Rewriting Paul Without the “No Homo” Jokes

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We saw Paul the other night. Buddy comedy: two best friends from England (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, of Shaun of the Dead fame) visit the U.S. for ComicCon, go on a road trip, and meet a chill, foul-mouthed space alien. Pretty good movie. Cute, funny, crass in a mostly good way, predictable in some places but very original in others. Lots of creative swearing. A good time.

Except for the “no homo” bullshit — the running jokes about how everyone thinks the main characters are gay and it freaks them the fuck out. The movie even used the F-word, more than once: no, not that F-word, the other one, the anti-gay slur. It was jarring, it was exhausting, it was totally unnecessary. So much of the movie was bro-y in a good-natured way, even loving and sweet, and it bugged me that their “nerd-bros don’t have to be reactive shitheads” message didn’t extend to queerness. It almost felt like they had to be heavy-handed with the “no homo” stuff to feel comfortable with the bro-y affection. (The thing came out in 2011, so there’s no excuse.)

And I started thinking: How could they have written this differently?

What if there was a running joke where everyone thinks the main characters are gay — and instead of freaking out, they’re totally used to it by now, and don’t care?

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Rewriting Paul Without the “No Homo” Jokes

Judging the Past

Thomas Jefferson Birth of a Nation Gone with the Wind

“You can’t judge the past by the standards of the present! It’s not fair. We’ve advanced so much since then. People back then didn’t know better!”

I see the point. But also — no.

Of course we can judge the past by the standards of the present. That’s how we move forward.

We look back, at history or old movies or whatever — and we say, “Wow. That was messed-up. Let’s not do that again.” We read history about slavery and colonization; we watch old movies depicting queers as pitiful and disgusting; we hear old songs that romanticize sexual assault; we see old cowboy shows where Native Americans are shown as savage enemies. We cringe. We cringe so hard it makes our faces turn inside out.

And we say, “That was some fucked-up garbage.” We learn. We pay attention to patterns. We learn how to see bad patterns, in ourselves and our society. We learn how to prevent, how to interrupt, how to intervene, how to resist.

Judging the past is how we move into the future.

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Judging the Past

The Good Omens 2 Ending Makes Me Seriously Angry

MAJOR spoiler alerts for Good Omens, Seasons 1 and 2. Most of the ideas here were developed in conversation with Ingrid, and many of them are hers to begin with, including the core analysis.

The problem isn’t that it ends on a cliffhanger. Although it’s true that I don’t like that. Not when the next installment is probably years away and hasn’t even been nailed down yet. I think that’s bad writing, cynical and insecure, a breaking of the social contract between creator and audience. If you want people to watch your next installment, make your world and your characters compelling. Sure, leave some doors open, but provide enough closure to make your story feel like a story. As shitty as he is as a human being, Joss Whedon was really good at that with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: every season could have been the last, and it would have been satisfying. And Good Omens Season 1 did this beautifully. It was a lovely, perfect ending, leaving its audience basking in narrative afterglow — and leaving us in eager anticipation of the next round. Season 2 did the opposite of that, and it sucked.

But the cliffhanger thing isn’t a deal-breaker for me. I make exceptions. I cut slack. And even when I hate it, it doesn’t leave me shaking and seething.

And the problem isn’t that Crowley and Aziraphale don’t end up together. I’m okay with that. I adore them as a couple, and I like that this season brought their obvious coupledom out of the closet. But there are other queer love stories in the season that end more or less happily — Gabriel and Beelzebub (Beelzebub is non-binary), Maggie and Nina. I’d be fine if Crowley and Aziraphale’s story had some other creative, unexpected resolution. I don’t need the season to end with them walking off into the sunset. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that the ending is a betrayal.

It’s a deep betrayal of Aziraphale’s character.

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The Good Omens 2 Ending Makes Me Seriously Angry

Susie Bright’s Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce – With Notes on Charring

Ingredients for roasted tomato sauce in pan cut up tomatoes red bell peppers garlic onions
(Recipe after jump — with notes on charring)

It’s dry-farmed tomato season, which means I’m making big batches of Susie Bright’s roasted tomato sauce. This recipe is amazingly delicious and ridiculously easy — about 10-20 minutes of prep depending on how much you’re making, plus blending at the end. And it freezes really well, so whenever it’s tomato season, we make giant batches of it and freeze it for the winter.

You know that children’s book, Frederic, about the mouse who sits around in the summer gathering words and colors and sun rays to store up for the winter? That’s what this sauce feels like. When winter comes, and it’s been gray and cold and wet for days on end, we stick some tomato sauce in the microwave and put it on pasta, and it feels like pulling a bit of stored summer out of the freezer. And when the sauce is roasting, it fills the house with this ambrosial tomato perfume. We mostly make this to freeze, but we can never resist eating some of it right away, warm out of the oven.

I got the recipe from Susie Bright, and have adapted it over the years. Here’s my version.

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Susie Bright’s Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce – With Notes on Charring

Barbie, Humanism, and Death

Mild-to-medium spoilers for Barbie.

I expected the Barbie movie to be enormously fun. It was.

I expected it to be gorgeous, art-directed within an inch of its life, with a look both explosively oversized and finely detailed. It was.

I expected it to be feminist, with a sharp and complex depiction of gender roles and gender expectations. It was.

I even expected it to be surprising, to the degree that you can ever expect to be surprised. And boy, was it surprising. It was a wild rollercoaster ride, an intense mashup of giddiness and sorrow, with unexpected emotional nuance and plot turns that came out of left field.

What I didn’t expect was a powerful humanist view of death.

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Barbie, Humanism, and Death

Law and Order (The Concept, Not the TV Show)

“Law and order” means order. Not law.

Since the federal indictment of Donald Trump, I see a lot of political commenters beating their breasts about his hypocrisy, how he’s spouted the language of law and order while flagrantly breaking the law and acting as if he’s above it. And yes, it’s hypocritical as fuck.

But the concept of “law and order” has been around for a long time. And it has never, ever, actually meant that.

For decades, from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump, public figures espousing “law and order” have shown a deep indifference towards the law. They think it doesn’t apply to them. They think they can break it with impunity, in the name of “national security” or “traditional values.” If they don’t break the law themselves, they support and even glorify when law enforcement officers flagrantly, violently break it.

“Law and order” means order. Not law.

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Law and Order (The Concept, Not the TV Show)

My Adult Trike and French-Style Grocery Shopping

Greta's adult trike with grocery bags in cargo basket, in front of produce stands

With the adult tricycle, the entire way I do grocery shopping has changed.

When I got the trike, the main thing I wanted to do with it was get groceries. The trike has a nice big cargo basket — it’s one of the main advantages over a bicycle — and I pictured myself like a quirky character in a movie, toodling around the neighborhood with grocery bags in the basket, a baguette and a bouquet of flowers poking decoratively out of the top. (Never mind the fact that I don’t like baguettes and we can’t have flowers because the cats will eat them.)

It is, weirdly, kind of like that. Life imitates art, sometimes. Except for the part where I’m still building my strength and stamina, and when the trike’s loaded with heavy groceries it can be a struggle. Sometimes I’m the cute old dyke on the tricycle gliding around the neighborhood saying Hi to people — and sometimes I’m the fat old lady straining and puffing to get up a two percent incline. It’s fine.

But I’ve had to re-think my entire strategy around grocery shopping. Continue reading “My Adult Trike and French-Style Grocery Shopping”

My Adult Trike and French-Style Grocery Shopping

The Difference Between Daniel Ellsberg and D****d T***p

Pentagon Papers book cover
Daniel Ellsberg died on June 16, 2023. He was famous for, among other things, the public release of the Pentagon Papers, top-secret government documents detailing a massive pattern of government lies about the Vietnam War.

Lots of people see him as a hero. I’m one of them.

So how does the illegal retention and dissemination of classified documents make Ellsberg a hero — and make T***p a villain?

I think it’s pretty obvious. But I want to spell it out.

One: Ellsberg retained and disseminated classified documents, not for his own personal gain or aggrandizement, but for a serious and important matter of principle.

Two: He did this at considerable risk to himself.

Ellsberg knew he was committing a serious crime, and accepted the consequences. He knew he was almost certainly going to prison, probably for a very long time. (He avoided prison only because White House staff illegally wiretapped him and ordered a break-in at his psychiatrist’s office, leading to the case against him being dismissed.)

He did all this because of the specific content of the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers showed that the U.S. government had been systematically lying to its citizens about the Vietnam War. Among many, many other lies: The government knew the war was not winnable. And they kept pursuing it anyway. Nobody wanted to be responsible for losing the war — so they kept sending people into the meat grinder.

Ellsberg could do something about it. So he did. At great personal risk.

I have no freaking idea why T***p took those classified documents. The inside of his head is chaotic and baffling, and his motive is one of the great mysteries of this case. Was he planning to sell them, or use them as leverage in power games? Did he simply like the feeling of power and entitlement they gave him? But whatever his motive was, it sure as hell wasn’t government accountability or the preservation of democracy.

That’s the difference.

The Difference Between Daniel Ellsberg and D****d T***p

Michael Corleone and Richard Nixon

Michael Corleone and Richard Nixon

I’ll admit, this is pretty random. I’m doing some deep-dive writing about the Godfather movies, and I’m watching the White House Plumbers show on HBO (hilarious) and reading Watergate: A New History (excellent). My media brain is steeping in these worlds, and of course it’s finding shit to compare and contrast. It’s what my brain does.

So. Let’s compare and contrast. Michael Corleone and Richard Nixon. Like a freshman English paper.

Richard Nixon had a seriously brilliant mind. He had real skills with people, despite his obvious discomfort with them. He had powerful political abilities, with an extraordinary ability to bounce back from defeat. He inspired great loyalty in people who worked for him. And he had something vaguely resembling a genuine interest in public service. The EPA, Title IX, detente with Russia, diplomatic relations with China — that all happened under Nixon.

And he was a total shitbag of a human being. He saw political opponents as enemies, and he saw enemies everywhere. He equated his own selfish interests with the interests of the country, treating threats against himself as threats against the nation. He rationalized his most heinous acts by convincing himself that his enemies were all doing it, too.* He pursued a vile and pointless war, a war he knew was unwinnable, because he didn’t want to be a loser.** And let’s not forget: obstruction of justice, abuse of power, bribery (giving and receiving), tax fraud, election tampering, innumerable violations of his oath of office. His ethics, his concerns about the law and the Constitution, varied from corrupt to nonexistent.

He’s a tragic figure. But it’s the tragedy of wasted potential. I don’t feel sorry for him, except to the degree that I feel sorry for anyone in pain. His tragedy is that he used his power to inflict massive damage, on the people near him and the world at large.

Now. Michael Corleone.

Do I need to spell it out?

Continue reading “Michael Corleone and Richard Nixon”

Michael Corleone and Richard Nixon

How and Where to Buy An Adult Trike: A Half-Assed Guide

Greta on adult trike
More babbling about my adult trike!

In response to my recent post on the pros and cons of adult trikes, Andi (you know, from Facebook) commented:

You made me remember that I want to get a trike! [Partner] has and loves bikes, but my balance issues and general dyspraxia make me very unsteady on them. Do you have suggestions for where to start looking?

Hi, Andi (you know, from Facebook)!  “Where to start looking” is a good question, but a tricky one. Most local bike stores don’t carry adult trikes, and rental places don’t rent them — not in San Francisco, anyway. I bought mine online, and there are LOTS of online sources, but I wish I’d been able to try one out before I did that. So here is my very half-assed guide to shopping for an adult trike, based entirely on my own limited experience, with some guidance from the I Saw It Somewhere On The Internet Times. Some of this may be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway, since I didn’t know all of this when I was first shopping.

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How and Where to Buy An Adult Trike: A Half-Assed Guide