I miss blogging

Hi homies,

It’s been a long time.

The massive length of my blogging absence is best illustrated by reading my last post. It’s about a new show that had just begun premiering on HBO called Girls. Lol.

For a while now, I’ve been feeling the itch to start blogging again. I initially started this weirdo little site as a school assignment, back when journalism was new to me, but high and low pop culture remained a burning passion, similar to my love of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Cops. It became an important outlet for this once-young person, one that allowed me to explore writing and form and people’s tolerance for references to washed-up’90s standup comedians — all valuable lessons.

But like time has a habit of doing, I lost space in my life to keep up with this. I became a real-life journalist, one who gets paid cash money for her work. I moved all around the country to get that paper. And while things have changed, and some things have stayed the same, the blog-shaped hole in my creative life remains a constant.

So here I am, four years later — (fuck, I’m old) — returning to a little corner of the Internet that once gave me a lot of joy. I hope it gave you a bit too. So this is me, firing this weirdo little site back up again. I hope those who still subscribe to this won’t be too startled, and I hope you’ll keep reading.

I can’t guarantee they’ll be super regular posts, but I can guarantee there will be cat pictures.

xo,

Katherine

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Haters Gonna Hate – Breaking Down The Backlash Against “Girls”

You may or may not have been hearing a lot of hype about a little HBO show called Girls. Okay, you probably heard it on this site or from my mouth, pestering you to tune in before the hype destroys its charming unassumingness. If any of you have escaped this obnoxious verbal or blogeral wrath of mine, allow me to fill you in.

Girls is a half-hour comedy about female Millenials who have recently graduated college and are living in New York. Sounds fairly typical right? Not quite. This show doesn’t sanitize women, their relationships, or their humor. It’s raunchy, but in an authentic way, unsoiled by laugh tracks or contrived situations involving pregnancy scares or internships at high fashion magazines. It’s clever and realistic about heterosexual relationships, the hardships of establishing a career in this pre/post recessionary abyss, and of the terrors of monogamy. The girls in question, (writer, director and star Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, and Zosia Mamet), work various, unfulfilling jobs that begin to chip away at the rose-colour futures they dreamed of in liberal arts college. In short, life’s tough!

Sounds like a match made in Millenial heaven, right? Not quite.

Ever since its premiere, Girls has become a moving target for a deafening firing squad of pointed scrutiny. Be it the show’s racial politics, its advocacy for a privileged 1% of white young professionals, or its demeaning romantic relationships, everyone and their dog has voiced their opinion. For your own reference point and to intellectually unload my frenetic musings on the matter, I will be counting down the major criticisms and speak to how I interpret them. Thank god for temporary unemployment, am I right readers? You’re welcome/I’m so sorry!

3) What’s with all the white chicks?

One f the most common criticisms of Girls comes from its lack of diversity. The main characters, Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna, are all caucasian and middle class, living in seemingly uncrowded apartments and enjoying the verbal pleasantries of each other’s educated, middle class company.

Jenna Wortham, a journalist with Hairpin writes the show’s most succinct racial criticism by stating, “My chief beef is not simply that the girls in Girls are white … The problem with Girls is that while the show reaches — and succeeds, in many ways — to show female characters that are not caricatures, it feels alienating, a party of four engineered to appeal to a very specific subset of the television viewing audience, when the show has the potential to be so much bigger than that.”

I feel almost unqualified to comment on this, as these characters appear non-archetypal to me as I not only identify greatly with Hannah, but I also recognize a countless number of my friends within each character. In short, I am the “specific subset of the television viewing audience” that Dunham is writing for. Score one for sheltered, white brats.

Dunham has similar issue with the criticism, stating “I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me.”

So what’s the deal? Does this show’s exclusion of diversity get a pass because it’s representative of a certain sub-sect of girls, reminiscent of Dunham and my own life? If Girls is aiming for authenticity, then does this excuse the white-wash, or does it do a great injustice in allowing apt representations of ethnicity? Should they bring in a guest writer to speak to this criticism? Jury’s still out, yo.

2) Wow, these chicks put up with a lot of douches.

Another common criticism comes as a result of Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) relationship with Adam (Adam Sackler). Adam is a disinterested, semi-degrading sexual partner of Hannah’s. Many of Hannah’s friends believe that he mistreats her, as he commonly ignores her texts and calls and occasionally makes disparaging remarks about her appearance. Their sex scenes are squirm-inducing, to say the least. Adam is a literal dictator in bed, and Hannah’s affections for him cause her to give in to his every whim and off-putting sexual fantasy.

Lorrie Moore of The New Yorker served up a blended critical cocktail of an article on Girls, part praising and part relishing in its heterosexual sadness. Moore calls the sex scenes “heartless and degrading, and not remotely exuberant … like careless cruelty between nudists.”. Did I mention this is supposed to be a comedy?

Instead of sticking with my “I can totes relate” argument, which I can, I present the counter-point of the relationship between Marnie (Allison Williams) and Charlie (Christopher Abbott). Marnie and Charlie have been together for 4 plus years, aka an eternity in a 20-something’s life. Marnie is growing listless and increasingly out of love with Charlie. Unfortunately Charlie’s love for her is so palpable that it physically pains me to behold it through my television.

I find it too convenient and surface-level an argument to deduce that because there is one unfavourable representation of a male partner, then the show is predominately sexist towards men and their phallic dominance over women. Charlie is kind, well-meaning, and thoroughly sensitive towards Marnie and her mistreatment of him. Girls understands that sex for women can be demeaning, vulnerable and scary, but it also shows it as a potentially lustful, fun, and yes still dangerous activity to those in a relationship. It’s never safe. Fair? Maybe not. Accurate? Questionably. It would help the show’s case to show a fun, enjoyable, and pleasurable sexual encounter between both an uncommitted and a committed couple. I hear those exist.

1) What a bunch of whiny, indulged, rich bitches.

Okay, I’m kind of with the critics on this one. To summarize this argument: John Cook of Gawker recapped the pilot by stating, “Girls is a television program about the children of wealthy famous people and shitty music and Facebook and how hard it is to know who you are and Thought Catalog and sexually transmitted diseases and the exhaustion of ceaselessly dramatizing your own life while posing as someone who understands the fundamental emptiness and narcissism of that very self-dramatization.” In a column for The New York Times, Frank Bruni writes, “”You watch these scenes and other examples of the zeitgeist-y, early-20s heroines of ‘Girls’ engaging in, recoiling from, mulling and mourning sex, and you think: Gloria Steinem went to the barricades for this?”. Ouch. That one stung.

I’m going to agree partially with this as even to me, a pampered 20-something aspiring writer being supported by her parents, I find it kind of ridiculous how each one appears to be receiving financial intervention from their families. I hear not everyone is as lucky and simultaneously nauseating as myself. Would it kill them to have one of them complaining about steep rent rates or student loans? I mean even unemployed Hannah appears to only roam the streets during the day, eating cupcakes and having casual sex with Adam, more concerned over their (non) relationship than of how she’s going to support herself in a jobless Metropolitan landscape. I have faith that the show, which is only 4 episodes deep, will dig into this the more it progresses. Let’s hope so, anyway. Otherwise Frank Bruni might really lose his shit.

So there you have it: my totally uninformed assessment of all that hate. I encourage you all to tune in, (every Sunday night on HBO at 10:30 ET/MT), and form your own opinions. Until then, I’ll be roaming the streets eating cupcakes.

What do you think of Girls? What do you think of cupcakes? Please share your thoughts on all of these deep topics with a comment or two.

The Bully Behind “Bully”

“It gets better”: that’s the anti-bullying message du jour, thanks to a terrifying onslaught of teen suicides that have plagued North America over the past three years. This worrisome trend gave rise to the “It Gets Better Foundation”, an anti-bullying movement that has since been fuelled by the mega-wattage, combined  star power of everyone from Justin Bieber, to Hilary Clinton, to Glee, the superficial musical dramedy that has become the effeminate and perfunctory face of teen gay bullying.

A documentary film has just been released to help aid the anti-bullying movement, aptly titled Bully. Directed by Lee Hirsch, Bully follows the lives of high school students from Iowa, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma from 2009-2010. The film captures truly horrific evidence of high school bullying and sheds a critical lens on the ways school administrations and parents fail to protect their most vulnerable children.

You might think: what a timely and important little piece of cinema. True dat, readers. True dat, indeed. However, there is one aspect of Bully‘s production narrative that works to mar its socially conscious credibility. This little, independent documentary that could now finds itself acquired by the big movie producer that could, one Harvey Weinstein.

For those of you unfamiliar with the movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein is one-half of the Weinstein Brothers, a pair of executive movie honchos who have produced some 240 projects including Shakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Finding Neverland, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The King’s Speech, The Artistand Fahrenheit 911, the latter of which got him canned from his Disney-owned company Miramax, which he originally founded with his brother Bob.

At the Oscars, he’s the obese, balding guy in the front row with rosed face from too much Cristal and ego-inflation, accompanied by a blushing, bedazzled British mannequin. That’s his wifey Georgina Chapman, one-half of design house Marchesa, a.k.a. Oscar couture catnip for Hollywood’s A-list. Her gowns have been worn on the Oscar red carpet by everyone from Anne Hathaway, to Jessica Alba, to Cameron Diaz, to Sandra Bullock on the night she took home Best Actress for Southern Blondes Prefer Black Kids. Talk about a synergistic, match made in marrying-well heaven.

Sure, Harvey sounds like a champion, a 300-pound champion of award shows and rack focus. However, the lumpy Queens kid has garnered himself quite the reputation of being a yep, you guessed it, a big bully. Years of crazy and misguided antics have fuelled this reputation, be it when he threatened director George Hickenlooper with physical harm over the editing work on Factory Girl’s sex scene, when he put a New York Observer reporter in a headlock while throwing him out of a party, when he badgered cancer-stricken director Sydney Pollock on his deathbed over fixing The Reader, or the much hyped screaming matches between himself and Martin Scorsese during production of Gangs of New York. I mean, who fights with Scorsese? He’s like a thickly-browed , giggling and greying teddy bear smelling vaguely of baked ziti.

Harvey’s presence alone is even intimidating enough to overturn NC-17 ratings, cough Blue Valentine cough. Yep. That shit should have never been switched back to R, let me tell you. I no longer believe in love or Ryan Gosling’s ability to age well, thanks to that 2 hour, shaky testament to the rapid expiry of monogamy. But I digress . . .

While even though I find this film to be timely, resonant, effective, and a vital piece of work, I am just so uneasy about Harvey boy’s presence in its credits. How can this film genuinely preach that “it gets better” when for those who have the misfortune of working with this overgrown, rage case, it doesn’t?

Okay, that might be a little heavy-handed. But does Weinstein’s presence within the film’s cultural narrative cheapen the message it works to perpetuate? Or does his superpower, representative of both sides of his character, help to bring new attention and resonance to an important issue that may have recently been forgotten? True, he has a temper. True, he’s any HR department’s worst nightmare. But this man has helped to bring larger audiences to countless independent film projects that might otherwise not see the light of regular distribution. He has impeccable taste, demonstrated with his financial backing of this project. But it just feels hilariously hypocritical.

Just something to consider. Oh and please don’t murder me, Mr. Weinstein. I wish to live to see Harry Potter World.

What do you think? Will Harvey Weinstein’s personal reputation muddy Bully’s message? Will Ryan Gosling age well? Will I get murdered for posting this? Share your thoughts with a comment, whydonchya?

Dionysus in Stony Mountain: A Review

Religion, morality, and the corruption of help thematically haunted the 2 hours plus traffic of the Rachel Browne stage last week. The stoic apparitions, brought to life by Theatre Projects Manitoba in their season-ending play Dionysus in Stony Mountain, felt both literally and figuratively possessed by the ghost of Friedrich Nietzsche, the German moral philosopher obsessed with will.

The first act, which originally premiered as a Winnipeg Fringe Festival production in 2009, features what is essentially a one-man monologue by Stony Mountain inmate James (Ross McMillan). Weeks away from parole eligibility, James has chosen to go cold turkey on his Lithium, causing him to manically memorize and recite long Nietzsche passages, much to the dismay of his therapist Dr. Heidi Prober (Sarah Constible).

Dr. Prober, a Jewish therapist that shows particularity towards Ross and his considerable intellect, worries for his mental health and, perhaps more pressingly, the flawed nature of the Canadian correctional system. But much of Prober’s concerns in the first act play considerable backdrop to James’s troublingly giddy ramblings. It is within this first act that we may bear witness to McMillan’s extensive talents, mostly grounding the dizzyingly troubled James in steady, firm roots of sincerity and powerlessness against a corrupt, flawed system. Constible’s presence is felt, though she plays mostly scenery to the electric presence of McMillan.

This first act is too dense for my taste. I felt instantly transported back to a post-secondary philosophy lecture as this is essentially what the first act is: a lecture. McMillan does strong work in humanizing Nietzsche’s verbatim script of will and religion, but ultimately his off-the-rails musings felt too much like dictated pages of a first year Philosophy textbook.

The second act pulls more focus towards Prober, as her character has moved on from her job as a psychiatrist and has found troubling new practices of her own. Visited by her upper-crust Uncle Eric (McMillan again), Prober has lost all faith in the correctional system and has practically become a recluse, as she refurbishes her shabby  new home.

This second act is a welcome addition to the original piece, and it does better work in providing realistic, interesting dialogue than the Philosophy 101-centric first act. Constible’s character has a much greater presence here, and her character’s personal struggles against her philosophically fraught work resonated deeply.

McMillan is once again a strong force as Uncle Eric, bringing a few much needed chuckles and a good deal of ethos to what would otherwise be a very one-note play. His work in both characters is sincere and detailed, making each characterization different enough to be believable and dynamic.

Although Dionysus in Stony Mountain as a total package reads as crowded and emulsified, its fragmented pieces are increasingly thoughtful and important work. Although it feels as both acts are not totally cohesive, there are strong and layered questions posed and the actors do exciting, interesting efforts in posing them.

For more information on Theatre Projects Manitoba, click here.

Top 5 Most Anticipated TV Shows of the Summer

Some TV watchers are of the opinion that the Fall/Winter TV season can’t hold a candle to the summer line-ups. I, a TV watcher who enjoys an eclectic mix of horrendous and good i.e. every Real Housewives series thrown in with some Mad Men, can appreciate both seasons for what they are: different.

That being said, the school year is when I allow my mind to fester in the terribleness that is reality tv fare, archetypal, laugh-track ridden sitcoms, and medical dramas whose contract-bound stars are hanging on by a legal clause and a prayer. It is in the spring and summer months that my television intellect rises from the ashes, shakes itself off, looks around and says ‘I can’t fucking keep up with the Kardashians right now. Give me something good.”

To kick off this exciting season in television, when the networks accidentally find promising television in an effort to fill prime-time slots, I will be counting down my five most anticipated shows of this spring/summer. Enjoy, my pets.

5) Game of Thrones – Season 2

I was initially late to this Medieval, fantastical, unicorn-ridden party; premiering in the summer of 2011, I didn’t start watching until September. Although I’m sad I missed out of the live-tweeting, there’s little in life more pleasing than having a whole season available on demand on your pvr.  But now, I’m finally caught up with the Lannisters and ready to take in the action live.

Game of Thrones comes from the family of HBO summer awesomeness. Based loosely on the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, this Medieval fantasy tells the story of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, in which four dynamic, often-attractive families are fighting to regain the Throne. Last we left off, the silver-haired, bitch boy Prince Joffrey had taken the throne, and cut off some heads in the process. Awesome. Premiering last Sunday, this season is sure to be chalk full of dragons, Dothraki orgies, and battles to the death. Can’t wait.

4) Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom

Wordy wunderkind Aaron Sorkin is HBO’s newest and brightest diamond in its hit-making, awe-inspiring TV tiara of amazing. Premiering June 24, The Newsroom will tell the story of popular news personality Will (Jeff Daniels) who anchors the fictional Atlantic Cable News. Will begins to have a bit of a PR nightmare, sharing too much with the public and slowly losing control of his squeaky-clean news boy persona. With the exciting supporting cast of Emily Mortimer as producer Mackenzie McHale, Alison Pill as news staffer Maggie, Olivia Munn as Sloan, and Broadway angster Jon Gallagher Jr. as Jim, this is sure to be must-see.

3) The Real Housewives of Vancouver

Ok, ok, ok. You can’t completely turn your back on reality TV for the summer. Don’t be ridiculous. This Canadian version of the popular US Bravo dynasty of weaves just premiered last Wednesday and let me tell you, it was awesome. More interchangeable blondes, sweeping shots of Vancouver, and bizarre Gay sidekicks than you can count on one hand. Get excited, Canada. We’ve finally joined the United States in the ranks of TV terribleness.

2) Judd Apatow’s Girls

I know the HBO is getting a little one-note, but Breaking Bad depresses me too much and there’s just so much good potential here to be ignored.

From Lena Dunham, the mind-blowingly amazing writer of Tiny Furniture, we get a sitcom about wait, what? Girls? Like actually girls as the stars? Like girls who don’t look like models, girls who work and live in New York, go on terrible dates, and have awkward encounters with their lady doctors? Omg. Omg. Excitement overload.

Produced by the ruler of Columbia comedy, Judd Apatow, this looks really promising in that it looks really, cringe-inducingly real. From the limited info available online, I can gather that Girls follows a group of 20-somethings in New York. No, not those twenty-somethings that live in a loft apartment painted pastels, who wear designer clothes while supporting themselves on a barista’s salary. No, not them. These are the chicks who graduated from liberal arts colleges, work terrible office jobs to support their lives with 3 roommates in a crappy, sixth-floor, studio walk-up. They’re also funny, candid, somewhat sad, and somewhat happy: a dynamite combination. Premiering April 15, I cannot freaking wait.

1) AMC’s Mad Men

I know, how predictable. But this show was gone for two years. TWO YEARS! That’s like a century in TV Land. Anyway, it premiered two weeks ago. It’s really effing good. Blah blah blah. So obvious, I know.

However, I just can’t say enough about Matthew Weiner’s 60’s period drama and its steam-heat, slow bubbling build of climactic subtlety. This season, race tensions, corporate betrayal, and generation divides seems to be on the menu. Also, there’s now a fourth actor to play Bobby. Wow, that January Jones must be one tough ice sculpture to work with.

What are some of the shows you’re most excited to watch this season? Share it all in the comments section.

True Crime Reads: Journey for Justice: How Project Angel Cracked the Candace Derksen Case

For my journalism course, I recently read Mike McIntyre’s true crime book Journey for Justice: How Project Angel Cracked the Candace Derksen Case. The novel is based on the 1984 Winnipeg murder case of Candace Dersken, a disappearance that captivated the nation.

For my journalism course, I recently read Mike McIntyre’s true crime book Journey For Justice: How Project Angel Cracked the Candace Derksen Case. The novel is based on the 1984 Winnipeg murder case of Candace Dersken, a disappearance that captivated the nation.

For those unfamiliar with Candace’s story, she was a thirteen-year-old girl who went missing walking home from school on Nov. 30, 1984. When days had passed and the police had come no closer to finding her, Candace’s parents, Cliff and Wilma Derksen appealed to the media to find their child. This plea would stir a nation, the coverage of Candace’s disappearance spreading throughout the country.

However, the outcome would not be a happy one. Her frozen body was discovered on Jan. 17, 1985 in a tool shed at Alsip’s Industrial Products within yards of her home. Her hands and feet were bound behind her back. The official cause of death was found to be hypothermia.

McIntyre’s text chronicles the events of the day Candace went missing, up until Mark Grant, a schizophrenic repeat sex offender, was charged with her murder in May of 2011.

I had personally never read true crime books until this experience. As a former English major, I found it difficult to navigate the tone: a mixture of literary and poetic language, paired with meat and potatoes, journalistic facts. I had trouble trusting McIntyre’s insights into the Derksen’s lives and mentalities through the case. However, it was very clear that Wilma and McIntyre were very close and that she had entrusted details of her experience and her pain with him. This sincerity did at times resonate greatly with me.

However, McIntyre, a crime reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, is clearly a seasoned pro when it comes to legal-minded journalism. He explains complex court proceedings, statures, and legal jargon in an accessible, clear manner. This text gave me what I feel is an authentic understanding of the court proceedings surrounding Mark Grant. This was the book’s true strength.

There is stark comparison between McIntyre’s work for the Winnipeg Free Press and for this novel. The format of this book allows McIntyre the space to explore the psyche of the people he might represent in one of his Free Press articles in just a quote or two.

Our class also had the distinct pleasure of having McIntyre and Candace’s mother, Wilma Derksen in to speak to us about their experiences. Each spoke to the experience of collaborating, the horrific events of Candace’s murder, and what as journalists we may take from this book. I felt that McIntyre gave us budding journalists excellent tips on how to maintain integrity while gaining a subject’s trust. McIntyre was generous with his time and advice. Hearing his accounts of covering such a prolific case in Manitoba history inspired me greatly.

Hearing from Wilma was another experience entirely. Modest, kind, yet full of passion, Wilma’s strength and ability to reflect maturely on such a horrific experience is truly inspirational to behold. As a Creative Communications grad herself, Wilma was able to tailor her speech to give us an understanding of what it is to be on the other side of the questions, of the camera. We understood what it was like to be the object of the insatiable appetites of countless journalists, cameramen, investigators, and prosecutors. I very much enjoyed her words.

For those unfamiliar with Candace’s story, she was a thirteen-year-old girl who went missing walking home from school on Nov. 30, 1984. When days had passed and the police had come no closer to finding her, Candace’s parents, Cliff and Wilma Derksen appealed to the media to find their child. This plea would stir a nation, the coverage of Candace’s disappearance spreading throughout the country.

However, the outcome would not be a happy one. Her frozen body was discovered on Jan. 17, 1985 in a tool shed at Alsip’s Industrial Products within yards of her home. Her hands and feet were bound behind her back. The official cause of death was found to be hypothermia.

McIntyre’s text chronicles the events of the day Candace went missing, up until Mark Grant, a schizophrenic repeat sex offender, was charged with her murder in May of 2011.

I had personally never read true crime books until this experience. As a former English major, I found it difficult to navigate the tone: a mixture of literary and poetic language, paired with meat and potatoes, journalistic facts. I had trouble trusting McIntyre’s insights into the Derksen’s lives and mentalities through the case. However, it was very clear that Wilma and McIntyre were very close and that she had entrusted details of her experience and her pain with him. This sincerity did at times resonate greatly with me.

However, McIntyre, a crime reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, is clearly a seasoned pro when it comes to legal-minded journalism. He explains complex court proceedings, statures, and legal jargon in an accessible, clear manner. This text gave me what I feel is an authentic understanding of the court proceedings surrounding Mark Grant. This was the book’s true strength.

There is stark comparison between McIntyre’s work for the Winnipeg Free Press and for this novel. The format of this book allows McIntyre the space to explore the psyche of the people he might represent in one of his Free Press articles in just a quote or two.

Our class also had the distinct pleasure of having McIntyre and Candace’s mother, Wilma Derksen in to speak to us about their experiences. Each spoke to the experience of collaborating, the horrific events of Candace’s murder, and what as journalists we may take from this book. I felt that McIntyre gave us budding journalists excellent tips on how to maintain integrity while gaining a subject’s trust. McIntyre was generous with his time and advice. Hearing his accounts of covering such a prolific case in Manitoba history inspired me greatly.

Hearing from Wilma was another experience entirely. Modest, kind, yet full of passion, Wilma’s strength and ability to reflect maturely on such a horrific experience is truly inspirational to behold. As a Creative Communications grad herself, Wilma was able to tailor her speech to give us an understanding of what it is to be on the other side of the questions, of the camera. We understood what it was like to be the object of the insatiable appetites of countless journalists, cameramen, investigators, and prosecutors. I very much enjoyed her words.