I can’t believe March is already over. I keep thinking that it should still be January or October or something like that. Nonetheless, it is the end of March which means it’s time for me to roll out my monthly “Frequent Fascinations.”
If you missed my first “Frequent Fascinations” post, I caught you up on ten things that I have loved throughout my life and have made me the blindingly enthusiastic, geeky, bouncy human I am today.
In that post, I also asked that you note that, each month, my “Frequent Fascinations” represent my slightly broader interests than what I cover on the site. Even though women’s history is my main passion and interest, I do read and watch and enjoy other things as well.
“The Internationalists” by Scott J. Shapiro and Oona A. Hathaway
I had the pleasure of hearing Scott Shapiro speak at the 2018 Savannah Book Festival late February and, ever since, I have been talking people’s ears off about this book and this concept. The book delves into the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, a treaty that outlawed war. This sounds silly but it turns out it is transformational and completely shifted the way I looked at international warfare and law throughout history. It’s a complicated subject that I could (and have) talk about for hours so I won’t explain too much here. Bottom line, this treaty, what I call “the little peace pact that could,” led to the formation of the Modern World Order and has wonderful insights into how the United States, as a nation who signed the treaty, should conduct itself moving forward in its current trepidatious state.
It’s my parents fault for getting me addicted to this show. When I went off to college, they started watching all kinds of shows together such as “Outlander,” “Northern Exposure” and, most recently, “The Crown.” I wasn’t sure how much I would like it because I love historical shows that capture big events and big people in history in the periphery (like “Call the Midwife”) rather than making them the main focus because I think it becomes easy to sensationalize them. However, I thought that “The Crown” managed to avoid many of the pitfalls of other shows that capture rulers or politicians. It also places Queen Elizabeth in the position to talk about what an ideal woman and an ideal ruler should be and why it is more practical to blur the lines between the two rather than preserve them. The acting is just wonderful and the cinematography is gorgeous. I don’t know why but the way filmmakers capture early-to-mid 20th century Britain constantly blows me away (“The King’s Speech” and “The Darkest Hour” more notably). I think that smoggy grey of England must just be my aesthetic. I’m not sure what that says about me.
“The Last Black Unicorn”
I finally got around to reading Tiffany Haddish’s hysterical book. It only took me about a day to get through it so everybody will be able to make time in their lives for Tiffany’s joyous personality. She shares some simply hysterical memories in between details of a cruel, cruel childhood and an abusive husband. It’s hard to explain the magic she is able to work, though, because she tells all of the harsh details in ways that are so matter-of-fact that it doesn’t brush over them or discredit them, but draws out Tiffany’s inner happiness and makes you think, “if she was able to come out on the other side of that and still love life, I can overcome anything.” In this way, the book is profoundly inspirational not just to aspiring comedians or entertainers but for anyone who has felt like somebody or something in your past might rob you of a beautiful future.
“Mozart in the Jungle”
I first watched this show in January of last year and loved it. It was so quirky and funny and poignant about art and what we do for love (pardon the “A Chorus Line” reference) that I sank into it and never wanted to leave. Well, I quickly went through all three available seasons and had to wait a whole year for the new season to come out at the end of last month. I tried to savor the new ten episodes but I think I finished it in a couple days. Season 1 is still arguably my favorite but this season felt fresh and new while still drawing on the elements that I loved from the start of the show. The coolest thing, for me, this season, were the visions of forgotten female composers from history, such as Isabella Leonarda, Fanny Mendelssohn and Nanneryl Mozart, who visit Hailey (Lola Kirke), mirroring the ghost of Mozart (Santino Fontana) that interacts with Rodrigo (Gael García Bernal) throughout the course of the show, as she strives to break stereotypes by becoming a female composer.
Documentaries, documentaries, documentaries…
This past week was my spring break and, instead of going back home, I stayed in town and took some nice time to myself to relax in between busy busy busy quarters. In true nerdy fashion, I spent my days alternating between reading and watching documentaries on Netflix. I forgot how cool documentaries are. You learn so much by transporting yourself into a whole different way of life and it gives you a much larger sense of the world and humanity. My top picks are:
- “The Wrecking Crew” about studio musicians in Los Angeles who recorded on nearly every popular album in the 50s and 60s
- “Best of Enemies” about Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. who squared off against each other in the early days of ABC news during the 1968 election
- “Being Elmo” about Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Elmo and other Jim Henson gems (this one is a classic but I only just got around to watching it)
- “The Best Worst Thing That Could Have Happened” about the creation and subsequent failure of the Sondheim/Prince musical “Merrily We Roll Along”
- “A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman” about the life of the animation studio that brought the world “Wallace and Gromit,” “Chicken Run,” my beloved “Arthur Christmas” and so much more.
- “Icarus” about the Russian sport-doping scandal. The fascinating film just won an Oscar and rightfully so. It’s a longer movie but well worth the time.
- “Floyd Norman: An Animated Life” about the first African-American animator at Disney and his long and storied career making films
- “Nat King Cole: Afraid of the Dark” about the immense talent of one of my favorite singers and how that talent succeeded in an industry and a society unwilling to overlook biases
I hope you all have a wonderful April!