Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The new NetFlix comedy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, is somewhat divisive.

I really like it.

But nearly all the jokes about race, racism, and racial insensitivity fail horribly for me, making an otherwise very good and thoughtful show a failed parody. And, as we all know, the failure mode of “clever” is “asshole”.

If you are not up for ignoring the racist jokes, skip this show.

If you are willing to ignore them on the grounds that they are mostly intended to be making fun of racism and not perpetuating it, this is a fantastic comedy.

The fundamental message of the show is that sometimes horrible things happen to people and those people become stronger as a result. It’s an over-the-top comedy in much the same vein as 30 Rock, but with a twisting thread of real darkness. That darkness is played for laughs, but it grounds the titular character of Kimmy. Her insistence on optimism and seeing things through is entirely believable and touching because we know some of what she’s been through.

I also applaud the message — in every episode — that Kimmy insists on agency. She insists on naming herself, creating herself, making her own choices. She insists on trying and failing because she will never again let other people run her life.

I like this show, I really do. If you think you can wince your way through the racist jokes and you unironically love Disney Princesses because they remain strong through some terrible bullshit, this is the show for you.

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The Hapsburgs!

The Minneapolis Institute of Art is currently hosting an exhibit of art from the collection of the Hapsburgs.

It’s well, well, WELL worth your time.

Not only is the art amazing, the history is wonderful, and …

… and the PLACARDS are a national treasure.

I do not know who wrote the informational caption-y notes for this exhibit, but whoever they are, they were on their A++ Caption Game. The notes are informative, intriguing, and extremely deadpan-wry-funny. They are also socially pointed, remarking on the sometimes vile beliefs and attitudes of both the historical moment reflected in the art and the state of the world today.

I wrote an email AND filled out a comment card complementing the unknown caption-writer.

Again, I highly recommend seeing this exhibit while you can. It’s a treat.

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Mini-vacation foresight

Apparently I, last year, had the foresight to bid vacation for my birthday. How smart of me!

I’ve had the last three days off, and it’s been full of accomplishment. Errands and chores and getting lingering things done that had piled up during the previous two weeks’s worth of Mayo visits.

I got my driver’s license renewed!
I took my car in to the mechanic!
I did some filing!
I found the papers I need in order to do my taxes!

My family took me to brunch on Sunday for my birthday. And we got Fancy Desserts from the Byerly’s bakery. And! And my family got me a SPICES OF THE MONTH CLUB thingy!

SPICES!

Of the month!

I am excited.

Perhaps in the rest of this week I’ll get my taxes done. Who knows?

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Tongue in Cheek (restaurant!)

Yesterday morning my family took me to brunch for my birthday at Tongue in Cheek, a lovely restaurant here in St. Paul.

Locals, I highly, highly recommend trying this place out. The staff is good, the decor is Weird Eclectic Art, the price is affordable, and the food is …

… the food is humane/ethically sourced BIZARRE GASTROPUB food.

Which, despite the weird gastropub nonsense, is amazingly tasty.

I mean, really quite tasty.

Also, the drink are also weird gastropub fare and they taste GREAT.

I recommend going, and I recommend trying things that you might not normally try. It’s both delicious and fun.

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The Mayo Clinic is gorgeous

Yesterday I was in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic for …. hours and hours. An appointment in the morning and then one in the late afternoon. But J and I made the absolute best of it, and explored the gorgeousness of the Mayo Clinic.

Here’s my Instagram feed, with the photos.

We took the self-guided art tour — well, the first half of it anyway.

I kept saying things like, “they have a Rodin,” or, “they have a Calder,” in the same tone that Boromir says “they have a Cave-Troll” in Fellowship of the Rings. Because there was a Rodin bronze sitting in a foyer next to a flight of stairs, for pity’s sake! There’s a damn Calder just hanging over a stairwell!

It is gorgeous. I know I said that before, but it just IS. It’s …

… it’s a sharing of art and beauty and the best things humans can do, sitting out there for everyone to see and share. It’s wonderful.

We also got a tour of the carillon. A carillon, for those who may not know, is a set of ENORMOUS FREAKING BELLS that people play music on for the entire town to hear. We climbed the tower, got the tour, and stood in the booth while the current caretaker played the noon concert. Those pictures are also in my Instagram.

(It occurs to me that if you read this post in six weeks, my Instagram feed will have other more recent photos at the top. Scroll back.)

When J looked up the Mayo Clinic carillon on Wikipedia, the photo is of the guy who gave us the tour. It was wonderful.

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Oh, and, I suppose I could mention the medical part of the visit. No result, no diagnosis, no news. The next step is a visit at the end of April to discuss how to live with this.

But the Mayo Clinic is damn beautiful.

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The New Jim Crow

I finished reading The New Jim Crow.

It is well, well worth reading. I highly recommend it.

The book clearly and simply explains, with evidence to back up the assertions, how a racial caste system developed out of the ashes of Jim Crow. That new system of racial subjugation is mass incarceration.

The book makes a very strong argument.

It also describes what steps are needed, as a nation, to remedy the situation.

I highly recommend reading this book.

Especially if the assertion makes you angry or uncomfortable.

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I strongly recommend this book to people involved in running fannish organization. Not because fandom is similar to mass incarceration. But because the racial caste system in the United States is reflected in every part of society, and this includes fandom.

Part of The New Jim Crow explains how racial exceptionalism is integral to the caste system. And a vast part of SF/F’s fundamental racism also relies on exceptionalism. Namely, “we can’t be racist because look at Octavia Butler!” The New Jim Crow explains that this post-civil-rights-movement racial caste system has different features than previously.

Racial caste in America today does not require that anyone spit vitriol or espouse white supremacy. It merely requires that we don’t care.

There’s a lot of comfortable not-caring in SF/F and comics.

So if you are a fannish organizer, if you run conventions, if you develop programming or invite guests of honor, if you set agendas for international or local events, I strongly urge you to read The New Jim Crow. Learn about the current racial caste system in the U.S. Care about it. Lead your community to stand against it.

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Temporarily a cyborg

Yesterday I had an upper G.I. endoscopy. (This is the latest grasping-at-straws the Mayo is doing for my mystery throat ailment.) While they were in there, they took biopsies, took photos and video, and implanted a wireless transmitter.

… Deep inside my body is a small capsule clipped to the mucosal lining of my esophagus. It samples the pH of my esophagus and broadcasts that data to a monitor pack. I am required to wear this monitor pack on a lanyard around my neck CONSTANTLY until Wednesday morning.

About every seven days or so, the human body naturally sloughs off the mucosal lining. So in about seven days the capsule will come free and exit.

This is both kinda gross and really neat, and in the meantime I am a cyborg.

Victory. Condition.

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