Monthly Archives: October 2015

Link Party: 10/26-10/30

Here, have a photo of a pretty tree I parked under this week. This is the extent of my photography these days, but I'm working on it.

Here, have a photo of a pretty tree I parked under this week. This is the extent of my photography these days, but I’m working on it.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. You might be a basic witch.

2. Baby Michel Foucault. (Side note: The Toast made me laugh a lot this week.)

3. Here’s another book to add to my very long list of books to read: “The Other Paris.”

4. The fascinating history of the midnight movie showing.

5. I’m so glad that there are business people who are still interested in print media. Case in point, Peter Barbey and the Village Voice. (Also, I am very upset about Grantland. It was a Link Party staple, and I miss it already.)

And a bonus: I have been thinking about this Vine for the past week. It is perfect.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Link Party: 10/19-10/23

Clouds, man. Clouds.

Clouds, man. Clouds.

Although I’ve had a difficult time transitioning to a post-grad life over the last few months, I’ve had some really sweet moments this week that make me excited about my fledgling career and how many opportunities there are to grow. I’ve also had some frustrating moments this week where I’ve wondered what I’ve gotten myself into and what step I should take next. According to the great philosopher and artist Kanye West, the point of life is getting shit done and being happy. I’m working on it.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. This is an incredible Gloria Steinem profile. She is an incredible lady.

2. I wish I had written this article about Facebook instant articles.

3. This graphic designer explained his work to 4-year-olds, and I love how he did it.

4. I love reminiscing about playing the Sims and thinking about how much that game has influenced my design interests in so many ways, so I thought this article about its romantic relationships was fascinating.

5. I had no idea that Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra were such good friends and influenced each other so much.

And a bonus: these photos of Hillary Clinton’s face during the latest round of Benghazi questions speak to my soul.

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Think Tank: TV Revivals and Reboots

I love "Gilmore Girls," but I don't need new episodes in my life.

I love “Gilmore Girls,” but I don’t need new episodes in my life.

“Gilmore Girls” is quite easily near the top of my list of all-time favorite television shows. For most of late middle school and throughout high school, I made watching afternoon reruns on ABC Family a ritual. I remember saying in my interview to be on my high school’s newspaper that the fictional character I was most like was Rory Gilmore.  I even watched it live on the WB on Tuesday nights. I wanted to go to Yale and be on the Yale Daily News. This is how much I loved “Gilmore Girls.” 

But when I read earlier this week that there are plans to revive “Gilmore Girls” for a limited run on Netflix, I was not a happy camper. In the last few years, revivals and reboots of old television shows and movies have become increasingly popular. When there’s an announcement that something is getting a Netflix season, the entire Internet explodes, and I saw at least five articles about the rumors of who was coming back and what the show might cover.

This has been at the front of my half-melted brain for the week, and I’ve been thinking about what this revival trend says about television in 2015 and how we consume culture. I’ve come to the realization that this trend is not a good one, and that there are several reasons why.

Internet culture and TV revivals are definitely connected.

Netflix has an incredible platform to deliver film and television across the globe, even though it’s not always the most helpful way to broaden our cultural horizons. When a show gets canceled, the conversation about moving it to online streaming is serious and becomes top entertainment news. If a production group wants to reinvigorate something badly enough, they make a Kickstarter and fundraise with the help of loyal fans. The Internet is an easy way to spread and strengthen fandom.

We’re living in a world where just about everything is instantaneous, and we demand that our cultural consumption is swift and easy. A revival like “Gilmore Girls” sort of speaks to that. We saturate the media with remembrance posts and listicles, and when we interview show runners or stars we always bring it up. The Internet won’t let anything ever die, so we just keep talking about the same things over and over and over again. Interviewers think that asking creators or actors questions about the shows or movies that they’ve moved away from is logical and interesting, because there’s some faction of the Internet that will go nuts. While this kind of reaction is significant to our understanding of how the Internet works and that there’s the potential to spread information like wildfire, a lack of temporal distance prohibits us from making good observations about the shows and culture in general.

This says a lot about how the audience views itself in the show-making process.

I might be in the minority, but I was satisfied with the ending of “Gilmore Girls.” I won’t make any specific comments for fear of #spoilers, but I liked how it left all of the characters. In my own head, I interpreted it in such a way that the ending was happy and that the characters ended up where they were supposed to. It solidified my understanding of the show and its universe in such a way that I could talk about it critically. I felt the same exact way about “Mad Men,” “Arrested Development” and “Breaking Bad.” They all became complete pieces of art, and I looked forward to reading retrospectives.

In one way, it puzzles me as to why other fans would want to crack the show back open. Sure, there’s probably more story about the Gilmore women to tell. But the show runners, who are in their own way artists, decided to end it in that way for whatever reason, whether it was artistic or financial or logistical. It’s the same pressure people put on J.K. Rowling to do more with “Harry Potter,” or George R. R. Martin to hurry up with more from the “A Song of Ice and Fire” world. We have such high expectations of the culture we consume, and think that in some way the people who make the things we like have to spend the rest of their creative lives revolving around those things. We also think that our collective power can make those things happen eventually, and that if we want more we deserve it. This cannot be particularly healthy for either side.

I love “Gilmore Girls,” but I really don’t want to read about it every day. There are too many other things to see and think about. There’s a difference between visiting an exhibit in 10 years about the show or buying a coffee table book of essays about the show, and having it constantly be at the cultural forefront.

We need to do a better job of making room for more original content. 

There are so many talented people in the world who have dreamt up entire universes and stories to tell on screen, and they never get to share them because we’re too busy trying to figure out how to revive or reboot stuff we’ve already seen. Taking inspiration or drawing parallels from different shows and other cultural areas is fantastic, but redoing them is entirely different. We should really be giving new creators a break and making space for them. In asking for and supporting original content on both our televisions and computer screens, we can do a better job of including marginalized groups or bringing awareness to important causes. Let’s close the books, television and films we’ve already made, and start to write even better ones.

What do you think about reboots and revivals? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

 

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Link Party: 10/12-10/16

Just 10 Freeway traffic things.

Just 10 Freeway traffic things.

Sorry for the late post this week. In addition to embarking on a reread of William Faulkner’s “Absalom, Absalom!” (more on that later) here’s what I read:

1. Let’s talk about eliminating tipping at restaurants.

2. This guy is the most prolific editor on Wikipedia, and has made more than 1.5 million edits across the website.

3. An excerpt from Carrie Brownstein’s upcoming memoir, which I’m excited to read.

4. Twitter is on its last legs, mostly because the overall community is rampant with abuse.

5. I also believe that email hinders efficiency and productivity.

And a bonus: 14 minutes of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” deleted animation scenes. You’re welcome.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Link Party: 10/5-10/9

I keep finding little spray-painted phrases and pictures around Santa Monica. Love the concept. Here's one featuring my feet and a stick.

I keep finding little spray-painted phrases and pictures around Santa Monica. Love the concept. Here’s one featuring my feet and a stick.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. The secret to great driving songs.

2. This story about a New England magazine that has managed to stay in business for 80 years makes me believe in the future of journalism.

3. After reading about it and how it’ll stream Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest movie, I think I’m going to have to take a closer look at MUBI.

4. In light of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s decision to modernize the plays, here’s the history of changing Shakespeare’s language.

5. After reading about Sloane Crosley’s “The Clasp,” I’m excited to get my hands on it.

And two bonuses: Two monks invent religious iconography. Mallory Ortberg is a national treasure. This week I’ve also been listening to You Must Remember This, a podcast about the forgotten or secret stories of Hollywood. Specifically, I’ve been listening to the 12-part series about Charles Manson’s Hollywood. It is incredible.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Think Tank: The $90,000 Water Bill

It's crazy to me that someone would think spending $90,000 on water for the year is okay. Photo cred: Los Angeles Times.

It’s crazy to me that someone would think spending $90,000 on water for the year is okay. Photo cred: Los Angeles Times.

If you’re not a Californian, chances are you might not know that the entire state is in the middle of an historic drought. It’s a pretty big deal that has a lot of people — from farmers to scientists to people who live in wildfire-prone areas — very worried. When I was still a journalism student back in May, I went to city council meetings for school assignments. This happened to be during a time when Gov. Jerry Brown was handing down many mandatory water restrictions, announcing that everyone needed to reduce water usage by 36 percent. I found that the council meetings I went to centered on explaining how everyone needed to save water and that they could participate in rebate programs by pulling out their lawns or putting in energy-efficient toilets, shower heads and faucets.  When I look around my neighborhood, it looks like everyone is trying to do their part: grass varies in shades of brown, or it’s been taken out all together in favor of drought-tolerant alternatives.

But as you can imagine, not everyone throughout the state has adhered to the restrictions. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that someone living in Bel-Air used and paid for 11.8 million gallons of water last year.

You read that right. 11.8 million gallons in 365 days, which is about 1 million gallons a month and 32,000 gallons a day. To add some perspective, the average Californian household daily usage is 360 gallons, a mere 1 percent of the Bel-Air homeowner’s.

The homeowner spent about $90,000 for all that water. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that it could be an unnoticed leak, because 11.8 million gallons is kind of a lot of water that someone would notice flooding the street. Someone is purposefully using that water to keep lawns green or swimming pools full, and seemingly doesn’t see any ill effects. The Department of Water and Power refuses to name names, but the entire neighborhood is one of the leading culprits in excessive water usage.

Throughout the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the implications of both the subject of the story and the story itself. I’ve done research and written about California water on multiple occasions, and find the economics and cultural pull of it fascinating. A drought is more than just having little or no water.

There’s a lot of history about California and its water, and it’s not really a love story.

L.A. in the late 1800s was a rapidly growing town, and one of the biggest problems was that there were no nearby sources of water to sustain the population. The solution that city officials came up with was to divert water from Owens Valley in Central California and build the Los Angeles Aqueduct to bring it south. In the 1970s, the city built a second aqueduct to bring even more water.

The conflict is now called the California Water Wars, since farmers tried to sabotage the aqueduct and keep the much-needed water in the valley. The relationship between Owens Valley residents and L.A. city officials has been pretty contentious ever since, because we have literally been stealing their water to supplement our other watersheds. There’s even a well-known movie based on it. I wrote about a project at my university that was trying to highlight the history and come up with solutions to the problem, which was not easy.

A lot of people don’t know about this slice of California history, but I think it’s important in understanding the root of the problem. This isn’t a brand new issue in the 2010s. This has been an integral part of L.A.’s growth, and a key cause of the Central Valley’s languish. Water will always be a point of interest for Southern California, and the people who spend $90,000 to bring water in contribute to a bigger problem.

The water problem seems to be partly a socioeconomic problem.

Utilities like water and electricity and the ability to pay for them are also a significant issue, even in today’s world. In a neighborhood like Bel-Air, which is home to incredibly affluent people, $90,000 on a utility bill isn’t really that big of a deal. The restrictions must not seem real to the people who really need restricting, because there is no real consequence.

But for the farmers who grow our fruits, vegetables and livestock, water is a significant business cost and extreme economic hardship. In “The Botany of Desire,” which is a great book about our relationship with plants that you should read, Michael Pollan says that in 2001 it cost a potato farmer in Idaho about $1,950 an acre on chemicals, electricity and water to grow a crop that maybe earned $2,000 in a good year. The 2012 median pay for an American farmer was $69,300. It’s clear that there is no room to spend extra money on water, even if the prices go up on the produce. Not only is there no money to spend, but the mandatory cuts in usage make it hard to have a profitable business. If you scroll to the end of this page, there are even resources for farmers who are experiencing stress from having to operate under such dire conditions.

A lot of people around the world, especially in SoCal, take the fact that they can turn on the faucet, get water and pay for it for granted.  The farmers who work hard to bring us our produce and livestock are struggling to make a living and provide the world with food. Meanwhile, someone is spending five figures on the water that’s probably serving to quench ornamental thirst. The inequality is incredible.

I don’t think this story is waking anybody up.

This story that the L.A. Times has published in its California coverage is crucial to the everyday function of journalism. This is part of the history of SoCal, and the newspaper is fulfilling its duty to record it. It’s sensational and draws in readership.

I think the everyday person reads this story and realizes how dumb it is for one household to use that much water, but I don’t know how these stories can do a better job of inspiring people and businesses to conserve. Most people don’t have that kind of money to spend on a water bill. But they still run the tap until it’s warm, run a half-full dishwasher, wash cars and laundry, fill swimming pools and water the lawn. They still run businesses that use water to make things. There’s the looming threat of running out of water, but it doesn’t seem real as long as the faucets continue to run. There is no one who is able to enforce restrictions that actually deter people from wasting a precious resource.  That is why a story about a $90,000 water bill is reality, and why we’re slowly inching towards a catastrophe.

What do you think about the story and the California drought? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

 

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Link Party: 9/28-10/2

I saw this on the marquee of a local florist, and I think this is new because I've never seen motivational messages on the marquee before. Anyway, I love this and think it is A+++ and relevant.

I saw this on the marquee of a local florist, and I think this is new because I’ve never seen motivational messages on the marquee before. Anyway, I love this and think it is A+++ and relevant.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. Read this profile of Ina Garten ASAP.

2. This article about hair as a gender marker and what it does as a gender marker was really fascinating. (The New Republic had a lot of good stuff this week and I don’t traditionally link more than once to the same publication, but these stories about the Broad Museum and Peggy Guggenheim were also favorites.)

3. I’m dying to see “Hamilton,” and this conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda makes me want to see it even more.

4. This in-depth story on what it’s like to be a fashion blogger in 2015 is astounding. “The public, performative aspects of the job make taking a break essentially impossible.”

And two bonuses, because I love you: Billy Eichner plays “LaTina Fey” with Tina Fey on the newest season of “Billy on the Street.” Erykah Badu has released an incredible remix of “Hotline Bling.”

Have a wonderful weekend.

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