If you got a copy of Derek & Ted’s COVID-19 QuaranZine, you may have been intrigued and then annoyed by “Here are the 19 recipes we loved the most” because you were holding a piece of paper that did not include links to the recipes. Turns out – LOL – the PDF didn’t have links either! So, here’s that list, with links and other fun details.
10 good things, 4rd week of February 2020
1. The new Android update – that Samsung took six months to push out to my phone – has a wonderful feature that times your use of an app and shuts it down when you’ve hit your preset limit. So, Twitter won’t work after 30 minutes, and Instagram kills itself after 45. I’ve many a productivity app that does similar things, and Android clearly ripped off the idea from them, but the Android version is seamless and oh-so useful. It even turns the app’s icon gray when you’re done with it for the day.
2. The morning after the Nevada debate was an meme embarrassment of riches, especially if you love Elizabeth Warren, who I love more than probably any politician I’ve ever heard of. But this particular one made me LOL for way too long. (If you need a full explanation, here’s the reference.)
3. My mentor/work BFF is so goddamn awesome. In all ways. Hearts forever.
4. Booster is a company that finds your car in a parking lot and fills it with gas, and UCI recently let them do their thing on campus. Their per gallon cost is 5-10% less than the gas stations near school. I imagine they’re going to jack up the costs after I become addicted to not going to the gas station on Jamboree, but until then, yay.
5. I seem to have finally figured out how to do an overhead squat correctly.
6. Travis Chi Wing Lau’s essay on racism and COVID-19 and how a tweet he wrote about racism and COVID-19 went, yeah, viral.
7. This recipe for mapo tofu is so much better than the one I’d been using before. Lordy, it was good.
8. Lianne La Havas’s new song “Bittersweet” is … wonderful.
9. A bunch of the students I wrote grad school recommendations for have been emailing me about their acceptances and scholarship and it’s so great.
10. It’s very hard to fill out this kind of list when something truly bad and very specific to my life has happened. My friend Kolbe suddenly died last week. We hadn’t hung out in a long time, but we’d been pretty close when he first moved to LA and I had just started teaching at UCI. He was a brilliant artist and hilarious and gave a shit about the world and was very fun. Something good is the memory of the day he took me to see the Björk VR show in 2017. It was amazing, and Kolbe and I had a blast. I am so fucking angry at the world for preventing people from having days like that with Kolbe, particularly preventing that from happening to his husband of only four months.
10 good things, 2nd week of February 2020
1. I just discovered that Jens Lekman and Annika Norlin released an album last year called Correspondence, and I listened to it last week on the way to work, and it’s all so quietly powerful in its seeming mundanity. I think my favorite song is “Forever Young, Forever Beautiful,” which has some classic Jens lyrics:
You should have seen him in his summer clothes
The short pants that gently exposed
His calves that spoke of hidden treasures
Golden ratios, unknown pleasures
2. I consolidated books and glassware so that I could empty, dismantle, and store one of my IKEA bookshelves, creating some space that I could fill with a little dining table. Now I can eat meals at a table, not on the sofa or at my desk. The first meal was steak, asparagus, and polenta on Valentine’s Day.
3. The next day, I accompanied my Valentine to Cal Arts to hear a Master’s student there play Derek’s composition “Savino,” a piece for solo marimba and tape, that latter of which is the recording of New York State Senator Diane J. Savino’s speech in support of marriage equality given on December 2, 2009. Like the speech, Derek’s composition is beautiful, but in a very different way as it intricately punctuated Savino’s humor, wisdom, and love. I don’t have video of the Cal Arts student’s performance, but here’s the percussionist who commissioned the composition Brandon Ilaw.
4. I made a chocolate soufflé on Saturday night, and I think it came out perfectly. I’ve made chocolate souffles before, but for some reason, this was the richest, fluffiest, and it didn’t collapse. I’m not exactly sure what I did right-er this time, but I think one thing was not over stirring the batter, which tends to screw up the egg whites. The recipe is Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflé by Melissa Clark from The New York Times.
5. This article in The New Yorker: Was Jeanne Calment the Oldest Person Who Ever Lived—or a Fraud? I love a good high-nerd yarn, and this one is full of lies and skepticism and competing methodologies and a crotchety old French lady.
6. I wish I could have photographed the facial expression of the flummoxed woman in my AIDS Fundamentals class when I mentioned that Iowa once sentenced an HIV-positive man to 25 years in jail for not telling his sexual partner his status — even though he wore a condom and had an undetectable viral load. I thought her head was going to explode she was so appalled. He was eventually exonerated and the law was changed, but it’s still hard to believe it happened in this century.
7. I can’t stop listening to the audiobooks for Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series – an urban fantasy with werewolves, vampires, fae, and so on set in Washington’s Tri-Cities. There are definitely some things I could do without, like the weirdly stereotyped gay divorce lawyer Kyle and the narrator’s camp voice for him, but my commute hasn’t sucked for a couple weeks because I’m entertained enough.
8. These shoes I got 60% off at the Reebok outlet at the Citadel. Derek called the color “electric salmon.”
9. I’ll be moderating a panel titled “Navigating Stigma and Addressing Peer Aggression, Harassment, Discrimination, and Exclusion for Queer- and Trans-Spectrum Students and Faculty” at the annual meeting of the Association of School and Programs in Public Health next month.
10. I stumbled onto the pilot of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on Hulu; Zoey suddenly hears people’s inner monologues, but only as popular songs, and usually accompanied by dance routines. There’s a lot of stuff that I’m going to automatically love about it, in particular Jane Levy, Skyler Astin, Alex Newell, and lots of singing and dancing. But, omg, Peter Gallagher playing Zoey’s father, who is suffering from a degenerative neurological disease that has left him unable to speak, gets to do heartbreaking stuff like this.
If you only read this blog, you wouldn’t have any clue what “The Aisle Seat” is because I didn’t ever say that I started writing a column for Anthropology News about film and culture and … stuff. It’s monthly for a year, and it’s enormously fun. The Captain Marvel piece was my second. My first was about Bohemian Rhapsody, which is such a problematic film. This is how it starts:
On Sunday, Rami Malek won an Academy Award for portraying Freddy Mercury in the extremely popular Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. In his speech, Malek made the case for the film’s progressive depiction of minorities: “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself. The fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this.” Many people might quibble with this as “proof.” I doubt a film simply about a flamboyant queer Parsi would have reached the same audience as one about the front man of the band that recorded some of the world’s most iconic rock songs, including the one the movie is named after. And I doubt Queen would have been as successful in the 1970s and 1980s if Mercury hadn’t changed his name from Farrokh Bulsar, remained in the closet, and hidden his AIDS diagnosis until just before his death in 1991. (This may seem “unapologetic” of him, but I’d argue it isn’t a good thing.)
Captain Marvel Smirks All the Way to the Bank
The new entry for “The Aisle Seat” in Anthropology News is live, huzzah. I decided to tackle Captain Marvel in less than 1000 words. I could’ve done 3000. Anyway, here’s how it starts:
Thirty-four minutes into Captain Marvel, our superhero, played by Oscar-winner Brie Larson, is standing in a Los Angeles parking lot wearing an intergalactic police uniform and reading an unfolded map. A man rolls in on a motorcycle, eyes her up and down, and says, “Nice scuba suit!” She barely gives him a side-eye in response, and miffed, he says, “Lighten up, honey, huh? You gonna smile for me?” She continues to ignore him as he heads in a store. Then she lowers the map and sees his bike, which she promptly steals.
While co-director and co-writer Anna Boden says that this scene had always been in the script, many viewers and critics saw it as a thumb-to-the-nose response to the men who complained that from trailer to film, Captain Marvel doesn’t smile. After the near-constant calls by male pundits for Hillary Clinton to smile more during the 2016 campaign and the #MeToo movement’s highlighting of that harassing demand on women, the criticism of the Captain Marvel trailer seemed like trolling.
Coco is Rosebud
It is possible that I wrote my last review in San Diego LGBT Weekly. Stampp Corbin, who founded the paper in 2010 and who hired me as its film critic in January, 2011, has moved onto other things and as of this writing is looking to sell the paper. But it may not sell, and even if it does, I don’t know if I’ll still be the film critic.
But if it had to end, I’m glad it was Coco. You’d have to stretch to find true queer content (the gay couples folks have noticed are, I’m pretty sure, brothers and a father and son) but Coco is among my favorite animated films ever. Here was my review:
I’ve written before that I cry easily at the movies, and I’ve cried at some terrible ones. I’m still embarrassed that I cried at a screening of the wretched and sappy Jack Frost in 1998. But I’ve never been ashamed that animated Pixar movies have moved me to tears, partly because I’m joined by millions of other weepers, but mostly because the films tend to be so well written that the audience’s emotional responses feel earned rather than manipulated.
While the characters are always archetypes, they are still layered and complex; the plots tend to focus on conflicts most of us experience as young people, but the writers use innovative, often fantastical ways to tell and resolve the stories. The studio’s latest and one of the best is Coco, a film about music, love and death that uses Día de los Muertos to examine the power of memory to define family and identity. It’s stunningly beautiful, very moving and very funny.
Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) is a Mexican boy who only wants to become a musician. Unfortunately, after his musician great-great-grandfather abandoned his great-great- grandmother Imelda and their daughter Coco, music was not allowed anywhere in the family’s shoe-making business, their sprawling home, or, it seems, even their thoughts. When they discover Miguel playing a guitar in the town plaza, his family, especially his Abuelita (Renée Victor), react as if he’d joined a violent gang – the horror! While initially he is willing to abide by the rules, on the day of Día de los Muertos he determines that his missing great-great-grandfather was none other than his hero Ernesto de la Cruz, barrel-chested 1940s matinee idol and “the greatest musician in the world.”
As people decorate gravestones with marigolds and tasty treats for the only night long-departed spirits are allowed to visit, Miguel breaks into Ernesto’s mausoleum to retrieve the musician’s famous white guitar. And suddenly Miguel and his dog Dante are transported to the exquisitely garish land of the dead, where everyone is a skeleton and they are all flabbergasted that he’s there, alive, and fleshy. He needs the blessing of a family member to get home, but his bony relatives, led by Imelda (Alanna Ubach), won’t send him back unless he promises never to play music again. So, he runs off to find Ernesto with the sad sack Hector (Gael García Bernal), who is fading away as he is being forgotten back in the living world.
Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich’s flawless script is both a hero’s journey through the underworld and also a domestic dramedy about the ways tight-knit, multi-generational families try to resolve their oldest, most painful conflicts. And it also a mystery: Why is the film called Coco? They manage to explain the beauty and particulars of Día de los Muertos without being pedantic, and they thread in knowing jokes about Mexican families and culture without being obscure or offensive. Grandmothers wield their shoes like revolvers, the skeleton of Frida Kahlo makes several absurdist cameos, and Ernesto’s films are perfectly silly parodies of Mexican cinema of the 1930s.
The songs, written by Frozen Oscar winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, are beautiful hybrids of American pop and traditional Mariachi. I predict “Remember Me” will be omnipresent before winning the Oscar for Best Original Song. It, too, does double duty. First it is a bombastic hit for Ernesto in the 1940s, and then it is sung as a heart-breaking duet. It was during the latter when I cried bittersweet tears.
Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Written by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich
Starring Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt
Review originally published in San Diego LGBT Weekly.
I’ve footnoted all of the problematic statement’s in Sheriff Villanueva’s refusal to enforce public health mandate.
“Imagine a world where AIDS never happened and our heroes lived. Who would they be? Who would we be?”
The trailer for the second season of Westworld is jaw-dropping, not just because it shows a zillion new set pieces, from imperial China to cityscapes,