Monday, July 29, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Rockin' Eve

It's Monday, again, and that means that I've got another media review for you! This one's a classic - well, it is to me - and it represents many a happy evening with my friends. If you like musicals, Shakespeare, and/or awkward teens having silly romantic escapades, this movie is for you!
From left: Striker, Allison, Berke, Kelly, and Dennis
2001's Get Over It stars Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster, and Ed Begley, Jr. It's about a boy named Berke (Foster), who's in love with a girl named Allison (Melissa Sagemiller). Allison falls in love with another boy, Striker (Shane West), who also happens to be the lead singer in a well-known boy band. Berke is heartbroken, and spends about 3/4 of the movie trying to get her back (while ignoring the love that's right in front of him, etc).

In addition to all of the times people gratuitously sing "Alison" by Elvis Costello, the music in this movie is hilariously done. There are some not-as-gratuitous numbers, because Dr. Desmond Forrest Oates, the THEATRE director, (Martin Short, natch) turned A Midsummer Night's Dream into a musical. He's written songs for Diana Ross, it's cool. But there's a scene at the beginning where Vitamin C is leading a parade of people (UPS workers, jogging grannies, a gardener; casual) down the street, singing Captain and Tenille's "Love Will Keep Us Together" because they're following Berke home from his break-up with Allison. There's also, of course, auditions, which might be the best part.

Berke wants to be in the show because Allison will be in the show. But Berke is not a theatre kid, nor is he quick on the spot. Plus, he's a ginger. Draw your own conclusions. However, Berke's best friend's younger sister, Kelly, is a theatre whiz, and she offers to tutor him. Felix, Kelly's big brother, is not very happy with the arrangement, but would do anything to help a friend (except get him out of the harness he was put in by a dominatrix at a sex club). Berke gets cast as one of the king's henchman, but is bumped up to Lysander because the show's star gets injured on set.

Kelly, meanwhile, is an aspiring songstress, and thinks Forrest Oates' songs (especially for Helena, her part) suck. So she pens her own, thinking F O will be permissive, if not entirely thrilled. WRONG, he's furious. And also miffed that she would use quotes from the original Shakespeare because hell-ooo, so boring! So Felix, being a good brother, slips the sheet music to the orchestra on opening night. Martin Short and his assistant, Jessie (Jeanie Calleja), make good use of their walkie-talkies during that scene - "Jessica. JESSICA!"

I mean, what is there to say about this movie? Berke's parents have a sex talk show. Felix and Kelly Woods ostensibly have no parents, but they do have their aunt's dog who likes to hump their rubber tree. Dennis "Crazy Legs" Wallace (Sisqo) loves playing basketball, but also loves to dance (High School Musical totally lifted that plot point, I swear). There's a Kiwi model named Dora Lynn who sets a sushi restaurant on fire. Oh, and Mila Kunis in a bikini. You're welcome.

Hi there.
What's not to love?


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wish List Wednesday

I didn't have time to do this last week, but I have been quickly amassing a list of things I wish I had. This week's topic: dorm rooms! I am moving into my (as-yet unknown) dorm in just about a month, but I have been collecting stuff to go into it for the better part of my gap year. Here, in a perfect world, is a compilation of things I'd also take with me.
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
Happy hump day!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fault Lines

I've been thinking a lot about guilt, lately. Guilt has always factored heavily into my life, and I can't seem to get over the toll it takes on me. I think everybody carries around a lot of baggage from their childhood; wrongs they committed against others or others committed against them; cheating, stealing, lying, and lying by omission. I wonder constantly if there were clues I should've seen to make better choices than I did, but I also wonder how to make more reckless choices now.

I feel so much pressure, and I don't know where it's coming from. My parents are the ultimate in relaxed - I don't have a curfew, I've never been grounded, and they're okay with underage drinking - so I guess it's not from them. My therapist puts a little pressure on me, but it's her job to be attuned to my needs, and she knows I'm heartbreakingly fragile. The pressure isn't from my friends - I don't have many of those, anyway. And that's where the problem started, I suppose.

I used to be a mean girl. I was friends with a girl whose grandfather started our synagogue (my family was there from the beginning, but no one ever mentions us). She had some sort of supreme power - everyone knew her name, knew her family, and thus, she was treated like royalty. So we pranced along, getting away with pretty much everything, from age three to age thirteen. At summer camp, we were bullies. In Hebrew School, we were brats. But when I was thirteen, I walked away from all that...and for the first time, someone said out loud what I had been feeling all along.

"You're a freak!" was the battle cry of girls I once thought cared enough to protect me from hateful words. The ringleader told me to "get some friends [my] own age." And it's true, though I've long tried to deny it. I have always gotten along better with people older than me - I'm quiet and careful by nature, and with my grandmother as one of my mostly companions, I learned quite early how to be respectful and polite. 

As with most turning points in my youth, this happened at camp. I usually befriended my counselors, but there was one in particular I developed a closeness with. We'd hang out on field trips; that progressed into going elsewhere together. We'd go to dinner after work, and she'd take me home. It makes me sick to my stomach to write about how she kissed me, in her car that smelled of pineapple and musty velour. After all this time, a part of me says this was my fault. I was too clingy, too vulnerable, too...young. I was stupid and heartsick and I loved her. I don't know if we were "dating" - I know that technically, she didn't break the law. And as thankful as I am for that, I can't help but still feel broken when I remember the cruel words she sent, via text, telling me that I was "a burden" to her, and that I had to stop calling every night just to hear her voice because she had "more important things" to do.

Sans kissing, this story has played out several times in my life. Always, always, it ends with me crying on the floor of my bathroom while "Daydreamer" plays melodramatically in the background. So if the continuing thread is me, I must be the problem. And thus, guilt.

I find it hard to separate fact from fiction, sometimes. When I watch a TV show, there's usually a character I latch on to right away. The trope term for it, I believe, is "the underdog." That's my vice. The character that everyone else hates? Automatically my spirit animal. The patsy or weak link in the cast? Somehow has to do with me. And attacks on the character become personal; the attacker turns on me, beating me with their club of justice. And I feel like I deserve it, usually, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

A character on Newsroom fits that MO. This character has had a series of missteps, and they recently experienced what I know all too well - they made a mistake, and the people they thought would always back them up (or at least hear them out) completely deserted them. And not only that, but they did it in the most humiliating and excruciating ways possible. And I just wanted to cry. I still do. I am crying, right now. Because that pain is not yours to laugh at. That pain is not yours to applaud. That pain is for me to hold; to keep me up at night; to taunt me in moments of joy.

People who love me (or who feel sorry for me, I suppose) will try and claim that this isn't my fault. That I was used and abused by lesser humans and someday, my princess will come. But then they turn around and argue that someone else had it coming. Those people are me - I am all of them. And I will fight until the day I die to protect them, because nobody protected me.


Monday, July 22, 2013

The Fosters' Home for Imaginary Families

Happy Monday, y'all! Mondays have actually started to be happy for me, because this summer, an amazing show happens every Monday night on ABC Family. It's called The Fosters, and if you haven't been watching it (AKA, you've been living under a rock), there are a couple of reasons to start. Go DVR it, I'll wait.

First of all, Jennifer Lopez is the Executive Producer (she's still, she's still Jenny from the Block). I had my reservations about her at first, but the second piece of info I got about this show made moot that point. Hold onto your keyboards, kids, because this family is headed up by two hot mamas. Teri Polo (Meet the Parents) and Sherri Saum (One Life to Live) play moms to Brandon (David Lambert), Stef Foster's (Polo) biological son from her previous marriage; Jesus (Jake T. Austin) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), twins Stef and Lena Adams (Saum) fostered and then adopted; and Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Jude (Hayden Byerly) Jacob, two kids the moms recently took on to foster because their previous placement didn't work out.

Cast, from left: Austin, Mitchell, Lambert, Saum, JLo, Danny Nucci (Mike, Brandon's dad), Polo, Ramirez, Byerly (via)
As a lesbian, I was beyond stoked - elated; ecstatic; thrilled, even! - to hear that finally there would be a show on television about my American dream. My dream is to have a wife, a veritable gaggle of offspring, and live in a matchbox of our own, with a fence of real chain-link (I played Audrey sophomore year, I can't help it)...but I digress. This is the first time, pretty much ever, when I've been able to turn on my TV and look at myself reflected there. Sure, we've had Tara and Willow, Bette and Tina, but Tara got shot and Bette and Tina were both totally fucked up. This isn't to say that lesbians (and LGBTQ people in general) don't have issues - of course we do - but if my parents have remained happily married for nearly 25 years, I expect that I'll be able to do the same (eventually).

This show, rather comfortingly, follows the same basic trajectory as most ABC Family dramas. We've got the family - SDPD mom, hippie-charter-school-principal mama, Type-A musician heartthrob son, floppy-haired skater-surfer son, and girlie brat daughter. Then we add in messed-up yet loveable foster-kid-cum-JD Callie, who just needs somebody to understand her, and who risks everything (including her life) to rescue her tiny nail-polish-wearing brother and his turtle backpack. Drama du jour abounds, with a heaping spoonful of social issues, and you've basically put the standard family show in a pretty new dress.

If the preciousness of those earnest little faces doesn't sell you, though, think about this: One Million Moms is still trying to get companies to drop their ads from the broadcast. They got their granny panties in a twist last October, when the show hadn't even been cast, and now that we're entering into the eighth episode, they still believe that they have any sort of legitimate clout over what viewers, networks, and advertisers do.

The Fosters airs at 9/8 c. on ABC Family - please watch live, DVR for the next day, or catch it on ABC Family's website, Hulu, or your favorite next-day TV site!


Friday, July 19, 2013

Katie Gavin

Katie Gavin has been a favorite artist of mine for some time, now. You might recall her killer acoustic cover of Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" as featured on many network morning shows. 

"Gonna get gone, gonna get some sort of a reason to chase the sun..."

You and me both, girl.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

No Ground to Stand On

For weeks, at least in my world, all anyone's been able to talk about is Trayvon Martin. On every news broadcast, the trial of George Zimmerman for Martin's murder was the top (and usually only) story every night. When the verdict came down on Saturday, I was speechless. I was heartbroken. I was, most upsettingly, unsurprised. Unsurprised in part because the defense was ruthless and the prosecution was weak. Unsurprised because this country has a saddening history of trying to pretend away injustice.

I could talk about that injustice. I could talk about how, though everyone from defense attorney Mark O'Mara to prosecutor Angela Corey to Juror B-37 has claimed that this case has nothing to do with race, the facts of the matter show unequivocally that it had everything to do with race. I could talk about how George Zimmerman is a free man, reunited with his deadly weapon, who will be able to live a life Trayvon Martin will never experience. I could talk about any or all of those things, but they've been talked to death, so I won't. What I will talk about is Florida's Stand Your Ground law.

The most concerning thing, to me, about the Zimmerman trial is that Stand Your Ground was inadmissible as a defense in the case. Juror B-37 (she's quite the Chatty Cathy) has mentioned, however, that SYG factored, at least somewhat, into the acquittal. Possible mistrial notwithstanding, the verbiage used in the legislation leaves some gray areas in this instance.

According to the law itself, as found on the website of the Florida Legislature, the use of deadly force is permissible if "a person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another..." There are conditions therein, but it is stipulated that the presumption (given) is non-applicable if "the person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle..." and/or "the person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity..."

What's interesting, then, is that Martin had every right to be in the neighborhood. His father's fiancee lived in the community, and as a ward of his father, he was obligated to be where his father was. Zimmerman acted in direct opposition to police by following Martin, so he was also arguably disallowed from using SYG to protect him. But what's worse than all this is the fact that Trayvon Martin's family may lose more than just him if they sue Zimmerman in civil court.

According to an article on Politico yesterday, the NRA's involvement in SYG has done more than just make it easier for NRA members to do whatever they please. It also has the ability to make the victim's family pay the defense if they sue for damages in civil court and lose. Possibly, one of the reasons the Martin-Fulton family has not yet declared their intent to sue Zimmerman is because if the Florida courts continue on their crooked, corrupt trajectory, they're liable to lose, and if they do, they will be forced - by law - to reimburse the Zimmermans for legal fees and "lost wages."

I'm not sure if this is an argument to tighten restrictions on gun usage or to abolish the NRA (I personally would be fine with both), but whatever it is, it's something that's got to happen soon.

peace and love, y'all.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In Support of Therapy

Welcome to Painted Constellations, my weekly self-therapy segment where I talk mental health, future lives, and things I wish I'd known before now. The title comes from this amazing spoken word piece.

Judy Garland. River Phoenix. Chris Farley. Billy Mays. Brittany Murphy. 
Amy Winehouse. Thomas Kinkade. Whitney Houston. Cory Monteith.

I had another post prepared, but on Sunday, July 14th, around 2 AM, the world was informed that Cory Monteith, best known as Finn Hudson on FOX's hit show Glee, was found dead in his Vancouver hotel room at the age of 31. Cory had struggled with addiction since he was thirteen, and went through rehab as recently as April of this year to try and stay clean.

According to a 2010 poll, almost 105,000 people die every year from drug, alcohol, and other self-harm induced suicide. 2.5 million people die every year, and there are about 316 million people in this country, but 105,000 still seems too many to me. Perhaps part of it is because I have been in that place. That horrible, rotting, dark prison where you are held completely captive - and the worst part? Nobody knows you're there. The world is not your jailer; you are. And so, inside yourself is a four-walled cell that's pitch black and cramped and completely devoid of happiness...but you are forced to portray a mask of calm and contentment because it's not okay to be unhappy.

I have been diagnosed, most recently, with acute anxiety and mild depression. I take medication for those things, and they are very effective. But, like with all chronic illnesses, sometimes even the medication doesn't work. There are bad days. A friend of mine calls these her "hobo days," which I think is an apt description. For me, at least, good days are when I wake up feeling sort-of tired. I go through my day, struggle with making decisions, cope with discomfort, and maybe have a couple laughs or smiles while I hang out with friends. A bad day is when I can't answer emails, don't check any of the blogs I like, and can barely get out of bed without feeling like a failure. Everything hurts my feelings or makes me upset - my parents and friends avoid me. It's one thing to feel utterly alone; it's another entirely to actually be that way.

I am okay with talking about this, now. As recently as two years ago, that wouldn't have been the case. I'm lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to be in therapeutic groups with other girls my age to talk about things like this - eating disorders, depression, anxiety, what it's like to be LGBT, school pressures, and family issues. I have had an amazing therapist for over eight years, and my primary- and secondary-care doctors all support my treatment and maintenance of these problems. But therapy and treatment for mental health disorders are still taboo in most social circles. Some people view managing your issues as a cop-out; like somehow, taking charge of your sadness and seeking help to feel better is acting weak or selfish.

I wish this conversation didn't need to be had. I wish I didn't have to worry, constantly, about the people I love - are they getting the help they need? Will I even know if they need help? - but I do. I worry about passing my mental disorders on to my children. I worry about being stable in the event that I lose a friend to suicide. I worry about everything, from my next meal to my funeral arrangements. But my constant, gnawing worry, is that there are people out there who can't get help. My worries don't consume me anymore. I can have a fight with my mom without wanting to rip the skin off my body. I can cry without breaking.

Why are child/teen suicide rates so high? I picture an older, white man, in a suit and tie, saying "Back in my day..."

"Back in my day, no one was depressed." Yes, they were. But instead of Zoloft and Abilify, they had bourbon and gin.

"Back in my day, no one was bullied." Yes, they were. Kids called other kids names, and pulled their hair, and gave them wedgies, and strung them up the flagpole. But parents didn't do anything about it, and there was no such thing as the Internet.

"Back in my day-"

Your day fucking sucked, man. And now we have Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Formspring and Tumblr and Google and Reddit and Jesus Christ all these kids know everything about each other and it. never. stops. In your day, if a kid got bullied at school, he'd go home and watch TV and forget about it. There was no texting, no News Feed, no nothing to remind him of his humiliation. And maybe some kids would remember the next day, but not many. And then those kids would forget and someone else would be the target. It's not okay, but it was alright. Now, every single breath is recorded and inscribed in the Book of High School and it's fucking Hotel California, man, because you can graduate, but it never leaves you alone. And you can get a job, but that picture of you with a hooka tube in your mouth isn't getting deleted. And you can lose your job, and your house, and your car, and your wife, and you can down 4/5 of a bottle of Jameson and you can hang yourself from the rafters, but then it's someone else's head in the toilet and history's repeating itself.

It costs my parents over $600 a month to keep me healthy. I don't know how much our insurance covers, but I bet it's not a whole lot because I can hear my dad bitching about it under his breath. Obama's healthcare is smarter, but it's certainly not perfect, and if Congress had its way, it wouldn't be here at all. So we get Aurora, CO. We get Newtown, CT. We get bombings and massacres and suicides and gangbangs and who knows what else because people don't realize that this world is literally killing us.

I dream of a world where my sanity is free. I dream of a world where people who claim America is a Christian nation actually fucking believe it because if they did, they'd also believe in healing the sick. In caring for the weakest amongst us. In loving thy neighbor as thyself. And if they believed in those principles, they'd try and get help for those who desperately need it. We don't need 15-year olds convicted of murder. We don't need to fight another war in the Middle East. All we need to fight is the war being waged inside each of us, here. All we need is love.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Inaugural Blogural

Welcome to Media Monday, where I'll kick off the week with some of my favorite (or least favorite) movies and TV shows.

Because this is my first post, I've decided to make this a double feature.

OddLot Entertainment's The Way, Way Back

The Way, Way Back is a new release from writer/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (Faxon and Rash also co-star in the movie as two employees at the featured water park). Most recently they won an Oscar for their screenplay, The Descendants, along with Alexander Payne.

Starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, and Maya Rudolph, among others, The Way, Way Back would be a must-see for anyone with a pulse. But amazingly, it's got quite a bit of heart (see what I did there?) to back it up.

The story centers around Duncan (played charmingly by Liam James), a 14-year old misfit, who gets dragged along on a "family" vacation by his mother Pam (Collette) to her boyfriend Trent's (Carell) summer cottage. Duncan is pressured to hang out with Trent's daughter, Steph, as well as next-door-neighbor Betty's (Janney) lazy-eyed son Peter, but manages to hijack an old pink bike and get a job at Water Wizz, the town's resident water park.

Here, we meet Owen (Sam Rockwell), the real star of this movie. Owen, in addition to being fairly attractive and extremely charismatic, is also ridiculously witty, and paired up with humor-illiterate Duncan is a complete joy to watch. We also meet Roddy, or "Hot Rod" (Faxon), who is the master of ogling girls in line for the water slide, and Lewis (Rash), who is basically Dean Pelton's ennui-ridden identical twin.

Craig and Lewis: Separated at birth?* [via left/right]
Though it follows a typical plot for a summer movie - young almost-love, played out by Duncan and Susanna, Betty's daughter (AnnaSophia Robb), pep talks, and lots of half-naked women - the writing and acting are overall so well done that it didn't feel as stale as it might on paper. Robb, in fact, might be the most surprising performance, as her role in rather B-level movies marketed at children (and The Carrie Diaries) didn't really prepare me to see her act as professionally and as well as I think she did in this. 

Possibly the best moments in the movie are the most ridiculous - Betty telling Peter she can't see what he's looking at unless he points (his eye confuses her); Duncan trying to disband a mob of breakdancers, only to have them force him to dance in order to earn their cardboard (and the nickname Pop-n-Lock); Trent jumping his token all the way to the Candy Castle because Candyland must be played by the rules, dammit!; and Duncan saying goodbye to his friends at Water Wizz by proving the myth that you can pass someone on the slide.

In all, I thought it was a very nicely done movie. I'd certainly watch it again, and it's poignant without being too saccharine.

*Yes, I know Jim Rash also plays Dean Pelton on Community.

The Newsroom: First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Lawyers

In the TV world, one of my absolute favorites came back last night: Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. You would be led to believe, due to all the vitriol and outrage being hurled at this show, that it's some sort of left-of-liberal battle cry for the end of news media as we know it. Spoiler alert: it isn't. Though Sorkin and crew have the benefit of knowing the news before it happens (as do the writers for all of the Kennedy miniseries, Zero Dark Thirty, Primary Colors, and pretty much every single cop drama on television), they use it more of a mechanism to deliver timely messages about human relationships, much like Ruffles are not real chips, but devices for french onion dip.

A match made in culinary heaven. [via]
Due, at least in part, to the massive amounts of criticism the show has received over the course of this year, the format has shifted this season. Last year, we moved swiftly through 2010, covering everything from the BP spill to Gabrielle Giffords being shot to the death of Osama bin Laden. This year, there's just one major story: Operation Genoa.

Operation Genoa is, obviously, not a real thing, which is interestingly counter to Sorkin's goal throughout the last season of not making up any news. However, we are led to believe that it has something to do with drones (a recent hot topic), as both the producer who is running the story and the tipper who gave it to him seem to be heavily invested in stopping strikes from occurring, terrorist target or not.

A lot happened last night: we met Marcia Gay Harden's character, Rebecca Halliday, who is the lawyer for the ACN team. She is taking Will (McAvoy; Jeff Daniels) and MacKenzie's (McHale; Emily Mortimer) depositions in preparation for a wrongful termination lawsuit against them. Jim (Harper; John Gallagher, Jr.) decides he can't take the sexual tension between himself and Maggie (Jordan; Alison Pill), so he goes on tour with the Romney campaign. I personally haven't missed hearing about Mittens at all, but I would listen to Johnny say pretty much anything, so this is my Sophie's Choice. Neal (Sampat; Dev Patel) pitches Mac a piece on Occupy Wall Street. At this point in time, the movement is little more than a bunch of Quaker wannabes sitting around and drinking coffee, so Neal goes out to find the story. Sloan (Sabbith; Olivia Munn) is as adorable as ever, and when she's not having quip-offs with Charlie (Skinner; Sam Waterston) or being Commissioner of the ACN Fantasy League, she's filling in at 10 o'clock and being a damn fine journalist for someone who only has a PhD in Economics.

I don't want to give the whole season away, but because I am horrible at summarizing I probably already did. Regardless, please go watch the episode, patronize your local theater and see The Way, Way Back, and remember that I don't get paid for this so gimme some sugar.