioned. Even the characters in the essay questions had all decided “to be abstinent until marriage.”

Not only was the class itself a travesty, but the kids in that class really didn’t like me, and I didn’t like them, either. I actually missed the unit about sex, because I was transferred to a different class mid-semester, at my teacher’s suggestion, after being bullied too much. Strangely, I did not miss the part about HIV/AIDS, because we did that unit before the sex unit. It carried no new information for me, we’d done a pretty comprehensive unit on it two years earlier in middle school, and I’d been volunteering for the Children Affected By AIDS Foundation (now part of the organization Keep A Child Alive) since I was eight.

Our teacher was a first year teacher, recently married, and we had a lot of substitutes around the time she learned she was pregnant. She was sick for a few days during our HIV/AIDS unit, so our lesson plan for the day was to watch Philadelphia. It’s a good movie, but one completely wasted on a class of shitty fourteen-year-olds. The substitute was pretty into it, but I’m pretty sure that substitute was an actor. If you didn’t grow up in the L.A. area, you have no idea how often substitute teachers here are out-of-work actors. We were always spotting them on commercials or game shows. Sometimes this meant they were a little too friendly with me, because they saw me as a fellow actor, on their level. Other times it meant they were deeply resentful that Mr. Saracino, who taught the Improv Comedy elective, assumed the sub wouldn’t know what they were doing and put me in charge of our class. Yes, I was an eighth grader with two years of Improv under my belt, but they’d done the full series of classes at The Groundlings.

We fast-forwarded through some of the less child-appropriate scenes, and strangely, through the Maria Callas scene, to save time, and there was a lot we still did not understand.

“How did he not get it?” asked a boy near the front of the class, referring to Antonio Banderas’s character, who was HIV-negative despite his boyfriend, Tom Hanks’s character, having AIDS.

“They must have used condoms,” said the substitute.

“Condoms?” the boy repeated, dubious. We knew about condoms, in theory, and maybe a few kids knew in practice, but they hadn’t been mentioned once in class. There were brief mentions in the textbook, but always followed by a disclaimer that “condoms do not offer complete protection,” and that “abstinence is the only 100% safe method.” We were being taught not to trust condoms, especially not up against something like HIV/AIDS — which we were also being taught was essentially a death sentence.

“Yeah,” she said, and then she added. “Sometimes they might even use two condoms, one on top of the other, just to be extra safe.”

Something stirred in my memory. Sex was still years away for me, I hadn’t done anything besides some slow dancing at summer camp formals. But I spent a lot of time online. Porn didn’t interest me (and I had not yet learned the word “erotica”), but there were ways to find out about actual sex. A lot of great sites and magazine had popped up online around that time with a lot of good information, some of which are still around today: Sex Etc., Scarleteen, the Go Ask Alice! advice column, the now defunct but amazing gUrl.com. Even Alloy and Teen People were pretty comprehensive. It was a good place to be a teen whose interest in sex was, and would for several years, remain purely academic.

So I actually knew something about condoms. Something kind of serious, actually.

“No,” I said, a little too loudly, from the back row, without raising my hand. “They wouldn’t—or at least, they shouldn’t do that.”

The substitute looked a little surprised, but I went on. “Doubling up on condoms is a bad idea. They can rub up against each other, which can cause friction.”

“Oh,” she said.

“And that makes them more likely to break,” I said. “So it’s actually not more safe, it’s more dangerous and can lead to more easily getting STDs.”

“Oh,” she said again, a little quieter this time. She seemed embarrassed. The boy who asked the question turned to at me, bemused. The kids around me were looking, too, and I knew everybody, including the substitute, was wondering the same thing: how did she know that?

I’m probably about the same age now as the substitute was then, and I cannot imagine how that must have felt for her. I’ve worked with kids, and I know they can really catch you off guard. I think that even by fourteen I had stopped trying to catch teachers in a mistake, I had realized that it didn’t make me look cool or smart, just insufferable. Although some friends have suggested it wasn’t just that she felt embarrassed to be shown up by a child. Maybe I actually touched on something a little more personal, and maybe she had to rethink how she’d used protection. She’d have think of me, the fourteen-year-old virgin in a Weezer shirt, every time she reached for a condom.

That might be the worst kind of sex education possible. Except for abstinence-only, of course.

Stuff I Did This Week: I appeared on my dear friend Josh Gondelman’s podcast, Make My Day! He asked me to make up a lot of character voices, so if you’ve ever wanted to hear me play a lovelorn robot, or a tow truck with some avoidant attachment issues, you are in luck! Listen here! It’s SO much fun.

I also did an interview about OCD and OCD awareness! Read it here!

Fake BBC Show of the Week: This Garden’s Also Private, No Having a Sit (inspired by a true story, trying to find a place to sit in London last Summer)

For the Birds, or Why a Crow Should Be My Friend

Hello, crows.

People say you won’t read this, but I don’t know if I believe them. You can do all sorts of things. You can recognize numbers. You can make tools. You hold funerals. Who’s to say that you can’t also access the internet?

I read a story a few years ago about a little girl who had befriended several of you, and it made me want to be friends with you, too, in that desperate way you feel when you want to be friends with someone cooler than you. (Though it was a little weird to read that you eat chicken nuggets. Birds eating other birds! But then, humans are mammals, and most of us eat other mammals.) Becoming your friend has become very important to me.

Some people will say “Crows? Really? But they’re so mean to other birds!” or some other such slander. Each time I will defend you with the of a ferventness of a girl in a Shangri-Las song, because I know you’re good-bad, but you’re not evil. You’re loud and take up a lot of space, despite your small stature, which immediately makes me like you, because, well, same. I also know you hold grudges, and I do, too! I try not to, but I do. On a superficial level, we would look good together; I’m pretty gothy. (Anna thinks she is more of goth than me, but she is wrong. Everyone knows she is much more capital-R Romantic, possibly Art Nouveau, with a definite flower child aesthetic and general manner. I, meanwhile, was a creepy young girl who grew up to be an adult who still wears all black even in Southern California.)

What’s in it for you? Well, I spill things a lot, especially food. I’m extremely clumsy, and also have very small hands, so cannot help but drop things. I would be of great use to you, as things frequently escape my grasp and end up on my shirt or the floor. (My bra, after a movie, contains as much popcorn as boob.) And I just happen to have a lot of your favorite foods in stock: nuts, seeds, eggs, berries, cat treats. A smorgasbord!

You could also help me. I’ve met a lot of people in my life, but I can’t remember all of them. I’m not always the best with faces. You would come in handy there, because you all are apparently great with faces, and remember everyone. You could tell me who we’ve met before, and is OK, and who we should avoid. I also feel like you’ve gotten the short shrift in human culture for a long time. Yes, you have the movie The Crow, but it’s really ravens that have more of a reputation, what with Poe and being an omen of death in like twenty distinct cultures, and all. You could use some more attention. I don’t have the biggest platform, but I am very popular with bisexual librarians, and that’s a start.

I know you may be slow to trust me, because many humans just want to use you for the cool things you’ll bring. But while I do love giving gifts, I don’t really care much for receiving. I’d rather not get presents at all, unless they really mean something — and yours would really mean something. And honestly, I’m slow to trust as well, so I’m happy to take things as slowly as you’d like.

Yes, it’s weird to appeal directly to someone about why they should be friends. But one thing I admire about you is your boldness, and I figure being upfront might gain me some respect. That, and putting Temptations treats out for you. So let me know. I’ll download the Crow Sounds app my friend Chris Fleming told me about, and we can see what happens.

Love,

Mara

P. S. Anna is now insisting that I am more “1980s goth,” while she is more “1880s goth.” I defer to your goth expertise, and would appreciate if you could help us settle this matter.

Fake BBC Show of the Week: Deadly Apiaries!

Stuff I Did This Week: A lot of interviews for Showbiz Kids, which is out now on HBO Max! I also had the chance to record some V/O, but I can’t say what it’s for yet. You’re going to have to stay tuned!

Tomorrow is my birthday, and all I want for it is consider buying something to help my Miry’s List family! Miry’s List helps resettled refugee families get what they need to live here. The Akakhil family has recently come from Afghanistan with three young boys, and you can help welcome them with a housewarming gift!

Ancient AOL Message Board Signatures That I Am Still Thinking About

I spent too much of my preteen and adolescent years on forums. Mostly AOL Message boards, at least to start with. For those of you who weren’t there at the time… well, you didn’t miss much. Twitter and Tumblr are basically the same thing, just faster, and there are tons of forums still around. The way people talk hasn’t changed that much.

One thing I don’t see very much anymore, though, are signatures. Message Board Signatures were the bumper stickers of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. I think my first ones were a reference to Wacky Delly, a Rocko’s Modern Life episode — because naturally, preteen me’s favorite show was a show about a neurotic wallaby trying to live in a dangerous, farcical adult world, and my favorite episode was about desperately trying to maintain artistic integrity while pandering to fans and entertainment executives. Nearly everything was written in blue and gold, my school colors, and for far too long, in Comic Sans.

When I got a boyfriend, all of my signatures became about him, and our little inside jokes —“Remember that time we got kicked out of Waldenbooks?” (We didn’t actually get kicked out, they were about to close.) Then when the relationship soured, they became about my frustration with him, and about how I hated them after he dumped me. (He was too busy over on LiveJournal to notice or care.)

It was a formative time in my life, one I probably wasted. But at least I will never forget the people I met along the way, because against my will I have memorized their stupid sig lines. Here are a few.

  • The preteen girl whose signature was:

    “Hey now, I’m a pop star, gonna put my make-up on, go on a date!”

    Directly beneath that was an explanation that she knew the real words, but this was her own personal version of it. I’m still not sure if she was the same girl who also had “I want it that way” and “I’m a genie in a bottle, gotta rub me the right way!”, which prompted one of my favorite responses from a bitter preteen boy, ever: “Congratulations. You chose my three least favorite songs to put in your sig.”

  • The preteen girl whose username was something like Awesum3231 who accidentally put a post about a book in her signature, instead of a post. So all of her posts were followed by

    “I read Ella Enchanted and it was Awesum! It was a bout a girl who has a spell put upon her by a faeiry. The faeiry’s name was Lucieienda.”

    Awesum3231 made lot of posts along the lines of “who keeps putting this at the end of my posts? whoever does this please stop it! :(((”

  • The girl who also didn’t seem to understand how to edit her signature, so forever had the following three reasons her life was awesome for one week in 1999 added to every subsequent post, and sealed into my mind:

    1. Its my birthday

    2. I can wear shorts!

    3. Also SPRING VACTION

    #2 was always my favorite part. Maybe she had a strict school uniform? Either way, I hope she’s still enjoying wearing shorts.

  • The boy from the Malcolm and the Middle and That ‘70s Show message boards who had this:

    MOM: Why do you have to be so negative all the time?

    ME: To piss you off. By the way, how am I doing?

    GODDAMN, did I hate that guy. It’s always bad when someone quotes themself. You just know he grew up to be the worst. (Or maybe he’s better now. I’d like to think I’m better than I was at 13.)

  • The regular on the Nickelodeon boards whose family decided to leave AOL because they wanted to ditch dial-up and get a cable modem. (We used TCP/IP to log onto AOL at my house, but this guy was also kind of insufferable, so I wasn’t going to argue with him to stay.) When he made his big announcement, he decided to change his signature from

    JamesM986

    *Nicktoons Fan*

    *Britney Spears Fan*

    *Futurama Fan*

    to just

    JamesM986

    *CABLE MODEM*

    I guess everyone has their fandoms.

  • The other Nickelodeon message board regular whose signature read,

    “If you’re not part of the solution, well, you must be on FOX!”

    Again, these were the Nickelodeon boards. For children. It’s a special kind of child who has a personal agenda against the FOX network.

  • The girl who called herself “Princess Hayley,” whose signature informed the Nickelodeon boards that she and her friends were “the most popular people in the universe.”

    In the whole universe. I was 12 and already not very popular, and I remember feeling overwhelmed, wondering how I could ever compete with that. If she really was that popular, though, what the hell was she doing on those boards discussing CatDog with the rest of us losers?

  • The kid on some AOL Teens board who ended their posts with:

    “They can clone the baby, but can they clone the soul?”

    I can’t think of a better example of late-‘90s hot-button topic Youth Pastor energy than that.

  • The white girl who was trying to be anti-racist, I think, by having a very long signature about how Black people’s skin remained black in all circumstances, while white people were “green in sickness, blue in cold, red in heat”, and so on. She concluded it with:

    “And we think we have the right to call Black people ‘colored’?”

    I don’t know if she wrote it herself, or heard it somewhere, but I can’t think of a better example of failed early-2000s political correctness than that.

  • The guy on the grown-ups’ Harry Potter discussion boards (as opposed to the kids’ Harry Potter boards, which I thought were childish, because I was that kind of kid) who was a proud and out liberal, and always had something to say about politics in his signatures. Except usually they were things that didn’t quite make sense to me. For example:

    “Everyone believes in liberal economic benefits. Liberals believe in economic benefits for everyone.”

    I… still don’t really know what that means? Or at least, it doesn’t quite mesh with what I know of most self-described liberals in the U.S. these days. Anyway, he seemed like a pretty cool guy, otherwise. I’d like to think he’d be horrified at how bigoted JKR’s turned out to be.

  • The teenage girl from the Harry Potter boards, one of the ones I later joined an RPG with — I can’t remember if I met that group of girls on the kids’ Harry Potter boards, before it was overrun with kids, or if she was one of the fellow kids on the grown-up boards — who offered what I still consider pretty solid life advice:

    “When life gives you lemons… stick them down your shirt and make your boobs look bigger.”

  • This guy:

    There were also some guys on the show choir boards who were a bit too eager to give shout-outs to their girlfriends in their sigs. For some reason, the relationships never seemed to last very long. Nothing like Craig from Brea or Chula Vista or wherever always having “I love Michelle!” and then “I love Tanisha!” and then “I love Amber!” under their posts, until eventually one day it turned into “I love Mateo!”

  • The girl who wrote a lot of poems (mostly about Ben Affleck) on the AOL Teen Writers Poetry boards whose signature included the line:

    “Sex is like Pringles: once you pop, the fun don’t stop!”

    I didn’t know what it meant at the time, but now I do, and my God, I wish I didn’t.

  • The girl who didn’t have any kind of signature at all, but showed up out of nowhere one day and responded to every new poem posted in the AOL Teen Writers Poetry boards with just a single word:

    “Cliché.”

    With the accent and everything. Fucking harsh.

Twenty years later, and things have changed, but I don’t know if people have. It makes me think of actual ancient forums, like this collection of graffiti from ancient Pompeii. It’s one of my favorite things ever. Most of it is extremely crude and sexual, and often it specifically calls out particular people — looking at you, Theophilus, and poor Epaphra. Change a few details, like the names of gods and leaders, and it could all probably be found on any wall or forum still today.

Stuff I Did This Week: I’ve been doing interviews to promote Showbiz Kids, which comes out TOMORROW, July 14th, at 9PM Eastern time on HBO! I’m so excited for this, Alex Winter was wonderful to work with, and it was a joy to discuss child stardom with someone who actually gets it. The movie itself is great, an honest analysis of what it’s like to be a child and to be famous, and I’m so proud to have been a part of it.

Fake BBC Show of the Week: She Only Drinks the Other Kind (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about, UK, there’s only ever two kinds of things in England)

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