The Road Ahead is Paved for Your Plunder

I love TV commercials. As a 12-year-old, I used to mansplain the gender dynamics of Mr. Clean ads to my brother, my captive audience of one, as we waited for Daria to come back after a word from her sponsors. Commercials are a 30-second tap of the Zeitgeist. They need you to buy and they have limited time to convince you to do it, so they get right in the vein.

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Surfin’ USA

Cue music.

My husband bought me a portable radio for my birthday. I’d asked for it partially so that I could listen to WNYC in the morning (yes, I know they have a live feed but it cuts out all the time and I don’t want to miss a second of Brian Lehrer’s love of bird songs or poignant questions for the Mayor). Also, coming from an earthquake state, I felt having a non-outlet dependent form of accessing news would calm my pandemic panic somewhat. So, he got me a radio, which fairly quickly became his radio as he spent the afternoon caressing its antenna and surveying all the stations.

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Piloting Your Anxiety

Ok friends, hold onto your butts because it looks like this ride is going to go on for a while. Yes, you’ll be navigating this ride from your couch. It’s gonna be bumpy. It’s gonna be uncertain. It’s gonna be your best friend calling you at 9:30pm on a Tuesday to extrapolate the current situation to a Poland in 1939 scenario. (That might not be your specific reality, but if you like, I can have Rikki call you to lament the loss of her theoretical lifeboat, aka Canada). You’re gonna need a pilot. My guess is you’re gonna need several otherwise that shit is gonna get to you. (It probably will anyway as it’s very difficult to maintain the line between informed and hysterical).

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The Screaming of Subtle Sounds

Everything about Kitty Green’s The Assistant seems muted. The colors are drab. The office looks boring, indistinguishable from any other cubicle labyrinth. The voice of Julia Garner’s Jane barely rises above a whisper. But the sounds of the mundane, humdrum daily noises scream. You hear every click of a door opening and closing. When Jane scrapes a stain off the couch, the sponge seems to scratch directly on your ear drum. The tinkling of an earring, the unwrapping of a sandwich are deafening. The quiet sounds are shouting. It’s purposeful, and it’s brilliant.

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Little Women, Big Finishes

Warning: The Following Contains Spoilers for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. But honestly, how did you not already know how it ended? Louisa May Alcott’s book has been made into a movie 1,933 times. No 1,949 times. Well actually 1,994 times. Ok, at least 2,017 times. I can’t tell if they just do it again for every era’s it girl, or if there’s some menstruating god above who, based on a moon-cycle I can’t decipher, has need of a cry and a pint of Hagen-Daaz at specific intervals.

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The Bureaucracy of the Afterlife

In January, one of the best shows on TV will die. It lived a good life. It committed no grave sins. It didn’t stay past its expiration date. It did the best it could, as we’re all instructed to do, and son-of-a-bench, no bullshirt, it did a forking good job. NBC’s The Good Place deserves to go to the Good Place. Hopefully, that’s where it will endure in our minds, for memory is the one space we’re certain there’s an afterlife. Otherwise, we have no forking clue.

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Steamy Punks Reveal Orientalism in Carnival Row

God I love I steampunk (not in a creepy cosplay way…although, some of these outfits). I loved Carnival Row. I need to tell you this now before its ads vanish from my Instagram feed and the show becomes irrelevant and I’m forced to admit that really, it was only sort of tepidly good and that though prognosis looks positive for the making of a second season, likely that season will be closer to outright bad.

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The Avengers Movies or What Scares you about the American Military?

The opening salvo of the Avengers series features Tony Stark, an irreverent playboy genius who, having spent his life training that genius on the making of money, weapons and clever quips, is suddenly forced to reap what he’s sown. During a trip to showcase his most recent brainchild and the movie’s first pyrotechnics display, Tony is kidnapped and told to make this weapon for the enemy. Bluster and prowess have taken him off American soil, where they brought him so much success, and landed him in a violent reality he helped create. The course of the story — the story that launched now over a decade of marvelous Marvel movies (to be clear, I also think the X-Men series is wonderful, and we’re on decade three of that) — tracks Tony’s change of heart, initiated because his literal heart is threatened and forced to evolve.

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Adapt or Die, Darwin Said. Well, Here’s an Adaptation about Death.

“Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice!”

Damn it. I’m still sitting in this room by myself. I was hoping Michael Keaton would appear from a sudden bubble of mist. I always thought Beetlejuice would make a good drinking buddy. Or the one that finally gets you killed. It is a show about death after all.

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Holy Hot Girl! Look out! She’s got Super Powers!

I’m addicted to a premise. (Admittedly, I’m addicted to several, otherwise saying no to romcoms and space odysseys about boys with daddy issues would be much easier). Here it is: an absurdly hot girl (who’s also absurdly unaware of how hot she is) finds she has super powers, which enter her into a world full of magic and more absurdly hot people.

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Stealing Bechdels

The Bechdel Test is laid out very simply. For those of you who don’t know it, there’s a whole website that explains, but basically it’s three rules that actually fit into one sentence: There are two or more female characters with names (1), who talk to each other (2), about something other than a man (3). That doesn’t seem that hard. That happens to me every day, even if just me calling my mom to talk about myself. But, as any explanation quickly makes clear, precious few movies make it into this category.

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And the Moral of the Story is…For Dads Too. Christopher Robin and The Incredibles

Children’s movies are instructive. (Actually, all movies are instructive. Why do you think I don’t volunteer to be the winter caretaker of scenic overlook hotels anymore? Or marry someone who would. Wait, I may have done the latter.) We go to these movies anticipating a lesson. The fairy tale, the myth, the Bible story and the feature length cartoon are all visited with an expectation of a moral. Continue reading “And the Moral of the Story is…For Dads Too. Christopher Robin and The Incredibles”

Luke’s Lightsaber, Han’s Gun and my Grandmother

An heirloom is an object which connects. It links generations. Mother and daughter. Grandfather and grandson. Often even further back and further forward in time. I think most often of a necklace given to me when my grandmother died. She’d worn it every day. I remember it glinting behind blouses, falling onto plates as she leaned over to set a table, resting on the generous chest I would also inherit. Continue reading “Luke’s Lightsaber, Han’s Gun and my Grandmother”

El Ministerio del Nacionalismo

I’m currently living in Barcelona. I moved here a few weeks before a referendum vote declared illegal by Spain’s central government. The vote was to decide whether Catalonia might secede from the rest of Spain. Part of me viewed this with flippant disdain for what I saw as the narcissism of small differences; part of me knows better, knows the history of Spain, its varied states, their stories of violence and oppression, minor and major in their degree. This post is not about the secession of Catalonia. Continue reading “El Ministerio del Nacionalismo”

A Star Wars Manifesto or A Belated Thank You to my 6th Grade Teacher

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In 6th grade, Ms. Russell taught us how to read. I don’t mean the phonics, Dick and Jane kind of reading. I had made it to 12 years old with successful elementary school basics, though my penmanship stopped improving at age 10. I mean read in a way that treats the text as more than the lazy river of plot. Continue reading “A Star Wars Manifesto or A Belated Thank You to my 6th Grade Teacher”

Set Design for a Plausible Near Future

I am still trying to figure out what makes for a futurescape that we actually believe could exist.  Not just get lost in, suspend our disbelief long enough to enjoy the movie, or the show, or what have you.  What makes it so we go, “hmmm, yeah, it could totally look like this”? Continue reading “Set Design for a Plausible Near Future”

Literary Credit in the Final Frontier

I recently met a woman of my age who described a girlhood crush on Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  (Cue theme credits.  Feel free to listen as we embark).  Leaving aside that this was a sentiment that made perfect sense to me (though I think I may be more of a Worf girl myself), her confession brought back countless hours sitting on my parents’ bedroom floor watching that show with my Dad.   Continue reading “Literary Credit in the Final Frontier”

Accusing Blonde

Warning: This post contains extreme spoilers for the movie Atomic Blonde (which, let’s be honest, you weren’t seeing for the plot anyway).

A friend of mine recently taught a short course called “Accusing Women,” which he was kind enough to ask me to TA.  The theme of the class was the recurring literary trope of Potiphar’s wife, the woman who falsely accuses biblical hero Joseph of raping her when in fact she is the villain who came on to him and, after being rebuffed, decides to make him pay for it. (Oh the guile of women!)

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