Archives for May 2015

Make Amy Schumer The Bachelorette


This week the most exciting news since Justin Bieber peed in a mop bucket hit the Internet: hot off a rapturously received appearance on ABC’s reality “reality” dating “dating” show THE BACHELORETTE, comedian Amy Schumer has been invited to take a dip in Lake Dudebro.

Yes, in a show-business moment that could only happen in 2015, ABC mucky-muck Robert Mills invited Schumer to be the next Bachelorette via Twitter. Even better, it appears that Schumer is game:

Of course, the Internet never saw a piece of good news that it couldn’t poop all over, and right on time here comes The Verge with an essay called ABC completely misses the point, invites Amy Schumer to be The Bachelorette, pleading with the comic not to do the show:

The show is beneath Amy Schumer; it’s beneath all women. Where previous seasons at least flirted with the notion of empowerment, presenting a woman with the same “human buffet” that men receive on The Bachelor, the show is now about giving a woman the illusion of power, then reprimanding her when she doesn’t act in line. ABC and the producers have been compared to pimps before, and it feels especially true now, as we watch the men tell a woman when and where she can have sex, and punish her when she disobeys. Such a dated system is the kind of thing we’ll never tire of seeing Schumer burn to the ground, but from a safe and critical distance.

Well, Mr. “ABC Completely Misses the Point,” I dare say you’re completely missing the point.

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Game of Thrones Is Starting To Suck


Nobody seems to want to say anything, but I think we’re all slowly coming to recognize an uncomfortable truth, and I think we need to acknowledge it. It’s painful, and I know no one wants to be the one to say it, so I’ll start:

I think maybe Game of Thrones is starting to suck.

The very idea that this could happen seems counterintuitive. Impossible, even. Whereas the normal course of entropy for a popular TV show is that it starts to lose steam around the second or third season, as the writers start to scrape for ideas and the actors start to turn the characters into caricatures, everyone watching Game of Thrones is fully expecting this show to keep getting better and better every season. No one has ever even considered the possibility that this show is headed anywhere but up.

Partly this is because of the construction of the show’s plot: Season 1 ended with the birth of the dragons, so the logical thing to expect is that those dragons are going to get bigger and bigger, and kick more and more ass as they do so.

Partly it’s because of the book readers out there, who have been smugly insisting to all of us non-readers for four and a half seasons now that we ain’t seen nothing yet, wait till we get to next season, oh my god you’re not going to believe what happens, etcetera etcetera. For a while, those people were right: season two was better than season one, season three was better than season two, and season four was better than season three.

But now the show is running out of track, as it has just about caught up to the books; each of the first two ten-episode seasons were direct adaptations of the first two 600-page books, and seasons three, four, and five have been a mishmash of the third, and fourth books. Author George R. R. Martin has been slow to deliver the sixth book in the series, and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss seem to be holding off on getting into the fifth book because once they do that, there’s nothing left, so they’re kind of vamping, like a band would do when the singer accidentally splits his pants and has to leave the stage for a few minutes. Obviously the show has been changing things from the books all along: you can’t make a 10-hour omelette without breaking a few hundred pages of eggs. And anticipating that the show would outrun the books, Martin has told Weiss and Benioff where he plans to take the story, but without the (supposedly) rich text of the books it’s like the difference between a compass and a map.

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Mansplaining Manspreading


The Earth is getting warmer, people’s heads are getting cut off in the desert, women are still paid 75% as much as men for the same work, the police are murdering people, the NSA is collecting all of our communications, Republicans are pushing for yet another ill-advised war in the middle east, and another trade deal to send American jobs overseas is being fast-tracked through Congress, but none of that is getting half as much play in my Facebook feed as manspreading.

If you live outside the New York City area, you probably don’t know what manspreading is. Those of us in NYC didn’t know what it was until a few months ago, but it’s suddenly the hottest local topic since the Ebola doctor went bowling.

“Manspreading” is where someone takes up too much space on the subway by spreading their knees apart, and it’s created one of the dumbest online food fights I’ve ever seen.

The first problem here is with the term itself, which I object to on a purely linguistic level. It seems to be a variation on the term “mansplaining,” which is another social media meme that popped up not long before “manspreading.” “Mansplaining,” I have gathered, is where a man pedantically explains something. I’m not sure how condescension got to be the sole province of men, but on the other hand one could argue that this whole piece (indeed, all 200 entries on this blog) are examples of mansplaining, I won’t fight that part too hard. Being a man myself I’ve never been on the receiving end of a mansplanation, so maybe it’s more widespread and annoying than I realize. In any case, as an English major and Professional Writer I find the term distasteful just because it’s a clunky, made-up word. (I hate made-up words.)

“Manspreading” is even clunkier, and is not a variation on any other term — it’s just adding “man-” as a prefix to a verb. We don’t say “manfarting” or “manreading” or “mandrinking” (yet). The way things are going “man-” is going to end up like “-gate”: overused, annoying, and ultimately meaningless.

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Kurt Cobain Might Be Better Off Dead

Kurt Cobain File Photos

The intrusion of real life prevented me from watching KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK live when it premiered this past Monday, but that was no indication of my interest in the movie. I loved Nirvana and Cobain (same difference, really). Nevermind was released during my first semester at college, so needless to say I heard it a lot, both by choice and by osmosis. It was one of those records you didn’t have to buy your own copy of, because it was coming out of every dorm room and every bar and every frat house and every passing car everywhere you went.

I vividly remember getting the news of his suicide, as the first guests arrived at my 21st birthday party; it put a decided damper on the proceedings. I bought and read two different Cobain biographies, as well as his published Journals, I went down the rabbit hole of the Courtney had Kurt killed theory, I sat through LAST DAYS, I covered “Drain You” with my old rock band. I still have a copy of this magazine around here somewhere. I follow Frances Bean Cobain on Twitter. I’m still pissed I didn’t try to get into the Nirvana reunion in Brooklyn after their RNRHOF induction but I loved their solution to performing without Cobain. Favorite Nirvana album: In Utero. Favorite Nirvana song: “Breed.”

I thoroughly enjoyed MONTAGE OF HECK when I found the time (made the time) to watch it a couple days after its premiere. It is a brilliantly directed film, making spectacular use of the wealth of drawings and writings and paintings and audio cassettes and home video that Cobain left behind, bringing it all to cohesive life in an extension of the techniques that director Brett Morgen brought to the equally brilliant Robert Evans documentary, THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE. Hearing Cobain muddle through embryonic versions of songs that would become iconic was a particular treat.

But I have to say, when the movie ended, I was not sorry to leave his company.

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Clinton Is Still Running Against Obama


Maybe I’m projecting, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Much has been made about the fact that she’s the inevitable nominee, that the Democrats don’t have anyone else, and that we’d all better get in line if we don’t want to spend 2017 watching King Bush III start a war with Iran, outlawing Islam, appointing the cast of Fox & Friends to the Supreme Court, and arming elementary school students.

But somehow it just doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s because the accumulated weight of 20-odd years of (unproven) scandals makes us all feel like there’s something shady about her. Maybe it’s because she spent her time in the Senate buddying up to the same Republicans that treated her like Joan of Arc when her husband was president, going so far as to vote for their unthinkably stupid war. Maybe it’s the fact that she was supposedly “inevitable” last time, and couldn’t close the deal.

In 2008, Clinton had everything going for her: she had massive fundraising, she had a campaign staffed entirely with proven warhorses, she had the most popular Democratic president since Kennedy stumping at her side. But she could not match the charisma and verbal intelligence and integrity of Barack Obama. He gave better speeches. He wasn’t shackled to that stupid, stupid war. His campaign understood the Internet, understood the youth vote, understood the need to go out and earn every vote.

She seemed genuinely offended, during that campaign, that her place in line was being jumped by this upstart who’d only been on the scene for a couple of years, whose main claim to fame was a single speech, who had no real accomplishments to point to. And the funny thing is, eight years later, she’s still running against Barack Obama, and she’s still losing.

Because what Obama did, more than any politician I can remember, is give us something to vote for, rather than just being the means by which we could vote against.

Almost every vote cast in America, it increasingly seems, is a vote against. When Republicans vote for whatever dipshit they vote for, they’re not voting for the dipshit — they’re voting against Libruls and all their limp-wristed pussified Save The Whales tax-and-spend crapola. They’re voting against gun control, against regulation (any kind of regulation), against gay marriage, against corrupt unions, against the safety net, against Obamacare, against, against, against.

Likewise, Democratic voters are not generally voting for the Democratic candidate, they’re voting against belligerent foreign policy, against restricting women’s reproductive choices, against trickle-down economics, against repeating the exact mistakes that capsized the economy — against, against, against.

For a lot of left-leaning types like myself, who had generally lost whatever faith we might have had in the political system, Obama represented something totally different than what we were used to. We didn’t just want to vote against John McCain, or rebuke George W. Bush. I mean we did, but there was something more than that. We wanted (or at least I wanted) this guy to be the president. I wanted to see where he could lead us. I wanted a guy who was visibly intelligent, who knew what was happening in the cities, who had obviously done the reading. Everyone who says we only voted for him because of his race is in deep denial about his bone-deep appeal to people who believe in facts, logic, curiosity, and doing the right thing.

I certainly wouldn’t argue that he has delivered 100% on that promise, but when you look at where we were in 2008 and where we are now, I really don’t see how anyone could argue (though some do) that we’re not in a better place — the only reason we haven’t climbed even farther out of the hole that Bush and Friends dug us into is the ceaseless Republican opposition to everything Obama wanted, without regard to its actual value. For all its flaws and shortcomings, I think history will look back on his tenure as one of the best ever.

So Hillary Clinton following Barack Obama is like Gordon Lightfoot following Led Zeppelin. She just doesn’t have the charisma or the vision to inspire voters the way he did, and she’s suffering a severe enthusiasm deficit because of it. There is still an awful lot of campaign left, and her recent speech about the horrifying events in Baltimore is certainly a step in the right direction — it’s nice to see her speaking, rather than shouting, at an audience — but it’s hard to imagine that she will inspire anyone. She certainly isn’t now.

The exception, I suppose, is people who want to see a female president, and I don’t mean to belittle that goal. But speaking for myself, the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman doesn’t enter into my impression of her as a politician or a leader at all. Maybe it should, I don’t know.

I don’t plan to vote for Clinton in the primary unless I truly think she is the best candidate, and there is plenty of time for her to persuade me. There’s also plenty of time for someone else to step in and make a case. But in November, if she’s the Democratic nominee, I will probably fall in line like everyone else to the left of Joe Lieberman and pull the lever for her, but it will probably be a vote against. I would much rather have someone to vote for.