OM135 - Tippi Hedren’s Fingernails

John’s sex life being a suspenseful mystery (OM135)

John’s favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie is Marnie with Sean Connery, a suspenseful sex mystery, which is how John would describe his whole life up to now. Ken thinks every sex act is a suspenseful mystery. A lot of the mystery about John’s life is when or if he will ever have sex again, and it has been like that since his first time: Every subsequent time he had sex it was like: ”Wow! I get to do it one more time!” John is the master of suspense in the bedroom and he always has a little cameo like Hitchcock: He waddles out, looks directly at the camera, and takes a puff of his cigar.

John hasn’t had a lot of long-term relationships, he has never been married, and he has never been in at least an assuredly sexual relationship. That was what Ken’s wedding vows were: An assuredly sexual relationship, or heretofore: ASR, which was very romantic. John assumes this is a component of why people get married and the numbers are far from the stereotypes of cold marriage beds: Married people are having more, better and freakier sex than all of us and some youth pastor in Duluth is having the craziest sex!

When John was about 27 or 28, a Rock’n’Roll friend told him that he was tired of the dating scene and he was ready to settle down, pick a gal and make a go of it. John thought this was the lamest conversation he ever had. He was getting married because he was tired of the dating scene? Lame! The dating scene is pretty bad, but John is a romantic who always assumed you would get married because you fell in love. His mom used to say: ”Don’t get married unless it is the only thing you want to do!” Ken has been given the same advice about being a writer or an artist, but he loves it about being a spouse: ”Have a family if you can’t think of any reason to avoid it!”, if you are compelled. Consequently John never got married.

Alfred Hitchcock inventing suspense movies (OM135)

The oeuvre of British suspense director Alfred Hitchcock contains a lot of workplace comedies, like his remake of The Office with the shadow of a noose in the HR guy’s office. John has a podcast where he talks about war movies (Friendly Fire) and Hitchcock did make a few World War II movies, like Foreign Correspondent and Lifeboat, but John's problem is that he is not really a media consumer. Instead he consumes leather satchels made by the Filson company: ”Come over for Filson and chill!”

Although John has consumed a tremendous amount of media, it has followed no pattern or personal passion. The things he watches, the books he reads, and the music he listens to is never really a result of him chasing things that he might like, but he remains stationary while media just crests over him. For instance, John never dated anybody who went with him on a Hitchcock thing and he never pursued Hitchcock movies on his own and the ones he has seen were always on late night television, like for example he was very compelled by Rear Window.

John's mom grew up in the Hitchcock era and she hates birds since she saw The Birds in the theater (1963) when she was impressionable. She loves watching birds through a window, but she doesn’t want to touch a bird or meet your parrot. Ken gets a bell for asking if she has seen the movie Meet the Parrots (Meet the Parents) with Robert De Niro. ”You can’t milk a parrot, Greg!” She shares that fear with a generation of Americans. She was scared by Psycho as well.

There were essentially no slasher movies until Hitchcock invented them in 1960 with Psycho and the things people were scared of seem funny to us, like those moody, suspenseful films with creaky violin scores. Hitchcock became very successful branding himself as the guy who understands fear and ”Let’s go see a Hitchcock film every year and be pleasantly scared with whatever this spooky British master has concocted for us!"

Hitchcock became almost a Walt Disney of it who would collegially show up on everybody’s TV once a week. Just like Disney he had figured out his brand and he was your genial uncle, but instead of animated woodland animals it was all kinds of killers, fiends and things that go bump at night.

John watched North by Northwest on TV and was struck by Cary Grant’s suit, which was actually a thing within the men’s wear universe. John doesn’t follow the cinematic men’s wear universe, but it is on late night TV and he happened to be sitting there when the men’s wear show came on. John never pursued a close read of Hitchcock’s films, but he watched them when they came across his bow. He is not a Kubrick fan, he doesn’t follow a director, he is just not a fan boy of anything. John does not have any Marvel Omnibuses.

Ken discovered Hitchcock in High School and watching old movies that still play well felt very grown-up. Hitchcock made well over 30 American studio movies and between 12-15 are stone-cold classics. He did invent all this language that still plays really well today. You can tell your parents you are watching a Hitchcock film and they are not going to say ”No!” because it is not R-rated.

One time when Ken was in college he was at his grandparents and turned on classic movies and there was literally the shower scene in Psycho. This was so good! Then his 70-year old grandpa walked in and asked: ”What is this? Are you watching a porno?” He thought that a porno was a black & white film with a lady in a shower that Ken had found on his cable system.

”Want to watch some Hitchcock movies?” was how Ken met young friends and enticed them into his basement. In the Blockbuster era there was actually a ”Get the girls over for a spooky Hitchcock movie” thing, but maybe this was just because in a clean-cut Mormon context you were not going to invite the girls over to watch Scream or A Nightmare on Elm Street, while Hitchcock was family approved. Ken did have MTV as well.

It is hard to compare Alfred Hitchcock to anybody but Disney as far as being a genius businessman and brand guy. Orson Wells made one or two great art films and was immediately disgraced, whereas Hitchcock came to Hollywood with great aplomb, won the best picture Oscar for his very first movie Rebecca (1940, not his first movie) and went from strength to strength, making popular and critically beloved classics for decades.

Ken’s favorite Hitchcock movie is probably Vertigo, which is a consensus critics thing, but it is very personal because Ken remembers watching it for the first time and thinking that it didn't play at all: It had a weird structure, you find out the twist ending 2/3rd of the way through, and Ken was not onboard with this at all. Then he was rewatching it, knowing it was going to be weird‚ and he was just loving it and a lightbulb turned on in his mind:

A lot of art can do two things. It doesn’t have to be a movie, but it can be a novel or an album as well: The first time you hear it you think that it wasn’t what you wanted and it was an OK Computer (by Radiohead) again, like the first Jane’s Addiction record (Nothing’s Shocking), maybe even more if it is somebody you know who puts out a different sound, but also new artists doing something you never seen before. Then you listen the second time, you are braced for the weird art, you can just sink right into butter and it is amazing. Ken loved Vertigo the second time and he thought that every movie can be two movies.

The new critical discord about Hitchcock is that he was not just an avuncular showman, but he was making these disturbing movies because he was a disturbed guy who was very nakedly putting his obsessions and hangups on the screen, which is not at all what people would have said about somebody in 1955. People in the 1950s accepted it if you could put even a tiny hat on your disturbed inner life, like: ”Oh, look at the tiny hat!”

When you see America’s sweetheart Jimmy Stewart creepily grooming a woman to look and dress and do her hair exactly like the woman he lost, you are seeing the actual reason Hitchcock made movies: He loved to have an icy, unobtainable blonde do exactly the things that he wanted to see a woman do on screen. It was a big part of his inner life as a screwed-up guy who had a really weird and repressed view of women and sex that he needed to put up on the movie screen. His ideal woman that he wanted to look beautiful on big silver screens was Grace Kelly from Rear Window and if that is your look and your type, how can you do better?

John’s mom looking like Grace Kelly (OM135)

John’s mom said that during the Read Window era she dyed her hair blond in emulation of Grace Kelly. She looked enough like Grace Kelly and she had the same vivacious voluptuousness in her youth, but as a girl next door. John’s parents met because his dad was in love with Grace Kelly and singled his mom out at a party. She credits Grace Kelly, that hair, and the movie Rear Window with John’s existence. John already knew this story when he watched Rear Window and he was thinking the whole time: ”That is my mom!” It was like a Back to the Future problem, adding a new level of psycho-sexual problems that not even Hitchcock did intend. John actually did find her very attractive, but he couldn’t.

Random bits (OM135)

John has the bad habit of biting his nails, maybe from sexual frustration or nervousness. It just feels good! Although John smoked for a long time, he already bit his fingernails from when he was little. It is an oral fixation, but it pre-existed the smoking.

Ken once had a crow dive-bomb him on the University of Washington campus, which was terrifying! John had ravens do it in Alaska. They are bigger than you think and they mean what they are doing. They have a lot of power and they can fly while you cannot.

Creative projects (OM135)

If you take longer and longer for a creative project while the scope gets smaller as time progresses, you might make a work of true genius, but if you take longer and longer working on a creative project and the scope continues to expand, you are pretty definitely not making a master work.

What about a new Long Winters record coming out after all these years? The scope is narrowing because as John works on new music he is taking more away than he is adding, which feels like he is making progress. There are already lions in it, even Pedro the Lion, but some of these lions are going to end up on the cutting room floor, which lions don’t like. They will make any floor a cutting room floor.

John’s daughter getting her toe nails painted (OM135)

In John’s own family the nail salon culture was largely hidden from him. His Nagel print was a side thing and he didn’t even know it was related to the salons. It came as a huge surprise to learn that his sister, mother and all the women in his life had regular salon experiences. It was a cultural divide that was never brought up to him. Maybe if John asked: ”Where are you going?” - ”To the salon!” it went in one ear and out the other, but John was not involved in them going to the salon.

After his daughter was born, her mother took her to the nail salon pretty early on to have her toe nails painted. In many cultures you will pierce your baby’s ears, but John is not that kind of person and the first time his daughter appeared with painted toe nails he said: ”Do not pierce her ears at one of these things without us agreeing on it!” and her mother said she would never pierce a baby’s ears, but she was painting a baby’s toe nails, which apparently was different. It entered John’s daughter’s life in a way that she now loves going to the salon to get her finger nails and toe nails painted. She is always very excited by this mother-daughter activity.

Ken getting into an accident after his wife got a haircut (OM135)

One time Ken rear-ended another car in Downtown Seattle because his wife had just gotten a haircut. She hopped back into the car straight from the salon and asked: ”How does it look?” It was not a great look and Ken was looking at her, trying to figure out what to say. He didn’t want to tell her that she had a bad haircut because he is not Alfred Hitchcock who is grooming his women to have a certain creepy look to fulfill his childhood sex phantasies. It was probably not what she had pictured herself, but she wanted to hear something nice. Ken was looking at her and as he was pulling out, the woman in front of him stopped short for a pedestrian and Ken bumped into her car and dented her bumper.

It turned out to be a crazy lady who did not like the insurance offer and said she had neck injury and was going to wear one of these big fortune cookie neck braces. It turned into a whole thing where Ken had to give a deposition in court where they asked him if his attention was distracted at the time of the collision. ”Why was it distracted?” - ”My wife had just gotten into the car and asked me about her new haircut!” - ”And how was her haircut? Mr. Jennings, I must remind you: You are under oath!” The guy had surely been waiting so long to get to do something like that and Ken had to testify under oat that it was not a great haircut.

Manicures and painting your fingernails (OM135)

Ken never takes a little orange stick to push down his cuticles as much as he would like. John’s cuticles are trashed and his fingernails look like he works in an acid factory and he has been attacked by birds for five days. Both Ken and John never had a manicure. Ken’s fingernails look okay, so he must just have nail privilege. He doesn’t have to do much.

John has never understood painted fingernails as a beauty item and he is not attracted to them, even the ones that are normal red. Why would you make your fingers look like you just stabbed someone? Red is the color of fingernails, but only in our culture. If your fingernails were of some color naturally without you having painted them, it would be a sign of disease. If your fingernails were black or green or blue it would be sign of unhealth.

A lot of cosmetic choices are a sign of unhealth: Make your skin paler, make your eyes rimmed in dark colors, maybe add some blue like a bruise, make your lips really red: These are all health problems! Put on tiny shoes so you can neither walk nor climb. What are we doing to our women and why do we want them to look unhealthy? John is not doing anything to his women, he wants them to stop doing it immediately. Just look normal! He particular dislikes the finger nail painting arms race where nails now have glitter on them and little designs.

Somebody recently showed Ken that they had the Jeopardy! set painted on their fingernails so each finger was a little podium: They were about to go on Jeopardy! and they wanted game show themed nails. John will just assume that it is the Miami dolphins if he sees somebody’s very detailed fingernails and he can’t get close enough to look at them. Maybe he should look at fingernail accounts on Instagram and get a fuller picture?

Twitter (OM135)

John is less on Twitter now but he will still post some whimsical thought at 2am that he immediately regrets. He longs for the days when @fireland and @badbanana made him laugh, but those days are long gone. @badbanana is still working and got a job writing for the James Corban show. A lot of those early Twitter people got jobs as comedy writers. John doesn’t know what happened to @fireland, he was one of the best.

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