Thursday, August 30, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. Talia Hibbert spoke with someone about her career, and how she started writing romance while finishing up university
2. Nicole Bilderback, a face you know if you loved teen movies in the 1990's among other things, talked about this new place in US media. 
3. Roxane Gay wrote about how taking a work break with your piles of money is not the same as being punished for sexual harassment. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

"The Color Purple" at the Kennedy Center

Adapting an award winning book that has already been made into a beloved star-studded movie is not an easy task. "The Color Purple" meets the challenge with songs that ask much of the cast. Because the original properties are so well-known, there is not much rest time as the show works to tell the story of Celie, abused by her stepdad, given over to Mister/Albert in marriage for much the same treatment, cut off from her sister Nellie who has to leave their childhood home when their stepdad goes after her too. Her interactions with Albert's son Harpo, watching him love a Sofia who does not allow her husband to mistreat her, and then of course her developing relationship with Shug, who she meets through her husband's relationship with her. As such, there are almost no songs where at least three things aren't happening, even the love songs. They use male farm workers and more often female churchgoers as sort of a combo Greek chorus and narration catch up. The cast album from the revival with Jennifer Hudson, Cynthia Erivo, and Danielle Brooks provides a lot to live up to, but this cast did a great job. The DC run has wrapped up, but if you are elsewhere, keep an eye out for it. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. It turns out the event was sponsored by a group who has been behind other viral videos, but I still am amazed by the ingenuity of setting up a giant group date over Tinder with a group of men.  Kind of your own personal dating show. 
2. A local school found the perfect person to name their school after, instead of a slave owner, they changed it to the name of their first black principal
3. The internet allows so much communication and community, that sometimes, you read a whole article inspired by someone's odd post where they assumed their anecdotal experience of how (and why) men enter the bathtub a certain way was universal. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

In Defense of Eleanor Young

I saw a number of pieces where Michelle Yeoh said that she didn't want to be the villain mom in "Crazy Rich Asians".  I think this interview expresses it most succintly, but many of the pieces that riffed on it, boiled it down to Yeoh said she wouldn't be a stereotypical mean mom, where if you look at what she said, she said she thinks of Eleanor as a dragon mom, rather than a tiger mom.  
I am not at all here to argue with Michelle Yeoh. As someone who read the book and saw the movie, I do think that movie Eleanor is expressed a little more explicitly, partly due to time constraints, but while there absolutely are scenes in the movie that do not exist in the book, movie Eleanor is still book Eleanor.  
By the way, yes, I cannot go any further without spoiling both the book and the movie.  
I listened to the book in audio, and it is almost 14 hours, to give you a sense of the level of cutting the movie was doing.  Now of course, movies have visuals, and can do montages, and all sorts of things.  But as we see, Nick has asked Rachel to come to Singapore for his best friend's wedding.  And his mother discovers this at Bible study.  Now, it's possible to view that as an amusing quirk of the speed of gossip in the community.  But let's also look at this, Nick has been dating this woman for some time, enough that he is ready to take her to meet his family and propose, but he has told Rachel almost nothing about his family (other than Astrid).  And his mother found out about this woman - that she existed, that they were dating, that he was bringing her home - from someone else.  
And so, from Eleanor's perspective, Rachel is part of this pretend life he has been living in America, the one where he's a cool professor.  And as the movie points out a little more explicitly, when Nick tells Colin his plan, Nick hasn't figured out anything else other than he wants to marry her.  He hasn't figured out where they will live, hasn't even ever told her his ultimate life plan was to move back to Singapore.  He tells Rachel that his mother loves him so much that she let him be raised by his grandmother so he would be the favorite and he hasn't ever thought through the implications of that.  Eleanor is from a respected family, and Su Yi - this many years later - still considers her not a great match for her son. Rachel wasn't raised in Asia, isn't rich, is basically, even less acceptable than Eleanor, and so yes, Rachel will ruin the years of work that Eleanor has put into making Nick the favorite.  But Eleanor also knows that if they still don't accept her, they will never come around on Rachel.  
So, while the mahjong scene in the movie does not occur in the book, it basically demonstrates what the book says in more subtle ways throughout.  Nick can propose to Rachel and pretend the where they will live, and whose family will accept them is all details to be worked out later, but it isn't.  Rachel could be like Nick and accept and not worry.  Or she could look at the possible outcomes and see that none of them lead to happiness.  The concern is as the American raised Asian, Rachel won't worry about doing anything but what will make her happy, but actually it is Nick who is doing that.  
So, I agree that dragon mom is a fair assessment.  I was #teamRachel throughout both the book and movie, but that doesn't mean I didn't see that Eleanor had a point. Nick hadn't thought this through, he hadn't thought about what he was doing to either himself or to Rachel.  
Movie Eleanor comes around in a way that book Eleanor does not, not in the first book at least. But that doesn't make movie Eleanor any tamer.  I like to think that wordless scene where she shows up at Nick's hotel room stands in for a long conversation where she reminds Nick what he may be giving up.  Because Eleanor is right, Nick has been pretending his professor life is all he needs, but, as has happened with many discussions of late about generational wealth, it's easy to do that, when you can also hop on a first class flight home anytime you want without worrying about the cost. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

"To All the Boys I've Loved Before" - the movie version

My YA book club had a gathering to watch "To All the Boys I've Loved Before".  I adored the book by Jenny Han and the short version is that the movie captures the essence of it in the best way.  
The story is about a middle sister who has been writing letters to boys she has crushes on to provide closure for herself, and storing the letters in a hat box.  The letters get out into the world, causing the expected embarrassment, and because one of the letters was to the next door neighbor boy who, um, happens to be her older sister's very recent ex, she makes a deal with another letter recipient to pretend date so that it's clear any other crushes on her part are in the past.  Said fake boyfriend has just broken up with his girlfriend and wants to make her jealous.  
There are of course changes, compressions and all of that. The cast is amazing, and it managed to feel enough like a realistic depiction of now, and not something that would seem very dated in a few years, which is a neat trick. 
Buzzfeed has this list of differences between the book and movie. To me, as a Virginia adjacent person, the movie being set in Oregon was also notable. 
Jenny Han's letter about her desire for an Asian American teen idol was moving. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Three Interesting Things

There's a theme this week. 
1. Celeste Pewter talks about how she hopes "Crazy Rich Asians" provides better possible choices for the next batch of Asian American kids. 
3. The wardrobe of "Crazy Rich Asians", including that emerald ring. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"Crazy Rich Asians" Made Me Cry

It has been quite a month for remakes. As with all remakes or medium shifts, I guess would be the best term for book to movie, or in the case of "Freaky Friday", book to musical to movie, the challenge is to view it as it's own thing. Now partly that's not true, obviously "Crazy Rich Asians" is hoping all the book fans show up. But if we can get a little gritty, very few books do numbers that would allow them to be considered successful movies. So they are clearly hoping to get more. 
I enjoyed the book. It took me a few tries because I was working with audio and it's long and I can only do audio while moving. But I was there for Rachel and Nick. I loved the large cast, but I cared a little less about the details of some of the horrible relatives. I got it. They were terrible. 
Movies have to compress (unless they are based on short stories). I think this movie did an awesome job of compressing so that the essence of Bernie and Eddie and Astrid are all there, but Nick and Rachel get the main time. There are no footnotes, but I think - to me at least - it seemed accessible but not handholding. It was a delight as someone who had read the book and I think would make me intrigued about the book if I had not read it. There are changes, from Nick's Mom Eleanor being there the whole time to Peik Lin's family being in on the Young family fortune the whole time. There are also some bits that may be stolen from future books (I have been hoarding the next two 'til after the movie), since there are some resolutions that don't appear in the first book. Overall it is great. 
I cried when Rachel runs away and her best friend is there to hug her. And there's a look at one point between two mothers that said so many things. 
My half Chinese grandmother did not get to see this, nor did my dad. My grandmother was a nurse who later got into real estate with my grandpa to help support the kids. This isn't really their story. But I like to think they would have loved it. So it coming out in my dad's birth month seems special to me. 
PS.  There have been concerns raised about Awkwafina's appropriation of AAVE, and I think that is something it is fair to discuss. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tara's Ranking of the "Freaky Friday" Musical Songs

In honor of Disney airing the Disney Channel Original Movie version of "Freaky Friday, I present my ranking of the songs. 
This is based on the theater version. 
None of these songs are bad, and if course many of them are there to do multiple things. So, here we go.   
1. "Oh, Biology" - The one I came home desperate to hear again. So great, Mom realizing that being in a body going through puberty is so hard, no matter how smart or experienced you are at life. 
2.    "Somebody Has Got to Take the Blame" - I originally had this ranked lower and then realized this song made me cry the first eleventy times I heard it and that deserved acknowledgment. 
3.  "I Got This" - The smugness of each character's certainty that the other's life is easy peasy. 
4. "No More Fear" - A wonderful song about realizing that maybe the thing you meant to tell your kids wasn't helpful for the life they had to live.
5.  "Busted" - Mom and daughter realizing things they didn't know about each other's lives. 
6. "Bring My Baby (Brother) Home" - This song asks a lot of the daughter in particular.
7. "Women and Sandwiches" - This song, as the title implies, starts off ridiculous and then ends up making a really inferring point. It's also the first song ranked not featuring out body swapees. 
8. "Parents Lie" - Oh the chance to exert extra authority over your words when talking to your brother. 
 9. "Vows" - Mike, the fiancĂ©e gets a chance to be heartwarming. 
10.   "After All of This and Everything" - Daughter gets to be heartfelt as she figures out some of this family stuff in the mom role.
11. "Watch Your Back" - A fun catchy song about the dangers of high school. 
12.  "Not Myself Today" - Mom and daughter are staring to get that it's hard.
13+. Quite honestly the rest of these are all serviceable and fine.  "Prologue",   "Just One Day",  "Go", 
    "The Hourglass" , "The Other Hourglass", "Today and Ev'ry Day".  "What You Got".  Some of you will, I expect be mad that "Go" and "What You Got" didn't get more love. I don't dislike them at all, they are fun, they have a good beat, I enjoy singing along, but these, and the otehr songs, for me at least, their explainer need doesn't overcome the song.  

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. Teen Vogue and Reappopriate put together this primer on yellowface and whitewashing of Asian and Asian American characters in American cinema. 
2. I am biased because I know this interviewer, but this piece on football player Martellus Bennett and his plans for children's media was fascinating. 
3. DC has decriminalized marijuana, but arrests for marijuana related crimes are actually up, and sadly police are arresting primarily black residents. 

Monday, August 06, 2018

RIP Charlotte Rae

I watched both "Different Strokes" and every evolution of "The Facts of Life". It ran in reruns for many evenings of my childhood, so I have seen many of the episodes multiple times. I watched the movies. I know that the first year Mrs. Garrett was house mother, then cafeteria manager, and then the bakery, and then shop.  Mrs. Garrett wasn't my only fictional auntie, but she was one of the earliest. 
Charlotte Rae was an actress before either of these shows, but I loved her for this one. My heart goes out to her friends and family. 

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. RITA scores are back and as a result folks are finding they got dinged when maybe they shouldn't. I know RWA is working to fix that going forward so this just gives us a sense of how much work we still have to do, because the judging clarification will help, but it's not a cure all. 
2. This video ode to romance novels made me happy. 
3. This story on why writing matters in the age of despair is lovely.