Monday, August 16, 2021

Happy 63rd Birthday, Madonna Louise Ciccone!

Express yourself, don't repress yourself

Encyclopedia Madonnica 20: Madonna from A to Z by Matthew Rettenmund: Find it on Goodreads

Madonna made a face, the face she made in Truth or Dare when threatened with arrest if she performed the simulated-masturbation “Like a Virgin” dance. The face that tells you she intends to do what she pleases, fuck you very much. If the gods or man ever devised a way to counter this attitude in Madonna, I haven’t heard of it. 

Seeing this, Guy took another long drink from his bottle of Guinness and resigned himself to it. With that, they took their leave of the VIP room of the Hooters near the United Center. 

Erin had spent the night at the Palmer House Hilton. Her closet was full of clothes she’d bought earlier in the day on Clark St. She lay on the bed, sipping the tiny bottle of Skye Vodka from the mini bar. Undecided about which new outfit to wear to the club, she was about to go down to the bar to people-watch and mull it over when the phone rang. The front desk told Erin she had visitors. 

“Who?” she asked the clerk. 

“It’s Madonna, her husband, and Dennis Rodman. Should I send them up?”

“Certainly,” Erin said in her most distinguished tone. In a moment she heard the knock on the door. She opened up and the unlikely trio came tumbling in. 

Madonna looked hot. She was out of her nun’s habit and into a black spaghetti-strap top and a sheer black blouse, a bit like what she wore in “Vogue,” slightly toned down, and very flattering to her body, shaped as it was by yoga. Guy was out of his cardinal’s chasuble and had put on a decent suit. Dennis showed off his freshly waxed legs in red patent leather pumps and a red tulle ballerina skirt. He wore a black shirt, half unbuttoned, and brought together the black and the red with a Louis Vuitton handbag.

“Are you wearing a bra?” Erin asked, standing up to find herself face-to-face with Dennis’s lean, muscular chest. 

“Yes,” Dennis said, opening his shirt further to show her the lacy pink lingerie. “It was Victoria’s Secret, but I guess it’s not a secret anymore.”

“He’s not much of a lady, though,” Madonna said, giving Dennis a playful slap on the ass. “It doesn’t match with his thong.”

Read more in:

Friday, June 18, 2021

Fic Rec: "Twice"

Friends, Sokovians, countrypersons, lend me your reading eyeballs: I found an extremely sexy fic on Tumblr featuring my problematic fave Baron Helmut Zemo as not-a-villain. No murdered kings of Wakanda here, only a university setting in which the brown-eyed boy is a heavily-accented polylingual history professor. 

Unburdened with the sadness of losing a wife and child, all he has is an ex-fiancee who didn't work out. (She's fine; she ended up marrying a Zemo cousin and presumably they're happy together.) 

The stakes and angst level are low. There's an age gap - she's 20, he's 39 - but they're both enthusiastically consenting adults. It's the same age gap that Jo and Max have in Little Women, honestly. (I refer to the book, not the 2019 film in which director Greta Gerwig cast French hottie Louis Garrel as the Professor.) 

These links link to mostly text, perhaps with a few safe-for-work images. The text is explicit, rated M for mature, and most definitely not safe for work. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The author's social media name is J.D. ~ J.D., I salute you. If this were posted on An Archive of Our Own, I would definitely leave a nice comment and some kudos. 

Daniel, Sant Jordi, 23 April 2013 by Tasnim Aslam. The feast day of Sant Jordi - Saint George - is the Catalonian equivalent of Valentine's Day, but instead of cards and candy, Catalonians give books and roses. (Red roses symbolize dragon's blood.) It's a custom we definitely should import to the U.S.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Trouble with Caviezels

I have to share this episode of QAnon Anonymous about Jim Caviezel and his connection to America's most destructive alternative facts. Pun intended, it's simply relevant to this blog's interests. 

Content warning within the podcast for antisemitism, racism, mention of sexual harassment, and homophobia. 

Some of these stories are rather amusing tales from the set of Person of Interest; others are harder to listen to. Jim Caviezel, it seems, is not only not a very good person, but also not a very smart person. I'm chagrined but not surprised, because straight white men are so often disappointing. 

(I know Not All Straight White Men. My dad is one. I'm married to one. I know a great number of you guys are kind, thoughtful, wonderful people. If you're not doing unkind things to people, then you should have nothing to feel defensive about.) 

Not problematic in any way: Taraji P. Henson. In fact, according to The Grio (which I believe is from the same parent company as the NBC television network), she has started a mental health campaign for African-American children called The Unspoken Curriculum. Taraji is as beautiful on this inside as she is on the outside, and she's very beautiful on the outside. 

Taraji, like my unproblematic straight white male fave Jon Bernthal*, is from Washington, D.C., which may soon be our 51st state. (Taxation without representation is problematic, which is why I also support statehood for Puerto Rico, if my fellow Americans in PR want it.) If you want to support students in the arts in DC so they can grow up to be future Tarajis and Jons, you can check out this book:

Sometimes I Have to Be Brave was written by student authors during the quarantine. It's a project of 826DC, a nonprofit company that gives kids in DC schools the tools they need to express themselves in writing. 

If you'd like to learn more about the Indianapolis Sikh community, you can read The Art and Spirit of K.P. Singh. Mr. Singh shares his visual art in this book as well as his writing. He was born in India and has lived in Indianapolis for over 40 years. I saw him on the local news this morning and I like having the opportunity to share something nice and positive after our city had a trauma. 

*He genuinely does seem to be a good guy, just acting and hanging out with this nurse wife Erin and their two sons and a daughter at their ranch in Ojai. I doubt we'll ever catch Jon Bernthal doing anything antisemitic, since he is Jewish. 

P.S. The Night at the Museum trilogy is on Disney+ now, if you want to see Jon as Al Capone. It also has Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Book Vs. Movie Podcast Episode: Arrival (2016)

Content warning, again, for mentions of violence and mentions of racism. 

Last week, I mentioned that this week's episode of Book Vs. Movie Podcast would be about the movie Arrival, based on the short story by Ted Chiang. That podcast episode is out now:

Because Chiang is a Chinese-American author, I referred in that previous blog post to incidents of anti-Asian-American violence. Another podcast, The Sauce with Maya Gurantz and Rebecca Cohan, covered the specific incident I mentioned in that post, namely the shooting incident that happened in Indianapolis on Thursday, April 15, 2021. 

The shooting took the lives of eight innocent people, including four who were members of the Sikh community. In their podcast, Gurantz and Cohan approach the shooter (who died by suicide shortly after the attack) from a perspective I didn't expect: through his association with the Bronies, an online community of men who engage in fandom culture related to the 2010s incarnation of My Little Pony

As a Gen Xer and an '80s kid, I remember My Little Pony from the toys, cartoons, and puffy stickers I had/watched as a child. Here's 8-year-old me playing with some My Little Pony toys and a Care Bear.

We could get into the historical circumstances of the Ronald Reagan era, the end of the Fairness Doctrine, and how it allowed cartoons that were essentially 22-minute commercials to turn my generation into superconsumers who love corporations in a way that Millennials and Gen Z find weird and disgusting. But that's a topic for, perhaps, another day. 

Although I'm well-known to suffer from bouts of nostalgia, in general I don't watch the remakes of cartoons I watched as a child. I haven't seen the Voltron, She-Ra: Princess of Power, or My Little Pony remakes of the 2010s. (I might watch She-Ra, though. I've heard a lot of good things.) Through the power of pop culture, I'm aware of the Bronies. They were even parodied in a 2014 episode of Bob's Burgers

I hadn't heard about the connection between the mass murderer and the cartoon show. If you're prepared to fall down this particular rabbit hole, listen as Gurantz and Cohan explain how Bronies, neo-Nazis, and the lunatic QAnon conspiracy theory are all connected. It's super gross. 

But in a way, now I better understand how medieval people ended up in bizarre death cults after their experiences with the Black Plague. Yay, history. 

If you're reading this in the future: Life during the pandemic was a mess, my guys, gals, and nonbinary pals. Be good, love your neighbors, protect your neighbors, don't be a Nazi, and don't allow Nazis in your fandom space. People who claim that they're "using Nazi symbols ironically" and "testing the limits of free speech" are not making those arguments in good faith, and you can't engage with them as if they were. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Podcast Episode Rec: 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' on Book Vs. Movie

Content warning: I mention violence and anti-Asian American hate in this post, below the Spotify embed.

As I sadly had to report last time, Jim Caviezel is canceled due to some QAnonsense. But you know who isn't canceled? The lady Ms. Taraji P. Henson. 

You can read my review of Taraji's memoir here. I bought it from Half Price Books, but you could also support your favorite independent bookstore by buying it from My favorite destination is Brain Lair Books, which was recently featured in Publishers Weekly

Among Taraji's best films is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. The Brad Pitt-Cate Blanchett vehicle (which I've technically seen but didn't observe closely - it was on in the background while I did something) is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This week, the Book Vs. Movie podcast (mentioned in the 5 Recommended Podcasts post) compared the movie to the short story. I listen to my podcasts on Spotify. You can find the episode on Spotify here:

Next week's episode is about Ted Chiang's scifi short story "Story of Your Life," which was adapted into the film Arrival starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Check it out. 

And if you wanted to, you could also buy Ted Chiang's book from (There are no affiliate links in this post. Informational only.) The Nebula- and Hugo Award-winning author is Chinese-American. May is Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, and it's never a bad idea to read more Asian and Asian diaspora writers. 

It's really awful and unfortunate, but hate crimes against Asian-Americans are on the rise. I happen to live in Indianapolis, where last month we had a horrific crime take place that took the lives of four members of the Sikh community. The south side of Indianapolis, in addition to a large South Asian-American community, also has a large number of people who are Chin, an ethnicity from Burma. Many of my Chin neighbors are practicing Christians who didn't feel free to practice their religion in Burma. (Burma is in a humanitarian crisis right now, with many refugees having to flee from the government.)

I strongly favor everything that protects and empowers people of Asian descent, and you know what? Buying and reading fiction really does help, on an individual level. Not only do Asian-American authors need their royalties, but reading fiction also encourages empathy, as readers learn to put ourselves in the shoes of people who aren't exactly like us. 

Of course, I do know that buying and reading diverse authors is not a substitute for addressing systemic racism. I'm not suggesting that it is. I'm suggesting we do both. 

The co-hosts of Book Vs. Movie podcast are one Caucasian and one Latina. Support their podcast, support independent bookstores, support your local Black-owned businesses, protect your Black friends and neighbors*, support your local Asian American-owned businesses, and protect your neighbors of Asian descent - including yourself, if applicable. We're all in Year 2 of this pandemic together, so let's all do our parts and help each other out. 

*If the phrase "Black lives matter" seems controversial to you, do not interact with me in any way. This is a matter of life and death and I don't have to time to explain to people who are behaving in bad faith that human lives do, in fact, have value. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Baron Zemo: Problematic Hot Villain

 Enjoy Nostalgic Last Dance Toni Kukoc Zine, Spring 2021 (Issue #4), is out now!

Digital Issue #4 - only $1

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Issues 1-4 package - all 4 issues for the price of 3

Since you, dear reader, know that I'm a huge Marvel nerd, you may not be surprised to read that I've been watching WandaVision and, more recently, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

One character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) who reappears in TFATWS is Baron Helmut Zemo. You may remember him from The Avengers: Civil War, in which he killed T'Chaka, king of Wakanda and father of its current king, T'Challa. He pinned the bombing murder on the Winter Soldier in hopes of tearing the Avengers apart from within. 

I don't forgive Zemo for killing King T'Chaka. I do understand that part of his motivation for doing so was that the Avengers unleashed Ultron on the world. Ultron not only killed Wanda Maximoff's twin Pietro but also killed Helmut's father, wife, and son Carl. The Zemos, like the Maximoffs, are from the fictional country of Sokovia. 

Baron Helmut Zemo is a complicated bad guy, less sympathetic than Black Panther's Erik Killmonger, but still with some sad widower Frank Castle vibes

Zemo is played by Daniel Brühl, a Catalonian actor born in Barcelona to a Spanish mom and a German dad. Only yesterday I remembered that I'd seen him speaking German (one of his several native languages) in a movie once before: Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (sic). I even wrote an unsolicited-by-anyone article about it, "Brad Pitt Is Not the Hottest Guy in Quentin Tarantino's Latest," written in 2010. It also singles out Michael Fassbender (before I knew he was an accused domestic violence offender - canceled) and Eli Roth

Brühl's character in Inglourious Basterds is a Nazi. Tarantino, for all his flaws (accused of sexual harassment on several occasions and poor on-set treatment of his muse/ex-girlfriend Uma Thurman, whom I adore), at least clearly hates Nazis. Brühl's character, on the other hand, is cute but not sympathetic, giving off strong "Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List" vibes. As I say far too often in these Nazi-infested modern times, where is the Bear Jew when I need him?

Zemo on TFATWS is more sympathetic, although I'm torn. Like Billy Russo/Jigsaw on The Punisher, he's a bit queer-coded. Billy Russo, a character who was known to have been sexually abused by a male predator as a young teen, embodied that problematic trope that queer people are queer because of their sexual trauma. Not only is this not supported by clinical evidence, but it also reinforces the mistaken notion that heterosexuality is the default for human sexuality and everything else is some kind of mutation or deviation from the norm. 

It's my opinion that Billy Russo is queer-coded even though his two sexual relationships in the series are with women. He appears to be flirting with every other character he encounters, including Frank Castle. Your mileage may vary.

On the other hand, it's harder to argue that Daniel Brühl isn't playing Helmut Zemo as bisexual, especially after Episode 5. Zemo appears to be sexually attracted to Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier), lovingly caressing his face at one point. 

Bisexual-coding your villains skirts dangerously close to the Depraved Bisexual trope, the notion that people without a clear gender preference are, in the words of, "cold-blooded sociopaths." As a person without a clear gender preference and a non-sociopath, I take personal offence. Representation matters, and although I always want to see more bisexual and pansexual characters in the media, I want to see positive representation as well as regicidal criminals. 

Daniel Brühl is totally adorable, though. Add him to my Fictional Harem, along with basically everyone else from the MCU. 

I have an opening in my Fictional Harem, by the way. I had to kick Jim Caviezel out for being, unfortunately, an advocate of the impossible, nonsensical, illogical right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory. I'm fascinated with conspiracy theories as a species of contemporary folklore, but I cannot abide folk who take part in counterfactual disinformation campaigns that borrow tropes from anti-Semitism. As a person with an Irish-American dad and a Polish-Jewish-American mom, I won't allow my human rights as a Jewish person to be eroded in the service of white supremacist fears. 

See you at the TFATWS season finale on Friday. 

(Edited slightly for clarity on May 7, 2021.)