Review-God Help the Girl

I don’t often write up movie reviews on my wordpress, even though I do regular movie discussion podcasts on Cocktail Hour. However, I just got home from seeing Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl and I felt like I had some things I needed to talk about. When I first saw the trailer I was so excited to see this movie. It looked interesting and musical and fun and that’s exactly what I was in the mood for. We follow Eve (played by Emily Browning), who is in a residential facility for the treatment of her severe eating disorder. We don’t really learn much about her past or her family, aside from the fact that she likes to escape her facility a lot. On one such adventure, she meets James (Olly Alexander), and begins to form a friendship with him to last the summer in Glasgow. He introduces her to Cassie (Hannah Murray, aka Samwell Tarly’s girlfriend on Game of Thrones) and they form an indie-pop band featuring Eve’s songs.

Ok, so the movie actually has a lot of great moments in it. Humor and wit and funny little moments that make you smile. However, it is also chock full of Stuart Murdoch’s written music. I have never listened to Belle and Sebastian music. And, I was quite obviously one of the few in the theater that wasn’t a huge fan. Every single song they sang sounded exactly the same. Three chords, simplistic lyrics, and I’m pretty certain there were multiple songs about a tree. I actually wrote two songs in the style of Belle and Sebastian while walking home from the theater. One was about a tree, and the other was about having low blood sugar. Both I’m pretty sure could have been featured in the film, so I’d like my music contract now.

Additionally I felt like this movie tried so hard to be indie that it ended up being too cool for itself. There was lots of Emily Browning staring at the camera while singing, awkward staging and filters, and oh geez the music. They were showing a free concert directly afterwards featuring Belle and Sebastian, and my wife (a singer-songwriter) and I just looked at each other and said “oh please no.” We didn’t bother to stay.

What I don’t get is that this movie took TEN YEARS to be made. Stuart Murdoch started with the songs and developed them until they got fleshed out into a story that could be told on the big screen. Now there were some good musical moments. Emily Browning’s voice was quite dreamy, and when a full band played with them the musicality was nice. However the over-simplicity of the lyrics grated on me until I couldn’t really get much enjoyment out of the film at all.

Do you remember that amazing movie called Once from a while back? Well, this movie was if you took Once, stripped it of it’s incredible emotional musicality, added a tiny bit of humor and an eating disorder and called it a day.

But if you love Belle and Sebastian music, you’ll probably love it. It just wasn’t for me.

God Help the Girl

Oh I am RILED

It seems like lately I only really blog when something really tweaks my pisser. And something DID.

It’s a topic that I rarely see these days just because my friends list has gotten cleaned up. But sometimes, it’ll pop up when you least expect it. The topic? Prejudice in the lesbian community. Basically, lesbians that really don’t like anyone that does not prescribe to a very specific definition of lesbianism. From what I have gathered, this appears to only include women, that were born as women, that have only ever touched women in their lives. Now even if you may fall into that category, you must also not want to be supportive of any group of people that does not fall into that category.

Hi. I’m Nikki. I consider myself pretty gay.

I look pretty gay, usually. Also, cargo shorts.

I have only been with one woman in my entire life. That woman would be my wife. I romantically dated at least 5 guys before I met my wife (not that that’s any of your goddamn business, but it’s relevant to my ire). Did I find these guys disgusting? Nope. They were perfectly adequate. If I weren’t married to my wife would I ever consider being with a man again? Sure! I’m a bit fickle about who’s babies I would have (Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, swooooon). However, I am definitely much more attracted to women (oh hi, Lana Parrilla…) which is why I call myself a lesbian. I also have a handful of very close bisexual friends. Some of them are in long-term relationships with men (gasp). Additionally, I’d bet every single one of them have been in more same-sex relationships than I have, because it’s pretty hard to be in less than one. Does this make me less of a lesbian in your eyes? I don’t really care, honestly. Because I do not measure my merit based on the expectations of others.

Sidenote: For those of you that are confused about what bisexual actually means, it’s pretty fucking simple. It’s someone that has sexual attraction for men and women. That’s it. It has nothing to do with who they are currently sleeping with. NOTHING.

It seems that some people think anyone not following a specific set of rules should not be welcome in groups that are primarily made up of lesbians. I believe wholeheartedly in being inclusive to the LGBTQIA community. I don’t even care how many more letters we add to that. I welcome you all! I am also a firm believer that sexuality exists on a spectrum. The attitude listed above does not allow for that. Well, that may not be true. They probably agree that it exists, they just seem unwilling to participate in any groups that would be inclusive to any but the “L” in LGBTQIA. I want to go on record and say that I am a-ok with that. Anyone is welcome to hang out with and support any damn group of people you want to. You can refuse entry to your special club. It’s a free country, and a free internet (basically). Make your clubs. Put up signs denoting exactly the types of people that you will include so there’s no confusion. Then, when people like me see them we can say “oh fuck no, no thanks.”

You are welcome to do whatever the fuck you want. I am also welcome to do whatever the fuck I want.  But I am telling you right here and right now. If you are of a mind like I described above, you don’t have to worry about rejecting me from your club, because I reject you. Also feel free to block me on facebook. It helps me clean!

“But Nikki, don’t you do podcasts and shows that a bunch of lesbians listen to? Aren’t they gonna stop listening?” Probably. I do that shit for free because I enjoy it. If I lose some listeners, I don’t care. This is more important.

</end rant>

Uncomfortable Comparisons

I tend to talk to my friends a lot about sexuality and peoples’ perceptions that circulate around that topic. You can probably guess that from some of my previous blog posts. But I am also super into self-awareness and how that relates to similarities that are often overlooked for whatever reason. One thing that seems to unify straights and gays together is their distrust of bisexuals. I’ve touched on this in the past, so allow me to expand on it a wee bit. Just hear me out.

When you talk to lesbians (#notalllesbians, I know) about bisexuals, a lot of them will say “I don’t trust them, she’ll just end up with a man.” So really, they only like lesbians. Now ask straight guys the same question. A lot of them (#notallstraights, I GET IT) will answer similarly, suggesting the only “bisexuals” they like are drunk girls at college kissing girls to turn a man on. So basically, they only like straight woman that kissed another woman. You can read more about my thoughts on bisexuals and experimenters here.

Now onto a slightly different (but I promise is eventually related) topic. There’s a lot of discussion on the internets about guys feeling like they are owed sex from women. These are the guys that keep using the term “friendzoned.” They like women who don’t like them back romantically and begin to feel resentment towards women that don’t. Now, let’s talk about lesbians that fall for their straight friends, or bisexuals, or other lesbians even (are you still with me?) These women want their friend to begin liking them romantically. They are there for them. They listen to them. They will do anything for them. And they may begin to resent their friends for not giving them what they feel they will eventually get if they stick around long enough. Now, how is that not the same thing? If you hear a lesbian talk about a woman that she never had a happily-ever-after with, and you hear her say negative things about that person for not returning her advances, how is that not exactly the same thing? I argue that it is. And resenting someone for not returning your feelings (whether you are a man or a woman) is unilaterally unacceptable. You can see my blog post all about the mentality of entitlement here.

It seems to me that the men and women that I have described parallel each other really closely, but would likely never admit it. Now, let’s move onto sexism (because I haven’t pissed off enough people yet). I have friends across the country that represent quite the spectrum of sexuality, looks, and experiences. I have also heard stories (and witnessed some instances) of lesbians slapping other women on the ass (without their permission) and have heard statements that boil down to “women in skirts can’t be taken seriously.” I have heard things like that from lesbians about other women. That a woman in a skirt is somehow lesser than a woman that wears a suit. That she is there to be pretty, basically. Now the vast majority of lesbians really aren’t like that. But I believe there are an uncomfortable number of women who are. If you saw a man slap a woman on the ass or say the things I am talking about, we would jump up enraged that he would dare be so sexist. But when a lesbian does it it’s ok because a woman can’t be sexist? I call bullshit on that. Sexism is sexism, and if you think guys are assholes for doing something but you then turn around and do the same thing, you’ve got problems.

 

Vivid dreams and goodbyes

A very good friend of mine lost  his battle with brain cancer recently, and I’ve been kind of torn up about it. I haven’t had much experience with people being taken from this earth way too early, and it has been a difficult adjustment. I knew it was coming, but you can never really be prepared for something like that. You always think you’ll see them one last time up to the very end. I am glad that I told him I loved him every time I saw him in the last 6 months, and he said it back, so I feel at peace with how we left it. But still, it’s awful. It makes you rage at how cancer can pass up a million assholes but attack one of the greats.

I think I’ve had a lot of stress lately because of it, which I’m sure contributed to the four day sinus headache I had this week, finally culminating in a migraine last night. I went to bed early and ended up having some of the most vivid dreams I’ve had in a very long time. Now, I’ve always been a vivid dreamer. My dreams are like short movies where I can see vibrant colors, feel many different emotions, and recognize textures by touch. They have plots and even have fully fleshed-out characters sometimes. Those dreams stick with me, and there are some nightmares that I remember every detail of even though it’s been at least a decade since I experienced it.

Well last night one dream in particular really hit me. I came into work and saw a coworker helping the newly deceased Mel bringing furniture into his lab space. I walk over and offer to help, and excited to see Mel again, I go over to him to give him a big hug. He jumps back, hands pulled back and says “oh no, I’m dead, don’t touch me. Trust me, you’ll think it’s weird.” I stopped in my tracks for a few moments before grabbing an end of a table to help him move it. More and more people showed up, some I recognized, some I didn’t. They were all a bit emotional, but all helped him consolidate his things. I came to realize we were helping him bring all his stuff together so that his family could come and bring them all home the next day.

It was so nice to see him again, and he was his old self. He had energy, smiled easily, and was joking with everyone while packing up the pieces of his life. At one point I was looking down and organizing something when I heard him say “Ok it’s time for me to go now.” When I looked up, Mel was quickly becoming whiter and whiter, and ice was forming on his body. I reached out to him and touched the tip of his fingers, which were now blue, cold and damp. The next thing I knew, he was just gone and I started bawling uncontrollably. My coworker and friend (he was her mentor) broke down and I hugged her for long minutes while everyone tried to process that he was really gone now.  I’m crying a bit now just writing about it.

I think I needed this dream. Yes it was hard to experience, but I felt like it gave me some closure, because it allowed me to go back to a time when the tumor in his brain hadn’t yet erased us all from his memory. Do I think this was Mel coming back to say goodbye? I don’t know. I’m sure it was my brain working through the stages of grief, but it’s a nice thought that he would say goodbye.

His memorial service is tomorrow.

Yarn therapy

Way back in 2008, my former work spouse Judy told me that I was too fidgety and that I needed to either start smoking or take up knitting. She was a knitter, and knew that having something constructive to do with your hands could help center and calm you. Or, it could make you murder people with sticks out of sheer frustration. 50/50 chance.

I decided to take her up on it. I had spent so much time staring at her needles while she was creating something and it just didn’t make SENSE. I kept trying to logically understand how the moves she was making could possibly result in different textures in the yarn. She kept telling me “stop trying to figure it out, just accept that it works.” Once she showed me how to knit and purl, I made one practice square and then I went kind of insane. Something about it automagically clicked with me and I started making hats. A lot of hats. Then scarves and gloves and bears and dragons, etc.

However,I never really learned how to read patterns, and every time I tell myself “ok let’s do this, let’s use a pattern,” I spend approximately 3 seconds looking at something someone painstakingly figured out and made explicit instructions for and I have no frickin clue what they’re talking about. It’s just letters and numbers and k2tog m1 ssk blah blah blah. So instead I just say “ok it needs to generally look like that? Then I’ll just screw around until I figure it out my damn self.” This means that I have never properly learned how to do lace work or change colors or do anything particularly useful. If you are looking for instruction, I’ll happily help, but don’t expect for it to be the “right way” to do anything. I feel like an idiot going to yarn stores, because they ask what style of knitter I am, and “did you see our new malabrigo? Oh you must!” I had no idea there were styles of knitting and couldn’t care less what malabrigo is. I know that people who sneer at acrylic yarn love it, though. Look, I only spend more than 5 bucks on a skein if there is a REALLY GOOD reason for me to. Piss off, cashmere. We don’t want your kind here. What’s that, Caron Simply Soft for 3.99? I’ll take 6!

But really, what I want to talk about is what knitting does for me. When I said it can center you, that’s 100% accurate. If I am having a terrible morning (such as this morning) and everywhere I turn things irritate me (ugh Sun you are warm and delightful and PISSING ME OFF), I turn on my mellow playlist and start yarning. I sit there and the rest of the world fades away. All my troubles, all my worries get set aside. Sure, the problems are still there when I’m done, but they’re muted, because I’m not ramping myself up about things that I can’t do anything about at that exact moment. You know that saying that goes “I knit so I don’t kill people”? It’s true.

I also believe it makes me a more generous person. I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival last month and someone asked if they could sit by me and my wife to eat lunch and she said “why am I even asking, look where I am, of course you guys are nice!” And it’s true! Every single person there was kind, generous and welcoming. Even the most selfish knitter I know (self-proclaimed) still spends hours on presents for newborn relatives and friends occasionally. It is an extremely generous art form at it’s core. There are groups all over the internet of yarn crafters making hats for homeless people, veterans, battered women, cuddle monsters for children exposed to domestic violence, the list goes on and on. And there are yarn bombers that spread colorful joy in the simple act of making a hat for a statue, or a cozy for a tree. Just a little bit of art but it never fails to brighten someone’s day when they see it.

Honestly, I believe even the most generous yarn gift is also kind of selfish. It genuinely gives me endless pleasure to give someone something I made. There’s gratitude and surprise in their eyes that you get to witness because they appreciate it, knowing you spent a lot of energy making something specifically for them. It’s like a physical embodiment of telling someone “I spent 20 hours (or more) on this for you because you deserve it. You are worth the effort to me.” But it’s also selfish, because the act of passing on these items is good for our own souls. It makes me a better human, and I firmly believe I would be an angrier person if I stopped.

Which is also why I really don’t sell things I make anymore. It made it feel like a job, and there is just no way to knit fast enough to make it worthwhile without charging a fortune. I have a very small circle of friends (and family) that I will make anything for (within reason). You all know who you are. There are others, of course, that I like to make things for simply because I know they would never ever expect to get something. Those are my favorites. Then it’s like a little love bomb.

I am so glad I found you, yarn. I will love you forever.

Entitlement is such a dick

With the recent mass shootings in Santa Barbara, there are a bunch of people blathering on about the subject, so I’m not really going to do that. Besides, this guy said everything that needed to be said. Instead, I will talk about entitlement, which I think is the cause of an epic shit ton of problems with people. That douchebag felt he deserved the women that rejected him. And you can look at that and say “hey that entitled asshole doesn’t deserve hot chicks just cause he wants them!” And it’s totally 100% accurate. No one is deserving of some woman trophy, no matter how twisted their delusions are.

But you know what? It doesn’t stop there. This attitude is ingrained in our culture. How often have you heard “good things come to those who wait.” Or “if it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” Going through a shitty time? Don’t worry, you’re a good person so things will look up. You can choose to see that for what it is, seemingly harmless little sayings intended to make us feel better when nothing is going our way. But you know what? When time after time something is ingrained into our psyche such as “you will get X in return of all the Y you have done,” you will start expecting things.

“I tipped that bartender 20%, he better come to me first from now on.”

“I complimented that author, how dare she not email me a ‘thank you’ and send me a fruit basket within 24 hours?”

Have you ever gone onto Twitter and read some of the replies to famous peoples’ tweets? Go over there right now and do it. If you want the full experience, pick a pretty actress. Trust me, that’s where the goods are at. They could go on there to say something completely ridiculous, like “I like toast, look at this picture of this tasty toast I just had!”

T-minus zero seconds later they’ll have hundreds of people clamoring for their attention. “I will die if you don’t tweet me.” “How can you ignore your fans, PAY ATTENTION TO ME.” The internet is fraught with the delusions that everyone feels, but magnified. How many times have I said “Ermahgerd I wanna be Jennifer Lawrence’s bff.” The answer probably makes me sound like a total stalker. But I’m not serious (I promise, Jennifer, please call me). But online people feel totally ok saying how creepily desperate they are because it’s safe for them to be with their computer screen acting as their buffer and mask. They feel like they deserve that person’s attention because they are such a big fan. No, you don’t. You don’t deserve a single fucking thing from them. Anything they give back is icing on the cake of the job they do, which you get to enjoy on your televisions and movie screens.

Now let’s talk about religion (because I love pissing people off). There’s a lot of religion out there that teaches you “be a good person, or you’re going to hell.” There’s a lot wrong with that statement. Because I find it slightly terrifying that someone would only try to be a good person under threat of eternal damnation. The flip side of that isn’t any better. “Be a good person, and you get to go to heaven!” This suggests that someone can earn great things (I mean what’s better than eternal salvation, amiright?) by being good to people. It’s nothing but entitlement perpetrated by the church. You, sir, will get this great thing in exchange for all the good things you do. Like there’s some spreadsheet out there where God is counting up all your deeds until you’ve earned enough to be able to join that topless party in the sky with an open bar that you are convinced exists. It could exist, don’t get me wrong. I’m not gonna pretend I know the answer to that question, I simply don’t care if it exists or not.

But back to my point, it’s just one more thing that perpetuates this idea that you will get X in exchange for Y. It is really really hard to keep yourself from doing that. It’s not FAIR is an extremely common statement yelled by children as well as adults on a daily basis. What it really means is “Hey, I deserve more than I’m getting right now and I don’t like that.” Yeah, we all need to get over that bullshit. Do good things, be a good person. You need to adjust your expectations by expecting absolutely nothing in return. Because the truth is, a lot of times you won’t get it. And that is OK.

Even in your daily little things, pay attention to when you’re being entitled. When you’re driving in your car, do you zip ahead of a few more cars before merging because “why should I have to wait longer in line?” Do you jump into conversations because what you have to say is so much more important than what these other people are saying? Have you ever once said the following statement “I think I am entitled…”

This isn’t about “white privilege” or “white male entitlement.” Yes, those are things, but what I am talking about is the entitlement that everyone feels on a daily basis. Just because your crap is smaller than someone else’s doesn’t mean it isn’t still a problem. We all perpetuate entitlement to varying degrees, and we need to realize that.

Self Awareness-It’s What’s For Breakfast

I don’t now why I’m writing about this now. I guess I’ve seen things all over the internet and in my life that have forced the topic to grow within my mind. I recently read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, there’s a lot of drama going on with that racist dude that owns the Clippers, I watched a woman slow to a stop, forcing a guy to walk around her so that she could feel outraged that he did so on my morning commute, etc. It all made me stop and think. The characters in the novel, the racist prick, that woman all seem to be lacking a good dose of self-awareness.

I’d suggest all people in the world have the same problem, to some extent. Including me. I complain about people that come off the bus and immediately fill up the sidewalk in front of me looking at their cell phones. They don’t see me, and I get irritated. Until I pass through the throng and look down at my cell phone. I am part of the problem. What’s even worse is I know this and I still mirror that same obnoxious behavior. I am also a scientist who has told researchers in the past “No, you can not do that project here. I’ve seen similar projects spend a lot of time with poor results, and I’m not interested.” Who’s to say that some genius won’t come along with a completely innovative way to do something and I will ignore it, because I’m “meh” about it? Who knows, that’s probably already even happened. Will that keep me from turning down projects in the future? Probably not. I recognize that my life experiences are the filter through which I process new knowledge and interactions. I’m not proud of it.

At one point in my professional career, I attended a class about “Civility in the Workplace” and while I was listening, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the people needing that class most would get absolutely nothing out of it. They would say “ugh I hate it when people do that” without recognizing how many times they do that very thing.

I think some racist assholes have the very same problem. I think they can recognize racism in the world that they witness, but they don’t necessarily see it within themselves. Sometimes it takes a nudge, like your mistress broadcasting your racist comments on the internet. Sometimes it takes a conversation with an open-minded little girl for Guy Montag to realize that he had no idea how wrong he was about the world he actively helped to form in Fahrenheit 451. That woman on the train? I guarantee she spent the rest of the day complaining about that douche that rudely walked around her, refusing to acknowledge her role in such a seemingly insignificant interaction.

Self-awareness is key to so many problems we have in the world. The lack of which leads to self-righteousness, thereby triggering the inability to see another person’s side. It is a road block to communication, forgiveness and growth.  Just think how much we could accomplish and understand if we could just perceive ourselves a little better!