December 7, 2019

Media Journal, November 2019

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For the longest time now, I’ve been an avid reader of media jour­nals. On the sur­face, these journals are just lists of things the authors have read or watch­ed. But done right, media jour­nals are hon­est and poignant inves­ti­ga­tions of cul­ture and an indi­vid­u­al’s place in it.

Read­ing these jour­nals help me think about these top­ics too, but only for so much. It is only through writ­ing that a per­son can really process and orga­nize their thoughts. And with the golden age of tele­vi­sion and pod­casts upon us, there’s no bet­ter time to start a media journal — to start doc­u­ment­ing every notable thing I con­sume, and hope­ful­ly, to start process­ing them in a much more sys­tem­atic man­ner as well.

My pen­cils are sharp enough. Let’s give this a shot.

Movies and TV

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BoJack Horseman, Sea­son 6 / ★★★★★

It is a near impos­si­ble feat to keep a show fresh after half a dozen sea­sons. Heck, many shows start stalling in as early as their sec­ond sec­ond. And yet, BoJack’s sixth (and final) sea­son manages to escape this trap and instead, be extremely com­pelling and brave.

BoJack has always strug­gled to live a mean­ing­ful and happy life. But now, things seem to be chang­ing: BoJack is out of rehab, he is more respon­si­ble and mature, and he is really try­ing to make amends.

The prob­lem is, despite the show’s bright col­ors and car­toon imagery, the show is a really depress­ing one. If the past is any indi­ca­tor, BoJack will make a fatal mis­take and his life will untangle—set­ting us up to start all over again in the next sea­son. Except this time there is no next sea­son. Things have to change.

Will BoJack really see a happy end­ing? Can he? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. (The sec­ond part of the final sea­son airs in January)

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Look­ing for Alaska, ★★1/2

Look­ing for Alaska is about the excite­ment and joy of grow­ing up and adven­tur­ing with friends, except all the char­ac­ters are annoy­ing and bor­ing. The series is adapted from a book by John Green, who has writ­ten many sim­i­lar books about nerdy young men (a proxy for Green) who have their lives changed after meet­ing very cool adventurous women.

The premise is this: Miles, a nerdy boy, meets Alaska, a mys­te­ri­ous and allur­ing intel­lec­tu­al-feminist-hot-­girl and falls in love with her, and the idea of her. Miles also meets other friends, and through the con­fines of their cam­p/board­ing school, bond over silly pranks and mis­ad­ven­tures. In the­ory that sounds quite good, but what we get is a show that tries too hard to be poetic and just does­n’t make sense. And it’s just tir­ing to watch.

All in all, the plot is empty and non­sen­si­cal, but you’re sup­posed to fill in the gaps with nos­tal­gic tid­bits from your own past, and then some­how con­clude that the show is pretty good. It’s not (but the actors are really good).

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The Man in the High Castle, Sea­son 4 / ★★★★

The Man in the High Castle has an incred­i­ble premise: what if the Nazis and Impe­r­ial Japan won? What would the world be like?

This show was sup­posed to be Ama­zon’s answer to Game of Thrones. An expan­sive world with many dis­tinct fac­tions, fueled by good writ­ing and cap­ti­vat­ing char­ac­ters. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, sea­son 1 land­ed, had poor pac­ing and ques­tion­able writ­ing, and the show fell out of Amazon’s graces.

Fast for­ward sev­eral sea­sons, the show has new showrun­ners and writ­ers, and the show has finally found its voice. Ear­lier in its run, the show irre­spon­si­bly por­trayed the Nazis in a pretty glossy light. But in this final sea­son, the char­ac­ters start to exam­ine their own flaws for first time (how did we get here? how did we erase our his­tory and exter­mi­nate mil­lions because of their race?). And the show exam­ines itself too — finally adding black char­ac­ters who were absent previously, and they are por­trayed as the real strength and back­bone of the Amer­i­can resis­tance and a sym­bol of the time­less fight against oppression.

All of this came together too late of course, but the final sea­son is quite a spec­ta­cle and I hope you watch it.

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The Politician, Sea­son 1 / ★★★★★

Much like SuccessionThe Politician strad­dles the line between drama and dark com­e­dy. The show fol­lows Pey­ton, a high schooler who wants to be pres­i­dent and has planned his life accordingly.

He sur­rounds him­self with a team of his class­mates, who if all goes well, would end up as senior White House offi­cials or cab­i­net sec­re­taries. But for now, they’re stuck run­ning Pey­ton’s stu­dent gov­ern­ment cam­paign, which they take to an absurd level — con­duct­ing polls, writ­ing speeches (“If you elect me, I will fight for you every day”), and squash­ing scan­dals before they even happen.

As for Pey­ton, he has to win this race so he can get into Harvard — specif­i­cally Har­vard, because half of the six most recent pres­i­dents are Har­vard alums, and Pey­ton really really wants to be president.

This show is so so good, and even as it tries to be too much to too many peo­ple (it even tries to be a musi­cal!), the show some­how makes it work. Worth every minute of your time.


Why do coun­tries with more democ­racy want less of it?, The Economist

This is a quick read in The Economist, but I think it’s extremely inter­est­ing. Com­ing from Thai­land, where we have a short­age of democ­ra­cy, I’ve always thought that one prob­lem is that we don’t love and pro­tect democ­racy enough when we do have it, and when we don’t, we don’t yearn and want it enough to get it back.

And the solu­tion, I thought, was that if peo­ple had democ­racy for long enough, they would see its ben­e­fits and learn to love it and pro­tect it. Well, accord­ing to this arti­cle, that is all wrong.

It turns out, peo­ple don’t par­tic­u­larly care for democ­racy when they have it. They only learn to love it when it’s start­ing to be taken away.

So that begs the ques­tion: why do the Thai peo­ple still not love democ­racy even when it’s already gone?

‘It Was Very Humil­i­at­ing’: Read­ers Share How They Were Taught About Slavery, The New York Times

The New York Times asked its read­ers to send in sto­ries about how they were taught about slav­ery in schools. It’s a thor­oughly sad but really impor­tant read. Slav­ery is one of the dark­est stains on human­ity and we suck at teach­ing kids about it.

What Obama Really Wants, The American Prospect

I am a pro­gres­sive. I believe we can only get an equi­table soci­ety that works for all of us only when we fight for it — no one is going to hand it over to us. It’s not enough to elect Democrats for pres­i­dent, Con­gress, and state leg­is­la­tures. Once they’re in there, we need to push and prod them in the right direction.

But even so, I under­stand the restric­tions of the job and just being prac­ti­cal. I believe Barack Obama was prob­a­bly the best pres­i­dent ever and what he accom­plished domes­ti­cally with health­care, and abroad with Iran and cli­mate change was incredible.

How­ev­er, I can’t help but agree with this arti­cle. Post-pres­i­den­cy, Obama has been mak­ing the rounds, doing speeches and hang­ing with the ultra­-rich. No mat­ter what believes, it’s unde­ni­able that this behav­ior would warp his think­ing. And it has — Obama is now a spokesper­son for cautious mod­er­ates who would give up before any fight, whose start­ing posi­tions is already one of extreme compromise.

That is not how you affect change, and the old Barack Obama knew that. Just not this new one.

How to Make Japan­ese Food, Japan­ese Rule of 7

I think a lot about cook­ing, and why peo­ple find cook­ing so for­eign and difficult. This guide cuts through all of the non­sense that scares peo­ple and just gets them started cook­ing right away.

The more you watch videos of sushi chefs with cleanly shaved heads mes­sag­ing rice into balls, the more intim­i­dated you are of Japan­ese cuisine. It does­n’t have to be that daunting.

As this arti­cle so mas­ter­fully demon­strates, Japan­ese food — like any other foods — has a fla­vor pro­file to it. Just start cook­ing with soy sauce, rice vine­gar, dash, and so on and you’re already half way there. Just read it, then try cook­ing something.

Promotional Tie-In Songs Are Really Good
The Mental Model of Cooking