Excited to re-watch Gilmore Girls again.

Excited to re-watch Gilmore Girls again.

Some things I liked in 2013

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I love being able to sit and take stock at the end of the year, but I’m behind on this, due to broken leg circumstances.

1. Enlightened: I miss Amy Jellicoe. I think Mike White and Laura Dern’s masterpiece was difficult to talk about if you were on its level (and I’ve gone to meditation camp, I am on its level) - since it had this goofy, flawed woman who was trying, so hard to be a better person and to make a difference in the world, and a lot of the writing about Enlightened was dismissive and cruel, at least from the same TV critics, mostly dudes (even if some people fought the good fight), who were like Girls: it’s the future since Emily Nussbaum raved and there are boobs. Enlightened was trying to say something about what it’s like to be a human person today, and Amy Jellicoe could be tin-eared and frustrating but she was trying, trying so hard, and there was a lot of grace in that struggle. Watching it, I felt like I was opening up to other people’s lives. Art that sticks with me feels like it’s working the empathy muscle, like you come out of the room a slightly different person with a bigger heart.

2. Orange Is the New Black: When I saw the preview for this, having been quite disappointed in the book, I felt like the Crazy Eyes character just seemed … well, offensive. And as Crazy Eyes became Suzanne, I realized that I was in sure hands, and something quite radical was happening.

3. The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud: This book feels really misunderstood to me. Unfortunately, the “likable characters” thing going softly viral took it over, when there’s so much more going on otherwise. Nora’s alone, mild, a Cambridge townie amongst the Harvard gentry, laden with grief for her family, vulnerable and subsceptible to this family’s charms and the idea of the life she should’ve or could’ve had. Messud writes like a dream - I love her Henry James-like control, her sentences, her particular words - and the book is a wicked, brilliant, late coming-of-age, but more importantly, it’s a howl of rage at the idea that women are just disposed of after a certain age.

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4. Spending the fourth of July watching Lamorne Morris host the bananas kids show Brainrush where he quizzes tweens on rollercoasters  for money and reading parts of Alissa Nutting’s Tampa aloud and making the Nick Miller turtle face to no end. #NewGirlForever

5. Rectify: Just marathoned this last week, and it’s a beautiful, contemplative southern show that takes an anthropological look at how the release of a man on death row shakes up his community. Abigail Spencer, who was one of Don Draper’s paramours (the schoolteacher), is on fire and brilliant as the man’s feisty sister. 

6. Foraging for mushrooms and ramps and eating upstate. I spent the spring looking for mushrooms and ramps in the Hudson Valley. My dinner of onions and morels tasted of sweat and effort and it was the best thing I’ve eaten. Save the occasional meal at Blue Hill Stone Barns or Fish &
Game in Hudson, where I had some ham that was transcendent, I can’t even describe it fairly. (NYC-ers, go to Hudson for a weekend, have a fancy meal at Fish and Game for way less than it would be anywhere else.)

7. Parts of Frances Ha: I don’t feel like I have a fair opinion of the film for various reasons, but I did enjoy the cinematography and Frances running to “Modern Love” - cinema magic! - and you could just feel the love that Noah Baumbach has for Greta Gerwig coming off every frame. I wondered has a man ever loved a woman the way that Noah loves Greta, and then I thought about the week before when Stu had to put me to bed after a party and stayed up until 2am and watched me sleep so that I didn’t get sick. Which is not a lovingly framed movie, but it’s pretty analogous. “Modern Love” has felt like a theme song of the year, for me and for the things and the heroines that I loved. “But I try, I try.”

8. James Salter and William Kennedy in Albany. James Salter and William Kennedy are in their 80s and are longtime friends. They both wore sports jackets to the reading. When people asked Salter a question, he would answer with a short, sharp sentence, where Kennedy would have a monologue. It echoed their writing styles. It was a pleasure.

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9. Stories We Tell: Sarah Polley fractures her family history, makes you ask questions about the nature of narrative in the process. Makes the stuff of writings by Janet Malcolm and Joan Didion look easy.

10. The end of Breaking Bad. Brilliant show. And it as a communal watching experience with friends and, somewhat, the internet, was pretty major. I wonder whether the fifth season will age well in people’s minds - as the show became too tightly sealed and hermetic, the new characters like the Nazis felt, to me, like plot devices and not real threats. In some ways the show could’ve ended after Gus’s death, with the promise of the next chapter. I loved the last shot of Jesse driving away in his car, downright 400 Blows-esque, but then there was that preview for Aaron Paul’s stupid film Need For Speed and it was hard not to think of that, something that perhaps encapsulates the good and the slightly meh of BB Season Five.

But the pleasure of watching this last season wasn’t something I’ll forget soon.

11. Okkervil River, The Silver Gymnasium. 2013 was the year that I listened to and got Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, which is another flat-out masterpiece. The Okkervil River album is not up to that form, but it’s a good collection of songs that seem to have meaning and mystery after I broke up with the band, and it had the most New England nostalgia of anything I’ve listened to or read in awhile, save Gilmore Girls repeats. I really liked it.

12. Holistic approaches to social media. This year I pulled back from having a “presence” on sites, at least for now, while I’m doing Secret Projects and need the time to focus. But I think it’s important to figure out the right balance on social media, which is difficult. Words in text can seem colder and crueler than they’re meant; particularly when combined with a deadpan tendency. People can seem more hotheaded. Ever get an errant remark on a Facebook post that seems rude, but it’s somebody trying to be “sarcastic,” badly? Social media is .0006 % of anyone’s life, and there’s a lot of mystery and, well, narrative, left out of this sort of public pleasing imagery.

13. Books written by people that I know that, happily, happen to be fantastic: Dangerous Girls, Abigail Haas, Double Feature, Owen King, Save Yourself, Kelly Braffet. Double Feature made me LOL, for real - and what writing actually makes you laugh? It’s rare - and it’s pinpoint accurate on movie love; Dangerous Girls and Save Yourself would make a good pairing of stories about girls and teens in trouble. 

14. Moving back to New York City. I don’t live in Albany anymore. I miss the reckless beauty I saw every day in Catskill. But now I’m in the concrete jungle that dreams are made of, and I have friends I can see and it doesn’t take me 45 minutes in a car to get anywhere and there’s all this teeming energy: I’m so excited and hopeful for the future, and for today, that’s a really nice feeling.

In 2014, I’m going to get a kitten.

Throwback Thursday: Gilmore Girls Season 6

Here’s a piece I wrote for The Boston Phoenix in 2005, when Gilmore Girls season six was premiering and I was excited about where they would go with Bad Rory. Putting it here since things can disappear on the internet at any moment. I remember at the time thinking that GG was going somewhere interesting and kinda real with Rory’s “caz” relationship with Logan but then it kinda resolved itself TV-listically, like when she got into Harvard, Princeton, & Yale.

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Life after high school
Rory Gilmore’s early-20s crisis
BY ELISABETH DONNELLY

For the past five seasons, Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) of the WB’s Gilmore Girls (Tuesdays at 8 pm) has been that TV rarity: the realistically drawn smart girl. She’s an indie-rocking reader who wants to be the next Christiane Amanpour, and her plot lines revolve around school, with boys a distant second. There are some chinks in the good-girl armor, however, and as Rory has floundered at Yale, Girls creator Amy Sherman Palladino has shown us a young woman becoming unmoored in the throes of an early-20s crisis.

Girls premiered in 2000 on the fledgling, critically maligned WB and established itself as a reason to watch. Rory and her hot thirtysomething mom, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), are more like best friends, trading quips and coffee in bucolic small-town Connecticut. Runaway Lorelai had Rory at 16, and she’s trying to reconcile with her snobby society parents while her daughter tries to figure out her own relationship with them.

Last season ended with Lorelai proposing to her diner-owner boyfriend, Luke. The season-six premiere, “The New and Improved Lorelai” (airs this Tuesday, September 13), gives us the answer. But the more complex issues revolve around Rory. No longer the self-possessed teen who in the second season told off her meddlesome headmaster, Rory has been adrift, adopting various personae. The Rory who for three seasons had had a steady boyfriend lost her virginity to a married ex and then entered a “modern” relationship with freewheeling philandering rich kid Logan Huntzberger; it culminated in a drunken night on the bathroom floor in her mother’s home, with Rory crying “Why doesn’t he like me?” over Logan’s He’s Just Not That into You snubs. Even as Rory insisted she was fine with Logan, the audience saw her coming apart at the seams. The lives of lovable TV dramedy heroines don’t often get this messy.

Rory’s experimenting with a “casual” relationship and its emotional cost evolved into something more serious with Logan. But other parts of her life have also become muddled. Despite having grown up with egalitarian values instilled in her by the strong-willed Lorelai, she’s drawn to the upper-crust society represented by her grandparents and Logan’s rich dilettante friends. Yet when she’s handed a swanky internship from Logan’s Rupert Murdoch–like mogul dad, she learns she doesn’t have what it takes to pursue her dream career, journalism.

Having decided to drop out of Yale, Rory gets arrested for stealing a yacht, which she justifies by citing Moby-Dick (She feels like “knocking people’s hats off” and wants to “take to sea.”)Despite Lorelai’s plans to get her back into school, the grandparents end up siding with Rory, and they put her up in their palatial pool house. The once-self aware Rory announces in the season premiere, “I’m a grown-up, I’m independent,” but her grandparents are supporting her, and she’s no longer speaking with her mother.

The smart TV teen’s life usually ends when she enters college. Palladino anticipated the logistical challenge of extending Gilmore Girls by drawing Rory’s life out in familiar and not-so-clear-cut terms. Yes, the show has been guilty of sloppy plotting, with characters changing according to actor availability, and Rory’s relationship with Logan takes an unbelievable turn when he decides he wants to be her boyfriend. But shows like Felicity tried and failed to address early-20s uncertainty by exploring depression. Gilmore Girls is taking a gratifying run at young-adult confusion through Rory’s missteps. Smart girls flounder too.

Issue Date: September 9 - 15, 2005

booksofoitnb:

ok, I know Alex Vause is the shit, and everyone knows it - but Piper is hot too, for these exact reasons. Well-read = Sexy. As. Hell. 

Wrote about this pretty-darn-perfect website for the L.A. Times over here. Also mentioned Rory Gilmore and Autostraddle because the bookish are the best.

I feel sick to my stomach to hear about the Boston Phoenix closing immediately - it’s terrible news. Like countless others, it’s one of the first places to publish and take a chance on me, and thanks to them I had adventures like Bowling with Franz Ferdinand and getting to peek behind the scenes during an MTV reality show. It was a great place to get started as a writer and so many talented people have come out of it - on tumblr, in the newspapers, everywhere you read words. Here’s a link to one slim piece that I wrote on Gilmore Girls' season 6 premiere; basically how it was a proto-Girls-like “quarter life crisis.” Remember those, pre-Recession?

Oh, and I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for a very early-on mention of Grizzly Bear upstairs at the Middle East where the writer (by Simon Vosick-Levinson, I think? I have a weird memory for this stuff) mentioned their “four-part harmony,” and if I didn’t go to their next show at TT the Bear’s with a notebook in my hand, I would’ve never met the guy in a band who invited me to the party where I met the guy who changed my life. So thanks again, Boston Phoenix!

ETA: An hour later, still gobsmacked. How sad! It hits a variety of different emotional points involving journalism and the ways that Boston’s changing as a city (everything alt and fun from high school/college is GONE now in a way that suggests total obliteration). And reading that someone like Susan Orlean got her start there, and that people could go from The Boston Phoenix onto bigger and better publications, was a big part of the reason I always wanted to write for them. Ugh.

Feel like pop culture needs more Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight references; but that’s how I know we’re in a patriarchy. Hashtag rap with Gaslight shoutouts for 2013, ladies!

Brilliant idea of the day: Rap Genius needs to branch off and have Gilmore Girls Genius, where every reference per episode is explained.

So obviously Lane Kim, goddess, got the shaft when Gilmore Girls got older, ending up with a dolt of a boy who wasn’t Adam Brody, and heading towards some townie future that was the exact opposite of golden girl Rory’s charmed life. It didn’t seem right or fair to the character, really.One thing, however, where it felt like the writers dropped the ball was with the parallels between Lane and Lorelai: the yearning for freedom, the overbearing mother, etc. I would’ve liked to see a million more episodes with Lane and Lorelai where Lorelai serves as a mentor or something and Lane figures stuff out, instead of becoming a, what, 20 year old bride? So she can have sex? But then that one time sucks and she ends up with twins? (Gilmore Girls and sex is its own essay - but my conclusion is that Amy Sherman-Palladino is a joker, and sometimes she sacrifices character for goofy, funny weirdness probably stemming from network mandates: i.e., “I had sex, so now I don’t get to go to Harvard.”)The other great Gilmore Girls in-joke that I only recently understood: actresses from Twin Peaks kept popping up as Luke-and-Lorelai roadblocks. Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn, the incomprehensible Anna), Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick, pregnant Sherry), and Lucy’s sister (Kathleen Wilhoite, who played Luke’s sister Liz), irrepressible sirens, the lot of them; they kept getting in the way. Definitely a shout-out and kind of a hilarious joke - you imagine Lorelai getting obsessed with Twin Peaks when it originally aired, yes?Both shows are all about diners, pie, and coffee, too.


So obviously Lane Kim, goddess, got the shaft when Gilmore Girls got older, ending up with a dolt of a boy who wasn’t Adam Brody, and heading towards some townie future that was the exact opposite of golden girl Rory’s charmed life. It didn’t seem right or fair to the character, really.

One thing, however, where it felt like the writers dropped the ball was with the parallels between Lane and Lorelai: the yearning for freedom, the overbearing mother, etc. I would’ve liked to see a million more episodes with Lane and Lorelai where Lorelai serves as a mentor or something and Lane figures stuff out, instead of becoming a, what, 20 year old bride? So she can have sex? But then that one time sucks and she ends up with twins? (Gilmore Girls and sex is its own essay - but my conclusion is that Amy Sherman-Palladino is a joker, and sometimes she sacrifices character for goofy, funny weirdness probably stemming from network mandates: i.e., “I had sex, so now I don’t get to go to Harvard.”)

The other great Gilmore Girls in-joke that I only recently understood: actresses from Twin Peaks kept popping up as Luke-and-Lorelai roadblocks. Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn, the incomprehensible Anna), Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick, pregnant Sherry), and Lucy’s sister (Kathleen Wilhoite, who played Luke’s sister Liz), irrepressible sirens, the lot of them; they kept getting in the way. Definitely a shout-out and kind of a hilarious joke - you imagine Lorelai getting obsessed with Twin Peaks when it originally aired, yes?

Both shows are all about diners, pie, and coffee, too.

Remember when Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy had a plotline on an episode of Gilmore Girls that involved her character, Sookie St. James, getting super mad at Norman Mailer?

Remember when Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy had a plotline on an episode of Gilmore Girls that involved her character, Sookie St. James, getting super mad at Norman Mailer?

There’s a part of me that thinks Adam Brody is basically a star.

And - look at this speech! It’s incredible. It basically could’ve gone straight in a John Hughes film with ease. Good writing.

The live action version of The Tick is now on Hulu. Patrick Warburton’s greatest performance ever. Comic gold. It may be my favorite superhero story, and I swear it’s etched onto my DNA - watching it, I realized that a giant project I was working on was very much Tick-inspired. Rushmore and Gilmore Girls, too. But they were all subconscious inspirations and that’s what made it spooky.Internet research reveals some things: Colleen Atwood, Academy Award winning costume designer, made this iteration of The Tick’s costume. Ben Edlund calls the show “a superheroic portrait of genuine human lameness,” which is funny. (He works on Supernatural now, I guess?) After listening to Fresh Air’s replay of a 2002 interview with Tom Waits, I’m pretty convinced he is The Tick. But that is a whole other post. He at least talks in Tickisms.

The live action version of The Tick is now on Hulu. Patrick Warburton’s greatest performance ever. Comic gold. It may be my favorite superhero story, and I swear it’s etched onto my DNA - watching it, I realized that a giant project I was working on was very much Tick-inspired. Rushmore and Gilmore Girls, too. But they were all subconscious inspirations and that’s what made it spooky.

Internet research reveals some things: Colleen Atwood, Academy Award winning costume designer, made this iteration of The Tick’s costume. Ben Edlund calls the show “a superheroic portrait of genuine human lameness,” which is funny. (He works on Supernatural now, I guess?) After listening to Fresh Air’s replay of a 2002 interview with Tom Waits, I’m pretty convinced he is The Tick. But that is a whole other post. He at least talks in Tickisms.