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What’s that? An actual, written blog post that’s not show notes for a podcast? I guess it had to happen eventually.

I always feel terrible when I sit down to write my Culture Consumed for Galactic Suburbia because I inevitably find out that most of what I’ve been consuming is non-genre and I have nothing to say. Yet, I’m consuming culture like it’s going out of fashion!

Australia got Netflix in March. And the first thing I did was gobble down the final season of How I Met Your Mother in case the whole Netflix thing was a joke and they were going to whisk it away from me. Then I sat through the entire series of Lost, so I could see if I hated the ending. And since then, I’ve been dipping my toe in and out of various genre pools. I figured now and again, I’d write some quick summaries.

Highly recommended: Grace and Frankie. (Netflix Original)
First up, I shouldn’t need to say anything other than Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. I’m so there and you should be too. But then bonus for Martin Sheen and Sam Waterstone. Sol (Waterstone) and Robert (Sheen) take their wives, Frankie (Tomlin) and Grace (Fonda) out for dinner to finally tell them they are gay and have been lovers for 20 years and now, since they can, they want to get married (and thus divorced). It’s, I guess, a sitcom, or a dramedy maybe? It’s funny. It’s brilliantly acted. It’s refreshing. It’s not often that older women are allowed their own show, and to be older on it. It enables all kinds of usually taboo topics to be addressed – sex post menopause, sex post marriage, issues relating to long term marriages. Plus Sheen and Waterstone offer another version of gay men to the small screen, one that is also not the norm – older men in a long term committed relationship. The two couples’ children are also interesting and funny. I’m so sad that there is currently only one season (Season 2 is scheduled for 2016) because I’ve already watched it all and I want more.

This weekend, I mainlined some Docos:

The Queen of Versailles
Real Housewives meets the GFC. This starts out as a doco following David and Jackie Siegel (owners of Westgate resorts) who are building the biggest house in the USA – it has 30 bathrooms, which apparently she needs (is it wrong that I was wondering what kind of cleaning schedule that would need, you could use one bathroom a day for a month?). It was modelled on … you guess it! Versailles. And at the height of the book, Siegel is totally really wealthy and can “afford” this ridiculous property. You get a brief intro to the family in a very Real Housewives style and then the GFC hits and it all goes to hell. Honestly, this was like watching a train wreck – the doco loses momentum and point, it is almost never about the house they are building and more about how people who have more money than they can fathom don’t know what to do when the money – or line of credit- is no longer there. Despite having an engineering degree, Jackie seems completely incapable of understanding that they have no money left. I kept watching to see if they ever managed to dig themselves out of the hole – they didn’t at the time of the end of the film – or manage to keep the house (couldn’t tell since it finishes with them in some kind of over the top house). The only point of real interest in the whole hour and a half was half a conversation they caught on camera between David and some friends where he talks about how he managed to remortgage his 11.3 million dollar loan by acting as a third party for refinancing and got it back for 3 million dollars loan. “It makes you wonder who’s making these decisions” he tells his friend. It made it clear to me a lot of the problems of US banking at the time.
Verdict: I watched this so you don’t have to.


Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

I remember when Joe Cross was doing promo for this doco in Australia and guesting all over the place with his juice only diet. I thought it was all a bit extreme at the time but was still interested in seeing how this doco played out. Cross is pretty fat, and sick with an autoimmune disease that has skin complications. He’s on a lot of drugs for his illness. And he doesn’t want to be anymore so he decides to do a detox and then only eat fruit and veggies for 60 days. He juices them so as to be able to physically consume the quantity needed for both I’m guessing caloric intake as well as recommended daily intake of micronutrients (which is a word used a lot in this film). He goes to the US to do his diet cause flaunting US food in your face when you’re trying to quit eating is the funnest. Whilst there, he finds a fellow sufferer of his illness, in a similar, if not more dire, state and he joins him on this journey.

Elements of this film are uncomfortable to watch as he travels across America scolding people for not eating enough vegetables, basically. And blaming them for being fat. I found that aspect quite unnecessary – noone is going to change the way they are just because you find them/yourself disgusting.

But Cross does drop a lot of weight, and quite quickly. As does his fellow journeyman. They inspire others to juice. And they claim to have more energy and zest for life. It was thought provoking enough that it got me thinking that I might pull out my juicer this week just to actually add some more micronutrients to my diet – but that’s all.
Verdict: Enjoyable if you like watching obese people drop weight (that’s totally a genre)

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
I’ve been meaning to watch this ever since Rivers passed away. Yesterday, I finally felt ready to and as I watched her, I realised how much I still really miss her. I don’t necessarily get all of her sense of humour but I love her for her ballsy take on of the comedy genre and paving the way for female comics. She said a lot of things that were taboo for women to discuss. And she was somethin, that’s for sure. This doco follows a year in her life and you see how hard she worked and how hard she worked at being able to keep working. Rivers is a great contrast to the Real Housewives style of fame in that her work ethic is outstanding and watching her, you understand how she built herself into a business. I’m fascinated by the reality TV stars in that really stupid people can get really rich by marrying the right people and getting good divorce lawyers (but they don’t always manage to stay rich). By contrast, I love finding celebrities who are rich and successful for who they are – and interestingly, a few of them I have found through Celebrity Apprentice, Rivers being one of them.
Verdict: If you love Rivers, this is a must view.



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We arrived home this afternoon from our gorgeous honeymoon. We were so sad to leave Paris and it seems so odd to have just been there, scoffing croissants and sipping hot chocolate yesterday, and today, it’s back to real life. We still have a few bits of our wedding to hang on to for the next couple of days but come Monday, it’s back to the grind.

We had a bit of a horror final flight home. But flying from Paris to Singapore, I watched three fantastic movies and finished off Season 6 of The Closer. The movies I thoroughly enjoyed:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – 5 stars! – intensely heartbreaking indie film about, and yet celebrating, the pain that is high school, and being different. Loved it. (And yes, those who heard C’s wedding vows, I cried)

Pitch Perfect – 4 stars! – OMG. Accawesome! This film is funny and brilliant and reminded me that I need to watch more dance, singing and 80s movies this year. I LOVE Rebel Wilson. She is choosing some really brilliant roles for herself. She does tend to play the same role, but I love it. In Pitch Perfect, she was funny without her being fat being the joke. And she’s just outstandingly confident and self assured and brilliant. And sometimes her confidence is situationally over the top but not always. LOVE her. (Also, oddly quite loving Anna Kendrick even when I didn’t really love her in Step Up 4).

Paris Manhattan – 3.5 stars – French film debut by Sophie Lellouche – Alice is obsessed with Woody Allen. Her Parisian Jewish family are odd, or perhaps not really. She is 30 and single and not wanting to be. But she’s complex and difficult. Set in the 4th Quarter of Paris, I loved the backdrop for its familiarity. And it had a happy ending.

What I noticed though, including with The Closer, is lately I have been choosing and enjoying TV and Film with female characters as leads, who are interesting and complex and are romantically with men who genuinely love them for who they are and are interested in what it is that they are doing, actively support and encourage it. That’s kind of a really nice trend.

 



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I watched me yet more reality TV this weekend. Last weekend I was avoiding things, or relaxing, whichev. This weekend I was sick. The kind of sick where I’m too sick to even think about work let alone feel bad for not doing any. We ended up spending 3 hours in Emergency on a Saturday night to find out that they don’t know what was going on. C says I take him on the best dates and apparently the TV had on Marley and Me which was the movie we saw on the day we met. I was mostly outside, not watching it,  due to the OCD panic attack and the not enjoying the whole ED vibe.

Anyway, I spent a lot of the weekend watching stuff I’d recorded on Foxtel for just this kind of day – Tori Spelling’s latest reality show, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Tabitha Takes Over and Bethenny Ever After. And it only just occurred to me tonight that whilst Hollywood is still struggling to find roles for older women and for powerful women in lead roles, reality TV has no issue with it. And not only that, but in these shows we find complex women from a diverse array of backgrounds and living real lives – trying to balance being good mothers and partners with still following their personal dreams and all the guilt and difficulties that go with that. Well except for Tabitha, that’s not what her show is about. But I realised that when I’m looking around to see other women doing what I am working towards, I find a lot of awesome women in shows like this.

Take Tabitha for example – an Aussie in America, she’s strong and confident and knows a lot about business. She comes into struggling hair salons (though in her new series, I just saw her take over a bar), sizes up why it’s losing money, deals with staff issues, makes over the place and gives advice to the owner about what they’re screwing up. She does present herself as the Bitch, in her own words, and she owns that. But she knows a heck of a lot about running a business, both on the floor and behind the scenes, and I’ve learned a lot that can be applied to any other kind of business too. I even discovered my Dad watches that show (he used to run MBA programs) and he says that he learns a lot from her. And she’s gay – that’s actually not relevant, though she’s openly so on the show and often interacts with the gay community, but this speaks to the diversity of women role models on offer.

The Real Housewives of Atlanta is an interesting one. In this version of the franchise, only one of the “wives” (right now only 2 of the women are actually married) is white. So you have almost a whole cast of black women and it’s not often that that happens and what it does is it allows black women to play all the roles – in reality TV shows they edit the season so that there is an overarching narrative and usually different people end up being the good and the bad guys over a season. Sometimes one person acts as the agitator and next season they might be the peacemaker or everybody’s friend. I think there must be something in those contracts that demand drama of the women cat fighting variety and also some of those women don’t appear to be actual friends so they must have to have a set number of social events that all of them must attend etc. So you get the big fight somewhere in the season and then lots of episodes of groups of women gossiping and plotting and whatnot. But your sympathy towards characters seems to change over the course of the series. Aside from all that stuff – which I don’t really enjoy because they always seem to be such petty things that they’re fighting over and people never seem to have the whole conversation that you’d need to actually resolve the original conflict – I’m really interested in the women. They are socially powerful, some of them come from the socialites scene. Most of them are very wealthy – like I can’t comprehend the wealth of these wealthy (collections of $15k handbags and shoes) – and I’m fascinated how they came to it. Some married into it. Some seem to move from wealthy man to wealthy man and accumulate it and that’s not very interesting. Though some of those women then take the money and start businesses and so on, and that, I think can be empowering. If it’s sustainable. But some of those women really did make the money themselves – one is a successful song writer and music producer (though the only work I’ve heard of was the album she wrote for TLC). And another was a model. I enjoy watching their struggles to juggle parenting and life and work. And the choices they make about all of those and how they feel about them. Cause there’s no right answer in that stuff and mostly, I think, you/women end up feeling bad.

I have to confess that, though it took me a while to actually watch it, I’ve discovered that I really admire Tori Spelling after watching her ridiculous reality TV shows. She has a very bad rap, every one assumes she is rich cause of her father and that she is stupid because Donna was in 90210. But actually, her father left her almost none of his fortune and she got paid very poorly for her work for him, and got almost nothing in the syndication of that show. In watching her on her reality shows I’ve discovered she is smart and really really funny (I think you need to be smart to be funny) and she’s very ambitious. She works hard and she mucks in and raises her kids herself, well she has a nanny too because she still actually works full time. She is a very caring, compassionate and down to earth person, very aware of her identity in the public eye but also really solid and real. And she is constantly working on business deals and so on. I am enjoying watching and learning from her, both in how to deal with your real self versus your perceived self, and how to not let it get to you, and also in balancing work/life.

And Bethenny. I think I love her the most and was so hanging out for the next season of her show, which I’ve just discovered is now airing. She was originally on The Real Housewives of New York but it soon became clear she needed her own show. She was single, mostly, on the Housewives and then she met Jason and got a show for her wedding and then life after her wedding. She’s a chef who worked for celebrities, making them organic, nutritional, calorie controlled food and then she developed her own line of sugarfree and all the other free (gluten, dairy etc) baked goods. And then she invented the Skinny Margarita which became a whole brand and then she sold it to Jim Beam for a LOT of money. In the meantime, she was still doing speaking events and writing books on the back of her success of both the cooking and the Housewives stuff. But what’s to love about her is she is unbelievably hilarious, she will not miss an opportunity to make the joke, even if doing it will cost her (you know, making light of a bad situation etc) and she is smart, ambitious and successful. She had a baby straight after her wedding and so taking care of her baby has been thrown into the mix. And she just turned 40. So she’s you know, kind of where I would like to be (I don’t feel I need to be THAT rich!) and she’s still struggling with what we all struggle with – how you can fit that much into this little time and still give everyone what they need and want, and still do what you need to do for you.

There should be more women like any and all of these women written into the fictional TV and movies that are made. These women exist. Women exist across a whole spectrum other than just virgin and crone / girlfriend and mother. But until then, I think I’m going to feel less guilty about watching my reality TV.



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March 3   Still unf*cking

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Actually, I’m starting to feel like a real slob – really I’m a neat person!!! – as I take these photos one by one around my house. I mean, I’m not going to be showing you the neat bits and I’m worried you’ll get the wrong idea about me!

Still … we did a lot of unfucking today. Sadly we got held up by discovering a few things at the back of the cupboards. So the only before and after shots I have from today are the ones below. The rest is in a state of progress, to be finished tomorrow before my parents drop by!

We did though start putting our engagement presents away – I’ve been feeling bad about doing that til we finish writing all our thank you cards. C has a different take on that. But either way, it was definitely getting in the way and we need space for people to sit down. So we went through them and I reread all the cards and took things out of boxes.

The top of the fridge was mostly a man and puppy zone:

Now it’s turned into a great place for the beautiful cookbooks we got as presents!

I’m not allowed to throw anything out tomorrow as our bin is full again after being emptied on Friday. Still so much more to do!

We worked on the 20/10 – 20 minutes unfucking, 10 minutes break and I managed to get through some unpleasant/less fun sewing things and watched the whole season of Episodes – which I kinda liked, not awesome but a fun look at making a TV show from the side of English writers in Hollywood. I also started Fresh Meat – a UK drama about freshers who move into a uni share house. I quite like it.



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