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.

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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.

books and reading · pop culture

August 2017 Recap

This is how the month of August shaped up for me in terms of reading books and watching movies. And a lot of terrible TV.

Books:

Total: 35
Picture Books: 21
Middle Grade: 3
YA: 3
Adult: 8
Fiction: 30
Non-Fiction: 5
Audiobooks: 2
Total Pages Read: 4254

Favorite Reads in August:

32940879Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed: I loved this dystopian tale about an island where the (increasingly inbred) population follows a religion based on ancestor worship and strange mating rituals. It’s dark and haunting and beautifully written. I couldn’t pt it down. It’s one of my favorite reads of the year.

Grit by Gillian French: This fantastic YA novel about a girl31706530 living with a reputation in rural Maine was gripping and gorgeous. It’s my favorite kind of YA: dark, a little gritty, and featuring an authentic teen voice. French is an author to watch, and this is one of my favorite YA novels of the year, for sure.

Viewing

Total Movies: 6
New: 5
Re-Watch: 1

Favorite Movies in August: 

landlineLandline: I really really liked this dramedy about a family each dealing with their own issues. Set in 1995, things change for youngest daughter Ali (Abby Quinn) when she realizes her father (John Turturro) is having an affair. Meanwhile, Ali’s older sister Dana (Jenny Slate) starts to question her long-term relationship with nice guy Ben (Jay Duplass). It’s a smart movie, full of genuinely funny and sad moments about family and love and sisters, and while director Gillian Robespierre’s first movie Obvious Child remains my favorite, I really loved watching this tighter, more controlled narrative.

Everything else I watched in August was mostly garbage, including Baywatch, Beatriz at Dinner, and The Dinner.

Other Things I’ve Been Watching:

I’m almost done with Dawson’s Creek, and I want it to be over so desperately. I also can’t not finish, so I’m stuck in a pain cycle of my own doing. Everyone on the show is simultaneously boring and also the worst. I forgot how boring the show is in general, but it’s especially true of the college years.

I finally convinced the boyf to watch The Office, so we’ve been tearing through that. We started with Season 2, because he’s particularly sensitive to super awkward humor, and he seems to really be enjoying it, which is fun for me because it’s still one of my absolute favorite series.

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

pop culture

Movie Trailers

I’m falling very far short of my goal of watching 100 movies that are new to me in 2017, but these are some trailers for upcoming movies I’m super interested in.

It (2017)

Look, I get that this one isn’t for everyone. A killer clown stalking children? It combines so many fears for so many people. I think it looks absolutely terrifying, but it made me want to pick up the novel again–I haven’t read it in at least 15 years. I’m going to have a hell of a time finding anyone to watch this with me, but I’m determined to see it.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

I loved this book as a kid, and I can’t wait to see this take on the book, featuring a stellar, diverse cast. I think it looks good, and early buzz isn’t bad, either.

Step (2017)

Upon watching (and crying) this trailer, I immediately emailed my mom and told her we needed to see this. It’s completely in our wheelhouse, and I can’t wait to watch this documentary about girls who dance in Baltimore. It looks so lovely and beautiful and heartbreaking.

What movies are you really looking forward to?

books and reading · pop culture

July 2017 Recap

This is how the month of July shaped up for me in terms of reading books and watching movies (okay, a lot of TV).

Books:

Total:  51
Picture Books: 33
Middle Grade: 1
YA: 5
Adult: 12
Fiction: 46
Non-Fiction: 5
Audiobooks: 2
Total Pages Read: 5568

Favorite Reads in July:

 

32195204The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter: I’ve already extolled the virtues of this one, but it’s still a stand-out read for the month. I think it would make a great movie, too.

This House, Once by Deborah Freeman: A great picture 30312840book with sparse text and gorgeous illustrations. There was something so beautiful and simple about this one. I just loved it.

Perennials by Mandy Berman: I think this was a 32148219really strong debut, and Berman will be an author to watch. There’s a lot of good stuff here, and the characters have stayed with me long after I finished the book.

 

 

 

Viewing

Total Movies: 4
New: 4
Re-Watch: 0

Favorite Movies in July: okja
Okja: My mom emailed me after watching this late once night and told me I had to watch it immediately; then she called me that night to talk about it some more. So, I watched it. And I loved it. It’s sad and beautiful and weird and sneaky and wonderful. It’s definitely worth your 2 hours.

Other Things I’ve Been Watching:

I’ve been slowly slogging my way through ER Season 2, and that’s been an experience. Everyone looks so young, and every episode feels so long!

Because I’m a masochist, I’ve been rewatching Dawson’s Creek, mostly as background noise while I do other things. It’s still terrible, and every character is total garbage except for Pacey, and yet somehow I can’t quit it.

 

 

 

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.

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.