books and reading · pop culture

October 2017 Recap

I can’t believe October is over and we’re into November. I’m sad that my favorite month of the year has come to a close. Here’s how October shook out:

Books:

Total: 34
Picture Books: 25
Middle Grade: 2
YA: 3
Adult: 4
Fiction: 34
Non-Fiction: 0
Audiobooks: 2
Total Pages Read: 3079

Favorite Reads in October: 

31931941Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia: I just loved this sweet story about a weird girl and a weird boy who meet and form a friendship. I loved the exploration of the online world merging with the real world, and I thought that Zappia did a nice job of blending two very different stories together. I think this is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare: A super fun regency33259027 romance featuring two strong characters and genuinely scorching chemistry. This wasn’t my first Dare novel, and it won’t be my last one, either. The first in a new series, this is definitely one to check out, even if you’re not a regular reader of romance.

 

Viewing

Total Movies: 2
New: 2
Re-Watch: 0

Favorite Movies in October: 

None. I watched 47 Meters Down and Kong: Skull Island, and both were DUMB.

Other Things I’ve Been Watching:

I’ve been re-watching Sex and the City, and I’m up to season 4. The show is still funny in many ways, and I do love the female friendships that center the series, but there are things about it that have not aged well at all. It’s really transphobic, and it’s still maybe the whitest thing on television?

We’re still watching The Office, and we’re in season 6, which apart from Jim and Pam’s wedding, is a pretty unremarkable season. It’s starting to be a slog, but I think we’re both determined to finish it.

 

I’m hoping to get a few more movies in this next month (I’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s no way I’ll meet my year-end goal), and read some more titles on best of lists.

 

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pop culture

Internet Things I’m Thinking About This Week

My Life Has Been Marked by Sexual Harassment: Just Like All Women (The Guardian)

A short, powerful piece about how sexual harassment permeates every part of our culture:

Actually, though, life is good. I work on a magazine where men think feminism is talking to you for hours about problems with their sperm count. I have a flat and a baby, and then I get a job on a newspaper. Now surely I am in the safety of a middle-class world where women are taken seriously. However, there is inevitably one guy who touches up women as they bend over the photocopier.

I start writing about some of the big sexual harassment cases, such as Anita Hill. It’s a concern. The editor calls us all together. “Dreadful business, this sexual harassment,” he says. “I am glad it doesn’t happen here.”

Rebecca Solnit on Harvey Weinstein, Hillary Clinton, and Blaming the Acts of Men on Women (LitHub)

This should be required reading:

Remember that every time a man commits a violent act it only takes one or two steps to figure out how it’s a woman’s fault, and that these dance steps are widely known and practiced and quite a bit of fun. There are things men do that are the fault of women who are too sexy, and other things men do that are the fault of women who are not sexy enough, but women only come in those two flavors: not enough, too much, and it is the fate of heterosexual men to endure this affliction. Wives are responsible for their husbands, especially if their husbands are supremely powerful and terrifying figures leading double lives and accountable to no one. But women are now also in the workforce, where they have so many opportunities to be responsible for other men as well.

 

The YA Dystopia Boom is Over. It’s Been Replaced by Stories of Teen Suicide (Vox)

A very interesting piece that attempts to explain the rise and fall (and rise?) of YA dystopias, and the current (?) spate of books and movies about teen suicides. It’s definitely a piece for people who like to read about the underlying ideas surrounding pop culture phenomenons, but I liked it a lot:

If pop culture is America’s subconscious, then pop culture that’s aimed at teens is the purest distillation of that subconscious. Pop culture aimed at teens is simultaneously didactic and escapist:We want to pass good moral lessons to our youth, but we alsooften equate teen with trashy, and use the media we ostensibly create for teens as a way for adults to escape the pressures of post-teen life. On any given cultural issue, a look at the pop culture we make for teens will tell you both how we as a society think we should feel about the world and how we actually feel about the world.

What did you read this week that got you thinking?

books and reading · pop culture

Internet Things I’m Thinking About This Week

These are the articles that caught my attention this week:

From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell their Stories (The New Yorker)

This is a really long piece, but I read the entire thing in one sitting, unable to take my eyes away from the horrors the piece reports. It’s absolutely upsetting, and absolutely worth your time. If you read one piece this week, make it this one about the women who are coming forward about the sexual harassment, assault, and rapes they experienced at the hands of Harvey Weinstein:

Weinstein’s use of such settlements was reported by the Times and confirmed to me by numerous sources. A former employee with firsthand knowledge of two settlement negotiations that took place in London in the nineteen-nineties recalled, “It felt like David versus Goliath . . . the guy with all the money and the power flexing his muscle and quashing the allegations and getting rid of them.”

Here’s How Not to Critique Romance Novels (Jezebel)

I’ve been reading a lot of romance lately in an attempt to expand my reading horizons, and this piece at Jezebel about a very misguided piece in the NYT about the genre is super great:

Gottlieb writes in the tone of affable authoritative critic willing to entertain an unexpected interest, but to somebody who reads a lot in the genre, he comes off as a dilettante, failing to serve both romance fans who might be looking for an informed review of new titles and non-readers interested in educating themselves about a phenomenon with which they’re unfamiliar.

How Essential Oils Became The Cure for Our Age of Anxiety (The New Yorker)

I should be clear: I think essential oils are at best an annoying white-lady-wellness thing and at worst part of a very dangerous anti-science cult, but this article about how they’ve permeated the mainstream is very very good:

Multilevel-marketing companies are structured in such a way that a large base of distributors generally spend more than they make, while a small number on top reap most of the benefits. It is often expensive to invest in an initial stock of products, as well as to make required minimum monthly purchases—around a hundred dollars for Young Living members who want to receive a commission check. According to a public income statement, more than ninety-four per cent of Young Living’s two million active members made less than a dollar in 2016, while less than one-tenth of one per cent—that is, about a thousand Royal Crown Diamonds—earned more than a million dollars.

books and reading · pop culture

Internet Things I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles that got me thinking this week.

I Called Hugh Hefner a Pimp, He Threatened to Sue. But That’s What He Was (The Guardian)

This great piece by Suzanne Moore looks at the history of Hugh Hefner, and it’s really well-written and interesting:

Well now there is, of course. But this man is still being celebrated by people who should know better. You can dress it up with talk of glamour and bunny ears and fishnets, you can talk about his contribution to gonzo journalism, you can contextualise his drive to free up sex as part of the sexual revolution. But strip it all back and he was a man who bought and sold women to other men. Isn’t that the definition of a pimp? I couldn’t possibly say.

The Divinity of Dog Writing (LitHub)

This is an admittedly pretty academic piece about humans and how we write about dogs–it looks at a number of authors who have written about dogs–but it’s also super interesting and moving. It begins like this:

Fear of my dog’s death preoccupies me more than fear of my own. It’s not just that it’s nearer or that I’ll live to the other side, where silence will replace the dashing of her paws across the floors. Assuming good health and good fortune, my fiancée and I will decide the time of her end. This is what haunts me: the anticipation of a death for which I’ll bear ultimate responsibility. But caring for a dog means speaking on behalf of an animal who cannot speak. To help a beloved dog die is the final act of this kind of care.

So obviously I’m in it for the long haul with this one.

We Have to Stop Pretending We Can’t Do Anything About Gun Violence (Teen Vogue)

Once again, Teen Vogue doing so much of the heavy lifting:

If there is anything uniquely exceptional about America right now, it is the normalization of record-breaking mass slaughter. Each new tragedy ought to be the too-horrible thing that turns the tide, finally allowing for a total paradigm shift in the way we talk about gun control. It speaks volumes about American culture that extreme violence has lost the capacity to shock. Las Vegas will be no different if we allow our elected officials to go through their ritualized pageant of sending up “thoughts and prayers” while doing exactly nothing.

What did you read this week that got you thinking?

books and reading · pop culture

September Recap

September was a busy month, which meant considerably less reading and watching of all sorts of things. Here’s how the month turned out:

Books:

Total: 15
Picture Books: 6
Middle Grade: 1
YA: 4
Adult: 4
Fiction: 14
Non-Fiction: 1
Audiobooks: 1
Total Pages Read: 2169

Favorite Reads in September:

25062038Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert: Colbert’s sophomore novel about a girl back from boarding school for the summer who is grappling with her brother’s mental illness as well as her own burgeoning bisexuality could be a heavy-handed “issues” book, but it isn’t. The novel is actually an understated, compelling look at a bunch of things that happen when you grow up. It’s a strong second book, and Colbert continues to be an author to watch.

You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner: A 25701463compelling story about a deaf girl being mainstreamed at a hearing school after getting booted from her Deaf one, Gardner’s smart novel about street art, passion, and feeling like an angry outsider had me turning pages waiting to see how it shook out. I think this is one of the best YA books of the year and will resonate with a lot of readers.

Viewing

Total Movies: 3
New: 3
Re-Watch: 0

Favorite Movies in September: 

the_big_sickThe Big Sick: I loved loved loved this fictional take on Kumail Nanjiani and his now-wife Emily’s relationship when she got really sick with an infection. It’s funny, sweet, weird, and heartfelt, and I found it totally charming. I watched it twice in a row, I loved it so much. One of my favorite movies of the year, absolutely.

 

Other Things I’ve Been Watching:

I watched all of season 1 of The Good Place and absolutely loved it. I think it’s smart and funny and totally weird, and I can’t wait to get more into season 2.

We’re still watching The Office, and we’re in season 4, which is definitely a creative slump for the show. But there’s still some good stuff coming, so I’m hopeful the boyf will stick with it (his track record is not great when it comes to finishing shows.

I also watched 3 seasons of You’re the Worst and looooved it.

That’s it, really. I’m hoping to read more genre fiction in September, and try to squeeze in a few movies, too. My movie watching ratio is absymal.

books and reading · pop culture

Internet Things I’m Reading and Thinking About this Week

These are the internet stories that got me thinking this week. Without further ado:

Keeping ‘Insecure’ Lit: Cinematographer Ava Berkovsky on Properly Lighting Black Faces (Mic)

Before you scan past this based on the title, it’s worth noting that it’s a very interesting look at what it means to light faces that are darker than white people in movies and TV. It’s especially interesting to read about how little it’s even taught in film school:

“When I was in film school, no one ever talked about lighting nonwhite people,” Berkofsky said in a phone interview with Mic. “There are all these general rules about lighting people of color, like throw green light or amber light at them. It’s weird.” These rules are a start, but they’re far from a complete picture.

Why We Fell for Clean Eating (The Guardian)

This is right in my wheelhouse: an expose about the clean eating movement (which is total crap) and how Instagram has fueled it even as scientists have debunked it. The article also looks at why we were so quick and desperate to believe in the magical properties of clean eating:

Clean eating – whether it is called that or not – is perhaps best seen as a dysfunctional response to a still more dysfunctional food supply: a dream of purity in a toxic world. To walk into a modern western supermarket is to be assailed by aisle upon aisle of salty, oily snacks and sugary cereals, of “bread” that has been neither proved nor fermented, of cheap, sweetened drinks and meat from animals kept in inhumane conditions.

Skip It: Why It’s O.K. to Start a TV Show in the Middle (NYT)

A sweet, light take on why it’s okay to skip ahead to when a TV show gets “good”. The argument is made that it only works for some shows, but in an era when there’s too much good TV for any one person, it’s almost necessary. I admit that I clicked on this article because it had a picture of Buffy, so your mileage may vary:

It’s also misleading to treat most series, even the greats, like fully formed wholes set down according to careful design. TV is an improvisatory art, in which shows shoot a pilot and then beta-test themselves out in public. (A classic example, Mr. Sepinwall notes, is “Seinfeld,” which became great around Season 3.)

books and reading · pop culture

Internet Things I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles that I stumbled across this week:

What are We to do with Cinematic Monuments to the Confederacy? (Vulture)

A thoughtful and thought-provoking piece about the insidiousness of white supremacy and how Gone with the Wind is the best example of how pervasive it is:

Nestled in its visual splendor is a slippery sort of racism that is surprising for what it says, meta-textually, about the ways America has yet to reckon with its second original sin. More than any American film about the Civil War, Gone With the Wind reveals the cunning skill with which white supremacy creates its own myths.

Attacked by Rotten Tomatoes (NYT)

This article actually made me laugh when it quotes Brett Ratner right off the bat about how the website Rotten Tomatoes is to blame for the declining sales and attendance at movie theaters. The rest of the piece takes a really close look at the business of the website and how they create the algorithms of what becomes “fresh” or “rotten”, as well as providing insight into the employees of the website. It’s really interesting, and this part made me laugh, too:

Kersplat: Paramount’s “Baywatch” bombed after arriving to a Tomatometer score of 19, the percentage of reviews the movie received that the site considered positive (36 out of 191). Doug Creutz, a media analyst at Cowen and Company, wrote of the film in a research note, “Our high expectations appear to have been crushed by a 19 Rotten Tomatoes score.”

Like, brah, I saw that movie, and it was fucking terrible. Rotten Tomatoes didn’t make your movie bomb. I promise.

15 Percent? 20 Percent? It Doesn’t Matter Because Tipping Culture is Fundamentally Broken (Mel Magazine)

Minneapolis is starting to see some restaurants discuss doing away with tipping as we also move towards a $15 minimum wage, so this well-written piece about how tipping culture is fundamentally broken is a really interesting insider’s perspective on what’s happening:

This leaves the burden of paying for the expertise and performance of servers and bartenders on the dining public. Or put even more simply: “The restaurant owner has made it the customer’s responsibility to pay its employees,” says Sharon Block, executive director of the The Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

Which, when you think about it, is fucked up. Shouldn’t the people whose business I’m helping be successful be responsible for paying me? Not to mention, how can I be rewarded for a stellar job performance if my wages come from people culturally obligated to leave extra money on the table? And what happens when it’s a slow day?

Teaching White Students Taught Me the Difference Between Power and Privilege (Buzzfeed)

A super powerful piece about privilege, power, and race:

…white colleagues routinely put their hands on my back and called me lucky. They meant that Southern black boys like me were more likely to end up incarcerated than working beside wonderful white faculty at so-called elite liberal arts colleges. I looked in the eyes of those colleagues and routinely shook my head. These colleagues were lucky, not simply because their students demanded less of them, nor because their identities were never threatened by security or armed police officers; they were lucky that they got to share professional space with poor young black professors who materially never invested in notions of academic excellence being a stand-in for innocence.