Oct 30, 2009


I'm heading home tonight. After two months in New York, I can't wait to smell the ocean, eat Mom's cooking, and sleep all day. I need a restful/sober weekend, you guys. October was fun, but damn, I'm tired. I wish you all a Halloween complete with sugar-highs, ridiculous costumes, and whatever form of general debauchery your heart desires. Stay safe, and have fun; I'll be back on Monday. In the meantime, check out the following if you find yourself with too much free time this weekend:

Jacob Clifton's latest Gossip Girl recap. In which he addresses the girl power/gay power Serena stuff I always talk about, except he's a genius and quotes classic literature. Give the guy a few pages, and you'll be hooked. He's the most underrated writer in America.

The Tomato Nation 2009 Contest is coming to a close this weekend. It's not too late to donate money towards a variety of educational initiatives via DonorsChoose. A really amazing effort from Sarah Bunting and her readers. Even if you can't afford to donate, dig through her archives, her tough love advice column is informative and hilarious.

Interested in British pop music and/or comic books? If Destroyed, Still True is a smart pop culture blog from across the pond. Paul O'Brien inspired my own X-Men fandom.

Lastly, What's Alan Watching? is a couch potato's dream. Sepinwall provides in-depth analysis of any show worth talking about; his Mad Men posts are fantastic. Get caught up for Sunday's episode in between costume donning and candy scarfing. I'll be playing my parents' new Wii (in my pajamas) (at 4 pm) (yay!).

Oct 29, 2009

Song for you.

This one goes out to Lis. Happy almost weekend everybody.

TV time.

I'm a few weeks behind on Mad Men. I keep hearing that it's gotten totally awesome/insane, so I probably won't comment on it until I'm caught up. No new Glee this week either.

The City: Only five episodes into the new season, and I might love this show more than The Hills. Someone at MTV must have taught Whitney how to be the new Lauren because she is flashing endearing charm all over the place. It's moments like her and Roxie doing the "Single Ladies" dance while getting ready for the night (remember how like, fifty percent of Laguna Beach was the girls talking in front of the mirror?) that make this work. Erin's continued competence at her job, Roxie's wild child/best friend persona, and the genius of Kelly Cutrone are icing on the cake. I'd also love to figure out what Olivia did to the people at MTV because they must hate her. The girl cannot catch a break, no matter how many times they shoot her looking pretty while walking down the hall at Elle.

The Hills: Does Drunk Holly remind anyone else of themselves/most of their friends circa Saturday night? According to Heidi and Spencer, most of the people I know would have drinking problems. Now, maybe Holly really does hit the bottle too hard, but they need to show her doing something besides dancing if they're going to convince me she needs rehab. And Stephanie "rehab changed my life" Pratt might want to eat those words in light of her new DUI. My problem with this show is that the three primary leads (Kristin, Audrina, and Heidi) never interact. If the show is going to ditch the girls' work lives in favor of bitch fights and boy drama, you would think they'd find three stars who could actually stand to share a room.

Modern Family: A pretty sloppy episode with the occasional hilarious highlights. It's the little things like Jay changing costumes between scenes for no apparent reason that brought this one down. And Clare's closing monologue was way too sugar-coated. As usual, I loved everything Mitchell/Cam. Mitchell bumping Lily's head (in her Diana Ross wig) was hysterical.

Oct 28, 2009

I Am Jean Grey.

Jean Grey: Scott . . . I had to watch it all changing . . . had to let him go because of what love says . . . the Phoenix burns and disinfects and dies to return . . . I feel so scared and weird, Logan . . . don't leave me.

Phoenix: Live Scott, live. All I ever did was die on you.

My so-called life.

I recently alluded to changes in my status quo; allow me to explain. For two weeks, I interned at a boutique literary agency. There, I read all kinds of things, mostly manuscripts and query letters. Piece of advice: if you're going to query your New Literary Novel, spell the agent's name right. Last week, I got a full-time job working as the assistant here. Today's my third day. My responsibilities include writing for their blog; you can now read more from me here. I'm liking it a great deal so far.

In other news, if you live in Maine, do the country a favor and vote to legalize gay marriage. My home parish apparently took an extra collection last week to raise money in opposition. Nothing says "God is love" like asking your parishoners, mid-service, to donate money in support of state enforced discrimination. Let's give Catholicism a hand! Seriously, I could write another 10,000 words about this, but I won't. It's common sense. Gay marriage isn't anybody's business except for the couple in the relationship. No one is trying to gay-marry the Pope.

Oct 27, 2009

Defying gravity.

A few days ago, I exclaimed via Twitter my excitement that Rachel and Kurt are singing "Defying Gravity" on the next episode of Glee. It's probably obvious that I'd be excited about my favorite song (inspired by my favorite book) being sung on one of my favorite TV shows. That's a lot of favorite crammed into 3-5 minutes. It's something to dork out about, but it's also something to consider seriously in light of the times in which we live.

"Defying Gravity" is one of those songs that excites a bodily reaction. Your heart starts pumping, you get chills, you cry. The first time I heard it, I got an adrenaline rush like I would get at the starting line of a 2k crew race. It's a fucking powerful song. It's the story of a woman coming into her own, specifically, the moment Elphaba Thropp realizes she's a total fucking bad ass, that the Wizard of Oz is full of shit, and that she can doing something about it. It's about a little green girl deciding she's not afraid anymore, that the room she's lived in all her life is a room of her own making, and that all she has to do is step outside. It's about realizing you're beautiful, powerful, perfect.

You could also say it's a story about Emma Frost relinquishing her diamond form, stepping out into the world, and burning like the Phoenix we all are. There's a reason I quote Wicked and Jacob Clifton's Gossip Girl recaps and Grant Morrison's New X-Men all the time. If I had my way, every teenage girl and gay boy would read them. America loves telling teenage girls and gay boys that they belong in dark rooms, that their sexuality is something dangerous and scary. Girls get pregnant, queers get AIDS, and anyone who thinks otherwise is deranged. Kids everywhere internalize that shit. They bottle it up, and learn to fear their own bodies. They stay little green girls in dark rooms, when really they are a Phoenix.

Things are changing, though. Just last week Puck asked Rachel if she wanted to make out and she shrugged and said "okay." Things are changing, one "Never gonna bring me down," at a time. That said, make sure to tune in to the next episode of Glee because one teenage girl and one teenage gay boy are going to tell us a story. It's a story we've already heard, but I think it bears repeating. Those kids need us now more than ever. Let's burn.

Oct 26, 2009

Never Let Me Go

Reading this book is like taking your heart out of your chest, caressing it lovingly for a few hours, and then unceremoniously smashing it to pieces. On the surface, it's such a quiet, delicate thing; Kathy repeatedly brushes against the big questions of her strange existence, yet rarely directly engages them. When she, or the other characters, dare to speak plainly about Hailsham, we feel as unsettled and bewildered as she does. Time and again, she diverts our attention away from pressing existential matters toward smaller moments of emotional intimacy. It's only after you've finished the novel that you realize those moments pack a more forceful punch than any discussion of clones and organ donations.

This book most reminded me of Brave New World in the way it depicts an alternate timeline to which we can both relate and feel completely separate. We identify with Kathy's struggle to be a good friend to both Tommy and Ruth, yet we struggle to understand the characters' resigned acceptance of their fate. To us, Kathy appears detached or even uninterested in matters of extreme importance (what exactly being a donor means, the truth about Hailsham), but to her, it's just the way her life works. The difficult parts of her life have to do with her friends and sex and love relationships, just like everyone else.

I found Ishiguro's presentation of sex refreshing. When Kathy talks about the moments when she wants sex so badly she'd do it with anyone, we feel uncomfortable because we don't talk like that. Ruth teaches Kathy to feel ashamed of her urges, but in the end reveals she feels similarly. I wish this book was taught in high school, so teenagers would understand that everyone feels weird and wild about sex. It's just a part of growing up. That's what this book is really about, growing up, becoming a person, learning to love. The "possibles" and carers are just the setting for one of the most moving stories I've read in a long time. Ultimately, Ishiguro leaves you feeling like Kathy in that field, tears running down your face, wishing the people you care most about (in this case, our beloved narrator) would never let you go.

March of the Witch Hunters.

The Magic Mirror: You've managed to make an enemy of Bufkin, the monkey. Once he decided he needed to destroy you, you were basically doomed.

Baba Yaga: I've never heard of such a creature. What are his powers?

The Magic Mirror: He reads. He reads everything.

Oct 12, 2009

TV time.

Dollhouse and The Office are no longer Mandatory Viewing. Dollhouse showed so much promise with "Epitaph One," but now it's back to Echo's Mission of the Week. I don't find Echo interesting, so count me out until they start focusing on the larger mythology again and/or Amy Acker returns. As for The Office, it's still a great show, but my interest has waned. When I couldn't bring myself to watch Jim and Pam get married, I knew it was time to say goodbye. Unless the writers can find a new status quo, like they did with the Michael Scott Paper Company episodes, I probably won't be back to Dunder Mifflin for a while.

The City: Ditching the Hills style narration and focus on love relationships has done wonders for this show. Whitney is massively more appealing as a nice girl trying to make her way in the fashion industry than she was as Jay's doe-eyed girlfriend, plus Roxie and Erin = awesome. Is it just me, or does Olivia seem kind of downtrodden this season?

Glee: Too much Terri, but I loved everyone else, particularly Rachel. Her reaching out to Quinn ("the kids in glee won't judge you") was a great moment; Lea Michele has grown exponentially as an actress. I also loved her extra-hyper introduction to the girls' mash-up (" . . . and also ANGELS!") and morning routine. If Emma marries Ken, I'm going to be sad.

The Hills: Audrina doesn't like Kristen because Kristen has more charisma in her pinkie finger than Audrina does in her entire person, so Audrina is funneling her rage into all this "girl code" bullshit, since she can't acknowledge the cast's celebrity status on camera. Also, why is it that even with Lauren gone, Heidi and Spencer don't interact with anyone but themselves?

Mad Men: A fantastic episode, if only for the show's willingness to portray its characters acting horribly. Don must be on a mission to personally destroy every favorable member of the cast (though Peggy seems to have gotten over her tongue lashing a few weeks back). Poor Sal seems to be a recurring response this year; my stomach lurched when Don muttered "you people." I hope we see more of Carla soon, and mark me down as unenthusiastic about Don's new affair and Betty's character in general.

Modern Family: The funniest show on TV. Just watch it.

Oct 6, 2009

Song for you.

My love for Kristin Chenoweth knows no bounds.

How I Became a Famous Novelist

It takes a lot for me to laugh out loud at a book, but Steve Hely had me on page two with "Sometimes I'd wake up wearing my jeans. I wore jeans daily because jeans can double as a napkin."

That line describes narrator Pete Tarslaw perfectly. Pete is a lovable loser, the kind of jackass you like to have around because his antics are so damn entertaining. The plot involves Pete writing an admittedly hack best-selling novel, all the while waving his middle finger at a publishing industry he views as a pathetic joke. Of course, the joke is really on Pete, as he's forced to learn a few deserved life lessons, but not before Hely has some fun of his own examining the state of The Writer in contemporary America.

It's true that lots of former English majors consider the best-seller list to be generic crap. Commercial fiction is not always well-written, but people still like to read it. It's writers like Dan Brown who keep publishing houses alive and capable of supporting less popular, award-winner types. Hely understands this fact, and would very much like the literary elite to get over themselves. I liked this book because I'm a big fan of people getting over themselves, even if I'm prone to being a book snob myself.

My favorite part was Pete's visit to an MFA program in Montana. Hely's description of the creative writing classroom was perfect, down to the professor lauding "Ray Carver and Rick Yates." I read Short Cuts and Revolutionary Road because my (totally awesome) professor, Melissa Falcon, waxed poetic about their greatness (both books are kick ass, and got made into movies, I might add). How I Became a Famous Novelist may poke fun at those brave souls taking a stab at the writing life, but at the end of the day, Hely's obvious affection for these people and their efforts far outweighs his narrator's cynicism.

Nice work, MTV.

If my Ode to Kristin Cavallari didn't tip you off, I'm a big fan of the MTV It Girls. Now, The Hills has been consistently awesome since Heidi ditched Lauren for Spencer, but the first season of The City left me cold. Whitney Port is a nice enough girl, but she's also kind of quiet, and the show lacked a truly outrageous supporting cast to start the drama for her.

So, imagine my surprise when I caught the premiere of The City last week, and discovered a series revamped and ready to kick ass. Gone are all the boring models and rocker boyfriends, replaced by the combined awesomeness of Erin Kaplan and Roxy Olin. You guys, I am so excited about these two. First of all, Erin appears to have a real job that she's actually good at. This, I support; I could watch her boss around Olivia Palermo all day.

Even more awesome than Erin, however, is Roxy, who is clearly down to fuck with Whitney's life for our entertainment. Not only did she stomp into Kelly Cutrone's offices proclaiming she's not a "bitch," just a "straight shooter," but she also laughed at Whitney's bedazzled flower pot. The best part is that she's actually likeable, and it's clear she and Whitney get along. Whitney has always needed a best friend who encourages her to do things like throw loud parties; she showed more personality in her three scenes with Roxy than she ever did with Lauren. Against my previous misgivings, put me down for a season pass.

The Importance of Being Scott Summers.

Jean Grey: Scott, you're my favorite superhero.

Scott Summers: So anyway, this bad guy, En Sabah Nur, wound up worming his way into my thoughts . . . even when I threw him off I couldn't stop thinking all this awful stuff . . . I mean, people like Jean and the Professor just shrug this kind of thing off like it's some sort of occupational hazard . . . It's hard to talk to them.

Emma Frost: So all you're saying is that some mind monster put a lot of dirty thoughts in your head, and you're embarrassed in case your telepathic wife sees what you're really thinking about her? Oh Scott, how ordinary!

Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name took a while to win me over. The first hundred-or-so pages are torturous; Elio pines for Oliver yet doubts his feelings are reciprocated, while we wait for the the pair to admit their attraction to one another. Elio endlessly nourishing his crush gets tiresome and frustrating, but that's exactly how Elio feels.

You could argue that Aciman has taken Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" plot (forbidden gay romance followed by years of unrequited longing) and replaced her Wyoming cowboys with jet-setting Jewish intellectuals. Accusing Aciman of such heavy borrowing, however, proves lazy reading. Call Me by Your Name touches upon many of the same issues "Brokeback" addresses, but it does so in a more languid, less angst-ridden manner. Elio eventually gets over Oliver; both men go on to live successful lives, while keeping a place in their heart for the other. Elio's father even acknowledges and understands their affair. It's a softer presentation of homosexuality, a luxury the characters can afford due to their class and political leanings.

The best writing occurs after the men consummate their relationship. You expect to find Elio overjoyed, instead, he feels nothing but revulsion for what he's just done, abandoning Oliver for a date with a female friend. That kind of sexual confusion, and desperate need to plug back into heterosexual society, felt very real, and exemplifies the honest, complicated nature of Aciman's work. This was another pleasant surprise.