What do you call a fourth wall that’s entirely inside the production, or, Let’s talk about WandaVision
The new series from Marvel, WandaVision dropped on Disney+ a couple of weeks ago, and I was thinking of doing an episode-by-episode set of reviews, as I’d previously done for Star Trek: Picard, but I didn’t get the first one done within a week. Anyway, we’ve now had three episodes (“Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”, “Don’t Touch That Dial”, and “Now in Color”) which gets us far enough along that I feel I can comment on what I suspected the main themes of the show will be as well as just talk about how those episodes work.
First I wanna make a few unspoilery comments: this show is not a typical superhero adventure. It has a lot more in common with Twins Peaks than shows such as Arrow or Daredevil. You also don’t have to have watched any of the Marvel movies to understand what’s going on. Within the opening minutes the show tells you most of what you need to know to understand the framing mechanism: she has some sort of magickal powers, he’s not human, they are in love and they are trying to fit into a stereotypical suburban family neighborhood without any of the neighbors realizing who or what they are.
To me, it also became clear very early on that this show is more likely a horror-type mystery than a thrilling adventure/action story. A number of other reviewers I’ve read didn’t pick up the horror-vibe until episode three, so your mileage my vary.
I don’t think I can say anything more without spoilers, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, turn back now.
Seriously, spoilers ahead!
Throughout December I started several blog posts without finishing them. There were more distractions than usual this holiday season. I decided that even though several of the unfinished post are seasonal, I should finish and post a few. So, here’s one:For a number of years I ran a Steampunk-based roleplaying game. We got together about once a month for an afternoon game. And people brought food to share, it that it was also a potluck. My husband would frequently look for period recipes that could be adapted into a good potluck dish. In the course of this research he happened upon the origin of the liqueur known as Rock and Rye. It was invented in the 1800s by a guy who was trying to figure out how to turn a large quantity of bad-tasting bourbon into a sellable product.
This requires a short digression about bourbon, particularly bourbon in the U.S. during the 19th Century. Farmers had long been in the habit of turning a certain amount of their annual grain production into alcohol. Besides being a product other people were willing to pay for, barrels of whiskey and similar spirits could be stored safely for much longer than grain could. Usually. But every now and then something would go wrong (the storage building might have gotten to hot for a period of time, or could have been flooded, et cetera) and many barrels of the alcohol that should have aged into something quite delicious would be ruined.
So, this guy had come into possession of a quantity of such bourbon, and he tried various things to make it palatable. The process he settled upon was to mix rock candy (sugar), sliced up citrus, and some spices (most notably star anise) into the bourbon, let it infuse of a month or so, then strain out the liquid. The result was a sweet-tasting booze that carried a deceptive kick (because the citrus oil, sugar, and spices masked a lot of the alcohol taste). He patented it and began selling it for its supposed medicinal purposes. Many decades later, during Prohibition, because Rock and Rye was still often sold in drugstores as a medication, it was one of the few products containing alcohol one could buy in many states.
The point was that there was a recipe for how to make batches of it at home, rather than go to a liquor store and see if they carried the manufactured stuff. Pick of the cheapest kind of rot gut whiskey you could find (it didn’t necessarily need to be bourbon or a rye whiskey), slice up an orange and/or a lemon, put it in mason jars with rock candy, star anise, and so forth. Keep it in a dry cool place. Check on it and shake it every now and then to make sure the sugar dissolves, and eventually strain it out into bottles.We tried it. And I was quite surprised at how good it was. I started experimenting some more. Any time I picked up a new bourbon or rye (assuming it wasn’t too expensive), if I decided I didn’t really like it for making cocktails, it would go on a back shelf until I was ready to make a batch of rock and rye. It’s difficult to find plain rock candy now a days—it almost always has artificial colors and flavors added—but I can usually find Lump Candy at the local asian market, which works just fine. You can also find big bags of star anise, as well as cinnamon sticks, at much cheaper prices than the regular grocery store.
What would usually prompt me to make a batch is if I noticed that I had an orange or a lemon or lime in the fruit bowl that was getting iffy. The skin was hardening and you just know in another couple of days it would start to mold. So I’d grab a couple of mason jars, whatever cheap bourbon was on the back shelf, a package of rock candy, and start assembling. For spices I tend to put three or four stars of anise in each jar, two or three sticks of cinnamon, and about five whole cloves. Sometimes if I have vanilla bean on hand I’ll slice one of those and throw in, as well.
And sometimes there would be other fruit. There was a bunch of dried apricots and dried cherries left over after my husband made solstice cake one year (and the leftovers had been sitting in the pantry for a few months at that time), so they went into a batch of Rock and Rye.For the last several years I’ve made two or three bottles (one batch is usually two mason jars, which once you strain out the solid bits, turns into one bottle of finished products) in time from our annual Christmas party. I give each batch a name, based on what it tasted like when I sipped it, and I make labels for the bottles. I’ve been picking up small plastic shot glasses that are in the shape of the red plastic cups you see frat boys drinking beer out of in movies—I can usually find them in both red and green at Christmas time. And I set out cocktail umbrellas along with the shot glasses, just for fun.
Because it isn’t the same base booze each time, and because the citrus isn’t always the same, the batches do wind up tasting very different from each other.
Last year I ended up making three batches, plus I had a lot of the 2017 favorite, “Farewell to Ballard” leftover. The three batches I made last year wound up being labeled “You’ll Get a KICK Out of Me,” “Feel the Lemon Flow Through You,” and “As Sure as There’s an X in Christmas!” Two of those are song lyrics, and one is a riff on a line from Star Wars.
Because we’ve been caught in this slow-moving apocalypse for eleven months, I didn’t make any new batches of Rock and Rye. If we couldn’t get together for a party, there would be no one to share them with. And for whatever reason, I still had a lot leftovers from last year, any way.
I typed whatever, but I know a big part of the reason. It isn’t a beverage that you drink a lot of at a time. One of my friends misunderstood the first view years we did it, and was shocked after he had been sipping at a shot for a while at how the alcohol was hit him. When I describe letting the booze infuse with the citrus and sugar, that gives some people the impression that it is juice with some booze in it. It is not diluted. It’s still a shot of bourbon, it just has flavor added. No significant amount of the juice of the citrus winds up in the liquid. You get the citrus oils, not the juice.
It’s the kind of thing that you drink in small quantities. And sipping shots of flavored bourbon by myself isn’t that appealing. But I’ve invented a couple of drinks using the Rock and Rye as a base. One is a toddy: put a shot or two of Rock and Rye in a mug, top off the mug with hot water, add a slice of lemon and a cinnamon stick. It’s really good on a cold winter night. The other is a Rock and Rye and Soda: but some ice in a double rocks glass, add a shot or two of Rock and Rye, top off the glass with seltzer water. The latter is a bit better for warm weather.
I realized that I still had those bottles left over the week that we hosted the virtual version of the party. I have been trying to use them up so I can clean out the bottles and think about possibly making a batch for next Christmas. Because maybe we can have a party this year?
Now that we aren’t worried about an illegal overthrow of the government (or at least less worried for now), it’s easier to both find and pay attention to news about the other existential crisis, the pandemic. So much so that these eight can’t wait until Friday:
I’ve linked to this continuously updated interactive map and article before: Tracking Covid-19 cases in the US – Since January 2020, the novel coronavirus has spread to each state and nearly every territory.
In a mix of good news and bad news: Coronavirus deaths and cases dip nationwide, but variant is on the rise.
And speaking of the variants: Moderna making booster shot to fight Covid-19 variants – New strains of the coronavirus have emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. Given how rampantly it’s running in the U.S., its only a matter of time before it mutates here, too, and we have a U.S. variant to add to the mix. Related: Moderna Says Vaccine Still Protects Against Virus Variants – The vaccine yields fewer antibodies against the variant discovered in South Africa, and so the company plans to test an alternate version.
The fact that viruses mutate is one of the reasons that the whole herd immunity argument is BS. If we and other nations had properly flattened the curve, this could have gone like the swine flu (H1N1) outbreak in 2009 or the SARS-CoV-1 outbreak of 2002. Public health measures (quarantine, case tracking) contained those so that they didn’t become widespread pandemics and more importantly didn’t start mutating in millions of simultaneously infected people. But because we let COVID-19 get into so much of the population, we’ve almost guaranteed that this is a virus, like influenza, that will be mutating, re-infecting, and killing some fraction of the population year after year. We’ll probably rolling out a new vaccine every year like influenza. And like influenza, getting the vaccine won’t guarantee that you never get infected, it just increases that chances that when you encounter new strains, you may of very mild symptoms or none at all. Which means you probably won’t die, but it also means that you’ll be contagious for a few days and perhaps not know it, and some none-zero number of people who interact with won’t be so lucky.
In other news: In a major setback, Merck to stop developing its two Covid-19 vaccines and focus on therapies. It was always likely that some of the vaccines would be less effective than others, so this isn’t a big surprised. Further down in the article they explain that one of their vaccine variants still shows signs of clinical usefulness, and some of the other treatments they’ve been trying to develop for people after they get sick are also looking promising. So all the the research is still going to be useful.
The sports world has been having mixed results dealing with the virus: Miami Heat to use coronavirus-sniffing dogs to screen fans at games. Given the screaming fits people have thrown in stores about masks, I’m not sure how this is going to work out…
Meanwhile, in companies decided to spend their money in ways that might keep more of their customers alive: Budweiser skips Super Bowl ad for first time in 37 years, will use money for COVID-19 vaccine awareness.We always knew that rich and powerful people would find ways to skip the line, but this particular couple are extra special: Covid vaccines: Casino boss resigns after jumping queue – CEO And Wife Posed As Motel Workers To Get Vaccine. They are also a great example of the problem with levying fines for things. They clearly spent way more than the $575 fine just to travel to the area and pull off their scam, and that fine is loose change compared to his salary. When the only penalty for a crime is a fine, all that means is that it is only a crime for the poor and working class…
I started, but never finished, several blog posts during December. Between finishing the Christmas shopping, fretting about the coup that seemed in the works, writing five different versions of the Christmas Ghost Story before I was happy, and the stressful deadlines at work where everyone was trying to finish everything before everyone else went on holiday, I just kept not coming back to them. I decided that even though several of them are seasonal, I’m going to just go ahead, finish them, and post.Every year during Thanksgiving weekend I pull whichever iPod has been living in the car the last several months, and replace with with the iPod that is loaded with Christmas music. So every time I drive anywhere during the holiday season, there’s Christmas music in the car. Loading that iPod is not a matter of simply grabbing as much Christmas music as will fit on it, but selecting music that my poor, long-suffering husband can listen to without setting his teeth on edge. Because while I love, love, love Christmas music of almost all kinds, he has decidely less tolerance for it. Which is easy to handle when I’m listening at home, because I can just wear earphones or AirPods and he doesn’t have to hear what I’m listening to. But in the car it’s another matter.
One of the rules for the car playlist is “No sweet baby Jesus music.” Or more generally, no overtly religious music. Another is that while I can assemble a playlist that is all of the versions of White Christmas (73 different recordings at present) and listen to it just fine, they all sound the same to him. And sometimes the random play feature would throw up several different versions of the same song in close enough proximity that it annoyed him. So only one version of any individual song—though he’s okay if there is both a vocal and an instrumental version.
Since I have nearly 3000 Christmas songs in the library, it’s not that difficult to put together a fairly sizable Christmas music playlist which meets those requirements.
Except when I misremember what a song is.
For some context: way back when I was in the fifth grade in elementary school, the school had a Christmas program made up of all of the kids of each grade singing one song. Or maybe it was each classroom that had a song. The song we learned was Christmas in Kilarney which begins with the words, “The holly green, the ivy green, the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen.” One of the reasons this particular memory sticks out is that my fifth grade teacher was the one who taught us to sing the song. One of his “claims to fame” was that he had spent a couple years after or during college in England. And so he decided we should learn to sing the song in the proper accent. So we spent a lot of time practicing the song the way he wanted us to pronounce things. Which would have been cool if he had been trying to teach us to sing with an Irish accent. But he didn’t. Instead he had us dropping h’s and otherwise went for a very poorly rendered cockney accent.
Whenever that song comes up on a random play, I remember that time trying so hard to learn to pronounce things the way he wanted, and then a few years later realizing that he had been teaching us the wrong accent.
And that’s a cute anecdote, but you’re probably asking what this has to do with selecting songs for the car iPod. Here’s the thing: even though just two paragraphs up I typed the correct title of the song, Christmas in Kilarney, because of those opening lyrics about the holly green and ivy green, whenever I’m looking at a list of song titles, if I see the title The Holly and the Ivy, my brain starts playing the memory of trying to sing Christmas in Kilarney in the wrong accent.
And so, I see the title, think of the bad accent, and add it to the car playlist.
While Christmas in Kilarney is a bouncy secular kind of Christmas song, the The Holly and the Ivy is an old traditional religious song, that is almost always recorded very downbeat and, frankly, in a grindingly boring tempo. It is very religious and abominably repetitive. So not only would it set my husband’s teeth on edge, it almost always sets my teeth on edge.
I suspect that part of the reason I always confuse the songs is that The Holly and the Ivy wasn’t a song that I remember every listening to as a kid. I have never had to learn it to either play or sing in the jillions of holiday concerts and shows I participated in back in the day. The fact that I’ve never performed it probably contributes to why I dislike. There are plenty of other repetitive Christmas songs I do like. For what it’s worth.
Because we’re all in quarantine, I haven’t been driving around nearly as much. All of my Christmas shopping was done online. We didn’t physically get together with anyone during the lead up, and so on. And because I was usually only going out of the house once a week, and the weather was often cold, the iPod would not just go to sleep for all those days, but fully shut itself off. And so one of the routine each time I got in the car was to open the console and take hold of the iPod tight in my hand for a minute or two while the windows defrosted, to warm the iPod enough that it would boot up and talk to the car stereo. And the way the stereo and iPod work together, what this meant was that even though it was on random play, what it actually does is play a randomized list the iPod made when I first connected it to the car with the new list, but it wouldn’t remember where it left off last time, so it would start over. And guess what the third song in that shuffle was?
It took me a few trips before I realized this was what was happening. After wards, I got in the habit of, after I put the iPod back in the console and was nearly ready to pull out of our parking space, I would hit the “skip song” button on the steering wheel twenty or so times to jump past the songs I’d heard on the previous few shopping trips.
The really irritating thing is, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I’ve had to delete that song out of the playlist before. But when I was setting up the list, and looking for songs that I could add or swap out, I put it back in.
…and then another me grabbed me and shook me and said, “I don’t want to dream about me being a mansplaining jerk to a stranger!”
And I woke up.
For what seemed a minute I was very angry at myself for being rude and a mansplainer to that woman. Then I realized that I had been dreaming, and there wasn’t a real woman who I had been rude to. Which started this argument in my head about whether me dreaming about being a jerk was ethically any different than actually being a jerk to a real person. Because, for instance, if I write a story in which a character is a jerk to another character and I write the story in such a way as to portray the jerk as being in the right, no real person is hurt, but I’m still condoning someone being a jerk… and… and… and…
By which time I squinted at the clock, realized that it was a couple hours before my alarm was due to go off, and maybe I should stop thinking about this dream, make a run to the bathroom, then get a glass of water, and try to get back to sleep before I had to wake up and interact with real people.
I am continuously amazed at how my subconscious works. I’ve pulled myself out of dreams many times. Other times I really wanted for a dream to stop and it wouldn’t. I do think this is the first time I’ve ever made myself wake up because I was mansplaining. Maybe that’s worth a chuckle.
One of the best things about waking up on this particular foggy Saturday morning is that when I woke up my computer and thought about what I wanted to check first, is that I didn’t feel the sense of dread that has descended before I look at any news site or even Twitter in the last four years. What horrible news was awaiting me this time? In a few days I’m sure this almost euphoric feeling will fade, but for now I’m going to enjoy it. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t worrisome news, but the threat level feels a bit more manageable. Speaking of which, it is time once again for a post where I share news stories that broke after I prepped this week’s Friday Five, or didn’t make the cut for said post, or provide an update to a story linked to in some previous post. Along with some commentary from me.
So, let’s go!
Texas Supreme Court: Alex Jones, InfoWars can be sued by Sandy Hook parents. Alex Jones spent months after the Sandy Hook school shooting claiming that it was a hoax, that the parents were hired actors, et cetera. He incited his fans to harass those parents to the point that the haters were staking out the graves of the murdered children so they could scream at and otherwise attack anyone who showed up at those graves to mourn, place flowers, et cetera. So many of those parents have been trying to sue Jones and his business. He has been trying and trying to get out of the suits. He’s issued half-hearted retractions, admitted under oath that he knew at the time the things he was reporting were false, and so on. But he’s still fighting and trying to get the suits tossed because, well, if they succeed he and his so-called business would be ruined. This ruling disposes of more of his bogus objections and allows the suits to move forward.
I hope they all succeed.
Moving on to another kind of hater…
Texas could charge doctors with “child abuse” if they treat a transgender child or teen – The proposed law could land a doctor in prison for treating their patient as recommended by every major medical association. How long do we have to put up with these fuckwits terrorizing other people’s kids?
All the medical associations agree that giving these treatments to trans kids improve their chances of living a long and healthy life. You can have your sincerely held beliefs if you want, but if your sincerely held beliefs are contradict scientific and medical fact, then we call those “delusions.” And you don’t have the right to force those delusions on other people.
Speaking of delusional people…
Texas lawyer fired after Capitol riot files ambitious suit: Dissolve Congress, don’t arrest him – “This is not a Sidney Powell lawsuit,” Paul Davis assures court. True! Powell didn’t argue for abolishing Congres. So this guy was part of the Murder Mob that invaded the Capitol. He’s been arrested, charged with some crimes related to that, is out on bail, and was fired by his law firm. He’s decided the way to fix this problem is to file a law suit demanding that a federal judge dissolve both houses of congress, remove Biden and Harris from office, and furthermore to remove all fifty state governors, the governor of Puerto Rico, and a few other state officials from their office; and to ban all of those above people plus Facebook CEO Jeff Zuckerberg from ever holding public office in the future; and appoint Trump as Steward of the Nation, to rule until a new form of government and voting system can be created.
Please notice that odd title he wants Trump to be given: Steward of the Nation. Where does that come from? Why it comes from the Lord of the Rings. That’s right! This fuckwit quotes from and paraphrases Tolkien as part of his legal argument. So, someone needs to explain to this guy that Frodo was not a Founding Father…
His clients are a weird hodgepodge of fake conservative groups (Blacks for Trump and Latinos for Trump), as well as a fuckwit who was out on bail after showing up armed at a polling place in a state he didn’t even live in and threatening people. While out on bail he also joined the Murder Mob, which has it’s own charges pending, but he’s likely to have his bail revoked and be thrown back in jail on the original voter intimidation charges.
Anyway, the so-called logic is that something was fundamentally wrong with all of the elections (not just the handful of states that Donald was contesting), and therefore all federal offices elected in 2020 are invalid. And his clients, he said, are deprived of their—get this—fundamental rights to have an idea of the economic future of the country so they can properly invest in their 401K funds.
There are so, so, so many things wrong with this. First, the courts have already held many, many, many times that individual citizens can’t sue on speculative issues. They have to show a real, quantifiable, and justiciable harm that they will experience just to have standing to put their argument before the court. Not being able to predict the future of the economy is a quantifiable harm, is not the product of the issue they are blaming it on, and (to get that justiciable bit) it isn’t a harm that can be resolved by anything the court orders. Let me simplify that last bit: a court can order the economy to become predictable.
There are so, so many other problems. They don’t present any evidence that all fifty states had something fundamentally wrong with their 2020 elections. They just assert it. If somehow such evidence existed, it wouldn’t have anything to do with two-thirds of the Senators, because only a third of the Senate is ever up for a vote at the same time. A federal district court doesn’t have the power to dissolve congress. It sure as heck doesn’t have the power to appoint anyone “Steward of the Nation.” And so on.
But you know what power federal district judges do have? They can impose sanctions (fine, recommend disbarment, and so forth) on people who file bad faith lawsuits. And there have now been enough of these nonsense suits that the courts are getting quicker to impose sanctions on the fuckwits who file these kinds of claims. I suspect this lawyer is going to find out that getting fired by his old firm is soon going to be the least of his problems.
Now, let’s move on the problems across the pond…
Rotting fish, lost business and piles of red tape. The reality of Brexit hits Britain. Yep, just as everyone predicted. Anything else I can add at this point would be just repeating myself…
Let’s end it with this fun Jimmy Kimmel animated music video – Goodbye Donald Trump:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Randy Rainbow sends the Traitor-in-Chief off with a special ceremony – SEASONS OF TRUMP – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Normally whenever the musical Rent is invoked, I make a comment about how I approve the original, the opera La Bohème, but this made me laugh and cry, so…
There is so much else I want to squeeze in while the Traitor-in-Chief is still technically in charge.
I am a little irritated that the Traitor-in-Chief has knocked George W. Bush off of the top of the list of the worst president in history… but it should come as no surprise.
It’s racism all the way down. Seriously. Racism all the way down..
As I said, it’s racism all the way down. All of the atrocities perpetrated by the Traitor-in-Chief and his supported boil down to applied racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia. That are first and foremost haters, and their hatred is backed into every level of capitalism.
The Republicans only call for unity when they or their supports have violated social norms, political norms, or the law. If Republicans are calling for unity, then someone deserves to be prosecuted.
Similarly, they always oppose call for unity from the Democrats, because the democrats actually value unity, while the Republicans only value their own period.
Donald Trump is not just the worst president in history, he is infinitely more corrupt that Richard Nixon, who for decades everyone in both parties regarded as the most corrupt president in history. I suppose that’s an accomplishment, but in a just world it would mean the Donald spends the rest of his life in prison.