Last week, I’d decided that I was comfortable enough to go to work without a mask. After my migraine escapade, I felt like I needed to keep as unrestricted as possible, which turned out to be my downfall.On the second day of my mask-free escapade I had two encounters with two different customers which made me wary. The first one, unmasked, sneezed without covering his mouth. He just sort of, turned to the side and sneezed. (Have we learned nothing from this pandemic? Have we forgotten to sneeze into our elbow?) I swear, at that point, I was ready to run away from him.
The second encounter was with a smug little man who noticed I wasn’t wearing a mask and decided that somehow I was anti-mask? I mentioned that there’s no mandate anymore so we’re free to go maskless, and yet he had the urge to tell me that he was ready “just in case someone complained about it”. When I just fucking said that there’s no mandate. Like…he was fucking ready to flaunt his maskless face in other people’s faces and was all eager to get up in other people’s business about it. UGH.Anyway, all this culminated in me getting a scratchy throat, which led to a runny nose, which led to me taking a COVID test (thank you Biden, for the free ones). No, I do not have COVID. IT’s just a regular run of the mill cold, but now I’ve decided to wear my mask forever. Once bitten, twice shy…Also some people continue to be assholes.
What should I say about Turning Red that hasn’t already been said by many other women who saw their awkward 13 year old selves in Meilin? I’m amused by the negative reviews of the film which have said, among other things, that her fanart is inappropriate, as if no other young teen girl has ever drawn cringy fanart or written self-insert fanfic. As someone who was once a young, Asian, awkward, teen girl with secret obsessions I’d never tell my mom about, I found this film all too real.
I mean, I had created an entire alternate universe in my head by the time I was in 6th grade, an amalgamation of pop music and action-adventure. I concocted a band that was a cross of Kids Incorporated and future dystopia and time travel and somehow Spy Kids before Spy Kids was a thing. I was also obsessed with the Beatles at the time, and loathe as I was to write actual self-insert Beatles fic, I wrote scriptfic (before I knew the term, I just wrote whatever dialogue I wanted the characters to say, as if writing a play) where my original characters met and had adventures with the Beatles. Terribly unoriginal, but man I was obsessed with this idea. The kid band was obviously the best, most talented, and greatest group ever. Better than the Beatles because the Beatles wanted to play with THEM. Ugh, so wonderfully cringe.
I did write basically a self-insert fic inspired by Elfquest, however, where my friends and I ended up in the World of Two Moons. And it was for some silly English exercise for school. THe point is, I’m shocked that some grown adults have never accepted the fact that their teen selves were so damn awkward with their messy feelings and emotions.
I do have to laugh at this one Twitter meme I saw though. Ouch. Seriously. Ouch. LOL OUCH.
Let’s just take a moment to celebrate the fact that an Obi-Wan series starring Ewan McGregor exists (and hopefully will be better than Book of Boba Fett, because that show surely…was a show.) I’m also quite happy that the first trailer for the show has embraced Duel of the Fates for the banger it truly is.
I finally got to watch Spielberg’s West Side Story (available on both Disney + and HBO Max, thanks to the vagaries of streaming rights) and wow. Wow. WOW. WoW.
I am, as the parlance goes, a theater kid at heart, and yes, West Side Story is one of my favorites. The melody to America will probably be stuck in my head forever. The original 1961 movie version of the musical is also considered a classic and not to be messed with. Still, I was extremely excited to see another take on this titan of the Broadway stage. After all, theater is a living art form that gets reinterpreted and reinvented with the times. Despite some people’s misgivings about another film version of WSS, I really wanted this new version to do well. As beloved as the original is, it has some glaring flaws, like the brownface. Oh that brownface. Oh and that stomach-churning thing they did to Rita Moreno, who had to endure darkening makeup so she’d match with the rest of the “Puerto Ricans” even though she herself is Puerto Rican and pointed out that they could be light skinned too.
As I mentioned, theater is a living art form, open to interpretation by more than one creative mind. We don’t, after all, bemoan the fact that modern stagings of Shakespeare lack the glorious details of 16th century Elizabethan England. It’s silly to think that WSS can’t be touched, that it’s perfect as it is. Theater touches upon the emotional threads that we as humans experience, and we will still find new things to pull away from WSS even now.
The race war between the Jets and Sharks is given needed context in the new version. We see the titular West Side of Manhattan getting gentrified, working class folks being paid off for their apartments and pushed out in favor of progress. The gangs are fighting over scraps, little pieces of turf they could still call theirs, even when in a few years, none of what they call “home” will exist and Lincoln Center (of all things) will rise in its place.
So this is the backdrop where Spielberg’s version takes place. One of America’s greatest film directors takes on one of America’s best loved musicals and what a glorious result. I loved it. I loved the new version. I actually didn’t mind Ansel Elgort’s Tony, though he was the weakest out of the cast. I had expected Russell Crowe in Les Mis level of “singing” but he was pretty serviceable and held his own during the dance sequences. (There is a pall over his appearance, however, since I already knew about the sexual conduct allegations made about him.) But Rachel Zegler is a fucking delight as Maria, and I loved that “I Feel Pretty” is staged in Gimbal’s, as a group of Latina custodial workers take care to clean up the spoils of rich American life. Maria, in the throes of young love, play acts at being rich and it works.
Rita Moreno. My god. Rita Moreno. She plays a new character, Valentina, created just for her, as the voice of reason and empathy and compassion. She’s seen what can happen when cultures clash, and she’s helpless to stop the violence from happening again but she’ll still be there to help pick up the pieces. I loved her.
Another interesting add-on to the 2021 film is the re-framing of the character Anybodys. Once a tomboy who is dismissed by the rest of the Jets for being a girl who wants to be one of the boys, he’s now most definitely trans. He’s still an outsider who wants to be a part of the gang, but that need echoes a wider need for him to be accepted for who he is. He and Valentina serve as the moral compasses of the piece, even as emotions bubble over and there’s the inevitable deaths.
But, I love the entire cast, mostly because of the authentic casting. Ariana DeBose is an electric Anita, and probably the best actor out of the lot, as she juggles her wants of a better life for herself and her loved ones even as racists threaten to take all of that away. What I find most interesting is that because Spielberg cast the movie authentically (with actual Latino actors playing the Puerto Ricans), he’s lent his movie a timelessness that the original ’61 version lacks with its brownface. I also adore that the Latino characters slip in and out between English and Spanish so effortlessly (and no subtitles needed, I think. Audiences get the gist.). It also lends to the authenticity and timelessness.
So yes, Spielberg’s West Side Story is a welcome and wonderful addition to the pantheon of great movie musicals and should be watched. Preferably multiple times.
I’m trying to get a sense of the timeline. J and I had just returned from a week in L.A. Going to Disneyland and Gallifrey One (the Doctor Who con). We’d met up with some friends we hadn’t seen in two years, and that was wonderful. We returned on Monday evening, Feb. 21. I returned to work on the 23rd. I actually had to go into work early because I’m taking some virtual classes/career advancement training and I needed to go in the morning rather than doing my closing shifts. On the 24th, I went into work at 10am and came home around 7. Took a shower, had a light dinner, and went to play Horizon Forbidden West. Around 8:30pm, J’s dad told J that something was wrong with J’s mom. She sat on her couch and fell asleep (it seemed) and wasn’t responding to anything. The ambulance came, took her to the hospital that night. J’s dad followed in his car, J stayed with me at home. J’s dad returned from the hospital around 1 am. And that was that. J’s mom was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, placed on a ventilator. There was just too much blood to operate on her, and her advanced age was also a factor. Even if they did it, there was a very slim chance that she’d recover anyway.
And then on Mar. 1st, some part of her brain broke its connection to the body (not a full on seizure, but a spasm? is how it was described to me afterwards). At that point, her body could not breathe on its own, the ventilator was breathing for her, and she was technically brain dead. They called the family to the hospital (as I was not family, I stayed home) and they made the decision to pull the plug. And that was it.
The sense of relief from her passing is ebbing, and now it’s being replaced by that gaping void that dead people leave behind. I really do wish we had more time with her. She was a wonderful woman, when her brain didn’t betray her and turn her into a raging monster. I had written her off when, a couple of years ago, she effectively ruined J’s birthday by complaining about the hush puppy J had given her after making a batch of chicken katsu. She suddenly snapped, angry that he’d given her bread instead of meat, unaware that she’d already finished off her chicken cutlet (and also shared a lot of it with the dog). She also was the woman who opened her house to me when I needed a place to stay, without requiring me to pay an exorbitant amount of rent, just utilities and high-speed internet.
I won’t lie, there were many times in the course of her life where I’d wished her dead, that when she was gone, everything would be better. I wouldn’t have to use earplugs at night anymore. I wouldn’t have to clench my stomach every time I came home from work, terrified that she’d be in the middle of one of her hours-long rants. And that’s where my relief comes from. But now she is gone, and the house is quieter, and I still feel loss.
Now, to deal with all the things she left behind. She had a penchant for buying things from catalogs, ill-fitting sweaters and oversized jeans, jackets and all manner of strange gadgets which supposedly make one’s life better. She’d purchase them, then never use them. Then sometimes forget she bought them when they arrived, then became angry at the companies which sent her these items that she never chose in the first place. It’s all the detritus of living nearly a century. And now it’s all just useless…stuff.