Crazy Rich Asians – contains movie spoilers

Sang and I watched Crazy Rich Asians this weekend. Spoilers for the film below; I haven’t read the book.

The main impression the film left on me was how passive or absent the men were, and how it was the women wielding power and playing politics. I mean, Nick is such a cipher! Rachel’s a professor in the U.S., so even if she’s a new-ish adjunct she’s of an age to have a Ph.D. Nick maybe went to college and grad school in the U.S., and then…? does he have a…job? or…interests? I think he and Rachel were dating for a year, so what did they talk about if she’s got no idea of his family background? Gotta say, between his lack of a life and his unwillingness to stand up to anyone, Nick is not looking like a great prospect.

When they get to Singapore, Nick’s grandmother is on scene, but no grandfather. His father is…away on business for this whole thing? Part of the plot turns on Rachel’s father’s absence from her life. Astrid’s husband is emotionally absent and having a non-specific affair. Nick has one supportive guy friend among the wastrels; they have to flee friend’s own bachelor party to be able to have a conversation in peace. The plot is driven by Eleanor vs. Rachel with assists by Peik Lin, Astrid, and Su Yi.

Rachel is presented as the romantic, individualistic down-to-earth American. But I don’t think it’s an accident that she’s a professor of economics. The movie passes pleasantly with makeovers and wealth-flaunting parties. (To be honest, the biggest impression the wealth made on me was that Rachel and Nick arrived in Singapore well-rested and ready for several hours of partying. The rest of the spectacle– having a mega-party on a container ship instead of, say, a cruise ship that is literally designed for that? Having a wedding in which the aisle is flooded so pretty lights are reflected but also the bridal party is wading ankle-deep? –eh, I guess wealth brings pressure for novelty.) But when it comes down to it, Rachel literally turns down Nick’s ring and accepts Eleanor’s. Game is on! It doesn’t matter that Nick has been secretive and passive; he can go right on doing that or whatever (while looking hot), cause Rachel’s found her match and is gonna play with the big girls. I see her in a faculty position at YaleNUS during the sequel, getting ready for some competitively non-competitive child-raising–although they’ll still be socializing with all the tedious friends because they’re part of the playing field too. This movie is about what wealth means for women’s power, and I think Jane Austen would watch it with interest.

(I gather, from the Wikipedia articles about the book series, that Kevin Kwan does not share my vision.)

reverence for numbers

in a stairwell, the plastic 2 designating 2nd floor has fallen off its sign and been hung from a chain on a pipe valve

I took the stairs to the office. This reminded me of The Number Painter skits on Sesame Street.

Reading Wednesday: Tales From the Inner City

photograph of a lungfish against gravel

I’m about three fourths of the way through Shaun Tan’s Tales From the Inner City. Not all the stories and images have stuck with me, but two of them have been in my thoughts many times a day– the first story, about crocodiles, and the one about lungfish.

I won’t say more lest spoilers, but it strikes me that these two favorites are also two of the most story-shaped stories. When I review them in my head, each of them has movement and an ending.

The book as a whole–a brief story or poem with at least one accompanying illustration in oils for each animal– has, on the other hand, made me think about how static I find Shaun Tan’s work. I’m making it sound like this is a bad thing, but I’m not sure it is. I love his paintings. But a Shaun Tan book is a collection more than a storybook, for me, even the ones that are not officially collections. Like the way some dreams feel like settings I’m exploring, more than events moving past like a film.

Anyway, those lungfish, man. And his website has preliminary drawings and models that he used to develop the paintings, and a little about the thoughts behind each story. (Personally I would wait on these until after reading the book to experience its magic cold.)

I’m also reading Gaudy Night along with friends. Harriet is rather horrible in her head! (but, I have an uncomfortable feeling, no more than I am.) I’m not looking much up, so arcane academia is washing over me.

snowy day commute outfit

feet wearing doc martens with pink chiffon shoelaces, and stripey socks, against a snowy background

I don’t have snow boots, but these are usually fine in the modest amounts of snow we get in Portland. I never did track down the original shoelaces again after swapping them out to make a pastel-goth ballerina costume.

not a real dog question

Picture of a dog on lined paper background; thought balloon says, “Do ALL flavors go together?”

January bike commute achieved!

Traveling, then coughing for a few weeks…even though the weather has been mild, I barely got one January bike commute in. And at that, my bike spent the weekend at the office. But today I pedaled home and preserved my bike commuter identity.

Not Commute Graffiti #1: (photo by Madi Carlson)

Sharrow with painted snake

Not Commute Graffiti #2:
hand-painted wooden sign: “Be where your hands are.”

When I pulled up at home, I thought for a sec my brakes were squealing, but the sound continued. Raccoons were having a screaming match in the holly tree two doors down. We just heard them again; kitty’s staying indoors this evening.

Donkeys; plus Monday Magpie, disability & neurodiversity representation edition

Yesterday I happened to see an announcement for a Paideia class to be held on the front lawn of the college, about packing with donkeys! I had been planning to take a walk down there anyway, so Sang and I went to see some donkeys. They were wonderful! Vera and Hattie, mother and daughter, did not want to be more than a few yards away from each other. They accepted as much petting and brushing as they could get and let people lead them around. Donkeys, their human Jessica said, are a good “starter equine” because in place of a horse’s instinct to spook and run, their instinct in the face of fear or uncertainty is to brace their legs and stand still until it’s sorted. They’re unlikely to buck or kick or rear, and can carry 80 pounds each pretty easily.

Vera is named after Vera Katz, the Portland mayor who signed the ordinance allowing livestock in city limits. Two donkeys per household is the limit in Portland, and really the minimum non-zero number as well, since a solitary donkey would be sad and lonely. Unfortunately, this climate is a bit wet for them– the lush green grass will give them something like diabetes, and standing on wet ground all the time is hard on their feet. They need dry quarters and hay to eat, here.

I was so glad I went! The rest of the weekend was good too– Bookherd hung around the house with us, and we watched all of season 3 of The Good Place in two days, and ate winter foods like tuna mac and scalloped potatoes.

This morning the ALA Youth Media Awards and American Indian Youth Literature Awards were announced. So many books I haven’t read! But I did know a few:

  • Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales, won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award. Her amazing photo essay about how she made the book
  • Hey, Kiddo, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. He did the ink washes and digital spot color in burnt orange himself because the book was so personal and he wanted it to be all by his own hands.
  • Front Desk, by Kelly Yang, won an Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. I have a soft spot for books about kids living in a hotel/motel. And the way this kid gets things done is cheering despite the slightly unrealistic ending.
  • I didn’t realize the AIYLAs were every two years. Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline (Metis), was published in 2017 and won the Young Adult category.
  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram, which I think I’ve already talked about here a couple of times, won the William C. Morris award (debut book for teens) and an Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature!

My Monday Magpie selections, geared toward writing and representation:

  • The Fries Test: Does a work have more than one disabled character? Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character? Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?
  • Autism From the Inside. Katherine May nails down why first-person narratives of autistic characters written by non-autistic people have come out so untrue. Short list of books by autistic authors at the end.

Snowflake Challenge: Three Fic Recs

Day Two: Rec at least three fanworks that you didn’t create. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.

I went through my Ao3 bookmarks looking for a matched set, but I think these three unmatched ones appeal to me more today. They’re all long, and in fact I need to reread them– but I trust Past Grrlpup’s bookmarking enough to list them now.

  1. Perfect voices! One of the few fics I subscribed to as it was published, and I always made time for it immediately when a new chapter appeared.
    The Best Of It (73580 words) by dollsome
    Chapters: 20/20
    Fandom: Gilmore Girls
    Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Relationships: Paris Geller/Rory Gilmore
    Characters: Rory Gilmore, Paris Geller, Lorelai Gilmore, Luke Danes, Emily Gilmore, Richard Gilmore, Madeline Lynn, Louise Grant, Jess Mariano, Kirk Gleason
    Additional Tags: Fake/Pretend Relationship
    Summary:Paris outs herself and Rory during a televised argument with Michele Bachmann. Peskiest of all is the fact that Paris and Rory aren’t actually dating. A documentary crew wants to make Paris And Rory’s Modern Stars Hollow Family anyway. Meanwhile, Rory goes slowly and quietly nuts. (And doesn’t like Paris like that — why would you even suggest such a thing?? Not that … anyone did.)
  2. I love The Woman in the Wall so much, its deadpan surrealism and domesticity. How fortunate that there is this excellent sequel fic.
    A House For Me (12120 words) by psocoptera
    Chapters: 1/1
    Fandom: The Woman in the Wall – Patrice Kindl
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Relationships: Anna Newland/F | Francis Albright
    Additional Tags: Post-Canon, Growing Up, Chicago (City), romance between stepsiblings
    Summary:How Anna Newland made herself at home in Chicago.
  3. This is the one I most need to reread. But I’m a sucker for most things Susan Pevensie, and love her appearance here with Mary Malone’s academia.
    The Ivory Horn (12811 words) by kaydeefalls
    Chapters: 1/1
    Fandom: His Dark Materials – Pullman, Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis
    Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Characters: Will Parry, Mary Malone, Kirjava, Susan Pevensie
    Additional Tags: Yuletide, recipient:Tris B., challenge:Yuletide 2007, Crossover, Coming of Age, Action/Adventure, Plotty
    Summary:If there’s a way back out of this world, Will is determined to find it. At any cost.


My towel!

two women, one holding a towel with a picture of an elephant and the other holding a towel with a picture of a tiger

Sanguinity and I flew to Colorado for my mom’s 80th birthday. Mom was unwrapping some stored picture frames and found my tiger towel, and my sister’s elephant towel! They were gifts from my aunt, but I don’t remember that– in my memory I always had this towel, or at least since I was an infant with the towel that had a pocket in the corner to make a hood. Tiger and elephant hung in the bathroom.

That’s all there is to this story. I’m excited. My towel and I, reunited!

and now to speak ill of the dead

(Note: the following is 100% negativity! If you skip it you will not miss out on news of my life. I may not respond to comments. I am grateful for the Americans with Disabilities act, and Bush41’s support and signature of the ADA is the one thing that mitigates these sentiments.)

I hate Presidential funerals. When I attend services for friends, family or community members, I feel like afterwards I know the deceased better, know more stories about them, better know the hearts of their other people. But so far, the funerals of Nixon, Reagan, and Bush41 mostly leave me with cognitive dissonance and disbelief, like the memory of what the years of their administration felt like is being denied and overwritten. (With the exception of Nixon, whom I don’t remember firsthand. But whew, whiplash between what I heard about him before his death versus immediately after.)

Here is what the Bush41 administration felt like to me: a continuation of Reagan, which is to say a continuation of warmongering, contempt for the non-rich, destruction of the environment for oil profits, and indifference to suffering. Bush may have been a less intense version, but in my perception they had the same masklike face and blaring voice. When Reagan was elected to a second term, I was in ninth grade and felt fear and despair at the prospects of nuclear war. (I mean, The Day After had aired in 1983.) When Bush was elected, I was in college (a very liberal college), and felt disbelief, that people would sign up for more of this.

The fear of nuclear war had faded, but 41’s administration was the first time I witnessed war being declared in my name. I remember sitting around tables in a conference room with other students, trying to figure out what we could do. Send a message of support to “the troops” that was basically “hang on, we’re trying to get you out of this?” Monitor non-U.S. news media because our own was treating this like a video game and might not be trustworthy? We were kids, fumbling around, and probably ended up doing none of this.

Those kinder gentler words that are being quoted all over the place sounded a lot different back then, depending on who you were. “A thousand points of light” seems harmless now, volunteerism is nice. But in the context of Reagan-era defunding of the social safety net and deregulation it had a “let them eat cake” ring– the churches (many of which vocally hated me) will pick up the slack, the respectable rich will look after the respectable poor. Everyone else invisible, Ryan White the first AIDS victim worth talking about, et cetera.

Bush never stepped outside the status quo and now everyone’s kissing his ass for not being Reagan or Trump? How depressing. I start to wonder if I am just deluded and hateful, but then I think about who his other people are. Besides Ronald Reagan, they are Dan Fucking Quayle and Clarence Fucking Thomas. And one son who started a war based on lies and then laughed about it, and another who made it a major part of his life’s mission to stop gay people from marrying or adopting kids.

So although I grudgingly acknowledged the National Day of Mourning, seeing the flag at half-staff for a FUCKING MONTH makes me feel a little more alienated every day.

DTWOF. Clarice: Who does Bush think he is?! The people don't want war! I'm gonna IMPEACH his death-worshipping ass! Toni: Hon, don't overcook the pasta. Clarice, throwing pasta against ceiling: It's just right. IMPEACH his ass!

Thanks, DtWOF #102, glad to know it wasn’t just me. (Bechdel, 1991)