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100 Boyfriends

I read Brontez Purnell’s 100 Boyfriends after hearing an interview with him on a podcast I listen to. From the conversation, I got the impression the book had a lot to do with the aesthetics of our era of decadence and hedonism. In other words, it sounded right up my alley.

It’s a rather short book–177 smallish pages. That makes it a breezy read, easy to take in and enjoy without getting to that part in some books when you begin to rely on resolve rather than pleasure to push through to the end. It consists of barely-connected chapters with narrators as the main characters, many of whom must be different people to make the timelines and characters add up. The through line mainly consists of the dual themes of an abundance of plentiful sex and a dearth of commitment or intimacy, but also of the narrators’ revealed inner thoughts overflowing with wit and apt descriptions of a dynamic emotional inner life. The characters Purnell speaks through make charming guides through the ups and downs of their experiences.

As I said, there is quite a lot of sex, most of it casual. On the face of things a hyper gay-man sort of energy prominently comes through. There’s a lot of sex to be had for those willing to go out and get it (and who are perhaps not too strict with their requirements in a partner). And yet, as I also said, the feeling that comes through the pages more than any other is loneliness. We might say that 100 Boyfriends holds up a mirror to our short-term-focused society in that sex has taken the place of intimacy. (Except that if the reports are to be believed, people in real life are having less sex too these days. Somehow we find ourselves in the worst of both worlds.)

But that’s the thing about sex. However much of it we’re having, it’s something most of us would like to have more of, in principle. In our minds “more sex” of course means “more good sex.” Purnell makes the terrific case that, as with everything else, there are diminishing returns even to sex. Reading 100 Boyfriends is a strong argument that we can hedonistically adapt even to tremendous amounts of sex with ever-rotating lovers and lose some of the thrill in even that. At some point, having more sex means having marginal sex and, if pursued even further, sex we regret. Purnell describes secret sex with a coworker’s husband that makes one narrator call himself “a horrible person.” There is the time one of them is asked to leave because his companion’s actual boyfriend is returning home unexpectedly. There is another who is rejected by a hippie who just can’t give up his life of following jam bands on tour, with the casual yet funny line: “I can’t follow you back to Babylon. . . . It’s like Jerry said, man–short time to be here, and a long time to be gone.”

The men whose perspectives we’re given are mostly bottoms, which in a mostly past time might have been called the more “feminine” role. I don’t bring up the comparison to impugn or too-broadly label women (or bottoms), but instead to highlight in the protagonists a burden also commonly attributed to women: that they can find that they generously accommodate themselves to the wishes of their men without receiving in return the emotional appreciation they hope for. It’s a constant shadow that hangs over the book’s characters. In the very first vignette, for instance, one of them fantasizes about an injured man he’s just been with potentially becoming his boyfriend. He quickly realizes that’s not realistic, but that doesn’t stop him from saying, and perhaps even partly meaning, “I’ll come back whenever you want me to.”

The thematic culmination is a passage that describes those who achieve their conquests. “Polite lies are how men conquer, saying empty things while psychically cutting their opponent’s throat through unseen actions.” This is the one part in the book that struck me enough that I underlined and dogeared it. This is the lament of the seduced, not of the vanquished in open battle. But the final result is death just the same. Where there are men/tops who get all the sex they want, those they get it from can feel they’ve been murdered, in a sense. Though the book is particularly about gay men, it echoes into society at large. As casual sex becomes easier for many straight men, some willingly participating women increasingly consider themselves victims of this figurative throat cutting at the end of it.

I may be getting old and crochety, but I consider this a rather sad way for the book to end. I find it, at heart, if not quite a morality tale, at least a cautionary one. If a life of promiscuity is what you want, or if it’s all you have available, Purnell shows us that the reality of that life may well have significant drawbacks. In that, it’s not so different from most lives. There does in fact exist too much of a good thing.

Freud: Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex

This isn’t a comprehensive treatment or a deep reading of Sigmund Freud’s Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex. It’s basically the notes I took on things that stood out to me during my reading, to provide a context and something to refer back to. I have the 1995 Modern Library Edition of The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, which is a compilation of several works. Page numbers are from that.

The first topic we read about is “inversion,” which seems to be Freud’s categorization of same-sex attraction, whether absolute, “ambiguous” (or “psychosexually hermaphroditic”), or occasional (page 522). Some of Freud’s takes are no doubt out of fashion, but to be honest, many of his views are similar to mine as I have them today, if I can admit that. Not that I’m an expert, of course. But he says that “inversion” doesn’t seem to be “degenerate,” mainly because it quite often shows up in otherwise completely “normal” people and can vary in other cultures where it sometimes serves important functions (523-24). So far so good, for the most part.

When Freud gets to the question of whether same-sex attraction is innate, I find his analysis reasonably sophisticated. He notes that many people report never feeling anything but their “inversion,” providing some evidence for it being congenital. He also notes that many such people have had certain experiences, early or later in life, that may have affected their sexual development, though it’s hard to use that as definitive evidence because many with similar experiences don’t turn out “inverted.” He does say that treatment “may remove the inversion,” which would cast doubt on it being congenital. In the end, though, Freud concludes that “the alternatives congenital and acquired are either incomplete or do not cover the circumstances.” (524-25). I share that conclusion, at least. My view is that just because being gay may be at least partly acquired, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily something that someone chooses.

Moving on to other topics, we get to one of Freud’s themes: the struggle of between our inner and outer selves. That the sexual instinct is natural (Camille Paglia might call it chthonic), but its natural chaotic energy is channeled by society and culture towards “accepted normal limits” via shame and loathing before maturity. This struggle is necessary for society to function, but it sometimes results in the side effects of neuroses or “perversions” (540).

Our adult sexuality is the result of aspects of our nature that are influenced by our environment, leading to “perversion” or “normal” sexuality, and to varied sexual desires. There is something congenital in our perversions, but it is something congenital in all of us, and only goes sideways when our predisposition is met with certain influences (546).

Sexual inhibition: During our sexual latency period (beginning at around maybe 5 or 6 and through puberty), we develop the psychic forces of loathing, shame, and moral and “esthetic ideal demands” that are reinforced by education, but education only “imprints” what is organic more deeply (551).

Sexual inhibition leads to sublimation of sexual aims to other aims, which furnishes “powerful components for all cultural accomplishments” (552).

Young children who witness sex between adults will see it as a “maltreating or overpowering”, or that it “impresses them in a sadistic sense” (564) This is called the ‘primal scene” by Freud according to google and maybe Paglia, but he must use that term elsewhere if at all.

Masculine and feminine: the “libido” is part of the masculine nature, whether in a man or a woman; the sexual object of libido can be either “male or female” (580).

There are three ways senses in which we can distinguish “masculine” and “feminine.” First, in terms of activity or passivity. Second, biologically: meaning both the primary and secondary physical characteristics. And third, sociologically: everyone shows a mix of masculine and feminine traits, activity and passivity, and biological characteristics–no one is purely masculine or feminine, speaking sociologically. The sociological sense seems very much like what we talk about as gender these days (580n3).

An interesting note: a central position in analysis for the Oedipus complex is the “shibboleth” that distinguishes Freudian psychoanalysis from other approaches, Freud says (585).

Girls may respond to the conflict between a need for affection and the “horror for the real demands of sexual life” by either idealizing sexual love or displacing their libido as affection by clinging to family members as the object of their affection (586). Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure what this means. My best guess is that girls who don’t develop a proper relationship to sex may either become promiscuous or devote more attention to the nonsexual love of family members?

Since boys and girls are friends with the same sex while young, why isn’t everyone gay? For one, sexual attraction to the opposite sex. But where being gay is not “a crime,” many people are gay. For a man, the tenderness of his mother and other female caretakers help in being attracted to women, and “sexual intimidation” and “rivalry” with the father push the boy away from same-sex attraction. For the girl, “both factors also hold true.” What does that mean? That girls would naturally like women like boys do? Also, boys brought up by boys “seems to favor homosexuality”, for examples see the Greeks and the nobility (587-88). If Freud was coherent in his own mind here, he didn’t express it perfectly. But I’m happy to forgive him, since we don’t have answers that are much better even today.

Sexual “perversions” seem to arise from inhibited development, or becoming fixated at an infantile level of sexual development (588).

More on sublimation. It can often lead to great artistic activity and enhanced mental capacity, which also means that highly productive artistic people will be more likely to show sexual perversions and neuroses (593).

A large part of a person’s “character” is sublimation of various aspects of sexuality, for example being anally fixated can go along with “obstinacy, stinginess, and orderliness,” and ambition can signal being “urethral”, which some googling says is also called being phallic (593-94 and 594n1).

Sexual development and its character effects are the result of a combination of “constitutional predispositions” and “accidental experiences” in childhood and later (594). A mix of nature and nurture.

“Sexual prematurity” is an early, probably too-early, sexual experience and can run with premature intellectual development and productivity, in which cases it may not have pathological effects (595).

Looking for Mr. Goodbar

It’s a strange thing to read and write about a book like Julie Rossner’s Looking for Mr. Goodbar in 2021. It had a far different political and social context when it was published in 1975. What’s more, I’m sure that some will find my perspective as a man–a view I will be leaning into quite a bit–to be less relevant than others. But I’m working with what I’ve got, here.

Mr. Goodbar takes us back to the early 70s, which is practically the 60s, except that by then the sexual revolution wasn’t quite as avant-garde anymore. More and more regular people were joining in by then.

We discover first thing that Theresa, the book’s protagonist, has been murdered. That revelation is clearly meant to hang over everything we learn about Theresa’s childhood, her first fling, and her subsequent romantic and sexual adventures. How do they lead to her murder, we are invited to wonder?

Theresa’s first real sexual relationship is with a (married!) college professor of hers, Martin. It seems so scandalous today. It’s hard for me to know what it might have seemed like in the 70s to read about it. An older man with a young mistress he’s in a position of authority over feels like a very plausible scenario, in terms of what would both participants might find attractive. It’s a very #metoo situation in this day and age, however. It’s probably a bad idea for all concerned, but that doesn’t make the intrinsic appeal go away. A lot of things that are kind of hot are . . . a very bad idea.

She has complicated reactions to sex after that. She learns her sister Katherine and her brother-in-law are swingers, and that Katherine has had an abortion. She does not approve of either discovery. As her hookups increase, however, she reveals to the reader that she is certain she will never get pregnant, and so doesn’t worry about birth control. That might also be a reason she says she’ll never get married.

Certain she’ll never get pregnant. There’s something about that line. We never get an explanation, but it turns out to hold true. Is there a medical explanation, or is this a fairy tale of some sort? An allegory? It reminds me of gay relationships, which are different from straight ones, due in no small part to that very impossibility of becoming pregnant. It certainly makes a young woman’s casual encounters less complicated.

I didn’t count, but Theresa’s total number of sexual partners seems to be around a dozen, maybe, and possibly less. Nothing earth-shattering by today’s standards. And after the numerous early pages devoted to her time with Professor Martin, the main two men in her life during the second half of the book are Tony and James. Tony is appealing for sex but not for much more. James is a very nice, stable man who doesn’t turn Theresa on.

I will cop to being made uneasy, especially when she played James and Tony against each other. I felt it deep down. I know it’s not cool these days to say a woman’s behavior makes me feel uncomfortable as a man, but Theresa’s did. The idea that a woman might think about choosing me for security without having sexual attraction to me–we call that “settling” for someone, right? And we do not mean it flatteringly. And then, the idea that a woman might give in to her carnal desires with me but not take me seriously as a potential husband has some animal appeal, but it’s similarly emasculating in its own way. I’m not supposed to admit–and I’m not trying to control Theresa or anyone else–but if I’m honest it makes me feel a certain kind of way. Which I mean as a high compliment to Rossner’s writing.

And if I–a reasonably (I think!) open minded man, writing this nearly 50 years after the book is set, feel uncomfortable, how much more of disruptive would men have reacted back then! It would be easier to go through a dating career imagining former lover just has some vague, subjective, idiosyncratic points-total rubric and that it just didn’t add up to a high enough score. Theresa’s evaluative processes are terrifying in their pronouncements of masculine worth. Even though they seem fairly casual. Of course, she did manage to provoke the animal nature of one man to anger and murder. So maybe Rossner didn’t think I’d be alone in my reaction. Am I being called out, or people like me? It’s hard to say entirely. I mean, I relate to the reactions of James and Tony far more than I do Gary’s murderous rage. (Her murder is obviously horrible and in no way condoned.) Maybe I just need therapy. But I think there is something deeper going on.

Theresa flat out admits that she’s often terrible to the men she’s dating. Sometimes she act that way hoping it will provoke some kind of anger. One time, Tony even strikes her and knocks her down, and Theresa doesn’t think of it as the worst thing in the world. She even fantasizes about being hit in the same way later in the book. She’s looking to be murdered, but she seems to know what she’s doing in her attempts to tap into men’s anger, aggression, and even violence.

Is Mr. Goodbar a morality tale? Theresa does have some pull towards danger and maybe even self-destruction. Maybe she brings her fate upon herself according to the book’s inner logic. Something like period of personal disappointment or maybe a biological clock that winds down before she realizes it would seem a more appropriate and realistic end for someone like Theresa, at least in real life. But not so fast. As we learned in the introductory section, she’s murdered by a one night stand gone wrong. That is obviously dramatic–few women are actually murdered by a hookup, though other violence is not unheard of.

Still, what I find unsettling and hard to dismiss is the ugly side of human nature Rossner taps into. Theresa’s murder can’t be justified, but neither can her behavior be fully dismissed as harmless and innocent, either. And by that I’m not talking about having multiple casual sex partners–I mean her nastiness towards the men in her life. I can confidently say I’d never murder a woman if I found myself in Gary’s shoes. But glimpsing Theresa’s actions–and even more, her mind–stirs something dark in me that I can’t explain and that I don’t like. It reminds us that our natures do have murky, unexplainable facets to them. That, as Norman Mailer is quoted to have said, “there is nothing safe about sex.” Reading Mr. Goodbar as a literal cautionary tale that casual sex will get a young woman murdered is a silly distraction from a deeper commentary: that we fool ourselves by pretending sex is devoid of deep emotional meaning, or even in some ways of danger. Sex is and always has been one of the few things that can bring out the worst in us.

Taylor Sheridan: Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse; Those Who Wish Me Dead

Those of us who are fans of Taylor Sheridan’s movies have been lucky to have two of them come out already this year. The screenwriting phase of Sheridan’s career began in earnest just 6 years ago with Sicario. Most of his stories have been original, but this year’s duo are both adaptations.

It’s not hard to find throughline’s in Sheridan’s writing. In essence, he tends to take classic Western themes and use them in contemporary situations. Sicario and Sicario: Day of the Soldado are centered around vigilantism and the lawlessness of the US-Mexico border. Hell or High Water involves desperados robbing banks in Texas. Wind River and Sheridan’s TV series Yellowstone are both about frontier justice, involve indigenous peoples, and are set in the harsh Western mountains. Any of those themes could be found in a mid-century Hollywood western.

Another thing that comes through in most of Sheridan’s work is that it is largely, though not entirely, about the hardened men that survive–or don’t–in these extreme circumstances. He does sometimes have main characters that are strong women who also know what they’re doing (Sicario, Wind River, and to some extent Yellowstone), but for the most part the ones braving the frontier and settling scores without regard to the law are men.

We live in a time of expansion of traditional roles and images. Sheridan therefore puts himself at some risk of seeming hopelessly behind the times by mostly writing men into these roles, even though historically and archetypally they would almost all have been men. I will confess that I may be likewise unfashionable, in that I myself respond aesthetically and viscerally to men acting at the edges of their capacity in extreme circumstances, honed and hardened by their high-stakes histories. I justify it by telling myself it’s my version of a super hero movie: however unrealistic it may be for me to, say, build a family cattle ranch and empire from scratch in Montana, if grown men and women can get excited by Captain America and Iron Man, I can enjoy my time fantasizing about being John Dutton for an hour a week.

I’ve never been sure that re-writing women in these same movies would produce the same effect on screen. Seeing as how Sheridan’s un- or barely-civilized characters tend to be men, there’s reason to think he has that same my suspicion. Whether or not he intended these two new movies to act as a test of the theory that men and women characters might not always be interchangeable in contemporary Western(ish) settings, by adapting others’ work Sheridan ends up giving us women in roles that would seem more traditionally suited for men.

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is, as you might have guessed if you’ve heard of the name in the title, largely a spy movie. Espionage, double crossings, blurring the lines between good guys and bad guys, an unrealistically bad-ass protagonist, and so on. I’m not so much a connoisseur of spy thrillers, but this one seems competently done. I enjoyed it overall, though even now, a week after watching it, I find it takes effort to recall it in detail. My main point of entry was as a Sheridan fan–I probably wouldn’t have watched it had he not been a screenwriter. Because of that bias, I noticed the same Western themes of revenge, morality that might be at odds with legality, and taking justice into one’s own hands, for example. Other hallmarks of Sheridan’s, like starting the movie in media res during an intense situation, and only slowly parceling out the bigger picture as the movie goes on, help grab our attention and keep it locked in the whole time. Michael B Jordan brings a fire to the driven and periodically enraged Navy SEAL John Kelly. Like men in other Sheridan movies, he’s developed his capacity to succeed in life-or-death situations–in this case, combat–through repeated exposure to intense danger. One feels the intensity of what it must have done to his character, to his soul, and to how far he is willing to go when the need arises. One understands the ambivalence his superiors must feel both recognizing that a dangerous mission might require a man like Kelly and having reluctance to unleash him for fear of what else might come with that kind of skill set. This is the kind of man Sheridan can write as well as anyone–the kind of man you hope is on your side when you need him and who you pray stays on it.

Most of the other battle-hardened characters in Without Remorse are also men, with an exception to be found in Kelly’s superior officer, SEAL Lt Commander Karen Greer, played by Jodie Turner-Smith. Many a reviewer could simply say the character is fine, that she’s serviceable as written and played, and leave it at that. The reviews I’ve read basically just that, with nothing especially effusive or critical to say. But I’m too interested in taking advantage of this moment where Sheridan writes a character you’d expect to be the very image of a masculine alpha male (for context, Jocko Willink is one such (retired) Navy SEAL Lt Commander) but is instead a woman.

I’m enlightened enough that I am happy to try and lay my preconceptions aside and give this character a chance. I am perfectly willing to see portrayed a competent, bad-ass special forces officer who is also a woman. I’m sure women like that exist. And again, Turner-Smith’s Commander Greer was acceptable. But the thing is, the characters and the actors who play similar roles in other Sheridan screenplays jump off the screen with their over-the-top testosterone-fueled presences. I’m thinking, for example, of the hired mercenaries in Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Or Sheridanverse all-star Jon Bernthal, who would have popped in this role. I can think of two scenes where Jordan’s Kelly, an absolute powerhouse of a killing machine, is positively burning with rage, and Commander Greer just . . . blends into the background, unable to match his intensity or meet him where he is to calm him down. In another scene, the team has just been ambushed and is feeling uneasy. Commander Greer starts issuing commands, as her position requires. It didn’t strike at me as incompetent or inadequate, but it was an opportunity for her to show off the kind of exceptional leadership of crack soldiers I’d expect in a SEAL officer, and she didn’t. To be fair, 99% of men probably wouldn’t be able to bring that kind of authority either. But when we’re talking about being at the extreme masculine edge, I can easily imagine men who might, and I could name dozens of actors who could pull it off. I’m not going to say there are no women who could go there, but I will say that it’s not easy for me to imagine them or make a long list of actresses obviously up to the task.

I realize this isn’t exactly a proper review of the movie. If that’s what you’re looking for, I’ll say it was fine. Some strengths, some weaknesses. I don’t see myself watching it again, but I don’t regret my time with it. For purposes of the project of this article, though, I will say that I think the movie would have been improved with a typical Sheridan manly man as the SEAL Commander. (Not that the movie lives or dies on that one aspect or anything.)

Those Who With Me Dead, on the other hand, is a more interesting test case. The central character is Hannah, a middle-aged, compulsively risk-seeking, rule-breaking smoke jumper/fire fighter, played by Angelina Jolie. This story didn’t originate with Sheridan either (he’s credited as the third writer), which is probably why more even than a typical Sheridan-esque character, it’s Denis Leary’s Tommy Gavin in the FX TV Show Rescue Me Hannah reminds of. You know, someone who really needs to dial down the extreme behavior in order to properly function in society. The Western-style elements are also less pronounced in this movie than in Sheridan’s originals. The good guys are mostly just trying to escape the bad guys, none of whom are going to join the pantheon of Sheridan “cowboys” alongside the Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, or Jeremy Renner characters. It’s set in the mountains of Montana, and the unforgiving, chaotic power of nature does play a large role in the movie, but that’s about it as far as this being a contemporary Western.

Jolie can obviously brings as much charisma to the screen as any actress alive. So in terms of whether it changes the movie to write and cast a woman as the overly-masculine archetype, an A-list screen presence isn’t an obstacle here. I’ve seen some reviews that question Hannah’s plausibility in this movie simply because of how beautiful Jolie is. Whether that’s because someone so attractive would surely have found a husband who could pluck her out of that life, or because smoke jumping really interferes with that multi-step skincare regimen, I’m not entirely sure. But that part doesn’t bother me per se. I don’t mind engaging in a little aesthetically-pleasing suspension of disbelief.

One thing I like is that in comparison to Commander Greer, who could easily have been cast as a man with few if any changes to the script, Hannah does have a few more feminine streaks. For one thing, the others (all men) on her smoke jumping crew (is she their superior? It wasn’t clear to me) try to flirt with her, and she continually shuts them down. That said, there never seems to be any legitimate sexual tension with any of them, but that doesn’t seem central to her character. Nor does the fact that we learn who her prior romantic partner is. Who knows–maybe those things play a larger role in the book. But when she interacts with the young (pre?)teen Connor, there are times when her actions border on the maternal. It’s clear Hannah doesn’t have highly developed mothering skills, but Jolie’s performance in helping Connor did bring a contour to the film that would have seemed different somehow had Hannah been a man. Not dramatically different, but it wouldn’t have been quite the same. So I was blessed with at least one intriguing thought provoked by the subversion of my expected casting.

Another wrinkle in this exploration of women in Sheridan movies is the character of Allison in Those Who With Me Dead. She’s pregnant, but does as much ass-kicking as anyone in the movie. She comes across as more of a protective mama-bear, though, rather than a hardened cowboy type whose sex was just reversed. She has frontier smarts and can expertly and courageously wield a hunting rifle, and gives far better than she gets in this movie. As I sit and try to think about what makes her seem like a feminine type instead of a masculine type like Hannah, I have to admit it’s difficult. Sure, she was just minding her own business until her family was threatened, which is easy to categorize as mama bear imagery. But I don’t know that that couldn’t just as easily be a description of a masculine hero too. I’m sure the fact that she’s pregnant contributes to my view of her as a distinctly feminine kind of protector, but I don’t know if I can articulate it more than that.

I’m reminded of the Harmony Korine movie Spring Breakers, which sticks in my memory as a harrowing but riveting experience. In it, three young women leave a trail of physical and mental destruction on those they encounter. We’re introduced to them as normal, unassuming college students who end up robbing a restaurant in a shockingly violent way. It is so unexpectedly brutal that I found myself feeling somehow more disturbed than if it had been a group of young men had committing the same actions, but again, it’s a challenge to say exactly why. Was the violence of women somehow more terrifying than that of men by virtue of it being rarer and therefore more unpredictable? Or does it just make me more uncomfortable because I’ve got some idea that women are less likely to commit violent crimes and it goes against my preconceptions? I’m still not entirely sure. But I love that Spring Breakers makes me confront that question.

I doubt Those Who With Me Dead will join Spring Breakers as one of my reference movies on the difference between men and women on screen. Would it have been better with a man in Hannah’s role? It’s not as clear, and at the same time that choice probably had a bigger bearing on the success of this movie than it did in Without Remorse.

In any case, these two movies are the first and only two Sheridan movies I don’t consider essential. Not necessarily bad, but I don’t feel the need to add them to my library. Here’s hoping that, although this diversion into adapting other source material gave us the chance to think about men vs women in certain movies, Taylor Sheridan gets back to writing originals in the future.

End of the World of Warcraft Era

World of Warcraft. It’s geeky as hell, obviously, but it’s been a big part of my life for a lot of years. The last 5 of those years, I’ve done a lot of raiding, often at a decent-to-fairly-high level. Yesterday was my last raid. Allow me to wax nostalgic for a bit.

WoW raiding is probably the most enjoyment I’ve ever gotten out of playing video games. The team effort. The hours you spend with your fellow raiders in voice chat every week for months at a time. The necessity for everyone to perform their role. Having to count on others to do it well, and knowing they’re counting on you. The researching your class and role, and practicing in dungeons and raid finder and even on practice dummies. The wiping. The sometimes endless wiping! And, of course, the thrill of defeating a difficult boss after all that wiping. Read more…

The Beguiled

beguiled-trailer-37738af4-c7dd-4053-b704-a03437a0cc1d

What’s there to like?

The Beguiled is a dark, sometimes mysterious story. What drew me in was the detailed world of Civil War-era Southern manners and customs. The way they talked, the propriety of how men and women interact with each other, and so on. And most of all, the restraint. But all that wasn’t just a historical curiosity or part of the art direction–it really drove the plot forward. You’ve got this soldier (Colin Farrell), a representation of brutality and power, of masculine brutality and power, entering a secluded girl’s school (led by Nicole Kidman’s headmistress, Kirsten Dunst playing a teacher, and Elle Fanning as one of the students)–this bastion of only women. He’s injured and he needs their care. But the restraint and the polarization between masculine and feminine highlight the sexuality in the air. So you’ve got a blurring of the lines between danger and sexual attraction, at least from the point of view of all these women towards this unknown, scary soldier. Read more…

The Big Sick

What’s there to like?

It’s been a little while–a few months at least–since I’ve seen a nice little indie comedy. In The Big Sick, Kamail Nanjiani plays a Pakistani man in Chicago who falls in love with an American woman played by Zoe Kazan. Cultural obstacles present themselves, and then a serious illness sends everything sideways. Read more…

Dinner With Beatriz

What’s there to like?

To be honest, Dinner With Beatriz started a little slow for me. I wasn’t quite hooked in. Salma Hayek is more off-putting than appealing as a frumpy holistic healer. But then Jay Duplass and Chloe Sevigny (what a pair!) show up as a striving, hopeful, 1%-wannabe couple, and I knew I would enjoy this thing. Read more…

Nutritional Injustice!

As I read more and become more convinced of the insulin resistance model of why people get fat, I find myself becoming disappointed at what Gary Taubes (in Why We Get Fat) calls the injustice of it all: for those more predisposed to get fat by eating carbohydrates (like I am), there’s probably no way of completely getting over it. It’ll probably always be the case that carbs will make me quite fat. Read more…

Land Of Mine

What’s there to like?

I’ve been hoping to get to Land of Mine for a while now. It was nominated for the best foreign film academy award this year. I remember seeing previews for it at some point. (Must have been when I was still in New York?) But I’ve liked most of the several Danish movies I’ve seen, even though I’ve never seen any of the work of director Martin Zvandliet. So, put all that together, and I was happy to be able to see this one. Read more…