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Inspired by all things Steve Zissou
Still my favorite Wes Anderson film.
‘The Maid’ Review
Oh dear. If you’re new here, you know I rarely unleash one of my handy “just stop” memes for my book reviews. And that when I do it, it’s for good reason. I’m saddened to report a “wtf book” so early in the year, but here we are. That said, I don’t think many will agree with me when it comes to The Maid by freshman author Nita Prose. The book has already been picked up for a movie adaptation and is high on the NYT Bestsellers List. I can see why people will enjoy this, but I didn’t. It has all the makings of ~the unputdownable~: first person narrative, overcoming the struggles as the underdog, murder, romance, suspense. And still, this fell flatter than a pancake. If you read further, here’s the obligatory 🔥 SPOILER ALERT 🔥.
The story follows Molly the Maid (yep), a character I can only describe as a female mashup of Sheldon Cooper and Forrest Gump, who happily works at a four-star hotel. She is dedicated to bringing rooms back to a “state of perfection”. One day she finds one of the hotel’s prolific and famous guests dead. From there, she unwittingly uncovers a series of dark happenings, all while trying to survive on a measly salary following the death of her grandmother.
What bothered me was the inconsistency with Molly. She was naive and uneducated when it worked for the story, then deceptive, capable, and cunning in the next instant which made her innocence about the most basic of things ridiculous. Molly is a complicated character, which would have been fine had there been any consistency whatsoever. Yes, she was sheltered, had what I can only guess would be considered Asperger’s, and was raised through her grandmother’s endless usage of proverbs and empty platitudes (which you will have to read over and over). But that still doesn’t explain her actions, which led me to believe the author did it to try to create the element of surprise for the reader. And by creating that element of surprise, you lose the believability of your titular character. The other, more disturbing, issue is that if you are going to write a story about a person with autism, be careful to do it justice. Make it clear that wrongdoing, lying, or turning a blind eye to unforgivable harms is a moral compass issue, one that has nothing to do with the disorder the character may have. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating confusion and suspicion about an already misunderstood diagnosis millions of people live with.
Don’t waste your time or money on this maid service. Let this one collect dust.
2/5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️
No Christmas is complete without a little Grogu!
Book review and art inspired by ‘This Bright Future: A Memoir’
I found this memoir after looking at the NYT Bestsellers list. I went into it not knowing who Bobby Hall aka Young Sinatra aka Bobby Tarantino aka Sir Robert was. But I had heard of Logic, who rapped on Sam Smith track I liked a few years back. I remember thinking “wow, he really elevated that song”. But that was it. As much as I was into hip hop and rap growing up in the Bronx, that doesn’t remain true today. I fell out of step with it because of all the auto-tuning that turned my stomach and hurt my ears. Before I moved out of the borough, the only radio station anyone listened to was Hot 97. Now that I don’t, it’s mostly classical, rock, and experimental. As for rap, I listen to the same people I did as a child: Biggie, Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop, The Fugees, Method Man, Salt n’ Pepa, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, Nas, DMX (RIP), and Eminem. I don’t watch MTV, BET, or listen to the radio. Life changes you, and my patience for shows that were designed to bring down artists was depleted which meant I wasn’t hearing new music. Once I was in Bronx Science, my focus shifted. Not to say that happens to everyone who goes to nerd schools, but it did for me. I discovered other types of interests and music, and realized I loved classical because I could actually play it.
So, my reasons for not knowing Bobby Hall were because of me, not because he’s not talented, which he absolutely is. I legit thought he was a British rapper because he was on that Smith track. How wrong I was. He is the very definition of a red-blooded ‘Merican. Mixed race. From Maryland. Inspired by pop culture. Eats Taco Bell. Now that I’ve read his memoir and heard his music, I’m reminded of those rappers I loved so much that were able to spit a verse without all the garbage filtered in the track. What a breath of fresh air. Good music is good music, and he makes it.
I’ll be blunt. This Bright Future is a masterpiece. This will be made into a movie, no question. A modern coming of age story, it was like Catcher in the Rye with music, witches, sex, and a big splash of crack. At its core, this memoir is about a kind and overlooked soul who, through pure grit and determination, navigated to an existence where he is now safe, loved, and counted. Raised in poverty with a mentally ill, alcoholic, PCP-using white mother, an absent drug-addicted black father, and a system that failed him, This Bright Future is the quintessential success story of an outcast named Bobby Hall. What’s scary is that the childhood Hall had is not unique. Yes, the specific situations he was put in may be, but child abuse like this is prevalent. I’ve been that person whose had to carry a child away from their screaming drug addicted parents. I hate it. I see it a lot, and it’s awful and traumatic every time. What is special is that Bobby Hall didn’t become what raised him. Instead, he became Logic. There are kids living in horrific conditions they don’t realize are horrific, so they repeat the cycle. Despite the chaos and having the odds stacked against him, the same is not true for Hall, which can show a hopeless kid struggling today that they can do the same. Hard work, courage, perseverance, the kindness of others, and a good sense of humor helped Hall carve a path to what he was meant to do and be where he was meant to be. Because our boy can rap, write, create, and uplift. And how lucky we are to be able to live and see this. How tiring it is to see people born with a silver spoon just make it in the industry so they can have gold ones. So many people work hard and are never acknowledged for it, and it’s nice to see it happen for once to someone who came from humble beginnings.
As tragic as this memoir was, I would be lying if I didn’t say it was also hilarious. Especially the chapter about his mother’s religiosity. I was literally laughing out loud in public. Hall’s stories about his parents, siblings, acquaintances are all shared with a care and sensitivity that demonstrates how much he doesn’t want to hurt anyone by disclosing to us how much they hurt him. This is an inherently good person who has empathy even for those who don’t appreciate or deserve it. As a result of his upbringing and his ability to withstand so much abuse by having hope, and yes, a logical outlook, the dust settled and what emerged from the wreckage was PTSD and anxiety. You can’t blame him. So, if you struggle too, you will absolutely feel a connection to this story. And know that it’ll be okay.
Speaking of which, Hall points out several times that fans tell him how much they mean to him because they share commonalities. I now join that group by saying there were times I literally said out loud “Wtf, yes, I feel that”. Besides loving Kill Bill, our life circumstances were very similar. Examples: Not being accepted because you are mixed. Literally being asked “What are you?” is something I’ve put up with my whole life. “You aren’t black enough, you aren’t white enough, you aren’t spanish enough, how come you sound so white, how come you don’t sound like Rosie Perez, why are you so pale, why is your hair so frizzy? Do you date white or black men? Why?” Yeah. It’s so much fun.
On a personal note, I have a mentally ill black mother and a temperamental Puerto Rican father. My mother is literally crazy and is becoming a nun. Yeah. I’ve cut her off after a childhood of manipulation, degradation, neglect, and abuse. It’s been years since I’ve seen or spoken to her. How I long to have a mother I could just talk to. But like Bobby Hall, I don’t have that kind of family dynamic. And as hard it is for him to say that he doesn’t have a real family, I’m glad he did. Because people like us exist, and it hurts. And so we have to make our own families. I think the valuable lesson Hall tells is that when you become a parent it doesn’t come with a license that says you can abuse your child and expect your child to let you get away with it. To the people who say “but she’s your mother” to him, understand that cutting your own parent off is not easy, and there are reasons they don’t deserve to be in a survivor’s life. And you questioning that decision crosses a line and only makes it worse. We all know parenting is hard, even when you don’t struggle with illness and addiction. We don’t get to choose our parents, but we do get to choose boundaries so that we aren’t destroyed by them.
I liked how Hall also discussed the impact that social media has had on all of us, and how we connect and treat writers, artists, or just everyday people because we are given a virtual safety net. The internet helped make him, but it also made him a target. I was angry to hear about all the abuse he got from online trolls, how people laughed at his pain when he was physically ill, or spewed venom about him because of a VMA performance. I haven’t watched any of that MTV nonsense since Britney danced in a sheer suit on stage (which was awesome, you do you Britney). I don’t even know how long ago that was, but I do know that no awards show should lead to the type of vitriol artists experience, which means there’s an issue with the entertainment culture that only encourages it. And if you are guilty of such online abuse, you need to reconsider your words and think about the energy you’re wasting.
If you haven’t guessed it, I’m giving this five stars. I don’t think anything else I say could do this justice, so I’ll stop. Also, I don’t want to ruin anything for you because part of what’s so great about the book are the crazy stories you don’t see coming that knock you on your ass.
Dream Cast: 🎥
Bobby Hall: Bobby Hall. And if he doesn’t act, Jesse Williams.
Young Bobby Hall: Lonnie Chavis
Mom: Juliette Lewis
Dad: Jamie Foxx
MaryJo: Melissa McCarthy
Josh: Marcus Scribner
Britney: Phoebe Dynevor
Available on Audible
Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
‘Pig’ starring The Muppets
Inspired by the ‘Arc of the Scythe’ Series by Neal Shusterman
Who knew death could be so much fun? What a creative and unique world Neal Shusterman invented for us through his Arc of the Scythe series. I ate this post-mortality concept up. How did he do this? I’ve read a lot of dystopian literature, and I think this one might be my favorite. It gave me the same feeling that The Hunger Games did, in that I was transported into a world far from where we find ourselves now. This reminded me why books are magic. In a year where we are inside all the time because of a deadly pandemic, you will feel far from quarantined once you enter the world of the Scythedom.
The breakdown: What would happen if we became so technologically advanced that disease and death were eradicated? Where if we were hit by a car and rendered “deadish” we could be sent to a “revival station” and be brought back to life? Wanna look younger? That can happen, too. The one problem: How would we control the population? Shusterman gives us the answer with his creation of the “Scythedom”: a superior and respected group of people who kill others in order to prevent overpopulation.
At the center of this amazing series are two teenagers, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, who undergo training as apprentices to Honorable Scythe Faraday (I loved Faraday so hard). Each youth struggle with the “art of killing”, and eventually become extremely important to the future of not only the Scythedom, but to life on Earth as we know it.
Technology is also the star of the show. An advanced computer system known as the “Thunderhead” controls society. Who is preventing plane crashes, sinking ships, and terrorist attacks? The Thunderhead, that’s who. Yep, and it’s watching when you accidentally electrocute yourself and need to be brought to a revival station? The Thunderhead sends reinforcements to bring your fried ass back to life. The Thunderhead is a form of AI that does not make mistakes or have regrets, and serves the population in life, while the Scythedom serves us through permanent death. It operates separate and apart from the Scythedom. In the second and third books, we see how this AI tries to save humanity from itself after the Scythedom goes rogue. And how it’s inability to interfere with the Scythedom complicates matters. What a testament to show that even without disease and death from violence, the same things lead us to hurt one another: greed, power, jealousy, and groupthink.
I loved these characters, even the horrible ones. I also liked to imagine what life would be like if this were real. Would I be a Scythe? Hell no. Would I enjoy getting the 18 year old version of my ass back every few years? Hell yes.
As an aside, I loved the words and concepts Shusterman created. Examples: “Gleaning” (permanent killing), “MidMerica”, “Tonists”, “Revival Stations”. It goes on. The names he gave the Scythes, too. So much fun.
The Arc of the Scythe series is worth your time. Read (or listen) to all three books. If you choose to listen to the audiobooks, you won’t regret it: Greg Tremblay does a fantastic job bringing each character to life.
Scythe Faraday: Liam Neeson
Scythe Curie: Viola Davis
Citra aka Scythe Anastasia: Jenna Ortega
Rowan aka Scythe Lucifer: Alex Lawther
Scythe Goddard: Mads Mikkselson
Scythe Rand: Lucy Liu
Greyson Tolliver: Levi Miller
Jericho: Jade Hassouné
Monira: Selena Gomez
Thunderhead: Morgan Freeman
The Tattoo Peanut Gallery
I look at tattoos a lot for work. Females who are trafficked tend to have a sports team, symbol, quotes or even cartoon tattooed on their body. Their pimps make them, so people know they are their “property”. If a girl or boy has been arrested for something and I see their tattoo, I take a good look. Because they aren’t going to tell me if they are being victimized, but they tend to if I say I recognize the tat as being connected to so and so John. The tattoos are usually poorly done because they aren’t done by a legitimate artist, but by a John himself, a tat quack, or a gang connection. You’ve probably seen a young teenager with a bad tattoo, and you might have thought poorly of her, that she was ghetto…or wondered where her parents were, and why they’d let her get something like that on her body. The truth is, they didn’t have a choice. If they want to survive they have to do what their John demands. Their bodies don’t belong to them in the eyes of a pimp. And this leads me into the conversation of how we all judge each other based on whether or not we are tattooed instead of considering why a person might have one. Or three.
The first time I saw a tattoo was at a produce market in Pelham Parkway owned by a Holocaust survivor. He had his prisoner identification number on his forearm. It was very faded and I didn’t know what it meant. I just thought it was an old, kinda weird tattoo. My grandmother caught me staring and on our walk home, told me what it was and what it meant. She wasn’t upset with me at all, just matter of fact. I think I was maybe seven or eight, and despite how kind my grandmother was in delivering an explanation, I never forgot the shame I felt for having stared. Even at such a young age, I didn’t know exactly what the Holocaust was, but I knew it was bad and that people had been hurt. I had read Anne Frank, I knew she was hiding from scary men and it was because she was Jewish, but not much more. I didn’t know about the torture, torment, and tattoos. Nowadays, to preserve the past, survivor’s grandchildren are getting the tattoos so history is not forgotten, or worse, repeated. I learned a very valuable lesson by my meeting this Holocaust survivor. One that has remained with me into my thirties. Unless you know the meaning behind a tattoo, never pass judgment. I don’t mean symbols well known to carry messages of hate like the monstrosity on Edward Norton in American History X:
So unless you have a swastika on your body, I’m not going to pass judgement. Seeing something like that hurts people, and puts people in fear. Yes, put what you want on your body but if it’s something like “kill all Asians”, expect an outraged response…and maybe seek therapy.
Obviously, survivors of hateful systems of oppression don’t have a choice in the tattoos that have been needled into their skin. But most of us have our reasons. A veteran honoring a tour he survived. A breast cancer survivor covering up her scars with a beautiful landscape. Our Zodiac sign. A deceased family member. It goes on and on. And even with our reasons for getting inked, many of them noble, people get turned down for jobs, profiled, or underestimated. Especially if the tattoo isn’t what people would consider “art”. The following are what would be considered bad tattoos:
As aesthetically unpleasing as these may be considered, I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to critique body art unless it’s blatantly hateful. Because you don’t know what the art means to them. And it’s none of your business.
I had a probationer who shaved all his hair off and tattooed an octopus on his head so it looked like it was consuming him. Which was a metaphor for his drug addiction. He was one of my best probationers. Honest. A hard worker. But judged by his appearance his whole life. And he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation for his choices, especially when they don’t hurt anyone else. He’s the one who was inked on his HEAD, not you.
I have two tattoos that pretty much no one knows about because I’m afraid of being judged. You won’t see them unless I’m naked, but both are super personal to me. That said, I have zero regrets getting them. Most tattoos carry a private meaning, and mine represent a loss that nearly destroyed me. And it was absolutely therapeutic to work with the tattoo artist on the design. I think getting tattoos has become more accepted, but there is still a lot of criticism and judgment that comes with it. Especially for women.
Then there’s people who get matching tattoos, and when the relationship is over are mocked for having gone under the needle. Maybe one day you won’t be as close to that person, and that’s ok. It’s still represents a time in your life that shaped who you are today. People come in and out of our lives, and losing touch is a part of life and often can’t be helped. It’s like water flowing through your cupped hand. It’s inevitable that some will pass through and move on. That’s why I love tattoos, even “bad” ones. What a great way of expressing yourself and/or giving tribute to someone you love, even if they are gone or you don’t see eye to eye anymore. Because it’s molded the you we all see today. And there’s so much beauty in that.
If ‘12 Angry Men’ were made today
I drew this for my teenage niece. She has a learning disability (she said it’s ok if I say that) that makes it difficult for her to retain information. She has always been a visual learner, and it’s just hard for her. She tries so hard. Her English teacher assigned 12 Angry Men and is allowing her to also watch the movie to help retain the material. One small problem: my niece isn’t into the movie because it’s in black and white and “it looks old” (forgive her for she know not what she says) and it’s just “a bunch of old white guys” (ok, she got me there but she also knows it was a representation of how things were in 1954 when the play was written). There is a 1997 movie adaptation but she wasn’t interested in that either. So, to make it fun I suggested we put our own diverse cast together with actors she’s more familiar with so she can connect with them and put a face to the character. Then I’d draw them to try to help her remember each man, and what their personalities bring to the jury. She wanted to me to pick six, and then she picked the other six. (By the way, she selected Shawn Mendes as the defendant 😂)
I used the same background as the movie poster from 1957, but I inverted the colors on procreate. Here’s the original:
Here is the version I drew in 2021, the year of our Lord and Savior Dolly Parton:
Jury Foreman: Paul Walter Hauser – calm, fair, employed as a high school coach. Originally played by Martin Balsam.
Juror 2: The Banker. Riz Ahmed. Shy and meek. Originally portrayed by John Fiedler.
Juror 3: The Angry Business Owner. John Turturro. Hot-tempered and estranged from his son. Wants a guilty verdict. Originally portrayed by Lee J. Cobb.
Juror 4: The Stockbroker. Chiwetel Ejiofor. Detail-oriented, concerned with focusing on the facts of the case. Originally portrayed by E.G. Marshall.
Juror 5: The Survivor. LaKeith Stanfield. From humble beginnings. Now a healthcare worker. The one who realizes the position of the switchblade knife is inconsistent. Originally portrayed by Jack Klugman.
Juror 6: The Painter. Oscar Isaac. Tough, measured, protective of the older jurors when they are disrespected. Originally portrayed by Edward Binns.
Juror 7: The Salesman. Patrick Wilson. Wisecracking, totally indifferent, would rather be anywhere but in a jury room. Originally portrayed by Jack Warden.
Juror 8: The Architect. Mahershala Ali. The first one to vote not-guilty. Kind, justice-seeking and humane. Originally portrayed by Henry Fonda.
Juror 9: The Senior. Alan Arkin. Wise. Extremely observant of witness behavior. Originally portrayed by Joseph Sweeney.
Juror 10: The Garage Owner. Woody Harrelson. Bigot, loud-mouth. Originally portrayed by Ed Begley.
Juror 11: The Watchmaker. Mads Mikkelsen. European immigrant and naturalized citizen. Passionate about democracy and due process. Originally portrayed by George Voskovec.
Juror 12: The Advertising Executive. Alan Cummings. Indecisive and easily swayed by others.