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what i've been reading

There is no absolute fail safe. ... What you have on the other side of the equation is the undoubted large numbers of lives saved and sickness averted through the prevention of these diseases. ... Vaccines are becoming a victim of their own success. We don’t see these diseases, therefore we don’t fear them. ... Complacency is the big enemy against vaccination.

-- Meredith Wadman

Scientists who are hired to promote industry agendas are shills. Fortunately, they are the exception. One of the key values of science is truthfulness. This makes it possible to create an edifice of reliable data that new discoveries build on. And truthfulness is a way of being, of creating trust with others. Researchers are acutely aware of the possibility of being later proved wrong, and of great unanswered questions. It instills in them a kind of humility. My geologist father embraced evidence of the movement of continental plates in the 1970s, in spite of having written a book on mountain-building based on an earlier theory. New tools permit us to see astonishing images, taking us down to the atomic level, as well as so many light years distant that we approach beginning of this universe. It excites a humbling sense of wonder.

-- Trudy Myrrh Reagan, “Does Science Replace Religion?

[M]y artist of my life is Beyoncé. And this album to me, the Lemonade album, is just so monumental. Beyoncé, it’s so monumental. And so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-baring and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see. And we appreciate that. And all us artists here adore you. You are our light.

-- Adele, on winning Album of the Year at the Grammys

My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history, to confront issues that make us uncomfortable. I feel it’s vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes.

-- Beyoncé, winner of Best Urban Contemporary Album

If there are Republican elected officials who are worried about any of this, now is the time to speak - and more importantly act. History doesn't only judge harshly the bad leaders, but those who stand by as enablers with their silence and tacit support. I think many American voters are worried, deeply worried about the course this country is now taking. I do not believe that the majority of citizens root for instability, corruption or incompetence. Either the Administration will change and evolve (and if the past is prologue I wouldn't bet the gas money on it) or there will be a reckoning. And the voters could speak their displeasure in very broad terms.

-- Dan Rather

"Pocahontas is now the face of your party."

-- Donald Trump


way out: "side show"

In early 1961, CBS needed a show to quickly fill a time slot left open by a failed series hosted by Jackie Gleason. The new show was called Way Out ... CBS had The Twilight Zone running at the time ... it consisted of half-hour episodes peeking into fantasy and sci-fi tales. The host was Roald Dahl, later famous for, among other things, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl would introduce each episode, similar to what Rod Serling was doing on Twilight Zone. (Boris Karloff filled this function with Thriller, as did Alfred Hitchcock on his series.)

The first episode of Way Out, “William and Mary”, based on a story by Dahl, tells of a man with terminal cancer who agrees to an experiment where his brain is connected to an artificial heart after his death. It works ... the man also retains one eye so he can see. He sends a note to his widowed wife, explaining what has happened. She takes him home with her, and proceeds to flaunt actions in front of him that he disapproved of when he was alive.

Reviews were good. Ratings were OK on the coasts, not so much in the rest of the country. Way Out was cancelled after 14 episodes.

There was one episode of Way Out that has stuck with me for 55+ years. This is where I offer my usual caveats about the limitations of memory. We’re talking about an episode of a short-lived television show that aired in 1961 (June 30 for the episode in question). We’re talking a time long before On Demand and video recorders and the Internet. Unless a show was very popular (I Love Lucy, for instance), reruns weren’t always shown. It is likely that the only time anyone was able to watch that episode was the night that it aired.

So, to place myself in the time period, on June 30, 1961, I was 8 years old, having turned 8 ten days earlier. It would have been near the beginning of summer vacation between 3rd and 4th grade. I was, in short, very young. I’m surprised my parents let me stay up to watch Way Out, which aired Friday nights at 9:30 ... perhaps this was because it was summer vacation.

The episode was called “Side Show”. There were a few actors that remain at least a little familiar: Myron McCormick, who was in what seemed like every TV series back then (he died in 1962); Murray Hamilton, a “hey, it’s that guy” playing a character named Harold Potter (J.K. Rowling wouldn’t be born for another four years ... hmmm, this would make a good plot on a fantasy series); Doris Roberts, then in her mid-30s, who 35 years later would begin a long run as a regular on Everybody Loves Raymond. The plot is about a carnival act run by McCormick that features an “electronic woman”, who seems normal except she has a light bulb where her head should be.

Reading that now, I think, “this would have worked better as a radio drama”, where the ludicrous image of the light bulb head wouldn’t be actual, but only a fantasy of my mind. But the truth is, the only thing about that episode I have remembered since I was 8 years old is that damn light bulb. It haunted me at the time. In later years, the memory of it haunted me. And in more recent times, it still gnaws at my mind, because it was still one of the few things that were unavailable for re-visiting. There was a copy in some TV museum on the East Coast, and a few of the other episodes turned up on YouTube, but “Side Show” remained only a memory.

Until I was looking for something else on YouTube last night and found out that a year or so ago, someone had added a few Way Out episodes. Including “Side Show”.

It’s a weird thing, revisiting a past that has been just beyond your reach for decades.

I was surprised there was an actual plot to the episode. Because all I’d remembered was the light bulb.


oscar run: the lobster (yorgos lanthimos, 2015)

I try, but usually fail, to come to a movie cold, with no plot spoilers. In the case of The Lobster, I actually pulled it off. All I knew about it was that it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and that it had disturbed my friend Charlie very much. (He eventually wrote a piece about it, “Consider the Lobster”.)

Halfway through the movie, I had to pause and go to Facebook, where I wrote the following:

"We all dance by ourselves. That's why we only play electronic music."

Just reached the halfway point of The Lobster. All I knew about it going in was that Charlie Bertsch was very disturbed by it. I didn't realize it was a comedy.

If I’d read up on the film in advance, I would have found that The Lobster was “a black-hearted flat-affect comedy” (Sheila O’Malley), “wickedly funny” (Guy Lodge), a “terrifically twisted satire” (Peter Travers), and an “absurdist romantic tragicomedy” (Stephanie Zacharek). But it was nice being surprised, nice to realize that while The Lobster thinks it is serious, it is also intentionally funny.

I was reminded of other things I’d liked or hated. For the latter, there was Kevin Smith’s Tusk, which disturbed me so much I never wrote about it (madman gradually turns a human into a walrus ... 5/10). The title of The Lobster comes from one of the essential plot points: single people have 45 days to find a mate, or they will be turned into an animal of their own choosing (the main character, played by Colin Ferrell, chooses a lobster, “Because lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives.”

I was also reminded of the TV series Black Mirror, which I like very much. Like The Lobster, Black Mirror shows dystopian versions of the near future, laced in many cases with sly humor. The TV series is an anthology with standalone episodes, but all revolve to a greater or lesser extent on the technology of our lives, futurized just enough to differentiate slightly from the present. It’s a standard trick of dystopias, to create a world recognizably related to our own.

The performances in The Lobster are designed to throw us off ever so slightly. There’s Colin Farrell, except he doesn’t quite look like Colin Farrell, he’s a bit dumpy (he gained 40 pounds for the part) and decidedly un-sexy. Léa Seydoux may be incapable of un-sexiness (although the same might be said of Farrell before this part), but there is a hard-nosed bad-assery to her here that comes not from action scenes as much as from the determined look on her face, daring you to underestimate her. And Ben Whishaw has established great versatility in his previous roles, so you never know what to expect from him. (He also shares with Seydoux a 007 connection: she was a Bond Girl in Spectre, he is the most recent Q ... another actress from the film, Rachel Weisz, adds a trivia-answer 007 connection as well, since she is married to Daniel Craig.)  Suffice to say, everything is a bit off in The Lobster, so when you realize things are actually very off, that realization sneaks up on you.

So no, I wasn’t disturbed by The Lobster, perhaps because while I was aware Lanthimos had a larger theme in mind, I never connected with it, whatever it was. I just took in the pleasures of the film. I can’t leave without mentioning a couple of my favorite actresses, Olivia Colman (Broadchurch, Fleabag) and Ashley Jensen (Extras, Catastrophe). I wouldn’t go so far as to call The Lobster fun, or say I wanted to watch it again. But for the most part, the fun was what appealed to me. 7/10.


music friday: little richard, "long tall sally"

Tomás Summers Sandoval had a post today about sax solos, which ties in with the trivia note that it was on this date in 1956 that Little Richard recorded “Long Tall Sally”. Tomás didn’t include any Little Richard in his list of five top rock sax solos, but I’ve always connected saxophone solos to Little Richard. Elvis had Scotty Moore guitar solos, Chuck Berry had his own licks, Jerry Lee Lewis pounded the piano keyboard, but Richard, despite his own piano-playing skills, always seemed to find room for a sax solo on the break.

Lee Allen was the sax man on most of Little Richard’s early hits, including “Long Tall Sally”. This song was the follow-up to the cataclysmic “Tutti Frutti”, quite simply one of the greatest records of all time. There was a story to choosing “Long Tall Sally”, according to Rolling Stone:

"Long Tall Sally" was aimed squarely at pop singer Pat Boone. "The white radio stations wouldn't play Richard's version of 'Tutti Frutti' and made Boone's cover Number One," recalled [Robert “Bumps”] Blackwell. "So we decided to up the tempo on the follow-up and get the lyrics going so fast that Boone wouldn't be able to get his mouth together to do it!" Recorded at J&M Studios in New Orleans, "Long Tall Sally" was Little Richard's biggest hit. Unfazed, Boone also recorded "Long Tall Sally," taking it to Number Eight.

While the lyrics to “Long Tall Sally” are stripped to their essence, full of sexual innuendo, they are not as nonsensical as “Tutti Frutti”s (the seeming nonsense of that first hit being key to its wonder). But in both cases, and in many of Richard’s greatest hits, it’s the performance that drives it over the top. I often used “Tutti Frutti” as a teaching tool when we would work on poetry in a class. We would read the lyrics, which aren’t much on the page (“A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom” is admittedly silly), then listen to the recording, which is world-changing (“A WOP BOP A LOO BOP A LOP BAM BOOM!”). The song’s lyrics require the music to complete the art. (In this case, after 60 years, there is still some disagreement about exactly how to transcribe those lyrics, which only matters if you are treating it like poetry on the page.)

This lip-syncing rendition of the song in Don’t Knock the Rock is a great way to experience the record. (The sax player is pretending to play Lee Allen’s solo, but it’s actually Grady Gaines, who was in Richard’s touring band, as far as I can tell. I also love that the band has FOUR sax players!)

Here is Pat Boone’s version ... don’t blame me, I’m only the messenger:

(I’m sorry. Please take a moment to collect yourselves after that.)

Not every cover version sucked. Little Richard was to Paul McCartney as Elvis was to John Lennon: primary influences on monumental artists. Oh, and Ringo Fucking Starr:

And finally, a more recent use of “Long Tall Sally” in popular culture (I say “recent”, but this is 1987):


the killer (john woo, 1989)

I’ve been a bit sick the past few days, and so I sat down to watch an old favorite to pass the time. I wandered around the On Demand menus until I saw this, and cranked it up.

I wrote an essay back in 1994, “The Meaning of Chow (It’s in His Mouth)”. I spent a lot of time explaining why I thought I could never penetrate the essence of Chow (and HK films in general).

It is odd and charming ... yet I feel like my words have been spoken before, by other American dilettantes, taking pleasure in the 'exotic' Orient. Charming, because different. Odd, because different. Above all, different. However Hong Kong action movies are perceived in Hong Kong itself, in the U.S. they are first and foremost different, alien, even as they freely borrow from our own movie traditions. It is that difference, in part, that I am responding to when I watch Chow Yun-Fat. Perhaps I even make a fetish of that difference; I embrace the alien, make it, for a moment, mine.... I am confronted with the barriers between my experiences and Asian culture. For an American to watch a Chow Yun-Fat movie is to partake in an ultimate experiment in audience-response theory. We don't understand the culture that produced a Chow Yun-Fat, so we are left to the subjective experience we bring to the movie theatre.

Ironically, this “theory” of the unknowable “meaning of Chow” was proven wrong in a connecting essay by a friend, Jillian Sandell, whose writing on John Woo was so on target she heard from Woo, who said it was one of the best things he had read about his work (she managed to get an interview with Woo out of this exchange). My disconnect was personal, not universal.

In my own essay, I argued that without the cultural context of growing up Chinese, I ended up focusing on more surface tendencies, on things I could fetishize, like his mouth (“Blowing smoke, dangling his toothpick, eating chocolate, or just smiling ... ultimately, when trying to explain why Chow Yun-Fat is cool, it comes down to his mouth.”)

I’ve watched a lot of Chow Yun-Fat movies since then, and a lot of John Woo films, as well. And a lot of Hong Kong movies ... while my passions have dimmed somewhat, throughout most of the 90s, I obsessed about the movies, seeking them out wherever I could (I once went into a Chinese video store where no one spoke English, pointed at a picture of Chow, and said, “I want his movies!”). Gradually their popularity in the States grew ... one repertory theatre in Berkeley showed HK double-bills every Thursday night. But for me, The Killer is where it started.

I was at the video store, and I saw a life-size cardboard cutout advertising The Killer. I no longer remember the details, but it was so striking that I knew I had to rent it. Thus, The Killer stands as the movie that introduced me to Hong Kong films, especially of the urban action genre.

I once showed The Killer to my students in an introductory class at Cal. I had many Asian students in the class, and I remember one of them telling me that their parents were pissed off, that they didn’t pay all that money to send their kid to Cal only to have them watch trashy HK movies. I was surprised, since I thought of The Killer as an art film.

There are John Woo movies I like more than I like The Killer. Hard-Boiled is the standard, Bullet in the Head an over-the-top favorite (OK, all of these movies are over-the-top), A Better Tomorrow solidified the “Heroic Bloodshed” genre’s popularity. Not to mention Woo’s films in other genres, like Once a Thief and Red Cliff. But The Killer will always be first.

The Killer excels in the staging of action scenes, of course, but what marked this film, and many others in the genre, is the relationship between the male leads. Sandell wrote:

[T]his homoeroticism always occurs within moments of excessive violence, a violence that is invariably represented as beautiful, stylized and desirable. The very filmic techniques used — such as soft focus, slow-motion and subtle colors — characterize the violence as romantic. Moreover, in shoot-outs between the heroes and villains, the heroes seem to almost 'dance' and 'swoon' as they fire their weapons, and such scenes are inundated with discharge (bullets and blood) being expelled from male bodies and weapons.

And, describing the final shootout where cop and assassin join forces:

[T]hey do more than merely join forces; they fire their weapons in harmony, they gracefully leap away from flying bullets, they gaze lovingly into each others eyes, and they move in synchronized time and motions, employing a kind of mutuality not found elsewhere in the film. Thus, the relationship between the two men is characterized as being not merely homoerotic but also, in some senses, transcendent.

I was pleased to find that The Killer holds up well. I'm still astonished both by the violence and the emotionalism, but my reaction is much as it was in the past. The movie doesn’t seem sillier now. It is quite the same. #635 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 10/10.


what i've been reading

2017 is shaping up to be a watershed year for public protest, including many musical expressions of dissent. On the progressive side, the strongest of these messages are coming from within communities of resistance, as they always have. Voices lifted in the moment of protest, sometimes individual but often communal, resonate through history. They may belong to famous individuals, but it's not in the nature of the pop that Lady Gaga has made her métier to cultivate them.

-- Ann Powers, “Should Anyone Expect Pop Stars to Lead the Resistance?

Also discussed at the closed-door conference meeting was how to engage Democratic constituents to ensure they feel they're being heard.

-- Rachael Bade, “Republicans Fear for Their Safety as Obamacare Protests Grow

There is a monumental desire on behalf of the majority of the media, not just the pollsters, the majority of the media to attack a duly elected President in the second week of his term ... That's how unhealthy the situation is and until the media understands how wrong that attitude is, and how it hurts their credibility, we are going to continue to say, 'fake news.'

-- Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to Trump

The pure essence of any revelation can be obtained not only in the core of the examination but in the rigorous application of these principles that we do so cherish even though we go our separate ways.

-- Professor Irwin Corey, the World's Foremost Authority


film fatales #23 / oscar run: 13th (ava duvernay, 2016)

This documentary from Netflix joins ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America as Oscar nominees that were made for television. The subject matter is named in the title, which refers to the 13th amendment. This amendment intended to abolish slavery, but DuVernay’s film argues that the key phrase, “except as a punishment for crime”, left the door open for the continued oppression of blacks. Instead of slaves, whites could draw on a supply of black criminals, and they made sure there were plenty of such criminals to pick from.

DuVernay isn’t addressing slavery straight on, but using it to get to her key theme, that America’s prison system is abhorrent, and has grown rapidly in recent decades. Prisons have replaced plantations. She points particularly to Richard Nixon, who promoted himself as a “law and order” president. None of the subsequent presidents escape DuVernay’s wrath, with Bill Clinton receiving the most pointed attacks for his awful Omnibus Crime Bill, which did more to create prison overcrowding than anything else.

DuVernay marshals an impressive array of talking heads for 13th. It is no surprise to see former inmates articulating life in prison, nor is it unusual to see, for instance, Angela Davis, herself a former inmate, offer intelligent analysis. A few people from Nixon’s circle admit that they specifically singled out black Americans. There are even some surprises ... Newt Gingrich, of all people, adds a measured, reasonable voice.

A movie like 13th is a work of activism, and to some extent, an evaluation of the film demands that we examine how well it makes its points. DuVernay isn’t “fair” in the way old-school journalism believed in. The film is not objective. But it does use facts to buttress its points, and all of those talking heads make for quite a board of experts. It is arguably too short ... DuVernay packs the films with so much information, it is sometimes hard to process, and she might have been better off with a multi-episode television series.

There is one artistic move she makes that I found extremely irritating, although I haven’t seen many other people complain. Her talking heads regularly speak towards some space off camera, rarely looking directly at the viewer. It’s as if she saw Mr. Robot and decided she’d like to try something new. But there seems to be no reason for this. It is just distracting, which is certainly a problem when you are presenting so much information.

There is plenty to learn from 13th, and DuVernay is a passionate artist. But the overwhelming pile of information, and the distractions of the stylistic selections, detract from some of the power. Nonetheless, 8/10.

(Explanation of the Film Fatales Series.)


music friday: sleater-kinney, live in paris

There are a few live albums that I treasure: B.B. King’s Live at the Regal, 1969: Velvet Underground Live with Lou Reed, Neil Young’s Time Fades Away and Live Rust, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Live!, Ramones, It’s Alive, pretty much any live Bruce Springsteen albums, The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East, James Brown’s Live at the Apollo, Otis Redding’s Live in Europe, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. But mostly, I find live albums to be useful as a souvenir of a show I might have attended, but otherwise I prefer studio recordings. (This isn’t to say I prefer studio recordings to live performances, just that a lot of what makes for a good concert performance can’t be duplicated on record.)

As is well-documented, Sleater-Kinney’s comeback from a long hiatus has been a remarkable success, with the album No Cities to Love as good as any they had released, and with the subsequent tour, of which I saw three shows, showing that if anything, S-K was more powerful than ever. Thus, it’s appropriate that they have finally released their first live album, recorded early in the tour.

There isn’t anything extravagant about the album ... one disc, just over 47 minutes long, only 13 songs, no cover versions. Many, even most, of my favorites are missing. But I have no complaints about the song selection. Four songs from No Cities to Love, four from the last pre-hiatus album, The Woods (arguably their best), and five split across four albums, with “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” the oldest and Dig Me Out the only one of the four with two selections. There are two basic formats live albums take, a career retrospective or a focus on recent material. Live in Paris is largely the latter. It serves as further evidence that Sleater-Kinney is not yet in decline ... the “later” songs are just as good as the older ones.

It’s nice to have a decent mix ... there is a lot of S-K live on YouTube, but too much of it is audience recordings. What makes the album work is what makes their concerts work, indeed, what makes everything they do work. Corin is a great singer, Carrie is a charismatic and idiosyncratic guitarist and singer, Janet is one the premier living rock drummers, they write great songs, and with all of this, they are somehow still more than the sum of their parts.

The question remains, is Live in Paris a mandatory addition to the catalog? A few of the songs sound better here, everything is at least good, and the song selection is excellent. But, as is generally true with live albums, when I want to hear Sleater-Kinney, I’m more likely to put on The Woods or Dig Me Out than to listen to Live in Paris.

Sub Pop has kindly put the entire album on YouTube:

To show what a good mix can do, here is “Entertain” as it showed up on YouTube the night after the concert, followed by the audio version from Live in Paris. Janet kills it no matter which one you hear.

It's hard to deny the visuals of Carrie, but the latter sure sounds better.


the 100

The 100 is a show about communities. It’s about a lot of other things ... it tends to attach itself rather easily to current affairs, even though it takes place sometime in the 22nd century. It is as ambitious in its own way as the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, and if I don’t think The 100 is as good, that I would even mention them together is important. But at its core, The 100 is about the various communities that have formed over time, and the ways in which loyalties are compromised. The most obvious community is the titular Hundred, also known as The Delinquents, criminals (by the standards of the day, they are all adolescents) who are sent to Earth 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse has made the planet uninhabitable. (The few survivors end up in a space station, The Ark.) The Ark’s life support system was failing, and The 100 were sent to find out if the Earth had become habitable.

At this point, I’ve described a series that fits into the general concept of The CW, a network known for aiming at an audience of young adults. The first thing that happens on The 100 is that the adolescents are separated from the adults (who include the best-known actors on the series, like Isaiah Washington, Paige Turco, and Henry Ian Cusick). They are able to survive on Earth, but they quickly lose contact with The Ark, leaving them in charge of their lives and their civilization.

While The Delinquents are an umbrella community, factions form immediately. We also learn of other communities (clans) comprised of the offspring of survivors of the apocalypse. These various communities are not specifically fluid ... it is difficult to move from one community to another. But within the communities, things are very fluid, with friends becoming enemies, people rising (or falling) to the occasion, and people dying (this happens a lot on The 100). The result is reminiscent of a soap opera, in that relationships between individuals are central to the show’s appeal, but a soap opera with apocalypse as the backdrop.

I’ve detailed this in order to describe why I love The 100, despite its many faults. I care about the characters, not just as individuals, but as community members. The apocalyptic setting heightens every action, and there are times when “the problems of these little people don’t amount to a hill of beans”. But by insisting not only on the daily battle against the apocalypse (which would make a dark show even darker) but also on the desire to maintain some semblance of humanity (which offers what little hope you can find in The 100), the series resonates far more deeply than might be expected.

And on the rare occasions when people change affiliations, it can be heart-breaking.

I may be focusing on the group, but the one-on-one relationships are also crucial, perhaps more crucial than I am suggesting. There is plenty of material for shippers who want certain characters to get together romantically. The 100 mostly steers away from this, but possibilities exist. That some of the most intense relationships are between people crossing community boundaries only makes those boundaries more clear (and, to some extent, more damaging). So one of the most interesting character arcs belongs to Octavia, a Delinquent who goes from near-airhead to a fierce warrior, falling in love with a “Grounder”, adopting another Grounder as a mentor, and thus constantly having to evaluate her loyalties in ways other characters can dismiss.

In the midst of all this, one relationship stands out, between Clarke, a Delinquent, and the most central character in a large cast, and Lexa, a Grounder commander. The world of The 100 is one where the great variety of sexual preferences is taken for granted ... after an apocalypse, there isn’t time to worry about who is sleeping with whom. Lexa is a lesbian, and Clarke is bisexual. They are leaders of their respective communities, and while their respect for each other grows, their commitment to their people means betrayal is always a possibility. The chemistry between Eliza Taylor (Clarke) and Alycia Debnam-Carey (Lexa) was palpable, and many fans shipped “Clexa”. Some of the most poignant scenes in the series are when Clarke and Lexa come together for the common good, with each step also bringing their relationship closer. When they finally slept together, Clexa fans rejoiced.

And then came the “Bury Your Gays” trope. Right after they have sex, Lexa is killed. The outrage from fans, especially in the LGBTQ community, was instant and enormous. Clexa became a symbol of existing problems with representations of gay characters, with many fans resolving to never watch The 100 again.

I wrote about this after last season’s finale:

Tonight's season finale proved that the creators of The 100 know quite well how to properly send off a beloved character. If the send off we got tonight had occurred in, say, Episode 307, I'm guessing the uproar would have been reduced, or even absent. That those creators felt perfectly happy saving this send off for the finale, while participating in a trope that lost them a significant part of their viewership, is remarkably clueless at best.

I love The 100, and I loved most of the season finale. I really loved that send off. But it pisses me off the way it was mishandled. It's like a combination of when Tara died on Buffy, and when Friday Night Lights was derailed by that stupid murder subplot in Season Two. For many people, Episode 307 made The 100 beyond redemption. I'm still here, just as I stuck with Buffy until the end. But part of me wishes I'd just skipped all the episodes between 307 and the two-part finale.

I also thank Jason Rothenberg for creating the character of Lexa in the first place. (She wasn’t in the books.) Rothenberg finally seems to understand why the method of Lexa's death outraged so many. It's not about giving in to your audience, it's about understanding the place of your work in a broader social context. The 100 does not exist in a vacuum.

I understand that every character on The 100 is one scene away from dying (well, I doubt they'll ever kill off Clarke). I understand that Alycia Debnam-Carey was leaving for Fear the Walking Dead. I don't object to the decision to kill off Lexa. It's the way it was done that's the problem, and while I'm beyond happy that Clexa got their final moment, and that Lexa went out a badass, I would have been just as "happy" if it happened in Episode 307. Better put, the emotional damage of Lexa's death would have been tied directly to her final moments as a warrior and a lover, instead of being Just Another Dead Lesbian. Her death would have carried more dramatic weight within the context of the show.

Ironically, Lexa’s death led to arguably the most emotional scene in the show’s history, 9 episodes later in the season finale.

It would be interesting if Rothenberg had concocted this finale after seeing the reaction to Lexa’s death, but in fact, they were filming the finale when the first episode of the season aired. So Rothenberg always had this great finish in mind.

And, after her death, he assured people that Lexa’s presence would not be forgotten. He has held to that, not only in the above scene, but also in the first episode of Season 4, when Clarke told her mother that she loved Lexa.

Ultimately, The 100 ranks high on my list of current shows. But it ranks even higher on how much I look forward to it. Is it as good as The Americans, to use one example? Not even close. But I can’t wait for next week.


the resistance and its double

So the neoliberal ruling classes are putting on a little revolution, to which you and I are cordially invited. The occasion is the takeover of the United States by Vladimir Putin and his Manchurian President or the official launch of the Trumpian Reich, whichever hysterical scenario you prefer. Dress is casual. Children are welcome, as this is a strictly non-violent uprising, which will take place on the weekends, mostly, so as not to interfere with school or work. Colorful signage and puppets are encouraged, but you can leave your gas mask and welder’s gloves at home, as there won’t be any tear gas canisters or rubber bullets coming your way. Oh, and it will definitely be televised....

The “Resistance” sprang into action again in response to Trump’s “Muslim Ban” this weekend. Following word that he had ordered a blanket entry ban of people from a list of seven so-called “countries of concern” (that the Obama administration had identified in its Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, and stripped of Visa Waiver Program privileges), Michael Moore blew his Twitter horn, summoning thousands of outraged protesters to Terminal 4 of JFK Airport to militantly assemble in a designated area (so as not to impede the normal flow of traffic) and completely shut down an adjacent parking lot....

What is being marketed to us as the “resistance to Trump,” technically, is a counter-insurgency operation … the global neoliberal establishment quashing the neo-nationalist uprising. But that kind of thing doesn’t sell very well. What sells much better is Hitler hysteria, neo-McCarthyite propaganda, and emotionally loaded trigger words that short circuit any kind of critical thinking, words like “love,” “hate,” “racism,” “fascism,” “normal,” and of course “resistance.”...

In any event, the quandary folks on the Left are currently facing is twofold: (1) how to oppose the Trumpians, and other neo-nationalist insurgencies, without serving the interests of Neoliberalism; and (2) how to oppose Neoliberalism without serving the interests of the Neo-nationalists. Which is more or less a classic Zen koan designed to make one’s head explode.

-- CJ Hopkins, “The Resistance and Its Double