Lunchtable TV talk: The woman’s hidden path: Transformation by need or desire

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In the same way as Crime and Punishment is ostensibly about Raskolnikov, its women are the compelling draw of that make me continue to think about the story, years after last reading it. What influence do they have, what sacrifices have they made — and why?

In many of modern television’s biggest draws, women characters embody and drive the growth, change, multidimensional development and complexity of the story, sometimes even within stories in which the men’s experience is the story. The women’s transformative journey isn’t given the same fanfare as men’s… but it’s arguably a more dramatic, if understated, journey. Not unlike everyday life.

The show that got me thinking about this transformation was Better Call Saul. We know — both from Breaking Bad and from the development of the lead, Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman — that Jimmy/Saul is going to go through professional and familial upheaval, and given what we learn about his early life, return to his “Slippin’ Jimmy” origins on a grander scale. The quieter transformation, though, happens more slowly, with Jimmy’s counterpart, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). Built incrementally over the entire series, Kim’s transformation has been hinted at, as she occasionally joins Jimmy in some of his minor pranks and cons and seems to enjoy it. But her conscientious, driven, all-business demeanor imply that Kim is always going to be on the right side of the law. Yet time after time, when most would expect Kim to be the voice of reason, she retorted with something unexpected. Despite these surprises, it was never as though Kim acted completely out of character, jarring a viewer into finding the journey unrealistic or unearned. Instead she became more multilayered and complex as a character, which is not what I anticipated when the show began. In fact when Better Call Saul premiered I dismissed Kim as a secondary, possibly temporary, on/off love interest kind of character (I should really have known better, considering the creators of the show).

With Kim, as with all things in her life, she is controlling her transformation and choices, never letting the out-of-her-control circumstances make the decisions (or so it seems). Some of television’s latest and greatest shows offer glimpses of women at crossroads and turning points, as well as points of vulnerability, projecting creative and unexpected evolution for their characters. (Some of these transformations are the best — and only engaging — parts of the programs they appeared in.) A few of my picks include the transformation of Sarah Paulson‘s character, Alice, in Mrs America; Merritt Wever‘s spontaneous grab for a life that almost-was in Run; Kathryn Hahn‘s role as Eve Fletcher, as Eve moves from single mother to empty nester trying to figure out who she is, particularly sexually, in Mrs Fletcher; Shira Haas embodying a young Hasidic woman running from everything she knew to discover an entirely different kind of life in Unorthodox; almost all of the women in The Deuce experience transformation – some quite involuntarily but others, in particular, Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s Eileen/Candy, Dominique Fishback‘s Darlene, and Emily Meade‘s Lori, look to find voice and agency in a changing city in tumultuous times. Similarly, all the of the women in the underrated show Queen Sugar (Rutina Wesley, Dawn Lyen-Gardner, Tina Lifford and Bianca Lawson), have transformed completely — many times — and continue to evolve — as the show continues. It probably goes without saying but needs to be said that the women of Pose are television’s most transformative and inspiring group of all.

This is what women are uniquely good at doing — not just transforming, but adapting to changing realities. An unfortunate example from real life is Norma McCorvey, remembered best as Jane Roe, the plaintiff in the landmark case Roe v Wade, which made abortion legal in the United States. After the precedent-setting ruling, McCorvey became an anti-abortion activist, but nearing death, she confessed that she’d never actually changed her mind — but instead had been paid for her anti-abortion activism. This is chronicled in a new documentary called AKA Jane Roe. Sometimes the journey involves inconsistency that benefits the individual — never mind the social impact or ethical position.

As in real life, television’s transformations often come about less willingly, driven by circumstance and need. In the Canadian Pure, a Mennonite pastor and his stubborn rigidity and black-and-white view of the world continue to cause trouble and harm to his family, but his wife Anna (Alex Paxton-Beesley) adapts to the situation at hand with greater skill, being able to operate in greyer territory. Skyler White (Anna Gunn) in Breaking Bad represents a slow but sly turn to “the dark side” as it becomes clear what she is being forced to do. Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) in The Good Wife is forced to return to work after being humiliated by her husband’s infidelity and malfeasance. He goes to prison, and she begins to practice law. Somewhere along the line, her naivete and sense of being overwhelmed are supplanted by wily dealing and shrewd calculations about her future. Ozark‘s Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) follows a similar path, reviving her past as a political operative/adviser and applying it to altogether more nefarious enterprises. In many of these cases, it appears as though these ambitions have always lay dormant and get triggered unexpectedly.

 

Photo by Chandra Oh on Unsplash

Lunchtable TV talk: Pure and simple every time… or not

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An article about television recommendations gave a show called Pure its blessing. All I remembered about the description was that a character starts having wildly inappropriate (sexual?) thoughts; possibly something about a brain tumor. I noted the title and forgot about it.

Imagine my surprise then when the time came to start to watching Pure, and I was greeted by Mennonites driving buggies and speaking their own language (I was not expecting a partly subtitled show when my viewing began). It’s a Canadian production, and feels like it – as most Canadian shows do. Same sort of production values, same Canadian extras as usual. I can’t explain what makes a Canadian show Canadian (beyond just the abundance of Canadian vowels and pronunciation). This was not the Pure I was expecting.

I can’t say, having watched two brief seasons of the Canadian Pure, that it’s worth recommending. It’s kind of a different story from what television usually offers, but it feels as though it has missed an opportunity to tell a deeper story. I noticed the same recently in another Canadian show, Mary Kills People, in which a doctor helps terminally ill patients to end their lives. The premise held considerable promise for being able to tackle a challenging topic, but only ever touched briefly on the meatier moral issue, focusing almost entirely on the “the law and the outlaws both have you in their clutches” aspect of illegal assisted suicide. Never mind that assisted suicide has been legal in Canada since 2016, and Mary didn’t even begin until 2017.

Where Pure seems to miss a turn is in having too little time to dig into characters and the path the community’s new pastor follows that leads him to becoming a police informant, as drug trafficking has taken hold in his community. The story unfolded in a too-rushed way that made motivations feel forced and didn’t let all of the actions make sense.

In years past, Banshee had a take on the Amish/Mennonite criminal connection/drug trafficking underworld and the “outcasts” from this world. Even though it was not the central theme of Banshee, it rivaled what Pure managed in two seasons that almost completely focused on the community. The second season seems a bit better paced, and no one can argue with the addition of Christopher Heyerdahl to anything. But overall, perhaps the problem is twofold: Canadians have not yet mastered a six-episode storytelling pace (Brits seem best able to do this); both Mary Kills and Pure suffer from this; secondly, the only time we’d get to see Mennonite (or Amish)-related stories (think back to 1985’s Witness, for example) is when outsiders are involved, which would only likely be an insidious infestation by a criminal element. It’s an insular world, after all.

Photo by Doug Kelley on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

City Winter 2013 – Soundtrack – The Good Goo of Random (Love) Gum

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The CD version went out to the people they normally go to on Saturday morning. Meanwhile, here’s the collection that has carried me through winter and the big changes 2013 has delivered into my life.

City Winter 2013 – The Good Goo of Random (Love) Gum
A stab in the heart is as good as a stab in the eye – anti-Valentine’s Day 2013

The full Spotify playlist. (The songs that are available on Spotify, anyway. Sadly not all are.)

01. “Parting Gift” — Fiona Apple …I bet you could never tell/that I knew that you didn’t know me that well…
“It is my fault, you see/you never learned that much from me.”/ “It ended bad but I love what we started.”

02. “A Night Like This” – The Cure
Summer of 1989. The last time I felt everything unfiltered.

03. “A Good Thing” – Saint Etienne …Pack your bags and move along/before your feelings get too strong…
With love to Naomi. And with love to Ben.

04. “Take a Letter, Maria” – R.B. Greaves
Have always hated this song but last year the artist died and I discovered he is from Guyana (like a dear friend’s “I can’t feel my fingers” dad). I have always wondered with regard to this song how and why, if this guy is so devastated about catching his wife with another man, he can so easily move on to his secretary. And when he questions whether he was wrong to work nights to try to make a better life and cannot understand why his wife cheated, why is he not asking whether perhaps all his late nights at the office led his presumably lonely wife to conclude that he was already having an affair with his secretary, which drove her to another man?

05. “Time It’s Time” – Lia Ices …As bad as bad becomes/It’s not a part of you/And love is only sleeping/Wrapped in neglect…
With love for Jane, for Heather, for Alfa…
The song (no YouTube link!)

06. “Pure” – Lightning Seeds …If love’s the truth then look no lies/And let me swim around your eyes/I’ve found a place I’ll never leave/Shut my mouth and just believe/Love is the truth I realize/Not a stream of pretty lies/To use us up and waste our time…
Tenth-grade coming back to bite me in the ass. I got this album from Rodney as a Christmas gift. We all started getting jobs and more importantly, driver’s licenses (goodbye, Hell Machine school bus!). Present day… JKL and references to long-ago “youth” and end-of-January grey Gothenburg days. “Fresh and deep as oceans new/Shiver at the sight of you…”

07. “Dying is Fine” – Ra Ra Riot
xo Jill. “Death oh baby/You know that dying is fine but maybe/I wouldn’t like death if death were good/Not even if death were good.”

08. “Black Belt” – John Grant …What you got is a black belt in B.S…
“You are callipygian/but look at the state you’re in….” Can you argue with a man who fits “callipygian” into a song? For Kyle.

09. “Subculture” – New Order …In the end you will submit/it’s got to hurt a little bit…
The late 80s, early 90s – and all the illusions and confusions of that time.

10. “There’s a Barbarian in the Back of My Car” – Voice of the Beehive …He’s got his eyes on the horizon/he says I can ride his rocket/while telephone numbers are tumbling from his top pocket/dream logic operator/he falls out of the car/he says, “I’ll fuck you later, now just get me to the bar”…
So many barbarians, so many who want things all their way, all on their terms, with no consideration for others. ML, JKL

11. “Aime Mon Amour” – Benjamin Biolay …Quand bien même elle garde ses mystères/Même si tu l’envoies en l’air/Aime Mon Amour/Je te descends…
For Bruno. For Aurélien. Always the French guys.

12. “Wish You Were Here” – Lia Ices …We’re just two lost souls/living in a fishbowl/year after year…
With love for Jane, this almost unrecognizable version of an overdone Pink Floyd classic. “How, how I wish you were here…”

13. “Some People” – Martha Wainwright …I don’t want to be the one to tell you that I don’t love the way I used to…
“If only I believed in God I’d ask him to help me find my way/I am faced with a world that does not have the words to say…”

14. “I’m Leaving It Up to You” – Dale & Grace …Now do you want my love?/Or are we through?…
Who would I be if I were not including songs that considerably pre-date my existence?

15. “The Belle of St Mark” – Sheila E
No clue why – had an urge to hear music that reminds me of the hell of 5th and 6th grades and of my old friend, Danielle.

16. “Healed” – Lia Ices …Just dust…
Always with Jane in mind. And here’s to the shattering of illusions about who you thought people were (Ph).
No YouTube link – here it is.

17. “Meant to Move” – Lerin Herzer & Andrew Joslyn …Some people were meant to sit still/I’m afraid I was meant to move…
In yet another new place, new city, new job, moving on again, as I am meant to do, even if some things never change.

18. “Computer Love” – Kraftwerk
Thanks to Laurent. With ML in the back of the mind. My computer love days are over; goodbye tech world!

19. “Ends of the Earth” – Lord Huron …I was a-ready to die for you, baby/Doesn’t mean I’m ready to stay/What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given/If all you do is stand in one place…
And where is that person who would wander and follow? “To the ends of the earth, would you follow me/There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see…”

20. “Amor Fati” – Washed Out …What you can’t afford now/Chasing all your thoughts, you know that/You’ll be all right in time…

21. “Hallelujah” – The Helio Sequence …We all want answers anyway…
We faithless few. “And waiting pensive, sad, and look/Up to the stars and counting all the suns and all the moons/How sad it was that we could not believe…”

22. “Hong Kong Garden” – Siouxsie and the Banshees
I have always liked Siouxsie and the Banshees but never got into as much as I have of late. Ecstatic when this comes on during my dark, winter morning walks to the tram. Ecstatic for the sound, not so much for the disorienting, misguided lyrics.

23. “Genesis” – Grimes …Holding on/I am a vagabond /It’s always different/I am the one who falls…

24. “Lovefingers” – School of Seven Bells

https://soundcloud.com/vagrantrecords/lovefingers

25. “Thru the Field” – Memory Tapes …Walk on through the field, it’s already late/I swear I heard somebody laughing/At all my mistakes…
All my mistakes… luckily the majority are personal rather than professional or big “life” things.

26. “Alone Again Or” – LoveYeah, said it’s all right/I won’t forget/All the times I’ve waited patiently for you/And you’ll do just what you choose to do/And I will be alone again tonight, my dear…
Here’s to all the waiting around for nothing, empty plans, broken promises…

27. “You’re Still Beautiful” – The Church
Always forgetting The Church – underrated and underplayed. Brings back late-80s memories

28. “Suspended in Gaffa” – Ra Ra Riot …That girl in the mirror/Between you and me/She don’t stand a chance of getting anywhere at all…
Thanks to Jill for the recommendation. Never really been much of a Kate Bush fan, but I’m all for Kate Bush covers.

29. “Argonauts” – The Little Ones …You ought to kick and scream/For every fallen dream, there’s a hard knock on the door/Like stones, yeah we’ll never move to shore…

30. “Crazy Tropical Survival Guide” – Frederick Squire & Katherine Maki …All at once/the world ended/all at once everything in the world became so clear…
I heard this but could not find it for the last Halloween mix – now I don’t like it as much as then but am still including it.

31. “Crucify Your Mind” – Sixto Rodriguez …And you assume you got something to offer/Secrets shiny and new/But how much of you is repetition/That you didn’t whisper to him too…

32. “Heavenly Bodies” – Tamaryn …She’s a fool/But time is a thief/When it comes in to say/Her love has to wait…

33. “Sometime” – DIIV …Oh your body is a mess sometimes/Your brain is just a part of your head it really is a mess sometimes/Your head is just a part of the rest/It’s really necessary sometimes/Your birth is just a part of your death/That really isn’t it this time your death is just a part of your…

34. “Half Gate” – Grizzly Bear …But honestly it’s fine/When I mention how I love you/It’s all I do/Even as I stray/We have the cold to keep/I’m not sure I still believe/My most is nothing more/Than a place we’ve been before…
Regret. A song as dramatic shopping list of regret. “Which of yourselves is truly gone?/Checked out so long/Unhinged unwound/Come help me on/To let lie what’s done/In some great beyond/You’re still there still as you were…”

35. “Working Titles” – Damien Jurado …You could mess up my life in a poem/Have me divorced by the time of the chorus…
For all those who are never quite the right one. “Killing time til I pass through the chamber/Or the room where you keep my replacement/Se fed up still you’re starving on paper/You are no him, but he’s you, only better…” “Leave me an exit to damage/I could use a ledge to jump off of/I wasn’t lying when I said this was over/I have questions that lead to more questions…”

36. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – Otis Redding …You were tired, and your love is growing cold/My love is growing stronger as our affair grows old…

37. “Teenage Goths” – Jon DeRosa …Do you remember how we ruled/the only teenage goths in school?…
All realistic and pragmatic, but everything is possible.
No YouTube link. Here is the song.

38. “’Cello Song” – Nick Drake

39. “Don’t Drown in Sorrows” – Jakob Olausson
A Swedish thing, carrying me through the winter. Heard first on KEXP in Seattle. The DJ thought he was cool and pronounced this guy’s name like “YAY-kub” – which reminds me of a manager I used to have and his half-assed attempts at pronouncing things – he could never decide until halfway through a word whether he would say it the Norwegian or the English way, so you’d get some crap hybrid. Can’t find a link

40. “Night Will Be Dawn” – Darkness Falls
This might seem a bit dramatic and dark but … then, so is getting through the darkness of Swedish winter. With love for Roxane.

41. “Victoria” – The Fall
This version of the song will always remind me of New Zealand and Qantas – this was part of a sound program they offered about The Kinks. Rarely is a mix complete without The Fall.

42. “Do the Du” – Certain Ratio …My heart was just an open sore/which you picked at ’til it was raw/it bled away my existence/shriveled under your insistence…

43. “Flutes” – Hot Chip
Naturally all references to flutes tie in to Annette and “blowing meat flutes”. ☺ I’ll join that orchestra. There is a sound in the end of the song that sounds a lot like Skype when a call is coming in. Haha. Another good song for tram waiting and riding.

44. “Cherry” – Chromatics …Cherry/Tells me some things I don’t want to know/And I can’t see /A light at the end for us anymore…
I love the sound of this, with visions of nearing the end of the long drive between Gothenburg and rural Swedish woodland, passing a weird dot on the map called Gustavsfors that boasts not only an oddly placed German bakery but also a campground called Alcatraz.

45. “Say No to Thugs” – Lost Animal …Never get lessons in love from an angry man…
Good advice. “Don’t sweat the little things, love…”

46. “Shapeless & Gone” – Porcelain Raft …In a strange kind of way, lifeless landscapes have so much to say…
“So good to know you’re out there/So good to know you still care…”. The words people say to me over and over…

47. “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” – Stars
Many to whom I gave; got nothing in return. Not sorry but have I ever been brave enough to say so? “There’s one thing I want to say, so I’ll be brave/You were what I wanted/I gave what I gave/I’m not sorry I met you/I’m not sorry it’s over/I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save…”

48. Drown in My Own Tears” – Stevie Wonder

49. “Nice Without Mercy” – Lambchop …And the sky opens up like candy/And the wind don’t know my name…
Love the title; perfectly sums up my ongoing campaign to kill with kindness.

50. “Beautiful Son” – Peaking Lights

51. “Lord Knows” – Dum Dum Girls …I want to live a pure life/I’d say that it’s about time/Don’t judge me for the things I’ve done/To get off the only one/The bliss I’ve found in ignorance/A slow burning Icarus…

52. “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” – Nina Simone

53. “The Dark Age” – Widowspeak …We only have ourselves to blame/We had our years to play/It’s getting kind of late/Don’t know what you’re waiting for…

54. “I Wish I Had an Evil Twin” – The Magnetic Fields
“My evil twin would lie and steal/And he would stink of sex appeal/All men would writhe/Beneath his scythe/He’d send the pretty ones to me/And they would think that I was he/I’d hurt them and I’d go scot-free/I’d get no blame/And feel no shame/’Cause evil’s not my cup of tea”

55. “Shy Song” – Containe …I want you to fuck me/Like I’ve never been before…
“If you let me, I will show you a good time/I want to come over/Every day and every night…”. “I’m shy, too…”
No YouTube link. Here’s “Shy Song“.

56. “All I Want” – LCD Soundsystem …All I want is your pity/Oh all I want are your bitter tears…
A strange Echo & the Bunnymen quality to it, especially at the end. Constantly amazed that every LCD Soundsystem song sounds completely different. “Look for the girl who has put up with all of your shit/You’ve never needed anyone for so long…”

57. “So Good at Being in Trouble” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra …Memories, they mess with my mind…
“She was so good at being in trouble/So bad at being in love…”

58. “Looking for a Sign” – Beck
“If I ran across your picture/if I called you by mistake/ and if I ask someone about you/It’s a habit I can’t break/Looking out for a sign/How can I tell what’s right/Changing my ways to spite myself/Cause I still want you”

59. “Ruin” – Cat Power …Bitching, complaining when some ṗeople who ain’t got shit to eat/Bitching, moaning, so many people you know they got…
For Naomi. Even some Finns who think 1,200 EUR will last a year ain’t got shit to eat (ramen and cheap liquor!).

60. “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” – The Smiths …I’ve seen this happen in other people’s lives/and now it’s happening in mine…
While it did not bother or devastate me as it did others, I became one of the masses who was downsized from a job (but already had another lined up when it happened). These lyrics, which always remind me of reading a bio of Marie Antoinette back in 1991, seemed applicable and relevant. “Time’s tide will smother you/And I will too…”

61. “Just Make It Stop” – Low …You see I’m close to the edge/I’m at the end of my rope/the rope is starting to thread/I’m trying to keep my hold/you say I’m something I’m not/but I’m not what I seem/get my back off the wall/if I could just make it stop…
Haven’t we all wanted it all to stop?

62. “Passage” – Exitmusic …Words of promise weigh down on us, settle in our bones/Once the dawn falls down upon us, I will let you go…
Unbelievable layers in which to get lost. “You’re so incredible, why can’t I touch you? Hold back decayed love and light.” For RC.