The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

the5thwavebook

 

Well wasn’t May just a kick in the pants, lovelies?! Life was hectic in general but to top things off I was bookless for almost the whole month. I think I started like four or five different books. These are books that I will eventually read (…she tells herself) but I needed something with a hook. I needed a tale that captured me from go. You know, that feeling that you get when you open a book and 10 seconds later you’re 60 pages in? That book that calls to you when you’re not reading it…The 5th Wave did that to me. Rick Yancey does an amazing job weaving the overtaking of our planet. This book is horrifically terrifying. For example, are you currently not really a fan of birds? Do you think that angry children are actually super dangerous tiny humans? If you have fears like these, this book might be too much for you. But you should read it anyways because it is. That. Good.

Cassie Sullivan is our primary storyteller through whom we learn about the beginning of the end of the world. There have been four waves so far. First, all of the electricity went out. Second, massive earthquakes and tidal waves cause flooding of every coastline in the world. By this time three billion are dead. Next is a plague transmitted by birds that wipes out 97% percent of the population. As we walk through this world with Cassie, alone and terrified, we learn with her about what comes next in the invasion. It is, at this point still hard to imagine the magnitude of this end of days situation. As Yancey says in the book, a “single death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.” The scope of this book narrows in and then zooms out again. So, many times, are you reading and just going through the pages and then you stop and reread a sentence and realize how truly horrible some of the things going on in this book are!

There are other strands of narration as well which add to the awareness of the horror. We get in the mind of an alien sniper, who wades through the aftermath killing any human he comes across; additionally you also have Cassie’s brother, someone she went to high school with, and a person who saves her. One element that creates and holds tension throughout is that They look like us (Obvi.) so even though you might know someone, how do you know you know them? You know what I mean? The whole book is like that!! Yes, if you really think hard you can figure it out as you go. But, if you’re just reading this to get excited about suspense that isn’t your standard Every-Distopian-YA-Novel a la:

YA Comic

then this is for you! I really was invested in each of these perspectives and what’s more, they didn’t spend their whole section/part being worried about “the girl” and not doing their own shit, as it is, ya know, the end of the world and what not. Themes of keeping promises and love being the primary driving force are present, yes. However, I thought they were done in great ways. There were times when I went, “oh come on!” when it was getting a little too formulaic but those issues straightened themselves out fairly quickly.

While we do get to see these other perspectives, I really appreciated getting to know Cassie’s voice. When we are first introduced to her she is on her own after her brother has been taken by uniformed men and her parents die during two different waves. She is trying to survive in a world in which, as far as she knows, she is the only one left alive. She is strong and focused after not having seen another person in weeks…or is it months? This uncertainty of time is something that Yancey plays around with very beautifully. Characters often think of time in relation to their actions and the happenings around them, seconds into eons when a bullet is speeding towards you, hours into years when you’re left alone in the dark. When you’re solo in the world, things can get screwy. The noticings about time are interesting in the end when you realize the grand scale of these aliens coming from who knows where and how far away…how long has this been in the works? And we as humans can only think in the smallest increments of time.

In addition to the time talk, there is often weighty, lofty things that only get said in books and movies that are somehow just on this side of okay. For example,

“Cassie Sullivan didn’t run…He could see the familiar look of fear in her eyes, a look he had seen a hundred times, the look we give back to death when death looks at us. “

Is quickly followed by,

“His heart, the war.

Her face, the battlefield.”

But it is all okay! I’m fine with goofy lines if the story is strong and the people have good solid reasons to be on these “missions” that they are invariably always on.

The gravitas of what these kids go through – because they are all kids – is disturbing. Imagine all of the adults in the world dying and the kids being taken in by some sort of military unit and being trained to hunt. They don’t know if they are being told the truth (and neither do you), nor are they old enough to really question things. Over the course of the fourth wave, you again realize what is going on and have to occasionally re-read paragraphs. Whether they are made to do these things by humans or Others, going through dead bodies and “processing” thousands for cremation is not something that should be on an eight year old’s to do list. Neither, for that matter, should weapons training and emergency medical/tactical care be subjects that should be taught to six year olds. You realize that these children, who are now parentless, are being guided by people who are not at all concerned for their well being or what is best for them. They are being trained brainwashed to kill. These horrors of the day keep tolling up and these kids are so glad to no longer be on their own in the middle of an alien invasion that they believe everything they are told!

Over the course of the entire book, you think for a section that you have something figured out and then the next chapter can go two ways: you could be wrong or you could be right which is sometimes even more scary. I haven’t read any of Yancey’s other works so I don’t know if he is just always good at suspense but man alive I am glad I fell into this book. There two books which round out the trilogy and I am anxious to start the second. I do know that there is a film that was made on the book in 2016 and I have heard nothing but terrible things about it so I haven’t as much as even seen the trailer. I wanted nothing to taint my experience of the book. This is an action that I am grateful for. There is also a lesson in that: don’t just watch dystopian thrillers. Read them. For an adventure that takes you to the end of the world and frequently punches you in the gut, pick up The 5th Wave.

LOLA – Melissa Scrivner Love

LOLA

 

This week I finished LOLA which came out in March of this year and was written by debut author Melissa Scrivner Love. Over the course of a week and a half we go through an experience with Lola that has the potential to solidify her in a world she leads from the shadows. With a deadline and the threat of death from multiple drug lords, Lola is tested as she emerges as the true leader of LA gang, the Crenshaw Six.

When the book opens, we meet Lola, our narrator and the girlfriend of a man named Garcia who is assumed to be the leader of a gang which controls blocks in the neighborhood of Crenshaw. We are at a back yard BBQ when a messenger from the cartel arrives and wants to speak to Garcia, giving him a mission to interrupt a drug deal between a cartel customer and a rival supplier. Throughout this meeting Lola hovers on the fringe, notting everything the man says and also how he acts and her inner dialogue immediately sheds color on the woman whose psyche we are going to be in for the next couple hundred pages. Short sentences, to the point and very observant.  Whether or not someone’s English has an accent, if they are sweating and nervous, the way the air feels and tastes in the LA heat. It is clear that she is a very reliable narrator…and one who knows a vast amount more than what people expect her to. Within the first few pages, it is clear that Lola is the one running things and no one yet realizes this outside of her five soldiers.

The mission set to the Crenshaw Six, the drug deal from which they are to recoup a name plus both the cash and the loot, goes terribly wrong. And from here we have a chain of events that propel Lola into having to navigate between the cartel and this new drug supplier (who turns out to be rich and white) selling heroin to upper class users. First daunting task set to Lola: find out who this new man is, infiltrate his organization, and find out where his stash is held. Her deadline: one week. Next task: after having infiltrated said organization, Lola must prove her loyalty to the white man for him to trust her. He tells her to kill the man who was the cartel client. The one from the deal. She is again given one week. Throughout all of this, Lola is pretty collected. We see the actions of a calculating leader who’s people trust her and the plans that she comes up with to get them through these situations. It is wonderfully eerie to read passages outlined with her practical business like manner and then to flip the page and have her trying to  do good and create a safe space for a little girl.

In addition to the little girl, Lola also cares for her mother who is a recovering junkie. These two responsibilities illustrate the domestic side of Lola’s life. The balance that is consciously kept between gang leader Lola and dutiful daughter and woman Lola. She narrates about how she uses conceptions of her, often misconceptions, to her advantage. And people constantly underestimate her. I really enjoyed how she trolled these waters looking for her in to the game with the men. Lola’s confidence and level headedness is what I enjoyed most about her and this work, I think. There are a couple of other females that aren’t as flushed out as they could’ve been whose deeper perspectives could’ve been interesting.

 

 

The deadline and climax of both missions happens so near the end I thought it was going to be a cliffhanger. That being said, wether she makes it or not, there is room in this world to flush out more stories. I think Love could develop quite a few tales and am interested to see what she does next.

Another 13 Reasons Why Post

30-13-reasons-why.w710.h473

Spoilers abound below. You’ve been warned.

Two years ago I came across Thirteen Reasons Why whilst in a deep dive of the YAL shelves of my neighborhood library. In fact, it was the topic of my fourth blog post ever! Over the past few weeks there have been blog posts and think pieces a plenty about the new Netflix adaptation which coincides nicely with the book’s 10th anniversary. For years, this book has been a controversial work. It is a tale that sticks with you; a heavy realization that everything you do has an impact on those around you. In 2012 the book made the ALA’s list in their annual Top Ten Most Banned Books list for reasons stating: drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group. “These are not topics suitable for young readers” they say. Bullshit, lovelies. Those are topics our young ones are exposed to at earlier and earlier ages. The heart of this tale holds messages which are incredibly important for this generation to learn: compassion, empathy, responsibility, awareness. This is a super important work in both mediums, each of which portray Hannah Baker’s story in different ways.

For fans of the book, I think it is incredibly useful to go into watching the show with a conscious forethought, recognizing that these are separate creations in two different mediums. You have a 288 page book versus a 13 hour TV drama. Those aren’t really equal or comparable so thinking of them as such from the beginning is not going to do you any good. However, this is a good thing!

The book gives you Clay and Hannah and Tony. That’s pretty much it. There is some dialogue between others and you see people around as Clay visits all the spots on the map but that is it. Why no other characters? There’s no time. Clay binge listens to these tapes in one night. Primary difference right off the bat. There is a heightened tension as he speeds through these awful recollections and you learn along with him all of the truly unfortunate events that befell this girl. You realize slowly, along with Clay, what was passing through Hannah’s mind. He becomes consumed with them going from one tape to another just as you assume he would be when presented with this situation. Digesting it all while constantly being ready for the next tape to be yours. We are presented with Hannah’s tapes and Clay’s immediate reaction to them and during them. Alternatively, in the show, our experience is stretched out for at least two weeks. In this time, we are able to see a much much broader picture. What these tapes have sparked from his classmates, how Hannah’s parents are coping, and even providing time for a case to be built which (surprise!) Clay’s mom is lawyering for! There is a whole world that is created in this visual depiction. It creates a 3D image, a broader depiction showing the ripples of Hannah’s death. We are given more time for Clay to take in what he’s hearing and actually show a bit of resistance and perturbedness (that’s not a word) at what all of his fellow classmates have done. Which brings us to the next point: he takes it to his peers. Clay wants to hold them accountable for their actions but they say that some of these tellings are out of proportion or didn’t even happen or are versions of their own truths.  In some cases they are denied out right or maybe not remembered at first. In the book we are feeling directly from Hannah how she experienced these events and how they impacted her whereas in the show we are informed by others as well. I think this is why it is okay for these two to differ so much because it perfectly illustrates how different perspectives are valuable.

However, and this is a big however, not all of this fleshed out world is great. What follows are thoughts purely on the TV show. So many great things about this show from the astounding amount of diversity (in race and relationships) to a realness brought with the very human reaction you see from Hannah’s parents to the more full narrative we see from all the other characters. But there isn’t really a base for them from the source material outside of what we hear on the tapes. So these characters were developed largely by show creator Brian Yorkey and it’s not that he does a bad job, its just that many of them felt too extreme. From Justin’s wanting to literally put together a plan to kill Clay to Courtney’s blind eye to rape there are things that some of these characters say that have you going, “umm what?!” Not all of the time but definitely a notable amount. To go into a side rant about these “umm what” moments, let’s take Tony for example. ROCK CLIMBING?!?! Ummmm Whaaat?! There were so many prolonged encounters that involved Tony just popping up places and being Jiminy Cricket (or as Clay puts it, Unhelpful Yoda). Clay could’ve easily listened to these tapes two per episode and we could’ve cut things wayyyy down.

In addition to the extension of the characters there is an extension (as already mentioned) to the story. In reading, our experience stops when the tapes do. In viewing, we see Hannah’s end. We were told 10 years ago that she “swallowed a bunch of pills” however today’s method is different and much more detailed. Today we see Hannah slit her wrists; we see her parents find her after she has bled out in the tub. It is a heart wrenching scene. It is a striking step beyond the tapes. Even further still we hear Hannah narrate these tapes with so much emotion in her voice. Katherine Langford does an amazing job at making all the feelings feel. She’s telling the story as she knows it, how she has felt it. This adds so much to the story.

With all of the differences of the show and even the non differences, Jay Asher is fully on board with how the show depicts his story. At the top of this piece I listed all of the reasons the ALA cited as to why the book was placed on the Banned List, one of which was that it was inappropriate for it’s intended demographic. This show and this book depict a reality that parents and others might not want to deal with. But bullying and suicide rates are a very real thing.  As Asher said in an interview recently, “that raw and honest approach was my first big decision I had to make when writing the book, and the writers of the series felt the same way. These things happen, and to give respect to the people they do happen to, it felt wrong to hold back. It needs to be uncomfortable to read or watch. If it’s not, and we pull away, it felt like the story would only contribute to that problem of not truthfully tackling these things. We’re already good at avoiding uncomfortable subjects, and that needs to change.”

Read this book. Watch this show. Be conscious of how you treat others.

The Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs

 

Miss-Peregrine.png

The first, second, and third novels of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children are very darkly whimsical. Not in a Tim Burton way (I promise lovelies, this is the only time I will mention him) but in a sepia toned, phonograph, crackling edges kind of way; a way that progresses at juuust the right pace. Ransom Riggs brings us into a tale that you have to read to believe.

We begin with the self titled Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Jacob Portman’s adventure from being a normal to realizing his a peculiar. As Jacob is our narrator we learn things about this new world, its history and its secrets, at the same pace he does. Which is why we are equal parts unsure of his grandfather’s sanity and the possible truth to the far out stories of his past when he dies a tragic death by a creature only Jacob sees. It is this traumatic event that slowly begins the chain of events that will open Jacob’s (and our) mind to untold possibilities and bring us to the time loop(s).  We learn that Jacob’s gramps was a peculiar and so is Jake…they specifically can see these beasts that are ultimately Grandpa Portman’s downfall. Hollowgasts. They haunt peculiardom, eating the souls of any peculiar they can reach and are under the control of wights – the organized baddies. Anyway, peculiars. What are they, you ask? Who are they? Well, they are magnificent humans with the ability to do things like float, or have mouths on the back of their head, or create fire with their hands. I know your next thought: hmmm that sounds a lot like mutants. The thing is, these are all children…on the outside. The aforementioned timeloops are spaces on top of, or maybe behind, reality. They are little pockets that freeze a day and loop it forever; their inhabitants’s souls age however their bodies do not. This is where peculiars have taken to; unable to comfortably live in the open as wights and hollowgasts have hunted them for a century through the centuries. Not only are we introduced to this world in Riggs’s first title, we are also given brief glimpses of a much deeper narrative than just a boy grieving over his grandfather (that sounded dismissive but it is not meant to be) and finding his way back to the grandfather’s childhood home. There is the understanding that something serious is going on in these people’s worlds and we have arrived just in time!!!! (#savior) While the tone of this book is serious it has some moments of light. They are all still children: naive and living in a sunlit snapshot of time and when Jacob joins them he too has a lighter sense of self. As the book comes to a close we are promised that the understanding of and our perception of this time and place are about to be expanded even more. With a cliffhanger that leaves you thinking “Oh no!” there is no choice but to immediately pick up book number two.

Unfortunately it took me a whole year between buying the book and beginning to read it so there was a little remembering that I had to do which is okay because it picks up exactly where book one ended. Hollow City is the tale of Jacob and all of his new friends, Emma, Bronwyn, Enoch (et. al), on a rescue mission which has so many close calls you can’t help but speed through the book at the same breakneck pace. There is so much action and quick paced scenes that your eyes might not be able to keep up with your mind! We go from the sunny island of Cairnholm on which they have all lived for 60 years deeper into the loop to the same day but in London. The adventure of getting there and the people they meet gives us more insight into history and more is steadily revealed about this big bad. The fact that this is taking place during WWII is significant as the wights are able to pose as Nazis and no one thinks differently or realizes it. This allows them to be organized and systematically hunt down the entrances to these loops. They can’t go in, you see, so they employ traitors and trickery to get the peculiars and their guardians the ymbrynes to come out of the loop and get snatched right up. For what, you might ask? Well…that’s a mystery too. A dark and terrifying mystery as no one is ever seen from again and capturing an ymbryne is no easy feat. Over the course of Hollow City we are guided deeper and deeper into this loop and even into a couple of other ones too. The layers of the world that Riggs has created is dizzying at times. However, the addition of layers adds to the tone which has lost its sunshine and has gained an air of anxiety and fear; uncertainty about everything.

Just when you think we are about to have a happily ever after moment to end this rescue mission that has been chalk full of foiled plans and dastardly encounters the plot curves and leaves you gasping, “Well, fuck!”

This sentence is appropriate as it allows me to continue talking about this tone shift. I noticed a difference in Jacob’s words as the journey darkened and he had to grow up a bit and make some really tough decisions. It is in book three, Library of Souls, in which I first notice Jacob swearing. His shift is actually so perceptible in this one that he begins to think of himself as new Jacob and old Jacob. By this point, Jacob and Emma (who is our strong leading lady), have been through so much that they are exhausted and unable to trust anyone. A very old loop and a very shady ferryman usher J and E to Devil’s Acre where all of the outlaws of peculiardom have floated over the centuries. It is here that a steadily increasing amount of our friends are being held captive, abducted over the course of book two. Here we learn the twisted plan of the wights; this is the evil dungeon, the lair. Here we have the culmination of Jacob’s journey with Emma to save his friends. We also have, the final show down of the good vs. evil that has been plaguing these people. A carefully sleuthed plan, a final battle, and a resolution that covers all loose ends and loops. The dirge of Devil’s Acre is so disgusting and makes you squirm and grimace. It is in this horrible place that Jacob truly grasps his gifts and harnesses his ability. However, there are still a couple of chapters after the titanic tussle because life goes on after a battle and lives must be rebuilt. Can they be?

I tried to make these descriptions as vague as possible while staying interesting. I hope I did that. These books have really good twists and are very thoughtful in the telling of history (paradoxically) and an unravelling of what is behind a story. My favorite, I think, is book three as it has a character named Sharon whom I really enjoyed, shows what a community looks like in this horrid place, and reveals that there are so so many sides to a story. The evolution of Jacob Portman is really great to witness. I highly recommend this whole series and also the companion book. Tales of the Peculiar is a tome mentioned several times throughout the series and the printing of the books is comparable to that of Beetle the Bard’s tales. Something that I didn’t touch on at all yet is the fact that these books all include old early photographs of really odd and striking scenes with people who could very well be peculiar. They are all real and have been collected from various estates. This adds to that whimsicalness I mentioned at the top in which everything is just a bit spooky.

In closing, read these tales. Believe in the peculiar and in yourself.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe

 

In a world populated by humans who have conquered mortality, population control must come in some form. Right?

Hello lovelies. I just finished reading Scythe by Neal Shusterman and man alive was it good. A little predictable at times but overall a pretty good read. Humanity exists, ever growing and never dying, in an age where, once you reach your height of outward age, you “turn the corner”. Refreshing yourself body and keeping all of your mental faculties the same. Thus, someone you meet who is 98 might look like they are 25. Over and over again. The age before is known as the Age of Mortality where things like antibiotics were necessary and falling off a building wasn’t sport it was suicide. The characters in the book are far enough removed from this age to find the concept of a headache beyond imagining.

Citra Teranova and Rowan Damisch are our primary threads throughout the course of the novel. However, there is input from Honorable Scythes that separate the chapters, taking the form of journal entries (more on this in a bit). When we open, Honorable Scythe Faraday has separate interactions with both of our hero(in)es. Due to these meetings, both subsequently become apprentices to the scythe. At this point you might be asking what exactly does that mean? Why do I keep repeating that word? Well, scythes are the only people allowed to kill in this reality. Because of the ever growing, never dying population, control must be extolled in some manner, right? Scythes are legally sanctioned to kill and they have quotas to meet (just like all of us in our real jobs! Scythes are just like you and me!) (Except they’re really really not.). Citra and Rowan say good-bye to their families and begin their training in the arts of killing.

One of the things that I like about this tale is that even though these people are not able to die (they call it “splatting” after which they are taken to revival centers which do exactly what’s in their title), they still view life as precious. Taking it permanently gives them reservation. They are not impervious to their consciences. The same cannot be said of all characters. Those peeps are juicy and crazy in equal amounts. Anyway, Rowan and Citra are training under Faraday when some mischief happens and they are sent to be mentored elsewhere. What I haven’t told you is that not all of Scyethdom is happy with the fact that the scythe has taken on more than one apprentice. In fact, it is something that has never been done before. As such, it is determined that they will not both be accepted into the fraternity. One will have to glean the other. These humans have become so detached from societal killings that they are no longer referred to as murder but as being gleaned.

All of this happens pretty quickly in the novel and it is mystery and intrigue and life lessons from then on. The pair are made to part and train with different scythes. What is interesting here is that we see the training style of not just one scythe but three (potentially more…read and find out). These three scythes are the ones who make the journal entries between chapters, mentioned above. This give us a chance to see not just Citra and Rowan’s views of this vocation, new and inexperienced, but also the older generation who have been doing this for many years and have a very different perspective.

What transpires from there in the story is too good to spoil. Just know that these characters, in particular Citra, are very relatable. Readers get to experience so many different thought processes about what it means to be legally authorized to kill. When you think about what they are doing and the fact that they are in their mid-teens on top of that, it really gives you pause. Not only are they teens but they are teens amongst elders centuries old. Society has gotten to the point where the Thunderhead (having graduated from a cloud) is the foremost authority on societal control. There are no more cops because the Thunderhead prevents crime. There is no more government because it was proven they were all too corrupt to lead and the AI could do it better. Countries are now regions, continents grouped in accordance with geography. The world that Shusterman creates has an explanation for all of the ways the world has evolved.

At first I was worried that it wasn’t going to be good and be really predictable. But there are a couple of twists that throw you off course and make you recalibrate how you view this world. For example, the scythes to which Citra and Rowan are transferred both operate very differently not only from Scythe Faraday but also from each other. The moral dilemmas that they face independently turn out to be really fascinating to read through. It is very obvious to me why this book was on so many Best of 2016 lists last year. Pick it up and give it a read. Would you be able to kill for the greater good?

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

nobody-speak-trials-of-the-free-press-F71891

Hey there, lovelies! As reported last week, SXSW was in full swing and my Film badge was being put to full use. Now that the festival is over and I’ve had time to reflect on everything I saw over the course of the week, I realized that what I watched more than anything else was documentaries. There were so many of them and on such a wide range of topics. Out of all that I saw, I think that the most interesting and the most relevant by far was Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press. Award winning investigative documentarian Brian Knappenberger, known for The Internet’s Own Boy and We Are Legion helmed the project. The thumbnail photo for Nobody Speaks shows Hulk Hogan who is, admittedly, not someone whom I would want to watch a documentary about. However, do not let this deter you for there is something much bigger about this film and what it represents for the free press in our country.

In 2012 Gawker Media published a sex tape of Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) and Heather Clem. Apparently, Clem’s husband likes to film her with other men and watch it back. To each their own, ya know. Anyway, upon the posting of this video, Hogan sued Gawker for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional harm, among other things. The back and forth shown through court clips and interviews with Gawker editors shows how crazy this case was. In the end, Hogan ended up winning and was awarded $31 million which was roughly $100 million less than what the jury had come back with. Gawker did not have this kind of money and filed for bankruptcy last year.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, as the story unfolds, we learn that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel helped fund the case against Gawker. The site had published several unflattering stories about Thiel over the years and he had built up a grudge against the media outlet. He poured millions of dollars into Hogan’s defense allegedly without Hogan knowing who he was or why he was doing it. What is utterly terrifying about this is that there was a man who had a grudge against a digital print outlet, who used his resources to his advantage, and took a step into the legal world that until now no one else had done. This opens up the opportunity for other private citizens and/or corporations to do the same, meaning that if there is a magazine, newspaper, any sort of periodical that prints something that someone doesn’t like there is now precedent for them to take it upon themselves to facilitate a take down.

In addition to the Bollea v. Gawker case, Nobody Speaks also shines a light on the purchasing of one of Nevada’s most notable newspapers, the Las Vegas Review Journal, by the Adelson family. While you might not know the name off hand, the Adelsons are big in the gaming world and are apparently quite corrupt and shady (shocker, I know). The reporters and staff of LVRJ were told that their paper had been bought but not by whom. Good idea…try to hide something from a whole newspaper staff. The reporters start digging and soon unearth the truth of their acquisition. Penning an expose on the matter, they go to print without a green light and then many of them resign, principles and ethics still intact.

What brings these two storylines together, you ask? Apparently there is a connection between Thiel and the Adelson family: they both make huge contributions to the Republican party and most recently, Donald Trump. The significance of this is that Trump is very publicly against mainstream media and honest reporting of any kind and these two stories are instances where men saw an opportunity to influence/shut down a media organization whose ideals they didn’t agree with. While there is enough material for both of these stories to stand on their own, for they are both majorly important, they are tied together with what seemed like a hasty Trump through line. I say hasty because there was video of rallies and press conferences that are incredibly recent. Like since he’s been in office recent.

Towards the end of the film we begin seeing, through still images and voiced over short video clips, the ties that all of these men have with each other. This sort of made the ultimate message about how things lead back to Trump. I think the doc could have been a lot stronger if they had stuck to highlighting these terrifying cases and how they can potentially effect our future. This is my only complaint.

Netflix has reportedly purchased the film however when you search the title you’re not able to click on the result. I don’t know if that just means it is not yet available or what. Whatever the case, you should find a way to watch this documentary. It is incredibly important and impatiently relevant.

 

 

 

 

SXSW Film

sxsw

Hello lovelies! This past Friday (3/10/17) saw the start of SXSW Film and thanks to my wonderful boo thang, I got a badge! Quite the splendiferous and exciting thing! In case you are unfamiliar, South by SouthWest (never spelled out like that) is a festival that encompasses beaucoup amounts of areas. In addition to Film, there is Music, Interactive, and Gaming and they are all all kinds of fun. Being the film nerd that I am, getting to go to all of these screenings and premieres has been so fun. I am extremely grateful. So, all that being said, what follows was my weekend!

Friday was opening night and the new Ryan Gosling/Rooney Mara movie Song to SongI got off work at 5 and rushed to pick up my badge ($8 for parking that lasted 3 minutes btw) and over to the Paramount (if you’re ever in Austin for anything, you should go check out the Paramount. Austinite tip: bring a jacket no matter the season!!!). By the time I walked to the end of the line I had gone five blocks. I asked a volunteer where she thought the cutoff in the line was going to be…I was one block and a courtyard behind who she projected. (I later found out she was pretty spot on.) So I left with a plan: go get dinner and come back for Alien.

This time I arrived two hours early and sat in line with a couple of reporters from Brazil; the publication they work for is Omelete, check it out!  So we chatted for a while and ended up sitting together to watch the film. That is one thing that I have really loved about this whole experience; getting to sit in line and chat with strangers and then share a really cool experience with them right then and there. So we get in and sit down and out comes Ridley Scott, Catherine Waterston, Danny McBride, and Michael Fassbender. They Q&A for a bit and goof around and then like 15 minutes worth of clips were shown! It looks pretty similar to Prometheus stylistically. There’s some creepy stuff (sorry for using such a vague word, terrible, I know). For starters, this is a colonizing mission so everyone is spoused up making for some stressful situations no doubt. There was also this cool “commercial” for your very own David (if all robots looked like Fassbender, would you be okay with robots? Hmmmm). Afterwards, the original was shown. I left about half way through to get some sleep in prep for Saturday.

Bright and early the next morning, I arrived at the Austin Convention Center and was number two in line for American Gods. While Neil Gaiman wasn’t there himself, he did record a message to introduce the first episode. While I have read other titles of his, American Gods is not among them. It was really cool to watch it right after he set it up for us. The episode was an hour and some change and did a great job setting up this world in which we are going to see gods, old and new, and how they are existing and still meddling in society today. Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle do a great job at leading the story and the whole cast is just phenomenal. After hearing the writers and producers talk I think that fans of the book and new fans as well will find this to be a really well told story. Plus Gaiman is doing some of the writing!

While waiting in line for this one I sat with this wonderful woman Patty. I know not her last name nor if I am spelling her first right. What I do know is that sitting in line with her and all the others I met this weekend allowed me to learn not only about where these strangers came from but also other things that they experienced at the festival that I had not. For instance, Patty told me about this panel she went to that was about the new frontier of law in space. How cool is that?!

After this, I made my way back to the Paramount and got in line for Small Town Crime. A real shoot ’em up movie, Small Town Crime features John Hawkes, Octavia Spencer, and Anthony Anderson. Billed as a thriller, Hawkes stars as an alcoholic former officer who got kicked off the force for reasons you’ll have to find out on your own. He finds an almost dead woman on the side of the road and what happens from there, as he tries to help police find those responsible. It was a really great movie with a nice steady pace and a great storyline. However, it seems to sway in tone pretty frequently. Regardless, I would recommend checking it out. The only downside of the experience had nothing to do with the movie…it was pouring the whole time I stood in line for this one and so my jeans were soaked up to the knees. SOOOOOO COLD!!!

Finally, I rushed over to 6th Street for a tapping of the Comedy Bang Bang podcast. This was another line where I spoke and sat with a franger (like that? I just made it up. Friend and Stranger). She taught English abroad which is a fantasy of mine! Getting to hear all about her two years in rural Japan was fascinating. The podcast was good and Bob Odenkirk was among the guests but ultimately it ended up being five guys, one girl, and all white. Wasn’t too impressed or stoked about this…considering where we were, it wouldn’t have been hard to get a more diverse panel of comedic guests. But whatever.

My last day to report on was Sunday. I realized at the end of the day I had made it into a documentary themed day. This time I was accompanied by my friend and line buddy Amanda. Fist up: Muppet Guys Talking which took us into an informal setting with five of the originals swapping stories about Jim Henson and talking about all their different voices. My favorite part came during the Q&A with all of them afterwards (hosted by Robert Rodriguez) when they each talked about how they workshopped their characters together. Hearing the origins of Miss Piggy and Gonzo, just to name a couple, was just beyond cool.

The lettuce of the day was a documentary shown at the Ritz about this man who chose to be homeless. I have very mixed opinions about this one and was really glad that I saw it with a friend so as to discuss it afterwards. The first act of the doc introduced us to Dylan who is an attractive 20something white male. He gets money and food and nice conversations when he approaches people. He is ungrateful occasionally. He does goes about his life not answering to anyone or having any real responsibilities. It is interesting how he is initially presented to us. Why choose this life? Why do this when there are people that really don’t have any other choice but to be homeless? Then in the second act, we meet his father and learn that there is a bit more to the story. Dylan is an alcoholic and was once addicted to hard drugs, on top of this he suffers from schizophrenia. He was kicked out of his house as a teen and began his life crossing the country and going on what was portrayed as adventures. Living a life that does not seem at all typical of the average homeless story. He would get invited into people’s homes and receive rides to places. I can’t help but wonder what his travels would have been like if he looked differently. It was a tale that unraveled in an interesting way and still has me thinking about it today.

Last: the piece de resistance! Bill Nye the Science Guy!!!!!!! I waited in line for this one for three hours and was proudly number one. This period of time allowed me to take a nap and prepare myself not to fall asleep in what I knew was going to be a really good piece. Bill Nye: Science Guy is a documentary which focuses on global warming and what Bill has been up to for the last few years in fighting climate deniers and creationist goons. It was an insightful piece which showed the behind the scenes Bill; the man who is worried about the health of his brother and sister who share a genetic disease of which Bill shows no signs. We see his frustration at the Ark Project which shows dinosaurs and humans existing together. But we also see his need for notoriety and that sense of not wanting it to ever disappear. All of these pieces of his life come together for a really interesting watch. The audience questions which he took after were so heartwarming. Almost every person started their question with a thanks to Bill for getting them into science and helping them learn and understand. No matter what you say about the man, his passion for science and educating the minds of the future makes him one hell of a human.

All of that happened over the course of two days and three nights! I was understandably exhausted Monday night. There are a lot of really cool events happening during the work day during the work week so I’m not sure what all I will get to see throughout the next couple of days. Saturday however is the premiere of Life and you best believe I will be trying to see Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively in person!

The moral of all of this is: talk to strangers, remember a jacket, and always leave time in your schedule for waiting in line.

Veep

Veep.jpg

In sticking with last week’s theme, I would like to once again talk about a light hearted politically based piece of entertainment: HBO’s Veep. With all of the really heavy articles and interviews and tv segments, all of the blogs and podcasts and tweets, we need a bit of a reprieve. To cure this political hangover I highly recommend watching a couple of episodes in a row and laughing ’til your face hurts. In a less toxic environment than what currently makes up our reality, Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dryfus) and her staff show us what it is like to be the second in command. All the ups and downs of the position play out in stunning comedy as the team navigates “safe” ice cream choices and tries to keep on top of pregnancy rumors. Those two things do happen in different seasons but the gamut of how-could-this-go-wrong situations that continuously present themselves to this team are phenomenal.

There are plenty of jokes about the job of Veep…it’s a runner up position, they don’t get to do anything, they’re just waiting around to become number one…but it is really interesting to get insight into the job. Sure, there are shows like West Wing and House of Cards that put a president in the core of their cast. Not Veep. In fact, it is a running joke through the show that we don’t actually ever see the Prez or indeed learn his name (at least not yet and I’m in season three of five). Here we get to see the nonstop duty that this position is and also how a woman(!) is handling it. Meyer’s team of Amy, Dan, Gary, Mike, and Sue make the office run as smoothly as they possibly can. And while this isn’t always achieved, it shows the human side of these people. Sometimes, the phone call that you’ve been waiting for happens right after you’ve put your phone in a phone bowl at a wedding. Sometimes, you walk through a solid glass door and end up looking like you’ve just attended an Edward Scissorhands meet and greet.

I like this aspect of it.

Just as with last week’s recommendation, Veep also focuses on the human side of politics. We get to see an even keel of victories and failures and this coming from an office that is very frequently overlooked.

Each of the core characters that make up the Veep staff add to the comic genius that plays out every time something goes wrong. Holy moly stuff goes wrong a lot. For example, from the get go we learn that the big issue that Meyer plans on tackling while in office is Clean Jobs which is a stance against oil for clean energy jobs and technology. First big thing that goes wrong is that POTUS (as he is very frequently referred to) wants someone from oil to be in on this initiative. Things like this continue to happen over the course of the season and the series as accomplishments are marred by hiccups all the time. It makes for great satire on what has become a really depressing subject.

To close, I was listening to an interview a while back with Tony Hale and he was talking about how much they film in proportion to how much actually makes it to the screen.While the show has some really amazing writers, the cast itself is pretty crazy in their takes. With comic genius going for several straight minutes, I have cried laughing several times. So if you need a reprieve from the depressing headlines, cure your woes with some Veep. 

vice-presidents

 

Presidential – The Washington Post

presidential-podcast-2100_gw.jpg

 

Hello there, y’all! Happy President’s Day or happy two-days-early-birthday to President George Washington! On this happy day while Congress has been given the week “off” I encourage you to take a look at the presidency in a different light. The Washington Post, beacon of truth that it has been through the decades, has a new(ish) podcast out which is really rather enjoyable! I’ve never talked about a podcast on this here blog but, much like with audiobooks, if you’re ingesting words, it counts. Like books and movies, they are a way to escape reality for a moment.

Presidential goes episode by episode through each president’s tenure in office while looking at various aspects of the make-up of these men. What discerning character trait did John Adams have that allowed him to follow after Washington stepped away from office? Who is overlooked and why? The introduction of the “campaign”. These episodes are chalk full of little tidbits that you didn’t know about the Founding Fathers, the presidents during the Era of Good Feelings, and up through the present. Our host Lillian Cunningham is a reporter at TWP and her guests are people like the keepers of the keys at the Library of Congress, Pulitzer Prize winning historians, and Bob Woodward. There is a running question throughout the series where Lillian asks the historian on what it would be like to go on a blind date with the episode’s gentleman. Pieces like this really humanize these people some of whom lived over two hundred years ago.

I am currently on Andrew Johnson, president number 17 and I cannot get enough of these stories that are retold and relayed by these historians. Letters, diaries, and papers are all provided as sources for the information you learn in these episodes. For instance, AJ here was piss drunk at Lincoln’s inauguration and gave a really embarrassing speech…weeks later he was sworn in after Lincoln was assassinated. John Quincy Adams was the first son of a former president to hold the office and was also the only man to hold elected office after leaving the presidency. He went back to Congress and worked hard to fight slavery. In fact (this is one of my favorite recountings so far) there was a motion to make the word “slavery” illegal on the floor as it was becoming too much of a hot button issue in 1836. JQA went and got himself in trouble on purpose by saying the word. Now, as per the rules, he had a chance to defend himself of this action and he took advantage of this, his time to speak, and ran with it for TWO WEEKS talking about the injustices of slavery. This in and of itself is amazing and then as the story comes to an end and the episode is winding down we learn something else: who was a first term Representative at that same time but Abraham Lincoln. Bits like this make that whole thing so intricate and fascinating.

It really is amazing how far we’ve come in this country considering our government was put together by ideas proposed by men who didn’t really know what they were doing. George Washington espoused the belief that he was not fit to run the country and was firmly and vociferously  of the mind that he had no  idea what he was doing. We have been led by these men who have differed vastly in their ideals, these men who supported and encouraged the guidance of others, and whose legacies set examples for history. Our country has had its ups and downs (and there have certainly been a lot of both) and it is incredibly important to know where we’ve come from. How did we get from one to 44? How did we get to where we are now? This is monumentally important…to put it in presidential terms.

So whether you just listen to Obama and Kennedy or if you listen to them all in order, Presidential should definitely be on your radar.

…and so should this picture…

abraham-lincoln-sexy-photos-17.jpg