Posted by Marykate Jasper

Nicole Kelly, a former Miss America contestant who was born without a left forearm, has been putting her master’s degree in broadcasting to use by teaching others about her experience with a new “bionic hand.” Though Kelly rarely wore a prosthetic arm growing up, preferring to instead perform most tasks one-handed, she recently started using the Coapt Complete Control system, a robotic arm that “uses sensors in the arm that work with Kelly’s muscles” and “allows her to control the arm by thinking about what she wants to do.”

She’s decided to document her learning curve on YouTube, so that she can help to normalize the process. “I wanted to show my growth,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that I put on the arm and now magically I changed and I am like everyone else…I want to be able to educate you on my level of capability.”

Kelly previously competed in beauty pageants, eventually becoming Miss Iowa and competing in the 2014 Miss America contest. Though the pageant and its deeply problematic beauty standards have been around since 1921, Kelly was only the second women in its history to have a disability. She told Today, “That was the most attractive thing to me — I can wear a sparkly dress and talk about difference. That is why I did it.”

As awesome as it is that Kelly’s pushing back against ableist ideas of beauty, she undeniably fits conventional beauty standards in a number of ways. However, she certainly doesn’t fit the mainstream narrative about who’s “biohacking” and leading the way in the day-to-day of robotics research, so I’m excited to watch as she progresses.

Here’s Kelly trying to pick up a bottle of juice:

And here’s Kelly practicing brushing her teeth:

I certainly don’t want to downplay how frustrating and difficult it must be for Kelly to adjust to her new hand. It clearly requires tons of practice, and it’s crucial for the people in her life to accommodate her as she works with it, gets annoyed with it, and takes a longer time to complete tasks. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone dealing with an arm like this to be full of good humor all the time, and Kelly’s smiles and can-do attitude don’t make it any less crucial for our society to do a whole lot better by disabled people.

However, I have to appreciate the joy and normalcy in her videos, where she laughs, tries again, gets creative, and explains what makes using the prosthetic arm (or one hand, in her older videos) difficult. Her videos demonstrate how people with disabilities aren’t necessarily tragic or helpless figures, like we so often see in fiction. Instead, they’re going to discuss their bodies with the same infinite variety of approaches we see people use for every other bodied experience. Some of those stories will be tragic; some will be angry; some will be funny; some will be gross; and others – like Kelly’s videos – will be about the humor, struggle, and joy of experimentation and persistence.

(Via Today; image via screengrab)

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Posted by Marykate Jasper

While LGBT History Month isn’t until October in the U.S., or until February in the U.K., September 23 is International Celebrate Bisexuality Day/Bi Visibility Day! “What we asked people to do,” reads the initial summary of the day, “was find some time on this day to celebrate who they are. That could be lighting a candle, saying a prayer, buying a bi pride flag, getting together with other bisexuals for brunch, having incredible sex, march somewhere, whatever they desired.” Check out the #BiVisibilityDay tag for some A+ jokes, celebratory selfies, and knowledge dropping.

September was originally chosen because it’s Freddie Mercury’s birth month, so let’s also celebrate with this photo of Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury:

  • Yuri!!! On Ice is getting its own Funko Pop collection, including Yuri, Yurio, Victor, and Young Victor – flower crown included, obvi. (via Nerdist)
  • Pennywise is either the world’s greatest dancer or its worst, as his routine fits pretty much any song you can set it to. Check out this Twitter account which matches his dance sequence to a bunch of different tunes.
  • Boom! Studios will release a graphic novel that builds on the universe of The Expanse. It’ll be titled The Expanse: Origins and will “take a peek at who our beloved crew was before the Rocinante.” (via SYFY Wire)
  • Over at the AV Club, Clayton Purdom argues that “Rick And Morty’s worst fans don’t deserve Rick And Morty.” Couldn’t agree any more.
  • Things are pretty dire in Mexico City, which has been shaken by its second earthquake in less than a week. Jezebel has reports from the city itself, where it seems that volunteers are being blocked by the police, as well as links where you can donate.
  • Puerto Rico still isn’t receiving the aid it needs after its electricity system was decimated by hurricanes. Have you contacted your representatives yet to demand action and aid for them?

(Featured image via Shutterstock)

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Posted by Vrai Kaiser

Neo Yokio—an anime-style Netflix miniseries written by the lead singer of Vampire Weekend, steered by the executive producer who was also behind Metalocalypse and Superjail!, and starring Jaden Smith—was released this Thursday to great…well, there were a lot of tweets about it, anyway. The series revolves around Kaz Kaan, an exorcist and member of the “neo riche,” as he battles very relatable concerns like purchasing a tuxedo that’s slightly the wrong shade and having to clear out a dead relative’s house in the Hamptons. Some have defended the series as satire, some have embraced it as camp, and some have settled in to watch the garbage fire secondhand.

This was not a series to be watched alone, so I enlisted fandom academic and acerbic wit (and, full disclosure, my partner) Dorothy Kingswood to help me truck through all six episodes. The experience left us four hours closer to death; hopefully our discussion will shed some light on the baffling fumble of execution that is Neo Yokio.

Vrai Kaiser: Most people are, I think, flocking to watch this on the assumption that it’ll be good MST3K material–the trailer definitely gave off that kind of vibe. The horrible truth, though, is that Neo Yokio quickly stops being fun-stupid and moves right into being exhaustingly stupid.


Dorothy Kingswood: Yeah, I mean, when I turned on Netflix, I was certainly expecting a tamely silly piece of adolescent weeb power fantasy–and that’s said with love. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting that kind of cheesy, popcorny entertainment. The problems, though, are many and rampant, starting from the Hanna-Barbera-as-Flash cheapo art and continuing on through concept and execution right up to its insistence on attempting to apply the language and theories of progressive thought in a careless and slapdash manner. It wants to make audiences really think, man, but instead wallows in a sea of superficiality, shallowness, and aesthetics that the creators can’t quite bring themselves to let go of, despite their moves towards interrogation.

VK: It’s ostensibly meant to be satire–that’s certainly in the headlines of plenty of reviews I’ve seen, and Ezra Koenig floated it as parody before he allegedly started “caring about the characters,” but it fails pretty crucially from the word “go.” If Jaden Smith’s character is supposed to be representative of the idle, idiotic rich, we should probably be exposed at some point to characters who aren’t the .01% or aiding and abetting same. I believe you called him “Bertie Wooster without the charm.”


DK: He is, he really is. They give him a mean bossy Aunt Agatha who makes him–horrors!–actually perform exorcisms. She’s a clear reference to Wodehouse’s works, but where the goodhearted Bertie essentially wanted to be left alone and allowed to enjoy himself, Kaz is intensely focused upon his externally-validated social standing. Which brings us, I guess, to one of the oddest conventions of Neo Yokio (the location): the Times Square Bachelor Board.


VK: Ah, yes–imagine if those “most eligible bachelor” lists leapt from the pages of magazines to be inexplicably emblazoned on the heart of Times Square. It exists entirely to set up a rivalry with the local blond asshole, but there’s never any real sense of urgency beyond the fact that Draco (not his real name) said a mean thing about Kaz once. The plotting for the series is lax beyond belief, as if Koenig grasped that long-running anime have early establishing shenanigans-based episodes but not that one shouldn’t apply that logic to a show with a six-episode maximum.

All of that is within the realm of camp, though–stupid plotting is a help to mockery if anything, and I’m sure some people will be drawn in by the low-quality animation and that Big Toblerone meme. Plus, it is nice to see animated series with racially diverse casts. It’s just such a shame about, y’know, the rest of it.

DK: The Mean Thing that not-Draco said about Kaz is implied to be a slur, in that the lax, sloppy worldbuilding includes a Hogwarts-lite sort of wave at Once Upon A Time Sorcerors Were an Oppressed Class, You Know, and “ratcatcher” is their “Mudblood.” Also all the magic people have pink, purple, or blue hair, but so does poor, poor Helena St. Tessoro, because something this obviously inspired by 90s anime cannot possibly abide a love interest with boring regular hair, worldbuilding be damned.


VK: Neither of us are really qualified to get too deep into the series’ approach to race, but the show does definitely choose to have an oppressed fantasy underclass rather than dealing with issues even tangentially related to real-world racism. Which might be an attempt to create an aspirational fantasy, but that’s not the vibe I get from the show. It seems to think it’s saying something. So…rather than say anything real, it makes up its own windmills to swing at. It lives in an absolutely wretched bubble, and its homages to anime sometimes cross into straight-up appropriating terms from Japanese culture it doesn’t get. Specifically hikikomori, a thing anime makes jokes about but is…y’know, an actual community of real people suffering from mental illness.

Certainly we CAN say that its approach to women isn’t great. There’s Helena, as you mentioned, who spends most of the series as a strawman and Freshman Who Just Read the Communist Manifesto.

DK: The ill-use of hikikomori goes hand-in-hand with the show’s decision to describe Kaz’s whining over girls breaking up with him as “depression.” Sure, he’s theoretically meant to be a flawed protagonist in a shallow fishbowl world, but that doesn’t really hold water when there are no stakes or consequences, and every realization of his asshattery results in no marked change in his behavior.

The show gives lip service to performative wokeness, but always in aid of getting away with doing the very things it calls out. It’s a sort of Hipster Racism as applied to every other type of oppression the writers have at some point read about. (Homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, classism.)

In anything else, Helena would be insufferable. In this, she is the best character in a bad bunch, simply because she actually modifies her actions and lifestyle in line with her changing beliefs. And that says a lot. (Also, given her later actions, that’s far from a ringing endorsement.)

I hope you weren’t expecting that subtitle to be examined at any future point

VK: A lot of it is easy to shrug off in isolation, I think, particularly the early going: the fact that the show is too dumb to understand the “anime” terms it appropriates, the fact that the protagonist is a bubble-headed rich idiot whose biggest problem in life is his very expensive suit being the wrong color, the fact that most of the female characters are totally unimportant–either they’re idiots, they’re evil, or they’re…whatever the writing was trying to do with Helena. But camp is found, not created, and it’s a lot harder to sink blissfully into the silliness when the show keeps tapping you on the shoulder to Say Something. And then it says things that are completely tone-deaf.

The anime references, for example; mostly they’re eye-rolling and pretty basic. “Hey, it’s the dream sequence from AKIRA!” “Hey, they said tuxedo mask!” But then they decide to parody Ranma ½ (one of Koenig’s favorite anime, apparently), and things go real sideways, real fast.

Now Ranma (a series about a boy who’s cursed to turn into a girl whenever he’s splashed with cold water) is a series that provided a kind of wish-fulfillment role among a certain age group of trans nerds, myself included. But it was hugely problematic in regards to gender essentialism when it was written in the 90s, and it’s only gotten more ugly with age. There is absolutely no way a cis creator could tango with that material in a tasteful way. And this is egregiously bad.

By introducing a shenanigansy plot wherein Kaz’s cis male friend is transformed into a woman, the show opens the door to twenty minutes of walking into horrible stereotypes about trans women, including having the female-identified, loudly male-identifying Lexy use his physical appearance to hit on a lesbian; or having Kaz tell Lexy not to talk because his voice “gives him away.” The latter plays on fears of trans women being subject to mockery or even violence if they can’t pass, and the former plays right into TERF ideology that trans women are “really” just men trying to get with lesbians.

DK: Don’t forget that it uses that male character, Lexy, as the speaker for nearly all of its “feminist” talking points–neatly keeping the voice located within the mouth of a Dude. In a better show, this would mean something, like that Kaz only listens to other men, but in this? He dismisses Lexy just as much as Helena, to no apparent ill effects for their friendship once the magic spell is reversed. (Ah, the good old reset button. Because the writers enjoy both gag-an-episode structures and ongoing arcs, and haven’t figured out where those things might be incompatible.)

VK: And then the episode has the gall to pretend it’s about Kaz being sexist to women and patronizingly tells the viewer that gender is a spectrum, not a binary. Fuck you, Neo Yokio.

….Actually that’s something of a distillation of the show’s problem. It knows how to parrot concepts but absolutely fails to grasp the contexts at play behind them. I mean, that classism.

DK: The classism is baked into the premise; only two people of a lower status are given speaking roles. One is a fawning Bergdorf’s employee whom Kaz calls “Salesclerk” to his face.

The other is a human being Kaz literally owns.

Getting into spoilers, here, but over the course of that same hi-lar-ious transphobia episode, Kaz spends an entire subplot denying a personal servant access to resources that they need in order to function, as they repeatedly plead for him to assist in sustaining their life, because they are unable to disobey his minor whims even for such a dire predicament. This is played for laughs.


VK: For a show that’s ostensibly about the corruption of society and the exploitation of the average person by the elite in the end (I think? It’s possible Eden of the East is one of the shows Neo Yokio would like us to know it has seen), it has absolutely no interest in showing us any kind of actual civil unrest. All the employees of the rich are pleased as punch with their roles (even the human being Kaz definitely owns, whom we have no indication has been paid ever); Helena is the only mouthpiece for anti-capitalist ideology, and she experiences it in an entirely theoretical way.

The show name-drops designer fashion brands endlessly, valorizes the nobility of shallowness, practically drowns the viewer in luxury- and food-porn it can’t actually afford to animate beguilingly, and then pretends like it’s commenting on the excesses of rampant capitalism via a character who is also a billionaire who has never known hardship. This is Reality Bites, 2017 edition.

DK: None of which sits well with the conceit of a demon-hunting show. Because, lest we forget, our hero is ostensibly a magical demon hunter who fights… definitely not season 1 Sailor Moon villains. At all.

That whole plotline sort of fades away after the exorcism of Literal Monster Taylor Swift, presumably at the behest of Spotify.


Sharp satire there, folks.

The demons here seem to be in some way connected to greed or avarice, except that after the halfway point the focus shifts to the ills of Neo Yokio’s castle-in-the-clouds elite. The metaphor collapses in on itself.

And perhaps most uncomfortably of all, the creators choose to represent the destabilization of the social stratification through the elimination of its biggest, dumbest symbol: the Bachelor Board.

By bombing.

This is shown as a positive action.

While Smith was only 3 years old the last time Americans saw NYC landmarks burning and falling, Koenig doesn’t have the excuse of youthful thoughtlessness. Why did he, and everyone else on the production team, believe that mimicking 9/11 of all things was a good idea?


VK: I have no idea what this show thought, at any point. I’m unsure we can prove it did. It’s so breathtakingly stupid in ways that can’t possibly have been on purpose (SEE! Kaz lecturing young women about how Helena is no longer an acceptable role model for them. CRINGE! As Helena evolves into some kind of cis-swapped version of Christian Slater in Heathers. BAFFLE! As Kaz buys ANOTHER ROBOT that may house a human who will never be paid, we just don’t know).

There are probably people who can get down with that, toxically transphobic episode aside. But a show that’s supposedly parodying the wealthy by giving their entire lifestyle a lavish tongue bath really doesn’t work for me at a point where I’m worried about losing medical care and feeding my family. You?


DK: This was four hours of my life I spent, shouting and livetweeting in bursts between being periodically struck dumb by the sheer offensive incompetence of it all. It’s not The Room or Birdemic bad; it’s not even the toxically hopeful foolishness of Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Instead, Neo Yokio is the kind of bad you get sitting in a Gender Studies lecture hall, listening to a dude with a trust fund and a scarf explain Marxism to the professor.

But, you know, they’ve got pastel hair.

Dorothy Kingswood is a queer nerd with a Master’s degree in talking about fans. She’s a bartender by day and a writer by night, or maybe the other way around. Previously, she’s taught English, interned as a copy editor, and dug ditches in summer. You can hear more of her dulcet tones on her podcast, Trash & Treasures, or tweet her @dorothynotgale.

Vrai Kaiser is a queer author and pop culture blogger; they can’t. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, listen to them podcasting on Soundcloud, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.


  • Sep. 23rd, 2017 at 8:40 PM

Posted by Tom "The Kittenmaster" Cooper

Please give a warm TDK Caturday welcome to today’s Star Kit, Bagpuss (Baggy). She is 3 weeks old from Pattaya, Thailand.


We run a small shelter for cats and kittens here in Pattaya, Thailand and have posted a few kittens here in the past. 2 weeks ago whilst Sandra was feeding some of the local Soi (street) dogs near our house a young Thai couple pulled up on their motorbike and asked her for help, they showed her a small brown paper bag, thinking it was food for the dogs she looked inside only to find this tiny mite staring up at her, they had found it all alone by the side of the road, she told them to quickly take it to our house.


I was in the garden when I saw the couple coming to the gate, what a surprise I got when I looked in the bag too, they thanked us for taking the little one and I rushed the crying tiny tot to the kitchen, a few minutes later she was hungrily feeding on Goat’s milk via a syringe, we guessed her to be around 10 days as she had her eyes open but only just. Since then we have been feeding her every 3 hours night and day and have now her in a nice cage where she can stretch her little legs more easily. As you can see she has lots of toys and a litter tray that she has not quite mastered yet, she is gaining a lot of weight and this morning weighed in at 189 Grams.

If you would like to follow her on her journey with us and see if she can find a loving new home when she is old enough please look at our “cats4youinpattaya” website, thank you all there at the “Daily Kitten” , Paul, Sandra and the cats !!

Posted by Marykate Jasper

UPDATE: The Golden State Warriors, given Trump’s tweet, have announced that they will not visit the White House.

This weekend, Trump did his best to remind us that Jemele Hill’s criticism of him as a white supremacist was entirely accurate. I know we don’t cover a ton of sports here at The Mary Sue, but we do cover social justice – and Trump spent this week attacking a number of professional athletes because they’re black, successful, and opinionated. It’s racist as hell, and it echoes all his resentments of Obama.

First, on a Friday campaign rally in Alabama, Trump went after NFL player Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Kaepernick inspired other athletes to adopt the same silent, powerful method of protest, and he is currently a free agent without a contract (likely because of all the right-wing backlash against his exercise of free speech).

Though Trump didn’t refer to Kaepernick by name, he asked the rally crowd, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now – He’s fired’?”

This is Trump, a man who waffled about condemning a KKK Grand Wizard and called the Charlottesville torch bearers “very fine people.” But Kaepernick? He’s apparently a “son of a bitch” for advocating for racial justice.

Trump also followed up with two tweets today:

Not a day after the rally, Trump went on his typical weekend tweetstorm, and among his many targets was NBA superstar Steph Curry. Curry, a superstar player on the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, had said he would vote against the traditional team trip to the White House – emphasizing that it was still a group decision.

“That’s going to be my vote when I meet with the team, but it is a collective,” he said. “It’s not just about me, it’s not just about KD [Kevin Durant]. It’s about the whole team, and what we were able to accomplish as a team, and the opportunity that historically has been afforded to championship teams. So, we’ll have that conversation and we’ll do it as a group and we’ll have one voice.”

“Obviously,” he continued, “you don’t want to rush your decision on understanding the magnitude of what this means. We have an opportunity to send a statement that hopefully encourages unity, encourages us to just appreciate what it means to be American and stand for something. So, whatever your opinion is on either side … we want to take advantage of this opportunity.”

In response to that mature and thoughtful statement of principled personal opposition, Trump tweeted this:

Luckily, the civilized world went after Trump for his bullshit. Kaepernick’s mom let Trump know that she was fiercely proud of her son, snapping back with the following tweet:

She also gave an amazing interview with Deadspin, where she said, “There are a lot of racist people in that crowd [at his rallies], a lot of people that are just looking for something to get hyped about, and this is the kind of thing he does. It’s like a bully on a playground, I guess. It’s almost what I’ve come to expect from him…In Charlottesville, he would not call out the Nazis, not call out the white supremacists, but he’s calling out these guys who are peacefully kneeling and asking for their country to do better.”

Devin McCourty, a team captain for the New England Patriots, was one of several Patriots players who decided not to visit the White House this past April after they won the Super Bowl. He tweeted the below, and it really sums up both the Curry and Kaepernick situation:

Kaepernick is “disrespectful” for kneeling during the national anthem; Curry is “disrespectful” because he doesn’t want to visit the White House. But Trump calling any principled advocate of racial justice a “son of a bitch”? Weirdly, the “respect” crowd doesn’t seem to care about decency anymore. This is because those calls for “respect” were really calls for silence and deference from non-white athletes.

McCourty is only one of dozens of NFL athletes who’ve criticized Trump for his comments.

Meanwhile, LeBron James responded to Trump’s criticism of Curry with the aptest, most succinct rebuttal:

And of course, the Obamas’ White House photographer had a perfect image for the moment:

It’s heartening that so many people are speaking out against and – pardon the pun – dunking on Trump’s racist, vulgar attacks on these athletes’ free speech. Even the NFL Players’ Assocation, a union which routinely fails its members in troubling ways, issued strong statements in support of Kaepernick and other protesters, calling Trump’s statement “a slap in the face to the civil rights heroes of the past and present” and declaring “this union…will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens.”

It’s important that we condemn these comments as the petty, disturbingly authoritarian responses to free speech that they are. A president who can bear no criticism is not a president who respects the Constitution or his constituents, and that needs to be pointed out and condemned.

However, it’s equally important that we call these comments out for what they are: part of a larger pattern of racist, white supremacist resentment that defines Trump’s approach to non-white Americans.

(Via GQ, HuffPost, ESPN, and USA Today; image via Shutterstock)

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Posted by Marykate Jasper

Sage Hyden recently posted an exploration of animation storytelling over at the Just Write YouTube channel. In the video, Hyden argues that the storytelling trends in animated children’s films have undergone a fundamental change – one that’s influenced not only by society’s progress, but also by the transformation of the medium itself.

The original Disney films, Hyden argues, “are brightly colored, musical, public-domain fairytale adaptations…They are also stories that are very conservative – and I don’t mean that in a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way, only that these movies believe in the idea that things should stay about the way they are. The stories will usually end with the restoration of a previous order. Typically, there’ll even be a shot returning the setting to whatever it looked like in the first scene, because change is bad.”

Most 3D-animated films, on the other hand, take a different approach. “When 3D animation arrived, a new generation of storytellers shook up that formula,” Hyden argues. “They stopped being conservative fairytales, and became liberal allegories…The take-home message of these films is often that society can change, and that an individual can be the instigator of that change. These films are concerned with civilizations, as much as they are with individuals.”

Hyden acknowledges that much of this change is a reflection of society overall, and these newer films “fit the political climate they were born into.” However, he also argues that “one of the underappreciated factors is the medium change itself.”

From there, Hyden looks at how the mechanics of 3D animation, such as modeling, are partly responsible for the change in storytelling. I personally think this might be too strong a cause-effect argument, but it definitely got me thinking about the way that medium can influence narrative. There’s plenty of truth to the idea that computer animation has made it easier for animators to tell stories about entire societies, rather than about individuals, and it had me curious about other ways the new production process could affect which stories animators are most excited to tell.

What do you all think, though? Is this a change that we can see throughout our all-ages storytelling, regardless of medium? Or has the change hit animation most noticeably?

(Via io9; featured image via YouTube thumbnail)

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Posted by Marykate Jasper

After dedicating the facility back in May of 2016, yesterday NASA opened the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility (CRF) at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Johnson, whose life was one of the inspirations for Hidden Figures, worked as a “human computer” at Langley in the 1960s, calculating the trajectories for the first US space flights, including John Glenn’s orbital mission and the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

According to NASA’s fact sheet, the $23-million facility consolidates more than 30 server rooms into a state-of-the-art, energy-saving structure. This CRF will “enable innovative research and development supporting NASA’s air mobility and space exploration missions” and “advance[] Langley’s capabilities in modeling and simulation, big data, and analysis” – a fitting tribute to Johnson’s own achievements, and to the achievements of other women who powered NASA, like Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, who are also honored on the walls of the facility.

In a pre-recorded video interview, Johnson answered a number of questions about the honor. Asked what she thought about NASA naming a building after her, she laughed, “You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy.”

Continuing more earnestly, she urged, “But give credit to everybody who helped. I didn’t do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question, and succeeded there.”

In the rest of the video, Johnson emphasized two of her favorite pieces of advice: like what you do, and do it to the best of your ability. “Do your best,” she advised young engineers, “but like it! Like what you do, and then you will do your best.”

My favorite part of the video has to be near the end, when you can still see Johnson’s wonder and curiosity as she remembers her groundbreaking calculations. She looks off into the distance as she talks about work and the stars. “I liked work,” Johnson said. “I liked the stars, and the stories we were telling. And it was a joy to contribute to the literature that was going to be coming out. But little did I think it would go this far.”

I dare anyone to watch her, at 99 years old, talk about space and math that way and tell me STEM is some sort of boy’s trade.

One of Johnson’s interviewers suggested that, perhaps, the trajectories that finally get humanity to Mars may be calculated in the Johnson CRF – and that’s the future I like to think they’ll create here. Here’s hoping one generation of black women engineers, who brought us to the moon, inspires the next generation to reach Mars.

(Via The Guardian and NASA; featured image via YouTube thumbnail)

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Pursuant to the last entry

  • Sep. 23rd, 2017 at 1:20 PM
Hope Not Hate have an excellent blog post explaining who they are and why they're going international.

We are coming to the United States because we have to. In our increasingly interconnected world, what happens here impacts on Europe. What happens in Europe has an impact on what happens in the United States.

Last year Britain voted to leave the European Union (commonly known as Brexit). This would not have been possible without the intervention of Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica. Likewise, Brexit gave Donald Trump a huge boast and convinced him and his supporters that anything was possible.

One of the main protagonists behind the Hillary Clinton conspiracy stories was Paul Joseph Watson, a 32-year-old man who lives in a flat in London. More recently, the ship charted by far right activists from across Europe in the Mediterranean was funded primarily by Americans.

From last year -- here's a Guardian piece on a Hope Not Hate workshop:

The Guardian: What does Hope not Hate actually do?

In November, I went to a Hope not Hate event at a mosque in Cardiff – a three-hour workshop on how to challenge and discuss anti-migrant and prejudiced sentiments. It drew a crowd of around 20, one or two of them local muslims and a few with migrant backgrounds, but the majority were white Welsh, many of whom had not previously been in a mosque. The organiser, Jonathan, began the session by asking what had prompted people to attend. Many described feeling worried, frustrated and in need of a toolkit for discussing race and immigration with family, friends and colleagues.

Their undercover reporter [ profile] patrik_h -- looks like a cinnamon roll, will secretly infiltrate your international white supremacist network:

Dagens Nyheter: The Swede who infiltrated American Nazis

”He offered me to speak at the opening about my thesis topic: how the left has infiltrated the right. I spoke in front of 75 armed white supremacists.”

The Meet the Swede who went undercover for a whole year with the alt-right in the US and UK

Of course, then I was scared. I mean, there was this combination of a group of young men with guns and a violent ideology. That's not a great combination.

Posted by Kaila Hale-Stern

A leaked tape of MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell having several angry outbursts while filming went viral this week.

On The Late Show, Colbert teased O’Donnell that he was showing “solidarity” by leaking his own outtakes, which are predictably hilarious.

  • Vampire Diaries star Ian Somherhalder “joked” about how he flushed his wife Nikki Reid’s birth control down the toilet because he wanted to start a family. No one was amused. Listen, I will always love Damon Salvatore but Ian Somherhalder can bite me. (via Allure)
  • Battle of the Sexes doesn’t go deep enough into the tragic nature of Billie Jean King’s relationship with Marilyn Barnett. (via Newsweek)
  • Neil Gaiman will voice a character in The Simpsons‘ annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode that parodies his Coraline. (via Slashfilm)
  • The brilliantly funny Kumail Nanjiani is slated to host Saturday Night Live this fall, and there’s some other Gal hosting another episode that you may have heard of. Honestly, give me ALL of the Wonder Woman sketches. And if Gal feels like bringing back singing Chris Pine for a cameo, I am here for that.

Happy imminent weekend! I hope the world doesn’t end tomorrow. What’d you see today?

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Posted by Kylie Cheung

Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!

Just one week after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill which would have offered abortion coverage for all began to gain traction, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy introduced a new Obamacare repeal bill. The bill would — on top of taking away health care and potentially killing thousands of disabled, sick, and elderly Americans — slash women’s access to reproductive health care.

Obamacare repeal attempts are like a GOP zombie that refuses to die, and it would almost be comical if they didn’t pose continual threats to women’s living standards. Graham-Cassidy, like its previous incarnations, would defund Planned Parenthood and also slash Medicaid funding for maternal care, which really raises a question of whether Graham, Cassidy, and all Republicans, frankly, are “pro-life” or anti-woman.

And I think we all know the answer to that question.

Here’s everything else that happened:

Illinois governor refuses to say whether he’ll sign bill to protect Roe

This week, Illinois legislators passed HB 40, a bill that would ensure that Illinois women had access to safe, legal abortion in the event that a Trump-controlled Supreme Court were to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. The bill would also allow women with Medicaid and state-employee health insurance to use this coverage for abortion services, which is the controversial part for “moderate” politicians, who refuse to recognize abortion as the legal and objectively necessary medical procedure it is.

However, legislators say they will not send the bill to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s until he states whether or not he will sign it, and Rauner has said he can’t say what he’ll do until he sees the bill. Things are at a bit of a stand-still in the state.

Rauner has a record of signing off on anti-choice legislation, such as a bill he signed last year that would allow doctors to refuse to perform abortion services but require them to refer patients to abortion providers for religious or moral reasons. For obvious reasons, the law pleased absolutely no one, but at the very least it showed that Rauner isn’t as extreme as he could be. Rauner says he’s been meeting with advocates for and against the bill, but it’s unclear when a decision will be made.

Federal judge blocks abortion access expansion in Missouri

After one Planned Parenthood clinic in Kansas City, MO got its abortion license back after it was revoked in 2012 as a result of TRAP laws, a federal judge for the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a one-line ruling blocking three other Planned Parenthood locations in Columbia, Jopin, and Springfield from doing the same. The ruling put a stay on a previous April 2017 ruling from U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs that blocked the “undue burden” placed on Missouri clinics by laws requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

These laws existed despite the objective safety of surgical abortion, which almost never results in urgent trips to the hospital. Rather, the laws exist solely to shut down clinics that can’t afford to implement these changes, and either force women to travel miles for abortion services or deny them safe surgical abortion altogether. These laws caused a clinic in Columbia to shut down in 2015.

Sachs’ ruling earlier this year was meant to expand abortion access, but the stay implemented by the Eighth U.S. Circuit this week means this expansion will be substantially delayed if not canceled altogether.

Maine ACLU files lawsuit to expand abortion access

According to a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, a person seeking abortion services in Maine’s Fort Kent would have to travel more than six hours round-trip to the nearest abortion provider. This is because presently, Maine is one of 41 states that allows only doctors and not health professionals such as nurse practitioners to perform surgical abortions.

The two aforementioned groups on Wednesday filed a lawsuit to overturn this law, citing the undue burden placed on people seeking abortion care in the state, as well as safety concerns.

“Anyone who has made it through a Maine winter in a rural area knows that travel can be dangerous or impossible at times–it’s wrong to make a woman risk a journey of hundreds of miles to get an abortion when there are qualified providers nearby,” Zachary Heiden, legal director of the ACLU of Maine, said in a statement.

California bill would prevent companies from firing women for using birth control

Last week, the California state assembly sent Assembly Bill 569, which would prohibit employers from punishing workers who use birth control, have abortions, or make other reproductive health decisions that employers disagree with, to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. The bill passed among legislators in a 45-13 vote. It’s particularly significant under the presidency of Donald Trump, who has previously said Christians are the most oppressed group in America, and has promised to be the staunchest of allies to religious freedom advocates.

Few ever talk about how “religious freedom” laws that allow employers to fire or punish employees for not living according to their religious preferences seems more of a violation of religious freedom than the opposite.

“Women in this country have been fired for getting pregnant while unmarried, for using in-vitro fertilization and for other personal reasons related to their own reproductive health,” Democratic State Assembly Rep. Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement regarding the proposed legislation. “No woman should ever lose a job for exercising her right to decide when, how, or whether to have a family.”

Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!

(image: Shutterstock)

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Posted by Vivian Kane

Ivanka Trump went on The Dr. Oz Show this week to talk about postpartum depression. Trump says she suffered from postpartum depression to some degree after the birth of each of her three children. “I felt like I was not living up to my potential as a parent or as an entrepreneur and executive,” she said.

Postpartum depression is incredibly common, yet highly stigmatized. Approximately one in nine women suffer from PPD, and too many feel shame because of it. It’s not talked about nearly enough, so I’m all for as many women as possible sharing their stories, and that includes Ivanka Trump.

However, in her case, we also have to address the hypocrisy. Trump has dedicated herself to supporting and representing an administration that is actively trying to strip people of their health insurance. Those defending the Graham-Cassidy bill–which was hopefully killed today, but which Donald Trump aggressively supports–promises it protects those with pre-existing conditions. That’s a lie. You don’t have to believe me. You don’t have to believe Jimmy Kimmel. It’s a lie.

If Ivanka Trump were at risk of losing her healthcare, or not being able to pay exorbitant premiums of being in a “high-risk pool,” she might be worried. Because postpartum depression can be considered a preexisting condition. But Trump doesn’t have to worry about those things; she’ll always be able to afford her health care.

Ivanka Trump never seems more out of touch than when she’s trying to be vulnerable and relatable.

(image: screengrab, Fox News)

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Posted by Kaila Hale-Stern

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Entertainment Network (GLSEN) announced that they’re awarding this year’s Visionary Award to DC Comics, citing the publisher’s “commitment to showcasing diverse storylines.”

GLSEN is an organization dedicated to championing LGBTQIA students and causes in K–12 education. Their executive director, Eliza Bayard, explained the choice:

Superheroes hold an incredibly powerful place in our popular culture. Equally powerful is for LGBTQ youth to see themselves in our world, and DC enables just that. DC’s commitment to representing LGBTQ characters in all forms of media is both incredibly important and empowering.

GLSEN highlighted “Batwoman as the first lesbian super hero as a comic lead and [Batgirl’s best friend] Alysia Yeoh as the first trans character” in lauding DC’s accomplishments in this area. It’s great to see these characters acknowledged and celebrated, and the president of DC Entertainment and president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Diane Nelson, will be accepting the award on behalf of the company.

“At DC, we are committed to telling stories that reflect and inspire our diverse audience and we look forward to celebrating with the LGBTQ students and activists from across the country,” Nelson said, which is a very nice sentiment to hear broadcast from the top, especially a mere four years after writers quit Batwoman after being told to scrap several storylines, including a marriage between heroine Kate Kane and her girlfriend Maggie. (At the time, DC’s line was that no one in their universe should be happily wed, which, well, hmm.)

Comics have long been at the vanguard of social issues, and diverse LGBTQIA representation therein is growing. It’s a “trend” that I believe will continue apace until it no longer is a trend or a unique feature of a character that needs to be talked about, but is accepted without commentary. However, for all of the progress made in print, we have to draw attention to the continued shocking dearth of LGBTQIA characters in superhero mass media, especially movies. DC has given us Alex Danvers and Sara Lance on the small screen, for example, but what are the chances we’ll see Diana Prince explore her bisexuality anytime soon?

DC and Marvel have crafted massive, multi-billion dollar complex universes where, at current, we haven’t seen a single nod to LGBTQIA superheroes—or even sidekicks—as a concept that could exist. Aliens, mutants, magic, and super powers are viable, but not characters with a lifestyle that might be questioned by middle America or the massive Chinese market.

In 2017, this should be an unacceptable state of affairs. And before someone in the comments starts breaking out the argument that these movies are not about romance, consider how often a milquetoast love interest is foisted on one of our heroes, and the audience is supposed to accept it without question, because Heterosexuality.

Marvel is, in some cases, even worse in this regard, shoehorning in unearned romance (Black Widow/Hulk, anyone?) and seeming to do everything they can to shut down speculation on-screen about characters many fans prefer to see coded as queer. After Civil War came out, Vanity Fair observed:

…doesn’t Captain America: Civil War go out of its way to “define” Bucky and Steve’s relationship when Cap smooches Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) while Bucky looks on approvingly? Where’s the room for interpretation in that moment? And, leaving aside the vague creepiness of Steve making a move on Peggy’s (very willing) niece, the moment itself wasn’t necessary to the flow of the movie at all.

This hasn’t been a good time for LGBTQIA characters in big movies, period. We get winks and nods and passing glances and nothing else—take the recent cases of Beauty and the Beast, Power Rangers, and Star Trek: Into Darkness, whose “LGBTQIA” characters received a ton of headlines and buzz but little actual acknowledgment. Blink and you miss their LGBTQIA characterization entirely. There’s still a very, very long way to go, and we can never stop pushing the studios to be better and braver. As comics demonstrate, representation across many spectrums is vitally important.

With the recent mainstream success of LGBTQIA stories like Moonlight and “San Junipero,” part of me wants to believe that the studios will start making visible strides forward, if only as a cynical money grab, which is how much of showbusiness operates. “What is it the millennials are into these days?” I imagine some wizened old man smoking a cigar asking a Hollywood executive boardroom. “The gays? The superheroes? Get me a treatment.”

For the sake of the kids growing up who might now have a greater chance of seeing themselves reflected on screen, let’s hope this is the case. But I’m not holding my breath.

(via THR, image: DC Comics)

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Posted by Dan Van Winkle

We’ve reported more than once, over the past few days, on Jimmy Kimmel’s use of his late night show to call out the latest Republican health care bill and how it fails the very standards that one of its primary sponsors promised him on television. However, as is so often the case, those who disagree with Kimmel decided to disagree not with the points he raised, but with his very right to be a political advocate in the first place.

That’s absurd for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that Kimmel’s take on the health care bill has been supported by independent analysis several times over, while the Republican senators who back the bill don’t even care that they can’t get a full picture of its consequences from the Congressional Budget Office before voting on it. But perhaps the best way to combat this ridiculous argument is the strategy employed above by Media Matters.

In the Fox News compilation, they demonstrate that the network, over and over again, brings on celebrity guests to talk about politics, despite that a frequent talking point of right wing commentators is that celebrities like Kimmel should “stick to [whatever their profession is.]” Not to mention how one of their own hosts complained that Kimmel was a “Hollywood Elitist,” which could easily be applied to their own famous friends. That line of thinking belies the fact that the cable news hosts themselves aren’t much different—just a lot less (intentionally) comedic—let alone the celebrity guests they’re OK putting on their air to convince people, as long as their political opinions match up.

I’m not saying Fox should stop bringing celebrity guests on to talk politics. I’m saying we need to retire the “stick to comedy/acting/writing/whatever” and “Hollywood Elites” line entirely. The clip doesn’t need anything else to be a complete farce, other than just showing the hypocrisy unfold time and time again. Luckily, with John McCain saying he will vote no on the Graham-Cassidy bill, it seems that the Republican effort has failed, and it’s time for bipartisan action—even Republican Senator Joni Earnst just admitted as much after the McCain development, to applause:

(featured image: screengrab)

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Posted by Vivian Kane

Coming into season two of The Good Place, the big question was how the show would move forward after exploding their entire premise in the first season finale.

Before we go any further, be warned that there are spoilers galore ahead, for season one as well as the first episode of season two, as well as lots of speculation on what’s to come. If you’re not caught up, turn back now and come back once you’re up to speed.

At the end of season one, we learn that the Good Place is actually the Bad Place, designed for the codependent torture of only four people. Whatever direction season two decided to take, it was going to be very different from season one. And as we saw with this week’s premiere, that’s very true, and completely fine.

More than any other character, season one was Eleanor’s show. We knew her secrets and her goals: that she doesn’t belong and wants to stay in the Good Place, and maybe also become a better person in the process. This season, it’s not yet clear who our main protagonist will be. The first episode was split between our four deceased characters, but the central focus seemed to be on Michael. Now we’re in on his secrets, both those being kept from the gang, as well as from his boss.

By the end of the second season premiere, we were already on Michael’s third pass with the construct of his “Good Place.” How many times will he have to reset? What are we rooting for, exactly? It’s not like Eleanor & co. can level out of the Bad Place. Unless they can. We don’t know! The possibilities and mysteries of this season are so exciting, and we have no idea where this ride will go.

As we look ahead, though, there’s one element from the season premiere that stuck with me. Having just done a season one rewatch, I was struck by how different Eleanor felt in this episode than in the pilot. This could just be wild speculation, but this show lends itself to that; it’s part of its fun.

(Me watching The Good Place)

The biggest indicator that something is different about Eleanor is her behavior at the welcome party. As the torture demons try to get her drunk, even Michael notes how out of character her sobriety is. (“She brought a flask to her driver’s test!”) Sure, this can be explained by her need to find Chidi, a circumstance that wasn’t there the first time around—and it doesn’t take long for her to (almost) give in to tequila shots—but this level of responsibility would not have been typical for living Eleanor.

There are other moments that seem to fit the Eleanor of the end of last season far more than her first day in the Good Place. They’re tiny things, like apologizing when she bumps into Jason in the street. That might not seem like much, but it’s worlds apart from this woman:

There’s a relative softness to this new Eleanor that could be dismissed as an acting or directing choice, but on rewatch of season one, you notice Ted Danson give nearly imperceptible reactions–just the tiniest flinches–when things aren’t going according to his plan. This show is committed to details, and if there are any changes at all in a character’s demeanor, I trust they’re deliberate.

All of this is to say, I believe that the growth Eleanor experienced last season has stuck with her on some unconscious, cellular level. And if that’s true, the possibilities for that unknowing evolution are really exciting.

And while we’re talking about awesome female characters who may hold all the answers of the show, let’s talk about Janet!

Janet had a huge moment in the first episode, though I didn’t notice its significance until my second watch. When Janet runs into Jason, he tells her how isolated he feels.

She responds, “What you’re saying is there are certain aspects of your existence here in the Good Place that are confusing for you? And you’re searching for someplace to go where you feel less lonely. I know someplace you can go.”

And then next time we see them, they’re walking into Eleanor’s house, so Jason can speak with her. “Privately. About something.”

And that’s all that’s said about that! Why did she bring Jason to Eleanor to make him feel less lonely? What does she expect him to talk about? The mere fact that she expected him to speak to anyone betrays his whole Good Place identity. THIS IS BIG.

Clearly, Janet doesn’t need notes in her mouth. She doesn’t reference her “marriage” to Jason, but she knows something about the history of the group. I’m calling it here and now, Janet is the key and the savior to this whole thing.

(image: NBC)

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Posted by Dan Van Winkle

You know what is not a real concern when it comes to rampant sexual assault on college campuses? That the system is stacked against the accused. That hasn’t stopped Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump’s Department of Education from rescinding President Obama-era guidelines on campus sexual assault in order to rework them to be more lenient on alleged assaulters.

That flies in the face of approximately everything we know about how sexual assault is handled on campus and in general, with victims often afraid to come forward only to have their problems compounded by a system that doesn’t believe them. So, it makes perfect sense for the Trump administration, I guess, especially after DeVos met with “Men’s Rights Activists” to talk about assault—because if anyone’s an expert on how to best to protect women from sexual assault, it’s men who think fighting for equality is oppression.

(image: NBC)

DeVos’ department is still working on new guidelines—because this move was apparently so pressing that it had to be done before those were finished—but their interim guidelines are a good hint at where things are going. According to the AP, the Obama-era guidelines, dating back to 2011, set out a less strict “preponderance of evidence” standard for universities when investigating sexual assault, whereas the new interim guidelines push for “clear and convincing evidence” for action to be taken.

Those slightly esoteric legal terms essentially allow universities to “require higher standards of evidence when handling complaints,” reports AP. In a statement, DeVos said that sexual assaults were “horrific crimes” that must not be swept under the rug, but mitigated that by saying that the new guidance will help schools “will treat all students fairly,” making it fairly clear that her priorities on campus assault are more aligned with worrying about false accusations than with actually helping assault victims.

It’s pretty clear which of those is the bigger, more pressing problem to be dealt with, and this is only moving us further away from a real improvement.

(via AP, featured image: Shutterstock)

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Posted by Kaila Hale-Stern

This is fine. Everything is fine.

Yesterday morning, some Southern Californians were startled by an emergency message that broke into their programming. While many of us have experienced tests of the emergency messaging system—usually an annoying sound that gets your attention—what was unexpected here was the content broadcast along with the “Emergency Alert” signage on-screen.

(Scroll ahead to :32 in the video to hear the message.)

Viewers heard the voice of a man talking about the end times and saying things like “Realize this: that in the last days extremely violent times will come.”

Cox Communications is explaining the strange broadcast as the fault of a radio station that kept playing its programming:

News outlets are also speculating that the broadcast could be the work of a hacker, since certain adherents of wild theories have been warning that the world will end this coming Saturday, September 23rd. According to this prediction, an unknown planet—Planet X—will collide with Earth, resulting in our total destruction (scientists say nope, so I’m going with Science here). And of course, with Trump and Kim Jong-Un butting heads and talking about actually raining down fire on each other, everyone’s a little on edge these days.

Whether this was an accident, a prank or the work of a zealot who truly believes we’re headed for doom on Saturday and wants to warn the people, hearing the message was disturbing for some residents. (My favorite reaction, however, was a viewer who captured the broadcast and labeled it “What the fuck is this Fahrenheit 451 or?”) We’re attuned to believe that anything coming in from an Emergency Alert has been vetted and is important, so this must’ve been confusing, to say the least.

(via CBS Local, image: screengrab)

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Posted by Vivian Kane

In February of this year, the witches and witch enthusiasts of America made news with plans to do do a binding spell on Trump. Coordinated online, thousands of magick practitioners (including Lana del Rey) joined together to peacefully bind Trump from doing harm to the people of the world. And they’ve continued to do so at every month’s waning moon.

Earlier this week, Tucker Carlson had one of these witches onto his show to talk about these spells. He says he’s invited many witches to come on, but only Amanda Yates Garcia, “The Oracle of Los Angeles,” was “brave enough” to accept. (I’m not sure how much bravery plays into it so much as just not having interest in sharing words with a crustless mayonnaise sandwich come to life, but okay.)

Ostensibly, Carlson wants to ask questions to understand the spells. But if you’ve ever watched his show, you know that he doesn’t actually care about or listen to answers; the questions are just a jumping-off point for derision.

He expresses concern over the legality of spells, asking if there’s any “federal regulation.” Garcia then has to explain the point of symbolic actions, like saluting a flag or singing the national anthem. These actions are “used to harness the powers of the imagination and achieve a tangible result,” but that result doesn’t necessarily need to be the direct effect on Trump (although that would be nice). Rather, she tells him, “I think that what’s really important is that we create a sense of solidarity and empowerment within the people who are participating in the spell to galvanize them towards actions so that they can feel empowered to make the changes they want to see in the world.”

Carlson is really hung up on the specifics, though. Like “is eye of newt an actual ingredient?”

Garcia responds, “I think the real problem is not whether or not eye of newt is an actual ingredient. The real problem is we’re about to have some kind of big nuclear extravaganza with North Korea. The real problem is that we’re punishing immigrant children. The real problem is that we’re causing students to go into deep debt. I don’t think the real problem is whether or not we use eye of newt.”

Carlson still won’t let the eye of newt thing go, though, so Garcia has to point out that it was Shakespeare who introduced that idea to the public. So he was probably taking some creative license. (Fun fact: eye of newt is just an old-timey name for mustard seed, which Shakespeare also used as the name for one of his fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

The whole exchange is pretty bizarre, with Carlson ending by telling Garcia she “seems nice.” Carlson loves attacking and being attacked, but Garcia held her own without ever taking offense at his attempted mockery and concern trolling, so he had nowhere left to go.

Let us all now go back to not paying attention to Tucker Carlson.

(image: screengrab)

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I need to make myself an icon of this phrase.

  • Sep. 22nd, 2017 at 12:21 PM
Never try to mean girl at a Slytherin.

I just need to find a good picture. Suggestions?

People keep making the mistake of thinking that just because I'm nice, I'm a pushover. Or gullible. Or both.

That is...beyond hilarious as a concept.

Fuck everyone today.

(Work issues, though I've run into the same idea outside of work, I suppose. I will elaborate when I'm not vaguebooking on a work computer on a work network.)

Posted by Kaila Hale-Stern

The upcoming Murder on the Orient Express stars every movie star in the known universe, and its aesthetics look snazzy as hell. So why do I keep feeling like something’s off?

Any big-screen, big-budget incarnation of Agatha Christie’s beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot was always going to be a tough sell for me, because I absolutely adore David Suchet’s iconic, 25-year-tenure as Poirot for ITV. Every time I look at Kenneth Branagh’s ridiculous mustache and hear his preposterous accent the little grey cells in my brain scream, “NON, YOU ARE NOT HERCULE POIROT, MY FRIEND.”

But I can get over Branagh (maybe one day), who is a fine actor and will probably do fine. I understand that this is not my Poirot and that everything about this Ridley Scott-produced movie is made to be extra flashy, built to blockbuster proportions. I think what sets my teeth on edge a mere 28 seconds into this latest trailer is the prominent featuring of the smarmy Johnny Depp smarming it up past 11 in his role as “the gangster,” and my only hope is that he dies quickly and is the Murder at hand.

When will Hollywood studios finally get it through their heads that no one wants to see Johnny Depp smirk through an “edgy” part anymore?

Then, while the trailer continues to showcase the impressive cast (seriously, who isn’t in this thing?)—Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, and Dame Judi Dench are here for tea, to start—all we really see them do is spout cliche one-liners.

Murder on the Orient Express is about exposing the secrets that we keep beneath the simple labels doled out here like “the princess” and “the missionary,” so hopefully scenes of deeper nuance are being kept under wraps to surprise us. Still, I’m not sure why I can’t get more excited about this film based on the trailers we’ve seen.

What do you think, mes amis?

(images: screengrab, ITV)

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