- Write at least three blog posts (this one doesn’t count)!
- Knit 1-2 rows a day for Matt’s cardigan.
- Sew a coaster or two!
- Write Mindy a letter!
The exclamation points are to convince myself that any of this is actually feasible.
The exclamation points are to convince myself that any of this is actually feasible.
Here’s a list of the podcasts I’ve listened to and enjoyed the most last week. Some of these have already published new episodes, since I am a slow blogger.
New Discoveries that I might be checking out:
As part of Slate’s strategy to take over the internet (and world) via their new podcast platform, Slate’s started a series of lecture podcasts under a new umbrella, “Slate Academy.”
Each episode of the “History of American Slavery” series follows an enslaved person and uses their stories–often written by the individuals themselves–as a jumping off point to talk about the era and the state of slavery at the time.
I’ve learned so much that I didn’t know, but one of the most interesting areas that they’ve explored are the ways in which American conceptions of slavery have evolved. Contrary to what I had thought (and what is taught, and what I think is widely believed), slavery wasn’t always thought of as the ‘natural state of man’–in fact, it was viewed by many as more of a “necessary evil” in the 18th century, and was later viewed by some as the natural, state for an ‘inferior’ species.
-An excellent summary of Iggy Azalea’s recent woes, which also summarizes why everyone hates her so much. I had no idea why she was so hated, but sadly learned that it was justified: homophobia, racism, cultural misappropriation. Only Rachel Dolezal is worse, according to The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams: “Rachel Dolezal is worse. Iggy acts black to make money, but Iggy’s not fooling anybody. Rachel Dolezal just single-white-female’d all black women! We don’t need oppression cosplay, we need allies.”
-Another day, another Kickstarter that didn’t fulfill its promises: Stereogum profiles VNYL, the “Netflix for Vinyl” that never was.
–The Most Efficient Way to Save a Life at The Atlantic, recommended by a dear friend.
The Magicians on Syfy
If you grew up with Harry Potter, or The Golden Compass, or The Chronicles of Narnia, or even if you’re just a fan of a well-told tale, you have to read Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy.
Syfy’s website says it’s not due ’till 2016, but there’s a “First Look” Trailer.
It actually looks super cheesy and over-the-top–It looks like a dressed-up version of a supernatural teen show on the CW, really. The cinematography looks fairly beautiful, though, so maybe that will be worthwhile? The main character looks a bit affected, but that’s the way that the character is written, so maybe it’ll turn out alright. If not, I’ll always have the books, and I can just hope for a remake in 20 years.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on BBC
Somehow this has already been airing and I hadn’t noticed. Maybe it’s the ocean. Sometimes I feel like there’s still a delay in getting British Imports.
Susanna Clarke’s book of the same name is about an alternate-universe England, one in which magic is real and was once abundant. Years after the Golden Age of Magic, the eponymous Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are the only practical magicians in an era when all other magicians are theoretical. Before Mr. Strange arrived on the scene, Mr. Norrell
One of the best aspects of the book is that its villain, a fairy king who is powerful, capricious, but ultimately not malicious–which doesn’t mean that he’s ultimately good. Rather, he’s not evil. I’m very interested to see how the show works with this dynamic. More than anything, though, I hope it’s as funny as its source material–sometimes the inherent wit of a series gets lost in translation from page to screen. It was somewhat true of Harry Potter, but I really hope that this series stays true to that.
Area X/ The Southern Reach Trilogy
This is probably a lot further away, but there are whispers that Area X will be getting its own film adaptation (likely a trilogy, like the books). I’m especially excited for this because I was intrigued and excited by the world that Jeff Vandermeer created in his Southern Reach Trilogy, but very disappointed with how the narrative eventually turned out. It was more glimpses, less development. I’m especially excited because it seems like Alex Garland, fresh off of success from Ex Machina, is writing the script.
True Detective on HBO
Even if I hadn’t seen the trailers that preceded episodes of Game of Thrones, or been intrigued by seeing Colin Firth, Rachel McAdams, and that other intense-looking hot guy (I’d look him up, but what if IMDB gives me casting spoilers?) looking intense together, I’d be psyched for True Detective based on the previous season.
I loved the first season of True Detective. It was moody, lush, and dour–but also allowed itself to be funny, satirical, and interesting. Plus, I love so-called “off-type” casting–it’s usually not just a case of a character being “off-type” for an actor, but probably also a sign that the new material is new.
Allow me here a small ode to the stars of the first season: What took popular critic-dom (not to mention casting agents) so long to realize the greatness of McConaughey & Harrelson? Did they never see McConaughey in any movie opposite Kate Hudson? Did they never root for Harrelson’s character in Will & Grace to marry Grace? And Reign of Fire was pretty good, right?
Anyway, to my delight, the new season seems to have the same interesting casting; post-Mean Girls, Rachel McAdams has been kicking around in rom coms for far too long (although The Wedding Crashers is pretty great).
I still wish this was happening, though:
Amy Schumer and Bill Heder in a script written by Schumer herself! ‘Nuff said.
Here’s hoping that this stuff will be as delightful as it promises. What are you looking forward to, semi-imaginary readers?
Melisandre has dark plans for Shireen.
Melisandre is constantly talking about the power in King’s blood. I think that Stannis sees Melisandre’s desire for his blood to be a confirmation that he is indeed the rightful king–but I think that Melisandre’s definition of King’s blood is much more general. First of all, the gender of the person whose veins run with king’s blood doesn’t matter. Second of all, the god that Melisandre worships isn’t very picky about whose king’s blood it is–I think the God recognizes many kings.
Theon/Reek will confess to Sansa that he didn’t kill Bran and Rickon.
I’ve been late in posting this (or anything else), so I’m afraid that this is right, but not in the way that I anticipated. But here goes anyway: for a long time, Sansa’s motivation has been to survive. Recently, by her own wits and by some advice and mentorship (ick) by Littlefinger, she’s learned that she might just survive, that she’s not stupid, and that she has some agency.
I was unhappy that it looked like she was going to marry Ramsey (or that the Boltons were going to continue to be a focus of the show at all, Roose Bolton is more boring to me than Stannis Baratheon. “I raped your mother under her husband, whom I murdered.” Yawn, really), but I wasn’t worried. I thought some bad things might come to her, that she’d be sad and horrified, but I never imagined this week’s plot line.
The worst part, as pointed out by Joanna Robinson in Salon, among others, is that Sansa’s rape seems to have very little to do with either Ramsey or Sansa. It doesn’t advance their characters one bit, but we do see Theon’s crying face. Yep, I think these two are going to become friendlier. But this isn’t interesting to me, and it’s a completely sucky way to write another rape storyline. Ugh, I’m really losing hope in these writers.
The Sparrows threaten to–or actually go ahead with–castrating Ser Loras (on Cersei’s orders).
What’s the worst thing that Cersei can do to Margaery? Hurt her dear brother. What’s the worst thing that Cersei can do to the Tyrells? Kill or threaten their heir.
At least, that’s what I thought before this Sunday’s episode. It looks like Cersei is at least slightly more forward-thinking than she has seemed for the past couple of seasons. I’m still worried that Loras might be castrated, but at this point it seems like Margaery might just get imprisoned.
Danny forgives Jorah just as he’s about to succumb to death by grayscale.
An Epic Battle at Winterfell
Back at the beginning, we have Bolton’s army (does he have an army?), Baratheon’s sellswords, some of the newly-kneeling wildlings, Baelish’s forces from the Vale, and the Tyrells for good measure.
Danny marries her nephew, Jon Snow.
It’ll be a marriage of Ice and Fire.
If you’ve been wondering what Josh Charles has been up to since his exit from The Good Wife, I’ve got an answer for you: he’s acted in at least one indie movie, the 2014 winner of the Cannes Un Certain Regard category.
Although Bird People is far from a great, or even a good movie, its thoughtful cinematography and a couple of beautiful scenes might allow me to recommend it–especially since it’s easy to watch on Netflix. The script, directed by Pascale Ferran, who co-wrote the screenplay with Guillaume Bréaud, is a strange hybrid of the existential malaise of Lost in Translation and the self-serious business stress of Margin Call.
Although some summaries of the film describe it as being about the aftermath of the ‘meeting’ of the two characters, the protagonists don’t actually meet for most of the film. Each of their storylines is almost a film unto itself, to the benefit of one and the detriment of the other. Audrey Camuzet is a college student who commutes to a hotel on the outskirts of Paris where she works part-time. Gary Newman (played by the sexiness-dripping above-mentioned Josh Charles) is in Paris on Important Business, which is apparently also Stressful and Fraught. I’m facetiously capitalizing these because it’s a point that the movie seems at great pains to make: this is an important guy, but man is it hard to be a white guy with responsibilities.
For me, the biggest problem in this film is this character, Gary Newman. His is the story of a man getting sick of the life he’s leading and deciding to abandon his responsibilities. This might be interesting if he went on to do something, but he doesn’t: from the moment that the voice-over announces his “decision,” Gary Newman goes on to have a series of painful conversations with his business partners, and eventually his wife, about how to tie up loose ends now that he’s decided that he’s leaving it all behind.
There are hints, here and there, about the kinds of conflict that could have led Gary Newman to “quit” the entirety of his old life in order to “stay in Paris” (or, sometimes, “stay in Europe,” which might indicate the fantasy element of this desire: not a specific country, just “Europe”). But to me, they’re not enough. Although his last name suggests that he’s trying to be a new man, Gary looks to me like an old man in an old story about leaving your responsibilities behind. I can believe that his wife, Elizabeth, is probably hard to live with, but I have serious problems with a film that is trying to portray life with two young children as tiresome–without at least mentioning whether they’re part of his malaise or not. I’m not saying that having children shouldn’t be portrayed as painful–there are great examples with Bill Murray’s (him, again! he was one lead in Lost in Translation) character’s bully twins in Rushmore, or the little kid from The Good Son. But I can’t forgive the oversight of failing to even mention the children except for making them a joint entity with his wife. Neither Gary nor his wife seem all that concerned with the kids’ reaction to daddy’s absence, either; they’re far more wrapped up in their own palpable distaste for each other.
It’s not just that I’m offended by the idea of a male character who just wants to “quit” his life and family. It’s that, in terms of narrative motivation, Ferran and Bréaud don’t bother to expand Newman’s feeling for his family with anything more than a tense, harsh skype-session with his admittedly bitchy-seeming wife.This isn’t about the film hurting my sensibilities by not even mentioning his children–although I am, slightly–it’s about leaving a gaping question in the middle of the narrative and filling it with angry, possibly back-stabbing businessmen.
Audrey’s storyline has much of the nuance and whimsy that is absent from Gary’s. There’s more to like in Audrey’s storyline, and not just because it’s more relatable: an especially beautiful scene toward the end brings the title to life much more literally than I expected. To be less coy: she turns into a bird. But even before her storyline takes flight, her storyline is more taut, more grounded. From the opening scene when we first meet Audrey, there’s more of the small, beautiful parts of life that actually make this movie enjoyable: we’re allowed to see and hear the thoughts of a few bus riders; there’s a guy listening to hip hop, a guy listening to classical music while blissfully staring at a woman’s cleavage, and Audrey, who’s calculating how much of her week she’s spending on the commute to work.
Her plot line has less contrivance than Gary’s, too: she’s just a girl, in college, trying to work and live and be. She’s got a boss who oscillates between needy and bossy, and a friend at work who invites her to parties. But the real centerpiece of the film is the scene where she turns into a bird and eavesdrops and interacts with hotel guests, and learns how to fly.
Overall, Bird People fails to come together as a cohesive movie. The whimsy and wonder of Audrey’s storyline is not mirrored in Gary’s, and, ironically, Gary’s storyline is less grounded in anything that feels real either. I’d say, watch the movie, but skip Gary Newman and go straight through to Audrey. It’ll be a shorter film, but a better one.
I’m going to do something I’ve been resisting for awhile: I’m going to listen to a few of the earlier episodes of This American Life. Back when I worked in the library at the University of Chicago, I listened to about 6 episodes of This American Life a day. (It’s probably more, but I did try mix it up throughout the day with On the Media, WTF with Marc Maron, and Radiolab.)
I tried to listen to some of the very earliest episodes, but found that they were too strange–uncannily similar, but not close enough to the TAL that I knew and loved to actually listen to. The music is different, the sound mixing is off, the narration sometimes even more monotone. It’s still good, though. It’s just not as dressed up, it hasn’t quite gotten the hang of its makeup routine (much like me, actually). But, because I miss Serial so damn much, I’m going to try to go back and listen to some earlier episodes. Here’s my playlist:
Tags I want to Revisit:
Imaginary readers, do you have a favorite (early) This American Life episode? What are your favorites overall?
3. The New Yorker’s Political Scene
4. WNYC’s Leonard Lopate & Brian Lehrer Shows
I’ve grouped these together because they’re not always about politics. They can also be kind of New York-centric, but I always feel interested in the topics anyway.
5. ProPublica Podcast
Although not about politics per se, ProPublica’s in-depth investigations always address what should be the true focus of politics: attention paid to public policy issues that affect the actual public.
KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center
Best of the Left
Even if you’re not left-leaning in your politics, Best of the Left is a good place to learn about domestic (and, rarely, international) political issues. Best of the Left aggregates coverage from other podcasts in the web, so sometimes I find that the segments are hit-or-miss. It can also be pretty depressing, especially when they talk about race or politics or the police–Best of the Left has a particular skill at exposing the rank cynicism of many pundits on the left.