Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The reality TV show that is our lives now

How hard can it be to write a blog post? Shouldn't be that hard. I'm reading books, we just finished watching season one of Happy Valley, we saw Hidden Figures (quick review: a well-executed, sanitized version of racism as presented by Hallmark wherein Kevin Coster breaks down the barriers by chopping a "colored" restroom sign down), and the dog keeps doing cute things. BUT. What I'm most preoccupied by leaves me inarticulate. Every day, I read check in with The Washington Post and The New York Times (I have digital subscriptions to both now because it has suddenly become very important to me to support journalism with integrity), and the headlines are always about some new and outrageous thing DT has done, or said, or mandated or some white crazy inexperienced billionaire he's appointed, or some bullshit he's tweeted, alternately accusing President Obama of wire-tapping Trump Tower or insulting Arnold Schwarzenegger for quitting The Apprentice, or it's about the slow to unravel Iron Curtain story about how he colluded with Russia to win the election. I mean, it's not like there is one thing to be frighted or enraged by--it's a whole buffet of bad decisions and actions that I truly think endanger the security of our country. I imagine that if we were ever going to be attacked, now would be the perfect time, because our government is in chaos and led by a lot of people who don't actually know how to get it functional.

The agenda he's setting is so against everything I believe in. He wants to spend billions of dollars building up an already bloated military. He wants to keep out people from other countries based on their religion (this is not an immigration ban for our safety. It's a Muslim ban). He's hired someone to run the Dept. of Education who went to private schools, has never worked in a public school, and has no clue about how that system works. He is eager to roll back all of the environmental protections in the face of global warming. And I'm not talking about ducks covered in oil, I'm talking about the water we drink and the air we breath. He talks about sending federal officers into inner cities (synonymous to him with problematic black people) which will lead to more shootings and violence, not less. He wants to deregulate the banks so that they can go back to giving out bad loans to people who can't afford them. He is not going to bring back coal, he is not going to increase manufacturing jobs in the United States, he is not going to help your kid get through college without becoming utterly mired in student loan debt. He hates the free press and is doing the best he can to suppress it, he cannot distinguish the difference between a world crisis and a television, and has no ability to be self-reflective and realize that his rants on Twitter take away from his credibility. And that's just off the top of my head. It's every day--it's something new every day that's terrifying. But it's hard to keep feeling surprised, because he is behaving exactly the same way he did before he was elected. Only now, he has the power to kill people. Lots and lots and lots of people.

What's strange is that sometimes, I'll see a picture of him and feel sad--for him. Because he looks so unhappy all of the time, and because his tie is always flying in the wind with a piece of Scotch tape on it, and because he has a comb over that gets messed up, and because I do not think he wants this job at all. I think his ego will force him to keep it, but I think he could actually possibly enjoy life if he wasn't having to try to run the country.

So, how can I write about it every day? And how can I write about anything else?

Monday, February 20, 2017

His initials spell NAVY

How about a short story called, "Whatever happened to him?" That's what I wonder about the exes who don't appear on Facebook and can't be found anywhere. This one today was someone I dated for a few months while I was working at DePaul Law School in Chicago. He was a law student--handsome,with a shaved head and bright blue eyes. Freckles, and a raspy voice. When his hair started to grow in, it was this strange blond/gray color. He had been a philosophy major in college and there was some mystery surrounding his dad--I think his dad died when N. was eight or ten, and then he also claimed to have survived cancer in college though was never specific about what kind of cancer that was. I do not think it was testicular, if memory serves.

He lived in a garden apartment with very little furniture, possibly an unfriendly cat, and had books stacked up in towers against the walls. He would alternate between being super weird and mean (verbally threatening and saying things like, I could strangle you right now) to being normal and funny, as if that other part of him was a joke. He liked to take baths rather than showers, and he wore almost the same thing every day--a white t-shirt and corduroy pants. When he first kissed me, he had come over to my apartment to make dinner and brought his own colander. He would only kiss me if I laid down on the sofa with my eyes closed. He fluttered above me and I stayed still, and then he kissed me lightly, a series of kisses. That was odd, and yet I kept seeing him because he seemed smart and interesting and possibly just pretending to be violent.  Also, I was lonely.

And then one day I stopped seeing him--I can't remember why--perhaps he did something to my cats or threatened to do something to my cats, as it is only in observing someone mistreating another creature that I can acknowledge his dysfunction, but I stopped seeing him. He then made me a mixed tape and I took it home to listen to it and it was opera, what sounded like music from The Omen. I wrote about him in a story called "The Last Dead Boyfriend," but that didn't exorcise him from my brain. I  must have dreamed about him last night; otherwise, I don't know why I would be thinking about him. Perhaps he is a lawyer, practicing happily in Shebogan. Or perhaps he is dead from a suicide. That was the thing about him. He could go either way.

Addendum: I found him alive after only minimal cyber-stalking. He was being interviewed on NPR Chicago for his work. I recognized his voice. It's very distinct. It made me think of another possible short story idea or poem that someone should write that starts with "I should've broken up with him when..." And then you list all of the moments in relationships when you knew it wasn't going to work, but didn't leave. Like, "I should've broken up with him when he told me he would cut my hair if I fell asleep."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The White House or The Royal Regional Community Theater goes to Broadway

We are learning that Donald Trump is in collusion with Russia and has agreed to give Putin sanctions in return for leaking negative information about Clinton.  I hope his fall is swift and not graceful. Filled with non-grace.

It feels like what happened is that someone took a community theater show produced by amateur actors and a director who has a full time job as an office manager, and producers who have supported the wine and cheese art gallery show in downtown Clearwater, and you said to all of these people, You open on Broadway in two weeks! And the cast is so excited and believe in themselves and think it can't really be that hard to create a Broadway show, they've all learned lines before, they know about the prop room and they will get a set built because they're going to hire the lead character's uncle Frank who has a workshop in his garage. And the costumes...Well, we'll have Tim's teenage son sketch up the costumes, he's a little weird, a little emo, but he's great at sketching and so then they sit down to look at what Tim's son has brought in on sheets of real drawing paper (the kid's name is Sam but he goes by "Tink") and the drawings are okay, I mean, the forms are recognizable as human. He has a little trouble with the hands. They sort of dangle at the end of the arms like puffer fish, and he seems to have a thing for capes, but that's fine, we can work with this plan, and then one of the lower members of the cast (a mere walk on with no lines) raises her hand and goes, "So, like, who's going to like, make the costumes?"

The room goes silent, and all you can hear is the director's little Chihuahua, Cher, licking herself.

They're gathered in the director's living room. It's a nice sort of room, with a puffy couch from Raymour and Flannigan's with a built in chaise lounge, and the director's wife has made mini quesadillas in the microwave and everybody brought chips and dip and soda, and the best thing about the room is pictures from the previous shows hanging on the wall above the faux fireplace mantel. The photos are all professionally mounted in frames from Michael's Arts & Crafts store, look, there's All My Sons; the matinees were always sold out for that one, and remember Carousel, or maybe best not to bring up Carousel, because that was the first musical they attempted and they had some trouble getting the orchestra involved, and so it ended up being accompanied by these kids who had a band, not the most dedicated group, so forget about Carousel, that was a rush job and forced on them by the arts council. Hey, there's Noises Off, holy cow, remember how everybody was so impressed by the British accents they did? And sometimes, a fun thing to do is to go into TGIFriday's and pretend you're from England and order the buffalo chicken wings in the accent, adding, By jove! at the end. The waitresses totally fall for it every time.

Fine, maybe they haven't thought through every detail, but what does it matter, anybody can put on a play, in fact, it's best if you don't have all these hoity-toity Shakespearean types who've studied at like Julliard or Oxford or wherever, because they always think they're so great, and complicate everything by wanting rehearsals ad nauseum or to follow the script. They have no imagination and are stuck in this old way of putting on a show, I mean, how hard can it be?

Then opening night rolls around and the curtain is about to go up and half of the actors are missing because someone (no one is naming names, but possibly Misty, the stage manager) forgot to email the time to show up. The audience waits, rustling in their seats, hands empty of programs because who the fuck was supposed to get the programs? Isn't anybody in charge of those little booklet things they have at the shows, where the bios are listed and there's a cover of the Phantom and people keep them as souvenirs for ten years before throwing them out? Playball or whatever it's called.

Take your marks, the lights are going down, except that no one knows how to turn down the lights or how to turn up the lights and the set isn't finished and the actors have run scared due to lack of preparation and the director has a sudden, stabbing flash of fear in his stomach that they may close after just one night.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Who will be his Watson?

I missed last week, but my  guess is that maybe two of the black girls went home. Chris lets them know there will be no rose ceremony tonight, but Corinne has a rose for possibly riding Nick while traveling on a hot air balloon. The women are scared and their hearts are beating very fast. This is BBC or whatever channel this is trying to create drama where none exists. He wears a hounds tooth suit and looks a bit like a young Sherlock Holmes.

First rose goes to Christina.
Second rose goes to Raven, with the very high forehead and fake accent.
Third rose goes to Vanessa who has put him in his place once or twice.
Fourth rose goes to Danielle who I like the most because of her perfectly placed birthmark.
Jasmine gets the fifth rose. Ladies and Nick, this is the final rose. It goes to Whitney. I was wrong two black girls are going home tonight, alongside one blond and the girl who was like one of the guys (Alexis, who says how much it sucks and who also asked him to celebrate her one year boob job).

It's clear that he should pick that one lady with the great blunt hair cut who acts like an adult. Side note, they are remaking King Kong again, with 15 leading men, maybe one woman, and a lot of Pixar magic. I can't watch any movie that suggests the end of civilization because it zings too close to home.
They are flown to St. Thomas so that we can see them all in short denim shorts and bikinis. They are being put up in a super deluxe Holiday Inn. Nick arrives in a plane that lands on the water. The women scream. He wears a tank top and pastel shorts from OP circa 1992. His one-on-one is with little bitty Christina. They take off on a sea plane. Christina confesses that she kind of knew she would be chosen. Tears are shed by the ones who did not get chosen.

He and Christina clink a beer and she says that she is one of 8 or 9 siblings. They have no chemistry. Maybe Nick will fly her to Russia as part of that date. They kiss enthusiastically and then change into their bikinis so she can wrap her legs around him as they float in the sea. I think he may send her home. That is the feeling that I get.

P.S. Is Grey's Anatomy still on?

I wonder if this was being filmed during the campaign and if anyone would be talking politics at all?

Christina thinks today's day has been fun. He orders her lobster. Christina tells her story about being born in Russia and how she used to eat lipstick because she was hungry. She was then put into an orphanage and her mom never visited. This woman's life is in total direct contrast to Corinne who likes the black lady who is helping out around the house. She was adopted at age 12 and had to leave her sister behind. She makes Nick cry. He has to give her the rose now because she almost had to become a prostitute and her life is utterly so much more difficult than his or possibly anyone's in the house. This story may be why she is so distant and doesn't like to run around laughing in her bikini. Cue drums.

Back at the house, the women are sitting around with nothing to do but grasp huge fluffy pillows. Date card including Rachel, Raven, Vanessa, Corinne, Danielle, and Jasmine. That means the next date will be a two on one where someone has to go home. They contemplate his reasoning despite the fact that he doesn't really have any control over the way the show goes.

Group date where all the women are wearing bikinis and ready to frolic. I would hate to have to wear a bikini for ninety percent of the time. Nick is goofy. He forces them to take shots. I think he belongs with Corinne. Oh, the girl I thought was an adult has what looks like it might be tiny little letters tattooed on her chest. Or is it sand? Vanessa is just now realizing that she's on The Bachelor and having to compete with other women for his attention. Nick says that his plan has back fired. He might be drunk. Corinne decides to take a nap.

The women have showered and are now back in their beachy ball gowns. He steals away Rachel. She explains how she felt one hundred percent out of her element. Nick says he's glad she didn't say peace out and throws a sign, which may be racist. Or not...But maybe? Nick doesn't know how to fix the situation. Jasmine is expressing how disappointed she is and she may have had too much to drink. She lets him know that is sucks not to have a one-on-one and to get to know him at all. She thinks their conversations have gone well, and he clearly feels they have not gone well. I think he thinks she talks too much and she also jokes around about choking him and actually grabs him by the neck. He does not want her to choke him. She offers to do it several times. Now, he's sending her home. This is what too much red wine does to a person. Why do they even go through this pretense of having diversity on this show? In 20 seasons, not one person of color has made it even into the top four. It's a joke. 

Snoozer two on one date where he sends home the more calm Pilates instructor with the lovely and impassive face and poise like someone in a Renaissance painting. Some big fat guy comes back to take Whitney's suitcase. It's hard to even pretend to care. The sucky thing is that Nick and Danielle take off in an helicopter and leave Whitney stranded on the beach, eating their dust and getting bits of sand stuck in her contacts. She didn't see that coming. She will now have to go back to her job posing for ethereal portraits. 
I just ate half a pint of Ben and Jerry's Fro-Yo Fish Food and that was the best part of this show. 

Nick and Danielle go to drink wine and he wears another in an unending series of patterned button up shirts. He doesn't make good eye contact and he's a mumbler. Also, he's sweating. She is sweating too, but in a not gross way. She, by contrast, has excellent eye contact. He wants a relationship that is raw and adventurous. Maybe he should date a sea crab or a Jack Russell Terrier. He pauses like maybe he's going to send her home. 

I watch this show to escape the tweets of a president who writes things like, "So-called judge. Very bad!"

He has dead eyes as she speaks. He does not feel like he can give her the rose. He won't because his heart feels differently. I have never in my life talked this much about what my heart wants or doesn't want. My heart basically just doesn't want dogs to get hurt or cats to be strays or people to be treated like garbage because of where they were born. My heart wants Dan to be happy and not as stressed as he is right now. 
Nick walks her out and she is nearly stumbling in her Grecian dress. Maybe he has someone else in mind the whole time? She berates herself for not being perfect even though she is very nice and extraordinarily beautiful."You can't make people love you," she says. Nick begins to doubt that he is capable of love. We agree. Dan says, "Maybe it is you, Nick." I like Rachel the best and would love it if he would pick her. He is saying that same thing over and over again. He walks into the house. He needs a group massage. He's crying and pouring his heart out to them and I think he would be a great guy to have as a friend, but a disaster to date. He exits the room on cue. He's going to the bar to see if maybe he can meet somewhere there. 

Next week: hyperventilating and many tears because Nick might want to drop out, but he won't. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

From women's march to a march of women

Enough with that feminist stuff, let's watch a show focused on one man choosing a wife among a bunch of women who must pretend to be in love with him.

Rose ceremony time as the women all gang up on Corinne, who is taking a nap. They should mesh this show with Intervention, because a lot of the bad stuff that happens is a result of drinking 15 gallons of wine before 10 a.m. Nick gives a speech telling the women to continue to express whatever is on their minds.

First rose goes to Raven, with the raven colored hair.
Second rose goes to Taylor, also with the dark hair.
Third rose goes to Quimby? She will of course accept this rose.
Fourth rose goes to Christine. He definitely likes dark haired women.
Fifth rose goes to Chastine or Justine.
Sixth rose goes to Alexis, the goofy one. He's keeping her for fun times.
Seventh rose goes to Astrid, who is about to faint from not eating for six days in a row.
Eighth rose goes to Danielle, the only blond and the only adult.
Ninth rose to Jamie who has a thing in her nose and has had her hair straightened.
Josephine will accept the tenth rose.
Eleventh rose goes to Sara with either an "h" or not an "h."
The final rose goes to...Cue dramatic music...Corinne will get it, for sure. It will be...Corinne. You know why? Because he doesn't have any choice in the matter. It's scripted.

Going home will be two women, including one with the roundest face and she was her full self and he didn't like her full self. Another woman I don't remember goes home, and she's crying and she says she's tired of being single.

The woman are travelling somewhere, but I was reading FB and so not paying attention. Cue footage of an airplane. They scream as they go into a really huge AirBNB in Waukena? Where is that? Hawaii or Kansas? We see Nick's mom with her mod haircut in a diner with dad in his mod glasses. They are totally hip parents. Mom has an earring on her upper lobe. Mom is a crier. Oh, and she has a nose ring, a tiny diamond nose ring, which is the kind I would have were I brave enough to pierce it.

He picks Danielle L., age 27, for the first one-on-one. She's a giggler. Here's where the black girl who is disappointed that she wasn't chosen and she doesn't understand why. Nick first takes Danielle along a river walk. Her brown and golden hair shimmers down her shoulders as they walk jauntily around his home town and Nick mentions making out with girls from high school at the library. The local bakery has a cookie of Nick. They spend the date making cookies of Nick's face. We wonder if they will have anything in common. They make out with frosting on their tongues and pass fifteen women that Nick used to date. He spots one that he dated for three months perched in the coffee shop window. This is a set up. The two women hug and they decide to sit down together. Nick tells the ex that she looks great. Amber tells Danielle that Nick will only be in it if his heart is also in it. They share a group hug. The date is boring. Why would any woman want to date him? All he talks about is all of the other conquests he's had. Again, can't one of the women say that they're not into him? That never happens.

Now they are on a date where Danielle has to maintain super good posture she's one slump away from a nipple pop in this dress. Nick wears a faux leather jacket and his intense listening face. Danielle talks as though she's being interviewed. She's very poised. Nick thinks she has an incredible heart. He gives her the rose. Cue the performance of someone I never heard of as they are forced to make out on a mini-podium in front of the stage.

This is a baby rhino
Group date on a farm. The women notice that the farm smells like poop. Nick is bottle-feeding a baby calf. I bet he has never done that before in his life. They are trying really hard to portray Corinne as a spoiled brat, by having her say things like how she wants a taco and doesn't like flies. One of the women notices that he's not very good at handling teats. Next, they must shovel poop. The women will do whatever they are told, even though Nick does not, like, work on a dairy farm.

Later, the women go en masse to castle where they will...do what? Duel? Astrid is worried about not standing out enough. She takes him aside and holds his hand. She wants to open up about her past because it's probably filled with tragedy. Nick says he appreciates her zest for life and they tongue kiss. Meanwhile, Corinne compares herself to a corn cob. Vanessa and Nick share a blanket and Vanessa gives Nick a book that her students made for her that show her in only the best light. Corinne explains how she is ready to marry Nick, even though she is only 24.

Nick makes out with the black woman, which is refreshing and almost never happens on this show. Corinne explains that she has a serious condition that makes her behave the way that she does. An anxiety disorder. She goes to Nick and tells him that the girls are giving her the cold shoulder. He congratulates her for being very mature. Time to give out the group date rose. It will not go to Corinne. It will go to Astrid or Christina, who fell asleep for a moment.

Just an aside since nothing is happening on this show. I wish they had cat cafes in America like they do in Japan.

One-on-one with Raven and I am totally prejudiced against people with Southern accents. For the record, I have never once run up to a guy and thrown my legs around him, but that seems to be the standard greeting on this show. If I tried to do that with Dan, we would both break limbs. Turns out that the date also includes his youngest sister, Bella. He is training them how to do stretches and how to get ready for soccer. Raven stands around awkwardly. Raven appreciates how good he is with the girls, not realizing that three of them are his illegitimate daughters. Next, he takes all of the girls to a skating rink/arcade. 

Nick and Raven are having dinner in a giant aquarium? An amphitheater? A deserted airport terminal? Raven relates walking in on her boyfriend having sex with another woman and then recounts the violence she wrecked on her naked boyfriend with a shoe. Nick's mouth barely moves when he talks. The retainer again? He gives her a rose. It was the best day of their lives and they are still wearing roller skates. She believes she is falling in love with Nick. Good luck, sister. 

Rose ceremony that will be interrupted in the middle because there are only nine minutes left. Nick tells the women that he had a great time. Another cleavage dress from Danielle L., who already has a rose. This pisses other women off. He kisses everyone. They are in a giant out door barn. Corinne confronts Taylor and says she's being disgusting to her and being mean. Fake fight developing which is the best that they can do for a cliffhanger. 

Hey, producers, you know how the outtakes at the end are the most interesting and funny parts of the show? That's because they actually seem real, and not forced into a certain shape. It's like the difference between a Barbie doll and an actual woman. The show is all Barbie (and Ken)--sanitized, numbly familiar. Consider giving us the version that doesn't air brush out the actual people. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What I learned from the #women'smarch2017

One thing I learned at the march is that there is no one type who attended. I expected to see the stereotypical angry feminist (work boots, no make-up, fist in the air) or the stereotypical hippie activist (dreds, pink glitter, hemp hat) or the stereotypical professional organizer (bullhorn, buttons, chants on a sheet of paper). Those types were there, but so were the not-expected types. It was everyone you can imagine. It was a buttoned up shirt wearing white guy in his mid-fifties and his suburban looking wife. It was a mass of slow moving older women with canes and pink hats. It was college-age frat boy-looking guys with red Trump hats that read "America is great." It was Native Americans in full dress, little boys in Superman capes, beautiful New Jersey-black haired girls in perfect red lipstick holding signs that said "Unity, Peace, Equality." It was black men, black woman, same sex couples, families with their kids, mothers and their daughters, a cluster of older black women, including one  who said, "Lord, I thought we did this already." It was Dan standing in the cold, fingers freezing, holding up the sign he made that read "Make American women safe again." It was incredible. It gave me hope.

It was also all kinds of signs: raunchy signs ("feminists fuck better")  and thoughtful signs ("make America kind again") and funny/horrible signs ("Free Melania") and mean signs ("you can't comb over racism") and one-word signs ("Resist") and controversial signs ("I love my abortion") and exasperated signs "(OMGF stop tweeting) and angry signs ("Fuck this shit") and many, many signs with cats and claws on them. And lots and lots of pink pussy hats. There was chanting: "We need a leader/Not a fascist tweeter." There was, on occasion, the smell of pot, which we all inhaled in hopes of getting a contact high. There were port-a-potties with no toilet paper (you go in, you get out, you endure), and people lining the streets on the sidewalk and performances, such as a Native American chant and a woman representing lady liberty floating around all in white with a white cloth over her eyes. And there was tedium too. Because more people than anticipated showed up, we spent most of the time standing and waiting to march and it was cold and there were lots and lots of people and we mostly waited. But then when we were walking, it was crazy how many people we saw all around and down the block and there in the background was the Capitol Building and it seemed unfathomable that Trump could be there. It's like two separate realities--the TV show that is our presidency now and the people in the streets who refuse to watch it.

It was not anything that I feared. We encountered no one who was anti-protest.  People honked from their cars as we were walking toward the march, and those who were watching from the buildings were waving and hooting back. We saw one ambulance and watched as the sea of people parted to let it pass. I saw maybe five cops all at once, but nothing alarming. Peaceful protest. There was no "khumbya" or magic---you know, we were cold, but we were not in peril or in pain--we were waiting and chatting and I guess the other thing that I realized is that I'm not by myself in feeling that this is all wrong. There are thousands (millions?) of people who feel the same way, who are having the same frustrating arguments with the people they love who don't agree (those who don't see this as a catastrophe, despite the fact that every time Trump takes an action, it's done in anger and reactivity) and who are willing and ready to spend 16 hours of their Saturday to be part of the resisting this TV show billionaire who is supposed to lead the country made up of all different kinds of people.

Before the march, a Rutgers journalism student interviewed Dan and me about why we were there, and he asked first what we were worried about and then what made us hopeful about the presidency. I've been thinking about this too because it's difficult to continue waking up with a sense of despair and disbelief and anger. It's like we were going toward a progressive future, one that is inclusive, global-minded, environmentally-centered, interested in the well-being of the most disenfranchised---and then someone pressed a reset button and possibly also rewind, and we have to start over. I wasn't really much involved in that change before--now, I have to be. Where there was complacency, there's now purpose.

What do I do next? I don't know yet. Keep writing, keep thinking, keep paying attention, keep talking to those you disagree with, keep fighting back.

Addendum to the post after speaking to a friend who didn't go, and feels guilty about it...

There are many reasons that you may not have been able to attend marches near you. Work conflicts, childcare issues, lack of money, lack of transportation, sickness or injury (Lisa Marie), lack of support from your partner or spouse, fear of crowds, fear of going alone, scheduling problems, personal inertia. I happen to be lucky enough to have been given an easy path to go. I knew a lot of women from the School of Social Work who were going, including the Dean. I had a supportive partner who said he would go with me (despite not wanting to leave Luke alone all day), and a mom who agreed to take care of said child, even though she'd just gotten back from a trip the day before. I work at an university (Rutgers) that supports a union that provided really easy-to-access, cheap transportation ($30 round trip with a bathroom, wi-fi, and personal chargers in every seat. The cost included a Metro card pass, a warm knit hat, lunch, hot coffee, snacks, a sign making operation, and dinner, cookies, and fruit on the way home--thank you, Rutgers AAUP/AFT).  I was luckier than most--Liz Webster, my Brooklyn bestie, paid $75 to take a slow moving, bumpy school bus with no bathroom, no wi-fi, no charger and a chatty woman next to her who fell asleep on Liz during the long ride home. Liz could have much more easily gone to the New York march. She's a dedicated mo-fo and she kicks ass all day, every day. See?

If you got to go as easily as I did, you're part of a privileged class in some ways, and I try not to forget that. That wasn't the case for lots and lots of women and men.

Let yourself off the hook if you didn't go. There will (unfortunately?? Fortunately?) be many other opportunities and ways to show your support and to share your resistance. I'll try to come up with a list in another post this week. Stay tuned...

Friday, January 20, 2017

Why I'm going to the Women's March on DC tomorrow

Somehow, I've managed to have a lot of opinions about things without ever taking an real action to support them. I voice my thoughts, but generally only to people who tend to agree with me. Bryan Stevenson, the head of the Equal Justice Initiative, came to talk to Rider and he said a lot of things that make sense to me. The two that relate to this march: be willing to do uncomfortable things and get proximate to the problem. 
There's nothing too uncomfortable about the march--though we have to be at the bus at 5:30 a.m.--and the weather is supposed to be good. Many people from my work will be there, as will several of my girlfriends (Liz, Jodi) and I'm certain the walk itself will be manageable. I have some anxiety about some nut shooting everyone, but that's unlikely.
In terms of getting close to the problem, it means that we go to DC the day after Trump is inaugurated and illustrate that he and his ultra conservative inner circle should not ignore half of the population by creating legislation that cripples rather than helps them. That's one of my main things with Trump--I want to find some points of connection--like, I want him to be a hard core, no nonsense LGBTQ rights supporter. Or to be apathetic about Planned Parenthood. I would take apathy as a way to connect with him.

I can't fathom why he would want to assist in de-funding Planned Parenthood, or why he cares at all about women having the ability to make choices about their lives. You can't have it both ways. You can't tell women not to have abortions AND make it harder for them to get birth control (not unless you are also going to develop some campaign to control men's ability to produce sperm or an anti-jerk off campaign: "Every sperm you waste while thinking of Melania is a potential baby.").  If you don't want to help women be safe and make their own choices, create legislation that holds men equally accountable or make sure that pregnant women have access to good healthcare or get reasonable paid maternity leave and job flexibility. But really, stay out of it. Only a small percentage of women who go to Planned Parenthood do so to terminate a pregnancy. Most go so they can have health checks, mammograms, get treated for UTIs, or other sexually transmitted diseases, and have preventative care for other problems that could be life-threatening.

Mostly, I can't believe that we actually have to be defending the right to reproductive-related healthcare and the right to take care of ourselves.  I saw this bumper sticker the other day: "If you don't like abortion, don't have one." Here's another one that should be created: "If you don't like abortion, adopt five babies." Every time some white dude claiming to be a Christian says he is anti-choice, I want to ask him how many children he's fostered, how many times he's abstained from unprotected sex or sex at all, how much money he's willing to shell out for women's health care, what kind of father he is, how he would feel if he knew that having a baby would decrease his likelihood of keeping a job or getting promoted. 

The third reason I'm going to the march tomorrow is because I am amazed by the lack of conversation around the ongoing misogyny in our culture.  I want us to talk more about how's Clinton gender impacted public perception about her ability to lead (from men and women). I want to talk about the fact that a large portion of our population would rather elect someone with no experience, a track record of fraud, bankruptcies, lawsuits, and rape allegations and a dangerous personality disorder over a candidate with decades of experience, great understanding of policy and process, years of dedication to public service, a track record of impactful global philanthropy, and a vagina. The vagina gets us every time.  It is wrong that we're not talking about this continued denigration of women based on years of spoon fed stereotypes and oppression. It's wrong that women don't trust other women to lead, in part because our whole lives, we've seen mostly white males in positions of power across the board--doctors, lawyers, politicians, airline pilots, military leaders, police force, movie directors, writers, scientists---male, male, male, male, male, male, male. Our culture remains disproportionately represented, and I want so much for that to change. And I would also like it if we would stop having the argument about how he won fair and square. Because, people, it was not fair and square. Not by 100 miles.

The fourth reason I'm going is because I find this particular individual to be one of the most appalling representations of the male species who has been in the public eye.  He wants to appeal to the Christian right and meanwhile: He's been married three times, his current wife is a former bathing suit model, he's self-admittedly cheated on his wife while she was pregnant, he jokes about how power gives him the opportunity to grope and take, he judges women's value based primarily on their physical appearance, he sexualizes his daughter, and he thinks that rape and assault are an okay part of locker room talk. For starters. One could speculate on how he has used and abused his power, but this list should be enough. I don't care how many times you've been married, I don't care how many women or men you've slept with, but I do care if you're going to use your position to coerce people to do what you want, or that you're going to stand on a platform of family values when you have not been able to maintain them in your own life.

Those are a few of the reasons I'm going. I don't know if it makes a difference. I do know that it's the same thing as voting or not voting---it's my duty to stand by what I believe in. If I do nothing, I am complicit, and I lose my voice.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Wherein Nick visits his orthodontist to have his permanent retainer removed

Show starts with the recap of the women talking about Liz going home because she had sex with Nick, as if he had never had sex with another women before this show. As if he doesn't have HPV.

This is how people talk now, by asking and answering two questions in a row. Example: Was I surprised that Nick had sex with Liz? Yes. Was I surprised that he didn't tell us? Absolutely. Is that Annette Funicello in that ad? You bet it is. Was she on the pill at that time? Unlikely.

Nick asks the women how they are feeling and they seem to be okay with it, especially the girl with the mole whose grandparents have been married for fifty years. Would she have said anything if her grandparents had been married six times for three years each?

Corinne is happy that Liz went home because she did it before C. had a chance to have intercourse with Nick. Her word, not mine.

To make the show appear more interesting, the director is forcing Corinne to show up to see Nick naked under a trench coat.  I think he'll totally be into her pouring whip cream into his mouth (whip cream product placement)--the Ready Whip just happens to be on the side. She puts cream on her titty and asks him to lick it off.  Nick loves that she's into her own body and her sexuality. She keeps winking at him. The rest of the girls are totally freaking out and crying. I wish just one of them would be like, Who cares? Now Corinne is crying because he didn't try to have sex with her on this giant padded red thing that happened to be on the concrete.

Are we at a rose ceremony? Astrid will accept this rose. So will Taylor. Corinne did not show up. Meow-Meow, will you? Kristina? Danielle, Rachel. Raven and Raisin and Jamie will accept these roses individually. Heather or Tonya will accept this rose. Sarah will too. This one girl is wearing a bra under her dress. Alexis has spirit. Bimbi will accept this rose. Prestley will accept this rose. I seriously can't understand the names he's saying. Last rose goes to...Chestmine/Jasmine. He kept all of the minority women because this is airing on MLK Day. Bra is going home even though they roasted a marshmallow together at the fireplace.

Group date. All the girls pretend to be excited. They are screaming as The Back Street Boys make an entrance!!! Dan goes, Aren't they like 60 years old? This is where Nick gets totally upstaged. The girls are going to get the chance to be dancers in front of a live audience at Planet Hollywood. Did you know that I used to work at Planet Hollywood when I lived in Chicago? I waited on pretty much no one who was famous, though I did see Arnold S. and Bruce Willis and Charlie Sheen. I wasn't a great waitress, but I did sleep with a lot of bartenders. Like, all of them. It was a dark time.

Back to the show. Corinne feels bad because she can't dance. Because what you need in a wife is someone who can shake her ass double time. Oh, are they all performing or just the good ones? All of them. Even Nick. The audience members don't care about the chicks. Nick can't dance either. Corinne is doing fine. Dan thinks they may be performing in a high school gym. This is where Danielle decides to become a roadie. Instead, she gets singled out to perform a slow dance in front of hundreds of women. It is super boring for the crowd. They put their arms around each other to slow dance while the BSB sing, "You are my fire...My one desire." They are basically just attached by the crotch and chest and Dan goes, This is how I used to dance in seventh grade.

We have to endure another group date. Corinne wears a dress the size of a hand towel. She apologizes for not showing up at the rose ceremony. She's going to go lay down for a while. Perhaps she's a methadone addict? I hate it when they cue the sound of snoring for the women.

Nick likes to hold hands by putting all of his fingers through all of their fingers. I don't like to hold hands like that because all I'm thinking is, When and how will we untangle?

We learn that Corinne has a nanny who makes her bed and slices her cucumbers and does her laundry. Can this be real?

We're about to find out what a hand job looks like in a zero gravity chamber. Vanessa is worried that she is going to puke or shit herself or both. She's mortified because she's going to throw up. Oh, good, she managed to get it into a flight bag. Nick is chewing gum while she pukes. They have just fallen in love in zero gravity, which is about how much weight this or any other relationship has on this show. Now Vanessa and Nick are on top of...what? The space needle? The LA mountain range? This show is so not grounded in any specific geography, just like the women aren't really that individualized, neither is the guy. It's all blobby, generic.  I do not think that Vanessa is the one, even though she's making him cry because she shared  a story about her dead grandfather. He gives her the rose and they sway above the New York skyline? Montana?

Stop screaming, ladies. Second group date. They're at a track to do something painful, I imagine. Three Olympic athletes show up, including one who does not look like an athlete. Carl Lewis is one, and so is Michelle Carter--oh, she's a shot-put athlete. Though she has been told they are doing something athletic, Astrid has forgotten to wear a sports bra and hurts herself with her own breasts (thanks, Emily!). Lots of adorable women. First, the long jump. Second, jumping over a pole. Third, javelin throw. Results are in. The loose boob runner gets the time with Nick in the hot tub in her non-sports bra.

Astrid is wearing a super strange black and white pant suit. Dominique is crying because she doesn't feel like she's been noticed. The other girls try to counsel her to get out of her head. And yet, she finds no way to speak to him. He kisses one of the black women while the other black woman waits in the background. She finally gets time with him, and she tells him that she doesn't feel like he wasn't giving her a fair chance. Instead of coming across as herself, she's coming across as super needy and mean. Why do they keep saying she's getting in her head? He tells her that she should probably go home. She goes. He thinks she's amazing, but he doesn't see an engagement with her. The one rose will go to Rachel, because it's MLK day. Please, please let him fall in love with a not-white girl. It will never happen.

Instead of a cocktail party, they will have a pool party. They are all running to shave their private parts. Corinne's nanny has set up a princess bouncy castle. Corinne straddles him and Dan is worried that when she gets up, she will have a wet spot on her bikini.  Is Corinne always drunk? I feel like she's purposefully an airhead. Raven has definitely had a boob job. She nanny-tattles on Corinne. Vanessa questions his intentions and she accuses him of riding her. We have to wait until next week to see more fake drama!

Healthcare, the 25th Amendment, psychotherapy

Tonight is The Bachelor, so I feel like I ought to do a blog post before that time to make up for the inanity of the reality TV post.

Trump has vowed that he will find a solution to healthcare coverage and will be ready to unveil it in just a few days. This promise is in direct contrast to what GOP leaders are saying; that they don't have formal details lined up and aren't ready to announce a new plan. My fear is that "repeal and replace" really means "repeal and don't replace and hope that the people who benefited from universal health care forget what it was like." It doesn't directly effect me, because my work covers my health insurance, but it does effect Dan, who has MS and so had trouble getting coverage prior to ACA. To be fair, he also lost insurance because his provider folded after about a year, but then he was able to sign up for another provider. It could also effect me in the long run if costs rise generally, but for now, I'm more concerned about the fact that without healthcare, Dan can't afford to get MRI's that track the progress of his diagnosis.  Or the fear that if he did get worse, he would have no way to pay hospitalization or treatment.  What could happen is that Congress modifies ACA and pretends like they fixed it; I'm fine with that too. If taking credit for Obama's plan is what needs to happen for universal healthcare to be enacted,  I'll take it.

Read an article today about how Trump could be removed from office if Congress used the 25th amendment, that's a relatively new amendment put in place during Reagan's era to allow for a president to be removed if he is deemed incompetent by a majority of those around him. Specifically, section four states that: “Whenever the Vice President and a majority [of the US cabinet] transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.” In other words, if the VP and 15 cabinet members decide Trump is unfit to serve due to mental incapacity (see: narcissist disorder), they can oust him. I wouldn't welcome a Mike Pence presidency, and though Pence is anti-gay, anti-women's rights, anti-environment, anti-social change, he's seemingly not mentally ill. I believe that Trump actually can't help the way that he behaves.

Here are some of the characteristics of narcissistic personality, as outlined by the DSM V:

The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of
pathological personality traits. To diagnose narcissistic personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:

A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):

a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal
may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.

b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in
order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.


2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to
reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.
b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little
genuine interest in others‟ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain

B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:
1. Antagonism, characterized by:
a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert;  self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is
better than others; condescending toward others.
b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.
C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual's personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and
consistent across situations.
D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual's personality trait expression are not better understood as normative
for the individual‟s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.
E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual's personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct
physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head

How do you treat this disorder? Years of psychotherapy.

Here's an article from The Atlantic about what a psychologist found in looking at Trump's  behavior.

Addendum: The article is somewhat reassuring--the writer points out what could work with his approach, as well as where it might create problems. But it's not a dire, apocalyptic version of the future with this man has president.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Who is Jackie?

We saw Jackie the other night. Have you heard of Jackie? She was married to a man who was president for two years and two months and ten days before he was assassinated and his blood splattered all over her pink suit. I confess that I don't know much about her life or that trauma, or the funeral pageant that follows, but the movie filled in some of the gaps. 

I mean, I know what most people my age know. I have seen the picture of little John John saluting at his father's funeral, and have a sense that it was an ornate spectacle, and have speculated around the single shooter theory and have watched the grainy black and white photo of the shooting in Texas. 

Essentially, the movie flits among five key moments in her life at that time--an exclusive interview with a reporter from Life magazine after the death, the time right before his death, the time right after his death and the planning of the funeral, and her televised interviews in 1961. The most riveting part of the film was, of course, his assassination, where you see her trying to hold his head together with her hands, and then later, when you watch her attempt to wipe his blood and brains off her face and hair. Until then, I hadn't contemplated the extreme trauma of that moment; how could you ever stop thinking about that and did she ever have therapy? In the movie, she deals with it by drinking and smoking and trying on dresses while listening to Camelot on the record player. At least in the immediate aftermath. You also realize that it must have been traumatic for her to have to adjust so quickly--from this life of glamour in the White House to having to pack up her children's things and vacate to make room for the Johnson's (though I was a little skeptical that she would actually have to be boxing up Caroline's dolls by herself). You watch her struggle to decide between having an safe funeral, and wanting to give him a send-off akin to Lincoln's funeral, with all the pageantry and solemnity and horses. She gets her way, and strangely, we don't see much of the funeral itself. The movie is a series of recreations from her life as we've seen them on film, and then her back story--what she was really thinking and doing. As my friend Adam pointed out, a lot of what we see is walk around. She's walking down a hallway, or descending a flight of stairs, or pacing in her bedroom, or giving a tour of the White House, or solemnly marching with a black-veiled face.

You are meant to watch Natalie's portrayal of the first lady with awe and admiration, but I found myself distracted by it---thinking, Wow, she really has that accent down. And, What a priss this lady was. I don't think we ever saw much of her private self, what she was made of and I never forgot I was viewing a fictionalized portrait of the events or the person. I supposed it was interesting to see this slice of her life, particularly when you contrast it to the new first lady, or Michelle Obama, or Hillary Clinton. So often, they are in the shadows. As Dan pointed out, they've made pretty much every movie they can about JFK, but not many of them have taken to the time to focus on his widow. 

One other slight distraction:Greta Gerwig as her right-hand lady in a Betty Crocker wig. I couldn't stop seeing her as the girl from Frances Ha or Mistress America.   

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Nick, the poet turned super model

Missed last week, but I don't think it matters. I feel guilty writing about fluff when the country is going to hell. I'll do it anyway.

QQ (quick question): does Nick wear an invis-align-type retainer? It sounds like he has a slight lisp, the kind only brought on by elective dental work. Nick has been given a serious make-over. Remember him from Andi's season, with his wild hair, fey posture, and puppy dog eyes? Remember how he used to wear women's scarves?

Now, he's had his hair fluffed, his beard grown in, and his body resculpted to Ken-doll perfection. I don't think his legs even bend anymore.

Will he still write poetry for the women? The shoe is on the other foot now--he gets to be pursued rather than pursuing. Truthfully, I liked him in the other seasons because he wasn't the typical beefcake. Now, they have turned him into one. Will the English major still shine through the hair gel and 3 hour-a day-gym regime? It remains to be seen.

Dan says that Nick is a play-ah. We revisit the women, all of whom sort of look the same--long hair, thin bodies, hair severely parted, huge hoop earrings, multiple unfortunate piercings, one choker so far. A few who have very slight resemblances to celebrities.

Group date night: For some reason, the women have to run wherever they go. They are being forced to dress as brides and pose with Nick. The purposefully creepy photographer with the fake Spanish accent tells them to bring their A game.The one annoyingly Southern girl is bragging about how she has kissed him already. Another girl is dressed as Eve from the garden of Eden, wearing long hair over her tits and a leafy bikini bottom.  Sarah, the Las Vegas girl, is cute and super photogenic. She's a grade school teacher/model.  Shotgun wedding girl, the aspiring dolphin trainer, is also photogenic. The rest of this scene is dull. Am I over this? Corinne congratulates herself on being able to take her off her top in front of Nick. The photographer has chosen...the topless woman. She gets to have more pictures on the back of the car and then they plow into the women who are standing around pretending not to be jealous.

Later that night, they are all gathered together wearing cocktail dresses. Corinne takes him aside to make out in a shell-shaped wicker seat with a canopy. She is falling and falling and falling, as she says, and she hopes the feelings grow stronger and stronger and stronger. She's the drunk one.Oh, look, he kissed the black girl. He's kissing all of the girls. They seem to all be from the Souths. Nick finds Raven's honesty to be refreshing.

The other thing that's happening is that the women are at home wearing sexy glasses.

ZZZZZZZZ. Corinne is trying to stir up shit to have more air time. She says, "Guys, we are all here for the same thing. It's going to get crazy. You're going to make your friends and non-friends feel weird. But you have to be there for yourself. Because you are here for Nick and that's it." Nick gives out the rose to...Corinne. The other women are devastated. This is phony. Nick tells them to all sleep well. She is darling. She says that she feels really good about getting the rose. The other women say nothing and wonder if they should have taken their shirts off. She refers to herself in the third person. Now they are wondering if she is here for the right reasons and if Nick likes someone who is just leading with her sexuality, then "no wonder it's his fourth time" (on the show).

9 a.m in the morning., time for wine. Corinne is talking to her twin, this other blond girl.

Cue helicopter and one-on-one date with Danielle, who has curled the first two chunks of her hair only. Nick offers her champagne. He takes out his retainer before taking a sip. Doula/Liz slices tomatoes and confesses that she had sex with Nick at a C-list celebrity's wedding. She decides to tell someone secretly while being filmed. She confesses Christine, who is very cute and has huge boobs and a very round face. Christine does not know what to do with this information, so she puts on a giant leopard headband. How long before she doesn't defy stereotypes and tells someone else on the show?

Danielle is a neo-natal nurse. They are having drinks at an abandoned theme park. No other people around. No bugs even. There probably is a waterfall somewhere. Danielle pretends to have never heard of him before. His story about being rejected by two women leads her to give a confession about her fiance who committed suicide. Nick squeezes her hand in sympathy. He lets her know that he doesn't think less of her, but actually likes her more now, knowing that she was engaged to a suicidal drug addict. He says it was very brave of her to be with someone who was shooting up and hiding it. Of course he has to give her the rose, even though she just doused water on the entire date with her sad story. Then they have to go on a Ferris wheel so he can kiss her (after he takes out his retainer).

We have to watch another group date before we can even think about going to bed. Group date at the Museum of Broken Relationships in LA, where Nick's rejected engagement ring and a dried up rose are kept under glass. Of course, one of the women does want to break up with him because she slept with him at that wedding. Why is she on this show? She has taken notes in her notebook and so she's ready. She tells her real story and only Christine knows that it's true. She is speaking from the heart and we hope that he sees her for the good person that she is. He won't though. He can think of nothing to say. Now he will have to confess that it's all true. Nick says that her performance made him uncomfortable and he will have to send her home (probably). He's a runner. He must have slept with, I'd say, one hundred or more women since first being on TV. She's an old story. He wants shiny and new. Christine lets him know that she knows. He keeps leaning farther and farther away from her as his level of discomfort rises.

He will now have a moment with Liz to tell her that she should get off the show, because he thinks that she is using the past as a way to get on TV. And the thing is that he is on TV and is playing the game too. She explains that she didn't feel like talking to him on the phone and wanted to see him in person to see if they had a connection. This was the only way that she could think of to see him--on television. While being filmed. He sends her home. Good day to you, sir. She seems floored, but you can't totally blame him.  Now he will have to tell the women everything. No one will give a shit. This is ridiculous. It's not like he had sex with her the day before the show. To be continued..Tears, whispering, and wine.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Spoiler alert: The OA stands for Only Average

Since Dan watched the entire 55 or whatever episodes of Breaking Bad, he's never been able to find another show that interests him wit the same intensity. I'm fine with Poldark (he calls it Dark Pole) or Downton Abbey or any PBS mystery show (though not a total fan of Miss Fischer's Murder Mysteries because I can't get a bead on when it was actually made or how old she's supposed to be and I just really can't believe that many murders would happen around the same person). We tried two and a half seasons of the Wire, and he found it to be dated and not very compelling. We've tried episodes of Broadchurch, Marcella, The River, and other British mystery procedurals, but he's not into those. We liked Stranger Things, largely because of the nostalgia for the 80s. The closest he's come to finding a show he couldn't wait to watch again is The Night Of on HBO, that crime drama with Jon Turturro, and he and Luke also like The Walking Dead (can't watch it--they always kill off the animals).

We started watching a new Netflix original called The OA. I liked the first episode--a woman jumps off a bridge, survives, and we discover she's been missing from her family for seven years, but won't explain where she's been. You soon discover that she used to be blind, she's been adopted by a family after her Russian aristocratic father had to hide her away, and she has survived a near death experience.  In her search to get an Internet connection, she meets up with some misfit teens and that lady from The Office and starts to tell them her story in an abandoned housing project. As she tells them what happened through a series of flashbacks, we learn that she's been abducted by a doctor who's obsessed with figuring out what happens when you die and return to life. She's not alone; he has also sought out and captured three other NDE (near death experience) people, and all of them are locked in these plastic, climate controlled cells in his huge basement. His experiment is to kill them over and over again to see if he can learn more about life after death.

We've only watched half of the eight episodes, but midway through the second episode, I encountered some plausibility problems that I couldn't readily dismiss. First of all, she nearly makes her escape when she accidentally makes the doctor a borscht stew. She has put drugs in the stew, but that's not what nearly fells him. It turns out that he's deathly allergic to tomatoes, and the stew contains tomato paste. As he's gasping for air and she's searching for an epi-pen, Dan goes, But why would he even have tomatoes in his house if he could die from them? Next, he tells her that she must save him, because he's the only one who has the code to release the other prisoners. But really, we did see in episode one that he has a telephone, and there are ways to feed the prisoners through a bin, so couldn't she have gone ahead and let him die and then gotten help? Then we realize that the story she's telling to the five strangers has to be spooled out an hour at a time in this abandoned house, and she's also told them that when they leave the house, they have to keep their front doors open--every time. For some reason, none of the children's parents wonder why the front door is always hanging open. Is there no way she could've cut to the chase the first night to tell them why they are meeting up every evening? By episode four, when you realize that years have passed with them in that chamber in the basement, you begin to question some basic logistics such as where do they go to the bathroom? Why are they still wearing the exact same clothes, including one guy, who wears the same gray and purple football jersey to remind us that he was knocked out as a football player and almost died? Why do the guys never need a haircut or does the doctor also give them regular hair cuts and shaves? Also, they do eventually figure out that the doctor is gassing them to make them unconscious (so he can kill them and bring them back), and so they trick him and pretend to be unconscious when they aren't, and yet never attempt to escape while he's leading them to the experiment site. And she does get her sight back, but manages to not let the doctor know, but hasn't yet used that to her advantage to get in the house and stab him with a knife. Then there's all of this mystical stuff, like when she dies another time, she has a vision of another world and a mysterious woman who tells her to eat a bird...I don't know. I read that the person who conceptualized it is also the person playing the main character, so it feels like a vanity project that got made without a whole lot of people asking questions about the plausibility of the plot. But still, we are enjoying it, in part because of the flaws.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Thwarted expectations for NYE + a movie review

Dan and I both decided we like odd numbered years better than even numbered years, probably based on the fact that we were born on odd days in odd years (11/21 for him, 5/17 for me). Our birth years are also odd numbers. Additionally, we're optimists (most days), and so believe that this new year will be better than last year. Although that's not fair. 2016 was a good year for us personally--we went to Spain, Luke successfully started 8th grade, I got four stories published, I started a new job at Rutgers, the dog turned two and is healthy (only one fatty benign tumor), no one I loved died (except for Mike's dog, Kipper, and for that, I am sad, though also happy because we got to see him at the beach house one last time as Chaplin tormented him into limping), we finished the kitchen renovation of my mom's house was completed, and Dan got temporary work at Penn with some very nice people. I like my job, I like the people I work with, I don't mind the commute, and I wrote every day for National Novel Writing Month for the first time ever. The only blot is the dark hole of DT--and even that has some bright side, namely, that it has made me more politicized and energized to give back to the organizations that matter to me.  But it's still like we endured some partial lunar eclipse that won't fade, not for a long time.  I was listening to an Obama interview last night, and the fact that he speaks in complete, intelligent sentences is startling when compared to Trump-speak. Trump-speak is somewhere in the range of Dr. Seuss, except he doesn't have the sophistication to rhyme. It's all paranoia and meanness and untruths.  I keep being surprised by the level of inanity and hatred he constantly spews, including his happy new year tweet that mentions his "enemies." Outside of an action film character based on a comic book, what real adult person speaks of other adults as his enemies? One project that would be interesting to start would be to post tweets by eleven year old boys and compare them to DT and see if a reader can tell the difference.

Since neither Dan and I drink alcohol, we didn't plan a crazy New Years Eve, but rather dinner and a movie. The plan and the execution of the plan didn't quite go as we thought. Dinner was at Chamber's Walk, a place we've been to before and liked. Dan ordered the duck; I ordered the crab pasta, of course. Neither one of us liked the meal, as Dan found his duck to taste like rubber and fat, and I remembered I don't like seafood in my pasta. But our waitress was nice. She had two long French braids that fell all the way past her waist. We finished our meal in record time--less than one hour and then had an hour to kill before the movie I picked, Arrival with Amy Adams. We didn't get dessert at Chamber's Walk and so went cruising for an ice cream shop. We landed on 5 Guys, a burger and shake shack near the movie theater.  The restaurant was filled with mostly dorky teenage boys, and we both ordered shakes. Delicious shakes with Oreos in them. When we got to the movie theater, Arrival had sold out. Actually, it just vanished from the marquee as if it had never existed. I asked the ticket lady what happened and she said there were five seats left. Her co-worker gave her a glare and she said, I mean, it's sold out. We bought tickets to the next available movie, Fences. Neither one of us had a clue about its plot or characters. We went in, irritated some people who had thrown their jackets over two empty seats, and watched a bunch of previews. Have you heard of the movie? It took me about ten minutes to figure out that it was based on a play, one I vaguely recalled from being a temporary theater major in college. The reason I realized it was a play was because the first scene was about thirty minutes long and took place in a backyard. For those of you who haven't heard of the movie, it stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and is a family drama about a man whose struggling with the suburban life he's chosen and his regrets about not having become a professional baseball player. I mean, that's the barest surface of the story. I found it to be compelling and dull at varying moments. It seemed clear that a staged version of the play would be riveting, but a filmed version of the same was much less electrifying and so I wondered why this play was adapted--what was it about the film genre that would make the material more compelling or even as compelling as a live play? Aside from the fact that's a gorgeously written play about the human struggle, nothing was added by the genre. I suppose you could argue that watching Washington and Davis perform is reason enough, but it didn't work for me because I kept imagining how much more impactful it would be as a live performance, with all the inherent tension that a live version brings. Maybe it should be enough that by making it into a movie, more people will be exposed to August Wilson's work, and yet, it never didn't seem like a play to me--I didn't get lost in it, perhaps because I couldn't stop thinking how much more I would like it in person (both Washington and Davis were in the Broadway production in 2010). And lastly, the character of the brother who has brain damage and is played for mostly comic relief seemed like something from another time, even though the play was written in 1983. But go see it, or rent it, I suppose. Or look for the reprisal somewhere.

That was our New Years Eve, and I thought it was the perfect start to the new year, because it didn't work out like we'd thought. We'd been talking earlier in the day about how you can make plans and have expectations about the future, but that things most often don't happen the way you imagined. The night proved that theory. We went to dinner at a place we liked, but didn't enjoy the food. We went to a fast food restaurant and loved the shake. The film we thought we were going to see was sold out, so we went to another one we most likely never would have chosen. We sat next to a lady who was slightly put off by having to move her coat, but she did it anyway. We liked some of the film, and were bored by other moments. Impermanence and numerology--those are our areas of focus for 2017.