Saturday, May 31, 2014

Discovered Gold

Not too long ago, a book was checked in at my library that caught my eye: Provence, 1970, an account of a fateful meeting many culinary greats of America at the time, people who had shaped the way America now viewed their food- among them James Beard and Julia Child. The author of the book is the great-nephew of M.F.K. Fisher, a woman I had never heard of, but who largely provides the source and point of view of this meeting.

Intrigued by what sounded to be a very interesting person, I sought out her work, requesting the collection of her books: The Art of Eating. What I got was a biblically thick tome of a woman's musings on food, on cuisine, on history, on life in the pursuit of gastronomy. It's a remarkably flippant way to put it, but as I read it I'm beginning to start to consider her the John the Baptist to Julia Child's Jesus. A contemporary as much as a herald of the change that was coming to America's kitchens. She writes with the florid prose and vocabulary of someone who genuinely loves the English language almost as much as she loves the topic she's writing about.

More interestingly, though, I realized last night what she really was: the very first food blogger. That's all these works are. A collection of very well written blog posts. And I'm truly loving them. It's proving to be a book that feels essential in a personal library, not just something to be checked out, read, and discarded. Fantastic.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

TVTVTV - Catching Up

The spring TV season is over and that can only mean one thing:


Playing House- A pretty simple sitcom from Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, two women who are always hilarious on Comedy Bang! Bang! as eternally teenaged intern Marissa Wompler(womp it up!) and her "gifted" teacher Miss Listler. It's not particularly challenging or inspired- it's just fun and funny. Since Bridesmaids came out, there's been a lot of tendency toward making comparisons to it whenever funny women get to make their own show/movie. In this case, it's reasonably apt. It doesn't tend toward the gross-out aspects of Bridesmaids, but it has the same sort of fun energy of getting to constantly screw up and find your way with your best friend.

Hannibal- The first episode of Wonderfalls begins with a myth: the legend of the "Maid of the Mist" who leaps off of Niagara Falls to her death to "surrender to destiny." Since then, death has followed Bryan Fuller's work. Dead Like Me dealt with the loneliness of death- both the emptiness for those who were left behind but the loneliness for the dead themselves. More memorably, Pushing Daisies reveled in the joy of getting a second chance and leaving fond memories of the dead behind- the cinematography and special effects making it quite possibly one of the happiest TV shows ever produced.

Hannibal, then, deals with the utter shock and horror of death. Bryan Fuller has grown to be a master of his craft and Hannibal might be his magnum opus. Where Pushing Daises used the screen to elicit joy, Hannibal uses it to inspire terror and dread. Death is brutal and the effects are haunting. The people who relish in it are not sociopathic anti-heroes, like Anthony Hopkin's Lecter sometimes came across as, they are figures of inhumanity who torment the main character and the viewer. As much as Pushing Daisies was pure happiness, Hannibal is pure fear and it is phenomenal.

Orange is the New Black- The most interesting thing about Lost was never the island. It might have taken a disappointing ending to get people to admit that, but the truth was that Lost told us that from the second episode. Lost was a show that had such complete and utter faith in having interesting characters with interesting stories that from the second episode, it committed to that in its format: making each episode resolve around a character and their lives in flashback, intertwining with their struggles on the island. Lost was not a show about a mysterious island, it was a show about the people on it.

Orange is the New Black is not a show about a prison, it's a show about the women in it. It takes Lost's format and makes it work even more beautifully. Because we get to see the stories of these other women in the prison without having to get it filtered through the bog standard story of the privileged white person learning about other people and accepting them. Their stories are told unfiltered. Their lives are laid bare- the things they did that lead them to become prisoners. And they are good stories, told honestly.

For a long time I thought shows that Netflix produced were probably just gonna be like HBO shows, but not compelling enough to get to be on HBO. OitNB definitely blows that away: it's not on HBO because HBO isn't brave enough to have a show like it. Funny, decidedly feminist, and uncompromising. HBO is the place where A Song of Ice and Fire apparently needs more tits and more rape to make it interesting.

Also, Kate Mulgrew is incredibly badass.