Snow day

We’re on snow lockdown, here at La Maison des Moucheron. La mouison, if you will. There’s snow, there’s sleet and a predicted drop in temperature down to 4F (-15 in C) here in Cambridge.

So, like… fuck that, right? I can’t be alone in saying that.

I am tucked up in bed with an entire bottle of cranberry juice, a box of tissues, two peanut butter and banana sandwiches and a copy of Interview With The Vampire I procured yesterday when running around doing snow panic chores.

Mostly I’ve been sleeping.

January is a slow month for my brain under the best of circumstances. Currently,, in addition to the pervasive januiarity, I have a cold that will not die.

I have, therefore, not been to any movies so far this year. I have, in fact, been mostly re-watching the first 3 seasons of That 70s Show while playing The Sims 4. Because: cotton brain.

The Sims is such a bad drug, you guys. So bad. It takes away your ability to recognize the passage of time while sucking you in to a bespoke soap opera except with more aliens. I love it. It is the enemy of all my productivity.

But with a cotton brain, it’s not as though productivity is really in the cards. And when I so much as talk to people my throat winds up hurting worse. Really, laying around and playing video games in between bouts of sleep is probably the best thing I could be doing right now.

So I shall be grateful for this weekend of enforced rest. I hauled out my good comforter. (It has the Avengers on it, because in spite of being 41, I am ten at heart. You should see my action figure collection.) I have all I need in this small, cozy world in the heart of sleet and concrete.

I know I have a lot of movie catching-up to do, both in terms of this year’s watching and in terms of last year’s writing, but right now the task is to breathe and wait. Brain hibernation.

No Bus, No Fuss

I have a rant about public transportation and people’s behavior on it brewing inside me. Trust that I will repress it till a more appropriate time and a better place (in all probability never and nowhere, because rants about public transportation behavior are venting and many of them tend to be pretty much “get off my lawn”-y and achieve nothing positive).

Let’s talk a little, instead, about road trips.

The hero’s journey has been a part of fiction as long as fiction has been written down, as far as I can tell. And it seems that frequently the movement through space often parallels some inner movement or growth. I mean – this is litcrit 101 stuff, really.

But a road trip is something that I think is often both more specific and more vague than just a journey. A road trip is definitely at least as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

The mere concept of a road trip strikes me as really American and rooted in American’s notions of independent lateral movement as one of our fundamental freedoms or something inherent to the American spirit. Road trips in life can be spontaneous, self-directed, and contain arbitrary diversions and twists. This is often echoed when they come up in pop culture, in my experience.

The vital aspects that define a road trip in my head are thus:

  • the traveler is moving at their own pace – there is lots of room for schedule shift
  • stops happen when and as the traveler is feeling it
  • there may be an objective but there is not a point-by-point plan on reaching that objective
  • the traveler is open to the possibilities of the universe or fate or whatever you want to call it and also open to eating some truly awful diner food

The venerable and gravitational TV Tropes claims road trip fictions are usually comedies and are vulnerable to cascades of cliches and to sappiness. And frankly, I am frequently vulnerable to those things myself, and so may not be the best judge of the depth of their truth, there. The road trip stories I like the best, though, often share characteristics I find more poignant than that.

Close Quarters – Magnified Interactions

Anyone who has been in a car with someone for four hours or more knows how it can make a relationship closer or leave it cracked and teetering on the edge of an abyss or even both, by turns. Fictions that use road trips often take advantage of this and give us moments of emotional intensity that is tangential to any intensity of situation.

Sensory Immersion

Real life road trips are steeped in a sense of place and of passing. Movies often echo this and give us a sense of the landscape being traveled through that includes soundscapes, vistas and even visions of foods and scents that can only be transported to the viewer via imagination.

Inner Journey with the Outer

Road trips are not just about getting somewhere. They are deeply about the experience of the interval between leaving and arriving. There’s something mindful about bringing your brain through space and through the different environments and experiences it represents. And even if you just wind up back at home, the brain you come back with isn’t the one you left with. And the only thing that connects the story together is the path that brain took.

Meandering or Lateral Narrative Structure

Like a road trip itself, a road trip story often doesn’t take a direct approach to moving its characters through the story. Emotional beats can switch quickly with place and the shifts in physical space can be like a renewal of the mental – one doesn’t exactly start fresh in each location, but it’s easier to move from one beat to another without direct cause and effect.

Ordinary Obstacles: New Frameworks

People on road trips aren’t exempt from the boring business of keeping the body alive, and often the beats in a road trip story have something to do with meeting a usual need in an unusual location or being forced to meet it in an unusual way.

* * *

Of course, all of this really hinges on what is and isn’t a road trip movie. And certainly there are lots of arguments to be made and definitions one could mete out here. By these criteria, Magic Mike 2 and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert are road trip movies, sure, but so are The Wizard of Oz, or Mad Max: Fury Road. 

I mean – even the TV Tropes folks would agree, I think, that when you start *really* building boxes for stories to go in, you can wind up defining almost as many as there are stories.

And my list isn’t really intended to be a definition, just a group of qualities I enjoy about road trip movies (and about road trips, for that matter). I’ll leave the boundary-painting to other folks.

Pegged As The Comic Relief

I saw Mission Impossible: Fallout, this weekend. I really don’t want to review it because I feel like, as an nth sequel of an action film, you know whether you want to see it or not already and it has nothing to do with whether the film is good or not.

I will say, I enjoyed this one more than I did the last one, largely due to the re-inclusion of two female characters from the past of the franchise, both of whom were given significant and plot-pushing roles. And one who was a cast-aside past love of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise’s hero spy in the films) had a new husband and was moving on with her life and was happy without him.

Also I love Henry Cavill as antagonist. Though I’m on the fence about whether he is actually pulling off the facial hair he’s wearing in the film.

I came back to this film series largely because of Simon Pegg, my relatively un-problematic nerd hero. It’s a little sad to me that he is so much comic relief and isn’t given more scope in the films. Though he’s excellent comic relief, he can also tear me up inside, and has done so in his indie films. World’s End in particular came into my life at a time I was dealing with my own depression and bitter about how it was playing out (still am, some days), and Pegg’s character’s journey in the film really punched me in the stomach.

It was one of those things that can lay you out and lift you up at the same time. And while I’m delighted to see Pegg living some kind of nerd-vana dream being in a bunch of big (many geeky) franchises, I do hope we get more of his independent work as time goes forward as well.

Little as he’s given in MI:F, he still manages to draw you into his character and show you a window into a complex emotional life.

Or maybe I was just paying the most attention to him because of my brain-crush.

Anyhow, I have actually been watching the old Mission Impossible TV show of late, on which the movie series is (loosely) based. Considering the series debuted in 1966, I’ve been finding it surprisingly engaging and relatively un-cringey (relative, here, to The Man From Uncle, which I watched a bunch of in the wake of adoring the fuck out of Guy Ritchie’s film version).

It was the sort of thing I occasionally caught in deep re-runs growing up. I think most of us of my era had. Everyone knew the theme song and the broad tropes of the series.

The first film came out the year I graduated high school. And while it’s old-fashioned by action movie standards, I think it’s still a pretty awesome film.

And all of these films have absolutely ludicrous plots. So did the old show. The ludicrousity is clearly baked into the schtick. One of the episodes of the show I watched involved someone being placed in a time-lock safe in a hotel in a piece of luggage to recover some nukes that were being kept there. You can’t say that the scene in the alleged Langley server room from the first film is more ridiculous than that.

Certainly, I love any excuse for a motorcycle stunt-scene and Fallout really came through on that score.

Anyhow. The upshots of this are: the old MI tv show is well worth watching, MI:Fallout is fun if you liked any of the other MI movies (particularly Ghost Protocol and after) and I love Simon Pegg’s and wish I could take a writing class with him (and yes-it’d be total bonus if it were with him *and* Edgar Wright).

Ever since I started to be self-analytical, I have realized that I use media as some kind of emotional anesthesia. A constant flow of *story* is one of the most reliable thing to keep my personal demons at a dull roar.

When I was younger, this meant I would sneak in reading pages of a book between school or work tasks. Then later, I’d listen to audio dramas and still later I’d sneak dvds in to work to have them playing in the background of my computer.

Modern technology has really opened up my ability to do this. I can just have a steady stream of podcasts, or netflix shows or youtube videos in my ear as I go about my daily business. Like some kind of a reverse Harrison Bergeron, the constant stream of distraction allows me to do more and live in greater peace.

I truly am more productive with it than without it. There are days when it’s all that keeps me from just falling into a giant pit of existentialism.

I have wondered if I could somehow break myself of this habit if it wouldn’t be better for me in the long-term, somehow, but it’s really difficult to value long-term growth over near-term functionality.

And maybe it wouldn’t be better after all. Who knows? It’s impossible to say, from here. And it’d certainly be a shame to do all the work to hollow myself out and build a different me if it turned out they were no better at achieving life goals than I am.

Narrative – especially character exploration and development – is my favorite drug. And probably it always will be.

Of course a given narrative, even a true one, is never the whole story. And I do worry, sometimes, if one of the main negative effects of feeding my addiction isn’t delusions of plot arc. Lives don’t go the way stories go. There’s no climax and denouement. There are no morals or lessons. There is character development, but it’s a strange, fungus-like outward creep rather than an arrow pointed at a particular goal.

It is difficult, maybe even impossible, to keep from looking at isolated sectional views of my life as narrative arcs. It doesn’t fit in well with the narrow, reactive day-to-day business of survival. It feels like…if life is to have meaning, it needs to have that arc. But life is bigger than that. It has all the details that get left out of a good story and lacks the interpretive thrust that gets put in to one.

Which isn’t to say that I will stop trying to spin stories out of my life – stories are how we teach and learn and understand. From ‘one train leaves St. Louis travelling at 40 miles and hour and another leaves Chicago travelling at 65’ to ‘What is Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba’ to even ‘in the beginning was the word’ or ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ we use stories to give us new frameworks for our own lives, to interpret current and past events, to find the harmonic resonances in ourselves, to admonish, to grow, to learn and to teach.

A story doesn’t have to be true to contain Truth. And it doesn’t have to tell the whole truth and nothing but to elucidate important things.

After all, humanity is the storytelling animal. Our ability to draw sense out of chaotic events and bullshit our way into the truth is what separates us from other fauna.

If telling myself the story of my own life helps me to interpret it and understand myself better that isn’t a bad thing, nor a small one. It’s only when I bow under the weight of an old narrative and can’t create something newer that serves me that it becomes a problem.

A lifetime is a host of stories. They don’t all wrap up neatly and they don’t have a moral. They aren’t neat and pat and they intersect wildly. As long as I can hold onto the notion that I am not a story, but a rampaging herd of them, that framing is as useful as any to apply meaning to life.

I mean…probably, right?

I remember saying once to my therapist that trying to address my mental illness felt like living in a crumbling house while I was trying to fix it. And getting therapy felt like putting up scaffolding on the crumbling house – you feel safer on it than inside. It also makes it easier to work on the wreck of a house. It doesn’t mean it’s actually easy. Nor does it mean you won’t be envious of people whose houses already keep all the rain out.

It’s also a little like trying to read, write and market a novel at the same time as you’re constantly editing and polishing it. Nightmare. But feels better than getting no writing done at all….most days.

Anyhow. The metaphors are stories, too. So where do they end? They don’t. They’ll always be coming into me and going out till I cease to draw breath. And then they’ll still be happening everywhere else. Maybe even, if I’m lucky, about me…

In the meantime, if stories are what gets me through the day, I’m not going to avoid them out of some neo-Calvanist sense of self-denial equaling virtue. Whether they’re the ones I tell to myself or the ones I get other people to tell me, I’ll accept their smoothing of my road.


Living in the future sure is grand

One minute, I am laying down, exhausted on the sofa, my hair still in the braid I put it in on Tuesday, hungry and contemplating how depressing the film The Man Who Fell To Earth was even before David Bowie died. Ten minutes later, I am watching Mamma Mia, singing along and answering the door to receive the dinner that a nice young man had brought me.

Yay technology. Saved my night. From crying about David Bowie’s alien character getting his alien contact lenses fused to his eyes forever.

It has been a challenging week, that’s my point. And for me it isn’t over for, lo, I must work tomorrow because finals happen on Saturdays at the institution where I work.


I do not have much energy for digging through stuff, so here’s just some of the stuff I’ve been watching on streaming, lately, and what I thought of it.

John Mulaney – Kid Gorgeous (Netflix)

Has some really good bits. Not as overall strong as some of his other shows, but I laughed out loud a lot.

Hari Kondabolu Warn Your Relatives (Netflix)

Very very funny. Watched it basically twice in a row. He’s quite political and fairly confrontational but still entertaining while doing it.

The Conjuring (Netflix)

I watched this because it showed up under “critically acclaimed movies” and it was horror. Being an exorcism/haunted house movie, this doesn’t fall into my favorite sub-genres, but it’s pretty, well acted and slick.

Wind River (Netflix)

Really good. Really dark and serious. Loved the acting, particularly Renner. CW for a long list of violence and awfulness including graphic sexual assault and murder. They are treated with the seriousness they deserve and not romanticized but the movie doesn’t shy away from smacking you in the face with them.

Queer Eye (Netflix)

Pleasant. Fun apart from a few moments. There needs to be a lot more of it so I can just keep watching episodes when I am tense instead of RUNNING OUT AUUUGH. MAKE LONGER SEASONS NETFLX.

The Cloverfield Paradox (Netflix)

Kind of…fine. I was very into it for like the first three quarters and then the plot took some jumps.

The Joy Of Painting (Hulu)

One of my gotos when the stress and anxiety overwhelms me. Makes me want to paint, but when stress and anxiety are overwhelming me is usually when I don’t have time to perpetrate any art. Bob Ross is terminally mellow and sometimes he brings cute animals to show his viewing audience.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (Hulu)

Pretty good. I mean – very eighties happening all around you but fun and gross.

Drunk History Season 5 (Hulu)

I love Drunk History. It always makes me laugh and I always learn something. Win/win.

The Crossing (Hulu)

I watched the first three episodes of this (which was all there was yet at the time I watched it) and enjoyed it, though it makes me REALLY TENSE which is why I haven’t watched the new episodes yet. Tense time in real life is not the time for tense TV.

Crocodile Dundee (Prime)

Technically I saw this back in the eighties when it was still shiny and new. It was more nuanced and interesting than I remembered and while it doesn’t hold up perfectly, I still found it entertaining.

The Exorcist tv show (Hulu)

Yeah yeah. I know I said this wasn’t my sort of thing, but I kept seeing it recommended and binged the first two seasons in like three straight days a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Then came up for air to find out it’s not getting a season 3 which is a bummer because it was good.


Brooklyn Nine Nine, y’all. What the fuck? I hope one of the streaming services picks it up because WHAT. THE FUCK. That show is so good.

My roommate, A, has been watching the entire run of the show on a loop since she got into it, more or less. I need to buy her a consolation pie or something.

If you’re interested my roommate also watched the first season of Fallet on Netflix. It is, apparently, a spoof of the gritty Nordic detective sub-genre of mystery. She, however, speaks Swedish (which the show is partially in) so it’s possible she’s getting more out of it than I ever would.

If her cat has been watching anything, she’s been playing it very close to her furry vest. I did open the window this evening and she spent a considerable while sniffing the outside, but I feel that’s a brand of cat entertainment that just doesn’t translate well to humanity.

I am taking my punchy ass to bed, now. Work tomorrow, then I can lose it and possibly watch horror movies or big friendly exploding action films.


MCU women

I’m not gonna lie, folks. I have seen Avengers: Infinity War three times since it came out last Thursday. Odds are I will see it more. It was so much better than I expected. It’s dense with both plot and emotion and each time I see it I catch something I missed before.

One thing I was thinking about after viewing number two is while almost every hero we’ve met in the Marvel cinematic journey is still with us, most of the women have fallen by the wayside. They disappeared, in many cases, without any textural comment or without a concrete in-universe reason.

The movie was engaging enough that I didn’t think about this the whole first time through it. That’s saying something considering this kind of thing is at the forefront of my brain.

I’m going to try to make this post as spoiler-free for Infinity War, but since it is a list of characters that aren’t in the movie  (and has some references to characters that are),  that could be considered a spoiler in and of itself. It definitely contains spoilers for just about every other film in the Marvel cinematic universe. You have been warned.

Let’s start our list at the beginning (by release date).

Christine Everhart

The treatment of and writing for this character in Iron Man was the main reason I hated the film the first time I saw it. The fact that she’s treated with contempt not just by Tony Stark but by Pepper Potts as well is fucking weak-ass writing. It’s canonical “woman character: by men” bullshit. She goes from confrontational to fucking Tony in the space of a heartbeat. I know that’s supposed to establish Tony as irresistible to women but mostly it establishes that the committee of dudes who wrote this film are lazy as fuck when it comes to characterization. And possibly also that they have never met any actual women.

She is brought back (apparently solely for the purpose of slut-shaming her a second time) in Iron Man 2. Apart from that she’s only been in a series of news-based shorts.

It doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to work a cynical, well-educated, intelligent journalist into the MCU again.

Betty Ross

She was dropped after appearing in 2008’s The Hulk, and has not, I believe, been so much as *mentioned* again. Not even when Bruce Banner is resisting being pulled into another romance in Age of Ultron. You’d think it’d be reasonable for him to include the ways Betty’s life had been fucked up when protesting that being in a relationship with him is a bad idea.

Not to mention, she’s a cellular biologist and is married to a psychiatrist. There have been LOTS of places scientists have been dropped into these movies. You’d think that a biologist would be pretty useful in some of them.

Also – her *dad* is still in the films. But not her. That is some bullshit.


One of Thor’s warrior companions. We haven’t seen her or heard anything about her since Thor: The Dark World. She is badass and funny and I’d love to see her meet some more avengers. She’s a hero in her own right and is already adept at fighting on a team. So she might be a good fit for the Avengers, especially since Asgard has been destroyed.

Jane Foster

Having been written off with a throwaway line in Thor: Ragnarok, Jane Foster as another scientist doesn’t seem like she’d be difficult to include. Eric Selvig, her colleague, has been in several more of the films than she has.

It might be nice if she got to have a life in the universe beyond her relationship with Thor. It also might be nice if we got to see some of these testosterone-fueled male heroes dealing with an ex with politeness and grace.

Darcy Lewis

Foster’s comic relief companion shows up only when she does, which I think is a shame. Her presence in the first two Thor films really humanizes what were some of the weaker links in the Marvel movie chain. She may not be a scientist, but she is portrayed as having some good instincts. And can anyone tell me that a poly-sci graduate who has dealt with heroes from another planet wouldn’t be able to parlay that into at least an entry-level job at SHIELD or at the world security council?


Yes. She’s dead. We all know in comic books, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Nor in mythology, for that matter. And she wouldn’t be the first character to be brought back.

Peggy Carter

Okay, so she is more dead than Frigga, in some ways. And she got a long, eventful life even if we don’t get to see all of it. I’m still bitter her tv show was canceled though.

Beth, the waitress

Okay, yes. She’d be more difficult to work in than some of the others, but she had lines. She counts. And the series has brought back similarly minor characters at other times.

Councilwoman Hawley

I know I wasn’t the only person who was disappointed in The Winter Soldier when Councilwoman Hawley kicked some ass and then turned out to be Natasha Romanoff in disguise instead of herself. She’s a badass character and I wish we got to see more of her in general.


A superpowered assassin who can regenerate. Why wouldn’t we have seen her again after the one battle in Iron Man 3?

Maya Hansen

Another scientist, though she technically died, she also worked on extremis, which helped bodies recover from severe trauma (amongst other things). It doesn’t seem like getting shot would necessarily have to be the end for someone who had that at her fingertips. And her moral greyness makes her an interesting addition to the universe.

Sharon Carter

Peggy Carter’s niece plays a fairly huge role in the Captain America comics. I know we may well see her again, since she hasn’t been killed or written off, but she definitely hasn’t been used to best effect yet in any movie in which she’s appeared.

Irani Rael 

The leader of the Nova Corps is probably the person on this list who would have been the most natural to include in Infinity War. After all, her force was guarding one of the infinity stones. And certainly, her level head and commanding presence could’ve been useful.

Dr. Helen Cho

Brought in during the events of Age of Ultron to help patch up Avengers who had been injured — anyone think that’s something they’d only need once? Why haven’t we seen her again? A medical doctor on call is definitely something they need.

Laura Barton

I will be honest, I thought the inclusion of the Ultimates-inspired elements of Clint Barton’s character in Age of Ultron was stupid. And him having a secret family that he actually managed to keep secret in spite of being mind-controlled by Loki in the first Avengers film and all of SHIELD’s secrets being dumped onto the net in Cap 2 really doesn’t make much sense. But if you put her in, keep her in. The only time she’s really been referred to again is when Clint’s family gets mentioned in passing, even though she’s married to Clint and is good friends with Natasha.

Janet Van Dyne

I know including her as a character we haven’t seen again when we never got to see her the first time may seem a little ridiculous. But a lot of comic fans were upset that this founding member of the Avengers (in the comics) was fridged by the Ant Man films. Now, they’ve already established that she has the possibility of coming back (since Scott Lang does what caused her to disappear in the culmination of Ant Man and came back to tell the tale).  So I hold out hope.

Hope Van Dyne

She’ll definitely be back in this summer’s Ant Man and The Wasp so that mollifies me somewhat, but why hasn’t she gotten to be in any of the team-up films we’ve had since the first Ant Man?

The Random Journalist/Writer who talks to Sam Wilson at the end of Ant Man

Again – journalists don’t seem like they’d be hard to work in.

Christine Palmer

Another medical doctor. Seriously why doesn’t the Avengers base have a whole medical wing?


Another random adversary – she still (presumably) has it in for the Guardians of the Galaxy. I know we’re probably going to see her again, but she’s another person who easily could have been in Infinity War as it ranged around the galaxy, but was not.

MJ Jones

Again, we’ll probably see her again. But she wasn’t on the bus Peter was on at the start of Infinity War, even though there was no reason for her not to have been.

Anne Marie Hoag

I know that part of the reason a lot of these characters aren’t in Infinity war is that they don’t want to burden scenes with too many references or too many characters. There’s probably also an issue with paying all the actors, but the head of Damage Control has maybe more of a reason to be in a film where New York is attacked by aliens (again) than some other folks do.

May Parker

I love Marisa Tomei’s May. She’s trying to walk a heck of a line with her nephew. And we saw the very beginnings of her reaction to Peter’s secret identity at the end of Spider-man: Homecoming. I have to believe she would have strong opinions about several of the plot points of Infinity War and furthermore that she wouldn’t sit idly by for them.

Liz Toomes

I suspect we won’t see her or her mom again, even if we see her dad (Vulture, Homecoming‘s villain) again. But maybe Kevin Feige prove me wrong.


Yet another woman who has come down with a case of death. More satisfying in her case than many of the others.


The Grandmaster’s bodyguard. She was fun in her moral greyness and grumpiness.


Considering she was definitely on the same ship that Thor and Loki are on at the beginning of Infinity War, it’s kind of ridiculous that we see no hint of her.


I was pretty jazzed that any of Black Panther‘s badass women were in Infinity War. I guess of all the main female characters, Nakia is the one that makes the most sense to be away from Wakanda, given that T’challa put her in charge of cultural outreach at the end of Panther.

Queen Mother Ramonda

Anyone here think this proud and noble woman would suffer herself to be evacuated from a place where her children were about to put themselves in danger? Nope. Me neither.

* * *

So that’s about 25 significant characters (people with names and personalities and lines) and some assorted others.

To be clear, I don’t actually think they all should’ve been in Infinity War necessarily. I liked the film a lot as it was. But I want to highlight that who made it into this film has a lot to do with choices people are making behind-the-scenes. And the impact would not have been reduced by swapping out some of the side-characters we did see for some of these that we didn’t. Or even just mentioning them in passing.

And I know there are logistics and contracts and actor scheduling conflicts driving some of these decisions. On the other hand, they have recast at least two other major characters in the course of this series of films (Jim Rhodes – War Machine and Bruce Banner – Hulk). So they have the option to do that instead of writing characters out. The series can certainly weather it financially. They have only been gaining fans and momentum as they go, in spite of some more serious setbacks (like how awful Age of Ultron was or how unrelentingly grim Civil War was).

We can’t act as though the decision to have roughly three quarters of the main cast of Infinity War be male is somehow meaningless or incidental. The truth is a large part of what led to the eventuality is the dearth of female heroes that have been in the series of films so far. Which has also been a choice. Indeed, it’s really been a series of choices. And there were several deeply kickass women who were left out of this film, even though the good guys needed all the ass-kicking they could muster.

I fucking love these films, flaws and all, but the issues of which characters are considered main characters versus side ones and which characters get their own movies versus which don’t are not trivial.

I saw so many kids coming into these movies during my three viewings so far. I’ve said it before, it is important for *all of them* to know that anyone of any gender and skin tone can be a hero. Marvel films is getting better at giving this some lip-service, but Infinity War proves they’ve still got a ways to go.



I try to be the opposite of a gatekeeper when it comes to fandom and pop-culture knowledge.

I mean – I haven’t always tried to. I used to be the asshole who would gasp when people said they hadn’t seen some movie I considered to be classic or who, even if I wouldn’t quiz other people on their depth of knowledge on my favorite subjects, would still get into back-and-forths about it, playing right into the hands of whoever wanted to define the limits on who was and was not a “true fan”.

Anyone who has been in fandom long enough has encountered these people. They’re combative, confrontational and unbearably tedious. They may be coming from a place of defensiveness, but sometimes I don’t think even they know what they’re trying to achieve with quizzes and nerdsplaining and scorn.

The longer I live, the less time I want to spend around people like that. And I know no one else wants to either. The older I get the more I take it as a true gift when I meet someone who is interested in something I’m nerdy about and who wants to talk to me about it. If someone comes to me with questions about movies, comic books, video games, etc. it is a sheer pleasure to talk about them unreservedly.

There no greater fun you can have with your pants on than to have a nice, meaty discussion with someone about something you love. And if they start to love it too, then bonus. If not, well, their time and attention are a gift. And if I want folks to thoughtfully discuss these things with me, the best I can do is to try to make my enthusiasm infectious.

I know a lot about movies. I know a lot about video games. I could probably teach a 300-level course in the history and politics of the Marvel universe. There is no valor in these areas of knowledge. There is no utility in them. If they’re not fun then they are nothing. Or – worse than nothing – they could be a millstone or a stick with which I could try to beat people.

I try to subscribe to the philosophy outlined so succinctly in this XKCD. Instead of saying, “Oh my god. How have you not seen/read/played that?” it is always more interesting to say “Oh man, come hang out. Have I got a treat for you.”


Ass Over Teakettle

There’s only one good thing about falling dramatically down onto a sidewalk and making a very undignified noise and having your glasses fly off and spilling your coffee after only getting one sip…and that is getting to use the phrase “ass over teakettle”.

I went ass over teakettle last week. Scraped and bruised the living fuck out of one knee and generally felt stupid and had several days of deep muscular soreness.


There’s something deeply humanizing about spraining your dignity. I don’t mean to go out of my way to sell any benefits of being human, mind you. It can be the worst. But a dose of humility every now and again is probably good for most of us.

I mean. It’s complicated, right? Like – entitlement is often considered a bad thing. And it is in excess, absolutely. In my opinion an out-of-control sense of entitlement is at the root of a lot of societal problems. But there is such a thing as too little entitlement. You can fail to feel entitled to an opinion (even a knowledge-based one) or to feel entitled to the basic things you need to keep your body healthy, or even to the space that you take up in the world.

It’s a balance thing, right? Too much entitlement equals egotistical asshole. Too little equals low self-esteem or something worse – depression, lack of sense of self, possibly a buy in to any cultural narratives that tell you that you’re lesser, that humanity itself doesn’t establish your worth.

So: a balance thing. You can have too much, but you can also have too little. And I think it’s always difficult to understand or to believe that the amount of entitlement you have may be wrong. We pick up these ideas at a level below the conscious one and bringing them to light and unlearning them is a job of work.

So it’s humanizing to have moments of humility. It’s at least as human to have some sense of entitlement.

Humility visits itself upon me easily and frequently. Entitlement not so much. It’s difficult for me to believe that it’s okay for me to promulgate my opinions, even for stuff I think deep and long about.

I bring all this up mainly because this is the particular dog that has eaten my homework for the past week or so. I may always be thinking about culture but it can be difficult for me to believe there’s any particular value in adding my voice to the throng of folks who talk about this every day — that there is value in my perspective and in the way I express it.

This is a slice of how exhausting it is to have a brain that doesn’t feed you the right chemicals. That, too, is a very human thing, I know. Also (like many human things) a fucking frustrating or even enraging one.

Mentally, I went ass over teakettle before I did physically. And a bruised psyche is harder to allow to heal than a bruised knee. First, you need to accept that it is bruised. Because part of the way depression perpetuates itself is by convincing you that it is the only one who’s telling you the awful truth of your worthlessness. The bruise, it will tell you, is supposed to be there. You’re supposed to hurt. You’ve earned it. You deserve it. And you deserve to experience it in silence.

So how do you get past it? I do not know, dear reader. I’ll let you know if I ever figure out how to leave it behind for good. In the meantime, I must assume that I’ll be back this way again. I know it’s tedious to hear about (but not, as Douglas Adams once said, nearly as tedious as it is to undergo). Thanks for sticking with me. More stuff on actual culture is coming up.

How to talk to your barista about your depressive episode.

If one lives in one place for any length of time, one is likely to become a regular at some business or other. Being a regular is this weird, transactional, casual relationship. It can feel awkward to be noticed, but it’s also nice to have people be nice to you.

My goal in any retail or service-receiving situation is for the person on the other side of the counter to remember me either as one of their favorite customer for the day or as completely forgettable. I try to be nice and polite to all these folks to make it easy for them to be nice and polite to me, since they pretty much have to.

This means, though, when I fall off the grid for a month or so at a time, people notice. One never goes through life without impacting others and most of us impact lots more people than we think about when we consider the question of our own worth.

The upshot of this is, if one, say, spends the vast majority of January fighting off a depressive episode and wrestling with one’s inner demons to get out of bed every morning, instead of doing one’s usual errands, one is likely to get some questions when one re-emerges.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” the guy at the sandwich shop might say. And what can I say back to that? Saying “I was locked in a Sisyphean cycle of my brain eating itself” is a bit much to lay on so casual a relationship, particularly one where the other person is supposed to show sympathy and kindness at the expense of their own energy and emotions.

I usually go with “I’ve been out of town for a while,” (true, for the week before my depressive episode began) or “I’ve been sick for a while” (true, for the week after it ended) or “It’s been really crazy at work” (true for several weeks in the middle).

To be open about one’s mental illness is all well and good, but my barista should not have to get into this shit with me just to sell me coffee, no matter how nice and friendly he appears to be.

Retail interactions aren’t where activism lives, is I guess what I’m saying. And while I sometimes do get into identity politics with service folks (like thanking someone whose nametag lists their preferred pronouns, for instance) I don’t usually go beyond a sort of queer secret-handshake-style interaction (when called for).

It’s one thing to be open and honest about this shit. We do need that. Mental illness needs to be de-stigmatized. (Hell, plenty of *physical* illnesses still need to be de-stigmatized, too. The culture of associating morality with illness and disability is a huge topic and one that is too big for this post.) But it’s okay to not tell all of the truth all of the time. It doesn’t undermine your truth. It’s not a failure of will.

So — all this is to say that stuff got to me in January. I always struggle in deep winter (the lack of light especially eats my brain). I’m behind on basically everything in my life and running to catch up. I know it’s late for me to say this, but I’m still hoping to get some good work done in 2018. I want to bend towards action and positive change.

It’s not a resolution, because I don’t make those. Just a goal or a hope. And as always, in perpetuity, it starts today, because that’s what I’ve got.

What’s funny? The Curse of Corrosive Snobbery

[This post contains spoilers for A Bad Moms Christmas and Bridesmaids]

A friend of mine, after I posted about not liking cringe humor a few weeks back, asked me what kind of humor I do like in movies.

She loves lots of cringe humor and considers that we have very similar senses of humor (we definitely find a lot of the same stuff funny) and wondered, I think, where the disconnect is.

I generally don’t consider myself a fan of comedy movies qua comedy movies. So many of them seem to feature humor that is cruel and punches down (humor that hinges on mocking people who are already disadvantaged in our culture), or takes someone else’s embarrassment and expects me to laugh at it.

A prime example of this kind of humor is Bridesmaids, which I went to see because all the media around it kept harping on the notion that it was a make or break for women in comedy — as though if that movie failed, there would be a decade before there were any more comedies featuring women.

As it was, it did pretty well and paved the way for The HeatGirls Trip and Pitch Perfect and a lot of the other great women-led comedies of the past several years. (Not that it was the only thing paving the way for these films, but without it, some of them may not have been green lit.)

I found a lot of the movie terribly funny, but some scenes made me squirm and at least one made me want to wither and die right there in the theater. The scene where one of the characters, bitter that everyone else can afford to fly first class and she can’t, gets super drunk and makes a scene on the plane.

Watching someone continuously and egregiously push social boundaries like that tweaks my anxiety in the worst way. I’m sure there’s plenty of psychological issues inherent in my reaction, but it goes well beyond finding it not funny. It hurts.

I enjoy absurdist humor. I enjoy fourth-wall breaking and self-aware self-mockery. The Heat‘s humor all came out of the main characters being unapologetically what they were and then doing the best they could. They weren’t incompetent or bumbling, but they did behave outside of expectations for their jobs and gender sometimes. They felt real and honest and well-drawn. Most of the humor came out of their methods conflicting with each other and how they each learned to roll with the other’s style.

So I don’t actually hate comedies. I like them. But I’m wary of embracing them all sight unseen as a group the way I do scifi films or horror films. Yes there are films I can’t stand in the latter two genres, but there are a lot fewer and it feels like the reasons I don’t like those films are individual and specific rather than a systemic issue that builds to a whole sub-genre of things that make me squirm in discomfort.

Of course, this disinclination to engage with an entire genre can lead me to miss stuff that I should see.

This weekend, I saw A Bad Moms Christmas with a friend. In spite of my adoration of Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell, I hadn’t seen the first film in the franchise. I saw this one because I’ve been having a nagging feeling that missing the first one was an error.

BMC may be my new favorite Christmas movie. It was hilarious. It was also moving in places, but wasn’t too heavy. Perhaps the funniest scene in it involved one of the main characters waxing the genitalia of a male stripper and having a romantic meet-cute conversation with him at the same time. It was genuinely a sweet conversation but the juxtaposition of the sweet words with over-exaggerated waxing sound-effects and matter of fact descriptions of what was going on out of the camera’s sight lines made it so fucking funny to me.

Everyone in that scene was happy. No one was (emotionally) uncomfortable. Yet I laughed my ass off.

Humor and laughter are a way of processing disrupted expectations and assumptions. So is anxiety. I almost feel like they’re two areas of a spectrum the way that anger and sadness are two areas of the spectrum of dealing with hurt and disappointment. It’s not really a surprise to me that something that provokes laughter in one person might well provoke anxiety in another.

Opening myself up to a broader range of art always feels like a good thing to me. And the knee-jerk snobbery and fear that leads me to avoid entire franchises or entire genres, sometimes always winds up leading me astray in the end.

So I don’t know exactly where to draw the lines. Maybe they should just go entirely. After all, being anxious for a little while in a movie isn’t the worst thing in the world. But, of course, lines always get drawn because I can’t see everything. We’ll see.

In the meantime, here’s a short (and incomplete) list of comedies I really, really enjoyed:

The To-Do List

Love and Friendship

Pitch Perfect

Obvious Child

Dear White People

Top Five

What We Do In The Shadows



What do all these films have in common? Not freaking much, as far as I can tell.