“Maybe he’s at some Sal Mineo film festival”

As promised, here’s the post on Tony from 13 Reasons Why.

I’d been dragging my feet on this because of other stuff going on in my life (stuff that required me to write a very “terse” email that will live in LY infamy), but the news of Ross Butler leaving Riverdale (a total mistake IMHO*) has inspired me to get moving again. Zach had been one of my favorite characters in 13 Reasons and, in my opinion, he didn’t really deserve a tape. But he is fucking up Riverdale, home of all iconic gingers, in order to remain in the 13 Reasons universe, so he’s now persona non grata for me. With the death of my other favorite 13 Reasons character (no, not Hannah; spoiler in the link) we’re back to the beloved Tony.

tony-13-reasons-why

Tony Padilla is played by Christian Navarro, a 25-year-old actor of Puerto Rican descent. “Tony has amazing taste,” Hannah says as he spins a school dance. “This song is perfect.” Tony is also an LGBT character, though Clay somehow doesn’t know this and Tony having to tell him he is gay is genuinely funny. Clay also yells at Tony for being an “unhelpful Yoda,” which is a pretty accurate description, but remember Yoda isn’t supposed to be all that helpful at first. He makes you earn it. And Tony repeatedly tells Clay to just listen to the tapes already. Tony is like Clay’s guardian angel, and in a way, he’s Hannah’s avenging angel.

Tony’s storyline does develop, and he has his flaws, too. I just kept thinking how the character seemed to be almost a direct descendant of John “Plato” Crawford in Rebel Without a Cause. The classic tale of teen angst also has an LGBT message, as Plato falls in love with James Dean’s character. The two went on to appear in 1956’s Giant, in which Mineo played a Mexican-American soldier, despite his Sicilian heritage.

AngelObregonIII’d hit on this Sal Mineo connection during “Tape 5, Side A” (Episode 9) probably about the time Tony helps Clay skip school, so when Wilson Cruz showed up in “Tape 5, Side B,” I almost fell out of my chair.

Real-life LGBT advocate Wilson Cruz plays the Bakers’ attorney in only two episodes, but all 90s teens remember him as Enrique Vasquez on My So-Called Life. Before Willow and Tara, before the kid from that Dawson’s River show, even before freaking ELLEN, there was Rickie. He struggled with his sexuality while Angela (and the rest of us) lusted after Jordan Catalano, only able to say the words when cheerfully confronted by Delia (played by the wonderful character actress Senta Moses) in the very last episode before the show was canceled:

Delia : Okay, but um, you’re gay, right?
Rickie : Well, I, you know, I, I-
Delia : Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t-
Rickie : No, it, it, it’s okay.
Delia : That came out so rude.
Rickie : No, uh, see I, I try not to, um, no, I, I don’t like, uh- [throws pencil down] Yeah, I’m gay. I just don’t usually say it like that.
Delia : How do you usually say it?
Rickie : I don’t usually say it. I mean, I’ve actually never said it…out loud.

(Episode 19, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities”)

With Rickie, as with Plato, the sexual orientation is implied more than it is spoken aloud. Rickie has one of my all-time favorite lines in the Halloween episode when he pulls out Angela’s sweater in the girls’ bathroom and exclaims “Oh, look, mohair!” (I don’t know why, I just always thought that was hilarious.) In every high school in the 90s, there was always the guy who, though not quite ready to come out, dressed sharply and palled around with the girls. In episode 15, which features Juliana Hatfield’s guest appearance as an angel and which I just learned was titled “So-Called Angels,” Angela is freaking out because Rickie hasn’t come to school after her parents wouldn’t let him stay with them. Rayanne, telling her to chill, says:

“Maybe he’s coming in late. Maybe he’s at some Sal Mineo film festival.”

It took me a long time to respect the significance of that line, and it’s such a throw-away that I’m not sure many people ever really did. Because of course Rickie identified with Sal Mineo.

(By the way, A.J. Langer is a countess now. And the characters in both My So-Called Life and 13 Reasons Why attend school at Liberty High.)

There’s another Wilson Cruz role that has always haunted me, justifiably, because the fate of his character is so gristly. In Party Monster, Macauley Culkin’s Michael Alig makes Angel Melendez deliver drugs around the city in an angel costume. That image of him walking through the deserted city, making his way toward the mayhem in Peter’s hotel room, kept coming back to me every time Tony appeared on screen in 13 Reasons Why. Yes, you’re some sort of angel figure, but guardian angel or avenging angel?

*If played right, this could work in Riverdale‘s favor, and I hope they hit on a brilliant way to recast Reggie. Remember how Shelly Pomroy was played by three different actresses on Veronica Mars? Shelly Pomroy’s party sophomore year was so crucial to the plot of the show that Veronica was still name-checking her in college, but Shelly Pomroy herself was a very minor character and no one really noticed the recasting. They did, however, notice the recasting of Carrie Bishop, played by Leighton Meester in the show and Andrea Estella in the movie. The movie used Carrie’s stage name, Bonnie DeVille, to sort of explain away the transformation, but I always thought it would have been a treat for loyal fans if the murder victim had been Shelly Pomroy instead. That way, when yet another actress was brought in, we would have been in on the joke. Plus, Carrie/Bonnie was too cool of a girlfriend for Logan and I perceive her as more of a threat to his relationship with Veronica, if that makes sense. So if they find a way to riff on the fact that Archie’s great rival Reggie was a non-player in the first season, the recasting could actually be a good thing. I’m still mad at Ross Butler, though.

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Library Follow-up

It’s National Library Week. I’ve had some feedback on my Top Ten Movie Libraries list, so here are a few more explorations into fictional libraries:

Attack of the Clones


One of the reasons I didn’t include the Jedi Library on my list was that I have only seen Episode Two like twice and didn’t want to look like a poser. After a friend clued me in on the Jedi Library’s resemblance to the Trinity College Library, I started watching the movie to remind myself of the context. My boyfriend walked into the living room and said, “Why are we watching the worst Star Wars?” I don’t want to get too deep into all that; just let it suffice that I can’t add the Jedi Library to my personal list of favorite movie libraries because it wouldn’t be true.

Still, the comparison is interesting, and Trinity is one of my favorite real-world libraries, so it’s earned a place on this auxiliary post. The scene occurs mercifully early in the movie, before we get into too much off-putting Anakin/Padme romance. Ewan McGregor is doing some research and winds up in the universe’s repository of knowledge. Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has, and when he asks the librarian for help, she gets snippy with him!

 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iNlqt3pvRFg 

All the President’s Men

This movie, which I’d totally forgotten was adapted for the screen by William Goldman of  Princess Bride fame, includes the famous Library of Congress rotunda pull-away shot. This is an iconic library scene, left off my personal list because I’ve never been to the Library of Congress and I had never seen All the President’s Men. Until now. Last week, I followed an internet trail from Janet Cooke to Bob Woodward and ended up finally watching this film. I had so many questions regarding privacy rights as depicted in this film; these bloggers answered many of them:

All the president’s librarians

http://librariesatthemovies.blogspot.com/2011/04/government-that-steals-library-slips-is.html

Cinematically, I’m drawn to the roundness of this shot compared with the all the other squared-off 70s settings, like the opera house or the parking garage where Woodward meets Deep Throat. I especially love the long looks at the newsroom, capacious and laid out in a grid of low cubicles and straight-edged fluorescent lights, which is repeated in the long tracking shots of the District itself, with its city blocks and the right angles of buildings. Most everything in this movie is low and rectangular, except for that reading room rotunda scene, and even within all those concentric circles, we know there are two men flipping through little quadrilateral checkout slips.

Many, many people have pointed out how that scene shows the magnitude of what Woodstein were getting into–they followed a thread through a winding maze that eventually brought down a presidency. I keep snagging on something else, though: how feminine that shot is, in a movie that is almost entirely masculine.

I’ve written before about women in journalism, and Watergate happened two years after the 1970 Newsweek lawsuit. Nora Ephron’s involvement in both Good Girls Revolt and the screenplay of All the President’s Men has raised a few questions for me as well. Maybe it’s the Men in the title, but I just couldn’t help seeing this movie through a feminist lens, despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that it’s a true story. Female characters in this movie have either dated someone who knows something, or they’re acting as cagey sources who are eventually worn down by our intrepid reporters, or they’re the pregnant wife who made Hugh Sloan resign “to spend time with his family.”

The feminist reading pivots on the arrival of Sally Aikens, who has apparently been a reporter at the Post this whole time, but never appeared on screen before now. (This movie has a lot of names and characters; I watched with a notebook and a very active Google search page.) In real life and in Goldman’s original script, Sally was actually Marilyn Berger, a staff writer for The Washington Post. “She’s an awfully good reporter–I can’t remember her getting too much wrong before, can you?” Woodward observes. 

When Sally comes forward with information, Woodward flat out asks if the source was trying to get her into bed, and Bernstein asks why it took her so long to effectively betray her lover’s confidence. Her sexuality on the table and her reporter’s chops in question, she looks at Woodward and voices the thought that had dogged me throughout this whole film, a line not in Goldman’s original script but rendered absolutely hilarious by the fact that Woodward’s source is codenamed Deep Throat:

“I guess I don’t have the taste for the jugular you guys have.”

 13 Reasons Why


I know, I know. But I’ve been casually counseling a bunch of millennials this week, and this is what they wanted to talk about (they thought the cassette tapes were cool). The narrative structure definitely glamorizes suicide and flirts with the dead girl trope, but the catharsis of Clay’s tape has me shook. You also have to admire the integration of plot points and masterful handling of a huge cast of characters, not to mention the geeky aappreciation for music. I’m not trying to sell anyone on this show but I will have another post featuring beloved campus DJ and guardian angel Tony.

This is also a cheat on my part because we never see the actual library on screen, just this sad little annex at career day in the gym and a community room “safe space” for the poetry group. I just really dug Episode Eight because of the sexy librarian, “campus intellectual” Ryan’s snotty attitude, and the Lost-N-Found Gazette.


​Anyway, that’s it for now. Happy National Library Week!

Complicated in an uninteresting way

Confession: I am really bad at pitching stories. Always have been. It’s what holds me back as a writer. I could easily tackle my issues with commas and hyphens if I had anything important enough to say, but the narrative drive isn’t there. I’d love to write a book but have no idea what to write about, and my journalism career stalls out when I can’t bring anything to the table.

I once interned at Texas Monthly, and one of the perks is that interns get to attend the pitch meetings. Interns can pitch story ideas as well, and it’s kind of a big deal to have one picked, so when Evan Smith came looking for me to shake my head, I was extremely giddy and had to call my mom. Even so, it was just the generic “I love Veronica Mars and Rob Thomas is from Texas so someone please interview him” story on my pitch sheet, not the other four painstakingly detailed proposals I had carefully crafted. I was not the only one to have suggested a Rob Thomas story, and it eventually became a reality around the same time the Veronica Mars movie did.

For a former journalist, I often wildly miss the point. The last few magazine stories I’ve pitched have fallen flat, except for the one that was picked up by another writer AFTER I had severed my relationship with that publication and totally may have just been the editor thumbing her nose at me.

One of my college professors once wrote a comment on my personal essay: complicated in an uninteresting way. That is me to a T. I tend to overthink things that don’t matter to anyone but me. The thing is, they matter deeply to me. They’re pretty much all I care about, what I spend my time thinking about, and what I write about when I have the choice. No one reads my stuff, but who cares? I’m staying true to myself, right? In the eloquent words of our president: Sad!

Like everyone else in the free world, I’m listening to S-Town right now, and in some way, the meandering story gives me hope. Like, if you stick with something long enough and have enough talent, you’ll someday give it shape and meaning and purpose and people will go nuts over it. But that’s only if you identify with the narrator of S-Town, the podcaster who crafted this story from a huge cast of characters and a range of disparate events that happened over several years, pulling it all into a cohesive seven episodes in a nice studio with some of the most talented people in the business and, oh yeah, a salary.

Sometimes, I identify most with John B., building shrub mazes in my backyard, ruminating over the world’s problems, and never getting anywhere.

Imagination should be used not to escape reality but to create it.
-Free Will Astrology

 

The Library Scene

Today is my last official day volunteering in the library. I will still be helping out with the website and special events, plus I’m on the board of the newly formed Friends group, so it’s not like I’m going anywhere. Still, the weekly commitment to physically staff the library is now a thing of the past. 

As a way of saying farewell, and in no particular order except maybe autobiographical, here are my Top Ten Movie Libraries:

Ghostbusters (1984)

“Peter, at 1:40 PM at the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, ten people witnessed a free floating, full torso, vaporous apparition. It blew books off shelves from twenty feet away and scared the socks off some poor librarian!”

They don’t make them like this anymore. Hadley Freeman has written frequently about her favorite film, full of nostalgia for 1980s “crap science” and the New York of her childhood. Still, those of us who didn’t grow up in New York are right at home with that opening shot and closeup of one of the stone lions, whose name is Fortitude (the other lion on the south side of the steps is named Patience).

JANINE
You’re very handy. I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.

EGON
Print is dead.

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

I left the Hogwarts library off this list because it was just too obvious. The animated Beauty and the Beast library is almost as duh-inducing and Disneyfied as Harry Potter, I admit, but I was still a kid when I saw this and can’t dismiss something so formative. I’m not immune to the psychology of Pinterest and this did indeed influence my expectations of men: “I want to do something for her.” It’s as easy as that.

And no, I haven’t seen the live-action version yet, but here’s my post on Emma Watson’s Book Club. Also, check out the Book Fairies:

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Most of the movie takes place in the library, which is actually the school’s gym turned into a library set, thus explaining the high ceilings, balconies, and giant modern art sculpture in the center of the room. This movie came out in 1985; I first saw it at my middle school best friend’s house, probably ten years later. I remember at the time experiencing the film as this long, epic Saturday full of teenage pain and the struggle against authority. Now when I watch it, it seems so much less expansive–exactly like high school.

fee3f1ceddabb107d39138afaa79ba2b

Major League (1989)

The library scene is actually much longer than this, with Rene Russo wearing librarian glasses and screaming “I have a much better body than she does!” in the quiet reading room of what is actually the Northwestern University library in Chicago. Reading through the script and seeing the details of the stewardesses, the paternity suit, and Miss Dairy Queen all stacked up together, I’m a little disappointed in Lynn for taking Jake back, even if he is the true hero of the film. He didn’t even read Moby Dick “cover to cover, babe.” Not really.

LYNN
Who saved Ishmael at the end?

TAYLOR
Nobody. It was Queequeg’s coffin.

 MobyDick

High Society (1956)

High Society (1956) is my favorite “classic” movie. It’s a remake of The Philadelphia Story, but the cast and the Newport setting make it worth the trouble. The library is the backdrop for two songs: Frank Sinatra crooning You’re Sensational to Grace Kelly during an afternoon tour of “the playground of the rich,” and Frankie teaming up with Bing Crosby for the boozy Well, Did You Evah during her bachelor(ette?) party that evening. I love when the bar pops out of the wall and Sinatra quips: “I had a bed that did that once.” I was also thrilled when Robbie Williams and John Lovett covered Well, Did You Evah back in 2001.

louis_armstrong_and_grace_kelly_on_the_set_of_-high_society-_1956

Clue (1985)

More than any other library on this list, this is the one from which I will be drawing decor inspiration. The Nouveau Riche Oblige fireplace upon which Madeline Kahn exquisitely smashes her wine glass is perfect ornamentation for this film. In the movie’s murder game, the library is where Miss Scarlet kills the cop with a lead pipe while he’s on the phone (twice). The trivia surrounding this box office flop is copious, but here’s something new I just learned: Carrie Fisher was originally cast as Miss Scarlet, but entered rehab right before rehearsals began.

cluenouveauriche

Wings of Desire (1987)

This film’s Hollywood remake City of Angels came out in 1998, when I was a sophomore in high school and just starting to learn about some sort of culture outside my hometown. The world was divided into people who liked being emotionally manipulated by Meg Ryan/Nicolas Cage and those who didn’t. I couldn’t explain why; I didn’t even know it was a remake. A screening of Der Himmel über Berlin in my college German film class helped clarify the issue. For example, one film features the Berlin State Library as a way to  access the thoughts of a raw and divided city, while the other shoehorns Hemingway and the San Francisco Public Library into a story ostensibly about Los Angeles.

CityofAngels

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)

I was ruminating on libraries as romantic settings and remembered this scene, which I’ve always loved. The Square Root of Three is such a sweet little poem, and Harold’s new-wavy goth cameo is just icing on the cake.

The Square Root of Three by David Feinberg

I’m sure that I will always be
A lonely number like root three

The three is all that’s good and right,
Why must my three keep out of sight
Beneath the vicious square root sign,
I wish instead I were a nine

For nine could thwart this evil trick,
with just some quick arithmetic

I know I’ll never see the sun, as 1.7321
Such is my reality, a sad irrationality

When hark! What is this I see,
Another square root of a three

Has quietly come waltzing by,
Together now we multiply
To form a number we prefer,
Rejoicing as an integer

We break free from our mortal bonds
With the wave of magic wands

Our square root signs become unglued
Your love for me has been renewed

Party Girl (1995)

Sorry about the quality of the video–this movie can be hard to track down. It’s one of those films I reallllly wish I had seen earlier in life. Club kids and Lebanese street food are things I should have been exposed to sooner, and the whole Dewey-Decimal-meets-beats-and-decibels juxtaposition of books and records makes me smile. The movie came out in 1995; I probably didn’t see it until 2012 or so, and I ultimately got around to it because someone used this quote from Mary:

“I would like a nice, powerful, mind-altering substance.
Preferably one that will make my unborn children grow gills.”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

And here we are, back where it all started: the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library. Now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Central Building set the scene for many beloved New York stories. Carrie Bradshaw planned an ill-fated wedding there, and her literary predecessor, Holly Golightly, declared “I don’t think this place is half as nice as Tiffany’s.” Patience and Fortitude make an appearance in the original novella, which makes me appreciate the callback in the film:

“Late one afternoon, while waiting for a Fifth Avenue bus, I noticed a taxi stop across the street to let out a girl who ran up the steps of the Forty-second Street public library. She was through the doors before I recognized her, which was pardonable, for Holly and libraries were not an easy association to make. I let curiosity guide me between the lions, debating on the way whether I should admit following her or pretend coincidence. In the end I did neither, but concealed myself some tables away from her in the general reading room, where she sat behind her dark glasses and a fortress of literature she’d gathered at the desk.”

Three Bonus TV Libraries

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

GilesandBuffy

This is a tough one because the library is the literal center of the first three seasons. It was pointless to pull a scene because so many of them take place there. I am new to the Buffyverse and have no right to criticize, but this is probably the worst use of a library in fiction. It serves as a place to either do research or listen to a long expository speech from Giles. I’m reading that the cast and crew hated these scenes because there was nothing to do, and I feel like that is a very cliched dismissal of libraries as dry and boring. Part of the problem was that NO OTHER STUDENTS EVER USED THE LIBRARY. Libraries should be vibrant and vital to the community, not just a clubhouse for the Scoobies. Even The Magic Box had customers.

I got really excited in the last season, when Buffy welcomes the Übervamp to Thunderdome, because Xander explains they are at the “future site of the new public library, opening up May 2003,” which is when the series finale took place. I thought we were laying the scene for a battle royale in the public library; alas, it took place back at good ol’ Sunnydale High. Still, I cried.

Giles

Veronica Mars (2004-2007)

Veronica’s work-study job gives her a central location to serve as a base of command on campus. She also gets to flex that mighty intelligence by mastering the library’s classification system. (Dewey or Congress? Inquiring minds want to know.) She quickly calls up “Third floor, aisle nine” on a fairly obscure reference question, and she does it straight from memory after only working in the library for one full episode.

[Beginning of episode 3.2; Veronica is applying for a job at the campus newspaper.]
VERONICA:
I’d take any assignment. If I don’t get this job, the fine people in financial aid have a completely undesirable position in the library all picked out for me.

[End of episode 3.2]
VERONICA VOICEOVER:
So it looks like my work study job will be in the library.
My journalism career over before it even really began.

Still, by the next episode, she gets to have the sexy library scene with Logan, so it’s not that bad. This scene got Regina Spektor’s Fidelity in heavy rotation on my Spotify.

Orange is the New Black (2013-    )

The literary references are what got me started on OITNB. My boyfriend asked me about Atonement and explained how Piper had spoiled it for another inmate. I love the ever-growing list of books mentioned on the show…

Piper

Support your public library… and try not to give the librarians too much trouble!

Those Last Four Words

Gilmore Girls was never a great show. It was a good show, and I watched every episode, but it never cracked my Top Five, maybe not even the Top Ten. I was mainly excited about the reboot because it gave the creator a chance to end the story on her own terms.

The mythology around the show states that Amy Sherman-Palladino had always known the final four words that would be spoken in the series. She’d written the arc with that ending in mind. But contract negotiations fell through, so the seventh and final season went in a different direction. We saw Rory hopping on the campaign bus to cover the Obama candidacy, which seemed like a great ending in 2007 because HOPE.

barack_obama_hope_poster

Fast forward nine years and we find Rory floundering. Vogue had a surprisingly wry take on this, and a couple of other sites have pointed out how the prodigal daughter is just too damn spoiled and pumped full of praise to really make anything of herself. I’ve always wondered why Rory’s hero was Christiane Amanpour when Rory rarely showed any interest in current events, politics, or global affairs. I secretly agreed with Headmaster Charleston when he grilled Rory about her ambitions:

Headmaster : Why do you wish to be Christiane Amanpour?

Rory : I don’t wish to be her, exactly. I just want to do what she does.

Headmaster : Which is?

Rory : Travel, see the world up close, report on what’s really going on, and to be part of something big.

Headmaster : And to be a part of something big you have to be on TV? Why not lead the police on a high speed chase, it’s a quicker way to achieve this goal.

We used to get this sort of applicant when I worked at the newspaper; the blank slate English major who just wants to be a writer. Even in publishing, you get a lot of wannabe writers. Alexis Bledel plays a similar character in 2009’s Post Grad:

Ryden: Well, I guess what I’m getting at is that books are all I know…and everything I love, and…I want this job because…well, because I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.

Interviewer: Alright. Good. Thank you for coming in.

Say that in a job interview and be prepared for the eye rolls. It’s not about what the job can do for you and your career; it’s about what you bring to the job. The fact that she gets the job at the end of the movie is just more Rory Gilmore level entitlement–that, and the fact that she’s dating Matt Saracen. (Fun fact: I’ve always though Alexis Bledel looked like Macaulay Culkin in a brown wig.)

It’s frustrating because we all see ourselves in Rory. Every bookish girl can relate to that character. It’s why there’s a Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. The thing is, though, not everyone had rich, connected grandparents to fund prep school tuition and provide introductions at Yale. And the amount of free shit she accepts from Logan? Sweetie, there’s a word for that. Countless people have asked how the fuck she can jet back and forth to London every other week when she doesn’t have a job. We’re supposed to be entertained by the juxtaposition of Stars Hollow and the rest of Rory’s world, but it’s only worthwhile if she escapes on her own merit. Like Lorelai.

And that scene where Rory is “on the beat” to write her story about people waiting in line? Blech. Almost as bad as the doubly derivative and anti-climatic Across the Universe “With a Little Help From My Friends” scene (I guess it’s easier/cheaper to get rights to a Beatles cover) which ends in a tango club with a close-up on Logan and Rory, WHO DON’T DANCE. Compared to these two, it was huge letdown:

Maybe the whole point of the show is that Lorelai worked real hard to raise a real cool daughter and the kid turned out to be a real shit head. I know people complain about not enough flawed-but-strong female characters, and I do think Lorelai and Rory helped move us forward on that front, but the show is just annoying. Always has been. They drop storylines and never pick them up. (Who left Emily that nasty letter? My money is on one of the maids.) The only people who are intrigued by THE LAST FOUR WORDS® are the dupes who think there are going to be more episodes.

So let’s talk about those last four words. Spoiler alert, obvs.

I’d heard the term “the last four words” before, but only really started paying attention just before the Black Friday release of A Year in the Life. Somewhere I read that it was “the last four words spoken by a character,” and I assumed one character would say all four words. So I was confused and had to rewind the final scene, trying to squeeze an extra three words out of the contraction. But it turns out the final four words were actually split between mother and daughter:

Rory: Mom?

Lorelai: Yeah?

Rory: I’m pregnant.

What the absolute fuck. I’m glad I wasn’t a huge fan of the show because I might have rioted. People have noted that this ending was intended for the original show, when Rory was younger. (But what if it had been cancelled in the first season? Would Dean have knocked her up in high school? Is that why she had to have a rapid succession of boyfriends?) People think the last four words would have packed a different emotional punch if the seventh season hadn’t gone off the rails.

I’m not buying it. AS-P knew what ending she wanted and she worked backward to get us there. The entire four-episode arc of A Year in the Life is designed to get Rory back to a place where those words would hit the same way–she’s preparing to having a great life, when oh no, an unexpected pregnancy! There’s even a symmetry with the age of 32: Rory was 16 when the show started, which was the same age Lorelai was when she had her, and Lorelai was exactly twice as old as Rory at 32, and now Rory is 32 and pregnant. (Wait, I just realized no one had a birthday in the Year in the Life, not even Rory’s 4:03 AM wakeup call from Lorelai. Strange.)

Lorelai evokes the circle of life in two separate discussions with her mother. The first is during Winter when they are arguing about Richard’s funeral and Lorelai storms out the door but not before turning around and hissing “Full. Freaking. Circle.” which did not make any sense to me and I tried to find the context for that and it wouldn’t come to me so I gave up, which pretty much summarizes all of my experiences watching Gilmore Girls. The next instance makes more sense, in Fall, when Lorelai returns to her parents’ house to ask for money (can they not see how this would get tedious?) and Emily negotiates annual summer vacations and a Christmas holiday together. Because, as we all know, that’s where the show started, with Lorelai asking for money and Emily using it as a bargaining chip for Friday dinners. Nothing says independent woman like applying for a loan at the Bank of Mom and Dad.

When I sat down to watch the reboot, it had been years since I’d visited Stars Hollow (although I have since decided that Salado, Texas, is a real-life Stars Hollow). I didn’t even rewatch the original series in the days/weeks/months leading up to A Year in the Life, although I did stop halfway through to watch A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving because the holiday had reminded me and Melissa McCarthy really earns her paycheck in that one. (It’s like they let her off her leash and allowed her to improvise, because it’s truly funny. Not Gilmore Girls OMG-Kirk-is-so-quirky funny; legitimately funny. I’ve always thought Kirk was just someone’s school chum who’d been promised a role.)

It only took the first scene of 2016 to get me back into the groove, and Lorelai says something that made me think I knew what the last four words would be. Keep in mind, I still thought it would be one character saying a four-word sentence. But with the Year in the Life structure (Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall. All you have to do is call…) I thought it would be Lorelai asking Rory, “Do you smell snow?” Or, in light of the actual last four words, maybe Rory saying, “Mom, I smell snow.” Since the last episode was Fall, I thought Rory might finally inherit her mother’s magical ability to predict snowfall, and that would somehow signal that she had finally become a Gilmore woman. And honestly, I would have liked that ending better.

Rory’s decision to ruin/enhance/preempt her mother’s wedding day by announcing her own pregnancy is, of course, typical shit head Rory. It’s also terrible storytelling: clichéd, hackneyed, boring, what have you. Like Rory’s decision to write a book entitled (The) Gilmore Girls, this is indulgent, sophomoric, and ludicrous. All those bookish girls who related to Rory and watched the show to see where it would take them? Full. Freaking. Circle. Read a lot and study hard and let people make sacrifices for your education so you too can write a self-centered memoir. Really, it’s the only thing you were ever meant to do. It’s what scares me so much about working in education: you read a lot and study hard and make sacrifices for your education so you can turn around and tell other people to read a lot and study hard and make sacrifices for their education. Sigh. If you have a fictional universe in which to escape that cycle, why not do it? Is it because there is no escape?

I hate this. I do. I read a book once in the sixth grade where a girl goes to live in space after we destroy Earth and everyone is only allowed to bring one possession and she chooses a blank journal, then the space-colonists decide they need a bunch of blank paper for some reason (I think they’d started bartering?) and they ask the girl to use her book but they can’t because it turns out it’s no longer blank and she has filled it with the story of the space-colonists WHICH TURNS OUT TO BE THE VERY BOOK YOU’RE READING. And I thought that was so clever…when I was eleven years old.

Rory writes a memoir (at Jess’s suggestion, which is why I can never be Team Jess) about the Gilmore Girls which becomes a TV show about the Gilmore Girls which becomes a Netflix miniseries about the Gilmore Girls which is what you spent Black Friday watching. OMG! Isn’t that just so meta? No. It’s ridiculous. The idea that Rory will have a daughter named Lori (or a son named Richard Gilmore Huntzberger) and perpetuate this full freaking circle just makes me cringe.

Would I hate it as much if the last four words hadn’t been hyped as the entire reason for the series? I don’t know. But I’m really grateful I’m not pregnant.

Trés True Things in Good Girls Revolt

I think we can all agree with Patti’s reaction in Episode 10, after Jane has finally gotten on board and even evokes karma for the cause.

Good Girls Revolt isn’t the greatest show ever made, but it was entertaining enough for me to binge the whole season on Amazon this weekend. Patti is a fun, charming character, Anna Camp is on-point as the exquisite Jane, and Cindy is super annoying–I guess there always has to be one of those girls in every ensemble cast because it gives her the most room for growth (looking at you, Charlotte York MacDougal Goldenblatt).

GGR is based on a book about the true story of the women at Newsweek, so there’s not much new to cover. There were a few smaller moments, though, that seemed both fresh and relatable:

1. Patti’s fear that she won’t be any good.

“Was your first article perfect? Huh? Or did some researcher catch all of your mistakes, proof-read you, make you look brilliant. And by the way, even if my copy had been perfect, I still wouldn’t have gotten a byline.”

Remember that scene in 30 Rock when high school age Liz Lemon completely botches a field goal for the football team, raises her arms victoriously, and yells “Feminism!”? She’s a female on the football team but sucks so hard that even her parents won’t watch her play. That’s the undercurrent of fear running through the women’s movement, albeit comedically illustrated.

When Patti completely misses the social services angle on her graffiti artist story, Doug steps in, saying “You can’t just write about what you want.” Later, in episode 10, he tells her, “You screwed that up and you know it.” She shoots back, “Was your first article perfect?”

It comes up again for Jane when another reporter, although female, is hired from outside the magazine to write the women’s movement story Jane pitched to Gregory (after stealing it from Patti). I think Cindy is the one who asks how they are supposed to get writing experience when they are working at a magazine that won’t let them write.

2. Cindy’s Love Story-inspired death fantasies.

cindy

Cindy and Jane share some girl talk over drinks, and since everybody appears to be reading Erich Segal’s Love Story in the early months of 1970, it becomes a segue into talking about the deaths they have imagined.

Cindy makes clear that she doesn’t want to see Lenny or Ned die, but can’t help thinking about the freedom it would give her. It has very little to do with the persons of Lenny and Ned; it is about removing them as factors in her life. Just taking them out of the equation entirely would make her life her own. Jane has similar thoughts about her parents.

3. Wick’s stake in News of the Week.

“You know I have a lot of respect for the institution that gave me my career.”

Wick comes out of nowhere in episode 10 to warn Finn about trouble brewing at the magazine. It was a red herring in the plot structure of the show since he wasn’t trying to tell Finn about the lawsuit. Instead, he explained something that had been alluded to with the Stingray rental and story on Ralph Nader: Gregory was selling favorable coverage to the Big Three.

Wick should be happy to see Finn and News of the Week implode, but he’s looking at the bigger picture: “You know, Finn, I got 30 years at News of the Week. Now, if this magazine goes down as a useless rag that sold its soul out for ad buys, people look at me differently, as if it was going on the whole time.”

It’s the same slightly self-serving rationale that gets me to donate money to my alma mater every year: it “adds value” to the pedigree. By making sure those institutions take care of their reputations, Wick and I ensure our own.

A note about Finn Woodhouse, Editor at Large

Evan Phinnaeus Woodhouse is portrayed by Chris Diamantopoulos, who, for me, can only ever be the Trés Commas Tequila guy from Silicon Valley. But forgetting his prior roles (also finally saw him in the last season of The Office) there is something about his character that is driving me absolutely insane.

Why on earth is Finn’s title “Editor at Large“??? It makes no sense. He’s clearly Editor in Chief. His responsibilities at the magazine are way too extensive for an at-large editor. He “dusts off” his press pass to write the ‘Nam story, but his day-to-day duties are concerned with running the magazine, which is not what an editor at large does.

It sounds so bizarre when he goes on a rant about how the staff should listen to him because he is EDITOR AT LARGE FOR NEWS OF THE WEEK. Just imagine a real editor at large gliding into the newsroom and telling people how to run things. That’s not how it works. Editors at large contribute to the content of a publication; they do not decide the editorial direction or concern themselves with advertisers.

I’m wondering if the nomenclature has shifted since the 70s or if the showrunners got something wrong because it is just too weird. As an example using fairly current magazine celebrities: André Leon Talley was an editor at large for Vogue and Anna Wintour was Editor in Chief. So just imagine that dynamic to understand how weird it is for Finn to scream his title at people when that title is so obviously wrong. This is really freaking me out.

Hold up, am I the mom?

Dig, if you will, this picture…of me and my cheese plate engaged in some bliss:

cheeseplate

The photo was taken six months ago in a wine bar during a social gathering for the Local Yuppies, the creative class / talent development organization of which I was then vice president. There were about 30 people in attendance, but only two board members, and the absence of the president made me the ranking officer. Since I was under pressure to take over as president for the 2016-17 fiscal year, it was a chance to see how I would run the organization.

I had gotten to the wine bar early, ostensibly to make sure everything ran smoothly, but mostly because I was excited about my new daily planner and wanted some alone time: just me, my planner, a glass of wine, and, most importantly, some food. I was starving.

Alas, at least three other people decided to be early, so I had to start performing my duties the moment I got there. I ordered my wine and food as quickly as I could, then set about networking, a word of yuppie origin that loosely translates as “talking to people.”

I eventually found a tall chair and sat with a new attendee while sipping Pinot Grigio. My cheese plate arrived and it was huge. For $10, I got a smorgasbord. The woman delivering it to my table asked if I want honey or hummus. “Can I have both?” I asked, and she said of course. This in addition to the cheeses, bread slices, crackers, fruits, chocolate deserts, and scone. A scone. The cheese plate included an entire fucking scone.

At the same time I was managing my hunger, I was also managing Local Yuppie business, greeting people and posing for photos. I scolded a few book club members for not showing up to that contentious May meeting. At one point, I had to go to the front of the room, leaving my table companion with the suggestion to eat whatever she liked off my plate.

In my travels to the front of the bar, a distance of about 20 feet with about that many people in the vicinity, two separate individuals stopped me to ask me about the cheese plate. See, our social venues usually (but not always) provide free appetizers to pair with the drinks we are buying. However, since this social had been planned at the last minute, there would be no free nibbles that night. Upon seeing the giant plate of food at the table of the acting president, it was perfectly reasonable for some members to assume it was a shared plate.

So I shared. I told people it was my food, but there was plenty of it and they were welcome to pick off the plate. Over the course of the evening, I watched my apple slices, an entire cluster of grapes, three out of four bread slices, and one of my chocolate desserts disappear from my plate. One girl sat down in front of me and ate that entire fucking scone while telling me how awesome she was and how she would run things if she were in charge. I finally interrupted her to crumble off a corner of the scone, just so I could find out how it tasted.

It was around this time, watching my food go travelling off my plate whilst dispensing career advice and volunteer opportunities, that I had this exact epiphany:

Yes, apparently I am the mom. And my kids were hungry. So I fed them.

All this time, I’ve been wondering what the organization could do for me. In two years, I have hired only one writer through the LY network, the original reason I joined the organization. I don’t see it advancing my own career either, partly because publishing isn’t really a growth industry around here, and partly because I’m 30-something and more advanced in my career than most if not all of the LYs. Some of them are barely out of college. But it does raise questions about mentorship and paying it forward and how I can truly develop some leadership skills, instead of shrugging off the chance to take charge because I don’t like responsibility. We’re all adults here, yes, but some of us are more grown than others: when the waitress took my empty plate away, I noticed not a single person other than me had ordered food.

With service to any organization, the rewards aren’t always immediate or even visible. It’s November now, the new fiscal year, and I did wind up being president of the Local Yuppies. I’ve avoided the word “leadership” since high school, so it’s odd learning to steer a ship again. Today, I went to lunch with one of our new board members to make plans for the holiday charity season. She said she didn’t often get asked to lunch and appreciated the invitation.

Then she paid for my food.

 

 

Content with Content

[*This is a draft from a year ago. I redacted the details.]

I’m writing my first article in three years, and I’m struggling to get where I want to be. I have the basic angle the editor asked for, my own interest in the topic, and a buttload of quotes from relevant people. However, the article is not quite doing what I want it to do. I want it to be funny and fresh, not boring and overdone. I’m not covering breaking news, and I need to be able to impose my own worldview on this piece.

And lately I’ve been panicking that I have no worldview, that I don’t know where I stand on [redacted] and therefore I must be a cardboard cutout of a human being. Especially since we’re looking at starting our own chapter, I wonder what we could be doing differently, or if I’m just trying to reinvent the wheel. We had [redacted], and not enough people signed up. We don’t need to be doing more stuff; we need to do the stuff we’re doing better.

And then I’m looking at how I need to be a content writer, not just a writer, how I need to package myself and my writing. And this is all really interesting to me but now that I have a chance to put it into action I’m balking. Because I ALWAYS have this problem and I’m a terrible human being and I will never succeed at anything. This is exhausting, and it’s getting a little old.

So let’s try something new and believe in ourself/ves? Believe in elves.

The first thing I need is a title. It will probably be changed, but it’s basic that I should craft one anyway. Maybe I need an outline as well.

  1. Children
  2. [redacted]
  3. Nonprofit Organization

You’re stalling. Scared to make a call. Looking for permission, or call it research if you must.

What do people need to know?

I wrote some more last night, reading the research by the pool. I’ll put that into my document after I’ve retrieved it from the car, but I don’t think this is very good. I’m not happy with it.

What I want to say is that [redacted] are people who don’t actually use the [redacted], just want to support its continued existence. But I have to say that in a way that 1) considers that some of them will insist they actually do use the [redacted] and 2) doesn’t raise class division issues and 3) is funny.

You’re balancing:

  1. What your editor wants.
  2. What the reader wants.
  3. What you want to write.
  4. The information you have.
  5. What the subject would like to see written.
  6. What is good for the world.

People nowadays prefer listicles.

 

Beck and Hunt


The library in my town is officially named the Eula Hunt Beck Florence Public Library. While I have reservations about the SEO confusion (Eula and Florence are both traditional female names, while Hunt and Beck are verbs) the name was intended to honor “Sis” Beck, the reigning matriarch of our town’s banking dynasty. She has made many notable contributions to this whole region of Texas, and has probably done twice as much anonymously. Plus, she’s always been nice to me.

A woman came into the Eula Hunt Beck Florence Public Library today brandishing this book. It’s a well-loved 1980 custom publication of local history printed by Nortex Press in Burnet, Texas. (!) Nortex Press was part of Eakin Press, which has since been acquired by Wild Horse Media Group in Fort Worth, which is doing some interesting stuff…but once upon a time, they were publishing books in Burnet friggin’ Texas!


I can’t be the only one who looked at that cover and thought Willie Zell Ray Hunt must have been a warlock. 1768-1980?!? Dude was 212 years old! Alas, it’s just the time period researched in the book (which kind of looks like an old hymnal, no?).

Willie Zell Ray Hunt was actually a woman, and, according to her obituary, a midwife. Though not quite 212 when she died, she did live an impressive 94 years and published a book at the age of 77. She is buried in Maxdale Cemetery and was survived by two daughters, one of whom is Eula Lea “Sis” Hunt Beck.