Michael and I started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm again and, it’s truly the greatest show ever made.
We also just watched the newest season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and it’s an absolute fever dream. I think I’ll watch it again before I form a solid critical opinion. I’m also listening to the Maisel Goys, of course.
Can’t wait to watch Alison Brie’s new movie, Horse Girl.
Happy Sunday! Hopefully you have a short week coming up (mine’s only 3 days!) Since I’m already a day late I figure I’ll get right to it with no preamble!!
Nicole Cliffe wrote a celeb profile and it was of…ALANIS MORISSETTE. The exact crux of all of my interests. It’s a must read–check it out in SELF.
ADHD diagnoses are a gendered issue. I finally got medication for it (at almost 28-years-old) and I can already feel my life changing. This old episode of Stuff Mom Never Told You does a great job of talking about this massive problem.
Hello! This week was absolutely insane. I spent the first half sick and the second half doing Too Many Activities™. Friday was our annual work outing, at which I spent 2+ hours getting torrentially downpoured on in a sailboat (misery) and drank all the wine cocktails (happiness). Then, I drove out to Western Mass to see one of my dearest friends and go to a show (detailed below), and didn’t get home until 2 am. Needless to say, I am an empty shell of a human who requires sleep and adequate nutrition. So, without further ado, my weekly roundup:
I saw Jenny Lewis (again) last night in Northampton, and it was a religious experience. She’s still on tour, so get tickets immediately! I might go see her again in Boston or Providence, it was that amazing.
I’ve been watching Catastropheagain, because I’m never not watching Catastrophe in a loop. Truly the greatest series ever created.
One of my biggest regrets is not registering for a high-powered blender or Vitamix for our wedding. Just trying to make my own oat milk! Also, if you’re not on the oat milk train, I feel bad for you, son.
This playlist, FIG for CHELS—True/Tested, i.e. the playlist of car songs my husband has been making for me over the past several months, slaps so hard it should be illegal.
Michael and I are (slowly) watching Westworld. We certainly don’t have the same momentum watching it as we did Game of Thrones (the nonlinear storyline doesn’t propel it forward in quite the same way), but we’re really enjoying it so far. Thandie Newton is a sensation.
Speaking of HBO, they made a series of My Brilliant Friend, one of my favorite novels of all time??? Watching immediately.
Good morning, long weekenders! I needed this mini-vacation like you read about. I have no plans, which, it seems, is the best possible way to spend a weekend as an adult. I would like to try to get to the beach at some point, but considering the holiday, I might have to settle for the nearby pond. I hope you make the most out your days off!
We’re all sad to see GoT go, but Barry has been renewed for another season! Bill Hader would never disappoint us. This article nails why the show is so effing good.
I did it—I became a mystical bitch. Crystals, Tarot, you name it—sign me up. I had my first ever psychic reading on Sunday (I was in tears the entire time). I bought this fancy deck set and some stones for meditation at Open Doors in Braintree, and yeah, I’m signed up for the crystal meditation class on June 3rd, so see you there?
I finally fixed my Instax Mini 8 (i.e. put new batteries in it) and I’m going to try to take more physical photos. I miss having actual pictures around! I’m pretty sure my cat, however, doesn’t appreciate me following her around like a paparazzo.
I snagged Rainn Wilson’s book on clearance at Barnes & Noble and I’m pumped to read it. Dwight Schrute is my dream man.
Have a lovely day off tomorrow, if you’re lucky enough to have one. And even if I’m not the world’s most forgiving person when it comes to this weekend’s theme (those planes tho), a Facebook friend shared this petition and it seems like a great cause.
Whenever I bring up the show Barry, I am shocked that no one I know is watching it! Since the entire world watched this season of Game of Thrones, I know you all have access to HBO. So what’s the problem? Do you not like thrilling, dark, hilarious antihero stories? It’s Memorial Day weekend—you have the time to binge-watch a show about a fictional veteran.
Barry, created by Bill Hader and Alec Berg (of Seinfeld fame) is the tale of a Marine-turned-hitman-turned-actor trying to escape his life of misdeeds by pursuing a career in the arts. It’s glib to refer to gunning down innocents as “misdeeds,” but the slippery relationship between good and evil is exactly what makes the show great. Barry Berkman (stage name: Barry Block) is the best kind of antihero, because no matter how sinister his actions, we still want him to come out on top. It’s rare that a show can make an audience root for a man to kill a cop, for instance—later, even as we watch Barry in a flashback, overcome with rage, murdering a noncombatant in Afghanistan, somehow we fill with pity instead of disgust. The show has a lot to say about the power of emotion—and its absence.
In summary, Cleveland native Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) becomes a hitman in the employ of Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root—from Office Space!) upon leaving the military. Doing reconnaissance for an ultimately botched hit in LA, Barry stumbles into an acting class, is profoundly moved, and decides to quit the killing business to pursue acting. Disentangling himself from his life beyond the law proves trickier than anticipated—chaos ensues. Season two gets even darker. The show’s writers deftly fold so much into this morality tale—a critique of the narcissism and sexism of show business, a reverence for the power of storytelling, abuse, mental illness, and a scathing indictment of the way the military leaves its veterans.
Barry’s past as a Marine is a vital part of the show, because it makes clear, without ever explicitly stating it, how insidious and vile an organization we socially recognize as “good” and “honorable” can truly be. It’s hardly a secret that bloated military spending is a huge national problem, and that service can often mean the disruption or destruction of the lives of those enlisted, but what the show explores instead is America’s fetish for killing, its bloodlust. In a flashback to his deployment (“The Show Must Go On, Probably?”), the audience gets to watch Barry’s first kill, to see him discover his dark talent and be rewarded for his ability to turn off his emotions and take lives. In a moment that would shatter most people, well-adjusted or otherwise, Barry finds purpose and community. His soldier friends celebrate him when he “[takes] out a sheepfucker from 700 yards.” They rally around him and chant his name, seconds after he shoots three people for their dubious “suspicious activity.” When Barry leaves the Marines after, as acting teacher Gene Cousineau puts it, “Basically, you killed somebody and you got away with it” (“What?!), he claims that he “didn’t think [he] deserved a good life.” Fuches, a family friend, is there to manipulate the shell of a man left by deeply traumatic wartime experiences. The Barry that returns from Afghanistan is emotionless, blank—a trained and effective killer brainwashed to believe that his murderous capability is his only redeeming quality.
Barry’s ability to shut off his emotions entirely and kill make him a great soldier and hitman but later stunt his ability as an actor. It’s no coincidence that the writers chose acting as Barry’s would-be career—a life of robotically acting on orders (in the military and then as Fuches’ employee) has left Barry stagnant, depressed, and hollow. It’s only through inaction, or the purely dramatic rendering of actions, that Barry can tap into his emotions and start to grapple with the evils he has committed. Dramatic acting forces Barry to thoughtfully consider situations and juggle their emotional weight—he can no longer blindly act at the behest of a commander or boss. But the delicately nuanced show doesn’t absolve Barry of his many wrongs—it dances with just how innate Barry’s killing ability is. Barry doesn’t just carelessly point a finger at the military—it points a finger at America itself and the ways in which we encourage and facilitate senseless violence. As audience members, invested in our protagonist, we are complicit in condoning scores of murders, typically at least one per episode. We have become anesthetized to it.
In the second episode of the second season, “The Power of No,” Barry asks Chechen mobster Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan), “Am I evil?” In perhaps the series’ finest moment of comedic delivery, Hank replies, “Oh my god…I mean, absolutely! Do I not tell you that enough? You are like, the most evil guy I know, man!” Barry replies, “You know, I take no pleasure in killing people. You know that, right?” But as Barry attempts to convince Hank, he doesn’t succeed in convincing himself. The show doesn’t provide an answer to the question of whether killers are born or made, but it does leave viewers with the creeping sensation that, under the right circumstances, they too could be Barry.
Both seasons of Barry are currently available to stream on HBO GO.
*Spoilers abound, but bear in mind I’m only on season 5.
I wanted to be too cool for Game of Thrones. I envisioned Game of Thrones the way I envisioned Dungeons & Dragons—sweaty nerds circle-jerking to a DVD of the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring. It even has some of the same dudes*! And besides, some of the media that I relate to (like the incomparable Sutton Foster-led Younger), openly mocks it, its hypersexualization of women, its rape fetish. I’m not out in these streets trying to watch dozens of rapes, gleefully and exploitatively filmed.
I was nineteen when Game of Thrones began its eight-season run on HBO, and at the time, becoming deeply invested in a fantasy series was fairly low on my list of priorities**. When GoT first came out, it seemed beautiful, but boring. There’s no denying that the sweeping shots of Northern Ireland, et al are stunning—the series is beautifully filmed, elegant. But I barely remembered who half of the characters in Harry Potter were (Slughorn? Is that a guy?); there was only so much room in my brain. Plus, as the series progressed, the common refrain was, “Don’t get attached to any of the characters! Everyone dies!” Everyone bloody dies? So you’re going to kill off the hot dad, Ned, his hot son, Robb, his hot son, Jon (everyone on this show is very hot, fwiw) and expect me to take that lying down? No!
Eventually, I caved and watched the first season, maybe a year or two late. I liked it fine, but it was a distracted viewing—I’d put it on in the background as I sketched, or fiddled with a guitar. When I started season two, it didn’t grab me, and I abandoned the pursuit. Sure, that scene where Daenerys doms Jason Momoa was ferociously sexy, but I mean, the show kills Khal Drogo immediately, so what was my incentive to keep watching?***
Soon, my knowledge of GoT came purely from Tumblr and Twitter—screengrabs of Joffrey’s bloated, purple face, OMG reactions to the Red Wedding. I thought, with all these spoilers, I already know what happens. No need to devote tens of hours of my life to this, a thing that seemingly everyone likes. How mainstream.
Fast forward several years—for me, a move, two degrees, a marriage, a few garbage jobs and one good one—I’m in a very different place in my life. For years, my husband and I have kept a running list of TV shows we’ve watched together, are watching, and plan to watch. Game of Thrones has been sitting atop it, since its inception. We’ve made it through countless series, but, due to my predilections and my title of Foremost Comedy Scholar in the Greater Boston Area, alarmingly few have been dramas. Six Feet Under, Dexter (because Michael C. Hall is *bites lip and closes eyes*), Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, Twin Peaks (we are…white). That’s in nearly 6 years, at a rate of at least an episode every day. Every time we finished a series, my husband would timidly ask, “Game of Thrones next?” And one day in March 2019, I finally said, “You know what? Sure.”
And I kept my promise! I figured it was this or he’d force me to sit through a movie^,so I’d better strap in for the ride. We’ve watched nearly 5 full seasons in *checks watch* three weeks? We’re clocking about 2 hours of Thrones time a day. I have always been very comfortable admitting when I’m wrong, and boy was I wrong about GoT. As of this writing, we’re almost through season five, and every episode has me yearning for more.
It is hard, though, watching human beings get torn to pieces by zombies and watching characters you’ve grown to love being sexually abused. Watching a little girl get burned alive. This is not a light-hearted show! But it’s thought-provoking, beyond such thoughts as, “If an American wrote these books, and two Americans adapted the series for television, then why is everyone on the show British except Dinklage++?” I think it provides a stunning (and deeply negative!) commentary on religion, particularly the separation of church and state (turns out—it’s important!). Moreover, in an era where the political circus distracts us from far more pressing issues (the Flint water crisis isn’t exactly the same as an undead army bent on world domination, but it’s still fucking important), it’s a mirror, as all good art should be. Even the worst part of this series, the aforementioned “gleeful” depictions of rape, the incessant violence and cruelty, serve as barometer of just how much we want to see; they expose the inherent (dangerous?) voyeurism of American media culture.
Ultimately, I’m as much of a voyeur as anyone else, and I love the show. I might even go so far as to avoid eighth season spoilers when it premieres on Sunday. I’m glad that my husband gently nudged me in the Thrones direction. And, as much as I love Daenerys, Sansa better win the Game.
Okay, so I do have some grievances:
The entire Greyjoy family, and I guess, by extension, the Boltons. Cancel it. Reshoot the series without them. Labored, boring nonsense. Sorry, Alfie+.
Real casual attitudes about incest.
Not enough dark-haired women. Representation matters!
Stop showing me battles! The best part of the show was that we saw the aftermath of fighting, not the fighting itself! I don’t want to waste twenty precious minutes of screen time watching skeletons kill people. I want to see the strategical conversation between Jon Snow and Tormund! You know nothing, David Benioff & DB Weiss!
Arya’s whole journey is boring. I truly don’t understand why people like her. Maisie Williams is iconic, don’t get me wrong, but this whole Faceless Man shit better get interesting soon, or, honey, I’m cancelling Braavos.
*Sean Bean is zaddy.
**Admittedly, I did get into Doctor Who shortly thereafter, but you can’t choose who you love, man.
***I made an honest effort to read the books, since I’ve always been a book-first bitch, but I found the writing intolerable. It’s been a minute now, I’m going to give them another try. I mean, I read The Hunger Games series with zero irony—I’m hardly a literary scholar, despite what my literal Master’s degree in literature would have you believe.
^I hate the medium! 2 hours is simultaneously too long and too short a time for a story to be told! Everything should be in a serialized format, television is better than movies, redo movies as miniseries.
++I’ve been playing a game called Guess The Accent with all of the actors to see if I can tell where exactly they’re from. I’m, no brags, amazing at it, although I never would have guessed that Varys is from Northern Ireland. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Northern Irish accents, but they’re…specific! The Scots are pretty easy to pick out, the real treat is pinpointing exactly where in England most of the cast is from (Emilia Clarke is from Oxford, holla). Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Scandinavian accent is, well, hot, and Peter Dinklage, clearly, is from New Jersey. Sidebar: I always knew Dinklage was a fine actor, but I didn’t know he was THE FINEST ACTOR OF OUR TIME. His British accent is so truly awful, and yet it doesn’t matter because he acts his face off in every scene. Tyrion is, in my opinion, by far the best character on the show. I’m borderline upset that my brain hasn’t started cranking out Tyrion Lannister sex dreams. No wonder he has top billing—he’s a goddamn revelation and I think if I’d known just how central he becomes, I’d have stanned this show much, much sooner.
I’ve been MIA for a minute, for which I apologize profusely. I’m going to try to get back into the swing of writing, but ask any writer—it’s the hardest thing on earth.
My husband and I went to Syracuse last weekend to see a Bowie tribute show, which is exciting—Syracuse is a really cool city! Every time we visit, we hit up my favorite restaurant, Strong Hearts Café, which is totally vegan! The best part is that they have a huge menu of different vegan milkshakes which are soooo delicious. I mean, it’s always exciting to see our Syracuse friends, but Strong Hearts, tho.
My No-Spend Year is still going strong! The No-Spend has been such an amazing, eye-opening experience. I am so much happier than I was when I was spending frivolously, and I appreciate the things that I do buy so much more. I’ve managed to knock out over $2,000 in debt in less than a month! I honestly don’t even know how that’s even possible since that’s more than I bring home in income! It’s amazing how resourceful you can be when you’re on a mission.
Okay, without further ado, here’s the week in Chelsea:
After years and years I finally caved and started watching Game of Thrones with my husband, and I regret to inform you that I love it. I know enough about the series to not get attached to most of the characters, so I feel very prepared to take it on. We’re at the start of season three. I do have some issues with the show (they’re way too exploitative and gleeful about rape, for instance), but it is indeed very entertaining television.
I started the Neapolitan novels! I borrowed My Brilliant Friend while I was in Florida last month and I loved it! I bought the second one on Kindle because I couldn’t wait, but I’m going to check my local library for the other two.
Barry on HBO is back March 31! This is seriously the best new show I’ve seen in years. Bill Hader is truly one of our finest actors. If you haven’t watched it, steal someone’s hbogo password and get on it!
I watched The Feels on Netflix this weekend, and while it’s very poorly rated, it also stars Constance Wu as a lesbian so how could I not have watched it?
I want to watch Leaving Neverland but I’m also afraid that if I do I’ll never sleep at night? I remember, as a kid, when all the Michael Jackson allegations were going on, I found it so completely distressing and disgusting. So many abusers are protected from consequences by their fame or money and it’s a disgrace. Anyone who’d jump to Michael Jackson’s defense can moonwalk the fuck out of here.
This nursery tour is everything. I feel like my whole life has just become a countdown clock to having a baby of my own!