My Week in Review

Photo credit via Getty Images

This is going to be a double edition of My Week in Review because last week I didn’t get a chance to write a post. And by that I mean last week was one of these guys ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

First things first, I finished up Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth this week and it was incredible. I want to write a real review later, but if you haven’t gotten it yet, I would definitely put it on your wish list for the holidays.

Roasted Delicata Squash with Turmeric

Zahav’s Hummus ‘Tehina’

The 70 Greatest Conspiracy Theories in Pop-Culture History

Do you want a smart home?

Okay yeah, but this is not cute

Public art in NYC!

A whole month’s worth of good music for us all!

Divorce Depicts Relatable Fantasy of Having an Affair With Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords

Um, this is a picture of Channing Tatum.

Two belles and a beast

A post shared by Jenna Dewan (@jennadewan) on

 

Ask Polly: Should I Start Blogging Again?

Ask Polly: Why was This Vacation Such a Disaster?

If there is one article you should definitely read, let it be this one about being well-educated and stuck doing work for rich people.

This woman literally sells shower curtains and I love how she dresses

If I haven’t gushed about Another Round on my blog yet then let me do so now. THIS PODCAST IS THE BEST. This episode about drugs, addiction, and race was particularly fascinating.

 

Album of the Week:

In honor of Halloween last week

Image result for Rocky Horror album

 

So there you have it! An extra-large weekly round-up for your weekend!

 

Happy Reading!

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My Favorite Famous Jennys

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The divine Jenny Lewis.

There is just something about finding someone else who shares your name, isn’t there? It is oddly a wonderful surprise that someone else has been walking around responding to the same combination of sounds that’s so personal to you. It’s like someone else has been living at your home address for years and you now have the opportunity to ask them if they’ve noticed the same leaky pipes or how cold the floor gets in the morning. What kind of people are the collective Jennys of the world? Or Emilys? Or Sarahs, for that matter? Can you synthesize down to it’s most basic elements a theory that all people who share a common form of ID are more likely to share a set of characteristics and experiences?

I’m getting way ahead of myself.

Whether you believe in nameology (is that the right “ology” word for this?) or not, I know I always try to suss out whether another Jenny is good enough to share my name. Which I guess is a little unfair given that I am a Genny, not a Jenny. Ya’ know?

Based on absolutely no scientific evidence, and purely my own interpretation of the world that is completely biased, here is what I can tell about Jennys:

-We are funny and give a lot of our time and attention to fun

-We are profoundly weird, I hate to use the Q word, quirky (ew) women. Though I also think that all women think that they are weird in a profound way due to how white, male, masculinity is seen as the norm and the female experience is otherized if it doesn’t fit into a male-centered worldview. BUT ANYWAY….

-We are creative and have a hard time being serious.

Who are some of your famous name counterparts? And, if you can pull together some sort of thesis, what kind of people do you have in your tribe?

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Musician most famous for her band Rilo Kiley, but last year released an amazing solo album, “The Voyager.” Also a former child actress from the 80s. One time, while I was listening to her new album, I had the very embarrassing thought, that “Jenny Lewis understands the loneliness of being a woman,” which, again is very embarrassing, but sort of true. She writes about being a tomboy growing up. Getting older and not having any children (and worrying if she’ll regret it) and other things that are hard to say out loud to yourself, let alone to other people. Can usually be found wearing an Adidas (All Day I Dream About Sports, does anyone else still use that to help them spell Adidas?) tracksuit. I hate the idea that certain women only receive notoriety once they date a famous man, but she did date Jake Gyllenhaal, so “Yas, gorl. Get it.”

Jenny Slate. Comedian. Actress. Most famous for her role as Mona-Lisa Saperstein on Parks and Recreation, her viral video-turned-childrens’ book, “Marcel the Shell,” and her starring role in “Obvious Child.” Said the F word on SNL and got fired (I find this pretty funny and great). Once posted an Instagram picture of her collection of Elena Forrente novels, and I am currently reading, “Story of a New Name,” and think they are the closest thing we are ever going to get to a female-centric Godfather. Went to Columbia. Not afraid of a good poop joke.

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Fartin’ Jenny from John Steinbeck’s, “East of Eden.” So this is obviously not a photograph of a fictional character from a novel. And Fartin’ Jenny (as she is named in the book) is probably so minor a character that most people wouldn’t remember that she is the Madame of the brothel in Salinas. Here is an excerpt from a website that I found, which I think summarizes her completely, “She is known for her sense of humor and congenial nature. She is a “keeper of secrets, a giver of secret loans” (218). People in town know to go to Jenny’s if they are looking for a fun, light-hearted time, since it “jangle[d] with honky-tonk and rock[ed] with belching laughter” (522). (http://sits.sjsu.edu/curriculum-resources/east-of-eden/character-census/) If I remember correctly, the novel says that she ran a place where women could fart and belch freely and laugh without the reproach of men. At the time I immediately thought, “how wonderful.”

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Jenny, the bad girl, from a 1950’s after school special, my Philosophy teacher in high school made us watch to talk about Feminism. Again, this is not a real picture from the film (because FOR THE LIFE OF ME I CANNOT REMEMBER THE NAME OF IT AND IT’S KILLING ME), so I improvised with a vintage picture of a girl on a motorcycle. Jenny was a bad girl who was fast with boys, as the narrator explained, and therefore was going to get a “reputation” for herself. Don’t be like Jenny, the narrator plead. Don’t go out alone at night with boys and smoke cigarettes. Don’t flirt and always listen to your parents. In fact, only date boys who you’re parents approve of first. Never wear your skirts 3 inches above your knees. Never cut your hair or wear dark eye make-up. Never…. Can you see why I decided to root for her?

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Jenni Konner. Writer and Producer on “Girls.” Admittedly, I don’t know much about Jenni Konner aside from her work on “Girls” and her status as Lena Deunham’s bff. BUT from a little IMB snooping, I have sussed out that she was also a writer on “Undeclared” (hence the Judd Apatow connection) AND (more importantly) wrote an episode of “What I like About You,” which is on the better side of the Amanda Bynes ouvré. I also recently subscribed to Lenny.

My Mom and I Count: How Many Times Did They Say “Italian” on Last Night’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey

6.

 

Though we are also counting Nicole and Teresa’s father, Sal, who twice mentioned that they were having real Neapolitan cooking.  Neapolitan meaning Naples, not, if you are anything like me, the brain-fart question I came up with (for only a second) where is Neapoli? Don’t worry, I put it together.

On Bravo’s website this as the first line of the twins’ bio:

Nicole and Teresa are identical twins with an over-the-top Neapolitan style.

Papa Sal (wife of Santa) also reminded us that the Neapolitans, besides “the Hebrews and the Chinese,” are the only people who maintain their tradition.

Every housewife has to have their “thing,” I guess.

Mad Men Ended it’s Mid-Season Finale with the Closest We Will Ever Come to a Mad Men Musical Episode

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I’m writing this four days after the mid-season finale of Mad Men, forever in internet years, waiting until the thinkpiece dust has settled and we have all had a moment of reflection.  In a this-show-is-almost-over-and-I-still-don’t-understandwhat-it-all-means kind of way, Matthew Weiner has left us with a lot to think about.  Ginsberg’s nipple, the student surpasses the teacher, we all become our parents, and finally, the best things in life are free. The last one sung in Burt Cooper’s stocking feet.

Here is what I know.  A year ago I read a Grantland article written by Chuck Klosterman, entitled Bad Decisions: Why AMC’s Breaking Bad beats Mad Men, The Sopranos, and The WireAs you can guess, Klosterman name checks the above four shows, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Sopranos, and The Wire, as the greatest works of modern television.  Klosterman is the writer behind the New York Times column The Ethicist and is an acclaimed author of essays, yet I have some hesitations agreeing with him.  Given that this list is predominately white and exclusively features male protagonist (let me just point out that unlike Sex and the City, none of these shows are being shown on rerun six times a day…) to pair down all of the fantastic and wonderful television to just a measly four seems like  being choosey.  Not to mention it was written before George R. R. Martin threw daggers at morality in Game of Thrones. However, these shows do fit together like a puzzle, as if finding the real Literature amongst the genre-fic that you love, but are slightly embarrassed to admit to reading on Goodreads. Klosterman explains his particular list is based on each show’s widespread acclaim, innovation, and most interestingly their sense of morality (again, a female-driven show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer explores morality pretty much explicitly, but here is not a place where I want to argue with Klosterman’s semantics.) Which is a pretty loaded sentiment to unpack when it comes to Mad Men.

Is this a show about right and wrong?  Sort of.  I agree with Klosterman when he says, “Characters can do or say whatever they want without remorse, because almost all their decisions can be excused (or at least explained) by the circumstances of the period.” That is arguably true, when we look at the (very few) plot lines of race and homosexuality on Mad Men. This past season did not forget Dawn Chambers, the first Black employee of SC&P, who moved up to replace Joan as Director of Personnel and Bob (Not Great, Bob!) Benson, who asked Joan to be in a marriage of convenience. It is almost redundant to mention the closure we all felt when Don passed the baton to Peggy.  Though I will anyway because as hard as it was to watch Peggy be lost in her personal life, it felt so satisfying to see her win professionally.

I would argue that the show only concerns itself with morality because it is deeply character driven (as are the other three shows Klosterman highlights) and the reasons why humans act the way they do fluctuates constantly.  One day you proclaim yourself a strict vegan and ten years later you’re part of the steak of the month club. Mad Men just happens to capture the growth between vegan and carnivore in the slow, lingering pace in which it really happens.

Mostly this show is about change, cultural change, and unravels so slowly so that we here in the present can compare our modern culture to the shift in the 1960s.  Mad Men is undoubtedly obsessed with history, but not the facts and numbers.  The history of human creativity and expression.  Tracing our roots not along the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the uprising of the computer, or even the moon landing (though those moments are significant), but instead chooses to focus it’s gaze on the television’s soft glow on the human face.  The writer’s don’t hold back from watching the characters watch the world change.  And in fact, some of the most significant moments of the show are watching the emotions shift in the characters with whom we feel both love and hate.  Don’s glossy eyes as he watches Burt Cooper sing and dance his way to the other side.

It seems that the moment things turn, that churn from one state to the next, is what the show tries to capture.  It doesn’t play up the rise and fall of conflict like Game of Thrones.  One of my favorite tweets from the season premiere of Mad Men read, “First half of #madmen is just getting everyone’s real estate situation sorted out.” Which was funny given that half the cast was in California and half was in New York and we, the audience, had to wait and see who was where. However, the sentiment behind that joke is indicative of the show at large. It feels like we follow behind Peggy, Pete, Don, or Roger just to understand where everyone is situated, where their head is at in the moment, and then the conflict is revealed slowly and carefully.  Mad Men continually finds this crux interesting and plays the nuance of these moments well, like it was inevitable.

What Klosterman gets right is that with the rise of television there will inevitably be hierarchy.  The half-hour comedy, the network drama, the weekly procedural…will get relegated to low-tier genre shtick.  Reality TV will be like only reading US Weekly. And carefully, we as a culture are weeding out our high lit shows, aware that an HBO or a Showtime can give us a fulfilling hour of entertainment.  I worry that the canon of “good” television will be as white and male as any other list of “classic” media.  It feels like critics have more terrain than ever to shape will be considered essential in television history.  Especially when there is so much writing floating around about strong female protagonists.

But let’s dial it back to Mad Men. Matthew Weiner doesn’t ask use to sit through a documentary style show about the men who invented the McDonald’s, “Have it Your Way!” to see how that historic slogan was born.  We are looking through the lens the opposite way, people first.  Mad Men is not a good show because it is moral, it’s because it’s a study in human emotion.  It posits that creative work can be fulfilling and then shows us how that joy can make Peggy beam.  It reminds us that people saw beauty in that work, the stuff that lives on, even when their personal lives were a mess.  How Don always makes the wrong call when it comes to women, but you can see the elements of his personality shift into the right place when he makes a pitch. The work is what fuels everyone in the SC&P office, yet Mad Men does not care what the end result is because art is always temporary.  Not to get too shmaltzy, but perhaps this is the stuff of Burt Cooper’s dance number.  The best thing in life is creativity and that will always be free.