Good Place spoiler thread

What a great show! Let’s spoil it.

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My obsession with the show The Good Place

I am *so* into the TV show The Good Place. I love it when screenwriters can pull off something with such pinpoint precise structure and dialogue. It’s one of those pieces of media that you occasionally see, and think, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.” I think I’d be really terrible at writing for TV, actually. So it’s a good thing that I didn’t write it.

The Good Place (if you don’t know) is a comedy show that takes place in the afterlife. It tackles philosophy in a way I haven’t seen on TV before. The show contains a set of scenarios that invites the reader to ask, “What is morality?” Like the actual literature, it refuses a simple answer. It overtly discusses many of the complex (and sometimes overly simplified) answers that philosophers have come up with.

I really respect media that can be both informative and entertaining. I never feel like The Good Place is preaching to me, but it polishes up/builds my knowledge of philosophy. It does another thing I really like also–the writers’ passion for the subject comes through so boldly that it makes me care about the subject, too, even if it’s not something I’m natively interested in. (The TV show Slings & Arrows does this with some Shakespeare tragedies; the writers’ love just saturates it.)

I watch a lot of TV because I’m addicted to narratives, but when I read anything in prose, my work brain kicks in. TV avoids the work brain. I usually judge TV with lower standards than prose, because I consume so much of it, but The Good Place is just awesome.

Posted in Living a life, Stuff I like | 7 Comments  

Cartoon: Top Ten Reasons We Take Kids From Their Parents At The Border

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Here’s a list of organizations that are mobilizing to help separated immigrant children | The Texas Tribune

Transcript of cartoon:

This cartoon has a title panel followed by ten panels.

CAPTION: Top Ten Reasons We Take Kids From Their Parents At The Border

Below the title, a caricature of Jeff Sessions is speaking to the viewer, smiling.
SESSIONS: Refugees are fleeing despots and murderers! So to deter refugees, we have to be even worse!


A cheerful man in an ICE uniform speaks directly to the viewer. Behind him is a cage filled with wide-eyed children.
MAN: How else can we test our awesome child-holding cages?

A well-off (or at least, middle class) looking couple sits at a table; the man looks down, ashamed, while the woman talks with wide-eyed sincerity at the viewer.
MAN: Because I’m tired of caring about what happens to other people.
WOMAN: It’s exhausting.

A hand holds a smartphone. On the phone, a video on Youtube or some similar site is playing, showing a young man wearing a hoodie sitting in his car and talking to the camera. He’s grinning hugely.
MAN: Because it’s worth it to see the snowflakes cry!

A middle-aged man in an ICE uniform, with a big cop mustache, holds an adorable smiling baby towards the viewers. The baby is wearing footie pajamas with a pattern of little hearts. The man is yelling angrily.
MAN: Because this is the face of a TERRORIST!

A man in a hoodie is curled up in the corner of an empty room; he’s very small. He’s hugging himself with one arm while sweating with fear. His word balloon and lettering are shaky.
MAN: Brown illegals are coming to steal my way of life.

A woman wearing sunglasses and a MAGA hat speaks directly to the viewers, looking stern, calm, and collected. Behind her is a fence with barbed wire on top; on the other side of the fence are people in silhouette.
WOMAN: This is what making America great looks like.

An ICE agent speaks cheerfully to the viewers, while he’s holding a woman in a very painful looking headlock.
ICE AGENT: Because we can do anything we like to illegals! It’s not like they’re people.

We are looking at a wall of an institutional looking building made of concrete blocks. A sign on the building says “Detention Facility.” A door into the building has a window embedded in it. Through the window, we can see the face of an angry looking man, talking to us.
MAN: Because we’re throwing the kids a big party! With clowns! And balloons! No, you CAN’T see!

A person wearing a KKK outfit, white hood and all, stands in front of a barbed wire fence. Dark stormclouds can be seen behind the KKK member.
KKK: Isn’t it obvious?

Uncle Sam, wearing the top hat and also a Hawaiian shirt with flowers all over it, sneers at the viewer as he gives the viewer the finger.
UNCLE SAM: Because fuck you! THAT’S why.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Immigration, Migrant Rights, etc, In the news, Race, racism and related issues | 1 Comment  

My life in cats: Henderson

Presenting Henderson, also called Sweet Lady Henderson, which is a great name for both a cat and a blues singer:


Henderson was stray until recently when she made camp on my friends’ porch. They fed her through the winter, and eventually took her to the vet, where they discovered she was older than they’d thought, and really not suited to go back outside. (Some cats do just fine as fed outdoor cats–she was clearly struggling.)

Mike and I fostered her for a little while. She’s a sweetheart. She wags her tail when she’s happy. I can’t even deal with how cute that is.

She would like to be petted, please. Constantly, if possible.

The vet had to shave her because her fur was a mass of angry tangles. So, she looks a bit like a furless, pathetic goblin. A purring, furless, pathetic goblin with a wagging tail.

She seems to have rustled up a home. If you have to be a stray cat, it’s good to be charming. And since her home is with friends of ours, we still get to enjoy petting the furless goblin (who will eventually be furred) and watching gifs of her wagging her tail.


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My life in cats: Aurora


Sometimes I think I should document my life in cats.

My friend’s cat Aurora is a very intelligent, very grand-looking tortoiseshell maine coon. She’s very self-possessed and polite to me–but not overly so, because generally when I’m over, it’s feeding time. And if it’s “time to feed the kitty,” then focusing on anything other than food is not on.

Aurora has some rare behaviors — for instance, she will correct her behavior when my friend reminds her to remember her decorum. When my cats hear us tell them things like “respect boundaries,” they look up with wild eyes, writhe around in a circle, and then bolt across the room.

Many of my friends’ cats are female, where all of ours are male. I don’t know how much there really is a behavioral difference between male and female cats, but it always feels like there is. Ours are energetic, ridiculous goofs. Aurora has this thing called dignity. I’d try to explain what “dignity” was to our cats, but then they’d just look up with wild eyes, writhe around in a circle, and bolt across the room.

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In Defense of “Slice of Life” Stories


When I was in college, I insisted that any poem worth its words would have a strong idea behind it–something it wanted to communicate to the reader. I still think that, but I’ve broadened my definition of what an idea is.

Many poems attempt to communicate an impression or an emotion. A poem about nature might not be intended to communicate “here is an intellectual idea about nature,” but instead “this is what it looked like through my eyes” and “this is how it felt.” Fine art landscapes can be like that, too. They depict a place at a time, both transient, through the eye of the painter (where the eye of the painter may figure more or less into the image, depending on whether it’s a realistic painting, etc).

What this makes me wonder is–why are we so dismissive of this in fiction? Plots are excellent; ideas are excellent. But what’s so wrong with a slice of life, that we refer to it with distaste? Why can’t fiction be about rendering transient, momentary emotions? Why do we demand they always be in the context of a plot?

I expect this is a historical artifact of genre expectations for fiction. I think the prohibition against plot-less fiction is stronger in science fiction & fantasy circles, but it’s definitely something I’ve heard reinforced in more academic or literary spaces.

One factor that occurs to me — is this influenced by how we imagine the role of the author in fiction, versus in poems or paintings? A poem is not necessarily written from the perspective of the poet, even when there’s an “I” at the center of the verse. Culturally, however, the belief that a poet is the narrator of their own poems is so strong that in every poetry workshop I’ve been in (I’ve never been in one on the graduate level), the teacher has to remind people at least a couple of times that the assumption they’re making about the narrator’s identity isn’t necessarily true.
Paintings, also, are generally seen as being rendered by oneself. This doesn’t have to be true either–the artist’s eye doesn’t have to be the one that observes, and the painting doesn’t have to render what the artist would see. Our narratives about painting speak even more strongly against the idea that they are filtered through a perspective other than the painter’s, and it’s not hard to see why — we think about painters bringing models into their studios, or taking their canvases out into the open air to paint the mountains. Even less realistic work tends to be narratively fitted into the idea of painter-as-observer–for instance, the way we talk about the artistic work of people with mental illnesses (for instance, Van Gogh), suggests that the ways in which the artist’s vision differs from the objective eye is integral to their “madness”–that they literally see the world as they paint it.

I think we culturally acknowledge that life rarely has an actual plot or shape to it. Poems and paintings are more easily classified as themselves slices of life, so when they omit plots, that is consistent with our expectations from them. There’s more room in memoir than fiction for this sort of thing also (although it can be contentious), wherein the writer is expected to be relating something of themselves.

Fiction is seen as more of a pretense, I think. And while there’s a general acknowledgement that life itself fails to be narratively tidy or have plots, most people seem to expect that if you’re going to go to all the work of building a pretense, you should make it more aesthetically tidy than life.

Without taking anything away from plot- and idea-driven fiction (my personal bread and butter), I think that closing off the possibility of slice-of-life stories makes our body of literature weaker. I want authors to have access to a full range of tools so I can read what they build.

Posted in Essays, Writing Advice | 5 Comments  

Drowning in Light


In the middle of summer, at this latitude, it’s light all the time. Not literally–we’re not that far North–but it can feel like it as the hour passes eight thirty and the sun is still happily shining.

It’s not as oppressive as the dark. I’ve only been here for one Winter, and many things were going wrong then, but when darkness crowded out the mornings and the afternoons, it felt like the world was narrowing to a pinpoint.

It was an ominous, oppressive feeling, and I made a personal note to myself not to spend a whole winter here again without traveling to see some light. I also bought a sun lamp.

I was pretty well warned about the dark winters in the Northwest. That, and the rain, although I haven’t found the rain that difficult to deal with. I can’t remember if anyone mentioned the summers–how weird and suspended it feels to be constantly in the light.

Time seems to have melted away. Everything is an endless afternoon, until the sudden, late blink of nighttime. It’s giving me some trouble getting things done–usually, when the light starts to wane, I switch over to evening tasks automatically. I have a pretty good sense of internal time, so I don’t spend a lot of the afternoon checking the clock, and it feels like it could be three p.m. from noon to eight.

The sunlight is nice in a lot of ways. I’m not having trouble sleeping through the early sun this year, though I did last year. But it’s interesting to observe in myself how my body responds to light, and how much it matters to how I feel and what I’m doing, despite my perpetually troubled sleep cycle, and how much of the time I’m in artificial light, looking at illuminated screens.

I think of myself as located in my mind, but we’re all bodily creatures.

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It’s summer! It’s graduation time!

It’s summer! It’s graduation time!

I haven’t paid any attention to these signposts for a long time. After you’re not in school for long enough, its importance just kind of melts away. For years, I noticed graduation season as that time when YouTube starts putting up graduation-related clips.

However! Summer has become relevant to my life again. We hang out with two teenagers a lot, and they’re both in middle school. Ugh, middle school. So they’ve been counting down the days for a while. (Also, during the summers, we get to hang out with them during the day, which is nice.)

My husband is also in graduate school part time, and he’s going to graduate in a few days after turning in a final project, and he is SO RELIEVED, I can’t even tell you.

Back to the kids, the older teen (I shall hereforth call her Adelaide) had her “promotion ceremony” from middle school last night. One of her friends came over, and they fussed over their makeup for a longer time than usual. (Adelaide is into really dramatic makeup–cosplay-type makeup.)

I didn’t dress up for my middle school graduation. I mean, I’m sure I wore a nice dress. I’m equally sure I didn’t spend time primping. I was just happy to get out of there.

Adelaide is happy to get out of there, too, but she’s also feeling sentimental as she stands on the brink of high school. “I cried so much my eyes hurt,” she told me last night, a few hours after the ceremony. “Still.”

I’m her friend, not a parent or anything like that, but I still feel proud that she’s made it through all the trouble and drama and awfulness that is middle school. It’s a hell of a gauntlet.

Adelaide’s life as a pre-teen is super different than mine was. I mean, I was certainly not doing makeup or ready to date anyone when I was that age, while Adelaide is a bit of a swain.

I really get hung up on how much queer rights have changed. When I told Adelaide that I hadn’t met an out trans person until college, she was floored. She’s openly pansexual, and she publicly dates other girls. Some of it is because we’re in a liberal city, but a lot is just sheer cultural progress.

I think about how my friend Clay came out at fourteen in high school, basically because he had to – no one was going to accept him as straight. The hate and disdain he got even when he wasn’t dating anyone was extreme. His family kicked him out for a period of time. He ended up taking a lot of drugs, being so isolated and miserable.

While Adelaide? She wore a rainbow tie to her graduation in support of queer rights, and so did her friends.

Here she is, looking great:

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Aaaand We’re Back!

Sorry for the outage, everyone. We’re back!

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That’s a mixing bowl.

That’s a mixing bowl.

that's a mixing bowl
(That is also a cat.)

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