pop culture

Internet Things I’ve Been Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles that caught my attention this week:

Real Men Might Get Made Fun Of (NYT)

This short, thoughtful piece from Lindy West, who appears to have a new weekly column with the NYT (I’m here for it!) asks straight (white) dudes: “Do you ever stick up for women?” It’s a gentle prodding, but it’s an effective one:

What we could really use, my guys, is some loud, unequivocal backup. And not just in public, when the tide of opinion has already turned and a little “woke”-ness might benefit you — but in private, when it can hurt.

It’s worth a read, and a conversation with your white dude friends who insist they’re feminists.

To the Bone and the Trouble with Anorexia on Film (The Atlantic)

Last week, Netflix’s new (and controversial) movie To the Bone premiered, and launched the necessary think pieces. This is one of the better ones, which gets at many of the films (myriad) issues:

It’s a whole genre, a culture, that has a morbid and complex fascination with emaciated female bodies. To the Bone, inspired by its director Marti Noxon’s own experiences with anorexia, is a largely sensitive and thoughtful treatment of the disorder, but it can’t dodge the fact that any truthful depiction of anorexia will, by its nature, trigger those who struggle with the disease. The question is whether the usefulness of recovery narratives is worth the damage done in feeding a cultural curiosity that’s deeply unhealthy.

The movie is far from perfect, but reading this piece after viewing it provides a great deal of valuable insight.

What did you read this week that stood out to you?

pop culture

Internet Things I’ve Been Reading and Thinking About This Week

Here are the articles that have stayed with me this week.

When Will Climate Change Make the Earth too Hot for Humans? (NY Mag)

It’s…not good, you guys. Things are happening fast, and the general scientific consensus is that we’re much closer to many of these catastrophic things than we think. This part, about melting Arctic ice is particularly terrifying to me:

The Arctic also stores terrifying bugs from more recent times. In Alaska, already, researchers have discovered remnants of the 1918 flu that infected as many as 500 million and killed as many as 100 million — about 5 percent of the world’s population and almost six times as many as had died in the world war for which the pandemic served as a kind of gruesome capstone. As the BBC reported in May, scientists suspect smallpox and the bubonic plague are trapped in Siberian ice, too — an abridged history of devastating human sickness, left out like egg salad in the Arctic sun.

Did That New York Magazine Climate Change Piece Freak You Out? Good. (Vox)

This came along literally right after I read the NYMag piece, and it helped solidify a lot of my thoughts about the article. It’s worth a read, especially if your knee-jerk response to the first article is disbelief:

“Things stay roughly as they are” is just as improbable as the worst-case scenario he lays out, yet I’d venture to guess it is believed (or more importantly, envisioned) by vastly more people.

Part of that is because envisioning the best-case scenario is easy — it looks just like now! — while envisioning the worst-case scenario is very difficult. It’s especially difficult because the worst-case scenario is treated by the very few people who understand it as a kind of forbidden occult knowledge to which ordinary people cannot survive exposure. Nobody can talk about it without getting scolded by the hope police.

The Best Books of 2017 (So Far) (Bookriot)

I’m a sucker for lists, and I love lists about books especially, so this was a fun read for me. I have not read many of them, but a bunch are already on my TBR list and I have a few checked out from the library right now, so I guess I’m on the right track?

American Girl Dolls Ranked in Order of Gayness (The Niche Blog)

This was one of those wonderful weird internet stumble-upon things that happened to me this week. This sums up the point of the post:

I’ve written at some length about how American Girl’s story model is pretty inherently gay: take a girl from a given historical period, have her run up against the gendered conventions of the era, ???, profit. The line was always meant to run counter to hypersexualized dolls like Barbie and Bratz, and so the focus of all the stories is female friendship. It is a rare thing for an American Girl to even speak to a boy to whom she’s not related. And when this does happen, it’s probably because the boy was antagonizing the American Girl in question, and she had to put him in his place.

I had Addy and my sister had Molly, so this was a very fun read for me.

 

pop culture · reviews

Movie Review: Mommy Dead and Dearest (2017)

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Dee Dee Blanchard and her chronically ill daughter Gypsy Rose moved to Springfield, MO after Hurricane Katrina, and it was there that Gypsy Rose became something of an internet celebrity. Charming, adorable, and certainly someone who had overcome a life full of pain and suffering, she was a perfect candidate for inspiration porn. Her ailments included leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and delayed brain development.  In June of 2015, Dee Dee was found murdered in their home and Gypsy Rose was gone. A short while later, Gypsy Rose posted on Facebook “That Bitch is Dead,” and then the most shocking reveal of all: Gypsy Rose wasn’t sick at all. A victim of Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, Gypsy Rose had suffered for over 20 years at the hands of her mother.

This smart, accessible documentary by Erin Lee Carr examines the life of Gypsy Rose, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for orchestrating the murder of her mother. The documentary answers questions almost as fast as viewers can formulate them in their brains: when did Gypsy Rose know that she wasn’t really sick? Why did this escape the notice of so many doctors for so many years? What about Gypsy Rose’s absent father? And on and on. The film doesn’t shy away from examining these questions, and because they provide so much insight from the family as well as medical professionals, the result is very successful.

Of course, the subject itself is compelling all on its own. Even though it’s clear that Gypsy Rose was the mastermind behind the murder, she didn’t actually carry it out. She left that to her online boyfriend, a man named Nick. Also, since Gypsy Rose had lived her whole life being told she was sick when she was not, how can she even distinguish between what is real and what is not? These questions don’t have such clear-cut answers, but the ride is worth it anyway.

Coming in at a slim 82 minutes, this film is worth watching for any true crime fan, whether they be an obsessive consumer of the macabre or a more casual viewer.  It’s gripping stuff, excellently done, and it stays with you long after the movie has finished. There’s also this excellent piece by Michelle Dean about the mother-daughter duo, and it helps shed even more insight into the whole bizarre event.

pop culture

Internet Things I’ve Been Reading and Thinking About This Week

Every so often, depending on how much downtime I have, I like to link to the things I’ve been reading and thinking about in a given week and provide a (very) little commentary about them. These are the posts that got me thinking this week:

The Kids Are Not Alright: How Opioids are Destroying American Families (Mother Jones)

This is a really excellent piece about the opioid epidemic in America, and how tied up it is in poverty, politics, and more. Focusing specifically on a poor county in Ohio, the article looks at the number of displaced children as a result of parents who are addicted to heroin and other opioids. It’s heartbreaking, and fascinating, and delves into the lasting damage a parent’s substance abuse can have on a child:

Mongenel asked questions like, “Do you have enough to eat?” and “Do you like where you’re staying?” and “Do you know what drug use is?” She didn’t say she had just visited Lisa’s house and found Lisa’s father strung out on heroin in the bedroom they share. Lisa’s bed was a pink sleeping bag on a piece of foam surrounded by pill bottles.

Children in Lisa’s situation are subject to incredible psychological stress…But there’s also the long-term impact. Dozens of studies have found that kids who undergo traumatic events early in life are more likely to suffer mental and physical repercussions later on, be it substance abuse, depression, heart disease, or cancer.

Finding a More Inclusive Vision of Fitness In Our Feeds (New York Times)

This short, simple article examines the surge of health/fitness gurus on Instagram, and how the online world allows people to find niches they wouldn’t find in the real world. One part in particular made me snort-laugh with recognition:

Stanley said she was able to find an audience online that would have been hard to build offline: ‘‘There was a niche community of people waiting for a yoga book written by a queer, fat, black person. It was just about finding the means to reach them.’’ But as much as Stanley credits her successes to social media, she noted that the performativity and stylization popular on the internet can quickly get out of hand. ‘‘It can create molds and archetypes that become bigger than the activity itself,’’ she told me. She gave the example of an Instagram cliché: a handstand at sunset on a beach. ‘‘It’s so idealized, like, your life must be perfect if you can hold a balance posture on the beach,’’ she said. ‘‘But the actual practice of yoga isn’t about that at all. The image isn’t important. The practice is.’’

Anything good you read this week? Let me know in the comments.

 

books and reading · pop culture

February 2017 Recap

This is how the month of February shook out for me. These are the things I watched and read:

Books:

Total:  39
Picture Books: 35
Middle Grade: 0
YA: 2
Adult: 2
Fiction: 37
Non-Fiction: 2
Audiobooks: 0
Total Pages Read: 2848

Favorite Reads in February:

23613983Run by Kody Keplinger: A lovely story about two best friends on a journey of self-discovery, this novel treated a slew of difficult topics with respect and care. Disabilities, GLBTQ issues, and socioeconomics are all explored in this novel, and Keplinger continues to grow as a writer. I really enjoyed this one.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems: A 490867lovely, funny, too-true story about a little girl and her stuffed rabbit. This one was a total hit at storytime, and I loved reading it on my own, too.

28818921Difficult Women by Roxane Gay: This short story collection, like virtually all short story collections, has some knock-out chapters and some forgettable ones, but on the whole it’s a captivating look at a bunch of deeply flawed, deeply human women. Not every story here works, and there are times when virtually all of the men in all of the stories are completely one-dimensional monsters, but on the whole it’s compelling stuff.

 

Movies:

Total: 5
New: 5
Re-Watch: 0

Favorite Movies in February: 
lion_ver5Lion: I ugly cried through most of this one, but on the whole I also loved it. Sunny Pawar is great as the young child in the first half of the film, and Dev Patel is great as the older version. There’s some gorgeous shots of scenery throughout the film, and the narrative is compelling enough that I placed a hold on the memoir that the film is based on.

My reading and watching of new movies was way down in February, which is disheartening. I can blame stress and life changes, but it’s also just laziness. I’m hoping that March is a better month for the consumption of new media, but since I’m also packing and planning a move for April 1, I’m not…optimistic.

books and reading · pop culture

January 2017 Recap

This is how the month of January shook out for me. These are the things I watched and read:

Books:

Total: 49
Picture Books: 27
Middle Grade: 6
YA: 4
Adult: 12
Fiction: 41
Non-Fiction:8
Audiobooks: 5
Total Pages Read: 5596

Favorite Reads in January:
30231763Always Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller: A collection of stories about women in doomed relationships. While most are romantic in nature, there are a few where unhealth friendships or other non-romantic relationships are explored.  All of the stories are beautifully written, with searing truths about what it is like to be an American woman in this day and age, and Miller’s writing cuts right to the bone.  There are some standouts here; in particular “Big Bad Love” and “The House on Main Street,” but all of the stories can stand on their own.  This is one I’d like to own, so I can revisit favorite passages again and again.

The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan: I read this short middle 28594983grade novel in one sitting at the desk at work, and I had to work very hard not to sob while doing so. It’s a simple story narrated in large part by a dog who has recently lost his owner, a poet.  The dog rescues two children in a terrible snow storm, and the three form an intense bond. The result is a lovely story about the unconditional love dogs have for humans, the wonder both children and poets have, and the hope that life can bring. I loved it.

6527979The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na: A very cute, beautifully illustrated picture book about an elephant who cannot figure out what the thingamabob is supposed to do. It will captivate young readers and entertain adults, too. I have hopes of using this in a toddler storytime sometime this year, because I think it will be a hit. Il Sung Na is an author to watch out for.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo: Amanda has moved to a 26156987new town after a brutal attack and is hoping to start over as her true self. But she also knows she has to try to fly under the radar for her own safety, which becomes harder when she falls for a boy at her new school. A story about a trans girl by a trans author that doesn’t result in total tragedy or darkness, this is a contemporary, necessary story that’s important not only for cis teens but for trans ones as well. It’s romantic, universal, and engaging. I loved it.

Movies:

Total: 17
New: 11
Re-Watch: 6

Favorite Movies in January: 
hf.jpgHidden Figures: The Oscar nominations for this movie are well-deserved. It’s a fairly typical bio-pic, but it’s still compelling as hell and very moving. I loved every minute of watching these amazing women solve math problems and face unbelievable sexism and racism.

American Honey: Definitely overly-long (I couldn’t believe the ah.pngruntime was nearly 3 hours), but very compelling. Star says she’s 18 and might be telling the truth when she hooks up with a ragtag group of teens who travel the country in a van, selling magazines and partying in cheap motels. The result is a road trip movie that sort of meanders through its storyline, and if it weren’t for the excellent cast and interesting directing, it would fall apart. But the result is a beautiful movie more interested in examining the inner life of its female protagonist than anything else. I really liked it, but I’ll admit it’s not for everyone.

books and reading · pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

I don’t have a lot to say these days, but I’m still reading a lot. These are the things that got me reading and thinking this week.  Without further ado:

Barbie’s Got a New Body (Time)

An interesting look at not only the latest iteration of Barbie, but also of the history of the doll (which I loved playing with when I was growing up).  At any rate, Mattel is releasing different body types as well as dolls with more diverse types of hair and skin tones, and it’s an interesting look at the “gamble” the company is taking by doing so:

But the initiative could also backfire—if it’s not too late altogether. Adding three new body types now is sure to irritate someone: just picking out the terms petite, tall and curvy, and translating them into dozens of languages without causing offense, took months. And like me, girls will strip curvy Barbie and try to put original Barbie’s clothes on her or swap the skirts of petite and tall. Not everything will Velcro shut. Fits will be thrown, exasperated moms will call Mattel. The company is setting up a separate help line just to deal with Project Dawn complaints.

There’s also some interesting tidbits about the history of the doll:

Still, Barbie’s sales took off, but by 1963 women were protesting the same body men had ridiculed. That year, a teen Barbie was sold with a diet book that recommended simply, “Don’t eat.” When a Barbie with pre-programmed phrases uttered, “Math class is tough,” a group called the Barbie Liberation Organization said the doll taught girls that it was more important to be pretty than smart. They switched out Barbie’s voice box with that of GI Joe so that the blonde cried, “Vengeance is mine,” while the macho warrior enthused, “Let’s plan our dream wedding.”

Where is the Diversity in Publishing? (Lee & Low)

Lee & Low did a baseline study on diversity in publishing last year, and the results are in.  The results are not surprising, and definitely alarming:

While all racial/ethnic minorities are underrepresented when compared to the general US population, the numbers show that some groups, such as Black/African Americans, are more severely underrepresented. This mirrors trends among children’s book authors. In 2014, just 2 percent of the books tracked by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center were by black authors. Latinos were similarly underrepresented in both places.

There’s a lot of stuff to parse here, and this is helpful to consider:

Does the lack of diverse books closely correlate to the lack of diverse staff? The percentages, while not exact, are proportional to how the majority of books look nowadays—predominately white. Cultural fit would seem to be relevant here. Or at least in publishing’s case, what is at work is the tendency—conscious or unconscious—for executives, editors, marketers, sales people, and reviewers to work with, develop, and recommend books by and about people who are like them.

Powerlifter (The Morning News)

This is obviously more of a niche piece, but if you’re interested in the world of fitness and weight lifting and women, this is an excellent, thought-provoking piece about the experience of women gaining strength in a traditionally male-dominated world.

Toned yet tiny fitness models likeJen Selter and Kayla Itsines are considered athletic and beautiful, while larger—and stronger—professional athletes like Serena Williams and Karyn Marshall, a prominent figure in female lifting in the US, are mocked for looking masculine.

Part history lesson, part personal musings about weightlifting, this is an excellent piece that tackles eating disorders, exercise addiction, body acceptance, and more:

But, like most things if you look closely, it turns out it wasn’t quite a choice so much as an internalized cultural restriction. I felt I didn’t belong because I was supposed to feel like I didn’t belong. You’ll be unattractive if you lift. Weights are for boys. Muscles aren’t sexy on girls. And so on.

It’s totally worth a read.

What are you reading and thinking about this week?