American Horror Story — Cult:
Look, I did not at all expect to love this. I didn’t even plan to watch the latest season of American Horror Story, but I am so glad that I did. AHS has been stagnating, but this season has a new twist that makes it feel so fresh and new and different. The old horror tropes and nonsense twists were getting old. And I am obsessed with the Nicole Kidman references. I usually go on endlessly about how Ryan Murphy is directly lifting my ideas for his own benefit. This season is the first that I don’t have this thought. I mean, The Others starring Nicole Kidman is one of my all-time favorite films, so perhaps he did steal this from me? I’m paranoid about this. It’s hard to explain on here without sounding like a lunatic. I’ll just leave it at this: Ryan, I know you’re reading this, let’s do lunch. So to the new show. This season is called Cult, which I was not at all fond of. I don’t like cults. They bother me in ways a lot of other bizarre things don’t. When I was in Hollywood the last time, I visited the Museum of Death and there was a very detailed room full of suicide cults and information about the Manson murders. It was all too real. Can you imagine being brainwashed into believing that your body is naught but a living vessel for your alien being and that you needed to commit suicide to free yourself? Terrifying. So, I wasn’t really down for this season of American Horror Story. Somewhat begrudgingly, Jessica and I tuned in this weekend to catch up on the first two seasons, and we both found it remarkable. I mean, we missed Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates and Lady Gaga, but for the first time since the third season, the plot felt exciting and fun. We weren’t looking at the clock every five minutes. It follows Sarah Paulson as a liberal lesbian tormented by her phobias. She sees clowns when others don’t and she has a particular wariness of things with holes. I don’t understand this, but I am not one to invalidate somebody’s fear. Her phobias have been pretty well managed until the night of the election last year. The opening sequence when it shows Hillary Clinton losing is honestly one of the scariest sequences the show has ever assembled. And I think it was because it wasn’t imaginary. This wasn’t a story. That really happened. We really have a lunatic as a leader who seems intent on causing as much mayhem and dismay as possible. I remember that night too vividly. It was like living through a terrorist attack. I still shudder at the remembrance. I shan’t tell you too much about the show, because for the first time in years, I heartily recommend you view it. I feel it’s tremendously timely and important. Instead of just trying to leave us scared — which the show absolutely does — it showcases just how modern mentalities are shaped. Fake news is real, reader. But it isn’t fake just because a liberal person says it. Fake news is the product of imagination disguised as truth which you will see showcased in the first two episodes sublimely. I’m looking forward to this season very much.
Mona Lisa Smile:
I don’t think I have ever seen a Julia Roberts movie before in my life. That’s hard for me to believe, because she is such an excellent actress and in many popular films, but it’s apparently true. I’m bad at watching movies, you know? It just takes so much time. I always want to sit down and watch a good picture with a huge bowl of popcorn, but I never do. It triggers me. I hate that phrase, but it’s the only thing I can think up to say about my aversion. A few years ago, well it was probably more than that now, I made a New Year’s resolution to watch and review a film every day for one year. I did manage this, reader, and I think it nearly made me go insane. I was so stressed by spending two hours watching movies every day of my life. They were usually atrocious. So I don’t like watching movies. It reminds me of my boredom. That was a lengthy introduction. Sorry, I do that all the time. Anyway, I’m currently in a class that is about classroom management. In it we watched a few clips from the film Mona Lisa Smile. I’d heard of it, but had absolutely no idea what it was about. I was absolutely enthralled by the scenes I watched. The acting was fabulous, the set design was gorgeous, and I loved the premise. It’s about Julia Roberts’s character who was teaching art history at a conservative New England college in the 50s. She has liberal views on women’s roles and shocking thoughts on the validity of modern art. In those times, the only art to be respected was that which had been respected for hundreds of years. And the only place women could hope to be was at home raising a family. Of course we have shifted wonderfully in our culture, so this was a great reminder of old viewpoints that we have fought against. Julia Roberts was a delight and the actresses who played her students were phenomenal and are great stars of today. I had such a nice time watching, and I had such a lovely bowl of popcorn. It’s on Netflix. Give it a view.
I’ve always been a bit moody and melancholy, which for many years was my normal way of living. I thought it was normal anyway. And it is normal for many people, but it was no good for me. I didn’t like being constantly exhausted by being alive, so I started taking antidepressants. What a world of good it has done for me. I only take a small dosage of Prozac in the morning, but I have noticed that I feel much better. I know several people who have horror stories to tell about their experiences with psychiatric medicines, but I am thankful that I have nothing dreadful to report to you. My mind is clearer, which is a great benefit that I didn’t know I was missing out on. Turns out, my brain used to be veritably flooded with a barrage of thoughts that weren’t negative, but were not helpful or conducive to concentration. It was nothing but a distraction and made my genetic proclivity to procrastination even worse. So that’s a blessing. I’m also much less moody. This is my favorite part. I keep a journal, and everyday in the margin of the entry, I’d have a little code in that represents my emotional state that day. It’s an arrow that points up on good days, down on bad ones, and then somewhere between those two depending on how I was. This was a great record, and I was certain that I had cyclothymia, but it was just mild depression. So I started Prozac. Love it. Won’t be without it. Don’t have much more to say, just another pill to add to my fistful every morning. Isn’t that silly? I didn’t have to take a single pill for twenty-six year. Now I have a couple vitamins, pain killers, antidepressants, allergy medications, and of course, Gilenya to manage my multiple sclerosis. I hope they fix this someday and I can just get some kind of implant to pump me full of the chemicals I need. I mean, I know it’s better to pop a pill each morning than to be ill. And it’s better to take pills than have to go in for shots, but still. It’s a grim reminder of mortality and the fragility of health each time I choke them down.
India Palace in Ames:
One of my very favorite cuisines is Indian food. I wasn’t aware of this for the longest time, and I really regret all the Indian takeouts I haven’t eaten. The first time I had this fabulous food was in a hotel in Minnesota. Hardly an authentic introduction, but the thrilling new blending of spices and introduction tod paneer cheese changed me. I now regularly have frozen Trader Joe’s palaak paneer in my freezer for an easy and delicious dinner. Much to my surprise, Jessica is also a fan of Indian food. This doesn’t make tremendous sense because she is terrified of spices and most foods, so it’s a wondrous thing. We go to Ames once a week, so we tried out a place called Indian Delights some time ago. Let me tell you something, that was no delight. There was not a single customer — a good warning sign — and the staff was genuinely shocked that we were there — another indicator of poor quality. It was a fairly tragic affair and we could overhear them talking in the kitchen saying things like, “He’s really still eating it.” Never have gone back. I was delighted to read that India Palace, a beloved institution in Ames, was finally reopening. It had been closed for some time, I’m not sure on the specifics. Jessica and I went in last night and had the loveliest time. The restaurant was packed with clientele and the menu was excellently described. There were ten different bread varieties, and I wanted to try every single one of them. Our appetizer was a fried paneer with a variety of dipping sauces that were absolutely fabulous. I had sag paneer that was perfect. Jessica had paneer masala with no heat at all. She was deliriously happy with its lack of spice. I was impressed myself with how flavorful her dinner was. Everything was flawless, and it wasn’t terribly overpriced. I had a grand time, and I can’t wait to go back. Give India Palace a try, reader!
I know that what I’m about to relate isn’t real, at least I don’t think it is, but I think that I myself am a plague on the nations I love most. For whatever bizarre reason, when I leave a place after a few weeks of being there and falling madly in love with the culture, a devastating earthquake seems to strike. I was in Turin, Italy last year when there was a minor earthquake that shook the buildings. It spilled some of my wine. Truly a traumatizing moment. I mean, nothing truly shocking occurred, but feeling an earthquake really upsets your sense of security. After I had left that beautiful city at the base of the Alps, a devastating earthquake struck. It wasn’t in Turin, but further away. It completely destroyed a city and many people died. I couldn’t believe the images of the rubble. Now it has happened again, reader, and I’m trying hard to convince myself that I’m not a bad luck charm. I haven’t uploaded my travel blogs from Mexico City, yet, but you all know I went and fell completely in love with that wonderful place. Not long after I left, there was an earthquake in southern Mexico that killed quite a few and shook Mexico City. That was bad enough, and then yesterday, on the anniversary of a terrible quake in 1985, another one struck very close to Mexico City. Over a hundred people have died, scores of buildings collapsed, many more people are trapped in rubble. I couldn’t believe the images I saw in the footage. So much has fallen. Of course it isn’t as traumatic as it could have been. After the ’85 earthquake, building codes changed and many buildings are now prepared for such an event. Still, this is a massive city, reader, with many buildings that were constructed before these codes. It’s still possible for devastation to occur. I need to find a map that shows where the damage was done. It is absolutely awful that this occurred and that anybody has to suffer, but I wonder about the places I particularly loved. How are the galleries surrounding the Zocalo? How is the Olive Garden on the Paseo de la Reforma? How is the nectarine vendor in the Mercado San Juan? And how is the witch in the Mercado Sonora? And very importantly to me, how are my feline friends at the apartment where I stayed? That trio of cats made me feel so welcome and I loved my stay all the more because of them. I hope they are safe. I hope all the kind people I met escaped unscathed. I haven’t heard much yet from Mexico, but I worry. I know I’m not cursed, reader, really, but you have to admit this is weird. I wonder when an earthquake will strike Egypt? Hopefully never. It’s possible, you know? Historical lore asserts that an earthquake shook the limestone casing off the pyramids in Cairo. I hope the world settles down soon and we can all live in relative peace. UPDATE: I’ve messaged a few people that I met, and they’re fine, but I just found out that there was tremendous damage done in the village where I spent my 28th birthday. Just tragic.