Five Star Book: The Girls by Emma Cline


I’ve written before about my fascination with cults. (I’ve probably even shared that one of my favorite texts I’ve ever received was just a link to an article with the note “CULT!” Like my friend just instantly thought of me when they saw the word.) In fact, as I was about a third of my way through Emma Cline’s bestselling novel about a Manson-family-like cult gone sour, another friend sent me a text saying she was reading it and it made her think of me. Partly this obsession is an outlet for my more judgmental energies, but mostly it’s an interest in how people build themselves, their belief systems, and their communities. Cults from the outside seem strange, often mostly in retrospect after they fall apart or do something terrible, but to the people in the moment they seemed like the right choice. How does that happen? We like to think it all must be coercion and “brain washing” on the part of “evil” leaders, but there isn’t a lot of evidence of that being a real thing. *

What’s great about this book is that it addresses this question in a really fresh way. Cline’s protagonist, a girl named Evie, is drawn into the dangerous circle she is not because of Russel (the Charles Manson stand in) but because of the titular girls, one in particular, who she loves but also idolizes. The spiritual beliefs don’t matter to her so much as the alternative life with the group offers to her boring suburban existence. She sees in these “girls” a way to be a woman other than the one scripted for her in magazines. Of course, the idea of the Manson ranch (so thinly disguised I’m not sure why the author bothered to at all, except there are probably legal issues she was trying to avoid) as an escapist paradise is unthinkable to us now, but we know what’s coming. By showing us Evie as both a child caught up in it’s newness and a middle aged woman dealing with the choices her younger self made, Cline creates the sense of creeping dread found in other explorations of murderous cults (the best one about the Mansons I’ve ever come across is Karina Longwirth’s “You Must Remember This” series on the murders) while also making the appeal of the group emotionally clear in a way I had never seen before.

This book is dark and angry as you might expect, but I was surprised by that anger’s feminist bent. Cline compellingly illustrates the way these women were primed by the patriarchy that raised them to be good little soldiers for a creep like Russell. A culture that teaches girls to think first about how they are seen and to always be amenable to the whims of men (and always fearful of them) leaves young women vulnerable to the bullshit of charismatic men who claim they know what’s best. It’s so easy to look at a cult and think “how could that happen?” This book gives one frighteningly plausible explanation.


*Manson is actually one of the only examples I would call really brain washing and it was mostly aided by the fact that he routinely drugged his followers with truly astounding amounts of hallucinogenic drugs while starving them.


Happy Friday Music

Although a gray cloud has descended over Astoria this afternoon, I have a lot of fun plans this weekend, and thought I would post a soundtrack to start your weekend off on fun foot. (Full disclosure, a lot of these songs come from the TBTL Song of the Summer contest.)

Praying – Kesha

OK, so this may not be the most “fun” foot to start on, but this video of fans reacting to her high note is…

Sinking – Super Defense

In & Out – Beth Ditto 

Want You Back– HAIM

Bambi– Jidenna

Sweet Creature– Harry Styles

Also, just to follow up from last post, yes he can act. And you should see Dunkirk. (I’m sure I’ll be blogging more about this around awards season…)

Spirit– Belle Game

Dirty Work– Steely Dan

I was including this as a tribute to Walter Becker (who recently passed away), but the fact that the second video to pop up on a YouTube search is an American Hustle clip reel is pretty great.

Hey Now – The Regrettes

Things I’ve Been Meaning to Blog About

I think at this point I should just admit that I take the month of August off from blogging and stop promising that I will write about things I do during that month. Anyway, here are some things I meant to blog about:

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman


Based mostly on watching this trailer about 20 times the week it came out, I went and got this book out of the library, and I loved it. Miró and I discussed on a couple of episodes of our podcast, that one of the things that we love about Rainbow Rowell’s books (which are very different from this, but stay with me), is that she captures the sense of adolescent longing incredibly well. Well if you’re into that, but you wish it were more explicit, gay, and heartbreaking? Well I have a book for you. It’s consuming, much like the central character’s obsession with his father’s graduate student, who inconveniently (or maybe conveniently?) is staying a door down from his room for the summer. I cannot wait for this movie. (Though you should all read this book.

Prince of Broadway 

Look, revues are tough, but Hal Prince’s career is so varied and spectacular that this evening didn’t drag for me until the very end. (And that wasn’t so much a function of the show as the fact that that I have no patience for The Phantom of the Opera.) You need to be the highest level of musical theater nerd to love it I think, but if you are, it’s fun.

HAIM cover of That Don’t Impress Me Much” 

And bonus:

And one more (can you tell I went down a YouTube rabbit hole with this one?):

Buffering the Vampire Slayer 


Are you craving a fun feminist on-line community that also loves puns about vampires and making fun of cheap werewolf costumes? Well do I have the podcast for you. Obviously, you need to have watched (and probably rewatched) Buffy to get it, but c’mon, you should have watched Buffy by now.

There’s probably more that I meant to write about over the past month or so, including a trip to Chicago for my dear friend’s bachelorette party (and a Kelly Hogan show at The Hideout!) and my 28th birthday. But this is what I got right now.

Midweek Music

I’ve been meaning to post a playlist for awhile, but misplaced the page in my notebook where I had been keeping my list. I found it last week and added a couple to make it a square 10. As always they mostly come from the Dinner Party Download or TBTL (what can I say I rely on the men of the APM Podcast network to give me new music…)

Emerald St. – Jamila Woods feat. Saba

Direct Address – Lucy Dacus

She Turns My Radio On – Jim Ford

Eternal Flame – The Bangles

When I was in 5th grade I watched a Behind the Music about the Bangles and even though I never remember to listen to their music, I pretty much still want to be them when I grow up.


I mean look at the attitude (and the hair) #goals

Nuit de Foile – Début de Soirée 

Please enjoy this bonus video of another role model of mine, Isabelle Hupert – possibly the coolest woman alive – dancing like a giddy teenager to this song.

Alex Chilton – The Replacements 

Cherry Hearts – Prom Queen (cover a Shins song)

Delta Lady – Joe Cocker

How I Left – Sean Hayes

Who Says – John Mayer

(I know, he’s a sleazeball, but I just love this song…)



Award Show Round Up: Golden Globes 2017

The HFPA likes to surprise us. This has always been true, and it certainly was last night. From the first award, which by all rights I think should have gone to Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali, though I do love the Taylor-Johnson family:

And then Billy Bob Thornton for “Goliath.” Most liked tweet of the night: “Honest question, what is Goliath?”

You may have noticed that I skipped over Jimmy Fallon’s opening. That’s because I don’t really remember it. I know it was a La La Land parody, and then his monologue was fine. He’s charming and has a lot of energy. He didn’t detract from my experience the way Ricky Gervais did last year, but I still just miss Amy and Tina.

Anyway, in great news, Tracee Ellis Ross won!

And I have to watch Atlanta:

Hugh Laurie is always charming:

La La Land won everything, but I really enjoy composer Justin Hurwitz’s nervous energy immensely:

Viola Davis won Best Supporting Actress of course, but she should have won leading actress (sorry Isabelle Huppert, but it’s true):

My award for cutest moment of the evening:

Ryan Gosling, thank you for being as amazing as I  think you are:

Barry Jenkins was robbed for Screenplay. (Or maybe Kenneth Lonergan even.) The story of La La Land is not the point, come on HFPA, spread the love a bit.

Kristen Wiig should host next year. Steve Carrell could come too if he wants:

Meryl Streep is the greatest. Not just the greatest actor of our time, but maybe one of the greatest humans:

And Viola’s presentation almost made me cry. And I see what you’re doing there director by cutting to Vince Vaughan and Mel Gibson in the middle of her speech. And I saw people on Twitter talking about how upset they looked. But c’mon they are used to being the only conservatives in a Hollywood room. And they were sitting and listening respectfully, what did you expect them to do? You should have just stayed focused on Ms. Streep and her message.

I do love Emma Stone:

And Casey’s performance deserved this award. And I encourage you to listen to his episode of WTF with Marc Maron. I’m not trying to excuse away his past behavior, but he is a complicated man, with an interesting story:

And then, thankfully, Moonlight got it’s due:

And of course, a lot of the women were wearing very beautiful dresses:

Viola Davis in Michael Kors (Photo Credit: Jay  L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss in Georges Chakra (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)

Emma Stone in Valentino (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty)

Mandy  Moore in Naeem Kahn (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) 

Sienna Miller in Michael Kors (Photo Credit: Getty) 

Blake Lively in Atelier Versace (Photo Credit: Getty/Frazer Harrison) 

Reese Witherspoon in Atelier Versace (Photo Credit: Rex/Shutterstock)

Tracee Ellis Ross in Zuhair Murad (Photo Credit: Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock)

Goldie Hawn (Photo Credit: Getty/Frazer Harrison)

Brie Larson in Rodarte (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Songs My Commute Taught Me

As I come to the end of my first week living in Queens, walking to work (or taking the Q104), I’m starting to reflect on the last couple of months, the majority of which I spent on a train. It was, for the most part, a stressful existence (though my parents were Godsends who made it as smooth as it could be), and I was basically exhausted for the past two and half months straight.

But there were some pluses. I read a lot, book and articles, I got back to inbox zero, and I caught up on all my podcasts, which means I discovered a lot of new music. Here are 10 of my favorite songs (and the podcasts that featured them):

Good AS Hell – Lizzo 

TBTL Song of the Summer (feels like a million years ago at this point…)

Why iii Love the Moon – Phony Ppl 

One of Jamila Woods playlist picks on The Dinner Party Download

Joan Crawford – Blue Oyster Cult

From the Joan Crawford series on You Must Remember This 

When You Were Mine – Lake Street Dive (Prince Cover) 

They preformed this on Chris Thile’s debut show on A Prairie Home Companion (which I have a complicated relationship with. I have a love/exasperation relationship with founding host Garrison Keillor, and I think it’s carrying over to Thile’s show, but he keeps booking all my favorite bands…)

Back in the New York Groove – Ace Frehley 

Look, I don’t like KISS, but Luke was in New York on TBTL and this is just a really good soundtrack song for a commute to the city.

Andrew in Drag – The Magnetic Fields

Another TBTL pick, this time for the other co-host. His name is Andrew, I don’t believe he has ever done drag though…

Smile More – Deep Valley

This was the featured music on Filmspotting a couple of weeks ago, and I fell in love for reasons obvious to any one who has read this blog, followed me on Twitter, listened to my podcast, or met me…

Capricorn – Friends of the Bog 

OK, this one is a total cheat. My friend sent it to me the other day on Facebook, but I did listen for the first time while on my way to work, and I think its beautiful so…I’m including it.

Birmingham – Shovels and Rope 

One last TBTL pick.


The view from the train wasn’t too bad either

Things I Keep Meaning to Blog About

I’m still commuting to Queens from New Haven everyday, which, despite the looks of shocked pity on the faces of people whom I tell this to, is really not that bad.* It’s just long, and not really great for typing. (There are people that bring their laptops and type. I am not on their commuter level.) So, I’ve made notes and reminders for at least 5 posts in the last two weeks and just never gotten around to writing any of them. Instead of letting that backlog grow, here are 5 things I’ve meant to blog about recently:

  1. Andrew Bird at College Street Music Hall


New Haven is a small city, but because of Yale and it’s location along the route between Boston and NYC, it gets pretty good music sometimes. Case in point last Friday, my cousin Phia invited my parents and I to join her and her parents to see Andrew Bird. He was great ( of course) the whistling alone is mind blowing.

The one quibble I had with the night was that the sound mixing was a little off, at least for us in the balcony. There was a lot more bass than you expect from a violinist-singer-songwriter, but it really only bothered my Mom and my Aunt Nancy. (You can see their reactions on my Instagram.)


2. New Haven City Wide Open Studios

My parents’ house is near an old Armory building that is supposedly going to be a community center…but once a year the Open Studios program sets up a bunch of artists in there. It was pretty cool:





This was made of silverware!

3. This Is Us


I’m not breaking any ground here, but I really love this show. I see your think pieces about why it may be bad, but I don’t want to read them. This show makes me feel good. (Well it makes me cry, and then it makes me feel good.) Catharsis is an important function of art and this serves it up every week, accompanied by good (if at times overly earnest) writing, and excellent acting. I saw a video where Sterling K. Brown summed up how I feel both about this show and about the so-called “Golden Age of Television” we are living through right now. All of these prestige shows, even the comedies, take a pretty dark view of the world and humanity, This Is Us lets the light in and I like that.


Also, Milo Ventimiglia is in it…

4. In The Dark 

115db4-20160819-in-the-darkAnd now I’m going to undercut everything I just said about focusing on the light. This is a true crime podcast about the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling. It’s from APM, which also produces a few of my other favorite podcasts, so I’ve been hearing ads for this for awhile, and I wasn’t going to listen. Despite my love of Serial, I’m not really a true crime person, I get too invested and then too scared, but I kept hearing every day on my other shows how good this was so I sucked it up and started. And it’s amazing. It’s obviously upsetting, but it never feels voyeuristic. Host Madeleine Baran  is fantastic and measured. This isn’t a leering look at tragedy, it’s a compassionate investigation into what went wrong with the (large scale) attempts to solve this case. Seriously brilliant, I’m actually sad it’s almost over.

5. Billy Gilman on The Voice

OK, I can’t end on that. Here’s a clip of a former child country star singing Adele:

* This relatively positive attitude probably stems from the fact that if all goes to current plan I won’t be doing this much longer. 

Back to School…I mean…Back to Blogging

I’m not going to start yet another post with an apology for the gaps in updating. I clearly needed a break from blogging so I took one. (I’ve been doing this since February of 2012!) But this past weekend I’ve been itching to get back to some of my on-going series. (Stay tuned for a new Best Picture recipe once it has cooled down enough for me to turn on the oven.) For today though, I’m going to ease back in with some music.  Here’s a list that goes back a few months (the page in my notebook it started on is opposite my notes on Sing Street) so I guess this is a collection of songs that stuck with me throughout the spring and summer, just in time to welcome fall.

Ring Them Bells – Joe Cocker

I had actually written down the Bob Dylan original of this, but while I was looking for the original, I found this Joe Cocker version and, you may remember how I feel about Joe. (Though this video is a little cheesy for my tastes, I just love his voice so much…)


Oh What a World – Rufus Wainwright 

To Find You – Sing Street 

Portugal – Walk The Moon 

Freedom – Wham! 

Thank TBTL for this one. We all remember Freedom ’90, at least you do if you read this blog, but this earlier song is great to. And the intro to this video is an interesting time capsule.

Love Yourself – Justin Beiber 

I hate how much I love this song.

Lower Your Expectations – Bo Burnham 

I watched this special awhile ago and frankly don’t really remember much of it, but this song is pretty great.

Gagarin – Public Service Broadcasting 

My fellow interns at the Tenement Museum and I went to see these guys live on the USS Intrepid this summer, and I totally fell in love with them.


Plus Hillary and I got to meet one (and his mum) and we were totally smooth about it…

Everybody Knows – Dixie Chicks 

Thing I Love: You Must Remember This


It’s been awhile since I wrote about a podcast, though I have many that have become ‘must-listen,’ over the past few years (mostly anything in the “Filmspotting family of podcasts” & Serial). But I haven’t fallen in love with one as quickly and completely as I have with You Must Remember This,  hosted by Karina Longworth, in a long time (maybe only TBTL has captured my attention so completely.)

Described as a work of creative non-fiction (a term I like, but always makes me laugh because I can imagine  my Dad rolling his eyes even as I type). YMRT covers “the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century.” Which means it was basically created for me. But, I don’t think you have to be a film nerd or fangirl/boy to get into this show. Much like Anne Helen Petersen’s Scandals of Classic Hollywood it is also a fascinating deep dive into American cultural history. (Petersen guests on at least one episode of YMRT.)

Although it’s mostly a one woman show. (Marlon Brando’s archivist – dream job by the way – is the only other interview guest I can think of.) But there’s still a ton of variety. The topics covered are wide ranging both in terms of era – within the first 20 episodes she covered silent era ‘vamp’ Theda Bara and 1990s era Isabella Rosselini – and in terms of theme. Emphasis is (obviously) placed on the control exerrted by the sudio system (and the industry that followed its demise), but everything from gender to Communism to paparazzi to 1960s drug culture comes up. Each episode or series (the current one following the McCarthy-era Blacklist) has a titular subject, but you can never tell from that where it’s going to go. (Just listen to the episode “Liz ❤ Monty” to prove my point and fall in love with Montgomery Clift.)


Kath ❤ Monty as well

Longworth has a distinctive rhythm that I find myself falling into. It’s almost lulling at times, but in a comforting rather than sleep inducing way. I feel like I’m in good hands with her, I mean how else would I have gotten through the 11 episode series on Charles Manson’s Hollywood – chilling but fascinating – though it did make me hate Dennis Hopper.

Go listen!




Music Keeping Me Awake Today

The skies opened last night here in Austin. And for those of you who don’t know me, I really hate thunderstorms. They just put my teeth on edge, so I didn’t sleep much last night. I definitely think we should get “There Was A Lot of Thunder Last Night” days off, but unfortunately I don’t. So I made a playlist of songs to keep me awake while I have shelve at work today. Enjoy!

Take Back the Power – The Interrupters

Ugh! – The 1975

Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie

(Does anyone else find this mashup video, apparently sanctioned by Queen, deeply bizarre?)

Hold On We’re Going Home – Arctic Monkeys cover

(Credit for discovering this goes to Jules – or maybe her high school students? – but I love it. Almost as much as the Bear’s Den version, but the one won’t keep you awake.)

Lovefool – The Cardigans

The House That Jack Built – Aretha Franklin

Put Yourself First – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

(You can listen to me and Miró discuss this song – and lots of other fun feminist things on the newest episode of Method to the Madness.)

Take Off Your Sunglasses – Ezra Furman & The Harpoons

Thing Called Love – Bonnie Raitt

Best part of this = Bonnie’s voice. Second best = Baby Dennis Quaid


Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John and Kiki Dee 

Because I’ve been on an Elton kick lately…

Here’s hoping I’ll sleep through round 2 of the storms tonight. Stay safe and dry Austin friends!