I took a break from watching comedy after attempting that wretched Bo Burnham fiasco. Blech.
I came back to it when I saw that Mike Birbiglia had a new special on Netflix, entitled "The New One."
This special means a lot to me, and for a lot of reasons.
First off, I don't know anyone who hates men as much as I do aside from maybe my spouse and Mike Birbiglia. It is SO REFRESHING to see a guy talking about how fucking trash men are. There is a lot to be said about someone in the in-group taking the group to task, because they can make in-roads with that group in ways that members of the out-group cannot. His contempt isn't limited to this special, but it comes to the fore in a way it had not in his previous engagements. (Except maybe the one where he yelled at that guy about the lady cop for like 5 minutes straight.)
The other reason this special resonated with me so hard is because I loathe the idea of ever having children, for all of the reasons he said and a hundred more. I think it is noble for him to acquiese because I know I would not. If my spouse suddenly decided he wanted kids and it was a deal breaker, then our deal would be broken. The horrific upheaval of life and destruction of everything we've built is just not acceptable to me. When he said he gets why men leave I fucking got it cos I would have left.
I have no maternal instinct for humans. I never have. It is not a part of my DNA.
I appreciate his honesty and candor. I appreciate that he never goes for shock value and he never condescends.
I have friends that are really excited to go see Tig Notaro and I just don't like her. The way she talks about her wife is awful. If I were watching a male comedian and he spoke about his wife that way I would turn it off. There is a hardness and a meanness and I am not okay with it.
For your viewing pleasure: Mike Birbiglia destroying a guy who says "lady cop" from "Thank God for Jokes"
I love ASMR. I don't remember who I first heard about it from, but when they said that they got tingles watching someone talk I got really excited because I've tried to explain these experiences to other people for YEARS and no one really knew what I was talking about. I've accrued quite a collection of artists over the years, and it's gotten to be quite a big list!
Anyway, I thought I'd put the list of ASMRtists that I enjoy on here so that they're easy to reference. Yes, these are all youtube links. I got the tingles app, but not everyone is on there, so I'm just pulling from my subscriptions list on YT for now. Here they are presented in no particular order:
Obviously YMMV, and there may be some that I didn't include, cos well not everyone has the same taste. But these are my faves.Back to Top
I love this movie so much.
Sometimes you just want to sit down and watch a man-hating ass film, and this one always does the trick. My favorite thing is that I get to say, "My favorite man-hating film is Mad Max: Fury Road (see also: all Mad Max films) and it was written by a man, so stuff it, garbage men everywhere.
I do think it's interesting how it quickly worked its way into the action-films-in-syndiation lexicon. I also think it's wonderful. Now kids who are bored and want to watch explosions on a Saturday afternoon also get a heavy dose of "men in power ruin everything, shoot them all" alongside the fantastic spectacle that is a George Miller film.
And what a spectacle it is. I am forever entranced by the editing work done by Miller's own wife, Margaret Sixel, who is better known for her documentary work. The cuts are lush, the colors, outstanding. There isn't a wasted breath, and that is in a film that has a surprising number of quiet, intimate moments. The dialog is that beautiful cowboy parlance of both high and low language, where one second a character talks filth and then next you are hearing high-and-mighty speechifying that does not feel out of place.
There is a fair amount of the camp/pulp that makes all four films great, including tight shots of different characters faces in heated moments.
The choice to go for fully practical stunts and fully realized settings, relegating CGI to the literal background of scenes was a genius stroke. Everything feels alive because everything is alive. The polecats are real, the car and motorcycle stunts are real. It lends an air of tension that films who rely too heavily on CGI for the action (every boring Marvel film) cannot attain.
The acting is perfect. The characters realized through their quieter moments. Max's psychosis is expertly brought to life both in his words and actions. Proclaiming "that's mine!" about his car in the middle of trying to help Furiosa, the wives, and the remnants of the Many Mothers get back to claim Citadel for their own.
I love that Immortan Joe is played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in the first Mad Max film. He is astonishing in both; bringing to life horrible men who cannot see beyond themselves and their lust for control and some semblance of power in a world falling into ruin.
And so now I want to go back and watch all four in sequence. I await the future films with excitement that is a slow burn. I know his films are deep meditations and that they take forever to get made. I am willing to wait a very long time for films that continue to be as perfect as these.Back to Top
We've been on a bit of a kick recently with my favorite era of horror films; namely the mid-to-late-1980s through the early-to-mid-1990s.
I love this era because this is a time where the pacing is still deliberate, and the action is rarely frenetic. The films also tend to have an artsy bent, and are less reliant on jump scares so much as a slowburning sense of foreboding that I really enjoy.
We got to watch Candyman at the Alamo Drafthouse which was a delight. I love this film so much.
What I didn't realize initially is that Clive Barker wrote the story that Candyman is based on, but it makes so much sense! I don't think there's a Clive Barker horror film that I do not enjoy. And I just realized as I'm typing this up that both of the films I intended to talk about are Clive Barker-related, as Hellraiser was written by him AND was his directorial debut.
I love that Hellraiser is somehow doing 50 different things at once and still manages to clock in at a mere 90 minutes AND wraps up all of the disparate story parts in a way that doesn't feel contrived or tacked on. While there is a fair amount of gore, it mainly serves as a vehicle for us to imagine how awful everything must be off screen, rather than attempting to tell us that what we are seeing is the worst of it. (It reminds me of Event Horizon in that regard, another horror film I absolutely adore.)
I also love that the Cenobites are not actually the villains, Julia is. The Cenobites are merely a vehicle for pain. The same can be said for the Candyman. Our villain, in all honesty, is Helen.
Now all I want to do is watch/read all of Clive Barker's writing and filmography to see if this is a consistent theme; that the horrors are not the villains, and that the worst villainy comes from within ourselves.Back to Top
I found this at Barnes & Noble and I was SO FUCKING EXCITED because I wasn't sure if I'd end up having to order it from Bungie or not. I was totally okay with buying it from them, I just reeeeeeeeeeeally like to purchase things in real life. Like to touch things, make sure they are banged up, etc.
Anyway, I devoured this in a day. It's gorgeous and well-composed, and provides a lot of interesting insights into the deeper lore of the Destiny universe.
I would love so much to live in a world where things so much greater than myself are real. As it is this is a gorgeous and terrifying escape from real life and it is done so in a beautiful tome. I cannot wait to get ahold of volume 2.
This grimoire selection focuses on the origins of the Hive, and by extension the Taken, as well as the introduction of the Vex. It is told through "verses" that tell the story of the three sisters Aurush, Xi Ro, and Sathona, who would become The Taken King Oryx, The Witch Savathûn, and the Warrior Zivu Arath. It also tells the story of the origins of the Dredgen. I was excited reading about him because I just had a delightful bit of information delivered to me about the current whereabouts of Dredgen Yor.
I don't really know what else to say that wouldn't be either spoilery or boring for folks who aren't into the Destiny games, but the art is beautiful, the text is beautiful, and even teh cover itself is gorgeous. I'm including below screenshots from Bungie's store so that you can get a taste of what is within the pages.
Jake introduced me to G.L.O.S.S. yesterday and OMG they are AMAZING.
They are a hardcore band comprised of queer and transgender members and they have a 100% take no prisoners attitude. They even turned down a record deal with Epitaph (run by the guitar player for Bad Religion) because of their distribution deal with Warner Brothers. Serious fucking business.
Here is a full set of their music live in San Jose.target="_blank"Back to Top
Wow. Bo Burnham is..... not funny.
I did chuckle at the "Straight White Men" song, but other than that? .Y.I.K.E.S.
I don't know who gave him permission to throw around homophobic slurs for jokes, but maybe revoke it???
I ended up turning off this special about 15 minutes in because it was honestly just steaming trash. I don't like mean comedy. And for a guy who is self-aware enough to make a song talking about how white men are angry whiny babies he sure spends a lot of time on stage being a complete dick?
I suppose there are people who enjoy cruel humor, but that group and I make a Venn diagram of two completely separate circles.
I would not recommend this AT ALL. Nope. Blech. This comedy special did not deliver on its promise of "Make Happy."Back to Top
Well, I watched the first episode of the new Netflix Dark Crystal series and I have SOME THOUGHTS. I don't discuss anything specific, just tone and themes.
It looks beautiful. The puppetry is amazing. I love that in the credits at the end they list the primary puppeteer as well as the voice actor for each of the characters.
But it doesn't FEEL like the Dark Crystal.
I know in this post-Game of Thrones era everyone is going to try to be grimdark and awful. And I know that this series, being a prequel to the film is set on a doom-course trajectory. But there are 2 types of doom-courses: GoT and Rogue One. I'm hoping they pull out a Rogue One kind of storytelling, where we know it ends in ruin for the characters, but it is also a story that is full of hope for everyone that comes after. One episode in and I surely cannot tell you which it will be.
My biggest fear is that it will be another Star Trek: Discovery; where the show is draped in the correct aesthetics, but is stripped entirely of the soul of its predecessor.
I'm going to finish it out. I didn't hate it (Jake did), but I am also reevaluating my expectations and lowering them significantly.Back to Top
I mostly listen to music that is very angry. Or sad. I'm mostly good at finding music that suits my mood, rather than trying to find music to lift my mood.
But a part of what I'm trying to do in with this whole theme of fixing my life is to find music that provides me opportunities to heal and grow and be better at being a better person.
When I was little my parents were REALLY into new age music. We had all the Mannheim Steamroller albums, even the non-Christmas ones. My favorites were always the synthy, future-y sounding new age music.
For some reason it has been really hard for me to find a suitable match in theis modern future. Everything is either too... earthy (and grossly in appropriation territory), or it's toooooo bleep-bloop-y.
I did finally find an album of music that I love on Spotify. It's by an artist called "New Age Healing" and the album is "Music for Deep Meditation." Now, I suck shit at meditating, but this stuff really does create a very relaxed and soothing atmosphere for me to work. I am not as into their other albums as I am this one, but I'm slowly working at expanding my calming playlist so that I don't wear out the welcome of this one.Back to Top
Um okay, so I talk about The Amazing World of Gumball a lot. OKAY A LOT. I can't help it. It's a nearly perfect show.
I've said before that Steven Universe is what I want the world to be: kind, loving, full of hope and love. Adventure Time is what 14 year old goth me would have loved, and I do love it, and it makes me FEEL so profoundly.
But Gumball. GUMBALL. This show is my heart and soul. At turns absurd, kind, sharp, cutting, funny, sweet, and always with a deep undercurrent of suspicion held in check by the belief that nothing is beyond the power of imagination of a young person. I joked once that I would keep a running tally of the number of times that Gumball and Darwin tell each other "I love you," but it wasn't coming from a place of malice. These two are best friends, and the strength of their love and care for each other is sorely missing between two male child characters. Sure other male child characters on other shows are friends, but deep expressions of love, including saying the words? This is still beyond the pale in almost all media.
I did say I would curate a Top Ten best episodes list, but I'm still only a smidge over halfway through a dedicated binge of the series. As it stands I would recommend the following (order irrelevant, and not chronological):
I've been a fan of RadioLab and co-host Jad Abumrad since it's early NPR days. I've followed the show into the podcast format and have stayed enamored all along the way. When Jad started the More Perfect podcast I jumped on board. Who doesn't want a solid primer on some of the most pivotal and inflential U.S. Supreme Court cases in history?
Recently, More Perfect put together an album with songs about the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It is called 27: The Most Perfect Album and it is phenomenal. With tracks covering nearly every genre in American music, including Dolly Parton as on brand as I've heard her, this album and the artists who contributed to it do not pull any punches. "2nd Amendment" by Flor de Toloache had me sobbing in my car on the way to work this morning, and "6th Amendment" by Sons of an Illustrious Father gave me chills. There's not a skippable song on the album, in my opinion.
And the songs themselves are good! Even if you want to ignore the messaging, there are some jams here. Well worth a listen. And 27: The Most Perfect Album includes notes about each of the amendments and songs in an online approximation of liner notes. It is really lovely.Back to Top
I was a latecomer to Destiny. I had no interest in playing because everyone said it was "Mass Effect without a story." I picked up my copy with The Taken King came out, as there was much fanfare about the sudden rise of storytelling and I was excited to see what the buzz was about. I have been in love ever since.
These games hit every chord for me:
I haven't believed in anything for as long as I've known that believing was a choice. It leaves an empty space in my heart, but one that I cannot fill because I cannot make that choice to believe. At least, not in real life.
My favorite thing about worlds like Destiny are that I can just BE my character. And unlike games like World of Warcraft, there is massively limited human player interaction (on PS4 at least there is no chat window, no voice lines, and if you choose to do strikes you can do them without voice). I am in this world and we are all mute, but working toward a common goal. My immersion is complete and it is deep and it wrenches my heart.
Even before the death of Cayde-6 this game has stirred in my strong feelings. Every day of the winter festival I would log in, pick up a light globe, and say a silent prayer before releasing it to float up to The Traveler. For me, this belief system is just as real (or not) as any Real Life Religion (whatever that means) but UNLIKE real life, my character fully believes in it. So I get to believe. And it is real. The Traveler is real and alive and speaking. So, better than real life.
I have pages in journals dedicated to writing about this game, and how it has gotten me through rough patches. I am fully invested in where this story is going, and I am excited for all of the revelations to come.Back to Top
There's a trend in American media to give us unlikable heroes, but like with most trends we started with something that could be artistically interesting, its edge has been dulled. It is now only the hollow, disgusting, and unlikable among us who still employ this tired trope of hollow, disgusting, and unlikable men who deserve neither our time and attention.
Miéville does a great service here in presenting a woman who is closed off and somewhat hard to come to terms with as the reader. She is not like those male fascimiles of tropes that litter the landscape. This is also not to confuse her with the protagonist of Vandermeer's Annihilation, though they are familiar in that they are aware of their limitations and largely at peace with them. Avice Benner Cho is not hateful, or even unlikeable really, but more of a puzzle unto herself. I found myself time and again wondering what her reaction would be to a situation as much as I was wondering how the situation itself would play out.
This can make the front half of the book seem slow and at times inscrutable, but it is a pretty good bait and switch for the weirdness of the greater story of Embassytown.
For fans of Le Guin, the intense focus on world-building and language is something that is fascinating, frustrating, familiar, and fantastic. It is hard to speak to the storytelling itself because the unfolding of the narrative is inseparable from the story itself. It is a story of embassies and governments. Of communicating with aliens so alien that we cannot share an understanding beyond the surface. It is a story of addiction and subterfuge and death and a desperate search for what it means to see beyond the veil; to lie.
Le Guin herself called this book a "fully realized work of art" and as was her way, her thrift of language leaves my longer writing both bereft of meaning and overrought. If you enjoy Miéville's politics and writing, this book will not disappoint. If you haven't read any Miéville, this standalone novel is a great place to start.Back to Top
I only finally saw this movie for the first time in the waning days of my 37th year. I got to see it in 4K restoration thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse's dedication to getting movies on the screen that keep me in theater seats without ever having to see a new movie.
It is not enough to say this movie was amazing, and heaping praise is boring. Instead I'm going to focus on the small things that really spoke to me, mostly in terms of technical and stylistic choices.
The animatronics in the ape's faces was astounding. The actors' commitment to motion that was believable, and kept the action believable while a 3rd party operated their faces? Ugh, it was so perfect. Just beautiful.
The quiet. Fuck, THE QUIET. I wish I could find this kind of blistering quiet in real life. Kubrick's decision to have a good 3rd of the film scored with just the sound of breathing through a respirator is probably one of the most beautiful scoring choices in the entire film, especially contrasting the bombast of the mundane that preceded it. I cannot express the exuberant joy I felt throughout these sequences, not at the action, which was brutal and terrible, but just the fact that he DID it. Beauty.
The aesthetic of the entire film just defies its era. Instead of looking weird or anacrhronistic, or out of place in the future, every artistic choice in wardrobe and set and style feels at worst (which is not at all bad) to be purposefully retrofuturistic. I want to live in this aesthetic future. Well....
There are two things that make this film alarmingly Made in the 1960s. 1) Wow, that's a lot of only white people. 2) They asked him for his "christian" name? I was raised catholic, and in the 1980s and even I'd forgotten that was a thing. Oh my.Back to Top