Kool Things VI

It has been a minute since I’ve done one of these. But one of my major resolutions for 2018 was to get back out there and shamelessly stan my favorite tv shows write! Here are a few of my faves from the past month.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

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image source: goodreads

So—fun fact—I started tutoring this fall! It’s definitely a challenge for me, since I’m not sure I’m the teacher type, but luckily my “student” is a wonderful human with a ton of integrity and maturity for a teenager. Her final project was a presentation on the book Station Eleven, so obviously I had to read it!

It fits squarely within the genre of dystopian YA, but the author attempts (sometimes, too hard) to elevate it with a ton of Shakespeare references (there are characters named Arthur Leander, Miranda, Olivia, Viola—and those are just the references I get). Without spoiling the ending, the climax is a bit, well, anti-climactic, but I still consider the book a worthwhile read. Plus, it’s pretty short, so it took me all of two days to finish.

 

Happy Endings

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image source: hulu

I know what you’re thinking—this show ended like 5 years ago. And it did. But I’ll have you know that David Caspe’s Happy Endings is one of the *Kanye voice* best shows of all time. It’s a travesty that it only lasted three seasons. Genius actors comprise the entire cast, but special shout out to Eliza Coupe and Damon Wayans, Jr. Brad and Jane are two of my favorite tv characters ever. This show has some of the best writing I’ve ever heard—it’s inspiring and brilliant.

The whole thing’s on Hulu, so you know what to do-lu.

 

Great, Sara Benincasa

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image via goodreads

Full disclosure: I only bought this book because I love Sara Benincasa and it was super cheap on Amazon. Great is a contemporary, YA, gender-flipped retelling of The Great Gatsby, which should be a recipe for disaster, but was actually a joy to read. The names are a bit cringe-worthy (I’ve compiled a list below), but, beyond that, it’s a smart spin on a classic that you could easily read in a day. I’m reading DC Trip now—keeping the Benincasa binge going!

Great Gatsby

Jay Gatsby – Jacinta Trimalchio (get it?!)

Nick Carraway – Naomi Rye

Delilah Fairweather – Daisy (Fay) Buchanan

Teddy Barrington – Tom Buchanan

Jeff Byron – Jordan Baker

Misti – Myrtle Wilson

Giovanni – George Wilson

 

Leahlani Bless Balm

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image via leahlani

I am obsessed with this stuff. Bless Balm by Leahlani came in the December Oui Fresh Beauty Box and I’ve been using it almost daily since it arrived. At first I was a bit skeptical of its texture and scent (it’s a pretty strong jasmine scent and it’s got sort of a Vaseline texture), but after a month of use, I’m in love. It’s so super hydrating and has kept my skin fabulous through the dry winter months. It’s upped my skincare game.

It’s pricey as hell, but after a month of use, I’ve barely made a dent in it. I have no doubt that it will last me the rest of the year. Plus, it’s all-natural and almost 100% organic, so I feel great about supporting this beauty brand.

 

Dry January

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And, last but not least, Dry January! I’m participating in the DJ tradition this month, and I’m feeling great about it! It’s such a nice new year refresh, and a great way to shed some of those holiday lbs! Basically, the rules are: Don’t drink any alcohol for the entire month of January. That’s it! I’m tying in some other wellness practices as well, but no drinking is the main goal. I’ll post a wrap-up in early February all about my experience! Wish me luck!

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It’s a 12-Month Wrap-Up!

Rap- rap- wrap-up!

2017 is over and frankly, BYE GIRL. What a rough year. I went from severe election depression, to a Mexican vacation, to not knowing WTF I was doing with my life, to going to grad school. The transition was rough, but not just for me. This year has also, obviously, been an actual trash-fire for the entire country.

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But apart from praying for mercy from our overlords, there were a few enjoyable things about 2017. I went to Cancún and Atlanta for the first time, and got to spend two weeks in L.A., which I proudly yet undeservedly consider my homeland. I dove even deeper into my comedy obsession, and turned it into a final paper on feminism and comedy writing (in which I got to use the quotation “Men are a cancer! God made a mistake!“). I binged so much TV that it should be considered a crime against (my own) humanity. I started therapy and got back on meds. Actually, if it weren’t for the backdrop of constant nuclear panic, 2017 might have even been a good year.

Luckily, even in the darkest timeline, artists gonna art, so there was a barrage of dope shit released this year. Here are the things that really stood out in my 2017:

Roxane Gay, Hunger

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image from the chicago tribune review

Literally everything Roxane Gay has ever written is perfect, so it was a no-brainer that this incredible book would be on my “Best Of” list. This book is so powerful and emotional; I cried reading it. Hunger is, genuinely, a memoir of her body—unlike so many other books written in a similar vein, this one has no self-help aims or “happy ending.” It is a raw, honest rendering of past and present traumas, and though Ms. Gay’s journey is unique to her, her writing speaks to the universal truths familiar to all those who inhabit bodies and navigate the world. For six months, the words of Hunger have stayed with me, like a haunting presence.

Hillary Clinton, What Happened

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image via slate

I haven’t finished this book yet, so no spoilers! (lol)

Part of me loves this book so much merely because I love Secretary Clinton and want to push back against the haters that think, for some reason, that it’s unacceptable that the first female presidential candidate of a major political party should write a book chronicling her experiences. I know this about myself. What I didn’t expect, upon beginning to listen (I’m checking out Audible this season), is how deeply First Lady Clinton’s words would affect me. She gets pretty real about her journey, and doesn’t shy away from being honest about the present danger in which America finds itself. But it’s never sad. In What Happened, hope eclipses sadness and darkness at every turn. It doesn’t hurt that Senator Clinton is funny as hell, either. Listening to What Happened is like inspiring meditation for all of us who were deeply hurt last November.

So, if Popular Vote Winner Rodham Clinton wants to hit me up for a glass of Chardonnay, just DM me @highwaytochel, bby.

Just realized I keep switching up her name! I guess she just has so many accomplishments that I’m not even sure what to call her!

Matt Bellassai, Everything is Awful 

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image via ew

This list was getting pretty heavy, so I had to turn up the levity to 11.

Matt Bellassai is a national treasure. I first heard of him on Throwing Shade, so I’m a bit of a late adopter, but as soon as I heard him on TSPod, I sought out his podcast Unhappy Hour, which led me to his book, which I scored, again, on Audible. I knew the book would be funny, but I didn’t think it would be laugh-out-loud-like-a-maniac-alone-in-my-car funny. The writing is so, so good. He has such a clear, distinct voice that it’s shocking he’s only my age. It’s so powerful, in fact, that I find myself relating on a deep level to a chubby, sheltered, Midwestern, gay, cis-male child, most of whose adjectives don’t describe me at all! I rarely advocate for audiobook over real book, but hearing Bellassai’s delivery is the icing on the cake.

Check out his popular Whine About It videos on Buzzfeed!

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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Amy Sherman-Palladino has blessed us once again! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which Jen Kirkman consulted on, nbd) is my favorite new show of the year! I’m not even that bitter about the fact that the lead actress, Rachel Brosnahan, is the same age as me!

The MMM tells the story of Midge, a 26-year-old mother of two in 1958, going through a separation following her husband, Joel’s, infidelity. Joel had been fervently pursuing a stand-up career (i.e. plagiarizing one), but it turns out that his wife is the real natural. Coached by Susie, played by the incomparable Alex Borstein, Midge begins to perform, to varying degrees of success. Oh, and Lenny Bruce is a character.

In true ASP fashion, the dialogue is fast-paced, joke dense, and sensational. If there had to be an heir to Gilmore Girls, this is indeed the one. I just watched the series but might start it over and force the huz to watch it with me. 10/10

Get Out

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Is Get Out the best movie I’ve ever seen? Strong possibility. Give Jordan Peele and Daniel Kaluuya and Betty Gabriel all of the Oscars!

I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it would be that good. I only just watched Get Out this fall, since I am horror-averse to the extreme, but I already know it will be one of my life-long favorites. Unfortunately, to write pretty much anything about it would spoil the majesty, and for once, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I was shocked, despite waiting months to watch it, and I wouldn’t take that experience away from anyone.

Jordan Peele is a genius. The film is aesthetically gorgeous, socially aware, hilarious, and terrifying. It’s a horror film, and a comedy, and a documentary.

P.S. I had the unique privilege of writing one of my final papers about Get Out, which I’m submitting to conferences!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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If you didn’t like this movie, please eject yourself from planet Earth. I won’t spoil it for anyone (it was spoiled for me by my brother), but it was a joy and a pleasure. I gasped in surprise or glee multiple times, and I got to experience the entire thing sitting between my husband and my best friend—best combo ever. I’d write more about how much it rocked my world, but I’m busy going to see it again.

#FeelTheDern

Hallmark Christmas Movies

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christmas in the air (2017)

I finally discovered the true, unadulterated joy that is Hallmark Christmas movies. I watched Christmas in the Air*, which only made me thirst for more**. These things are a bright spot in an increasingly dismal world. Plus, where else will you experience the true joy of a 49-year-old, childless female lead? Hallmark doesn’t even know that it’s feminist!

*I will say, specific to this film, that it espoused one trash value, which is that messiness and imperfection is acceptable. You should have let her clean your office, dude. You’re not a creative genius—you have untreated ADHD.

**There’s an upcoming one starring Candace Cameron Bure and Marilu Henner!

St. Vincent, Masseduction

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image via av club

I. Love. St. Vincent. I finally got to see her in concert last month at the House of Blues! I’ve liked her for years, but I have to admit, when she started getting super high concept, starting with Strange Mercy and continuing even stronger with St. Vincent, I really became a superfan. Masseduction doesn’t disappoint for a second—it’s got killer visuals, tight tunes, and her sexiest sound yet. Go purchase this album with human currency!

Highlights: “Los Ageless,” “New York,” and “Pills.”

The National, Sleep Well Beast

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image via pitchfork

As if The National could put out a bad album. I’ve been waiting for what seems like decades for new Ntl jams, and finally, my prayers have been answered. Sleep Well Beast is everything I dreamed it would be and more. It has more tech-y, electronic-y moments (please, don’t be intimidated by my vast knowledge of music) than previous releases, but it works. Get on this album, my dudes.

Highlights, for me at least, are “Day I Die,” “I’ll Still Destroy You,” and “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness.”

Taylor Swift, reputation

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image via billboard

I know. I’m going back on years of hating on T. Swift. I can admit I was wrong! In my hour of darkness she was standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, so let her be.

Reputation is bops for days. I adore it. I’ve listened to it more than the previous 2 albums combined, which severely deducts cool points from my street cred. But I don’t care. I even like “Look What You Made Me Do” which was pretty much universally panned. Highlights are, for sure, “Endgame (feat. Future & Ed Sheeran),” “Ready For It,” and “I Did Something Bad,” but basically every song is great so just go listen to it? T. Swift redeemed.

Put Your Hands Together

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image via twitter

Guys, I got to actually go to PYHT in Hollywood! It was probably the craziest night of my entire life—maybe I’ll share the story someday—but it was an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. The whole drama is recorded on the podcast, so if you’re a listener, you may know what I’m referring to. It was definitely a…teachable moment.

Cam & Rhea, thanks for being the moms we all need, and being genuinely the warmest and best people I’ve ever met.

Oui Fresh Beauty

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image via a beautiful mess

My ABM ladies started a natural beauty line! Lipstick, lip gloss, and essential oils, oh my! I am obsessed with clean beauty products (#backonmyhippiebullshit), so these gems were a total godsend. I took advantage of all of the launch and holiday sales, so I, of course, have the full lip collection. They go on smooth, hydrate, last, and bonus: the lip gloss smells like yummy vanilla!

The lipsticks and lip glosses all have ’90s namesakes like Blossom, Kapowski, Pink Ranger, and As If! They even have a natural beauty subscription box, à la Birchbox, which flies off the virtual shelves every month. I subscribed in December, and got an amazing box of goodies! 10/10 would recommend!

 

 

 

Stay Mad

I am so mad about Twin Peaks: The Return, episode 8. It’s an hour of my life that I’ll never get back. After minute 2 of watching as the camera zoomed into an explosion, I turned to Twitter to amuse myself, but my husband freaked out so I was banned from my phone. For an hour. It was a struggle to stay awake. In fact, the second the credits started rolling, I walked out of the room without a word and went to bed, even though it was still pretty early.

Art-house cinema has its place. People are free to make whatever movies they want, as long as they’re not hurting children or animals. But it doesn’t belong on Showtime, plopped in the middle of an ongoing series, disrupting plot and punishing its audience. No matter what this fawning article has to say about it. Even the New York Times is against me.

I know David Lynch doesn’t give a fuck. It’s an admirable quality most of the time, because it allowed the original Twin Peaks to change the landscape of television forever. But this act of not-giving-a-fuck was aggressive. Thus far, the new series has been difficult to swallow—some moments have been undeniably incredible, but others have felt like dead-end tangents. Despite assurances from the cast that eventually, all of this will make sense, I have my sincere doubts that an hour detour into 1945 New Mexico is relevant to the goings-on of Twin Peaks, Washington’s residents. Enough with the fan theories. Bob’s origin story! Who’s the girl who swallowed the gross bug?

Who cares?

I’m glad that the new series is not a rehashing of the old. I’m glad that, so far, we’ve only had to see James for about ten seconds, in a scene that, like the entirety of episode 8, seems to have little to no bearing on anything else going on in the series. But episode 8 was condescending. The subtext of episode 8 was, “You are all mindless idiots who don’t know how to meaningfully consume texts, so I’m going to force you to stare at nothingness for an hour and be present with it.”

As someone working on her 2nd degree in literature, I’m far from an expert, but I’d say I’m pretty good at sussing out meaning in the media I consume. For instance, Master of None season 2 is undeniably influenced by art-house, and it is thoroughly enjoyable. There’s a 3 or so minute sequence when the camera rests on Aziz’s face in the back of an Uber—the subtle physical acting he does takes the audience on an emotional journey. The guy barely moves for 3 minutes, which in TV land is a painfully long time to linger on one shot, but it’s never boring.

Plot is secondary to any great work, but it is an important component of a television series. Even shows like Seinfeld, that were ostensibly about “nothing,” were still plotted episodically. I had faith that watching Coop navigate a purple planet for an excruciating 20 minutes would be relevant to the overall story. I had faith that two young people getting brutally murdered while watching a giant glass box would eventually make sense. But episode 8 was so remote from Twin Peaks that I genuinely don’t care if it makes sense with the rest of the story. For Lynch to justify this capsule episode in the larger context of Twin Peaks: The Return will be such an unnecessary stretch that it might damage the integrity of the series as a whole. There are other stories to be told.

In eight hours of this new series, we’ve heard Audrey Horne’s name once, watched the insufferable Dougie wander around Vegas for innumerable minutes, and had to roll our eyes through the worst plot device of all time, which is the new Sheriff Truman talking to the absent Sheriff Truman in one-sided telephone calls. (Michael Ontkean chose not to return for the series—why not just say he retired, died, or better yet, not address it at all and just have a new sheriff?) We’ve also gained some wonderful characters (Naomi Watts and Laura Dern are sensational, and Michael Cera provides, in my opinion, one of the best comic performances of all time) and followed the story along some interesting detours.

I was on board through episode 7, because I truly felt like the creator of the ingenious original series wanted to provide us with a new piece of art that didn’t rely on nostalgia, something that challenged us to make connections. Episode 8 was a giant middle finger to everyone who gives a shit about Twin Peaks. It was the work of someone who seems to have contempt for his audience. I’m going to keep watching, because now I feel I’ve made an immense investment in the series and it seems wasteful to abandon it now. But I’m approaching tonight’s episode with a healthy dose of skepticism.

***

It is my great hope that, at the end of the new series, this take will be proven sorely wrong. I hope to look back on this in a few months and laugh at my own ignorance. But I’m not holding my breath.

 

P.S. “The” Nine Inch Nails performance was very cool, although the placement in the episode was terrible.

Edit: I have read a recap of episode 9, and it looks like it’s going to be absolutely incredible. I’m looking forward to watching, I just hate that I have to look up recaps in advance now to make sure I won’t be subjected to visual torture. 

I Watched Every Episode of Girlboss

…so you don’t have to!

Oy. I have a lot of feelings about this, and though I’m hardly the first person to air grievances on the Internet, I’m going to talk about them anyway. Here there be spoilers.

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Girlboss is Kay Cannon’s Netflix adaptation of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso’s 2014 memoir of the same name (stylized #GIRLBOSS). I read the book as soon as it came out, despite not having previously shopped the Nasty Gal site, because it seemed like a kickass Cinderella story whose beginning mirrored my own life: I was broke, underemployed and still without a degree, and I had a rabid interest in clothing and fashion. The memoir, which is interspersed with prescriptive pieces that seek to serve as feminist #inspo, tells an evocative tale. It’s Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” and now, we truly are, here.

But that was 3 years ago. The timing of the Girlboss series in 2017 seems…inopportune, to say the least. Nasty Gal has filed for bankruptcy, has been sold to retailer Boohoo, and Ms. Amoruso no longer has a stake in the company. Nasty Gal has been slammed for unfair practices and policies affecting pregnant employees. If we are supposed to see the series, like the memoir, as an inspiring rags-to-riches tale, the real-life context muddies the narrative.

Structurally, the show is a bit of a nightmare. The series is supposed to span 2 years, from Nasty Gal’s conception to the launch of the website, but there are few demarcations of time passing until the eleventh episode, set during Christmas 2007. Sophia spends the capsule episode jet-setting around the Mid-West, confronting her online nemesis and reconnecting with her dysfunctional estranged mother. The lack of through-lines in the story makes it difficult to appropriately empathize with the characters. When Shane (SPOILER) cheats on Sophia, the audience sees the shady indiscretion in the context of a monogam-ish hook-up, as opposed to a betrayal of a two-year long committed relationship.

Criminally underused is the brilliant Alphonso McAuley as Dax, who is the only truly interesting, three-dimensional character the show boasts. He is a hardworking, career-focused young black man putting himself through business school, yet is constantly put down by the rest of the cast. When he and his girlfriend, Annie, discuss the seriousness of their relationship, Dax appears plagued by issues of race (Annie is white, his parents don’t approve). This moment is moving, but feels completely out of place with the rest of the narrative—it is later completely abandoned.

For a show ostensibly about a burgeoning business and its ruthless founder, Girlboss is (tenuously) woven together by the relationships between characters it portrays. Sophia’s relationship to authority figures (her parents, her boss Rick, shop owner Mobias), and her relationship with her best friend, Annie, are all deeply fraught, and the series shows little growth in Sophia’s character until the very last episodes, where she pulls an about-face that gives the audience emotional whiplash. When her nemesis, Gail, owner of vintage Ebay store, Remembrances, calls Sophia a “garbage person,” the series feebly attempts to transform Sophia from heinous narcissist to sympathetic wunderkind, stunted by her mother’s abandonment, in the episode’s remaining few minutes. Previous to this, the realest Sophia gets is with Rosie, the park bench-dwelling elderly lady who has the sense to slap Sophia in her self-important face after a cringe-worthy monologue. In structure, in pacing, in writing, the show is just not very good. Too many aha moments, too much exposition in the dialogue, too many heavy-handed “insights” into why Sophia is so damaged—all of which could have been explained away in a 2-minute wine-drinking montage set to Jonny Craig’s “Children of Divorce”.

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According to the show’s lead actress, Britt Robertson, Girlboss‘s Sophia is supposed to be a hateable character, which, in most cases, is perfectly acceptable. I personally champion any medium that can portray a flawed, complicated woman as she is. Women are held to a shameful double-standard when it comes to likability, a topic that has sparked, I’m sure, thousands of thinkpieces as well as a particularly moving passage in Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. That Sophia is unlikable is not an issue—well-behaved women seldom make history, after all. But Sophia is not just unlikable—she is a narcissist who drags those around her down in order to buoy herself. She takes advantage of others without remorse at every turn. She speaks ill of her customers and disrespects her peers in the vintage resale community. She uses her manic-pixie-dream-girl-bullshit persona to hook the very sweet San Francisco-newbie, Shane, and then proceeds to be emotionally-withholding for two years until he cheats with a bandmate. I know that this a “real loose” retelling of the events surrounding Nasty Gal’s founding, but why choose a tale (and a person) like this to glorify with a television show? Not every story by, for, and about women is a feminist story.

After all of this, I’m somehow still left wondering: how can a show that features RuPaul Charles, Jim Rash, Norm Macdonald, Cole Escola, and Dean Norris not be good? Everybody knows RuPaul, of course, and Dean Norris notably portrayed Hank Schrader in every white man’s favorite show, Breaking Bad, but Cole Escola is a goddamn rising star that should be a household name by now. Apart from slaying on Twitter, he is killing it as the incomparable Matthew on Hulu’s Difficult People. Sure, he’s only in a couple of episodes of Girlboss, but he steals every single scene. This show has the raw materials to be amazing! This could have been a platform to turn a real-life trainwreck into compelling, must-see TV.  It’s just a little off the rails.

The “cliffhangers” that will inevitably necessitate a second season are lukewarm at best: will Sophia and Shane get back together? Will the now sold-out Nasty Gal site be able to keep up with customer demand? Will the Vintage Fashion Forum continue to throw shade at Sophia via internet comments? These are the tenuous threads by which additional seasons will hang. And will I watch it? Of course I’ll fucking watch it. At the end of the day, Sophia & co.’s insufferableness is entertaining, and later seasons would allow for the exploration into the company’s downfall, something which might tickle the (many) Sophia-haters out there. But fair warning, dear reader, if you, unlike me, can’t stomach watching a thin, millennial white lady coast down the privilege highway to destination success, stop the next episode before it auto-plays.

 

 

Kool Things V

I’m a little light this week on recommendations because, well, I’ve been busy AF. I’m finishing the last bits of my grad school application, working full time, and committing to my Trivia host side-hustle. The WordPress drafts are getting out of hand! But here’s what I’ve been up to in my spare time.

Life in Pieces on CBS

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The first season of Life in Pieces  recently went up on Netflix, so I’ve been bingeing it, hard. Fig and I finished Breaking Bad and moved onto a 30 Rock rewatch, so I needed my own personal binge show for when our schedules don’t overlap (this is often). I’m trying to wean myself off of watching Gilmore Girls in an infinite loop, so when I saw LIP advertised on Netflix’s home page, I knew it would be a perfect fit. The cast of this show is bananas. Personal faves Zoe Lister-Jones (from Whitney) and Colin Hanks (from everything + being Tom Hanks’ son) join Betsey Brandt (from Breaking Bad), James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, and the stupidly handsome Thomas Sadoski in this light-hearted comedy told in 4 vignettes per episode.

The guest cast is insane—Martin Starr plays an exterminator, Jordan Peele makes frequent appearances as Colleen’s crazy ex, and apparently next season Mullally and Offerman have roles!

Life in Pieces is the perfect binge show for the lover of light-hearted comedies and accomplished casts. Highly recommend! Come for the famous actors, stay for the amazing kids! The kid who plays Sophia is the next Shailene Woodley or whatever, for real.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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The book, I mean. Everyone’s been pestering me for weeks to start watching the HBO miniseries, Big Little Lies, starring literally every famous actress. Until last week, I didn’t even know it was based on a book, but as soon as I saw it, I recognized its candy-colored cover. I’m a moderately strict book-before-movie person, so when offered the ebook for free, how could I refuse?

At first, I was a bit dubious of the quality of the writing—it’s certainly not the sort of thing I’d typically pick up at the bookstore. But within a few pages I was hooked. I think I’ve thrown off my circadian rhythm staying up way too late reading it. I was almost less interested in finding out who the murderer/murder victim is than I was of learning about Jane’s mysterious past or the inner-workings of primary school politics.

The book is very, very different from the HBO miniseries of the same name, but I truly can’t choose which is better! They both bring so much to the table! I highly recommend both, book-before-miniseries, of course.

I’ll follow up in the next Kool Things.

The Far Field, Future Islands

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It is no secret that I am f***ing obsessed with Future Islands. They are an amazing Baltimore-based synthpop band that brings me life. I first heard of them during college (Part I) when they put out their album In The Evening Air. All I had was a crap-quality (illegal) mp3 download of it, but I listened to it on repeat for months. I took to including “Long Flight” on every mix CD/playlist I made. Now that I am a grown-ass woman and pay for my music (thankyouverymuch), I’ve since remedied this earlier discretion and made sure to follow the band’s incredible career. 2014’s Singles was a revelation, and this year’s The Far Field is a fitting follow-up.

Lead singer Samuel Herring had one of the most unique and strange voices in all of music—he’s like the second coming of Mike Patton. He transitions from beautifully melodic and clean to heavy metal screaming with effortless ease. He’s also apparently a rapper (?!) which somehow I’m only just finding out about. You think I’d have such important info about my #mancrusheveryday.

This band is so ahead of the damn curve. They put out a sign language lyric video for “Cave”! “Shadows” even features actual icon/goddess Debbie Harry! The Far Field is the best use of your Hamilton ($10), trust. Future Islands is/are a big f***ing deal. Get into it.

Listen to “Ran” and “Cave” on Conan.

Bread & Butter Wines

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I always love trying out new wines, but as someone who hasn’t yet read Marissa A. Ross‘s forthcoming book yet, I’m often at a loss for where to begin as I peruse the racks at my local wine shop. I’m a bit of a white wine junkie (basic white bitch, party of one!), so I absolutely love a Chardonnay, and am always looking for one that tastes better than the well swill they’ll serve you at restaurants if you don’t specify.

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the older I get, the more I realize that that’s a bullshit adage. When it comes to products, the cover (or label) actually says quite a bit! Small businesses that really believe in their product tend to pay greater attention to aesthetic details, like graphic and web design. I was drawn to this particular bottle because of its clean, minimal label—the website is no different. Bread & Butter only produces two very highly-rated wines out of Napa, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (which, incidentally, are my go-to white and red).

Bread & Butter Chardonnay ran me about $11, which, imho, is just about right for an everyday wine. I can’t wait to try their Pinot Noir! I’ll definitely be buying this wine again!

***

Well, those are the highlights of my week! What’s up with you? Any new fave wines or murder-mysteries to share? Sound off in the comments!

Kool Things IV

Another week for the books! It literally snowed yesterday, because April Fool’s Day is real. I needed my escape, and I found it in memoirs and comedy, by which no one is surprised. These are the things that got me through the hail/sleet/snow hellscape that was this week.

This Show

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Crashing, Pete Holmes

I cannot even believe that I haven’t written about Crashing yet! Crashing, the semi-autobiographical brainchild of brilliant comedian and beautiful human being, Pete Holmes, is HBO’s newest Sunday night series. It tells the (dramatized) story of Pete’s divorce and entry into the New York City stand-up scene. Guest stars have (thus far) included comedy powerhouses like Sarah Silverman, Artie Lang, and TJ Miller, as well as one of my personal favorites, Aparna Nancherla.

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If you don’t yet know the delightful Pete Holmes, well, you should. He briefly hosted his own talk show that aired weeknights after Conan, The Pete Holmes Show, hosts an interview podcast called You Made It Weird that never fails to get spiritual, and landed an HBO special called Faces and Sounds that dropped in December. He’s a hometown hero, hailing, like myself, from Metro Boston (I think Somerville or thereabouts). Pete Holmes truly has one of the most unique voices in comedy—his relentless optimism and winning smile make jokes like calling himself “Lesbian Val Kilmer” all the more powerful. Crashing chronicles Pete’s days as a fresh-faced comedy newbie; now, though, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

*Crashing airs Sunday nights at 10:30 on HBO.

This Book

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Real Artists Have Day Jobs, Sara Benincasa

This week I’ve been devouring this amazing book of essays by comedian and author Sara Benincasa, and it’s been an emotional journey. I finished it on my lunch break today and it took everything I had not to publicly sob. I hesitate to call this book “self-help,” but if you read it, you will help yo’ self. For real. The words of wisdom in this book range from “brush your damn teeth” to “treat your vagina like the magical temple that it is.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get it. Benincasa gets very frank about her own struggles with mental illness but never fails to be disarmingly hilarious. As someone who aspires to a reasonable facsimile of this incredible woman’s career, it is inspiring beyond belief to read of someone rising from the ashes of her own self-destruction and kicking major ass purely through hard work and talent. 10/10, read this f***ing book.

I’ve already ordered one of her other books, Agorafabulous!, which I can’t wait to start reading!

Check out her short film, The Focus Group, on Vimeo.

*The kindle version of Real Artists Have Day Jobs is only $1.99 right now, my dudes! Go forth and read!

This Special

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Pizza Mind, Sasheer Zamata

SNL cast member and jumpsuit messiah Sasheer Zamata just dropped her very first stand-up special on the incredible comedy streaming service, Seeso. The stunning and brilliant Ms. Zamata tackles race, feminism, and being named after Star Trek like a gotdamn professional. Topics of discussion include “resting bitch face,” her brief employment at Disney world, and the (very f***ing true) fact that white girls are constantly shedding hair all over the place. The special is hilarious, but it’s also a thoughtful, educational experience. Sasheer Zamata does not care if her material on race makes you uncomfortable. That’s on you.

Pizza Mind is must-see TV. If you have a spare hour, give it a watch. You will be rewarded with a magical cartoon adventure and a show-stopping finale number #nospoilers.

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DID I GODDAMN MENTION THE JUMPSUIT, THOUGH? My ladies who art in comedy are KILLING it in the wardrobe game lately.

Watch her bit about her tricky-to-pronounce first name here.

Watch her in “Black Jeopardy”, one of SNL’s finest skits. Here she is with Drake, Tom Hanks, Louis CK, and Elizabeth Banks.

*Pizza Mind is now streaming on SeeSo!

Dis Phone

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I upgraded early and got an iPhone 7 this week! I almost went Plus, but I tried out my husband’s 6+ for a little while, and the damn thing’s just too big! I like being able to rock the one-handed text. But don’t text and drive! Do as I say, not as I do! The transition from iPhone 6 to 7 has been like night and day! It’s faster, there are two speakers, and it’s PINK. I know I’m predictable and basic, but the more pink I can get in my life, the better! I also got the 128G model (4 times the storage of my last phone!) so that I could combine the functions of iPhone and iPod (I’ve been using my iPhone 4 from many years ago as an iPod—the thing was begging to be sent to a farm upstate, it was dead and buried). Despite the foolish amount of music I’ve put on it, I still only seem to listen to Hamilton…

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We got a shipment of phone cases from The Casery to my work, so I also treated myself to this amazing case. Kendrick Lamar fans, unite! This isn’t a sales pitch for my work or anything, since y’all don’t know where I work, nor is it an ad for The Casery, but seriously, you guys, these cases are the absolute best. The designs are the cutest I’ve ever seen (donuts! sushi! cacti!) and the cases are super well made. I’m obsessed…I might need to get this one next, in honor of the little cat that started it all—Della!

This Game

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Stump! Trivia

I’ve been playing Stump! Trivia for ten whole years, since way before it was appropriate for me to be hanging out at a bar on a weeknight. I’m not actually sure it’s even appropriate now. But alas, such is my addiction to trivia and other brain puzzles—every Wednesday night for the past year (and many Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in years past), my father and I have ordered a round of drinks and a basket of french fries and challenged ourselves to a battle of wits in the quest for a restaurant gift card.

Stump! is arguably the best trivia game in the Boston area (it was started in Marshfield), but it’s now a nationwide company that offers fun, challenging trivia and Questionnairey (a Family Feud-style game) at bars and private events. Long story short, I am a huge, huge fangirl, and a frequent player. So, the other night, after a particularly exciting win at our local pub, I applied to be a host.

I had applied years and years ago, but was likely much too young to be considered. Doesn’t super make sense to hire an underage girl to work in a bar—I don’t hold the lack of response against them. But this time, I heard back via email almost immediately and set up an audition!

I wasn’t looking for a second job, and the extra few bucks a week won’t make a huge difference to me financially, but the public speaking experience is priceless! The whole gig is essentially an improv performance—something I’ve been anxious about for years! I recently admitted to myself that my dream is actually to be Conan O’Brien (or a reasonable lady approximation)—writer, performer, icon. Okay, I’m joking about the icon part, but in order to achieve even a tiny sliver of my dream, I’m going to need to get better in front of a crowd.

If you’re in the Boston/South Shore area, come support me here!

***

Thanks for letting me blab about my obsessions for a month straight! What are you obsessed with lately?

—DellaBites

*as usual, all of the images via google or the sites linked in each description!

 

Kool Things

I wanted to call this post The I’ds of March, but a. that is so stupid, and b. then I couldn’t turn it into a series. Unless it was an annual series? Anyway, I called it Kool Things because that title is at once descriptive and a reference to my favorite Sonic Youth song. Win/win.

Kool Things is a (hopefully) weekly series highlighting dope shit that made my week brighter. We’re kind of in the darkest timeline right now, at least in the U.S., so it’s become super important to find joy where you can.

Anyway, here are the things that made my first-week-of-March:

Cristela Alonzo, Lower Classy

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Cristela, who you might know from her short-lived ABC sitcom of the same name, is a comedy angel, and her new special freaking delivered. The jokes were all brilliantly written and expertly delivered, plus, I actually cried at the end. I was moved to tears by the story she tells about her mother. Get you a stand-up special that can do both!

Cristela nails the first-generation American experience, eviscerates Latinx stereotypes, and roasts Whole Foods for their bonkers prices with aplomb. Her voice is a shining light in the white dude-dominated comedy scene, and I’m so glad that she has the amazing platform of Netflix to tell her story.

Watch Cristela’s newest special, Lower Classy, on Netflix now! 5/5

One Part Plant: The Cookbook!

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I first heard of Jessica Murnane, plant-based guru and cooking genius, on Karsyn DuPree’s Wilder Podcast. I am a self-professed “cooking dork”, so of course I pre-ordered Jessica’s amazing plant-based cookbook. One Part Plant functions as an educational tool as much as it offers recipes: Murnane, who suffers (suffered?) from endometriosis, found an unlikely cure in plant-based eating, and she talks about the disease at length in the book’s intro. And Lena Dunham, who also famously suffers from endo, penned a letter to open the book. Beyond the discussion of endo, the cookbook gives a realistic overview of everything your kitchen needs, from whisks & sieves to tahini & tamari.

Something notable about this cookbook is that is has a full dessert and snack section. I’m not a huge dessert person, but I love that this book is so well-rounded!

Recipe highlights: Creamy Grits with Avocado & Hot Sauce, Roasted Potato, Corn, & Leek Chowder, Grilled Cinnamon & Banana Sandwich (I mean, WHAT?!)

HARP. designs

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What’s better than modern, chic gold & brass jewelry? Women. Entrepreneurs. The rad lady of HARP. designs also happens to by my cousin, Shelly, an amazingly talented Bay Area jewelry designer and maker. She’s a talent angel with an incredible aesthetic. Madewell wishes their accessories were made this well. Since today we’re participating in A Day Without A Woman (right? RIGHT?), ditch your shitty ASOS bling and come thru for HARP.

I recently treated myself to these amazing slogan pins, because when they go low

Eisley, I’m Only Dreaming Tour

My soul-loves, Eisley, just released a new record on February 17th! It’s called I’m Only Dreaming, and it’s the first album released with the band’s new line-up (sans Chauntelle, Weston, & Stacy). I saw them on tour last week at Brighton Music Hall and it was absolutely sensational! It was the first time I’d ever been to a show alone, and I’ve gotta tell you: highly recommend! No one to judge you for scream-singing along to every word!

Get I’m Only Dreaming on Amazon or MerchNow!

Set List (Eisley @ Brighton Music Hall, 2.28.17):

  1. Louder Than A Lion (I’m Only Dreaming)
  2. Smarter (The Valley)
  3. Sad (The Valley)
  4. Millstone (Currents)*
  5. Memories (Room Noises)*
  6. Drink The Water (Currents)*
  7. I Could Be There For You (Combinations)*
  8. Shelter (Currents)*
  9. Song for the Birds (I’m Only Dreaming)
  10. Many Funerals (Combinations)
  11. You Are Mine (I’m Only Dreaming)
  12. Lost At Sea (Room Noises)
  13. Defeatist (I’m Only Dreaming)
  14. I Wasn’t Prepared (Room Noises)
  15. The Night Comes (Currents)
  16. Invasion (Combinations)
  17. I Was Wondering (Combinations)
  18. Ambulance (The Valley)*

*songs with Stacy or Chauntelle originally on lead vox!

American Apparel (RIP)

Is this basic? I’m not sure I care. American Apparel has been at the center of tons of legal & ethical drama over the years, but at its core—American-made, unisex-leaning clothes? Fine by me. They’re bankrupt or going out of business or something, and everything on their site is 40% off. EVERYTHING. AA’s price points were always a deterrent to me, so this added discount piqued my interest.

Pro-tips for shoppers: their size charts are accurate. Measure thyself. Don’t rely on what size you *think* you are, because your acid-wash shorts will function like a whale-bone corset.

The lesson here? Always pester stylish girls you see about where they got their high-waisted jeans. You will be rewarded.

And last but certainly not least…

A Day Without A Woman

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Today’s the day! Organized by the same group that executed the massively successful post-inauguration Women’s March on Washington, A Day Without A Woman is a campaign seeks to illustrate the impact that women (51% of the population, yo) have on daily life and the economy. Today we wear red, avoid paid or unpaid labor, and withhold our money from businesses not owned and operated by women. Most women can’t just peace out of work on a Wednesday (I’m lucky enough to have today off), but there are so many little ways we can all participate in the Resistance! To cop a slogan from Portlandia, Women and Women First!

I hope to see you all out in the streets rocking red!

—DellaBites

*all images via google or the linked sites