THINGS I LOVED/HATED THIS WEEK #245

LOVE:
Turin on Ancient Aliens:

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One of my guilty pleasures is the History channel program, Ancient Aliens. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I don’t necessarily believe in guilty pleasures. I don’t think you should ever feel guilty for doing things you enjoy. So I don’t necessarily feel guilty for watching Ancient Aliens, but I do feel guilty for how much I scream at the screen. The facts are always skewed, silly, and oftentimes they’re blatantly wrong. You would not believe some of the ludicrous things they’ve said about the ancient Egyptians. It’s wild. The show is on the fourteenth season — which is insane to me — and I’ve never missed an episode. Lately, I admit that I don’t pay super close attention because they’re a bunch of repeats or nonsense about Roswell, but every once in a while, there are fantastic subjects. Last week, the entire episode was about UFO sightings in…of all places…my beloved TURIN! Reader, you probably heard my scream when I watched. It wasn’t the usual scream of rage, it was a scream of utter glee. Turin is one of my favorite places in the world that nobody seems to go to. I’m obsessed with it and have spent joyous weeks wandering through the sumptuous Italian streets. I love the focaccia shops, walking along the river, looking for the Holy Grail, sauntering through the most beautiful columbarium I’ve ever been to, moodily posing on my balcony, thinking about earthquakes, and contemplating the eternal battle between good and evil. Local lore even claims that the entrance to Hell is in Turin! I love that town, but I had never heard anything about alien sightings, and really, one would think I would at some point with all of the research I’ve done into my favorite Italian city. So, imagine my perplexed shock when those wonderful lunatics on Ancient Aliens claimed that there were frequent UFO sightings on a mountain near Turin. Interesting sights all around the city were featured and it was fascinating to see the mysterious and prehistoric rock carvings that have been found. There were spirals and things that looked like spacemen and even these circle things that the “experts” called landing pads that were “similar” to ones found in Egypt. (They weren’t at all, but I had a good cackle.) They even went so far as to suggest that the ancient Egyptian god, Ptah, originated on the mountain. It was absolutely wild. They really stretched the Egyptian connection for awhile, which I approved of, fully expecting them to make some kind of reference to the Museo Egizio, the largest museum of Egyptology outside of Egypt. They never mentioned it. Not once. A missed opportunity. I like to imagine the museum refused to allow them to film there. That would please my heart. It was wonderful, though. I need to get back to Turin!

“Saves the World” by MUNA:

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On the blessed night that I saw Harry Styles perform a solo concert in Chicago, I was not at all interested in his opening act. I was only interested in Harry and what shoes he would be wearing. You don’t know how important Harry’s shoes are to me. They are everything. And then during his solo concert, he was wearing the most shocking suits. Sometimes he looked like a flamenco dancer, sometimes he looked like the mother of a solid gold dancer — holla at the Golden Girls reference — sometimes he looked like the leader of a gay pride parade, and other times he looked like a flamboyant pirate. Every look was a LOOK. I was speculating nonstop with Jessica about what he would wear, and since we were at his second show, we had no real idea of what to expect. We got a turquoise and sequin concoction that was the stuff of dreams, but unusually, Harry’s wardrobe is not the focus of this post. The focus is the opening act, MUNA. I had no knowledge of them. I didn’t know what to expect of them. I didn’t honestly care all that much, which was damn foolish of me. I should have KNOWN that Harry would not be providing me with an unpleasant experience, in fact, he would be providing me with nonstop bops. MUNA is a band that makes the most delicious and hypnotic pop music. The lead singer has a bob, so if you know me, you know that she is automatically one of my favorite people of all time. The music was sensational and I was jumping up and down and then adding the songs to my iPhone and then before long, I’d listened to their debut album exactly one billion times. I listened to them everyday. Let’s take a moment for a musical interlude, shall we?

Was that not everything? Of course it was. Harry would never lead us astray. Last month, the band released their latest album, Saves the World, and it is every bit as catchy and marvelous as their debut. I listen to it all the time. I love driving now so that I can sing along to “Pink Light,” my favorite song off the album. They’re on Apple Music and Spotify and all that, so you don’t have any excuse not to give it a listen. I’m listening to it right now. Again. I’m OBSESSED.

JUDY:

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When I was flying to New York City a few weeks back, I was stunned by an interview with Renée Zellweger about a new movie she was in that I knew nothing about. Somehow, without my knowledge, a biographical movie has been made about Judy Garland. At first I was worried that it was going to be some sprawling epic that covered her life from birth to tragic death, but instead it focused solely on her series of concerts in London that were (in)famous for being either fabulous or absolutely tragic. This specificity made the film flower in a way that a sweeping saga would never be able to compete with. We were able to focus on decently constructed characters, get familiar with scenery, understand the consequences of each action. This was a genius move for the writers and the producers to make. It would be so easy to create a glistening version of her entire life, but restraint prevailed and for that I’m very pleased. The star of the film is, of course, Judy Garland, and Renée Zellweger seems to fully become the icon. It’s uncanny, really. Her poses, gestures, the way she draws her face to one side, the uniquely warbling Hollywood dialect, and the absolute power of her voice were stunning. I never knew Renée was much of a singer, even though I was aware of her roles in musicals of the past. She blew me away. And to my shock and delight, my favorite Judy Garland song, “San Francisco,” was on the soundtrack! I wanted to see the movie desperately, but I wanted to see that song on the big screen most of all. Unfortunately this number was slated for one of the tragic stage shows, she fell and cursed and swore and drank and fled the stage. All I got to hear was one strain of my beloved song! Still, at least it’s on the soundtrack. I will admit that the film, while nicely done, is very formulaic. It’s hard for a film of this type not to be. Still, it is a delicious moment at the cinema and it is truly a sensation to watch Renée become Judy. She really does. Toward the end of the film, when she fights with her fifth and final husband — played to perfection by Finn Wittrock — she sits down in shock on the bed. Her face is in profile, and somehow, I don’t fully understand it, she is Judy Garland. I believed that. Renée needs an Academy Award for this triumph. Get thee to the cinema at once.

Travels With My Father:

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Last night I was craving comedy whilst devouring too many walking tacos. I scrolled through Hulu and DirecTV and Netflix but nothing was triggering my interest and worse, my tacos were starting to get cold. Unacceptable. Then I saw a familiar face and clicked play. It was Jack Whitehall, a British comedian that I adore! He starred in one of my favorite British sitcoms, Bad Education, and is a hoot and a half. I was aware of the show, Travels With My Father, but for some reason I never added it to my list. What a fool I was. It combines all of my favorite things: comedy, culture, and travel! The show is obviously rather scripted, though meant to convey the feeling of a reality program. I don’t mind this at all, in fact, I prefer this kind of reality to the nonsense of some programs. It’s like The Simple Life, that program that played such a major role in sculpting me into the man I am today. Paris and Nicole are not as dumb as they portrayed their characters on the show. They knew what they had to do for the sake of comedy. Jack and his father, Michael, are much the same. Michael is a stodgy old man who would prefer to sit in his office or sit with a nice glass of wine than leave the country. Jack is something of a man-child who wants to party and see the crazy parts of the world. Because he went to boarding school and then immediately launched into a standup career, he never had the opportunity to go on a gap year, which is an important thing for posh people. I have never understood why the concept never took off here in the United States. We rush straight into college after high school instead of exploring our interests and ourselves before making major educational decisions. It’s folly. And the gap year is not the cultural icon that it pretends to be. It’s an excuse to get out of the country, get wildly drunk, and party with other travelers whilst ignoring the local culture. Doesn’t suit me at all, but I do understand it. Jack and Michael go on a gap year in season one — well a five week trip — to Asia and their dueling personalities are delicious. Michael wants to stay in five star hotels, ride the Orient Express, dine at fine restaurants, and see sites of cultural importance. Jack wants to see the gritty hostels, eat street food, and party on the beach. I’m clearly on Michael’s side, but there’s a bit of Jack in me too. It’s a wonderful program. There are three seasons available on Netflix and I highly recommend an evening of binge watching. It’s so worth it.

My Gorgeous New Floor:

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Reader, things have quickly gotten out of control. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I didn’t even want it to happen. I don’t have the time or the energy…but it’s too late now. My refrigerator is from 1993 and it’s ugly as sin. It needed replaced because it’s leaking all of the time and I’m tired of cleaning it and even more tired of looking at it. So, I decided that I would get a new fridge and off I went to Nebraska Furniture Mart and found something absolutely gorgeous. It’s stainless steel, has French doors, there’s an ice maker, and it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. I discovered that my entryway is slightly too small for the refrigerator to fit, so I demolished these decorative arches that have been there since God-only-knows when. I am going for a more modern look, so I’m fine with having to do a bit of drywall work, it’s not the worst thing in the world. I needed to get a saw to finish the job, and unfortunately that meant going to Menards. I left with the saw I wanted, but I also left with light fixtures and several boxes of flooring. I had no intention of changing the floor in the kitchen, but I have to admit that I haven’t been happy with it. Years ago I made this delicious checkerboard floor with those cheap peel and stick tiles. I discovered a few years later that they’re cheap for a reason. They don’t hold up to heavy foot traffic and as the weather changes, they expand and contract and end up with gaps and chips…and it doesn’t take a lot of scuffing. I’m over them, they’re ugly, but I didn’t really want to do anything about it. But when I saw these absolutely stunning tiles that look like they’re made of basalt…I was unable to resist. I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve finished half of the floor in my kitchen now — to the tune of more money than I anticipated spending — and I can’t get over how nice it looks. I mean, to be honest, absolutely anything new is a treat, but it looks so smart and rich and fancy and I feel like I don’t live in a dump for the first time in far too long.

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