We Are Going On A Roadtrip In A Few Days And We Are At DEFCON THREE

We all are overdue for a break. School has ended and everyone passed. The kids performed valiantly at their piano recital. Baseball is over and softball should mercifully end this week. (I love softball, I do. I just have no motivation for sports after school ends. Playoffs are this week and the coach recommends no more than 45 minutes outdoors so I won’t overtire my daughter, and for an added bonus, they’re calling for severe thunderstorms during the game.)

We will miss the end of playoffs because we are going on a 10-day roadtrip, and everyone is so excited they’re starting to pack even though we are not leaving for three more days. I don’t know about you and yours, but this is how my husband and children prepare for a trip:

1. The kids just packed all their electronics that they will immediately unearth tomorrow morning and then forget to bring on the trip itself.

2. My husband wants to load the GPS with all the addresses we will need but forgets I need to get to the (away) softball game first. 

3. We had a 30-minute discussion about the bike rack.

4. The kids decided to pack all their underwear and even though I’ll do laundry right before I leave and we won’t need that much time to pack clothes I will still need to undo what they just did.

(Side note: I won’t be able to do laundry for nearly 10 days and that is harshing my mellow. I am trying to deal.)

5. They already picked out movies to watch and they’ll change their minds 57 times before we actually get in the car.

On the bright side: we all are looking forward to cooler weather and not having to deal with air travel.

We Are Going On A Roadtrip In A Few Days And We Are At DEFCON THREE

It’s About Time We Got Wonder Woman (Spoilers Ahead)

Comic books aren’t my thing. I have to constantly ask my kids who is Marvel and who is DC, the difference between the Justice League and the Avengers, and then I sat through Suicide Squad wondering what the point was.


Photo credit: Clay Enos; image taken from IMDb.com

Wonder Woman, the television show, came out when I was very small, but I caught reruns from time to time. It was the first action show I remember where the woman wasn’t a sidekick or a love interest or just a female version of a superhero (Batgirl, Spidergirl, Supergirl). Along with thousands of other girls, I twirled around in an enclosed space pretending I was going to change into Wonder Woman.

After two generations of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man movies; after Thor and Hulk and Deadpool; we get Wonder Woman.

She kicked ass. Diana Prince might not twirl around to change into Wonder Woman anymore, but she still kicked ass.

Along with a full retinue of resplendent Amazon warriors, Diana ceaselessly trains for the day she will kill the god of war, Ares, and restore peace to Earth. Her coach is the fabulous Robin Wright (who constantly tells Diana she’s stronger than she thinks) and after Diana rescues an American spy posing as a German pilot, who’s chased by the real Germans, Robin and the rest of the ladies BRING IT in a battle on their shores.

(I spent most of the movie thinking the pilot, Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, was supposed to be Captain America. I don’t know why and I finally remembered Pine played Captain Kirk. We need someone else besides a guy named Chris in future superhero movies. Please and thank you.)

I spend the rest of the movie as anxious as Diana to kill Ares. Friends, Wonder Woman Gets Shit Done. Steve, and his ragtag group of buddies, and his bosses, and the Germans, all try to sidetrack Diana. The movie went a little long so I can tell you there was an ill-advised shopping trip, a dancing lesson and many strategic arguments with Steve. Diana shrugs and then does things her way. You can put any feminist saying behind it: she persists; she fights the patriarchy. She slogged through a battlefield because she was determined to save a village. She gets some help from Steve, but it’s her battle. She eventually has a showdown with Ares, who of course tries to mansplain her destiny and manipulate her. No one comes to her rescue. She has to figure her shit out. And as soon as she realizes she’s fighting for love, she’s indestructible. She’s stronger than she ever thought.

Gal Gadot is stunning, but the movie is smart enough not to stoop down and make her beauty a big deal; it’s sort of incidental. During the aforementioned shopping trip, which I feared would be a ripoff of Pretty Woman, Diana is surprisingly uncomfortable. The expensive clothes don’t suit her, because she’s a warrior. Steve at no point overshadows or detracts from Diana. He’s merely trying to channel her in the right direction.

The battle scenes were immensely satisfying and my favorite part of the movie, probably because I feel so helpless sometimes in the current political climate. The Amazons mow down Germans. Wonder Woman singlehandedly battles legions of them and eventually defeats the GOD OF WAR all by herself. And as a brilliant woman told her, she was stronger than she thought.

[EDITED TO ADD:] Last week, I worked out with a different group of people at the gym; I’d seen them around but didn’t know them personally. As we went through our rounds of exercises, one woman would surreptitiously watch me and then say, “You need to use a heavier weight.” I dutifully went back to the rack to choose a larger dumbbell and and she just shook her head. “Come on, you can go up at least 20 more pounds.” She made me go higher on every single exercise, and the workout was that much more challenging. Her message, like Antiope to Diana, was “you’re stronger than you think you are.” I was back with my regular group today and I saw the woman on the other side of the training room. I shouted over that I was going with a heavier weight and she just replied that she’d continue to keep her eye on me.

It’s About Time We Got Wonder Woman (Spoilers Ahead)

Basebrawl

Yesterday afternoon, who-dat Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals wunderkind and future Pantene spokesman Bryce Harper. Harper charged the mound, where Strickland was waiting, punches were thrown and the benches for both teams cleared.

I saw highlights and there are various entertaining stills from the brawl on Twitter, but especially in light of Mike Trout going on the DL, I just watched with a surprising amount of dread and discomfort, considering how much animosity I have for both teams.

You hear of old timers talk about intentionally hit batters as the result of a violation of the unspoken rules of baseball. Former Phillie and current Dodger Chase Utley gets hit all the time, mostly because his take-out slides, in which he basically slide-tackled infielders, are incredibly vicious. Other violations include taking too long to admire a home run. Harper’s transgression, according to the article referenced above, is simply hitting home runs off Strickland three years ago.

(Aside: Interesting how women are considered the more petty sex but a grown man getting paid exceptionally well to play a child’s game can hold a grudge for three years and start a fight because the other guy hit the ball well is acceptable behavior.)

The brawl was interesting in other ways. The Nationals are running away with the National League East, mainly because all of the Mets are in sick bay. (The Phillies have forgotten how to pitch and hit.) The Giants are floundering in their division. Why did Harper—the best Nats player and arguably a league icon—even engage? Giants catcher Posey, who clearly did not call for a fastball inside, stands up, sighs, and almost audibly says “NOPE,” when his pitcher starts swinging. He doesn’t enter the fracas at all. Neither does most of the Giants’ infield. National Jayson Werth, elder statesman and future Loreal spokesman, literally looks like Jesus as he scrambles to separate everyone. Are the subsequent fines and suspensions even worth it? And these are guys who depend on their health to play every day; depending on how their contracts are structured, they get bonuses for how many games they start. Their chances for injury increase exponentially when they enter that scrum. 

If I’m a Nats fan attending a game this week, I’m going to be pissed I’m not going to be able see franchise star Harper as he sits out a suspension because he couldn’t just stare down Strickland for a few seconds, slowly take the base and afterward tell reporters he doesn’t even know who the reliever is.

Basebrawl

This Is the Best Story I’ve Read This Week

This story affected me on two levels:

I used to eat lunch once former colleagues. More often than not, it’s always the same day and always at the same place. Once, I suggested meeting at another location and the response was mild alarm: why would I try to change something that was working so well for everyone? My answer-—I was tired of the regular spot and wanted to try a new spot—was inconsequential. (I don’t eat with them that much anymore, maybe once every other month, but the same routine applies.)

I live on a street sort of like the one described in the story. My neighbors, who are extremely kind and gracious people, look out for one another. They know who is visiting my house because they recognize relatives’ and friends’ cars. One neighbor apologized that her daughter’s boyfriend’s car was always parked in front of my house. We have two cars and they’re most always in the garage or the driveway. It’s OK.

A moment of silence for the guy who has to change his entire routine because some neighbors think it’s not OK to park on their street for 15 minutes and eat a hoagie.

This Is the Best Story I’ve Read This Week

Thirteen Reasons Why Irresponsibly and Selectively Lectures Us How to Feel About Suicide

Earlier this year, a local middle schooler committed suicide. To put it kindly, our school district has been in hot water, but the community put together a Go Fund Me page for the family to help defray funeral costs, and grief counselors were sent to the school to talk with students.

A friend of mine, who’s an administrator at a school in a neighboring district, says the school, although it’s not mandated by our state, has an action plan in place should such a situation occur.


Photo credit: Beth Dubber/Netflix

We’re never told exactly where Liberty High, the fictional setting for Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why, is located, but after student Hannah Baker kills herself, the school administration slapped up some suicide awareness posters, allowed fellow students to enshrine Hannah’s locker, paid some lip service to being available if needed and called it a day.

As if anticipating this tepid response to a very real and tragic problem, Hannah helpfully and lovingly crafts charmingly retro audiocassette tapes that soon consume her guilt-ridden and shell-shocked fellow students as they struggle to cope with her death.

I didn’t read the YA novel upon which the series is based, but Hannah is repeatedly betrayed, humiliated and shamed during her two years at Liberty High. A compromising picture is broadcast throughout the school. She loses friends. She’s named Best Ass in a version of a slam book. She’s stalked, groped and eventually raped.

That’s a lot for any girl to deal with. But her melodramatic, passive-aggressive, manipulative tapes send earnest Clay Jensen on a macabre scavenger hunt as he desperately tries to find someone and everyone to blame for Hannah’s death, instead of putting it exactly where it belongs: with Hannah.

Thirteen Reasons Why, honestly, should have been called We All Let Hannah Down. Each of the other students featured on the tapes were dealing with their own problems–alcoholism, poverty, parental neglect, homosexuality, addiction, overbearing parents–but they all take a back seat to Hannah’s issues. Indeed, more than one angrily tell Clay that Hannah killed herself; she alone made that choice; but it’s portrayed as a defensive reaction instead of a very real and reasonable response. The anger, it seems, should only be directed inward.

Likewise, we’re made to believe that Hannah’s version of events are The One Real Truth instead of merely a perspective. By virtue of being dead, Hannah does not get challenged although she makes some incredibly poor choices (and, incidentally, is a pretty terrible friend) herself.

The series has graphic rape and sexual assault scenes, and the suicide is not only graphically described but also shown in all its glory, a horrifying instructional video.

For all the high-fives and headpats the creators are giving themselves, I didn’t see a single suicide hotline number, website or any other helpful advice prominently displayed for kids watching the show who might decide Hannah Baker is a role model instead of a cautionary tale. (It might have had text after the credits but I never watched that far.) Instead, the show glorified Hannah Baker’s revenge against her community, as if killing yourself is merely a way to get your point across.

Thirteen Reasons Why Irresponsibly and Selectively Lectures Us How to Feel About Suicide

Escape TV: The Second Seasons of The Magicians and Shadowhunters

Both Young Adult series The Magicians and Shadowhunters have strayed so far from their source material that I gave up comparing the TV shows to the books and just enjoyed the ride.

Shadowhunters had a bit more substance this season with meeting new characters (especially fierce and formidable females) and making series regulars more enriched and complex. It’s finally revealed why Clary is so special and important. We meet the Iron Sisters, who develop and test all weapons for the Shadowhunters. There is a full-fledged gay relationship that is addressed front and center, not treated like a subplot or ignored entirely after a smooch last season. A character develops an addiction. The second half of the season starts in a couple months, with a secret son and I hope, a trip to Idris to explore that world.


(Image source: Syfy.com)

Speaking of new worlds, The Magicians delivered in spades. We spent a lot of time in Fillory (a place that was thought to exist solely in novels but in fact is real) this season. My expectations for this show are a lot higher, and this season was uneven (people in Fillory singing show tunes from Les Miserables on the way to battle another kingdom made my eyes roll so hard) but everyone was committed, I give them that. 

Only one character, Margo, remains stubbornly one-dimensional despite being Fillory’s sole ruler for a good chunk of time. The actress’ delivery of lines is slow and deliberate and caustic. 

My favorite places are The Library, where Penny works to pay off a debt; and Brakebills South, a facility in Antarctica where the school’s most brilliant magician has been outcast.

The season ends with the total eradication of magic in both worlds. The show has been renewed for a third season; I hope time travel–the lazy way out– is not involved in restoring magic to both Earth and Fillory.

Escape TV: The Second Seasons of The Magicians and Shadowhunters