desk lunch – 2015-05-07

Brought to you this week by One Direction’s “Fireproof,” a very fine musical sedative that gets me to stop thinking/panicking for almost three whole minutes at a time!!!

This starts another argument between husband and wife, mild at first, but then it peppers and there is this thing that distance does where it subtracts warmth and context and history and each finds that they’re arguing with a stranger.

A phenomenal short story by Lesley Nneka Arimah, published in Granta and a winner of Commonwealth Writers’s short story regional prize. This was distractingly good, like I have to leave the house ten minutes ago but NO I DON’T NO I CAN’T I WILL FINISH THIS. So load it on Pocket or- just be late. It’ll be worth it.

REALLY PERSONAL OPINION: I’m over Avengers: Age of Ultron, the ~theatrical cut in theaters right now. I saw it opening night and I had fun! I had my friends, my bucket of soda, purse candy, and a long-term solid affection for the MCU that even casting Baskingshark Crumbsbucket as Doctor Strange couldn’t totally smother. Then the movie happened and, for various reasons, I found it disappointing and forgettable. Literally- apparently Chris Evans had 50 minutes of screentime and I can only account for maybe 12 of them. Forgettable. I’m over it.

LESS PERSONAL OPINION: While I’m over AOU, I’m not over discussing AOU because I’m fascinated by the conversations that surround every aspect of this movie. See, the conversations around last year’s The Winter Soldier centered on the themes of its story (contemporary “preventative” warfare; the surveillance state that makes it possible; every single thing about the dual figure of Steve Rogers/Captain America in the real/fictional American psyche). In conversations about AOU, story barely figures because the plot points were sloppy and forgettable. So far the best takeaway from AOU has been the way it made every writer I know leave their theater with a loud and firm I NEED TO WRITE ABOUT THIS. Here are two essays very much worth reading:

I’m not here to bury or praise Whedon, or the larger Marvel universe, or even Avengers: Age of Ultron;
I’m just a girl, standing in front of a movie universe, asking it to give her narrative and emotional consistency.

I went with the cheeky excerpt because to quote any one part of this first part is to end up quoting the rest. This piece uses the concept of “points of care” as a straightforward way to describe how you can lay out the stakes for any given character in a story. For the Avengers in AOU (the central Avengers with 3-5 appearances in the MCU each), those points were developed throughout Phases 1 and 2, and AOU the Phase 2 finale meant to cash in on that prior development. My main disappointment with AOU came from this fundamental difference between the movie promised and the one delivered. Marvel invested in characters over the course of years, and their big return to this reluctantly-formed team completely ignores that they’re wildly different characters from the characters who teamed up three years ago. This essay does a great job of articulating the storytelling failures that characterized the movie.

Once the movie came out, there were a metric ton of problems with how the character’s story arc was presented. And after everyone digested all that, the backlash started. A backlash that seemed centered on Joss Whedon as a person, and not on having a real discussion about the movie.

This io9 piece takes a look at Black Widow’s AOU context- not in-universe context, but an overview of our talk around her role. This reviews the buildup to Black Widow’s role in AOU/the MCU in general, the reception of her story in AOU once the movie came out, and the backlash/fallout directed at Joss Whedon when it turned out that his take on Black Widow was out of tune not just with Phase 2 but also with his own characterization in the first Avengers movie. Also, for this piece in particular: don’t read the comments.

To keep the diary was to defend against memory loss; the prospect of forgetting seemed to Manguso a fate worse than death. But her fixation on capturing every detail didn’t feel quite right either.

I think I’ve kept a journal almost my entire life, from the cute hot pink ones still buried somewhere in my parents’ house to the dark green moleskine in my bedside table right now. It’s difficult to keep a journal and this piece from Vela has stuck in my mind for just that reason. I’ve kept a journal for so long, I don’t know why I keep it, what I hope to get from it, or how it affects my writing. Questions that need evaluating, maybe in… my journal?!

That night, my wife and I began scouring real estate listings, and almost immediately warmed to Satchel-on-Hudson, a lovely village two hours north of the city…. Life out here is placid and wonderful, and has afforded me the time and space for things I could never do in the city, like jarring my own salsa and not living in New York.

desk lunch – 2015-04-16

This week brought to you by a random trip to the Rosenbach Museum and Library and their extraordinary rare book collection. There’s a lot to love about their current Oscar Wilde exhibit, like a notebook draft of Salome that includes Wilde stopping a scene short to sketch the staging for a particular moment. The exhibit also has a lot of Philadelphia-specific content, like reviews and satire from women who hated Wilde’s lectures on Aestheticism and published their mocking hearts out. (Also on display: Rafal Olbinski’s poster for Salome, which is just about the only poster we will ever need for Salome.)

How My Employer Put the “FML” in FMLA (and followup)
Here’s a two-parter on an employee who followed corporate policy when she saved up her sick leave to use as maternity leave and then had her employer deny it! And then they gaslit her by secretly revising their policies while she was on maternity leave! My personal hell exists on earth and it’s a situation where a paper trail can’t save me.

I know other people are critiquing this already, but this bothers me on a basic level because eight of those 16 items are not calorically significant. Nutritionally speaking, this is a vitamin bonanza. But people who live on SNAP benefits don’t just have to get nutrients, they have to get actual calories, because they tend to have very physical lives, doing service labor and taking care of children and not necessarily being able to afford a car and so forth.

Bless Gwyneth for trying the celebrity SNAP challenge, but this is the only piece that articulates why her initial offering seemed so absurd: it’s not enough calories to live. Rather, it’s enough calories to fuel a goop life, which doesn’t involve manual labor, hours on one’s feet, hours on public transportation, all endured before getting home and putting your house in order. I can’t do that on 1000 calories and the touch of one lime per day of the week. It’s enough calories when your business means staying stick-thin and glowing with the light of seven limes, but that’s not my business. (Girl. Seriously. Seven limes. Please why?) EDIT: Because limes a very affordable way to flavor food and they’re really cheap in Southern California! Thanks, internet!

People liked my plays. They told me so. To my face. Often. Some people did (and maybe even still do) love my plays. But very few people wanted to produce the plays I wrote. Very, very few. I’d do readings and workshops and it always felt like the play was a draft away, or some specific rewrite away. But that draft never seemed to happen, or the rewrite never seemed to do the trick. The perfect play just receded into the distance, always around another corner.

Save this for when that mood strikes- the one where you must wallow at the edge of an existential crisis and wonder whether anything you love actually matters. It’s a pragmatic answer to this hilarious word problem: If you continue to produce work at a rate of EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT and shoot it into a black hole that provides only a hint of return or validation, how long before you attempt the impossible and swing yourself out of its orbit with the last remnants of what defines you as anything at all? (Note: of course you [probably] can’t survive the event horizon of a black hole, but recently some astronomers noticed that A Thing skittered around the edge of one and wasn’t consumed by it? Whatever it is?? Can you be THAT THING?)

The brands try to talk like the teens. The brands fail.
Teens only care about the immediate culture. They are not stuck in dead-time nostalgia. They have never heard of Missy Elliot. They do not care. That is OK. Teens plow their carts over the bones of the dead.

#CoolTeenz know what matters and what matters is nothing.

In conclusion:
[tweet 585431493675241472]