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A Pretty Little Summer

The Look to the Cookie podcast!

includes Fearless Flap with Erin McKelle

Big Movies

Reviewed

Monday, August 3, 2015

Germar Hosts Langdon Nation and Talks Race


We were close to posting another so-so podcast, and then realized that this clip may be more interesting and important.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Justice League: Gods and Monsters

In Episode 228, Germar discusses the new shorts and animated feature from DC--Justice League:
Gods and Monsters (alt takes, diversity, live action, predictability, etc).  But first, hear all about how and why there hasn't been an episode for TWELVE days. Times be tough. And catch Germar on TradioV tomorrow 2-4pm PDT.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I Am Cait: Reality TV Purposed

by Nani Lawrence, Writing Intern

The months of seemingly non-stop media coverage finally came to a head July 26thI Am Cait, an eight-episode docu-series, premiered on E! network. It follows the former Bruce Jenner through “his” transformation into Caitlyn Jenner, and all the healing that goes along with it. Final ratings have not yet been released, but it tied with The Last Ship for the night’s most-watched program, according to Variety.

E!
In the first minute, Caitlyn Jenner makes it known that she accepts a huge responsibility. She even commiserates about the trans people who have committed suicide and who have been murdered for this. Repeating her words from the ESPY’s, the scene ends with, “I hope I get it right. . . I just hope I get it right.”

“I feel a tremendous responsibility here, because I have a voice, and there are so many trans people out there who do not have a voice. I can’t speak for them, because everyone has their own experience. But I am an expert on my own life,” Jenner said.

Jenner’s mother and two sisters, Pam and Lisa, had not met the authentic Caitlyn yet. Lisa relays in the car ride that she and Caitlyn talked about it years ago, but then-Bruce never mentioned it again. She thought then-he got over it. Upon their first meeting, Caitlyn’s sisters seem to both embrace her true identity fully. Her mom, Esther, must talk it through with a non-relative to initially cope. After, a gender expert comes to Caitlyn’s home to explain more about the psychological process that goes with transgenderism.

Each scene seems to water-down, if not eliminate, negative reactions to the transition. Part of that could be a family striving to stay close, but who knows? During a conversation with Caitlyn, Esther admits that it will be very hard to change 65 years of habit--Caitlyn, she, etc. “I’m very optimistic about the future, and I’m dragging you along with me,” Jenner half-joked. In fact, Jenner seemed to joke quite often throughout the episode, with lines like, “Bruce was much better at tennis than Caitlyn.” It could be her way of diffusing the stressful situation. It could also be how she shows that “Bruce” still resides within.

Pam, Esther and Caitlyn watch a YouTube video of a news report about a trans teenager who killed himself. He’s the third trans teen to take his own life in San Diego this year (at that time, May).  His mother tearfully relates how it seems the music in her life left with her son. Jenner opens up about a time when she contemplated suicide. She knows what it’s like, because she felt those feelings, quietly. She reasserts her mission to be an accurate and respectful face for the cause.

Later in the episode, Jenner visits the family of that same 14-year-old boy. Instead of the blubbering mess most might expect, Katherine Prescott calmly tells the story of how Kyler had a strong support system of friends and family, yet he still battled depression. Others, especially adults, did not respect his identity. The episode ends with a balloon-release in Kyler’s memory.

A Slate review of the premiere accuses it of being a “bad reality show.” With Caitlyn trying to be a legitimate voice for the transgender community, the show comes off as disingenuous. The sensitivity surrounding the topic and the avoidance “of any . . . non-PC feelings” serves as a disadvantage.

Apparently there’s a rule that any show involving a "Kardashian" must contain 20 percent content and 80 percent drama.

E!
Not addressing the raw emotions of dealing with a transition may be problematic, but if the premiere reflects the rest of the series, the show appears to be exactly what Jenner wanted it to be. In her speech at the ESPY Awards, Jenner spoke of how she wants to “get it right,” to give voice to the trans experience, and to convey the community’s (still) seldom heard-of struggles.

 If you want to call the recent media circus after her transition promotion for I Am Cait, go ahead. But transitioning would be a ridiculously dramatic step just for attention. Caitlyn’s attitude in this first episode suggests that she truly cares about these issues and this community, and wants to portray the struggle with respect and dignity.

Only the first episode has aired so far, though. Perhaps the drama Slate so craves lies just on the horizon.

A more positive and favored review from The LA Times applauds Jenner’s courage, and opines that this series may transcend expectations. Mary McNamara writes:

. . . I now believe the reason ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians,’ ‘The Real Housewives,’ . . . . and all the other reality programs that celebrate voyeurism, sanctimony, schadenfreude, and general pettiness existed to create a platform for E!’s ‘I Am Cait’ . . .But Jenner is eager for audiences to understand how important acceptance is, particularly for teens. And if certain moments seem more carefully crafted and less ‘spontaneous’ than the genre normally demands, that’s the point.

This show could end up being just plain boring. It could pick up and get out of hand. No one really knows at this point. But we, as a society (especially one obsessed with reality TV), needed this first episode. We needed humanity forced down our throats.

Pretty Little Liars: “FrAmed” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin 

A picture says a thousand words, and “A”’s got four to showcase. Media erupts with the news of Charles DeLaurentis being named as the lead suspect for his mother’s murder and the Liars’ kidnapping. Plagued by the sweet memory of Charles’s birthday party when they were little, Alison can’t bring herself to believe that her brother would do something so vicious. Already stressed about her suspicious scholarship, Hanna doesn’t bother beating around the bush and calls out Ali on her show of sympathy towards Charles before she storms off.


Things continue to only get worse when Hanna’s mother refuses to believe “A” is behind the scholarship her daughter received, and Aria’s mother isn’t seeing eye to eye with her child either. After being chosen as a finalist in a photography contest, Aria gets the chance to have her work showcased at a local exhibit. Her hopes are squandered though when Mrs. Montgomery refuses to let her go out of safety concerns. Frustrated, Aria goes to the Brew and vents to Clark, who is all too curious in finding out more about “A.” Ezra overhears the conversation and tells Aria that he’s worried over the matter of her new friend. This inspires Aria to ask for a police escort to the art exhibit, which Detective Tanner surprisingly green lights.

With her mother’s bitter blessing, Aria prepares for her big night. She consults Emily for some fashion advice, and the two girls get to talking. Emily spills the beans about her recent fling with Sarah Harvey and the hopes of asking the pixie blonde to prom. This brings up the sore subject about whether or not the Liars will even be able to go. Apparently, the school has raised some concerns over the safety of the event if the girls were to attend; this leaves all their plans in limbo.

School dances are the last things on Hanna and Spencer’s minds. The pair decides to play detective by following the money trail of Hanna’s scholarship payday, leading them to the Carissimi Group. After the duo gets inside the corporate office to personally return the gifted money, they’re introduced to the lucrative Rhys Matthews, a Jason DeLaurentis lookalike. Of course, the girls jump the gun and assume he’s Charles.

Despite Spencer wanting to keep the potential bombshell under wraps for the night, Hanna spills the beans to Emily after arriving at Aria’s art exhibit. Not wanting to spoil the evening for Aria, the girls decide to hold off telling her about Rhys. Little good it does. As the party commences, Aria’s section of the gallery is unveiled, but it’s not her work on display. Instead, it’s the staged autopsy photos “A” took of the Liars while they were drugged in the Dollhouse. Mrs. Montgomery gives Detective Tanner a verbal lashing for the police departments’ incompetence as Ezra consoles a shaken Aria. After spotting Rhys Matthews parked outside the gallery, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna sneak off and tail his car to Rosewood’s abandoned doll factory, where Clark of all people shows up to meet with him. To only make matters more complicated, the infamous Red Coat reemerges, giving tickets for senior prom to “A” from the back of a black limousine.

With just one episode away from the big “A” reveal, all the pieces of this complex puzzle should be falling into place by now. Unfortunately, more questions are begged than answers given. Newcomer Clark’s suspected betrayal leaves no impact of shock, Rhys is almost certainly nothing more than another red herring, and the melodrama woven into the plot feels like filler. Remember the good old days when PLL left you gasping? Like season 3’s midseason finale, where we discovered that Toby was part of the “A”-team, or season one’s moment when Hanna was run down by a car with “A” behind the wheel, or when Ezra was shot on the rooftop in season four. These moments sent chills coursing up our spines because we felt a connection to these characters. With the exception of the Liars and their men, all the faces in season six are unfamiliar and underdeveloped. Who are Leslie, Lorenzo, Sarah, Rhys, and Clark? Don’t ask us, because we sure as heck wouldn’t know. Why should we care? Why should we be shocked by their actions? Answer: we shouldn’t.

And that’s what’s disappointing. PLL wove a web so big that we must wonder now if it just became too big for its own good. Nowadays, everything feels like misdirection and meandering subplots. The fact that fans have to wonder if Charles is even someone the show has introduced yet is maddening. Plus, how can we forget the show runners’ trickery for advertising the season five finale as the #BigAReveal? We were promised “A”’s identity, and all we got was the meaningless name “Charles.” Really? It could have been “Bologna” at that point, because it still wouldn’t have made a difference. It meant nothing to us. That’s not a reveal. It’s an awful clue. Because we’ve been bamboozled before by PLL, can we really count on an honest, shocking reveal come August 11th? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Pretty Little Liars - “FrAmed” Rating:  C -

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Indie Music: Ransom Scenery "Ear to Ear"

by Germar Derron

I spent time with this. I dug in deep for weeks to really digest the experience. No, I'm not pretending to be a serious listener of esoteric high art music. And that makes me an ideal reviewer of the project. First things first, you don't have to be an avant-garde fan to be a fan of this album.

Oddly, the tracks sound familiar--not common or contrived, just familiar. Familiarity aids all art forms. At first listen, I thought, "I don't know what this is, but I know where it's going." They must have backgrounds as serious music students. As distinct as this is, it follows a western music road map. It will never play on a top 40 station, but it won't offend your senses either.

I hesitate to even think of this as indie because it sounds pro. But how do I know, when I have nothing to compare it to? I realized that as a former music major and student house engineer, I am a veteran of the new music field. That's where my consciousness drifts to--effects, odd video, nontraditional instruments, and songs that aren't songs. That's why this sounds "pro." It's not the torture I endured in my early twenties.  It's what those students hoped to accomplish.

The tracks remind me of my trip-hop days, but somehow far less dark and more grounded?. It might be the lack of proximity in the vocals, or the overall space and air of most tracks. Pieces of this might appear as a part of many more commercial projects from bands like The Killers or The Strokes. The songs that feature vocals especially feel like they're that non-radio track, from that one album that no one talks about but me (e.g., see "Gasm of the Heart").

I guess the thing that separates Ransom Scenery from other awful experimental artists is melody and harmony. Throughout the experiment, the music remains musical. And I can clearly hear the rock, pop, and even hip-hop influences.

Check out the video and leave your comments below.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Germar co-hosting on Langdon Nation

So, Germar has a podcast ready to go all about arguments with exes, Thor, and Spider-Man, but he's just not feeling it (no, he's never argued with Marvel characters).  But he does feel that you deserve some content. So checkout this awesome six minute intro-appearance from an awesome radio show.


Friday, July 24, 2015

The Lazy Netflixer Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

by Nani Lawrence, Writing Intern

Guess who finally watched all 13 episodes?

Anyone who knows about writing fiction knows that throwing a character into an unfamiliar situation makes for a great story. It creates a lot of tension and potential for conflict. Almost clichéd, many short stories center on a young person moving to, or visiting, a new place. Kimmy (played by Bridesmaids Ellie Kemper) can very much be considered child-like, sheltered, and even a bit naïve.

The premise is quite hilarious: a cult leader lures four women (called the Mole Women) underground in preparation for an apocalypse, which never actually happens.  After authorities save them, Kimmy chooses to live in New York City and start her life over.

She finds an apartment, but she must also find a job in order to stay there. Her first attempt at a candy shop leads to her second attempt with Mrs. Voorhees. On her first day as a nanny, Kimmy shows up two hours late. Voorhees fires her, and she goes to her roommate for advice. He encourages Kimmy to go back to Indiana because it’s so hard to make it in the city. While waiting for her bus, a memory from the bunker inspires her to push through.

Most people aren’t lazy enough not to have seen the first, short season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. But if you haven’t, the spoilers start now.

Kimmy turns out to be quite the genius of a character. Her “cluelessness” about the world provides both comic gold and sometimes important social commentary. For example, in response to cat-calling from a construction worker, she turns the tables. “I want to get in your yellow hat. It’s my favorite color. Did I say something wrong?”

It’s nice to see a lead character with such a flaw. Her nature provides great material for the show, but also proves to be quite the asset at times. Fans love her for her gleeful optimism, where elsewhere it might be portrayed in a purely negative way.

Kimmy’s roommate, Titus Andromedon (formerly Ronald Wilkerson), a struggling singer who also happens to be black, gay, and poor, tries to help her realize the crap-shot NYC can be in the first episode, but she relents. After the bus incident, Kimmy finds Titus in Times Square and convinces him that they both need to fight for their dreams.

Meanwhile, Kimmy’s employer struggles with insecurities in her marriage. Her husband travels for work all the time, and she feels she has to make an extraordinary effort to garner his attention when he is home. Jacqueline Voorhees eventually finds out he is cheating with their marriage counselor. Kimmy’s optimism and sense of right and wrong help convince Jacqueline that she can and should move on and be happy without him.

Titus steals almost every scene he’s in, and it’s hard not to love his huge personality. He may be somewhat of a gay stereotype, but it’s forgivable. His heart is in the right place, and he is much more than the gay best friend trope. Early in the season, he and their landlord stick up to Zan Voorhees for Kimmy, hardly even knowing her. Throughout the first season, Titus and Kimmy balance each other out, and make a perfect team. Kimmy’s positivity counteracts his bitter realism and vice-versa. They both grow quite a bit from their relationship, without compromising their distinct personalities.

Titus delivers quite a few hilarious lines, too. Two favorites occur as he shows support and helps Kimmy. Mrs. Voorhees arranges a dinner party for her husband’s return, and Kimmy needs to dress up.

Titus makes a speech about how their kind (“gays” and their female friends) have teamed up throughout history. In exchange for makeovers, “you take us to brunch sometimes.”

The other line happens near the end of the season when Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne goes on trial for kidnapping the Mole Women. Kimmy complains to Titus that she’s been called as a witness, but she just wants to move on with her new life. Referring to said trial, Titus says:

“What channel’s it on? I mean, what channel’s it on? I am trying to say something supportive . . . What channel’s it on?”

In this same episode, their interactions and Kimmy’s will convince her that she needs to testify on behalf of all the Mole Women. Ultimately, she presents the evidence (a video tape dated close to the date of the “apocalypse”) that locks up the reverend. Like the title suggests, Kimmy Schmidt displays incredible resilience and strength. Would you really expect any less from Tina Fey?

Here’s to an equally impressive second season.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pretty Little Liars: “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin

There’s only three weeks left until the big reveal. That’s right. Five and a half seasons, and the moment is upon us where the infamous “A” will finally be unmasked. With the Liars having escaped the tortures of the Dollhouse and the police clued in on “A”, the proclaimed #SummerOfAnswers should be the crescendo of the series. All Hell should be breaking loose as all the loose ends get tied up and secrets are revealed.

ABC Family
What we get instead is sweet conversations over milk and cookies, relationship woes, and what feels like the billionth failed attempt to capture “A.” Sara decides to move out of Emily’s house to be with an old friend, Aria gets into the finals of the photography competition she entered, and Hanna receives a suspicious scholarship to pay for her college tuition. Yeah, not exactly the most climatic of events. Asides from the melodrama, Alison’s father practically kidnaps his daughter and holds her up in a hotel outside of town to protect her from Charles, but Jason refuses to heed their dad’s warning to leave home. Charles leaves another birthday invitation at the DeLaurentis house, and Jason decides to meet at the disclosed location written on the card.

The Liars know what Jason is up to, so they do some amateur surgery and remove the tracking chips from their own necks. Can you say ouch? Hanna puts a tracker of her own on Jason’s car as the girls plan to follow him to the meeting. Since Charles is obviously listening in on the police frequencies, they can’t risk going to the cops. Spencer tells Toby about everything, hoping he’ll accompany them to the rendezvous point as protection. He refuses to put the girls at risk and decides to go . . . alone.

Alison drugs her father with sleeping pills to escape the hotel and calls 911, telling the police about Charles. Meanwhile, Jason confronts the infamous hooded figure before Toby and his partner crash the reunion. What should be a clean-cut take-down goes horribly awry though when Toby accidentally winds up stoned out of his mind after eating a bagful of Spencer’s marijuana-laced candies. “A” takes out Lorenzo, leaving higher-than-a-kite Toby to trip out at the Technicolor lights of the abandoned arcade.  With both men down for the count and the Liars unable to stay away, the girls walk in on the ambush just before Rosewood P.D. raids the scene. Of course, “A” manages to get away. *eye roll*

What happened to this show? When Pretty Little Liars premiered back in 2010, audiences were introduced to a teen drama whose sinister story-lines left them on their toes and eager to join in on the fandom. All the theories, the intrigue, the gorgeous guys. Sure, the guys are still here, but the intrigue seems to have died and with it, the theories. PLL started as a Desperate Housewives for a younger era mixed with the riveting cloak-and-dagger aspect of horror films like Wes Craven’s Scream. Scandalous secrets, shocking reveals, and subtle clues made fans go crazy as we all theorized about who “A” was. Everybody was a suspect. Was it Jenna, Mona, the supposedly dead Alison, Wren, Ian, one of the Liars? The list went on and on.

But now there’s Charles. Is he even someone we’ve already been introduced to? Or is he just someone the writers invented last minute? These questions terrify fans the most. Did we sit through five years of an intricately woven web only for the creators to pull a 2012’s Gone on us? Were all those red herrings pointless? Did we spend all that time theorizing over a person we never even knew? This once promising #SummerOfAnswers has turned into a summer of frustration. Who came up with that hashtag anyway? Absolutely none of our questions have been answered. If things don’t improve by the mid-season finale, this series might be looking at some dismal ratings when the show returns in January.

Pretty Little Liars - “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” Rating:  D +

Monday, July 20, 2015

Misleading Media: meta edition

by Nani Lawrence, Writing Intern

Sometimes, it seems as though the media forces society to focus on “stupid” things. The surge of reality television doesn’t exactly inspire intelligent thought . . . .

Recently, Snoop Dogg—and later Chris Brown--caused waves by referring to Caitlyn Jenner as both a “science project” and “Bruce;” Siri corrects that now. Mr. Dogg rightfully received hell for his insensitivity, but he did make a point shared by many. Now, arguably, Caitlyn’s journey can be considered much more than just mindless gossip. However, around the time she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, hip hop artist Akon continued to fight to bring electricity to over 600,000 Africans. He launched the campaign last year.

Likewise, with the primaries coming up, focus has either been on the many GOP candidates or Hillary Clinton. But Bernie Sanders, an Independent running as a Democrat, drew a crowd of around 10,000 on July 1st in Madison—the largest of any candidate thus far. If you only paid attention to mainstream media’s coverage, you would believe the Socialist had no support among the Democratic base.

Mainstream media, social media, and straight journalism converge in many aspects. All
three have found a way to work together, just as news found a way to work with radio after its conception. That doesn’t always mean media focuses on important news, nor does it mean one should expect blogs, clips, tweets, and shows to meet the same standards as journalism. From a journalist's perspective, there might be a few reasons for the disparity in coverage.

Certain qualities make an event “newsworthy.” If something happens close to home--“proximity”—the news media covers it. That’s why you typically hear about national news before international news. Another quality--“significance” (or “impact” as I learned it)—takes into account how many people could be affected by the news. “Prominence” refers to the celebrity or overall status of those involved—it could be why Caitlyn received more coverage than Akon. “Timing” or “timeliness” means exactly that; no one necessarily cares about what happened four days ago, and it’s a station’s or publication’s fault for failing to cover it in a timely manner. “Human interest,” the final quality, means something that inspires or otherwise tugs at an audience’s heartstrings. It serves as a nice break from the disturbing ills of humanity. A journalist considers these qualities when deciding what to report, but sometimes one quality trumps another.

Media consolidation could be a more troubling reason for the disparity.

Most people understand that certain media companies control more of the media than others. Take Australian businessman Rupert Murdoch for example. He owns 21st Century Fox, along with all the Fox channels, HarperCollins, The Wall Street Journal, and others. People consider what he owns a conglomerate.

In media consolidation, companies buy out other companies at an alarming rate. At last count, six companies control the media everyone encounters daily: Disney, Viacom, CBS, Time Warner, GE, and News-Corp. Capitalism?

A very small group of people decide what you see, read, and hear. These “heads” have their own opinions and sometimes agendas. It goes back to the First Amendment, in which “the press” has the freedom to report ethically without reparation. Journalists must meet higher standards because they’re supposed to disseminate important information to the public. Supposedly, an informed citizenry directly makes for a democratic society.

This consolidation partly accounts for net neutrality’s importance. As opposed to radio/airwaves, print, and TV/movies, the internet continues to be relatively unrestricted. Small publications (Look to the Cookie!), independent publications, etc. get a fair shot at reaching the general public. Companies could pay internet providers more so that they reach the public quicker. The smaller companies (with smaller budgets) have no chance, and in the process, will lose traffic and revenue.

Pretty terrifying thought, no?  Fortunately, we can combat this.

Recently, a fierce fight waged throughout our government to keep the internet open and neutral. Democracy won, and the Federal Communications Commission set strict rules on maintaining a balance. That could change with a new chairman, so do support politicians willing to stand up for your right to unbiased and varied information.

Additionally, support alternative media . . . and thank you for reading this piece. We often lack the backing of corporations and depend on donations. Unfortunately, only other journalists officially hold journalists to ethical standards, and that can be brutal. Just look at how long it took Brian Williams to get back on the job—and not even on the same station. Reputation is everything in the profession. Without it, you’re nothing. Without the extra pressure of a conglomerate, reporters are more likely to be unbiased. Luckily, journalists seem to have quite a bit of freedom even with that pressure.

Democracy preserved.  For now?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Trainwreck, Amy Schumer, and Race

In Episode 226, Germar meant to get really deep into Amy Schumer (hopefully she'd appreciate that . . . joke).  And though he does discuss Trainwreck and Schumer that doesn't begin until minute 27. First, he goes way off course about that stupid flag, slavery, and race.

 
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