Nerd Homework: Gravity Falls

Back a few months ago, as I waited impatiently for Duck Tales to give us more episodes than just it’s truly stupendous pilot, I started poking around for other kid’s animation to check out.

I watched a few episodes of Gravity Falls and though I enjoyed it, I think my life was in just a bit too much chaos at that point to really grab on to it.

Cut to last week, worn out after Dune, and The Handmaid’s Tale and even Battlestar Galactica, I knew I needed a break, something light, and fun, and peppy. And so I decided to give the show another shot.

Boy was I rewarded. I was charmed by the writing and general silly/creepy tone of the show, and it’s 40 episode length made it a refreshing chill out and reset my brain stop over. I adore both Dipper and Mabel Pines and their contrasting views on the world, and constant support of one another. (Also, there’s an episode where Mabel White Fangs a boy band, so you know, my kind of thing.)

While I knew some of the big reveals due to being a nerd on the internet for the past five years, I still enjoyed seeing the set ups and appreciating just how huge it is when you learn about Stan’s past and the drama of Ford. I loved the way the show wrapped up, it’s vision of the apocalypse, fittingly, both horrifying and kind of adorable in turn.

I think about the building blocks of things a lot, the legacy left behind by stories that came earlier. And I think what’s interesting about Gravity Falls is this is a show about legacy (Mabel and Dipper being the natural consequence of Stan and Ford) and built on legacy of what came before it. (Twin Peaks, The X-Files.) Even aside from it’s straightforward virtues, is a masterpiece of meta textual storytelling.

I really, really enjoyed the show, and actually have a million things I want to say about it, but for now, I’m just glad it exists, in it’s small lovely way, cornered off like that magical summer you’ll always remember fondly.

On the Nerd Homework Front: I’m slowly but surely making my way through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I like the show a lot. I’m still mired in the Season 1, finding it’s legs stage, that I feel confident if I can make it through, I will be rewarded. (As I was with TNG) That knowledge does not quite make the season’s troubles easier to weather though.

I’m also reading Infinite Jest, which isn’t so much Nerd Homework, as just like homework, I guess? But you know, I occasionally like to converse with nerdy white boy types who all think Foster was a god or whatever, and I quite like the book. The love that I have for Vonnegut and Twain helps with that. (I’d previously read Wallace’s non fiction which always reminded me of Mark Twain.) It’s also taking a lot longer than I anticipated, so it’s put a bunch of other reading on hold.

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And That’s Just Fabulous

A few weeks ago it was the 20th anniversary of Sex And The City, and reading a bunch of retrospectives on the show had me put my latest nerd homework assignment (Battle Star Galactica! So Say We All!) on hold to watch the show again.

It’s one of those shows I like watching every few years, and I really really love it. I get new stuff from it every time.

This time the watch coincided with a bit of blitz I’ve had trying to date so that was fun. But as usual, I paid less attention to the boyfriends and husbands. (TEAM BERGER!) It’s all about the girls. (And New York City, really, the fifth lady…) Their relationships with each other.

The main love story at the center, structured as such is between Carrie and Miranda and it’s goddamned fascinating. Except for season 1, which, like most HBO shows I regard as a pilot, a way of feeling out if this thing works, the focus is squarely on these two as they grown. Before I’ve noted what’s interesting about SATC is that it’s about the death of cynicism and allowing yourself to be open to love and life.

And I still think that. Even Charlotte, the avatar of true love, doesn’t really understand any of that until she breaks out of her rigid rules. This is a show about opening up. It’s also hilarious, timely and I cannot stress this enough, is about four women where male characters are basically an afterthought.

But I’ve explored all of this before and this time, I was happy to just settle in and watch. Seriously. It was really nice.

Ultimate Team Ups: Teen Drama Edition

I like to consider myself something of a scholar of the teen drama television series. While I haven’t watched every entry into the genre, I still need to finish Felicity, I don’t speak Party of Five at all, I’m woefully ignorant of anything in the post Gossip Girl era, save Rivderdale, and anything Degrassi that happened after Spinner became the sage older character belongs in a flaming trash can, I do have certain episodes of The OC actually memorized, and I could probably write a book on the various film allusions in Dawson’s Creek. Plus, you know, One Tree Hill. 

So, that gives me some cred, I think.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to create the ULTIMATE TEEN DRAMA CAST Avengers style. We’ve got some archetypes to play with, and I think it’ll go well.

The Brooding Bad Boy: Dylan McKay – Beverly Hills, 90210

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There is only one choice, and it is the original. I firmly believe that without Luke Perry as Dylan, this genre would not exist. Everything about Dylan is perfect. His agnst, his chip on his shoulder, his dumb 50’s haircut, his ability to cry at the drop of a hat. I recently rewatched season 1, and I think that the scene where he sits on the floor of his hotel suite, crying into the phone when he can’t reach his parents might be the peak moment of the entire genre. It’s been all downhill from there.

The “Slutty” Girl Who Just Wants To Be Loved: Brooke Davis – One Tree Hill

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While 90210 and Dawson’s did excellent work with this archetype in Kelly and Jen respectively, it was perfected in Sophia Bush’s Brooke. Desperately insecure and insanely confident at the same time, Brooke is fun, funny, brilliant and perfect. Not to mention in the right circumstances she is also an excellent shit stirrer.

The Comic Relief: Seth Cohen – The OC

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If the genre wouldn’t exist with Dylan, it would have gone away in the 90’s without Seth. The OC was going to bring twenty somethings playing angst ridden rich teens into the twenty first century kicking and screaming if it had to. And the biggest part of that equation was Seth. Ever quippy, indomitable, perfectly cast in Adam Brody, sometimes a little bit too much Seth.

The Bitch – Blair Waldorf – Gossip Girl

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Look, I love Brenda Walsh, I love Cheryl Blossom. Neither of them can hold a candle to the queen of the Upper East Side, and really everything, Blair Waldorf. Never learns her lesson, treats everyone around her like they’re beneath her (they are), and we root for her anyway. (To be fair our other options were Jenny, Serena and Vanessa…which no.)  Also, in a fun meta sense, Leighton Meister is now married to Adam Brody, which means that Blair and Seth can be a couple in this imaginary show.

The Normal Boring One – Wallace Fennel – Veronica Mars

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While his classmates dealt with murder investigations, rape recovery, gang wars, learning they were switched at birth and any number of other insane plots, Wallace was worrying about things like basketball, whether Tessa Thompson liked him (even she was a secret teen mom!), if he was OK with his mom dating his best friend’s dad. He’s very normal. Also, unlike his competition for this slot, Dawson Leery, Archie Andrews and Dan Humphrey, Wallace is neither the worst nor totally boring, he’s got a fun personality. And keeps the list from being completely white people! (It’s a genre that’s only just starting to do well on a diversity basis. It’s been very white for a very long time)

The Girl Next Door – Joey Potter – Dawson’s Creek

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The secret main character of the show she was on! (Blair, Seth, and Dylan also fulfill this requirement) Again, with deference to the “perfect” version of this Betty Cooper, she’s not as perfect as dreamy, weepy, constantly put upon Joey. So wonderful is Joey Potter that Dawson rewrites their story every time so that they end up together, even though they never end up together. (TEAM PACEY!) And just imagine the amount of cry-shouting that would go into a Joey and Dylan romance!

The One From The Wrong Side Of The Tracks – Jughead Jones – Riverdale

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While Jughead also qualifies for Brooding Bad Boy, he does double duty as the character from a slightly more disadvantaged background who hangs around to tell people that they “don’t understand.” Sometimes this person is barely from the Wrong Side, (Andrea Zuckerman was from The Valley! The Humphreys lived in Brooklyn!) and sometimes they’re there to provide culture shock (Ryan Atwood worked construction on his summer vacations!)  and sometimes they are genuine criminals (Weevil Navarro CHAINED A DUDE TO A PIPE TO GET EXPLODED!) But Jughead is all of those things. He still goes to school with Archie, Betty and Veronica, but he lives in a drive in for a while and HEY REMEMBER WHEN HE CUT THAT LADY? Bonus Points: He and Joey can bond about their ex con fathers who now work in food service.

Obvious Pairings That Are Obvious:

Brooke and Jughead, they’d banter and be the best, and one day realize that they’re both much more sensitive than they let everyone see. Then there’d be trailer sex.

Blair and Seth: While Blair would initially go for Dylan (with the brooding and hotel living, how could she resist) we’d all succumb to the fact that real world couples need to be fictional couples on these shows. Also, Seth is the not the worst version of Dan, who Blair also dated, although we all pretend that never happened.

Joey and Dylan: SO MANY FEELINGS!

Wallace And A Series Of Lovely Recurring Guest Stars: Much like on Veronica Mars no one in this main cast is a functional enough human to deserve Wallace. Though there would perhaps be a short and ill advised Brooke/Wallace hookup, and the writers would try to keep making Joey and Wallace happen.

I really enjoyed making this list, and I might do more of these ultimate team ups. Or just write some really fun fanfic with this group. Would you guys been up for that? Feel free to suggest plotlines.

 

OK…OK…What’s Next?

 I would not be the person I am without the authors who made me what I am–the special ones, the wise ones, sometimes just the ones who got there first.

It’s not irrelevant, those moments of connection, those places where fiction saves your life. It’s the most important thing there is.  – Neil Gaiman

I love this quote by Neil Gaiman (on my Mount Rushmore of influences by the way, that man…) And I was thinking about it a lot as I drove to work yesterday morning, because I’d spent the evening listening to one of the special ones, the wise ones, and most importantly, the guy that got there first.

I came to the realization some time ago when someone asked me who my favorite writer was and I didn’t have to time to think about it, or maybe I’d been drinking, or was tired, and without even taking a breath I said simply, “Oh, Aaron Sorkin.”

The response when I say that is anywhere from a “YES!” to a “The West Wing Guy?” to an agreived sigh and a “he really can’t write women.” (How this became the narrative for the guy who created Dana Whittaker and CJ Cregg is beyond me…Harriet Hayes was sort of a trainwreck, but he women of The Newsroom were pretty kick ass, as Sorkin characters go.)

Anyway, the whole evening was sort of magical. Crystan managed to get us amazing seats at Town Hall for The West Wing Weekly Live, with special guest Aaron Sorkin. It was technically the season 4 finale, but they kind of just jumped around (that finale is the last episode that Sorkin wrote) Emily Procter, who played Ainsley Hayes also came and chatted, and overall it was just, kind of lovely.

Mostly, though, I was in awe of this man.

This man who’s work has inspired me since I was twelve. This man who has given so many words to the world.

You’ll notice that this week’s The Marina Chronicles post is a group of people sitting at a table trying to figure out their next step…that’s not a coincidence. I love that kind of writing.

Anyway, it was really fun, and I need to find out, well, what’s next.

Cosplay Corner: Garden State Comic Fest Day 1: Cheryl Blossom

love Riverdale, having been an Archie fan already, I really shouldn’t have resisted the show as long as I did, but now that I have watched it, I’m completely obsessed. (Although it is currently going through the thing that teen dramas go through where it’s second or third season isn’t as good as what came before. I’m hoping it bounces back in season 3, as Dawson’s did…)

Anyway, I decided to go for some Riverdale cosplay and realized I had everything at the ready for Cheryl Blossom, Riverdale’s resident Gothic Heroine/Mean Girl/Ridiculous Hot Mess Of A Human.

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The costume is relatively simple, it’s my pleather skirt and red cardigan and over the knee boots. Done. I found the red wig on Amazon (though after the summer I won’t use that anymore!)

This was the first run and it was pretty comfortable, so I’m going to invest in better accessories for it now (a black choker and the spider broach.) and I need a more red lipstick, as my usual one was too pink for Cheryl. What’s great about this costume is that it’s small and packs easily, which means I’ll definitely use it again!

And it was even better to do it with Aless and Kristi as Betty and Veronica!

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Also the milkshakes were totally necessary!

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“You look like you want to kill me…THAT’S PERFECT!” – Aless

Next week I’ll talk through my Ravenclaw Uniform! HOORAY!

Too Much Heaven On Their Minds

In the past five years the wave of TV musicals have ranged from “DEAR GOD WHY?” (The Sound Of Music Live, Dirty Dancing) to “That Was Adequate I Guess,” (Peter Pan Live, Hairspray Live) to “Quite Good With Moments Of Greatness” (A Christmas Story Live, Grease Live, The Wiz Live)

On that spectrum, Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert hits in the “Quite Good With Moments of Greatness” and from a personal standpoint it’s my favorite so far. Mostly because I like JCS more than I like Grease, so while I think from a critical and technical standpoint they were on par, I was going to enjoy this more.

Let’s start with the not as great stuff so that I can gush later:

  • We need to stop casting pop stars who can’t act as major acting roles in these things. John Legend is a talented and charismatic dude, with a lovely and hilarious spouse, who was hopelessly outclassed by all of his scene partners. Not, by the way, that being outclassed by Brandon Victor Dixon, Norm Lewis and Ben Daniels is anything to be ashamed of, but they were so much better than he was that it was distracting. Also, I felt bad for him as he struggled through “Gethsemane,” kind of. That’s a really difficult song, but also, if you can’t take Andrew Lloyd Webber’s heat, get out of that particular musical theater kitchen, ya know? (Words I also wish someone had once said to Madonna)
  • Alice Cooper’s performance as King Herod was kinda meh. I was thrilled to see him (and he’s a member of my favorite version, the 1996 studio cast, also with Peter Gallagher!) but the execution here left me underwhelmed.
  • There were both tech issues and vocal blowouts galore. Which means that this was badly rehearsed. NO musical director worth their salt should let both their Pilate and Jesus push so hard that they struggle through Act 2. And no sound tech with adequate preparation should be dropping mic ques on a production at this level.
  • OMG WE GET IT WITH THE SCAFFOLDING! I know, I know, this musical has a lot of electric guitar in it, so we need to have scaffolding in the set because Rent said so, but this has become such a lazy and cliche design choice, I’d rather not see it used again for a while. (You’ll notice about a year ago, I had this same complaint with The Lighting Theif)

Now onto The Stuff I Liked (A LOT)

  • Brandon. Victor. Dixon. While to the uninitiated it might seem odd that Judas is better than Jesus, this is not even remotely unusual for this show. It’s the better, more dramatically important role. He gets three great songs to Jesus’s one. (“Heaven On Their Minds,” “Damned For All Time,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Granted, the one for Jesus is a doozy…but still) And Dixon is, you know, incredible. After seeing and loving him in Shuffle Along and being blown away by him in Hamilton I loved seeing him play this role, which he just ran away with. Seriously, I hope this serves as his mainstream coming out party because it was just so good.
  • Sarah Barielles as Mary Magdalene. I’m protective of this role. It’s songs served as audition pieces for me throughout high school. Sarah did very well, and I loved the directing and costuming choice of making her a flower child in a sea of punks. It made her stand out among the followers and is a more organic fit for both Barielles’s energy and Mary’s songs.
  • Pretty much all of the supporting roles were great, but I really loved what Ben Daniels did with Pilate. As Mary exclaimed, “HE LOOKS LIKE 80’s BOWIE! THAT’S PERFECT!”
  • Pretty much all of the staging and costuming? Like, nothing was revolutionary, but it all worked. And the Crucifixion was a technical marvel. And I couldn’t help but giggle at the ensemble taking Wayne and Garth style “We’re not worthy” stances as Alice Cooper entered.
  • The band and orchestra: Because Webber is a beautiful weirdo who doesn’t believe in genre lines JCS requires both a rock band and a traditional orchestra. Some production only pick one and they usually go with the band. We got both here! Yay! But also, the fact that this show requires three guitars players to do it justice is one of my favorite things about it.
  • I want to specifically call out Jason Tam and Erik Gronwall who played Peter and Simon Zealotes because Simon sings my favorite song in the show, and Tam was so adorable that he made me give a crap about Peter which I never have before in this show.
  • BRANDON VICTOR DIXON

I was overall really impressed. Have watched the thing twice. My greatest joy with it was that it didn’t feel neutered, which I was afraid it might. No, it was as weird and challenging and beautiful as ever. As Katie (who is not a fan of this show BTW) once said, “if nothing else, Jesus Chris Superstar has a point of view, and if that gets lost, well, there’s nothing there.” This production had a point of view.

Our next one is Fox attempting Rent next January.

You can be sure that I’ll have opinions about that.

Nerd Homework: Inuyasha

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As an ongoing part of trying to expand my horizons and become the best fangirl I can be, I’ve committed to doing some Nerd Homework this year. Primary Objectives are: The Dune Chronicles, Star Trek and anime.

As a part of the more anime portion of this project, I watched (at Aless’s recommendation) Inuyasha, which is long and amazing.

The set up is relatively convoluted. 500 years ago in the feudal era of Japan, a priestess named Kikyo fell in love with a half-demon named Inuyasha. They apparently betrayed one another under the auspices of a sacred jewel. Kikyo died, and in her final moments, wished that noone else could access the jewel. Cut to modern times, Kikyo is reborn as Kagome, and on her fifteenth birthday, the jewel reappears and Kagome is pulled through a magical well into the feudal era, where she frees Inuyasha, and shatters the jewel and they begin a quest to find the shards of the jewel.

Umm, so yeah, that’s just the beginning, they wind up fighting another demon named Naraku, teaming up with a lecherous young monk and a badass demon slayer, Kagome gets romantically stalked by a Wolf Demon. Kikyo comes back as a lonely and really annoying sort of ghost. There’s a lot going on.

loved this show. I loved the crazy twisty romances, the childish humor, the adventure. It was very long, and it pretty much ate my life over the past two weeks as I dove into it. (At the detriment of being caught up on anything else. This is the reason I haven’t watched Jessica Jones season 2 year…) I don’t know what my next Anime adventure will be. (I’ve got some Star Trek pushing to do. I fell hard into TNG in the fall, dropped off on it, and am now making the final push through it’s last 2 seasons…) but push on I shall.

I’m open to recomendations for anime though. Keep in mind how much I loved Sailor Moon and Inuyasha, these are the things I like…