This is a breathtaking limited series, reimagined to not just include Black people and characters, but incorporate history and who these people are as an essential part of the plot. I like both. I like when stories highlight portraits where race or identity have nothing to do with the part (or not explicitly, because of course, if you see nontraditional casting, it becomes part of the story telling) and parts where race et al are an explicit part of the story telling.

There is so much to love about Watchmen, I don’t know where to begin. First, it’s produced by Damon Lindeloff, the person behind Lost, one of my favorite TV shows of all time (until the writers’ strike just caused the story line to go AWOL, but the premise was a brilliant love child of reality shows, diversity, and disaster. The cast included Koreans and an actor who plays a bff of Lord of the Ring‘s Frodo. It was the perfect recipe to suck me in). Lindeloff has discussed how Black Lives Matter and the book How to Become an Antiracist by Ibram Xendi influenced his imagination. Watchmen follows a fantastical tale of out-of-this-world super heroes, alternate versions of American history where th U.S. won the Vietnam War, and Vietnam is introduced as the 51st street, where Regina King’s character grew up. Part of this regal Black American’s heritage was Vietnamese!!! How cool is that? She demonstrates how to make traditional Vietnamese pastries for her son’s class.

She’s also a cop, who moonlights as a super hero with excellent eyeliner and killer moves. As the story proceeds, you find her personal connection to the 1921 Tulsa massacre, a three-day takedown of Black Wall Street that really happened and I had never heard of prior to this show. They didn’t teach it public school in NJ when I was growing up.( In 1921, right after World War I, Black soldiers came back to build middle class communities like Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, this was threatening to white citizens who also birthed the KKK at this time. Kicked off by a bogus criminal charge, white vigilantes burned down this town of 10,000. We have so many shameful chapter in our country’s story that I’m only now getting educated on.) The real history intertwines with the character’s trajectory, in this mix of alt contemporary, real history, and mystical sci-fi world. It is an utterly wild work of art with a social justice lens that successfully ties together disparate plot lines into one by the end. It is so heartbreaking, I don’t think I can bear to watch it again.

smartless podcast

You know the hey dey of podcasts are past, because my mom and I now listen to them regularly. We don’t listen to the same ones of course. During the pandemic, I mostly look for funny ones or ones with long stories that can help me transcend the fact that I’m washing dishes yet again or fixing a bagel for a child every goddamn ten minutes. Right now, I sometimes listen to “Smartless podcast” with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes. I found it because I am obsessed with “Ozarks,” starring and directed by Jason Bateman. Initially, the podcast was a delight. I laughed, laughed, laughed. It has the laziest premise. One of them chooses a guest to interview and preps, while the other two get to be surprised. The guests they interview are mostly A-list Hollywood celebrities, and it gets tired. I’m now more curious about regular people. There are so many regular people in this country I know nothing about who are still interesting and talented. They interview Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, among others, and with each guest, it’s “what’s so amazing about you is that you’re so successful and talented and beautiful, but you’re so nice too.” Really? All of them? They’re all nice? Did you know if Jennifer Aniston wasn’t a movie start, she would be an interior decorator? I mean, god, that’s boring. I’d rather pay attention to washing the dishes. And of course, this is also three white rich successful men. When they interview Bryan Cranston and ask how he turned out so well, when he had such a rough childhood, they give all kinds of answers, but they never say “It’s cuz I’m white.”

Of course, I could stop kvetching and start diversifying my podcasts and sprinkle some people of color, which I obviously need to because this self-absorption makes me eyeroll.

“dick johnson is dead” by kirsten johnson

I tried to pitch this documentary to my mom. I said, “It’s about a guy with Alzheimer’s, and his daughter stages his death over and over again. It’s great, I love it.” Mom just eyerolled and said, “No way. Too weird.” It is truly weird and funny and dark and so wildly creative! Whatever my video watching algorithm says about me, Netflix completely has my number!!!! This is exactly the kind of work I’d love to produce. I’ve always wanted to produce a film where I write parts for me, Husband, and my parents. God, that sounds so mega fun. In “Dick Johnson Is Dead!”, the dad is so very sweet and supportive. He may not have a full grasp of what the film is about all the time, but he supports it because he wholeheartedly loves his daughter. He’s incredibly patient with himself most of all. In the end, Mom did check it out because it was making the rounds in her high school alumni What’s Up app, and she thought it was “Good.”

“you will respect my authority!”

Before I had a clue what was happening, I have become a Pushover Parent. I am constantly trying to make my kids’ lives easier and then it’s like I forget I’m an adult with actual responsibility and authority. I forget that I can say no! It’s so stupid, but it’s like when Wonder Twin Boy asks for candy. “Can I have candy?” is what he typically says when I finally get him outside for playground time. Then he will ask “Can I have candy?” two more times on the way. By the fourth “Can I have candy?” happens, I GIVE HIM CANDY! It’s like just automatic reaction.

It reminds me of this story my mom made fun of me for. Back in the day, before subways had Metrocards, you bought tokens to ride the subway, and this white teen boy just came up to me and said “Can I have a token?” I didn’t know him. I wasn’t in danger. He wasn’t threatening me. I gave him one. “Can I have another one?” And I GAVE IT TO HIM! When my mom heard this, she was so mad at me she employed sarcasm, which she rarely uses. “What is wrong with you? IF someone asks you for money, you just give them money? Oh yeah, sure we should put you in Port Authority and just yell ‘Hey everybody! This woman just gives out tokens!”

I mean, if I’m being truthful, it’s not merely because I am passive that I give these things away. I am also not that attached to those items or rules or norms. I think when I am just bopping along and someone wants something I have, I figure, they must really want it, so I share.

But now that I’m a parent, I have to admit, that’s weird.

pandemic highlights

In a time where we all hitting a wall, I have to say watching “The Mandalorian” as a family gave my spirits a lift. Baby Yoda! Who knew! I have seen the memes and Buzzfeed articles devoted to this little guy before watching this show, and thought, no big deal. But when I saw him using his paws to channel the Force and fall on his bum from the effort, or call out in a baby gurgle, forget it. I had no idea Baby Yoda was so utterly beguiling.

Also, in this era of seriousness, watching “Pretend It’s a City” starring Fran Leibowitz has been cracking me up. She described almost getting hit by a young man on a bike holding a pizza in one hand, texting with a phone in the other. He drove his bike with elbows. Ahh youth!

homework doula

Here’s a job I never applied for: Homework Doula! Oh, it’s thankless, uphill-battle kind of work. It involves crying, yelling, throwing one’s body on the bed, denying, lying, resigning oneself to one’s fate. I think also candy and wine are also part of the deal. I’d rather not be involved with the kids’ homework, since I listen to one childhood podcast that recommends to keep school work between the student and the teacher, that it’s important to show mistakes so the teacher can identify areas for improvement. This jibes with like my goal to be more hands-off when it comes to academics, which is the opposite of my mom’s approach.

As much as I like to play the role of an extra in this pandemic, when we discovered Wonder Twin Boy has 39 missing assignments, we have no choice but to get involved, and it’s a two-person-team effort! Husband is creating Boy’s state project on Hawaii and I’m practically ghostwriting a feature article on Minecraft.

It reminds me of my third grade project on South Korea that must have slipped my mind, because over the weekend, my parents got to work. Mom wrote out paragraphs on Korea that I rewrote in my own handwriting and Dad cut out pictures from a South Korea tourism book to glue to my poster board. That pretty much meant they did my homework, and I turned out okay. There’s hope for all of us yet.

shirley temple, in the ultimate kid mary sue

There’s a kid novel called “A Little Princess,” which was made into a film starring Shirley Temple. The plot is basically she’s a kid at a boarding school whose dad is in the military. Everyone thinks he’s dead and there’s no more money, so she basically becomes a live-in orphan servant who suffers epic abuse and never gets enough to eat. She sleeps in a room in a drafty, dusty, cruddy attic. All the little girls are byatches except like one girl. It’s like a fairy tale tragedy that really spoke to me at age eight.

At the end of the movie, she wakes up in morning and the camera pans across the room. It is packed with pastries, cakes, tiers of scones with clotted cream, croissants, cup cakes, petit fours. She blinks and yawns prettily as she wakes up. It’s a moment before she realizes that her room is filled with TREASURE. Once she wakes up, she starts gobbling the food, she invites her friend to come over and help her binge. The tyrannical headmistress storms and yells “what is the meaning of this!” etc. or something. Soon after, the father is revealed. He is alive! He is wheeled in with a bandaged head. He has been MIA because he’s been unconscious! Now that he’s back, tyrant school lady gets her comeuppance, little Shirley Temple hugs her father, cheek to cheek, weeps, her hair styled in perfect ribbons and sausage curls (and it’s pretty much the same hair throughout, ups and downs and all). The end.

Now THAT was a great ending for a kid story. The dessert deus ex machina? The wronged heroine proven wrong in teh end? So satisfying. But as an adult looking back, yes, I can admit, it’s the ultimate Mary Sue.

karem abdul jabar bio project

Last spring, Girl Wonder Twin chose Karem Abdul Jabar as her bio project subject, and although she remained unimpressed even after we read about eight articles together, I think he is so cool! After an extraordinary sports-ball career, where he is like rated the among the top five players of all time, which is wild when you think when he was playing, how short the b-ball shorts were. I’m not even being that facetious. I just mean, athletics have changed like crazy and there seems to be massive improvements in equipment and method and I don’t know, DRUGS.

In any case, after an illustrious sports life, he was friends with Bruce Lee who asked him to come and have a part in “The Last Dragon.” So he got to star in not just any old martial arts film, but an old school classic! He converted is Islam in his twenties, he graduated from UCLA, he’s written books. The dude has had a wide and rich variety of such different life experiences. I’m so dazzled. Girl Wonder Twin was less so and couldn’t wait to wrap up the project.

marc maron/wtf pod cast

I think I am falling in love with Marc Maron.

During Pandemic 2020, I have been getting sucked into Marc Maron’s podcast WTF, a little bit after watching him on the excellent show Glow, but mostly because I began reading articles of how he tragically lost his girlfriend suddenly this year. He has decided to grieve publicly. He weeps on his podcast, he talks about what eats and how he’s up and down. When interview subjects express condolences, he breaks down. It’s very real and raw, and damn, I find it compelling. This what drew me to acting originally — that kind of honesty. It’s a realm where people can express themselves without adornment. And in most places of life, you don’t get that directness. That’s why theater lit me up when I encountered it decades ago. (Of course, as you travel down the road of being an actor, that might change and get more complicated, but still, that’s the original spark for me. Despite this, it’s not as if actors are my people necessarily, but I think they’re better at being vulnerable in person than a lot of writers I meet. But maybe I just have a different barometer. I’m very honest in how I express myself, which is why some acquaintances think we’re best friends. Husband point this trait out to me.)

This guy expresses himself truthfully. It may be the result of his life as a performer and writer, or participant of AA meetings. (Should I go to those meetings for my authenticity fix? I just like hearing how people are really doing.) He did a wonderful interview with President Obama in 2015, and I just so enjoyed it. You can hear how nervous and out of his mind he is to meet Obama, and of course, Obama is like a balm to our collective soul. (Volume 1 of his memoir just got released, which I am going to check out and am not being paid to plug here, ha ha ha.) I know Obama was not a perfect president, but he was decent, brilliant at so many things, and spiritual — and just, please, I don’t need to go on and on about how his presidency has paid dividends for us — or maybe I will just speak for myself since our country is so divided — me. This interview was just a nice happy spot in this endless pandemic.

But maybe you need to “earn” it. You can’t start with the pinnacle episode. You have to go through the ups and downs in order to be genuinely invested in this performer’s happiness and excitement. I’m relishing this experience after listening to a bundle of these episodes, some of which are dull, some fascinating, depending on the subject matter. (Cate Blanchette, utterly boring. Stacey Abrams, incredible. Did you know she has a law degree, has several romance books published, and adores physics? I adore her.) This podcast has been around at least ten years, during which I was blissfully unaware of its existence. But now, that we are cooking and washing dishes ad nauseum, and we are all together all the time, it’s really helped make pandemic life more pleasant.

Warning: there is a liberal use of the F word. My children have now heard every curse word under the sun when they walk through the kitchen, but they have assured me they have already heard all these words before.