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Well, I Tried ...

This is a hard review to write because I wanted to love this book. I feel I have failed as a literary appreciator. So many intellectuals and talented authors have praised Catch-22 as a classic, a masterpiece, one of the most important novels ever written ... So I soldiered on and slogged through 453 pages of brilliantly written wit, none of which made much narrative sense or resonated with me in any enjoyable way. I like to think I'm relatively clever, but perhaps I just didn't get it. There were countless moments of pure genius, and my vocabulary was playfully challenged at every new chapter. What humour, what biting commentary, what impressive master of the language. 

There is no question that Catch-22 is brilliantly written. But if you asked me what happened, I couldn't tell you. Until the final 50 pages, it felt as though I was treading water in quicksand, really well executed and richly detailed quicksand, but quicksand nonetheless. I couldn't differentiate any of the characters from one another. I know there were several Majors and Colonels and Generals but not a single one of them stood out in any way from any of the others. I had not even realized the story jumped back and forth in time until I read that detail in a review. I just found so little storytelling structure to attach my attention to. It's almost impossible to care what happens next when if feels like nothing has happened in the first place. To all those who will take secret superior pleasure in knowing you appreciate the brilliance of this book while I cannot, I give you this one. But just know, I tried. I really did try to love it.


BvS Might Actually Be Good ... Because Wonder Woman

Comic-Con was July 9 -12, and nerds worldwide have a whole lot more shit to debate on message boards and in comment sections this week.  The most exciting revelation this year was the new Batman v. Superman trailer, which has sent comic-book movie fans into an orgasmic headspin all over the internet.  It appears that much to the delight and surprise of all the doubters, myself included, the movie might actually be awesome.  Age of Ultron feels like a million boring years ago.  Batman v. Superman is all anyone is talking about now, thanks in large part to the appearance, finally, of a certain Amazon who has NEVER APPEARED IN A FEATURE FILM BEFORE - EVER ...  And she looks pretty good, you guys, I gotta say.  Of course, I'm never really totally convinced, and there's been plenty of so-so movies that have had deceivingly great trailers, but it's looking promising (except for Lex Luthor).

Oh, yeah, Suicide Squad had a trailer that debuted at Comic-Con too.  That one I'm not as convinced, though.  Of course, the first trailer is always meant to underwhelm and lower expectations, so people can be appropriately blown away more and more as each newer, more impressive trailer gets released over time until the movies come out.  I'm onto that little marketing strategy right there.


Um, What?

In casting news worthy of its own blog post, the fabulous, Emmy-winning and giddily awkward Nurse Jackie actress Merritt Wever is joining the cast of The Walking Dead for its upcoming season.  This can only result in brilliance; right?


Meet the Young Girl Who Is Going to Change People's Minds

Her name is Jazz Jennings, and she is transgender.  She is also a happy, healthy, well-adjusted and extremely charming 14-year-old girl who very soon will be entering people's living rooms in the form of a TLC reality series entitled I Am Jazz.  Premiering July 15, all signs point to viewers being blown away by just how "normal" and likeable the Jennings family is, and hopefully I Am Jazz will open some hearts and minds too.  

There is such stigma, miseducation and general ignorance surrounding the transgender community (Michelle Duggar's recent misinformed comments about transgender people in public washrooms somehow being a threat to little girls' safety comes to mind).  So the time seems right for people to hear Jazz's story.  She's surprisingly well-spoken with a dignified wisdom well beyond her years.  Sweet, talented and smart, Jazz just happened to be born transgender, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Through Jazz's gentle eyes the world will hopefully become just a little more enlightened.  The Jennings family typify the highest form of love and unconditional acceptance in the face of unexpected adversity.  We can only hope every parent of an LGBT child is inspired to be half as gracious.


A Mother's Brilliant Letter

Waking up this morning to the Twitter hashtag #KenyansMessagetoObama is a nice reality check after the US Supreme Court victory, reminding us the fight against oppression is far from over.  Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and punishable with up to 14 years in prison.  

Me don't talk pretty when I'm angry.  Thankfully I don't have to because in 2000 a woman named Sharon Underwood, the mother of a gay son, wrote an open letter to her community in a local newspaper.  In her frustration Sharon was able to perfectly wrap her words around the ignorance of homophobia in a way I have never seen done before or since.  Here's the good part:

"If you want to tout your own morality, you’d best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I’m puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that’s not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?"
Ms. Underwood, whatever you're up to today, I want you to know you are one of my heroes.  And you are saving lives on the frontline of this battle. 


One Second After: 3 Out of 5 Stars

One Second After by William R. Forstchen, My Goodreads Review

I agree with most of the criticisms leveled at this book: too much telling, not enough showing (this is a big one, almost all the action happens "off camera" and is relayed to the reader through dialogue in council meetings); too much USA! USA! USA! and a very skewed Republican/military-centric perspective, distractingly so. The author's worldview is so limited that the following are all completely absent: non-smokers, non-military citizens, Canadians, homosexuals, people of color and very few women or minorities are represented in any significant, believable or balanced way. Forstchen models his protagonist after himself, yet never once tells us how he actually feels. Sure, he cries a lot over his daughters, his late wife and his dogs, but the blanket of his stoicism is never once lifted to reveal what's going on underneath, and the novel gives us zero insight into any of the characters, their motivations, their humanity. This lack of sensitivity hugely limits the book's emotional impact.

Having said all that, Forstchen is a very well-educated historian and One Second After is still fascinating (particularly for apocalyptic fiction fans) in its detailed and believable account of the breakdown of society in the face of an EMP disaster. Like The Death of Grass and Lucifer's Hammer, the focus is on the horror of starvation and the loss of humanity in a community's rapid degradation. Enough of these aspects in the novel ring true to bring an eerie, disturbing appeal to the book. It's a quick, easy read and as much as the liberal in me wanted to give it only two stars, I still was entertained enough by the thorough consideration given to exactly what an EMP nuclear attack on the most powerful country in the world would look like that I reluctantly accede to three stars. Not as bad as some have claimed, but most criticisms I've read are pretty accurate.


New Heroes: John Oliver & Jeff Jefferies

I would fail miserably as a political activist because when I get emotional or
passionate about a certain topic, I completely lose my ability to make a concise argument.  So I present to you the best arguments I've ever heard on the topics of transgender sensitivity and gun ownership in America.  Warning, there may be some impassioned swear words, but there is no denying the logic, humanity and wisdom in these words.  Note that neither of these folks were born and raised in America (and neither was I), yet they get the American notion of freedom
and liberty for all as well as democratic social realities and


Tears of Joy

Every day of our lives the gay community has to listen to people all over the world telling us that who we are, the way we were born, is wrong, sinful, illegal and immoral (or even worse, telling us we chose this disgusting orientation, when how the HELL would they know unless they are gay themselves?). Even if you live in Canada, where gay marriage has been legal for years, hearing this daily slowly, sneakily fills you with deep shame.

Today's ruling by #SCOTUS brought me to unexpected and long-repressed tears. I hadn't realized how heavy the weight of that shame bears down on my conscience. The most powerful and influential nation in the world is saying, you're legal, you're okay, you're normal, no matter what the wingnuts say. It's an historic day. Liza's been doing it for years: now gay marriage is legal for everyone! It will make the homophobes' heads spin how LITTLE their precious straight marriage will be affected by this. If there truly is a God, I'm pretty sure he doesn't hate me just for being born and loving who I love. #LoveWins

[Photo: Jefferson Memorial]



Go See Mad Max: Fury Road

Every good thing you've heard about Mad Max: Fury Road is true and you need to see this one in the theatre to truly appreciate its uniquely frenetic adrenaline rush of a visual ride.  Nothing more need be said.  Just go see it.


Dear Madonna: It's Over

This was it for me.  With this photo, my decades-long and slowly eroding loyalty to "The Queen" has finally been severed.  I guess it's possible that we just grew apart, but IMHO she has gradually been losing her shit since after Confessions.  Amongst the cringe-worthy grill-wearing interviews for Rebel Heart there were still moments of lucidity and flourishes of the fun-loving pop star I once worshiped so fervently, but Madonna passed a point years ago of spearheading pop trends and now quite hungrily seems to chase after them.  The middle-aged fans who made her rich and famous are invisible to her.  She believes only the adoration of the masses of youth are worth courting.  And it's not working.  The resulting thirst and desperation has played out regularly on her Instagram feed, where amongst the heartwarming photos of her kids, she posts a "rebellious" street-thug as billionaire pop-star stream of photo-consciousness (see above).

Madonna has always had a surly, defensive attitude in interviews.  I know she sees the world as trying to take her on, and she stubbornly self-identifies as "edgy."  But after releasing Ray of Light to huge critical and commercial success, winning a hundred Grammys, going spiritual, becoming a mother and opening her girls' school in Malawi, her pouty, impatient "rebel" act comes off outdated and just unnecessary.  Being provocative has morphed into actively alienated her audience.  Why?  Did the Guy Ritchie divorce create the grumpy, flailing woman we now see before us (who incidentally is so insecure about her age she cannot even bring herself to refer to herself as a "woman" - she's always a "girl" in her songs) writing songs that pander so embarrassingly to the popular trends (see 'Bitch, I'm Madonna,' 'Illuminati' and 'Iconic' off the new album, or previously 'Gimme All Your Lovin' and '4 Minutes') that her remaining moments of triumph (namely the winning adult-contemporary tracks like 'Joan of Arc' and 'Ghosttown') get lost in all the agism/sexism/irrelevancy kerfuffle.

Full disclosure:  I have tickets for her Rebel Heart tour.  I bought them months ago.  So, yes, I am still going to her over-priced concert and I fully expect her to put on a hell of a show.  But I've unfollowed her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and I stopped defending her years ago.  I know she cries agism from the highest mountaintops and revels in fancying herself a victim of cruel and unfair judgment, but I kind of wish she'd use some of her own advice once in a while and grow up.  Who cares if she never has another number one single, or album even?  An artist's worth isn't measured by their popularity or being "The Queen" forever.  What happened to aging with dignity or graciously passing on the hot seat to younger artists?  I'm not saying she should ever stop or go away.  Just make good music.  Don't try so hard to be relevant and COOL WITH THE KIDS. Quit phoning stuff in (like the 'Living For Love' remixes, which sound dated and generic).  Quit defaulting to "sexy" in everything you do.  Quit chasing glory and enjoy your success.  You're better than this.  You're bigger than all this.  You already won.  You don't have to try so hard anymore.  Let's hug it out. 


Pearl Has More Twitter Followers Than Any Other Season 7 Queen Because ... ?

For years I've been calling RuPaul's Drag Race the most entertaining show on television.  Because it is.  Season after season the show has introduced us to scores of dynamic, talented and hilarious queens who have all gone on to varying degrees of success in an ever-growing international drag celebrity scene.  But low on talent and high on beauty, this season's queens have continually struggled in challenges.  If charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent are truly the benchmarks, this year's group kinda sucks.  And it's disappointing to watch.

But ... it is a reality show.  And part of the appeal is that you get to know the cast better as the season progresses.  You keep watching and by default you begin to form attachments, hoping for unexpected moments when someone mediocre has a huge, triumphant, glorious victory.  Those moments are also non-existent.  Other than Ginger Minj, and other than in the looks department, these queens are simply not at the level of polish or performance that contestants should be at by this stage of the game and having grown up watching RPDR.  That's why it's been so frustrating when the usually level-headed choices RuPaul makes at the judge's table take a dive into head-scratching territory.  

For example, can someone convincingly explain to me why Pearl is still here, please.  Is Ru changing tack and simply keeping Pearl around based on looks alone?  Pearl is, after all, one of the better looking competitors, in and out of drag, that the show has seen.  But why, when Trixie Mattel and Miss Fame both clearly outperformed her in the lip sync, is she still here?  She's yet to impress as an actor, singer, dancer or seamstress.  And why does she have the biggest following on Twitter [*see chart below]?  The only explanation I can muster is that his "eyes at half mast," "above it all" demeanor has everyone cowtowing to their baser instincts, including Ru.  After all, doesn't the bullied kid inside each of us secretly want to be friends with the bitch who acts like they're cooler than everyone else?  It's basic high-school, Mean Girls logic.  Too bad.  I had thought Drag Race was better than that.

* S7 Contestants by Twitter Followers (rough figures):

  • Pearl - 36,900
  • Katya - 30,300
  • Miss Fame - 28,800
  • Trixie Mattel - 28,000
  • Violet Chachki - 24,500
  • Max - 20,100
  • Ginger Minj - 18,700
  • Tempest DuJour - 9,300
  • Jaidynn Diore Fierce - 9,200
  • Mrs. Kasha Davis - 9,100
  • Kandy Ho - 7,900
  • Kennedy Davenport - 7,600
  • Sasha Belle - 6,700
  • Jasmine Masters - 6,200


Matthew Weiner Has the Greatest Judgment in the World ... Except When It Comes to His Own Kid

The last and final half-season of the brilliant Mad Men is almost at its end.  The show continues to be, IMHO, the most intelligently nuanced, emotionally detailed and beautifully visualized show in the history of television.  Its creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner is a genius of good taste and sophisticated storytelling, not to mention the inspired choices in his cast.  That is with one bumpy exception:  the casting of his own son, Marten Holden Weiner, as recurring character Glen Bishop.

While I'm sure Marten is a nice young man and I have no desire to be unnecessarily cruel to a boy who has grown up over the course of Mad Men's run, if ever there were a more jarring, more embarrassingly blatant instance of nepotism, I cannot recall it.  It's not just that the poor guy looks out of place among the charismatic and striking cast of Mad Men; it's also that his self-awareness and emotive capabilities seem almost non-existent.  Defenders to his critics cite the fact that his character, Glen, is meant to be awkward and strange, but even that attempt to explain his dead-eyed, monotone delivery just doesn't hold up, especially when he's acting alongside the captivating Kiernan Shipka.

My unbridled enthusiasm for these final seven episodes of my favourite show came with two small, hopeful conditions:  the return of the magnetic James Wolk as Bob Benson (or alternatively a surprise reappearance of Bryan Batt's Salvatore), neither of which has happened, and please, more than anything I had hoped Weiner would not bring back his son as Glen.  It seemed already a challenging stretch to Weiner's credibility to keep conveniently inserting this character again and again over the course of Mad Men's long-term narrative, and this final appearance did nothing to alleviate that challenge.  Glen's appearances have been the only time in its seven-year run that I was brought out of my viewing experience, and jarringly so.  Nice try, Weiner, but just because he's your son doesn't mean he's Mad Men acting material. 


Ghost Town

Dear Madonna:  THIS is how you do Ghost Town.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Trailer)

Welp, there's a ton of shit to talk about, so it's time to start the blog up again.  Why not get going with a bang?  Here it is, the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Careful, nerds.  You might want to be alone when you view this. 


Is It Over Finally?

Welp, I gave American Horror Story: Freak Show about five or six episodes this season before I forgot to keep watching.  Apparently the finale aired this week.  Apparently this was the biggest messiest most-disjointed season yet.  I am officially giving myself permission not to care about this show anymore.  You should too.


Nobody's Watching The Comeback

My boyfriend and I have been watching The Comeback every Sunday night since it -- ahem -- came back.  But it turns out we may be the only ones who are.  Ratings are pretty dismal, which is just a gawddam shame because the show is really brilliant.  I mean, I will be the first to admit it's sometimes difficult to watch, but that's kind of the point and what makes it so fantastic.  

It's hard not to be disappointed, but I can't say I'm surprised.  The Comeback is challenging us with the sad, shallow truth of a popular culture that we fuel with our lazy, couch-potato tastes.  Nobody wants to see the reality behind reality, especially when you're being asked to laugh at the very ridiculousness of what you secretly enjoy.  In a way, the show is pointing a finger back at the viewer:  you did this, you make this shit important by the choices you make when you spend your money and change your channels.  People aren't self-aware enough or secure enough to admit their part and still find it funny. 


If You Haven't Read Gone Girl, You May As Well Get It Over With

I started reading #GoneGirl three days ago, and now it's all I can think about. I haven't been getting a lot of sleep these past couple nights. My boyfriend was nagging me to hurry up and read it so we could go see the movie (which hello, David Fincher!).  What is that nagging reflex I have that causes me sometimes to casually ignore that which is almost universally heaped with praise and garnering massive attention?  It's some sort of childish ego thing, always needing to be early to the party, not wanting to be a sheep following along at the last minute going, oh, yah, it IS really good.  Anyway, it doesn't matter, you just gotta read it and get it over with.  Do it quickly, like a bandaid.  Ignoring is not an option.  


If You Don't Watch Veep, They'll Stop Making Good Shows

If you've ever complained about the formulaic spoon-fed comedies found on network television like The Big Bang Theory or Mom, if you've ever mourned the premature cancellation of intelligent, sophisticated entertainment like The Comeback or Arrested Development, and especially if you appreciate the cynical yet playful tone of workplace humour portrayed in The Office or 30 Rock, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself if you're not currently watching Veep.   

And you know what?  I get it.  Veep is one of those critically acclaimed, award-worthy shows that you tell yourself you really should watch, but for some reason doing so feels like a chore.  Everybody has a list of shows they feel remotely guilty for not watching, shows they know they would probably love, if they could only get into them.  I'm talking about show like Nurse JackieGetting On or Web Therapy.  You may have even watched a few episodes and thought, ugh, I'm too tired to think, let's just find a Friends rerun. Well, I'm here to encourage -- no, "insist" is a better word -- you to make the effort and commit to this show because, man, you will not be sorry.  Veep is hilarious, and each new season is better than the last.  And if we don't watch the really good high-brow stuff, then have no right to whine about all the crap out there.